Friday, 24 December 2010

Winter Wonderland & Tracking Santa

It's pretty and it's cold, or should that be pretty cold? On the day it struggled to get above minus 16 (see the thick frost formed on top of the snow above) Pip started shaking and couldnt stop so I had to put him on a towel on the Aga! Some farmer friends put their sickly newborn lambs in their Aga's warming oven to keep them safe but luckily a stint on top sorted Pip out (see below ;-)

Whether you're sick of the snow or spending Christmas on the beach I hope you enjoy the photos. Have yourselves a peaceful Christmas and thank you for reading my blog.
If anyone wants to track Santa's progress there is a website that enables you to do just that - click here to read about it.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Home at last! (and a big thank you :-)


Firstly I want to say a huge thank you to the people who left lovely comments on my last blog post, it meant an awful lot to me. If I ever come across fur coat woman again I'll tell her that her card is marked ;-)

Thankfully the black hole that sucked me up has spat me back out and I'm feeling HUGELY happier because I'm finally home again after 15 months of exile! Yep, I managed to make it back to Scotland during the temporary thaw and the minute I saw the snow covered mountains and the sunset reflected in the lochs something lifted inside my chest. 

Three weeks of being left alone so I can potentially WRITE again is really exciting. Only slight dampner is that BT are sending someone to sort out the broadband tomorrow, the same day that the next lot of heavy snow is due. The inauspicious timing means I'm preparing to go cold turkey, and I'm not talking about Christmas leftovers! I'm currently sitting in an Internet cafe having what might be my last fix before I get gobbled up by a snow drift...

So, if you don't hear from me for a while, think of me snowed in in my remote croft house with enough food for a month, gorgeous views and uninterrupted peace and quiet to write in... Actually that doesn't sound too bad. Perhaps I should set up my own writers' retreat? 

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Bad Fur Day


Like Pip (above) I've been having a bad hair day. Several in fact, ever since I tried to cut my fringe with blunt sicissors and a tired hand - end result I look like a monk.

A couple of Bad Everything Days have knocked me sideways out of Blogland for a while. I haven't blogged, tweeted or kept up with anything *slaps wrist*. (Weirdly I get more new twitter followers when I don't tweet than when I do but I'm trying not to dwell on this fact.)

I've been keeping myself busy, doing a good rendition of auditioning for Grumpy Old Women. I've been provided with ample fodder for my grumpiness - a flood in my kitchen that ruined a hundred odd books I had stored there, a washing machine that refuses to drain, a dishwasher that created a second flood and a plumber who has yet again failed to turn up to fix a permanently gushing tap. I've only been waiting for, ooh about 6 weeks.

I've nothing against the men who thought 8 am was a good time to start drilling concrete outside my bedroom window, they couldn't have known I had a migraine and it felt like they were drilling into my skull. What bugs me is the more personal and very pointed nastiness of a woman in Pizza Express - I accidentally dropped my fork vaguely near her and she shot me a death glare (warp factor 8) while ostentatiously examining her fake fur coat for spots. Also upsetting was finding rotten tomatoes had been thrown at my window the day I was late back from the hospital and my dogs had got upset and howled.

Whoever did it, it certainly wasn't my lovely, sunny ex-neighbour who is constantly smiling no matter what happens. Her cat was recently run over and killed, her husband has left her and she was dealing with a tantrum from her two year old while packing up the house to move when I went round to get my spare key. Still she was smiling, calm, cheerful...as much as I love her this felt a little, um, unnatural?

Bad things happen in life. We get angry. Then little annoying things happen that push our buttons. Hats off to the positive thinking Pollyannas out there but I can't help thinking a desire to accidentally whack 'fork woman' while putting on my coat to leave the restaurant was a natural, healthy response to the distasteful sneer I received.
I know, I'll probably burn in hell or be forced into psycotherapy for that remark but, really! (and no, I didn't actually do it!).
I constantly drop and break things since my accident, so much so that I'm on my third set of cheap crockery. But this was the first time I was made to feel lower than a slug as a result. It topped the time I accidentally hurled a macaroni cheese at a woman in the supermarket. I was mortified but she smiled and was pleasant when I apologised.

Truth is I'm low, grumpy and tired. I've also put my back out to the point where I have to be pushed into an upright position in order to get out of bed. Endless appointments and a depressing prognosis re. the brain injury have left me wrung out like a dishcloth and without the energy to write. As not writing makes me grumpy, it's a self perpetuating circle.

Anyway, I ought to go as I've received an email informing me an internet order I placed in May 2009 has just been dispatched. Good news? No, it's quite a surprise given I paid for and received it last year, it was a horribly large bill then and I'm not exactly thrilled to find they've charged me for it again!

Thankfully I'm going home to Scotland for Christmas, I'll be seeing my house for the first time in ages and when I stop grumping about all the damage holiday guests have done to the place I may just recover enough to write again, not to mention finding time to catch up with all my lovely writing friends.

I asked a very wise person what I should do with the simmering anger I'm feeling and they replied. "You're a writer. So write".

