Monday, October 31, 2011

the glamorous life of an author...

Current work: Rome book, second revisions
Listening to: new Coldplay album
Reading: India Grey, Craving the Forbidden (loved it – her books are always a joy)

Most of the time, I am an oik who scruffs around in black trousers and a T-shirt, and I spend most of my time in my head with a spaniel snoring behind me.

But two or three times a year I get to dress up and go out and be Professional Author for the day. Friday was the annual M&B authors’ lunch in London, and I had a wonderful time.

DH dropped me off at the station; just before I got on the train, I noticed this sundog.

And then it was a matter of setting myself up with a temporary desk on the train to work on the revisions… (The essentials. Manuscript, revision notes, red pen, coffee, water.)

Had a good journey to London, but the Central line was absolutely heaving and I had to let two trains go past before I caught one on my way to Charing Cross. But I arrived at the Charing Cross Hotel on time, the sky was blue, and it was lovely to see everyone.

Humour me with a bit of namedropping – the people I was chatting to included Sara Craven, Liz Fielding, Sophie Weston, Sarah Morgan, Caroline Anderson, Fiona Harper, India Grey, Kate Walker, Heidi Rice, Lynn Raye Harris, Michelle Styles, Carol Townend and Joanna Maitland, as well as meeting up with new Med authors Annie Claydon and Scarlet Wilson.

Lunch: scrumptious. Duck parfait, chicken wrapped in parma ham,

and vanilla panna cotta.

Much talking, including to Fiona Harper and India Grey:

Fiona and (incredibly skinny - and very inspirational) Michelle Styles;

and Kate Walker (who I remember being very kind to me at my very first author lunch, 9 years ago).

From there, we were due to be at the Royal Horse Guards Hotel in Whitehall for the author toast. (Gorgeous architecture.) Went for a cup of tea there first with Caroline Anderson, Michelle Styles and Annie Claydon.

The tea was amazing – I would normally have chosen a latte (as Annie did – and it did look nice) but the words ‘Persian Pomegranate tea’ were on the menu. Neither Michelle nor I could resist. And it tasted just as good as it looks here. (Silver teapot and tea-strainer, too, note.)

And it was served with these lovely little cakes.

And then the head waiter (who’d chatted to us and was very sweet) came over with a plate of pecan tarts that had just come out of the oven…

Then it was time for the party. Beautiful, beautiful building (my pics are grainy so will not bore you with the architecture – ‘nuff said that the lamps were stunning, and they had the Sisi stars pic upstairs – saw that as I walked out of the lift, and squeaked to my lovely ed that THAT was the pic I was banging on about in the Rome book).

So what does an author party look like? Just like this...

And yes, it’s as much fun as it looks. (Here's a close-up of me with Fiona Harper and Scarlet Wilson - thanks to Scarlet for the pic. And, yes, I am indeed wearing blue nail varnish. Your forties are a time to have fun!)

Your first time at an author party will maybe feel a little daunting, but then you start to chat to others and discover that, actually, even the biggest best-sellers are just ordinary people who are lovely to talk to. And once you’ve been a few times and know absolutely everyone in the room, it means you usually have sore tummy muscles the next day from laughing so much, a croaky voice from talking too much, and a teensy headache because it’s hard to keep count of what you’re drinking when unobtrusive waiters keep filling up your glass as you’re talking...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

still half term…

Current work: Rome book, second revisions (sticks brave smile on face after large consumption of chocolate)
Listening to: Bach
Reading: Caroline Anderson, Tempted by Dr Daisy; Caroline Anderson, The FiancĂ©e he couldn’t forget (loved both of them – definite warm and fuzzies)

Lovely day yesterday with my writer friend Lizzie Lamb – and I had enough of a voice to be able to talk books! Made an experimental chocolate cake from this month’s Sainsbury’s magazine – drain a tin of pears, mix the juice with sugar and cocoa and boil to "first plop" (!!!), cool the choc mixture in the bowl with pears, blend with walnut oil and vanilla, then beat in eggs, flour and bicarb soda - was a very interesting texture before it went in the oven. Very intense flavour, too, so only small pieces were consumed and DH is taking the rest of it into work today.

