Friday, 28 May 2010

A week of two halves

Hello hello hello

I've had an unusually rollercoastery week this week *pauses to wipe brow*. Some things have been unbelievably ACE... like the fact that Sweet Temptation is NUMBER ONE in the Heatseekers chart this week (that means it's just outside the official Top 50) - woo-hoo! I am so utterly chuffed. It's still only on sale in Tesco at the moment, so I am also a little bit - actually quite a lot - in love with all those Tesco shoppers who've picked up a copy. Mwah. Thank you, Tesco shoppers. You're great. I hope you like the book. (And if you do, 'Hens Reunited' is currently in a 3 for 2 offer in Tesco too...)
I've already had some lovely emails from complete strangers saying they've read it and enjoyed it, which makes me feel really happy. And one week today, Sweet Temptation will be on sale everywhere else which is great news. So that has all been WONDERFUL.

Slightly less wonderful has been my battle with the current work-in-progress. Honestly, I have never agonised so much about a book before, NEVER. I don't want to sound melodramatic or pretentious (much), but I have just been tearing my hair out over how I could get it to work. It started off as a one-person narrative but then a few months ago, I decided to add in another storyline from a second main character, hoping to weave them together. The storylines and characters were quite different, so the idea was that they would complement each other and then tie in beautifully towards the end. Well, that was the plan, anyway.

Unfortunately, tying the storylines together has been way more difficult than I thought. I tried all sorts of things to bring my characters together in order to justify having a double narrative, but really, I was scraping around to make the common ground work. Although each time I was able to find a temporary solution to the problem, I knew in my heart that something still felt wrong. It just didn't quite work. Deep down, I knew the second narrative had been a mistake.
As I was writing it, I kept imagining my editor expressing doubts, and even worse, the scathing reviews if anyone read it in its current messy state. It was starting to get longer and longer, more and more out of hand. It wasn't right. "Keep it simple," my agent said. Good advice.

So, yesterday I took a deep breath and cut out the second narrative. All 25,000 words of it. Yes. That's 25,000 words, all gone. And yes. I did nearly cry.

BUT... even though making the cut was awful, it wasn't long before I felt so much more positive about the book again, and relieved that I'd finally faced facts, gritted my teeth and removed this second character. I know it was the right thing to do. I've now mapped out the rest of the book for my one remaining character and it works a million times better. And even though cutting out that second character was painful, I have put her aside, perhaps for book 6. It's a good story, just not one that works with my original story.

So there have been deep breaths and sighs, as well as the cheers and smiles this week. Never a dull moment... but I feel as if I've got my head around this novel now which can only be a good thing. I guess it shows that when there's a voice telling you that an element of your novel doesn't work, it's important to listen to that voice, rather than sticking your fingers in your ears and saying 'lalalalala can't hear you' which is what I've been doing for the last few months!

Have a good bank holiday weekend everyone, anyway. I'm off to the Hay Festival to do a few children's book events which should be a laugh. Let's hope the rain stays away this year...

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Like Bees to Honey - Caroline Smailes

Like Bees to Honey, the new novel by the extremely fabulous Caroline Smailes is out this month - in fact, it's on sale on Amazon right now (click HERE to buy yours). I've already got a copy which I can't wait to get stuck into. Not only does it look absolutely gorgeous, the plot sounds fantastic, and just from flicking through, you can see there are all sorts of interesting, quirky design details inside. I think it's going to be a corker.

To celebrate publication, Caroline and her publishers have organised the coolest blog tour I have ever seen. Below, you'll see a funky little widget that opens up chapter 27 of the book. The other chapters are scattered around different blogs, so you have to follow a blog-trail to read through. Sounds like the best kind of treasure hunt to me. So what you need to do now, is go to Caroline's blog for the start of the trail. What are you waiting for?





The next chapter can be found here. Happy reading!

Monday, 17 May 2010

Competitions and reviews and stuff

Hello all,
The sun is shining down here in Bath today.... hurrah! Spring is back, and so are my fitflops!