Sound advice methinks ;-)

But if that fails you'll find me in bed with Pip and his toy rabbit, I'll come out again when the grumps have moved on :-)

Saturday, 23 October 2010

The Week Jilly Cooper Made me Cry

I'm sad to say I haven't been around in blogland for a while :-(
Being mostly over The Poisoning I've been too busy being a human pin cushion and travelling to endless tests and meetings where strangers in suits talk about me, making decisions about my life.
I've grown ever more belligerent as every possible surface of skin has been pricked and scraped with needles to see if I yelp any louder than I did a year ago when they did the same thing. I used to think it was more scientific than that but now I'm not so sure...

Combined with a sick Mac which had to be sent to computer hospital I've done no writing at all. Ideas have been buzzing around my head but my frustration is growing about not being able to sustain effort and concentration for long enough to make any real progress on anything.

The only relief in the past week has come from collapsing into bed and listening to Jilly Cooper's 'Riders' on audiobook. After hearing discussion about Rupert Campbell-Black as a great fictional alpha hero I was curious. I have to say I've been utterly drawn into the story, captivated even. Although I could never love an adulterous hero who is cruel to animals (so he won't be making it onto my fave heroes list).

You know I can't remember the last time a book made me cry.Yet Riders has made me cry twice already - once when RCB beat up a horse and the second time when a horse rescued from cruelty died. Clutching one of my rescue dogs (who has been badly abused) and stroking him, with tears streaming down my face I had to tell myself 'it's only a book, it's not real', trying desperately to pull myself out of the world Jilly Cooper had so masterfully immersed me in.
I think if I can ever make a reader care half as much about my characters as she has made me care about the horses in 'Riders' I'll consider I'll have made it as a writer...

Which books have made you cry?

Thursday, 7 October 2010

No list required

Whether you made it on to THE LIST or not it's time for that party I promised, so head over to the Minxes where the party is in full swing. Help yourself to a glass of champagne to take along with you...




Saturday, 2 October 2010

If You're Not On the List...

I'm sure you've all heard the New Voices news by now. If you've been somewhere else (like the moon) maybe not, in which case check it out here.

It feels a bit like a possible reprieve from execution. You've just come to terms with the judgement of the court and then you hear there might be a lifeline, some time next week... Too strong? Perhaps, ignore the crash, it was the attempt at a balanced and emotionally objective blog post being thrown out the window :-)

Okay, we're waiting in line to get into the most fab ever party, there are rumours that Gilles Marini, Michael Weatherly and Simon Baker are present (insert name of your favourite celeb crush). The doors have been closed and we're preparing to go home. Then a couple of burly bouncers announce there might be ANOTHER LIST but we're going to have to stand in line a bit longer...

Or, you may get a chance to be told publicly exactly why they're not going to let you in...

I know it's always been the same after competitions, requests have been sent but perhaps it's the public nature of the list that makes this feel more of a big deal. Not being on the list is going to suck, big time.

But in the interests of balance I'd like to point out the execution analogy was a bad one because this isn't the end for anyone, just a point on a journey, albeit a roller coaster one.

And there will be other parties.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Congratulations and a Guide to Shooting Crows

Firstly a huge CONGRATULATIONS to the New Voices finalists and warm wishes as you write your second chapters.

But for the rest of us who are feeling inevitably a bit disappointed I'm pleased to announce it is now Open Season on Crows. So come and pick your weapon and ammunition of choice to shoot the crows of doubt now circling in menacing fashion.

If any of the following statements are applicable to you (and not all of them are applicable to me, I hasten to add) please select the appropriate weapon and take aim:

(1) I have had work requested from an Editor, therefore I am not crap.

(2) I have requested work still outstanding, waiting to be sent in to an Editor, therefore I am not crap. (and I promise myself to get on and get ready to submit)

(3) I have had really positive comments in a revision letter/face to face feedback at an Editor pitch, therefore I am not crap.

(4) I have previously placed in a competition, therefore I am not crap.

(5) I have received positive comments from readers who liked my competition entry, so they can't have thought I was crap.

(6) Failure to place in a competition does not mean I will not get published (invoke the names of Maisey, Tina et al at this point) so it does not mean that I am crap.

(7) The more I keep writing and learning craft and subbing and the harder I work at it the closer I will get to achieving my dream and I refuse to give up on it.

Take that pesky crows now I've only got one thing left to say:

PULL!

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Battle of the Spooks

I've decided it's time for some serious NTANV or NTATR (Not Thinking about the Roses!) distraction. There is a serious issue that needs to be decided: who is the most fanciable of the Spooks?

I know Richard Armitage has held court for a while but am I the only one to miss Rupert Penry Jones?

Apologies to those who haven't a clue what I'm talking about, Spooks is a UK TV programme recently entering a new series. It's choc full of alpha males (and women to be fair) racing around saving the country.

Anyway, we have a new contender to the battle - Max Brown aka Dimitri.

So, who is the sexiest spook of them all - Richard, Max or Rupert?