Off to London tomorrow for the M&B author lunch, aka glam event of the year. I have glam hair and a glam bracelet. And I’ll be taking the printed-out copy of my revisions with me so I can work on the train, unless I manage to make serious inroads on them today. (Am a bit gutted that my 50th book isn’t going to be accepted before the 10th anniversary of my ‘call’. Still. My fault for not doing a good enough job on the last set.)

Will be working today; but both children have had a growth spurt, so I need to drag them out to shop for clothes this morning. Both hate clothes-shopping (and so do I), but if they will insist on growing…

Monday, October 24, 2011

half term – and Kleptodog excels himself

Current work: new book
Listening to: Bach
Reading: Kelly Hunter, Flirting With Intent (Kel’s books are always a good, fast read, and I love her dialogue – enjoyed this one); Milly Johnson, Autumn Crush (full of warmth and it’ll put a lump in your throat as well as a smile on your face – this is definitely my fave of hers); Nicola Cornick, Mistress by Midnight (the third of her Scandalous Women of the Ton series, and I think just about my favourite of the three – loved her bluestocking heroine and her ex-rake hero).

Half term this week, but it’s going to be a gentle-ish one as I still have a croaky voice and a bit of a cough. (It had BETTER be back by Friday. Otherwise it’ll be a notebook job because I am going if it kills me – I’m not infectious and this is one of my big events of my professional calendar.)

We had the first of daughter’s birthday bashes last Friday, and am not sure if my ribs hurt more the next day from laughing or coughing. We enjoyed the bowling; daughter won the second game, and we didn’t let her win. so she can be proud that she did it all by herself. At dinner afterwards, Kleptodog excelled himself. DH was lounging on the beanbag after dinner while daughter dished out slices of birthday cake to everyone. DH made the mistake of taking his eyes off his plate for half a second; this was just enough for Kleptodog to pinch the cake and gulp it down. (Dog does have quite a bit of previous form on the cake-stealing front; that ‘Little Dog Laughed’ pic of a spaniel entitled ‘where there’s hope, there’s cake’ could’ve been modelled on him. It’s here if you want to take a look.) What happened next had better not be related; suffice it to say that disinfectant was involved!

Thanks to everyone who’s made such nice comments here, on FB or privately about my radical hair change. Really appreciated. And I am having a slight lightbulb moment…

Friday, October 21, 2011


Current work: gentle easing in to new book
Listening to: Def Leppard
Reading: Kristan Higgins, Just One of the Guys (I really was beginning to wonder if the HEA was what I expected it to be – the nearer it got to the end of the book, the more I kept turning the pages, panicking on the heroine’s behalf… very nicely done, and I loved the way she handled it. Can’t wait for her new one, later this month – she’s on my pre-order and autobuy list, and thank you so much Lynne Marshall for recommending her to me)

I’ve been telling the folks for the last six weeks that I’m changing my hair colour. Radically. Nobody quite believed me. I almost wussed out, because I’ve been blonde for 45 years and, although I’ve had highlights and red streaks before, I’ve never had a total colour change.

And I really have been blonde that long. Proof: me at age two, with my dad. (Yes, that is a real 1960s skirt, isn't it?)

And at age 20, with my mum. (Hmm. I was thin, then. Walking a mile or so each way to uni. Hmm. Note to self. Walk more. Oh, and my hair wasn't highlighted then. Is all natural.)

But I needed a lift yesterday (this coughing business isn’t good) and decided to Just Do It. Not with highlights, but the whole kit and caboodle. Complete colour change. (Louise has a very good eye and picked a colour that suited me.)

It’s going to take a while for the family to get used to it. Daughter hates it, son says it’s OK, DH is wary and says it’s ‘all right’ (which could mean anything from ‘it’s awful’ to ‘it’s gorgeous and I have THAT twinkle in my eye’ – DH is the most laid-back person ever. Which means I don’t actually know what he thinks). Dad would’ve had a hissy fit. Mum would’ve bolstered my confidence and told me I looked lovely and she loved me. (That’s my parenting style too, I hope. There are kind ways of saying ‘no, it doesn’t suit you’, without stamping on people’s confidence.)