I am still busily writing the new novel but AT LAST I feel I have turned a corner and know what the hell I'm doing with it. Phew. I felt as if I was stuck on that awful mid-novel this-is-rubbish hump for a long time, which was slightly alarming. The only thing now is that I think the book is going to turn out quite a bit longer than I'd originally expected. Usually, I work to a rough 100,000-word frame, but this time, it's looking like it's going to have another 20,000 words or so...yikes. I'm hoping to pass the 80,000 word mark this week though which will be A Good Thing.

My big exciting news is that Sweet Temptation is now on sale in Tesco! HURRAH! It's not published anywhere else yet, as Tesco are doing an exclusive from now until the beginning of June. I'm really chuffed as it's the first time they've taken any of my books; it feels like a big vote of confidence which, let's face it, is always rather lovely. Unfortunately there isn't a Tesco near us but because I am such a saddo I am going to make a special journey to Bristol just to see my little book there for myself. (I know. I am tragic. Just humour me!)

If there's not a Tesco near you either, then you could still win an early copy via the lovely Caroline, who is running a giveaway on her blog, right here. There's a review of the book too and a guest post from me, about how I came to write this particular book (blog magic has a lot to answer for.) It's very generous of Caroline as she has a book out herself this month, Like Bees to Honey, which sounds amazing. I'm a bit excited about taking part in her blog tour to promote it, so come back here on Thursday to see what's happening!

What else can I tell you? There's a nice review of Sweet Temptation on the 'Heard it in the Playground' site here, and it's in Good Housekeeping this month too, along with an article about friendship by me. Good Housekeeping have called the book 'an uplifting celebration of sisterhood' - how nice is that?!

One last link to pass your way, just before my head explodes with all this me-me-me stuff. Stephanie, who writes the Bah! to Cancer blog is running a Bah! Brilliant Book Bonanza, which is an online giveaway of uplifting reads. Have a look, there are some corkers up for grabs.

Right, that's it from me for now. Better do some actual book writing, I suppose...

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Competition

Hello, hello, hello...
Not a proper blog post (shock!) but I just wanted to flag up this competition on the Heard it on the Playground website. You can win a copy of Sweet Temptation hot off the press!

I can't believe it's nearly publication day... I should receive my author copies any day now and can't wait to get my mitts on them. The book's coming out in Tesco first on May 13th (that's NEXT THURSDAY!) and then everywhere else on 4th June. Exciting!

Otherwise I've had my head down, immersing myself in the new novel like the diligent little author I am. I'm hoping to crack 75,000 words by the end of next week which will make me very happy. More soon...

Sunday, 18 April 2010

(Nearly) Perfect Weekend

Helloooo! It is a gorgeous day here in Bath, bright hot sunshine, and clear blue skies. Have had to come in for a bit actually, as I can feel my skin tingling from the sun.
I've had a fab weekend so far. Yesterday, eldest daughter and I started the day with a morning run as we are both training for this summer's Race For Life. Well, I say we are 'both' training, but she could probably run it backwards with a a few bricks strapped to her back, she is already so fit and speedy. We had our first practice run last week and it ended up being quite embarrassing, with her streaking ahead, stopping every now and then to shout, "Come on, Mum, hurry up!" while I was wheezing and panting in her wake. Yesterday was better although there were still a few 'face like a tomato' comments from all three kids when we got back. Daughter, of course, still fresh as a daisy. "Mum, I think maybe you should do some training on your own before we go out again," she said. Yes, all right, all right!

Anyway, once I'd got that out of the way, we drove to my mother-in-law's house for lunch... and then drove back, sans enfants! Yes, for the first time in almost two years (since our two-day honeymoon in fact), Lovely Husband and I had a night away from the kids. Hurrah! Obviously I do adore them and love them and treasure them but ooohhh... a night off... BLISS. Particularly weird to be having a night off here in Bath - never done that before. Not just the not-needing-a-babysitter thing, but also, having the house empty when we got back. Empty bedrooms. No little snores. No pattering feet (and bellowing arguments) in the morning either. But anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself.

