Sunday, September 30, 2007

Losing what's left of my mind

I've been attempting to clear out my office this week. I had some stupid idea that seeing as I had this really nice office I should actually clear the crap out of it and start using it. In the course of my clearing I found two full manuscripts, both completed - in longhand - in my writing. I don't remember writing either of them!! I have no clue when I wrote them except I'm assuming they must have been done sometime after the eldest belle was born, before I had computer access.
They are both very 'Presents' in tone but I really cannot recall doing either of them. Does this mean I've gone completely bonkers?
Sadly, I don't think either of them are usable - the passage of time hasn't been kind to them and I hope my writing has improved since then. I'd love to find my first epic - a sci-fi sensual romance - which I think owed much to the fabulous Andre Norton.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Blue Remembered Heels

I was on Amazon UK earlier today and almost fell out of my seat in surprise - Blue Remembered Heels is listed for preorder with a release date of June 12th 2008! OMG it's real! I am so so thrilled and excited.
Unfortunately I had to keep my squeals of excitement down as Mr Nell is on nights but the fish looked suitably impressed as I shimmied past their tank.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday Fun 12

There is a lot of interest it seems in the spookier aspects of the Black Country so here is a Friday Fun with a difference. Dudley is famous for many things but one of them is the Singing Cavern, a vast limestone cave which you reach by Narrow boat. It is reputed to be haunted.
Why not take a peep for yourself?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Reading for Pleasure

I'm looking forward to hearing the radio four programme on Mills and Boon this morning. It'll be interesting to see if they drag out the old tired cliches or if they actually talk about what the books mean to the people that read them.
M&B books cop for a lot of flack, usually from people who haven't read one or from the pseudo-intellectuals who find it somehow demeaning to read romance.
I make no apologies for my love of M&B. I read for PLEASURE - hello? does any one remember that? I'm reading them because I love a happy ever after, because I want a well-crafted story that makes me smile, makes me cry, transports me from whatever grey spot my day holds to somewhere sunnier and happier.
I don't read M&B to improve my mind - although I've learned a huge amount about other cultures, places, languages, history and of course, about relationships, from them.
I read them because when I lost my first five pregnancies, went through hours of painful medical treatment, years of fertility treatments, and the trauma of numerous surgeries they were my rock. They made me feel better, happier, they took my mind away from my worries.
If you haven't read a M&B then pick one out today. There's something for everyone, from the steamier Blazes, medical romances, alpha heroed Presents and true to life romances. Surprise yourself - read for pleasure.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Moving on up

My middle belle goes to the eldest belle's high school tonight for the official look around. She's very excited about that. Youngest is also coming as she is only a year behind so her turn will roll around faster than I like to think. Although Boo will probably end up at the same school as her big sister we wanted her to have the same opportunity to compare that our eldest had.
La has already informed us that she wants to go somewhere else - sigh. Maybe she'll change her mind, she may have to.
I just hope they won't be disappointed - High School Musical has a lot to answer for.

Writing wise I now have a very rough synopsis for Animal Instincts and a growing file for another project. Thursday, I'm meeting Allison for coffee - yay!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Summer's end

I packed up the younger belle's gingham school dresses and they've gone off today in pinafores and ties. It's a bit sad as my middle belle is looking around senior schools ready for her move up to high school in September. Then my youngest will only have one year left at the small village school where we've spent so many years treking back and forth.
The leaves here are beginning to turn, especially on my wisteria, and the squirrel is playing hide and seek in the corkscrew hazel tree on my front lawn.
I'm still waiting for my orthopoedic appointment but the rest is helping my hip, especially not driving much.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Yesterday I took the train to London. I swapped my normal attire of sweats or jeans for something more presentable and went for lunch with friends. The internet is an amazing thing. I first met Biddy, Julie Cohen, Fiona Harper, Anna Louise Lucia, Carol and Donna Alward on line. Some of us met via eharlequin where the Britpack hang out in a virtual pub called the mouse and pen. We then met in real time at RNA conferences and the summer party.
Donna is Canadian and although we've chatted in various forums, swapped emails, celebrated and commiserated with the highs and lows of publishing life, until yesterday we hadn't met.
Biddy, who is a superb organiser, had booked us into a lovely Turkish restaurant where we all probably ate too much judging by our sleepy faces when we finally rolled out of there.
We had a wonderful afternoon and the time went far too quickly. Donna is even lovelier in real life than on line if that's possible, we all played with and were entertained by Julie's gorgeous baby boy who'd joined us for lunch. The funny part - and I know some of you will find this hard to believe - but not a drop of alcohol was consumed by any of us. We all stuck to water and turkish lemonade.
(I suspect the M&B writers amongst us may have consumed their quota the day before at the annual M&B bash)
It was a lovely and memorable day, for the good company, excellent food and Reggie Perrin chairs which made embarressing noises whenever anyone moved. I suspect some of the pictures may make it onto people's blogs.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday Fun 11

Photo courtesy of Carl Higgs

This is a view of Askew bridge, not far from my home. The bridge itself is not as a skew as it used to be. In the olde coaching days this was the turnpike road and you can just see the toll house in the photograph (now a private home) This section of the road is reputed to be haunted and many motorists have reported seeing a dark figure in a black cloak running across in front of them. Mr Nell and my eldest belle have also seen this.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Writerly stuff

Last night I had the enormous pleasure of seeing my good friend, Phillipa Ashley at a party for the launch of her new book for Little Black Dress. My eldest daughter came with me as Mr Nell was working and we both had a wonderful time. It was lovely to meet so many people whose names I'd seen on the net, but of course didn't know in person.
Wish you were here looks like a wonderful read so grab your copy as soon as you can. I think some shops may be experiencing delays in getting their supplies as I've had problems finding it in the shops, so go and order a copy so you don't miss out.