Me? Well, I like it. My hair is actually shiny! :o)

But this photo is also a wake-up call, because I thought myself a bit too plump in the author photo I use now – and OMG I look so thin in that, in comparison with the one above that son took for me last night. The exercise routine has to be a priority, once I’ve stopped coughing and can breathe easily again. (Would be VERY stupid to exercise with stridor and a seal-like bark.)

Time to get the very bad case of Writers’ Blubber under control. And I have a good exercise routine, sent to me by a very good friend (who is now officially TINY and I probably won't recognise her at the M&B author lunch next week). No more excuses.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Officially barking

Current work: thinking about it but not driving self too hard
Listening to: Corelli
Reading: Kristan Higgins, Just One of the Guys (enjoying very much – I do love her dogs, too!)

Officially barking? Not mad (though quite a few of the writers I know are a bit on the eccentric side), but barking as in the precise sound of my cough. I have croup. (Yes, I know that’s a children’s illness. It’s becoming more prevalent in adults.) Same as just before Dad’s funeral (in other words, I’m also brewing a chest infection), so I’m on antibiotics, steamy bathrooms (well, sticking my face over a bowl of steaming water and having a towel draped over my head and the bowl to keep the steam in), and honey-and-lemon. GP was running late so the pharmacy had closed by the time I came out, but I was on my way to the car when the pharmacist was just locking the side door, saw me, and said he’d sort the scrip for me. What a WONDERFUL man, and I really appreciated his kindness.

They’re definitely starting to work because I managed five consecutive hours of sleep last night before I woke up coughing. So I feel a bit brighter today – but, before this nets me several ‘don’t you DARE overdo things’ texts/emails, I *am* being sensible. Just doing a teensy bit of work and cleaning the oven. And then dog and I will hit the sofa for a bowl of chicken soup and an episode of New Tricks :o) (This is also refilling the well. I have several lightbulbs flickering.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

really feeling sorry for myself now

Current work: duvet day (and really fed up because I want to go back to work)
Listening to: Mozart
Reading: Andrew Taylor, The Anatomy of Ghosts (just finished - and I hadn't worked out what really happened, though maybe that was because my head was fuzzy - very interesting setting)

The cough just seems to be getting worse. And as it hasn’t let me get any sleep for the last three nights, I have an appointment with my GP. I would quite like to sleep in my own bed instead of sitting up downstairs, wrapped in a duvet, in a feeble attempt to let DH get some sleep. Am also really grumpy because I want to get on with my new book, and I just don’t feel up to it.

Back to the duvet, with yet more honey and lemon, sigh...

Monday, October 17, 2011

deafer, and even more lurgified…

Current work: duvet day
Listening to: Mozart
Reading: Andrew Taylor, The Anatomy of a Ghost (enjoying)

Luckily the lurgy stayed just as a sore throat and a headache on Friday, so I didn’t have to change my audiology appointment. Spookily, it was seven years to the day since my last audio test. As I suspected, I have lost more hearing since then (somewhere between 5 and 10 decibels), and the audiologist thinks that having two aids will make my life easier because it will help with the direction of sound. He says it’s the difference between using a monocle and spectacles, and that I will be able to hear music much better, so that sold it to me.

The dip in sound is probably age-related as the profile is exactly the same (just 5-10 decibels down), so it’s nothing to worry about.

I would like to say that I spent the weekend working, but I didn’t. The lurgy really kicked in on Friday night; at the moment I’m coughing for England and the only thing that shifts my headache briefly is codeine. I had planned lunch out with a good writer friend this week, so we’ll have to move it – I don’t want to spread this, and I can’t hold a conversation at the moment. (I sound as if I have a 40-a-day habit!)

And, much as I would like to start my new book today, I think I need a duvet day. A mug of hot lemon and honey, with the dog and a duvet on the sofa, and the first series of Everybody Loves Raymond will do just nicely, methinks.

