Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

It's that point at the end of the old year and the start of the new that everyone starts listing their resolutions or goals for the New Year. 2008 was a watershed year for me in my writing life and my daywork life. Both have bought new highs and new challenges.
So for 2009 my goals are: (insert drumroll)
1. Manage my weight - this was difficult when my mobility was so poor. It's still going to be a challenge but I need to do it and now I'm in better shape mentally and physically it's the right time for me to work on it.
2. I hope my writing is growing stronger with each book, this past year I've been working on the areas where I felt I needed to improve. For 2009 I want to finish writing A Scattering of Leaves, it's very different from my other books and I don't know if it will work but I think for my own development I need to do it. Fingers crossed that my lovely agent will like it.
3. I need to organise my time better, this year has been an adjustment between working an 80 hour plus week (a combo of writing and day job) down to a more managable time but now I need to plan it more effectively.

I'm really looking forward to this year despite the economic doom and gloom. Thanks to everyone who's supported my writing journey this far. I love and appreciate all of you.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Ending the year

I always think this time between Christmas and New Year is rather odd. It's as if time is suspended and there is a sense of nostalgia tinged with optimism in the air. I have so much to be thankful for this last year. My friends, my fab new job, my physio, my family, my wonderful agent, editors and publishers, my readers and my work colleagues.
The excitement of walking into WH Smiths or Waterstones for the first time and seeing my book on the shelf was a huge highpoint and one I'll never forget.
I'm looking forward to the New Year, to seeing Animal Instincts join Blue Remembered Heels on the shelves and to finishing Crystal Clear. A Scattering of leaves is shaping up nicely in my head for the next third of the story and I've started my planning for the New Year.
Family wise we've booked some sites for our holidays, some new, some old favourites and I get to spend time in my beloved Wales.
In my day job, my partner and I are drawing up business plans and keeping our fingers crossed for a big project that we have in the pipeline. If it happens life will get very hectic but it will be so worth it.
2009 will bring a lot of changes for many people I think, with the economic events around the world but I think we'll all come out of it with our values reaffirmed about the things that are truly important in life and that can only be a good thing.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Black and blue

Well, my left arm is, from my wrist to my shoulder. I also have a nice big bruise on my bum, probably from landing on so many steps. To cap off my awful, no-good terrible bad day my male angel fish, Brad, died. So poor Angie is a widow and looking very lonesome and sad without her mate to bully and harrass.
I did have some nice things happen though too, my thanks to the lovely readers who emailed me yesterday to say they'd read Blue Remembered Heels over the holiday and had enjoyed it. It's so nice when people say they've enjoyed something you've written.
Mr Nell has taken Miss La shopping today, her Christmas money is already burning a big hole in her pocket as she wants a new semi-acoustic guitar. Santa seemed to do well with the rest of the Belle's gifts, they got a WII between them and have been happily bowling and playing on the music game ever since. Boo got a mini sewing machine and a snowglobe for her collection. Shaggy got an Animal handbag and cd's. La got Professor Layton and the Curious Village for her DS and has been glued to it ever since solving puzzles.
I got socks - yay! A gorgeous Radley purse to put in the bag I bought in October, cd's of The Killers and Nickelback, earrings, perfume and lots of lovely, lovely, books. I also got some money so I'm planning to replenish my almost gone supply of Elemis Milk bath and body lotion. Elemis is horrendously expensive but it's the only stuff that really suits my skin and believe me I've tried most things, and it does last me a really long time, so it's my treat to myself.
What did you get for Christmas?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Throwing yourself into things

I celebrated Christmas by hurling myself down the stairs this morning. I'm not too sure how it happened. One minute I was padding along the landing clutching my empty coffee mug ready to go get a refill. The next minute I was airborne. I landed on my (fortunately in this case) well-padded rear and bumped from step to step landing in an unceromonious heap four steps from the bottom and still holding my mug. I now have a nice line in black bruises all down my left arm and a small bruise forming on the right side of my bum. Once my family had ascertained that I hadn't damaged myself or the staircase my plight provided them with their entertainment for the morning.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Only two more sleeps till Christmas