The other cool thing I did yesterday, again accompanied by my eldest dd, was to attend a writers workshop. My local writing group had invited the Lethal Ladies, two published crime writers to give a talk at our local library.
It was very interesting to see how similar and how different crime writing and romance writing can be.
I don't think I want to be a crime writer even though some of my books have an element of crime or suspense in them. Crime writers are very dark and serious and listen to serious music while they work.
I listen to Disney Channel and Scooby Doo.
The authors gave a very good talk and eldest and I had a good time.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Friday Fun 10

Today I thought I'd give you a recipe. Bread Pudding also known as Poor Man's pudding is a dish that dates back to the Middle ages. It can be eaten hot with custard or cold on it's own.

225g (8oz) Stale Bread (White works best)
110g (4oz) Currants, Raisins or Sultanas
50g (2oz) Brown Sugar
50g (2oz) Butter
½ tsp Mixed Spice
1 Egg

Pre-heat oven to 170°C: 325°F: Gas 3
Break bread into small pieces; soak in cold water at least 1 hour
Strain and squeeze out as dry as possible.
Place into a basin and mash with a fork.
Add the dried fruit, sugar, mixed peel and mixed spice, mixing well.
Add the egg and enough milk to enable the mixture to drop easily from a spoon.
Place into a greased baking tin.
Bake for about an hour or until slightly firm to the touch.
When done turn out on to a hot dish.
Turn out dredge with white sugar and serve hot, or allow to cool.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

My day

Since a few people have left me nice comments and I've been asked before about my schedule, I thought I'd tell you about my day. Trust me, I really am not some kind of wonderwoman but I am the queen of multi-tasking lol
I get up half an hour or so before the kids, make breakfasts, pack lunches, find uniforms, sign homework books etc. I have my laptop on and read emails, check in my groups and often write this blog while I eat my cereal.
Then, by quarter past eight, I get the kids to school, if it's my turn to do the drop offs. Older one to the high school then the two littles to primary school. If I stop at the primary school I invariably see clients. (I work 9-5ish 5 days a week, some evenings and some Saturday mornings if I have a lot on.)
My typical workday would be doing development checks with under fours in the morning - usually I schedule 8 of those or I'll be out visiting new babies or clients with other problems. Lunch is usually eaten at my computer in the office, ten minutes while I check emails, then afternoon is clinic, followed by more developments or paperwork.
I get home just after five and supervise homework, make tea, do a load of washing, tidy the house. In between all this once I'm home I check my email, groups, etc and gradually switch my brain over to writing. About seven I start to write - my target is anything from 500 words to 2000 words depending what I'm working on. Blue Remembered Heels was a 2k per day target. I also need to get the girls supper and into bed, talk with my teenager about her latest angsts.
So, my day is pretty much like any other working Mom's. I am very disciplined in that when I'm working on a project I set strict but realistic goals and writing is my second job. To me, I treat it the same way I treat my day job - as a professional.
I read, but don't watch much TV, and my family come first but writing is up there with my day job in my priorities. I think the key is I write every day, I set goals, and I plan ahead.
So, blog about your writing day - I'm curious - is yours different to mine?

Monday, September 10, 2007


You ever have a day when someone thinks they're doing you a favour but really they aren't? Sigh, My colleague is moving caseloads on Oct 1st, so guess who will be doing double duty on the caseloads again?
I'm happy for her because the travelling is awful for her but I think I'd better not put down here how I feel about TPTB and the short notice. I shot my mouth off enough this morning.
Then tonight my laptop managed to somehow disconnect the internet - argh!!!!
But, on the bright side, Blue Remembered Heels is done, polished, up to the wordcount and winging it's way through the ether to my new editor at Little Black Dress. I hope she likes it.
Next job is to polish up my non fiction chapter for the Christian Women's Devotional book and send that off to my other editor.
I have a new file open for Animal Instincts and I plan to spend this week working out the plot. I have a pretty good idea what I want to put but I need to clarify it in my mind and write a synopsis.