Friday, October 14, 2011

New Voices – congratulations AND a pep talk

Current work: revamping outline and then going for it (lovely ed has let me bend some rules)
Listening to: Ed Sheeran and Bon Jovi (and wishing I could talk DH into queueing up for Coldplay tickets because I don’t feel well enough to do it – daughter’s comment of ‘Well, who would be mad enough to queue up all night for a ticket?’ was answered by a grin from her father and a nod of his head towards me, cough)
Reading: Marian Keyes, Rachel’s Holiday (spent the day on the sofa yeterday with a headache and the dog – first time I’ve read MK and I do like her voice – thanks to Julie Cohen for recommending this one)

Congrats to the 21 NV writers who made it through to the next round – given that there were over 1,000 entries, be proud of yourselves, and get cracking on the next bit!

To those of you who weren’t picked – don’t give up. This is only one competition. Not making it through doesn’t mean that you’re crap – it means that the odds were small and other people had more of what the eds were looking for, this time round.

This is the time when you regroup. Of course you’re upset. So cry on your best friend’s shoulder, punch a cushion, eat chocolate – whatever it takes to get you over the hump. But limit this to a day or two at most, because it’s not going to change anything. The only thing that can change is your writing and your attitude towards it.

So sit down and take a long, hard look at it. You need to believe in yourself (and, trust me, all writers are plagued with doubts about whether they’re good enough – that’s actually a good thing because it stops you being complacent and it keeps your writing sharp), but you also be willing to listen. What can you take on board from the comments? Yes, comments are subjective (and some people will love a book where others don’t enjoy it, and vice versa). But If several people are saying the same thing (whether it’s about pace, characterisation, dialogue, whatever), then it’s worth looking at that aspect of your writing again.

And remember that this is only the first chapter. It might even be that when you get to chapter three, you discover that actually THAT is the place to start the book. What that means isn’t that you’ve just wasted two chapters – it means that you needed to write yourself into the story, and you have lots of background detail in your head that will help with characterisation. (And you’re not going to use it as an infodump for your poor reader, either! Layer in the information, through action and dialogue. And any introspection needs to be used like dialogue – i.e. keep it short, to the point, and it has to move the book forward.)

It could be that you targeted the wrong line (go for the one you enjoy reading, as that’s the one you’ll enjoy writing); it could be that as you write the rest of the book you discover that you’re writing a completely different story, one that’s much stronger.

But one thing’s for sure. If you don’t sit down and write, you’re not going to get published. There isn’t a clairvoyant editor out there, scanning the ether for you. So ditch the excuses. Just sit down and do it. (500 words a day gets you a category romance written in 3 months.) Finish the book. Polish it. Send off the outline and first three chapters, and get started on the next. It doesn’t matter if you get a rejection – most published authors I know have a stack of rejection slips. Think of them as stepping stones. Each one will give you advice that you can apply to your next manuscript and that will get you a little bit closer to your goal.

Good luck!

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Current work: thinking about having a duvet day
Listening to: various
Reading: Kristan Higgins, All I Ever Wanted (loved the husky and, as always, she made me laugh for the right reasons and cry a bit, too - enjoyed)

Talking in a whisper today. Just as well it’s this week and not last week (M&B talk) or next week (meeting up with friends) or, worse still, the week after (half term, meeting up with friends, and the M&B author lunch). Am hoping that it stays just in my throat until after my audiology appointment tomorrow.

Yesterday was great – we absolutely covered Dad’s grave with spring bulbs, then went out to lunch. Interestingly, it rained all day EXCEPT when we did the planting. So we had nice soft ground to work with, but stayed dry.

Slightly scary experience on the way home from school – enormous lorry tore a branch off a tree, and it landed literally an inch in front of my car. Had to drive over it (didn’t have time to brake, plus I had a car on my tail so any braking would’ve meant a collision) and was very relieved when we got home to find no damage. If I’d been a second closer to that lorry, it would’ve gone straight through my windscreen. Eep.

Ed is coming back to me today on my outline (she “has thoughts” – well, hey, I knew I was bending a lot of rules, so I’m expecting lots of “no, no – OK to that – no, no, and absolutely no”). In the meantime, I guess I ought to tidy the bearpit, as the revisions were in and I did skive off yesterday.

A mug of honey and lemon first, though, I think.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

elsewhere today...