I finished work today at the day job. It's so lovely to be working with such nice people. We had a mini Christmas buffet party with nice food and finished off our work. The house is starting to look more like somewhere guests could come as the belles have finally tidied up their rooms and cleaned up the family room. I've straightened the kitchen so now all I have to do is collect my veg from the farm shop tomorrow and defrost things. Oh, and buy bread.
Tomorrow will be lovely as I do a lot of prep for Christmas day - setting the table, making the bacon and turkey rolls and the cauliflower cheese. Then at teatime we visit my mom's chapel for the Christingle service which the belles love. I see all the people who I've known since I was a child. Then we're going back to my mom's for hot pork sandwiches.
Then when we get home Mr Nell will have finished work and we plan to watch The Muppets Christmas Carol together and eat chocolate and popcorn. Fab!
So, however you plan to spend your holiday, from my home to yours have a wonderful Christmas.

Monday, December 22, 2008

16 Things about me

The lovely Christina Phillips tagged me with this and as I need a break from putting away laundry and cleaning my kitchen I'll give it a go. I'm not going to tag people as it's so close to the holidays but if you read this and want to do it - consider yourself tagged.
Rules: Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 16 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 16 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.

1. I can speed read.
2. I can't bear to kill things - even spiders and bugs, I catch them and put them outside.
3. I can't stand heights.
4. I'm addicted to coffee.
5. I have dyscalculia.
6. I make a really good roast dinner.
7. I can't sing but think I can.
8. If I wasn't married to Mr Nell I would be stalking Bryan Adams.
9. I love to be by the sea even though I live as far inland from the sea as it's possible to get in the UK.
10. I hate being cold and wet.
11. I have no co-ordination.
12. My idea of hell would be a skiing holiday - see items 10 and 11.
13. I love watching really cheesy reality TV shows.
14. I spend far too much time on the internet.
15. I only watch films with happy endings.
16. My favourite colour is yellow.

There, now you know all sorts of stuff about me - have a bash if you want to and pop by Christina's - (link is in the sidebar) to learn sixteen things about her.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Almost done

I've hopefully made my last pre Christmas post office visit. I've given out almost all of my cards and parcels except for the people who'll be sharing Christmas day with us. I've sent e cards to those people whose addresses I've misplaced when my computer died and I lost a file. Everything is wrapped up except one last little item which I hope will arrive before Christmas. Bits of the house are emerging from the usual chaos although I doubt if everything I'd like to have done will get done in time for the big day. Yesterday, one of my best friends stopped by and we had our annual catch up and present swap which was lovely.
I just have one more day at the day job - Tuesday and then I can really get into the Christmas spirit. My cold is still hanging on along with my winter cough but hopefully that'll be better by Christmas Eve so I can enjoy the carols at the Christingle service.
I've been thinking about carols a lot, I like some of the newer ones like - Come, join the celebration but I love the traditional ones too. My favourite is Good Christian men rejoice - which is traditionally sung on Christmas day. What's your favourite?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Almost the end of the year

So I finally plucked up enough courage to revamp my blog. The pink is gone in favour of blue to match my website. I think my links are all up to date. I took out some old ones and popped in some new but if I missed you then let me know and I'll put you in. Hope you like the new look!

Win a book!