As if the no-kids thing wasn't exciting enough, we'd only gone and booked ourselves onto a hot air balloon flight. Yes! I know! And it wasn't raining or anything! The balloon took off from Victoria Park and I must confess, I hadn't really thought about the mechanics of how it would all work, I kind of assumed we'd just rock up to the park, scramble into a basket and off we'd float. But no. There were 16 of us who were going on the flight and first of all we had to unroll the balloon, so that it was spread right out on the grass. Then he picked some volunteers, two to hold the 'crown lines' whatever they were, at the top of the balloon, two to hold open the balloon as it was filled with air, and two to operate the fans, which blew in the air to inflate it.
I was picked to hold one side of the balloon's 'mouth' open which involved wearing some huge red suede gloves(nice), then standing on one of the cables at the base of the balloon and holding up some of the opening. A guy was on the other side doing the same thing, so that between us we had made a rectangle opening. (are you with me so far?) It was really hard work with the fans blasting out the air and the balloon pulling me about (especially my foot), and then even harder once the flame burner thingy went on and started shooting hot air into the balloon. (You can tell I am a scientist at heart, can't you? Just so technical with my details.) It was so cool watching it inflate though. The pilot walked right into the balloon and was checking strings and cables and things inside, and I could peer around the edge to watch him. It was such a beautiful piece of engineering, like looking into an amazing building, a huge concert hall or arena.
Once the balloon was full, we had to climb quickly into the basket (the balloon won't wait for you, you know!) and then we lifted off surprisingly fast. There was barely any breeze so we drifted really slowly over the centre of Bath, which I didn't mind at all actually, as I loved looking down, trying to identify all the crescents and hills... and our road, and the kids' school! Because there weren't any planes flying, we had permission to fly higher than usual, up to 3,000ft so that we could catch some breeze. It was so quiet up there, so dreamily peaceful, looking down on the rest of the world.
We cruised slowly along for an hour or so before finally landing in a field to the surprise of some fighting pheasants, then having some champagne. One of those really really memorable experiences. Then phoned the kids to say goodnight and my 7-year-old asked, "Did you see the ash cloud?" He sounded really disappointed when my husband told him no, we hadn't actually gone that high!

The kids are due back in half an hour... I can't wait to see them. Apparently they have been 'little angels' for Grandma. Just time for a last sunbathe/Sunday paper sesh before they come home. Hope you've all had a good weekend too x

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Happy holidays

Almost at the end of the school holidays unfortunately... have had a really lovely, chilled fortnight. So nice to have sunshine after the long, cold winter... we have had the paddling pool out in the garden and even the barbecue which has been fab. Bought the barbecue last summer but didn't get to use it once, so it was good to christen it with a few sausages at long last!

Unfortunately, there hasn't been a huge amount of writing done recently. Novel 5 is now up to 57,000 words and I have been tearing my hair out over it - getting tangled up in different storylines and probably trying to pack too much in. Fingers crossed it all comes right in the second draft. May have to wield the red pen and scalpel to knock it into shape.

Much more exciting is the fact that Sweet Temptation is off at the printers... yay! German and Dutch rights have been sold already which is brilliant news. Hurrah! I really can't wait to see finished copies now... it is just the best bit of the whole process when the box arrives and you get to hold an actual copy of your book in your hands for the very first time. And with a bit of luck, seeing them will inspire me to finish the next book... here's hoping!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Spring, paragraphs and Moomins

Hello again, and how are we all doing? Hopefully Spring has sprung in your part of the world - it's another lovely sunny morning here in Bath, hurrah. Eldest daughter's daffs (potted up at Brownies last year) are finally blooming little yellow trumpets, the crocuses are out, the tulips have pushed up tall green leaves, and there are the first signs of life on the magnolia tree: tiny furry buds. (I love magnolia trees. We only have a small 'Stellar' in a pot but my dream house (wherever that may be) will definitely have a huge magnolia in the garden absolutely dripping with those gorgeous creamy-pink flowers. Oh yes.)

The novel is still coming along, slowly but surely. I am up to 42,000 words now, and have been aiming for 2,000 words a day this week and last, just to keep it ticking along. Of course, that will go out of the window next week, as I've got to switch onto the second draft of a children's book, and need to come up with a new synopsis for something else... and then of course, the Easter holidays will be looming and NO WORK WILL BE DONE. But anyway, this week, I'm aiming to get as close to 50,000 words as I can. I always feel better once I've hit that halfway point.