Thursday, 16 September 2010

NTANV (Not Thinking About New Voices)

Other writers have blogged about what they've learnt so far from the competition. All I know is that in order to NTANV I'm going to have to grow a thicker skin and force myself to learn a few...
  1. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. If I possessed it I wouldn't have entered my New Voices submission early on but waited until nearer the end to save the prolonged angsting any time someone gives the entry a really low score ( I try to be impervious but I'm only human).
  2. Perspective is a wonderful thing. And possessed in bucket loads by people who aren't actually entering... ;-) I was determined not to be consumed by this competition but being ill, cranky and physically feverish (and without the energy to throw myself into anything else) while trying to NTAI is not a good combination.
  3. Patience is a... Okay, had enough of that. Patience is for saps, grumpiness rules :-) The fact I'm on week three without a cup of tea or the ability to eat chocolate is depriving me of my usual self-cheering strategies. I'm going to have to wheel out my favourite feel good dvds to do the job for me. ("The Accidental Husband", "Music and Lyrics" and "Ballet Shoes")
  4. There is always an up side, much as it pains my grumpy alter ego to admit it. Being ill means I can feel my ribs again and my too-tight jeans are now loose. And the public nature of the competition means whatever happens I'll have some lovely comments to take away from the contest with me, feedback I wouldn't otherwise have got.
Is anyone else out there wishing the whole thing were over already? How are you managing to distract yourself?


Monday, 13 September 2010

Three Tips

Tip 1 - if you're ever offered a medicine that has losing a stone in weight as a potential side-effect, don't think 'Fantastic' but ask questions.
Lots of them.
While being able to feel my ribs again is nice I wouldn't go through the past month again for anything.

Tip 2 - if you ignore tip 1 and end up subsequently incapacitated and dreadfully ill try Lucozade. Lucozade really is my best writing tip - I couldn't even move around my house at the weekend without holding onto the furniture or walls but a couple of bottles later and I was propped up at my desk writing.
I may end up in a diabetic coma (in which case it's been lovely knowing you all!) but I always think it's important to get your priorities straight ;-)

Tip 3 - have a read of Joanne Pibworth's "Sequins and Secrets" over at the New Voices site, it's a corker :-)


Thursday, 9 September 2010

New Voices - Taking the Plunge

There are only so many times you can change a word or phrase and then change it back again to your original choice without going stark staring mad.

So, with that in mind I've decided to take the plunge and upload my chapter to the Romance is Not Dead site.
The title is "In too Deep" and the chapter is in the Contemporary Romance section.

If you're still writing/polishing head over to the Minxes site tomorrow (Friday) - We've collated links to all the best competition tips and news stories for you in one post so you can spend more time writing and less time surfing.

Right, time to head over to Lacey's blog to get my badge for being brave ;-)

Monday, 6 September 2010

Romance is Not Dead (but it might have cold feet!)

There's never a good time to be poisoned by your medication really, but the week before the launch of New Voices certainly wasn't the best timing for me to be laid low.
Being violently ill at the same time as realising the beginning of your chapter needs to be re-written isn't a good combination. Worst thing is I've been told it will be another week to ten days until the adverse reaction wears off and I can eat and drink properly again.
So why am I sitting at my computer instead of curling up with daytime TV world? Firstly, because I wasn't convinced The Michael Ball Show wasn't making the retching worse but secondly because next to not eating and not drinking, not writing is even more unpalatable.
Congratulations to those of you who've already uploaded your chapters. Diving straight in beats standing in the shallows getting cold feet. I've always been a 'walk in slowly while gauging the temperature' kind of girl myself when it comes to swimming in the sea (but then I do live in the UK and the sea is bloody freezing!)
I'm sure I'll take a last minute 'what the heck' plunge, once I've managed to re-write my beginning.
Good luck to all my blog friends, I'm looking forward to reading your entries :-)

Monday, 30 August 2010

Which came first, the heroine or the writer?

I'm slightly less grumpy this week thanks to listening to Jack Dee's "Thanks For Nothing" which had me laughing out loud (so now the neighbours probably think I'm as barking mad as the dogs for seemingly laughing to myself ;-)
Or it could just be that I'm less grumpy by comparison to Jack...
Anyway, the question I'm turning over in my mind is whether my heroine is channeling some of my inner stroppiness or if I'm in fact channeling her? A chicken and egg literary question if you like?
I'm sure it's possible to create characters who contain nothing of ourselves in them but I've had a few heroines who've had elements of me in them, or of the me I'd like to be, and I'm sure I can't be the only one.
In my current WIP my heroine is spiky and sarky to the hero, mostly to cover up the fact that she feels incredibly threatened by his presence. I'm not sure I felt threatened by anyone when I returned to Richmond to complete the neuro-psych tests last week though, just sick and knackered but boy did the sarcastic responses keep flowing from my mouth!
When asked for the umpteenth time "What [randomly unrelated word] goes with clown?"
I narrowly avoided responding "I don't know and I don't actually give one, now let me go home to bed."
As a reward for such self restraint and given it's a bank holiday here in the UK I'm going back to bed with Jack ;-)

So, do your heroines ever influence you???