Current work: day off!
Listening to: various
Reading: Scarlet Wilson, It Started with a Pregnancy (lovely, sparkling debut by my pal Scarlet – lots of emotion, medical detail spot on but not too technical for the lay person, great conflict, lovely characterisation – I really enjoyed it)

I’m over at the Pink Heart Society today, talking about revisions – in other words, what I’ve been doing for the last week. They’re off my desk now and with my ed. I’m braving the rain to plant bulbs with my stepmum on Dad’s grave (miniature daffodils and irises), and trying to stave off the lurgy generously given to me by husband and daughter. In other words, I’m taking a day off :o)

Monday, October 10, 2011

thinking time - and a bit of vanity

Current work: Rome book revisions
Listening to: Def Leppard
Reading: next on TBR

I needed to think a bit about my revisions this weekend. Why? My ed wants me to make my hero a bit less emotionally available. And that needs careful consideration so he doesn’t turn into the kind of man I’d want to push into a puddle.

And that’s my excuse for skiving off on Saturday morning and going shopping with my daughter. I have to admit, I love girly shopping with my daughter. This week, it involved a trip to Boots, because I noticed last week (when wearing make-up to my library talk) that my foundation doesn’t suit me any more. (I think it looked caked on. And this was the expensive stuff, sigh.) Time for a change. I wanted something that didn’t feel as if I was wearing make-up. I also needed advice about colours and styles of foundation because – frankly – I’m clueless. Most of the time I don’t wear make-up, and I look an utter scruff (well, hey, I live in my head, and I don’t need to know what I look like). But sometimes I need to look like a professional author rather than a scruffy mum-of-two. Hence I had to be a little bit, um, vain.

Jane on the Max Factor counter at Boots in Chapelfield was just brilliant. She talked me through the different sorts of foundation, and better still tried them all on me and told me which one looked most natural. Then she gave me a makeover. Best of all, she talked me through exactly what she was doing, why and how, so I understand how to get the same effect at home. So, I have new eye-shadow (ha, yes, the usual neutral shades – I wasn’t going that far); new foundation (which doesn’t feel as if I’m wearing it); new mascara (OMG, I actually have eyelashes! – no, don’t laugh. I really do have short, pathetic eyelashes, and luckily daughter inherited her father’s lovely long eyelashes rather than mine); and new lippy (it’s, um, sparkly. But grown-up sparkly, not teenage). With a bit of practice between now and the end of the month, I should look reasonably smart at the M&B author lunch. (I am SO counting the days to that. It’s one of the big highlights of my year. I get to see some of my fave people in person and talk writing. And drink champagne. Ha.

After that, it was time for breakfast (yeah, OK, so I’m decadent – cake and coffee, but we walked it off). While we were in M&S, I was talked into having a look at the nail polish section in case there were new shades. Oh, dear. I’m not actually sure who’s the worst out of the pair of us, but we ended up with three more bottles between us. It’s the cheapest nail varnish ever, but the coverage is brilliant and it doesn’t chip easily, which means I can type and play guitar almost with impunity. And how can you resist nail varnish called Kingfisher? (Yup, it’s green. I’ve worn weird nail varnish ever since I was a student. I wore blue nail varnish, the first time I met DH. Even though he claims innocence, I know he got rid of the fingerless lace gloves I used to wear, the very first week after we moved in together, but he hasn’t been able to do a thing about the nail varnish. Especially now I have back-up in lovely daughter.)

The book? Yeah. I worked it out (and changed the end completely). I just needed time for it to percolate through my subconscious. Makeover, breakfast out and shopping for fripperies worked a treat.

Hopefully today I’ll get the P&Q to finish it…

Friday, October 07, 2011

publication day

Current work: Rome book revisions
Listening to: Jon Lord, Pictured Within
Reading: next on TBR

It’s the first Friday in the month… so that means today is publication day!

A Moment on the Lips is on the shelves today in the UK.

And it's had a really nice 4-star review from Romantic Times:

With her youthful indiscretions behind her, Carenza Tonielli is determined to make a success of her family’s ice cream empire. After she refuses to sell the company to Dante Romano, Dante wants nothing more to do with the ‘spoiled princess.’ But his loyalty to her grandfather means he can’t refuse her unexpected request for mentorship. Dante wants to keep their relationship focused on business and his feelings under wraps, but Carenza has other ideas. Passion heats up quickly and readers don’t have an opportunity to savor the anticipation, but this is an otherwise refreshing and intelligently written story.