Book-wise, I've just finished reading The Group by Mary McCarthy for my book group. I could have sworn I'd read this before back in my student days (I think it is that kind of book), but when I came to start reading the other week, it was completely unfamiliar. (This has happened twice to me lately. I was convinced I'd read 'A Patchwork Planet' by Anne Tyler too, largely because it had been sat on my book shelf for years and I just assumed I must have read it at some point. I hadn't though. I think that's what you call a senior moment, which is a bit worrying, seeing as I am still 39. Doesn't bode well for my old age, does it?) ANYWAY. So it turned out I hadn't read The Group after all, and I must confess, I started reading it, feeling very disappointed. The cover has glowing quotes from Sarah Waters, Marian Keyes, India Knight, all saying how wonderful they think it is, and at first I thought I must be reading a different book. It felt really heavy-going, I couldn't keep track of who the hell everybody was and, REALLY ANNOYINGLY, the design and layout is awful, frankly, with page after page of dense, solid prose, with hardly a paragraph break in sight. Perhaps this is very shallow of me, but I find that sort of page layout really off-putting. Even when there is dialogue, there was no paragraphing, the speakers just run on from each other in one great lump. Call me an old fart, but I JUST DON'T LIKE THAT.

Anyway (she says, hurriedly breaking up a rather long paragraph), once I'd got over my fit of pique and got to grips with who everybody was, I did really enjoy it. In fact, it's the sort of book that you want to re-read, so that you can appreciate the early chapters more, knowing what you do about the characters by the end of it. Lots to talk about too - a perfect 'book group' book.

I've just started reading 'A Tale of Two Cities' which I've definitely never read before. I'm finding that quite heavy-going too - maybe I was tired and befuddled by my streaming cold (did I mention my streaming cold?), but I had to read the first few chapters twice over before I could make any sense of them last night. Happily I am interspersing Mr Dickens with lots of eldest daughter's books, all in the name of research. I would really like to write a slightly older children's novel for girls next, mainly because my eldest is too old to read the books I'm currently writing and I miss being able to try them out on her and get her feedback. I've got an idea for a book anyway, but have told myself I need to research the market, so have been thoroughly enjoying myself snuggling up with all her recommendations. She is loving it too - "Mum, you must read THIS" etc, although she is terrible for spoilers - ie, "Have you got to the bit where she.... yet?" I have to put my hands over my ears: "Don't tell me ANYTHING!"

Finally, as a treat to us all, I'm reading 'Finn Family Moomintroll' to the kids for their bedtime story. I read it a couple of years ago to eldest daughter and son, and now I'm reading it to son and youngest daughter, although eldest keeps joining us to listen. It is one of the most perfect books for children, and I am enjoying it every bit as much as they are.

Right... nearly 9.30 and I'd better crack on with the novel. Time to throw in some major angst and drama, methinks... with plenty of paragraph breaks, of course!

Friday, 12 March 2010

Keep on running

It was the Bath half-marathon last weekend which was fab. There's something really mesmerising, I think, about watching thousands of people running along together, some seasoned pros, of course, who steam along at incredible paces (the freaks), some nervous first-timers who don't even know if they can make it the whole way around, people in Scooby-Doo and Superman costumes, ballet tutus and full make-up, others who run with a pack of mates, all cheering each other along. There are so many stories and so many dramas - the pain, the triumph, the blisters... it's like a microcosm of the human existence, man. Well, maybe not, but all the same, I find it fascinating - and awe-inspiring - to watch.

I am not a natural runner or an athletic type by any stretch of the imagination (ha! a nation sniggers) but I've been inspired to go out running a couple of times this week after seeing the marathon runners and envying them their stamina. I've also been inspired by Eddie Izzard's marathon challenge too - have you been watching the programme about him? Amazing. How did he DO that?

I guess running a marathon is a lot like writing a novel. All those hours spent training (or writing), the highs and lows, the will-I-get-to-the-end? angst, the pain and the anguish when it's not looking good, the soaring joy when you turn a corner and realise you can see a way through to the end... Gosh, I'm being very deep and meaningful here today - sorry. I don't know what's come over me. Am I making any sense?