Monday, 23 August 2010

New Hero Love




I'm cheating on Jack (the hero of The Art of Seduction) - I'm falling in love with the hero of my new competition story (In Too Deep) too!
Reluctantly being forced to take a break from writing it (have decided it's more new M&S briefs than old saggy pants on reflection) I watched Dannii Minnogue, Style Queen. I have to say my attention was gripped by her very gorgeous hubby - Kris Smith (see above). Not that I approve of husband coveting, I'm just saying he happens to look very much like my new hero and if he also happens to have an identical twin brother, well...
Where was I? Oh yes, I hadn't paid much attention to Kris with a K before now but in the programme he displayed a sense of humour and a lovely caring protectiveness towards Dannii that made me instantly think of my new hero.
Yes, I think Kris will do very well ;-)

Friday, 20 August 2010

Want to know a secret?

Have you ever wondered if it's possible to make a living from writing? Of course you have, if you're being honest. And if you've been around the newbies block a few times you'll have grasped that it's a little harder than the media would have us believe, even after you sign that book deal.
'So what should we do?' I hear you cry. Funny you should ask me that, as Sue Moorcroft, author of Love Writing, How to Make Money Writing Romantic or Erotic Fiction is guest blogging for the minxes today on this very subject. Pop over and see what she has to say. If you've got any questions stick them in a comments box.
Yes we love writing and we'd continue to do it whether we got recognition and the reddies or not but...unless you're married to a billionaire (in which case why are you reading my blog instead of sun bathing on your yacht?) then it's a subject that affects us all.
***
This week I've been the moaniest Minx of them all. New medication and numerous tests in far flung places have left me mewing like a pitiful kitten to anyone prepared to listen. A few words have been penned on my potential competition entry but subsequently deciding it's pants has left me very irritable. Of course it may not be pants, just a combination of dirty first draft and that fog of tiredness that makes the entire world feel like a rotten place. So I'll reserve judgement a little longer...
How about the rest of you? Are your current WIPs pants or lacy works of La Perla art???

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Going to Richmond

Both I and my partial will have been to Richmond this week but not at the same time.
In a bizarre twist of fate I was sent for neuro-psychometric tests at an address just yards from the Mills and Boon Richmond offices on Monday. And I have given myself a deadline of this Friday to submit the requested chapters of The Art of Seduction.
Although I've been so knackered since the tests that's proving harder than I thought - every time I sit down to listen to my chapters I fall asleep. I'm hoping that's more indicative of my exhaustion than of the quality of the writing!
Embarrassingly the Boots delivery guy brought my medication while I was listening/sleeping and apparently was knocking for some time before I woke (and the front door is right next to the room with my computer! I'll have to use headphones or shut windows to listen in future). After the gardener I thought it couldn't get any worse but as usual I was wrong.
I think it's a hard and fast rule that no matter how bad things are/how much you embarrass yourself there is always scope for things to be infinitely worse...
If I do lick my chapters into readable and error free form then it'll be a testament to my crit group the Minxes of Romance and crit partner Jackie Ashenden (who was lovely enough to read my revised ending while she's on holiday/conferencing in Sydney and has much more exciting stuff to be doing ;-)
So I want to say a big thanks, I honestly don't know what I'd do without you guys.

I do have to go back for more testing as I was too ill to complete it on Monday so it's going to be weird, sitting in the tests being asked about the speed of light and playing the Generation Game (yes, it's those ones for anyone who remembers me blogging about them in October!) knowing my partial is sitting in the Ed's inbox just yards away from me!

In other news I've finally become a fledgeling twitterer, my ID is romanceminx if anyone wants to find me. Tbh I'm a bit bamboozled at the mo about the whole thing so will be pathetically grateful to anyone who follows me :-)
Also I'll be blogging over at the Minx site on Friday and promise you some lovely pics of gorgeous men and a mini follow up to Heidi Rice's New Voices competition workshop last Friday.
Begging and pictures, how can you refuse???

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Flibbertigibbet


Last week I managed to visit Montreux, Northern Italy, Monaco and then Cannes all in one day. Such gallivanting is most unusual, normally the highlight of my week is a trip to the supermarket but I was piggybacking on a business trip for which my ice cream eating presence was clearly essential, Mr Taxman :-)
While away I've been working on the partial of 'The Art of Seduction' and am hopefully getting close to submitting. But my flibbertigibbety behaviour has taken it's predictable toll on my health and so it may be 'The Art of Seduction - the Zombie Version' that goes to Richmond!
The accompanying sensation of an icepick wedged inside my brain has weirdly given me the opening to my new story idea, weird because you'd think the luxurious towns would have been the obvious inspiration. Although I did pass a gorgeous town in Italy that I instantly knew would be my setting - San Lorenzo al Mer (see below).
I'm not sure whether to give into competition fever - I need to concentrate on finishing AOS and have a punishing round of rehabilitation appointments and a medication change coming up. I should be sensible.
Maybe I'll just write that first chapter...
I have other distractions too - my ipad has just arrived, Hooray :-)

Friday, 23 July 2010

The perils of speech to text software (you won't find this in a manual)

What could be more embarrassing than leaving your underwear in the middle of the floor for your father in law to trip over?

Er, how about dictating a steamy sex scene using your voice software only for a deep male voice to call "Hi there" through the window, it was the gardener come to cut the grass.
Really, I am never coming out of my house again... Or having visitors, or...