Sunday, September 09, 2007


While we were at Chirk earlier this summer we lost our fish. Somehow in the five days we were away they went from being happy healthy goldfish to swimming with angels. We were all really upset. So, we decided we'd get some more once we had finished holidaying and could sort out the tank, check the filters etc etc.
Well, this seems to have morphed into rearranging all my furniture and looking at a bigger tank and buying tropical fish - sigh.
It also means La has set her heart on Sponge Bob square pants pineapple house and all the figures for the new tank. Shaggy wants a turtle ornament with glowing neon eyes and Boo wants luminous green gravel.
Yeah, we're going to have classy fish.
Altogether now - sing along 'he lives in a pineapple under the sea...'

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Being Boo

We were having a discussion over dinner. The topic was the new quilt I'd bought for mine and Mr Nell's bed. He insisted our old one was a 4.5 tog and I said it was a 8 tog. The new one is 10.5 which Mr Nell insists will be too hot.
Mr Nell '4.5 is plenty.'
Me 'the old one is higher than that.'
Mr Nell '10.5 is too warm.'
Boo 'I'm 4 foot 6'

Friday, September 07, 2007

Friday Fun 9

I thought I'd tell you about a local Black Country legend who became famous for something that we today would consider quite strange. His name was Joseph Darby and he was born in Netherton. His nickname was Jumping Joe and he was famous for jumping. Yes, jumping. He would jump things from a standing start. He was especially renowned for his ability to jump over a canal. He would do this in two bounds, just letting his feet skim the surface of the water on his second leap. It was a distance of over fifteen feet. An amazing feat for a Victorian man with no athletic training. It's said he made his living from the bets he took regarding his abilities.
He was also someimes referred to as Springheeled Jack.
There is now a statue of him in the centre of Netherton. Unfortunately for poor Joe it shows him in his starting pose, crouched down low with an expression of concentration on his face as he prepares to leap.
So it came as no surprise when the locals discovered some wag had added a toilet for Joe. It was hastily removed but even now Joesy the jumper often gets dressed up. The last time I drove by he was sporting orange waterwings and a swimming cap.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Strange day

Today was always going to be difficult. My mom went back to liverpool to see her consultant for her one year follow up from the treatment for her retinal cancer. If the tumor hadn't stabilised and become sterile then we knew there would be very little that the Professor would be able to offer in the way of treatment.
Fortunately, the treatment has worked and the tumor has been halted.
Unfortunately, the local hospital which was supposed to provide interim care have stuffed up. Mom has glaucoma and they haven't treated the pressures in her eyes which are now really high. This explains the deterioration in her vision. Her consultant is not happy and has made her an urgent appointment and given her temporary treatment to last unti they see her.
But glaucoma doesn't kill you - so while it's not all good, thank God it wasn't all bad.
I had a long chat with my agent tonight too. I wasn't aware that my deal with Little Black Dress had been reported in the trade papers. Eek!
I'm still polishing, almost at my target word count now and I expect by the time it's been through all the processes and edits it will easily sit in the required range.
I told my agent about my dyscalculia. It's very odd, I've blogged about it and all my family and friends know and understand how it affects my life but it's still very hard when you have to explain to someone who you are working with as a fellow professional that you can't do the things that many people take for granted.
It's not that I'm stupid. Although when I was a child, especially at primary school I often thought I was. I have eleven O levels, I have A levels, and a string of professional qualifications but I can't tie a bow or read a digital clock easily. I struggle to operate a calculator, I can't text, I forget my phone number, I don't know my car registration plate and I lock myself out of my office as it has a number code lock on the door.
So, I can't deal with contracts or accounts on my own. I try, but no matter how hard I try I have to accept that it's something I cannot do. One of my teachers once said, 'Helen can do anything if she puts her mind to it' and for the most part, I can, but not numbers.
So, I swallowed my pride and admitted my difficulty. I'm very lucky to have someone so understanding.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Exeter Cathedral

I wanted to use my photo's but I can't find the camera lead so I've borrowed these from the cathedral website. This one is simply stunning. The cathedral was founded by the Normans on or near the site of an earlier anglo saxon church. However the majority of the building is in the early decorated period. Hence the fantastic stone work.
It boasts a huge nave with high gothic arches all of which are decorated with highly ornate bosses. You can view them using little trolleys with mirrored tops to save the strain on your neck.
This one was recoloured in 1975 and depicts the murder of Thomas a Beckett. We had a wonderful afternoon looking around the cathedral. I loved the spectacular Elizabethan tombs complete with sixteenth century graffitti. The guides were friendly and helpful and the building is just superb.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Normal service is resumed.

I'm home, with a mountain of washing to do. We've had such a wonderful break, lots of sun, swimming and just lazing around. Well, I say lazing, we did spend one day walking the nature trails around Becky Falls on Dartmoor. Climbing and boulder scrambling so I guess that wasn't very lazy.
Jess has been brilliant and critiqued all my chapters and I'm busy editing and rewriting to make my story stronger. I'm now just 4k short of my original target with seven chapters to polish so looking good to finish in the next few days.
I appologise to anyone who emailed me while I was away. I promise I'll reply. I had some net access while I was gone but it was limited when it came to responding to anyone. The only place I could access the net was the bar - mmm, maybe that wasn't such a disadvantage - but I had to work using the battery and it kept booting me.
I'll be back later with some pictures and details of where we went.