I've had a wobble over the novel-in-progress recently anyway. I felt like I was going in the wrong direction, so took a deep breath and cut loads of it out. (Ouch.) Then I had a panic about how my word count had plummeted and an oh-shit-I-am-never-going-to-finish-this! freak-out. (Heeeeeelp!) BUT today I think I've turned a corner. Now I feel I'm back on track. I just have to keep plodding along, like Eddie Izzard, one foot after another, one word after another... and have a little faith that I'll get there in the end.
Let's hope there's a silver foil blanket and a Lucozade waiting for me when I make it. Or even a bottle of champers...

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

How Did That Happen?

Oh my goodness... I have left the blog neglected and dusty for a whole MONTH! How rubbish am I? I have been kind of busy though, honest, not just lazy. In fact, in February, I went to Norwich, Cornwall, London, Coventry AND Leicestershire for various trips, all of which were work-related, so that's my excuse. I'm back in sunny, nearly-spring-like Bath and am not going anywhere for a while. Phew.

So... what's the goss? I suppose I'd better tell you mine first. The new novel is coming along, slowly but surely. Part of the reason I was in Cornwall was for a research trip - the whole family were there at first and we investigated various places I want to write about (she said cryptically), and then they all buggered off home, leaving me in a cottage, writing furiously for three days. It is amazing how much work you can get done when you don't have the distractions of children, housework, Facebook etc. I wrote 18,000 words in three days! So that was a bit of a result. I felt so LONELY by the end of it though, I was desperate to see my kids and husband, absolutely aching to see them, if that doesn't sound too melodramatic. We had a lovely reunion on the platform at Bath train station though, children flinging themselves at me from all angles, awwww... Five minutes later, I was telling them off about something, but you know, it was nice while it lasted!

I went to London last week for two meetings - one with two children's book editors, for whom I'm writing a new series (did you like that 'for whom', by the way? Just call me Victorian Gentlewoman) which was fantastic - we were brainstorming plot ideas for the last three books in the series, and I came away feeling v inspired and like a proper creative person. Then I met my children's books agent for lunch and a catch-up, which was also extremely nice and I found myself rashly promising her a full synopsis for a new children's novel by the end of the month. Eek. Better think up an idea fast.

Afterwards, I'd planned to go to the Van Gogh exhibition at the Royal Academy, but when I got there it was absolutely heaving, with a massive queue. So I went to Fortnum and Mason instead, as it was raining and I was curious. WOW. Have you ever been there? I never had before but I think it is my new favourite shop. The Easter Egg displays were just amaaaaazing (do NOT take a child in there unless you are prepared to say "No, you can't have it" at least 700 times) and ooh, everything, actually, was just beautiful. I went up to the 3rd floor to the 'Gentlemen's Gifts' section as my husband's birthday is coming up, to find tables of solid silver compasses, snazzy cufflinks, silk ties, bowler hats (I'm not joking) and a sales assistant wearing a full-on suit. Unless he was one of the customers, of course. Fabulous. Obviously I bought nothing, but all the same: fabulous.

Reading-wise, I was lucky enough to be sent a proof of Tess Stimson's new one - What's Yours Is Mine. I started it last night and it is so, so good - brilliantly written, great characters, lots of clever bits that make you think twice. It's out in April so look out for it, I'm sure it will be another whopping hit for her.

Right, better go, 2,000 jobs to do before school kicks out in half an hour, and it's the dreaded swimming lessons to be a taxi service for too. More soon. Well, sooner than a whole month, anyway, I hope... x

Monday, 1 February 2010

The novel awaits...

Hello, I hope you're all having a good Monday morning and aren't too chilly/hungover/plagued by Monday-morning-itis. It was very frosty here this morning first thing and is still brass monkeys in my little office. I am pressing myself against the pathetically lukewarm metal side of a plug-in radiator as I type. Brrrr.

Today's the day I return to my new novel - Novel 5 as it shall be catchily known henceforth. Hurrah! Well, let's hope it's a Hurrah, anyway. I haven't worked on it for weeks - haven't even looked at it since way before Christmas as it's been one thing after another, deadline-wise, lately. But now... it's all gone quiet for a while so February is going to be the month where I start galloping along with the story and write loads and loads and loads. You wait. There are scribbled notes scattered around the bedroom/my handbag/the living room with various plot points I have thought up while I've been getting on with other stuff so now I just need to gather them all up, recycle all the ones that are completely nonsensical/illegible, type the rest of them into my notes document, then read through the pages I've already written and get cracking. That's all.