And for those of you who were wondering (and I know who you are!) yes, the gardener is nice! And yes the underwear thing did happen to me.

Monday, 19 July 2010

What happens in Vegas

I was feeling depressed after watching 'Paris Hilton's New best Friend'. I know, I have only myself to blame!
Anyway, in need of cheering up I put 'What Happens in Vegas' into the DVD player. Ashton Kutcher certainly cheered me up although the film annoyed me in places and I hit the fast forward button a lot. That said there were some great sexy moments and some good writing.

Ashton "I bet you'd look really good with your hair down."
Cameron Diaz "My hair is down."

Despite still not having recovered from the conference I have managed to work on the rest of my partial on paper, and have a dirty draft. Actually it is very dirty - my characters decided to have sex much earlier than I'd planned to let them so I may have to go back over it and spoil their fun ;-)

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Gaffs, gossip and good news...


I've finally emerged from my post conference 'hangover' to make it to blogland. The effort of the weekend, despite all my efforts at pacing, has taken its toll and I've been asleep for practically the entire time since I got back on Sunday!
Anyway, it was worth it and great fun to meet fellow Minxes, blog friends and some truly lovely authors (not to mention editors!).
(The photo on the left is me melting in the heat at the Gala dinner next to Lucy King.)
Gaffs - Unsurprisingly I disregarded my "What not to do at your first conference" advice. This year I graduated from knocking cups of water over people's feet and threw pills at them too! My capacity to talk drivel also got an airing and topics of conversation with eminent Mills and Boon authors with 5o books under their belts ranged from the complexity of showers to the heaviness of doors. I topped that by discussing toilet roll with a nice lady who turned out to be Joanna Trollope!
Really I shouldn't be allowed out ;-)
Gossip - It was good to get the low down on the new Riva line and very exciting to hear about the changes to the covers and titles of the Modern Heat books. The key phrases from the Mills and Boon talk seemed to be 'twenty first century' and for wannabe authors - 'innovate, don't imitate'. Overall the feedback from publishers was positive with talk of sales booming and ebooks forming a large part of the future. 150,000 Mills and Boon ebooks were downloaded in 2009 and there are rumours that Google will be selling ebooks in the near future.
David Shelley from Little, Brown told us that in his opinion Romantic fiction is bigger now than in any time in the past two decades...
Good News - My Mills and Boon editor slot went well. In fact it went so well I'm convinced I dreamed it or somehow have blanked the parts where they trashed the submitted chapter! But for the moment I'm going with the dream where they loved the chapter and have asked for the next two chapters, said they're looking forward to working with me...
Before I drift off into my dream world that skips the hard graft of writing the rest of the story I want to let you know that Lucy King will be answering questions for the the Minxes tomorrow (Wednesday) and Julie Cohen has graciously offered to write a post for us about the conference to appear on the Minx blog on Friday. I leave you with some more photos from the conference - the lovely Nina Harrington and Natalie Rivers, the three conference Minxes and my two charming gala dinner companions Mary Nichols and Margaret Baker.




Monday, 28 June 2010

A stranger in a foreign land...

I've just pressed send on the chapter being subbed for my M&B editor slot at the conference. I haven't been to NTAI (not thinking about it) country for a good while and to be honest the journey has been so knackering I am genuinely not NTAI. Having already been welcomed by a friendly fellow resident (waves to Jackie) I'm ready for a hot bath and bed.
I've weeded enough 'felt's out of my chapter to make several cuddly toys and have spent more time on a one page synopsis than a sane person ever should (Hmm, is that why I'm mad I wonder? All those one pagers?)
I love the story but battling errant 'voice to text' software, acquired dyslexia and a permanent headache to get it into some sort of reasonable format has been exhausting.
I still want to do it, I can't not do it so I have to find some way of making it work, even though it's so much harder. It reminds me of toothache - when it strikes it makes you wonder why you didn't value that great long period of time when your teeth weren't hurting.

If you're still pulling teeth, sorry I meant writing your synopsis, here's a good tip I received recently - remember it should be selling your story to the appropriate line. I got so fixated on making my plot fit to one page I forgot to use it as a selling tool.

Oh and here's the editing checklist I use:

1. Check for clich├ęs

2. Check the following and replace if possible: was, felt, just, that, actually, began to, started, he/she felt, though, observed.

3. Reduce adverbs

4. Cut any pairs of adjectives

5. Check for repetitions, choose the best and lose the rest

6. Don’t show AND tell

7. Cut unnecessary repetition of tense – I’d, she’d…

8. Look for repeated words and use thesaurus

9. Make characters take note of surroundings, create a sense of place

10. Use all the senses

11. Eat chocolate :-)

Has anyone else got any suggestions to add to my checklist?