Courtesy of my fabulous Romance Diva friend, Ciar Cullen. Visit her blog and vote for a book to enter the draw - HERE! Rules are on her site. Naturally it would be cool if you voted for Blue Remembered Heels but there are some fab books on there.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Run, run Rudolph

I love that ad on the TV where the garage gets raided at midnight by desperate present hunters. I love hearing Dave Edmunds singing on the backing and the looks on the peoples faces when they get windscreen wipers and car airfreshners for gifts. I keep getting the nagging feeling that I've forgotten to get something or do something or buy for somebody for Christmas but as I still can't think what it is or who it is I may have to seek inspiration from the ad. So if you get a can of de-ice or some screenwash from me this year you'll know it was you.
The man in action Did I mention I lurve Dave Edmunds?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cold and carols

My youngest belle broke up from school today and is busy gloating. The other two don't finish till Friday. This afternoon was the traditional short carol service at the village church for Miss La's school. It's always a nice service but the heating didn't seem to be working today so it was cold. I wish too that as well as the more modern carols that chuches would sing the traditional ones too. Not that my singing was up to much thanks to my cold and sore throat.
I do feel quite Christmassy now though. If I can just get around to wrapping up the last couple of presents and distributing the cards I give out by hand I'll be almost there. The house is still not tidied as I've felt too crappy to do all the things I'd planned - ah well, I can always rope in the belles to help at the weekend.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Happy Birthday to..

Mr Nell, who shares his birthday with Jane Austen.
He might be feeling his age after this conversation with Miss La, our youngest belle.

La, tweaking Mr Nell's eyebrows - 'Grey suits you Daddy.'
Cue the rest of us to start snickering at the expression on his face. Followed by La adding -'of course if it bothers you I could get you some of that hair colour for men that would make it go brown again.'

In other news I've been aditing my project book and it now has a name as I hated the working title. It now called A Scattering of Leaves. A reminder that if you want to buy any of my Moonlit or ByGrace books you only have a short time left so Fictionwise, Lulu or All Romance e books are your places to go.
Amazon have a great preorder price on Animal Instincts if you're in the UK. also have a good preorder deal where you get free delivery.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Living down a hole

My throat feels as if I've been gargling with razor blades and I'm feeling very woeful at the moment. I hate feeling ill especially when I've stuff to do and had taken time off to do it. The RNA longlist came out today for the Romance Prize. I only recognised two of the books on it, the Cecilia Ahern and Sophie Kinsella ones. That's why I think I must have been living down a hole for the last year. Normally I'd have read at least a third of the titles. On that basis I'll vote for Sophie Kinsella as I love her writing. Can you keep a secret? is one of my favourite books. Cecilia has never really been my cup of tea. It would have been nice to see some Little Black Dress titles on there but maybe next year. Good luck to all the longlisters - not long to wait as the awards are early this year - in February.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

X Factor - the finale

Alexandra won, as predicted. In the end I was hoping JLS aka the wiggles, might have stolen it but I think they could go on to be fantastic anyway so I suppose it's all good. I could have done without Alexandra's blubfest though.
Well, I still feel crappy but the tree is up and the garland is around the fireplace. I can't find my door wreath and we're not going to put up outdoor lights this year as I don't feel up to it. We have a star in the window of the family room and our tree is in the lounge bay window so that will have to do. I'm also not putting out so many of our decorations in the lounge this year - so no santa and the reindeer singing the BeeGee's or dancing Mr and Mrs Claus, or jinglebird tweeting a variety of tunes. I did let the belles get the singing santa and the dancing Christmas tree out though. Also we have the nativity sets in pride of place along with the fibreoptic tree for the dining room and the skiing fibreoptic snowman.
The cards are in a big pile waiting for Mr Nell's birthday on Tuesday. We never put them up till he's had at least a day with his cards out on their own.
I'm hoping I get well enough soon to give out our cards and presents to everyone. I'd hoped to do it this weekend but with how I feel I'm staying home watching films on TV. I just watched a really naff one about a star - very odd. I don't like fantasy stuff if it's too out there and this was most peculiar.