Somehow or other though, it's already gone half-part ten and I've only just sat down at my desk. Somehow or other I managed to pop round to two different friends' houses after the school run this morning, and have also nipped to the shop and bakery for various purchases. And for some reason I'm writing a blog post about getting started when I really should be digging out my red pen and editing the work-in-progress, and - yeah, getting started, basically. Funny that, isn't it?

I am a bit scared about reading through the manuscript as it stands to be honest. I lay awake last night worrying that I was going to read it all and decide that it was utter crap and I'd have to start again. What if I start turning the pages and I've done a Shining-esque All-work-and-no-play-makes-Sue-I-mean-Lucy-a-dull-author? Oh Gawd. I'd better not put it off any longer. Heeeeeeeere's Johnny!

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Why I Love Wonderful Wednesdays

Back when we were ankle-deep in toddlers and babies, my husband and I shared the work/childcare duties between us. He would work three days a week and I would work two, and whoever was not officially working would actually work even harder by looking after our three little babes. It was a pretty frazzling time, looking back. Nobody had enough sleep and the days were filled with non-stop domestic dramas of scraped knees, tantrums, tussles and bottom-wiping. I had barely five minutes to myself, constantly looked like death warmed up and felt as if my brain had melted to a useless sludge.
Obviously it wasn't all bad. There were loads of really good bits too that I wouldn't have missed for the world. The triumphs of first steps, first words, first teeth. All those cuddly bedtime stories. Making dens or cakes or castles... Some days when we went down to the beach or the park or even just a friend's house, and everyone was happy and healthy and being cute and lovely... well, they were awesome. Brilliant. I felt happy to be alive and so lucky to be a mum. Just... knackered.

It won't always be like this, Lovely Husband and I would console ourselves, in the evening when the darlings were finally all asleep. Imagine, when they're all out of nappies! Imagine, when they all sleep through the night! Imagine, when they're all at school. Life will go back to normal! Except what if... what if we both carried on working part-time and HAD A DAY OFF TOGETHER EVERY WEEK?

Well. Do you know what? That's just what has happened. The children are all at school between Monday and Friday, but do Lovely Husband and I both work between Monday and Friday? No, we do not. He works four days a week and I do too. So that means since Youngest Daughter started school back in September, every Wednesday has been fun day. It is sooooooo brilliant! Even if we do boring things like stripping wallpaper or cleaning the house, it's just us two! How fantastic is that?
Yesterday was the jewel in the Wednesday crown so far. We went to the Thermae Spa here in Bath and oh my goodness, it is so lovely. I'd never been there before but I will definitely go back. And as we lay there in the roof-top pool, the water steaming around us as we gazed over the Georgian chimneys and roof-tops, we said, We've earned this. And that was a good, good feeling.
Bring on the next Wednesday!

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

..Talking of jet planes...

Went to see Up in the Air last Friday night, the new George Clooney film. Have you seen it? It's fab - great, sparky dialogue, unexpected plot twists, and of course GEORGE in all his soulful-eyed glory. Mm-mmm. I thought it was going to be a schmaltzy feelgood romcom but was proved wrong - it's actually quite melancholic and edgy. Great. Also saw Revolutionary Road on DVD over the weekend - phew, it's brilliant but very intense. So well acted and shot, the sort of film that makes you feel wrung-out afterwards.
My guilty-pleasure-viewing lately has been slightly less cerebral... American Idol! It's the first series I've ever watched and I had mistakenly thought it might be a bit humourless and po-faced. Wrong! It's hilarious and for all the right reasons. Loving it!

What else have I got to report? Must think of something, otherwise you'll assume that all I do is sit around watching the big and small screen. As if! Oh yes, I went up to Bingley last week to visit my prize-winner in his school which was great - a long trek (more sitting around albeit on a moving train) - but well worth it.