Friday, 11 June 2010

The weird and the wired

I've been getting seriously hyped up about the upcoming RNA conference. What better way to gear up than attending last week's talk on Writing Romantic Fiction at Reading library? The meeting got off to a weird start for me as I thought I'd lost my marbles when the nice woman sitting next to me introduced herself as Romy from South Africa. Now I have bad memory problems so my first thought was to panic - was this my fellow Minx Romy who I'd believed to be still in South Africa? Actually it was another Romy but I had a very confused moment and as both are attending the conference I shall have to try not to get mixed up :-)
It was also strange when a couple of people mentioned having heard of the Minxes blog. Not to mention difficult to say "Actually I'm a Minx" without giving into the urge to giggle uncontrollably ;-)

Other than cringing on behalf of the panel when they were asked what the formula for writing Mills and Boon was (!) the point that struck me most from the talk was the panel's answer to the question 'How many full length novels did you complete before you were published?' The answer was anything between 2 and 10, the average being 5!
it reminded me again just how dedicated you have to be and how our commitment as writers is to the craft itself, rather than to any particular story.

Having said that I am loving diving into the world of the story I'll be pitching at the conference. For a taster below is the rooftop in Marrakech that my hero is going to whisk my heroine off to

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

It's good to talk...

The Minxes have been brainstorming on Skype recently and it's been great - instant input and discussion (and a real laugh to boot). I'm starting to think about the new story I'll hopefully be
pitching at the RNA conference and knowing I'll be under skype scrutiny at the end of the week means I'll get my act together this week.
It's also good to listen
Reading Library has an event on tomorrow evening (2nd June) - "Writing Romantic Fiction". Julie Cohen, Nina Harrington, Tania Crosse, Beth Elliott and Janet Gover will be talking and I'll hopefully be in the audience listening. There are even rumours of a Mills and Boon giveaway at the event.


I had a sneak peek at the ipad yesterday, I'll hopefully be getting one soon and am delighted to hear Mills and Boon books will be available on the ipad later in the year - I used the voice utility to play part of a book aloud in a shop and was really pleased to hear a natural sounding reading voice, not the robotic voice I currently get on my computer. It will transform things for me, I'll no longer be stuck with just what I can get on audiobook.

Although that said there is even good news on the audiobook front. I'm trying out a romance audiobooks website, audiolark, which has some very reasonably priced titles.
I'll be listening to Nell Dixon's 'The Cinderella Substitute' as my next book which I'm really pleased about, having met her at last year's RNA conference. Talking of which I'm getting ridiculously excited about this year's conference and being able to chat to some of the writing friends I've grown close to over the past two
years :-)
Yep, Bob Hoskins knew what he was on about (famous BT ad in the 90s, for those of you outside of the UK!) .

Monday, 24 May 2010

Minxy moonlighting


I'm blogging over at the Minxes of Romance site today to introduce myself. This is a shameless appeal to blogland pals to pop over and say 'Hi' or else I'll feel the kid who plays on her/his own in the playground - you know the one (it used to be me in a dim and thankfully distant previous life!).

If you comment I promise to love you forever (well as long as you don't say anything nasty that is :-)


Friday, 14 May 2010

Celebrating

I have two writing reasons to be cheerful today:
  1. My crit group's new blog Minxes of Romance is going full steam ahead and some great authors have agreed to take up our author spotlight slots. In fact we have the winner of the RNA's Joan Hessayon award (announced yesterday), Lucy King, guesting in July - you can read about her win here
  2. I have started a new story AND found the paper notes for my Secret Billionaire partial so I can make some progress now...
I haven't had so much fun since my aqua-tai chi instructor told the class to swim to the deep end to warm up, completely forgetting that we had weights on our feet...

Friday, 30 April 2010

Discovering Scott Cole




I've been discovering Scott Cole this week, sorry that was supposed to be 'discovering Tai Chi with Scott Cole' ;-)
I'm trying to improve my balance and while I'm attending aqua-Tai Chi classes (yes, it's exactly what it sounds like!) I still have no idea what I'm waving about or why so I decided to buy a dvd.
And there's no way I'd be shallow enough to buy a dvd just because it has a picture of a half naked man on it, honest, it just looked like a good dvd...

Oh and if you're interested, he does do some of the workouts without a shirt on ;-)

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Lessons learnt last week

  1. Doing character sheets can be fun and makes synopsis writing easier.
  2. Not checking emails/blogs until after lunch leads to getting more writing done (who'd have thought, eh?).
  3. Ditto only checking blogs twice a week. Being forced to go cold turkey during my internet-less period helped me break the habit. I love it but could spend all my energy checking blogs, answering emails and critiquing and have none left over to write.
  4. Looking at animal rescue websites invariably leads to a new addition to the household. Pipsqueak (the name I've given him) was found tied to a road sign half starved. I can only assume he was abandoned because he was old as he's a lovely little chap and has become my new pint-sized shadow. My other dogs have accepted him in true female fashion i.e. bickering amongst themselves while pretending not to have noticed him ;-)

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Wicked witch of the west goes to the sea...