Friday, December 12, 2008


As I still feel like crap on a stick I succumbed and went to the doctors. I now have antibiotics so hopefully I'll be back to what passes for normal around here soon. I did another post office run, so more stuff got mailed out. I love sending people surprises. Getting stuff in the post that isn't a bill or someone trying to sell you something is always so joyful. I adore getting Christmas cards too, catching up with peoples news and hearing from old friends.
The stuff is down from the loft and my landing is covered with boxes. The Belles are planning to decorate the house this weekend although I see the stash of chocolate decorations for the tree have already been sampled.
Next stop will be wrapping everything up and distributing family and neighbours stuff - plus I usually get to see one of my best friends too.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Five minutes of fame

Unfortunately the listen again link doesn't seem to be there for Tuesday so if you missed me then I'm sorry! The presenter has kindly sent me the file otherwise I wouldn't have heard it either as I was at work preparing for the board meeting when my little bit was on. My eldest belle heard it at school as her form teacher arranged for all the class to listen and my youngest caught it just before she went into her class. She was very impressed with hearing herself on the airwaves.
Lots of my colleagues heard it on their way into work so I think I provided them with the days entertainment!
As I'm not feeling to great this week, thanks to a low grade infection I'm taking back some of the time I'm owed from work and after tomorrow I'm not back in till Friday so hopefully I'll get chance to write my cards do another post office run, put up the tree and finally write again!!

Monday, December 08, 2008

This is the BBC...

Well, BBC radio WM at 8.50 tomorrow! My little radio snippet will be on. If you miss it you can go to the radio WM website and hit the morning show but be warned you'll have to listen to over two hours worth before they get to me and then I think it's a blink and you'll miss it thing.

It's oh so quiet

Shaggy has still got no voice, so she's at home - sigh. I put her to work wrapping some of the presents for family and friends. I've been doing one of my least favourite jobs - cleaning windows. I'm rubbish at it. They always look smeary even if I try all the tips from Anthea Turner or the how clean is your house people. Cleaning windows effectively is not one of my gifts. Actually, I'm not over brill at cleaning the oven or ironing or well, actually most kinds of housewifey type things.
I make a great roast dinner though and know lots of different ways of getting stains out of stuff. (The last one is because I'm clumsy and I have three kids)
At least you can see through the windows now, in fact, in a rush of blood to my head I even cleaned the brass on the front door ready to hang the Christmas wreath that I haven't got yet.
Now if I can just dig out the lounge and the family room and move the mountain of fossilised laundry in the utility, we might be able to put the decorations up at the weekend.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

X Factor yay

So it's down to Alexandra, Hedgehog and the Wiggles for the final. Diana has gone. I'd like Alexandra or JLS to win as I think Hedgehog will have a career anyway. Plus time is on his side.
I got up this morning to some lovely emails and comments from readers who'd read Blue Remembered Heels. It still stuns me when people say they've enjoyed one of my books and I so appreciate hearing from people.
I have the next chapter of Crystal Clear ready in my head and I want to go over the first third of my project book. However, my eldest belle has lost her voice - much to the delight of her sisters and my house is still not clean/tidy enough for us to even begin getting ready for Christmas. In my defense, cleaning and tidying my house is like the painting of the Forth Bridge. I'm sure I'll get there, it just may be Christmas 2009 instead of this year.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Reality TV addiction

Captain Feathersword and Louis Walsh - Mmm, see any resemblance?
Well, the obnoxious DVD has gone from I'm a celeb and I really don't mind who wins out of the remaining three. I do have a sneaky favoritism for Martina as she's been great throughout the whole thing. X Factor won't be as good without Ruth to root for. I suspect JLS will go next. I'd been trying to think who they reminded me of with their different coloured tops, then, when I was clearing out some of the belle's old videos it hit me - The Wiggles! Now I keep expecting Louis to dress up like Captain Feathersword and pop up on stage with them.Wiggles or JLS?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