Writing-wise, I've just about finished a new children's book which means I've got some time to get back to my next novel. I can't wait to get stuck into it again - I've had loads of other deadlines to work my way through this month so I haven't even looked at it for weeks and have had loads of new ideas as to how to develop it and bung in a few minor storylines (I have a notebook full of scribbles to show for it!). I'm up to about 15,000 words so far, so I think I will print that lot out, edit and change stuff around, and then carry on with some new chapters. That's the plan, anyway...

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go...

Ha! Can you tell I've been practising my guitar? I can play 'Leaving on a Jet Plane' AND 'Streets of London' now you know. Simon Cowell is going to be knocking on my door any day, you wait. (And telling me to stick to the day job, no doubt...)

Anyway, the 'all my bags are packed' line is relevant today as I'm off on my travels. Not leaving on a jet plane, though, more like leaving on First Great Western, heading north, north and a bit further north. In fact, over the next few weeks I'm going to be going north, south, east and west which is all rather exciting. Today, I'm off up to Yorkshire. A while ago, my children's publisher ran a kids' writing competition where one of the prizes was an author visit from me. (Call that a prize?!) And the winning writer's school is up in Yorkshire, so that's where I'm off to today. The only thing is, it takes 5 hours to get there on the train... eek! My ipod is fully charged and ready to take a serious hammering, plus I have 97 books to keep me going. Or something like that.

Then next week I'm heading...er... east to London for a glam publishing party. VERY excited about that although have the usual worries about disgracing myself in front of famous people etc. (Will give you a full blow-by-blow report, obviously.)
After that, I'm off eastwards again, this time to Norwich with the lovely Veronica Henry, as we're doing a New Romantics gig there on the 10th Feb in the central library. Come along, ye folk of Norwich! Everybody welcome. I will post the time etc once I know what the hell we're doing.

Finally, during half-term, I'm going south AND west (bit of a cheat but humour me) down to Cornwall for a holiday - I mean, intensive writing retreat. My new novel is set down there and obviously I need to do some serious research into the beaches, the restaurants, the hotel spa - ahem. Well, I can't write ALL the time, can I?

Now to pack my things for this school event. Werewolf mask - check. Plastic giant squid, fairy wand, spooky plastic skull, rubber snake - check. You think I'm kidding, don't you? All I can say is, if anyone tries to nick my luggage, they're in for a big surprise...

Monday, 18 January 2010

Hibernating

It's always a bit tempting to imagine hibernating at this time of year - especially if you feel as Monday-morning-ish as I do today. Right now, I'd like nothing more than to go back to bed and stay there for the rest of the day. A duvet, a thermos of tea and a pile of books - that's all I'd need. Oooh... it's so tempting... especially as I've got some great reads waiting for me up there.

I'm currently reading Virginia Woolf's Selected Diaries . Before Christmas, I read Susan Hill's brilliant new book Howard's End is on the Landing which I can't recommend enough - the perfect book-lover's book, about the year Susan Hill spends re-reading her old novels rather than buying new ones. Every other page I found myself scribbling down a title that I wanted to read, so brilliantly does she describe them, and Virigina Woolf's diaries is one such book.

So far it's wonderful. VW is very candid and deliciously spiky - ie there's a fab line about Katharine Mansfield, something like 'It is a great shame that one's first impression of Katharine Mansfield is that she stinks like a civet cat which has been walking the streets' ! Ooh Virginia - don't mince your words. It's a great big fat book anyway, and absolutely fascinating. I've only ever read Mrs Dalloway by VW before, and that was years ago, but now I'm reading her diaries (and having watched The Hours again on TV the other night) I want to have a bit of a Woolf-fest and immerse myself in her books.

In complete contrast, I've been sent a juicy-sounding new novel called 'Players' by Karen Swan which sounds very Jilly Cooper-esque, lots of frothy fun. Perfect, in fact, for hibernating with under my duvet....

Not today, though. Must be self-disciplined and sensible. I have work to be getting on with: namely a new Kitten Club book to be writing. And the house is a mess, and I've got all my accounts paperwork spread out on the floor that I need to go through and.... Well, there's always something, isn't there? Maybe if I work really really hard and get lots of writing done now, I will treat myself with a little pre-school-pick-up hibernation later...