Thank you for the welcome back but ah I spoke too soon, the lovely internet went off and when it did come back refused to let me into anything I wanted to see. Added to being too ill to write I embarked on a course of the grumps resembling the wicked witch of the west with very bad PMT. The only highlight of last week was getting myself to the RNA chapter lunch and chatting to some really lovely and inspiring writers, one of whom has the same editor who gave me the famed Business Card.
Fired up about submitting my partial and the upcoming RNA conference even the 40 minute wait in the cold for the taxi that failed to turn up (snark ;-) couldn't totally quench the flame. Although I find nothing more irritating than burning to write and being, for whatever reason, unable to. Thankfully a last minute weekend trip to one of my favourite beaches helped bring me out of the grumps. Sod anger management, give me a bit of sunshine any day! And after a really annoying enforced rest I feel I can write today. Hooray!

Oh, and the dogs enjoyed themselves too!

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Back from Siberia

So I finally, finally have broadband and can return to Blogland! J I feel like an outcast returning from a spell in the Gulag where I’ve been having a bit of a foggy night of the soul.

But the fog is starting to clear and despite test results detailing the damage to my brain (for some reason I can’t write ‘brain damage’, it sounds so horrible) or perhaps in a rebellion against them, new Romances keep popping into my head, demanding to be written. So I’m just going to have to find a way to write them, to get some balance and routine back into my life and accept I’ll have to do things differently.

Which I can do - I have got some very nice and clever people helping me and I’ve had training offered for my voice software so I can learn how to use it properly and edit with it.

So watch this space - the partial is almost ready to send off and then I can turn to the stories that are itching to be written.

It’s nice to see on my return to the internet that the UK media is awash with positive stories about Mills and Boon – The Daily Mail reports that digital downloads of Mills and Boon have risen fifty seven per cent in five months.

And my favourite magazine, Grazia, raised the issue as a talking point this week.

And if that doesn’t cheer you up then this picture of a meerkat being used as a backrest by his fellow meerkats has got to raise a smile!

I’ll be blog visiting very soon, just need to shave the beard off first, to make myself presentable ;-)

Monday, 15 February 2010

An interesting choice of metaphor

I'm doing a quick post to quell rumours that I've been crushed by a giant writers' block falling from the sky. Instead I've been surrounded by cardboard boxes (some of which have fallen on me actually) and having yet more problems with my internet connection (grr). Anyway, just because I haven't left any comments on your blogs doesn't mean I don't love you all anymore, in fact I've really been missing my daily blog check and can't wait for life to let me slot back into my normal writing-obsessed routine.

So, to say sorry I haven't been around here are some romance novel quotations that I hope will make you smile :-)

1. His body was hard -- not hard like Milosevic, the Serbian strongman, but hard like the marble on your shower floor, when you fall and bang your knee.

2. Her embrace made his manhood swell like week-old roadkill on hot asphalt in the Georgia sun.

3. Her breasts heaved like a stormy ocean, and her pointed nipples were like hypodermics washed up on the shore.

4.Her petticoats dropped to the ground, rustling like a cockroach in a sugar bowl.

5. He tore open her blouse like a Publisher's Clearing House letter in which he, and some guy named Steven Bouber from Stockton, California, were potential finalists for the $10 million prize.

6. With each breath, her chest heaved like a bulimic after Thanksgiving dinner.

7.Then he kissed her, like a butterfly kisses the windshield of a Porsche on the Autobahn.

8. His manhood stood at full attention, stiff and stony like the vice president.

9. Beatrice was on him like a piranha on a corn dog.

10. His chest was her pillow, and oh, did she drool.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

The phantom phone ringer and a creative glimmer


Yesterday I actually wondered if the house might be cursed.

With the heating, hot water heater and drains all still on the blink and the phone line recently joining their strike after a valiant 6 day disruptive action campaign - crackling, disabling my internet and ringing at random times in the night with no one at the other end of the line (and spookily no call registered when 1471 was dialed). Well, maybe it was the internet withdrawal but when my lovely audiobook-playing iphone died and resisted resuscitation the whole curse idea seemed highly plausible. A notion that was only compounded by the electric blanket joining the 'things on the blink' list. Okay, so I've suspected for a while that my skin crackling with electricity when in bed was probably a bad sign but I needed it to keep WARM.

What's next? A plague of locusts?

On the plus side I am now deliriously grateful when anything previously taken for granted actually works. This morning I beamed at the BT man who fixed the "massive circuit failure" and gave me my internet back. It works. It works! I am no longer cast out into the utter darkness :-)

And another smidgeon of hope - I had a new story idea yesterday and an idea of how to fix Secret Billionaire (focussing on the emotion and motivation in each scene and maybe starting completely from scratch again. Gulp). Not exactly a complete demolition of writer's block but it's a start.

And I'm feeling surprisingly zen. Riding on the tide of my internet high I have a dream that one day I will again live in a home with piping hot water and those warm white things on the walls. The internet will flow unimpeded and my iphone pick up emails without my having to climb a tree and... Bother, my dream has just been interrupted by the kettle making a loud screeching noise. No, not the kettle, please spare the kettle (see The Rampage of the Tea-aholics).