No snow show

It's soggy here and cold but no sign just yet of the promised snow. The new kitchen is installed now at work - just a few tiny things to fix. It looks really good and everyone is so excited about wanting to use it, We have to move a few things around and order a new whiteboard and it's all good.
I finished another chapter on Crystal Clear so I think at the weekend I'll be ready to do the read through and edit on my project book. I think I have a cool title for it to as the current one is a bit naff and doesn't fit. Then I think once I'm happy with that bit I might ask my lovely agant to take a looksee and see what she thinks. Nail-biting stuff!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


The lovely Chris from BBC radio WM came and did his recording this morning. Mr Nell arrived home just before he arrived, which was good. The Belles did a little bit - La did the most as Shaggy got the giggles and Boo announced she was too shy. It was all good fun and luckily the caffeine had kicked in so hopefully I'll sound vaguely coherent. I'll let you all know when it's going out and I'm told it'll be available on the listen again feature so for those of you in far flung places you too can hear my unlovely Black Country twang lol.
We had some snow this morning too, just enough to lighten the grass and create annoying mush on the road. It looks very chilly out though. I'll find out later as I'm hoping to finish my Christmas shopping and do my big Asda shop today.
Go Here to win Books Lots of lovely books for you to win including a signed copy of Blue Remembered Heels!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Uh oh

It sounded like a good idea when it was first mentioned. That's my excuse and I'm sticking with it. BBC radio WM are arriving at some hour of darkness tomorrow morning to record an interview with me. They also want to talk to the belle's and record our morning routine.
Those of you who know me well probably need oxygen at this point from where you're rolling around the floor laughing.
I know I'm not sociable on a morning until my first pint of coffee. Yes, Mr Nell is on nights and will arrive home just as the radio people turn up. Yes, my house is it's usual shambolic chaos and yes, I know my youngest belle will probably say something that'll send child protection agencies scurrying round to my house. That's if she doesn't make an on air plea for a dog!
Wish me luck and I'll keep you all posted.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


Ruth got knocked out of X Factor last night. Absolutely bonkers! JLS and Diana were much worse. Alexandra sang up a storm and Ruth was amazing. Little Hedgehog gurned for the camera and did his High School Musical routine. JLS were good on their second song. Diana was useless as usual - back to the no shoes as she walks like a turkey and would be way taller than the others if she wore heels. Again she didn't move about - there are never any clips of her with Brian learning routines which is grossly unfair as the others all have demanding routines to learn as well as their songs.
Britney Spears mimed through a tired looking dance routine.
Then it was I'm a celeb - How much longer do we have to suffer David Van Day and Esther Rantzen? Esther is more annoying than Timmy Mallet and that's a difficult thing to do.
Ah well, on with the show I suppose.
December 1st tomorrow and my calendar is filling up fast although as usual the youngest belle's school hasn't given us any dates for the school fayre, the carol service or the nativity evening. It really annoys me when they drop things on parents at the last minute usually they are during work time and expect people to attend. Hello - the day of the stay at home lady of leisure ended in the fifties. The mum's who aren't in paid work usually have other commitments too, caring for other children, relatives etc. We need a few weeks notice to organise diaries.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Foggy day

The world outside my window is enveloped in white mist. I can just see the outline of the squirrel picking his way along the bare branches of the tree at the end of the lane. I had a lovely surprise parcel in the post this morning which is making me grin. I just love surprises especially nice ones. Mr Nell has retrieved the advent box from the attic so now I have to fill the drawers with goodies for the belles. I love this run up to Christmas with the rustling of paper and hiding away of little treats and surprises.
I think I'm going to do another chapter on Crystal Clear this weekend. I know I said I was going to hit 30k on my other project but I need to give it time to breathe as it isn't quite right and if I forge ahead too quickly at this point then I know it's not going to work. I need to tidy, expand and adit the first third and I need a degree of separation in order to see clearly what I need to do. In other words, the fog has to lift in order for me to focus.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