Friday, 15 January 2010

New arrivals... and departures

Did I mention that our family has expanded? No?! I can't believe I forgot to pass on the big news. Our family of five is now a family of... well, twenty-something. Ish. I can't actually count them all off the top of my head.

No, don't worry, I haven't suddenly produced twenty-tuplets or whatever the multiple birth moniker is. We have pets!

The first new addition to the family arrived in October, coinciding neatly with eldest daughter's ninth birthday. It's a little brown and white hamster called Biscuits. (She does look rather like a custard cream, truth be told, although much cuter.) She is very sweet but unfortunately for us, brilliant at escaping. Any chance she gets, she's sneaking out of the cage and is off on an adventure. The kids all adore her and are already planning treats for her birthday (AUGUST!). I like her too so we're all happy. Although I'm not sure I really am going to make her a hamster food birthday cake, as I've been asked.

The next collection of pets arrived just before Christmas. Some friends had been given a fish tank and some tropical fish a year or so earlier and decided they didn't actually have room for it any more, so did we want it? YES! was the answer. So we inherited a tank with about ten neon tetras and some rummynose thingymabobs (not their actual name), and then we took the kids off to Bath Aquatics and they each chose a new fish to join the merry gang. Eldest daughter chose a Siamese Fighting Fish (named Scarlet), son chose a stripy fish (called Stripy) and Youngest daughter chose a strange brown eel-like thing that goes around eating all the algae off the rocks (named, rather incongruously, Violet). Lovely husband chose a silver angel fish (Angel) and two orange and black striped things (William and Blake). I chose four male guppies that are forever scrapping. (Tuh. Men, eh?) They don't have names because we keep getting them muddled up.

So that's all been rather exciting... until last night when unfortunately we found Scarlet lying lifeless at the bottom of the tank. Oh God! I felt so awful! What did we do wrong? We didn't dare break the news to Eldest this morning as I didn't want to send her off to school in tears (and I know there will be tears), so I will have to tell her this afternoon. Meanwhile, it's farewell to poor Scarlett. Rest in peace, little fishy.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Hello! And how are we all doing?
Can you believe that it's been so long since I was on Blogger that I couldn't remember my own password and was locked out? (Yes, actually, you slacker, the nation replies.)
Sorry for being so crap. The problem was, after months of resisting temptation because I knew it would mean endless distractions, I gave in and joined Facebook. And Facebook is much easier to update than a blog, isn't it? You only need one perky little sentence here and there. And you get to play Farmville too! And waste hours of time sending stupid messages to your mates - genius!

But anyway. Being serious. New Year's Resolution number 29: resurrect the blog. Give it the kiss of life. Prod it a bit. Write something on it, dammit!

Tick! Well, that was easier than I thought. I've got more resolutions though. 1: get fit again. Yes, that old chestnut. As well as resurrecting the blog today, I've also resurrected my fitness coach. Or rather, My Fitness Coach, the Wii game that bullies you into leaping around your own living room until you are completely out of breath. I did a workout this morning and embarrassingly, it had been so long since I put on my tracky bottoms that the elastic round the top had perished and I had to keep hoicking them up. (Resolution 1a: get some new tracky bottoms.)

Other resolutions... practise the guitar. Lovely Husband bought me a guitar for Christmas! Yay! And despite the trauma of having to cut my left fingernails down in order to play it, I am really enjoying it. My repertoire consists of 'He's Got The Whole World in his Hands' (a mighty two chords to learn) and... Well, that's about it, so far. Still, if the writing all goes pear-shaped, it could be my next career move, busking on the streets of Britain.

Talking of writing... I've got a new book out this year. Hurrah! It's called Sweet Temptation, and is all about the best things in life: love, friendship and cake. I was just about to post an image of the cover but don't seem to have one saved to my computer. Tell you what, here's the Amazon link so you can have a look. What do you think?

I'm writing the next one now - my FIFTH novel, wow, it feels amazing to say that. It's set down by a beach so I'm finding it a bit tricky, with all this snow on the ground, to write lovely sunny beach scenes. Luckily I have booked a holiday - ahem, I mean research trip - in order to help me with that!

Right, I'd better go. School is closed today and there's an ominous silence in the house which is never a good thing. More soon. x