I'll be back soon to see what you've all been up to. Plagues of locusts allowing of course :-)



Friday, 22 January 2010

Trailing behind/Kreativ Blogger


Okay, I seem to be slightly behind everyone else at the moment. I mean, I've only just found out that Edie has died in Desperate Housewives (I'm playing catchup with DVDs) and when Sally mentioned she'd nominated me for a Kreativ Blogger award I didn't actually know what she was talking about. But now I find I've missed loads of interesting personal facts being divulged and even missed Jackie and Lacey nominating me too! A week away from blogland is a very long time indeed.
So, I'm getting my act together, resisting the urge to blog about the boiler exploding and my life imploding and finding my manners to say thank you very much :-)
Now for seven hopefully interesting facts about myself. Hmm, well:
  1. I used to read and write arabic as a child but can't remember a thing now. I also used to speak fluent spanish and ditto. Everyone said it would come back (my parents now live in Spain) but it never has. By the time I was three years old my teddy had a BA frequent flyer's badge because we'd flown so many trips together (I was an ex-pat kid).
  2. I was evacuated from Iran during the revolution, along with my sister and mum. I remember everyone being very stressed and huddling round radios to find out what was going on.
  3. I managed to create a few dramas of my own by nearly dying several times as a toddler - I caught a tropical fever and had to be packed in ice, walked to the bottom end of a swimming pool and had to be resuscitated and fell off a sofa and stopped breathing.
  4. I once rode a racehorse belonging to the Sultan of Oman.
  5. I've been told this week I have 'Acquired Dyslexia' - it happens sometimes after a head injury but no one really knows why. Ah well, at least I know why everything's been coming out as gibberish when I type.
  6. I used to work somewhere that was used as a film set and was caught hanging out of the window trying to get a glimpse of Colin Firth as he went for his lunch. I also saw most of the cast of Harry Potter and got to ogle the props (the Knight bus, a hippogriff and some of the Hogsmeade shops).
  7. I've had tea at Buckingham Palace and with the Archbishop of Canterbury (Yes, really!)
Now, who to nominate? Most of my blog friends seem to have already been nominated so I'm doing a quick think about who I'd like to know interesting facts about. So I'm nominating:



Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Reasons to be cheerful

Yesterday was 'Black Monday' the day of the year calculated to be the most depressing by well, h'experts I suppose! When chatting to my mother in law about lack of heating etc a couple of weeks ago I said "Well, things could be worse". She replied doubtfully "I fail to see how." But in the past week I've been proved right - we ended up with no cold water either and then when the thaw came had extensive power cuts and the drains overflowed and blocked. I also got a stomach bug in addition to my cold.

In the interests of not depressing the hell out of my blog readers I've been thinking of reasons to be cheerful other than "it could be worse". They are rather shallow I'm afraid but they've worked for me ;-) Oh they're also a bit UK centric I'm afraid but I figure if you're in sunnier climes you might not be in as much need of cheering up!
  • Hustle is back on BBC1 with the lovely Mickey Bricks (Adrian Lester) who steals from the bad guys and is the epitome of alpha control :-)
  • Season 1 of The Mentalist will be out to buy on DVD very soon. I still haven't decided if it's Patrick Jane or Simon Baker I'm in love with :-)

  • Most fab news of all is that a new series of NCIS is on! I am a huge Michael Weatherly fan, but perhaps you've noticed that???

Saturday, 9 January 2010

The rampage of the tea-aholics


Now hot water I can do without. Heating I can do without (just). But the one thing guaranteed to put me in a strop is being deprived of my cup of tea. Not having one to start off the day just feels all wrong and trying to write without tea in my system, well...
And tea for me requires milk.
Unfortunately by the time we got out of our snowed-in village we found panic buyers have emptied shop shelves of every single drop of milk, even the skimmed and UHT stuff I've never known anyone to like.
Combine that with tankers being unable to access dairy farms and you have total and utter chaos among the tea-aholics. I'd used some of our last precious reserves for my husband's emergency flask (as advised by every single news broadcast I've seen) as he set off in the snow to see a client. Said client spied the flask and leapt upon it (well he hadn't had a cuppa for two days so I do sympathize). Then he and the husband shared the contents closeted in the office where the other staff wouldn't see them.
Anyone who's ever worked in a British office knows if the kettle ceases to the work the workers begin to revolt. I fear if milk deliveries don't resume we will have a national crisis on our hands.
You have been warned. Expect reports of cow rustling soon...

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

It doesn't snow but it pours...



Some lowlights of 2010 so far:
  1. Falling flat on my face in a frozen forest and giving myself a black eye.
  2. Discovering this morning that the temperamental hot water supply has gone the same way as the heating and is now refusing to put in an appearance at all. Not great when the temperature is going down to minus 9 at night and unlikely to rise above zero for at least a week.
  3. Open warfare, resulting in a vet's visit this week, between my two dogs who have happily shared a basket and been the best of friends for four years. Any tips on how to restore harmony gratefully received.
  4. Going down with yet another stinking cold. Honestly, I didn't get colds at home in the Northern Highlands (too cold for the germs to survive perhaps?).
Some highlights of 2010 so far:
  1. Being snowed in today meant I got to miss physio and actually made some progress re-writing Secret Billionaire. Nobody faint, please ;-)
  2. The snow also meant I got to see Holly do a mad 5 minute roll in the snow, making very cute squeaky noises and making me laugh.