My head really aches today - I don't know if it's the lighting in my office at work or what but this is the second time lately I've had a day in the office and come home with a bad head. Last time this happened at the old job they checked the lights and found the one over my desk was about to catch fire - mmm, maybe I should mention it to someone?
The littlest belle has been trying to find out what she's getting for Christmas. This is the conversation at tea yesterday.
Mr Nell - I hope you're being good or Santa won't visit you.
La - I know what you're going to buy me anyway
Mr Nell - Really? What's that?
La - A guitar - you've been looking on ebay.
Mr Nell - Oh? How do you know?
La - I looked at your browsing history on your computer.
Me - You'd better start deleting that
La - with a shrug - s'okay, I know how to retrieve it.
I'm raising a master criminal.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Who turned the heat off? It's turned very cold here now and I had to spend five minutes this morning de-icing the car before I could go to work. I've been planning my Christmas lists, presents, stuff I need to do around the house and all that kind of thing. It'll be so nice this year now I'm out of pain and mobile unlike last year when everything was so bleak. I'm really looking forward to enjoying everything.
I've put my project book on hold for a few days to give myself some perspective as I think I need to work more on polishing up the first chunk of the book before I can write the middle part. This means I'm back working on Crystal Clear which has been bubbling away nicely in the back of my mind. My poor heroine is just waking up to reality and it's not going to be pretty.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

X Factor more

Hmm, interesting stuff last night. I thought Diana (frog chorus) Vickers should have been in the last two with Rachel. I thought the right person went although her last song was the best she's been ever since she came on the show. Ruth was amazing as was Alexandra. Little Hedgehog did a Troy Bolton impression and JLS seemed out of sync. No idea what was going on between Danni and Louis but I really miss Sharon.
Great to see Same Difference again - they just shine with joy and lift the atmosphere so much. I hope their tour does really well.
I'm a Celeb had David Van Day jibbering in a hole underground covered in bugs while Brian Paddick showed his all to the nation. Tonight we get to see Timmy Mallet tortured - marvellous. Just wish someone would make Esther do something. She sits there like one of the three witches from Macbeth poking the fire while George (Mr Sulu) Takei says 'oh my' every two minutes.
This weekend has been incredibly frustrating and annoying for all kinds of reasons. None of which I could do anything about but even so it's meant I haven't got on with any of the things I had planned and I now have a ton of stuff to sort out on Monday.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Curtain call

Phew! Show is done. The belle's did really well. If anyone saw Central TV news on Thursday the belle's dance teachers were on there - the ones in the silver top hats and tails. (The same hats that cover everything in glitter)I'd hoped for a nice collapse in a corner weekend but in my wisdom I agreed to go into work over the weekend to let the kitchen fitters in and out for the new kitchen I'm having installed into one of our projects. So now I have written info for the alarm and hundreds of unlabelled keys. Did I mention I'm not good with keys or locks? Oh, and the alarm system has a number code. If I don't blog for a few days assume the worst and come post bail for me!
I still need to write just over five K to meet my target for November but I had an epiphany the other day about why I wasn't happy with my first chapter. I need to move some stuff around I think but I have two wonderful friends from Romance Diva's who've kindly agreed to read it first to see if what I suspect is really the case. I'm a bit too close to it at the moment.
I'm also twitching now to get back into Crystal Clear. The next third of that story is forming in my head and I want to get rolling on it.
First up though, my neglected house really needs a good clean and sort out ready for Santa!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

On with the show

Boo had a nice birthday, I can't believe she'd 12 already. She loved her thick fluffy Snoopy dressing gown. I took her and her friends to see HSM3 - lets just say I needed wine when I got back!
Dress rehearsal went okay although I need to fix Shaggy's top hat with elastic and spray it with hairspray to stop us getting covered in silver glitter everytime anyone even breathes near it. First show tonight and parent teacher interviews this afternoon.
It looks ominously dark outside and I'm hoping it doesn't snow.