Thank you, RT :o)

Thursday, October 06, 2011

lovely review

Current work: Rome book revisions
Listening to: Sheryl Crow
Reading: Nicola Cornick, One Wicked Sin (enjoying)

Had a really lovely review for Italian Doctor, No Strings Attached from Cataromance:

“Her books are always full of warmth, pathos and heart and she never fails to create richly drawn characters that the reader cannot help but care about.

Italian Doctor, No Strings Attached, is a dramatic, at times heartbreaking, but ultimately uplifting story about taking a chance on love, devastating choices, redemption and triumphing against the odds that will make readers smile as well as shed a tear or two. Sydney is a wonderful heroine readers will relate to and admire whereas Marco is a gorgeous hero whose strength, sensitivity and magnetism will melt even the hardest of hearts!”

Thank you, Julie Bonello, for making my day. And you can read the rest of the review here.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

new voices talk

Current work: Rome book revisions
Listening to: Bach
Reading: Nicola Cornick, One Wicked Sin (enjoying)

The New Voices talk yesterday was great fun – I had a lovely bunch of people there, and I do hope I encouraged them to go for it. I was realistic – publishing isn’t a get-rich-quick industry – but there are other rewards to the job besides money. In fact, things that money can’t buy, such not having to worry about letting colleagues down/arranging cover if you or your children are ill (because the job is flexible); or having letters from readers telling you that your book has helped them get through a tough time in their lives. And there’s a lot to be said for living your dreams. Of course there are bad days (LOL, such as doing revisions!), as with any job, but I can’t think of anything I’d rather do.

Rather less nice was the behaviour churchyard groundsman just beforehand. “Excuse me, are you the person who scatters ash all over the graves?” is not an appropriate or sensitive thing to say to someone who’s clearly putting roses on the grave of someone they love. Particularly when it’s unprovoked. (“Have you seen anyone scattering ash?” is different – it’s asking for help rather than being accusatory.) I had a long chat with the town council this morning, so hopefully they’ll teach him some people skills for the future.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

interview at the RNA

Current work: M&B New Voices workshop this afternoon
Listening to: Def Leppard
Reading: Nicola Cornick, One Wicked Sin (Nicola’s books are always a treat and this one’s no exception – there was a character in her last book whom I could cheerfully have pushed in a puddle, but here Nicola makes her so sympathetic that I’m rooting for her)

I’m over at the RNA blog today, being interviewed – it was enormous fun. So if you want to know what my absolutely favourite thing is about writing (among other things), do go over to the blog and say hello!

Monday, October 03, 2011

Indian summer

Current work: revisions on Rome book
Listening to: Anna Nalick
Reading: Kristan Higgins, Too Good to be True (enjoyed very much, but especially Angus McFangus – inspired name for a Westie!)

Apologies for my absence last week. Got tempted away by a tall, dark and handsome man. (I’m not very good at resisting the suggestion of lunch out…) Anyway, he’s back to work this week and so am I; my ed has sent through the revisions, I’ve argued my case for a couple of points (ha, so my confidence is coming back, then), and I’ve also sorted out my accounts.

But what we really did a lot of was loafing, because it’s a real Indian summer here, with temperatures DOUBLE the average for this time of year. (Does this make up for August temps being half what they should’ve been? Perhaps.) I’m over at eHarlequin this morning, talking on the subject.

Anyway, DH decreed it was barbecue weather, and I decreed that we needed to be up early on Saturday to get a parking space at the seaside. Cue grumpy teen and grumpy teen-in-training protesting that they didn’t want to go. Overruled. Sulks on way.

And then they got out of the car and saw this. (Looks almost Mediterranean, with the sea that colour.)

We had a paddle and a stroll.

And I just love the patterns that light makes through the water. (Ha, you KNEW there was going to be an arty shot.)

Today, it’s back to normal. Nose to grindstone. I’ve printed off the book and my ed’s comments, my red pen is to hand, and I’m about to make another cup of proper coffee to wake me up (only downside to Indian summer = humid nights = not much sleep).

Tomorrow, it’s the M&B talk. You might still be able to squeeze in - call 01953 452319 or e-mail or to book a place.

Righty. The book beckons!