Monday, November 17, 2008

In the jungle

I'm a celeb got off to a great start last night. Joe somebody scared of the klaxon, Kilroy getting half drowned and the star of the show - George 'Mr Sulu' Takei. He was excellent! Loved it.
I managed to finish chapter 7 of my project yesterday - total is just over 24k. This week is looking mad though. Tomorrow I'm taking 12 eleven year olds to see High School Musical 3 and visiting my little niece as it's her 4th birthday. Wednesday is Boo's birthday and full dress rehearsal. Thursday I've a parent teacher conference with Boo and Shaggy's teachers and it's first night of the show. Friday it's the show, somehow I have to fit in the day job and I have books to write.
Oh well, to quote one of the wisest philosophers of our day - Dory from finding Nemo - 'just keep swimming, just keep swimming...'

Sunday, November 16, 2008

X Factor again again

So we waved goodbye to William Shatner's younger brother, the lovely Daniel. I didn't think he was the worst one on the show though.
Rachel was all over the shop - as usual.
Alexandra was terrific.
JLS needed to be given something a bit more up to date to sing - we have had other great groups other than the ***** Beatles. Queen, Simply Red, Hot Chocolate, Rolling Stones, Oasis, BeeGee's, Roxy Music, the list goes on - surely to heaven somebody could do something more imaginitive.
I have no clue about the song little Hedgehog did. I've never heard it before in my life - I even checked with the belles who are much more clued up than me and they'd never heard it before either.
Little Diana - the poor mans Duffy, did the frog chorus and looked sad although she had no problem squealing her head off when she went home in the week.
Ruth sang up a storm even though Brian Friedman did his best to silence her by wrapping her up in toilet roll like a demented version of the Andrex puppy while she belted out Angels.
Can't wait for next week but tonight it's I'm a Celeb. I love naff TV.
Now, on with the writing - 6k+ to go!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Write on

Back in the groove today. Yesterday I felt exhausted all day for some reason. No idea why. I'm back writing again today though and feeling really hopeful about what I'm doing. Less than 8k to go to hit my 30k target for this month and that'll mean the first third of the book will be done. Everything is setting up nicely for the middle third of the story and I'm getting so involved with the lives of my characters I think about them all the time - which I hope is a good sign.
Looking forward to X Factor tonight. Will ickle Diana sing? Who knows. Will Daniel survive another week? Will Danni wear yet another frock that looks as if it started life as a pair of her granny's curtains? Oh, the suspense!
Then on Sunday it's I'm a celebrity get me out of here - any show that will make Esther Rantzen eat bugs has got to be worth watching in my book.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I got home from work yesterday to find Boo had a broken buckle on her school shoes. The entire buckle had failed and the metal had snapped. Thankfully Merry Hill is on it's Christmas opening hours so after I'd collected Shaggy from her Wednesday evening job I whizzed down to Clarks.
It's so nice to actually get good customer service! The girl took one look at the shoe and said it was a component failure and immediately offered a full refund or a new pair of shoes. Luckily they had a pair in Boo's size so she was soon sorted. Well done Clarks for doing the right thing - we were in and out in ten minutes. Totally unlike the school jumper episode in September.
The day job has quietened down for a spell so I'm making the most of taking a little of my time back and catching up with the things we'd intended to do before we got swamped. I so love my new job and the people I'm working with I keep getting carried away and working too many hours so I have to watch myself.
Thanks to the shoe episode and all the running around yesterday I didn't do any writing so I need to get going again if I'm going to crack my target by the end of the month. I did find time to read Liz Fielding's new book - Wedded in a Whirlwind. This is a fabulous story, I highly recommend it! Whenever I read one of Liz's books or one of Jessica Hart's I get struck down with writers envy.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Something in the air?

Gosh, all over the net yesterday people were falling out. It seemed every group or forum I visited someone was getting their knickers in a knot about something. Thank Heaven for the Sylvanian forum where everybody is calm and peaceful.
Now, I don't know if it's coincidence but most of the groups and forums that were having the spats aren't loading up today.
I see from the paper that people are even arguing about Laura getting booted from X Factor - Get Over It! Roll on I'm a celebrity get me out of here lol
Writing target today is to hit over 21k and with luck finish chapter six. That would be great. I write less on my work days as I'm exhausted usually when I get home, plus I have to do a lot of reading and writing in the day job.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Today was a nice day, I had a lovely time having lunch with Phillipa Ashley and Elizabeth Hanbury. No one ever really understands writing like other writers. Progress on the project is good and I'm hoping to break 20k today - yay! I don't know if this story will ever fly but some books you write because you have to and for me this is one of those stories. It's complex and intense and totally unlike anything else I've ever done so I hope I can pull it off.
Once I've got a good chunk of it under my belt I plan to return to Crystal Clear and finish that ready for my deadline. I enjoy having two different stories on the go - must be my grasshopper brain!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Wet, wet, wet

And I don't mean the group. Everywhere around here is flooding. The drains are clogged with the falling leaves and the rain has been so torrential there are hugs pools forming across the lanes. I guess it's better to have it falling as rain rather than snow but I wish it would stop falling at all - at least for a few days.
We lost our lovely little black Molly fish the other day and Angie, my lovely but dim, angel fish ate one of the neons. We've bought some more rosy gourami to make up for the loss and another pretty lady dalmation molly for Mr Molly to add to his hareem.
Angie and Brad - the angel fish have been bribed with blood worms to try to stop them snacking on the three remaining neons while if the clown loach get any fatter they'll get stuck in the windows of their pineapple house.
If the rain keeps falling I shall grow gills and a fin myself.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

X Factor again

Tonight is apparantly Mariah Carey night. Hmm, I can only think of two songs she's done. I can't say I'm a fan although I like her Christmas one. It's be a challenge for Daniel, Little Hedgehog and JLS to sing one of her tracks although the Sun, that fount of all knowledge and reliable facts, says 'little' Diana has lost her voice. I won't be mean and say what I thought when I read the news. Instead I'll wish all the contestants good luck.
I'm up to 18K on my project now, just finished chapter five. I'd love to hit 30k by the end of November - I know I said December before but I really need to push this on before I go back to Crystal Clear. I've had a real boost this week and some lovely messages from readers of Blue Remembered Heels.
A reminder that if you want copies, either electronic or print of my Moonlit and By Grace books grab them now! Once December 31st arrives they'll be gone.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


It's grey and drizzly here today. I didn't hear or see many fireworks last night, I suspect the credit crunch has taken it's toll. I was always amazed when I worked at Asda selling fireworks what people were prepared to spend. The huge expensive £50 and £25 a throw jobs would go like hot cakes. I always felt so mean taking home my £14.99 selection box and extra pack of rockets.
Last night was also my local writers group meeting - as always it was great fun and I now know about Japanese Haiku poetry even if my dyscalculia means I get a severe headache if I try to write it.
The dance show is drawing nearer along with the rehearsal schedule and Miss Boo's bithday. Her actual birthday is the day of the dress rehearsal so I think I'll try and sort something out for a few days later for her birthday. She'd like a cinema trip followed by Pizza, I'm hoping the cinema's don't do their usual trick and pull all the child friendly films around her birthday ready for the Christmas ones to kick off a week later. Better go do my research - High School Musical 3 anyone?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


I had a really good day yesterday. The kids were at school, Mr Nell was at work and the house was nice and peaceful. I've twelve chapters done now on Crystal Clear and almost five chapters done on my other project. Not bad at all but I really want to get a push on over the next two months especially on my project book. It'd be nice to start the new year with a third of it done but with all the madness around here of school stuff, dance shows, and the extra things at the day job I'm not sure if I can manage it. It does give me something to aim for though and that's always a good thing.
I'm planning a revamp of my website and I need to update all my links both there and here so if I don't have you email me the info and I'll put you on.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

X Factor

Come on, you knew I would be watching. I can't believe poor Austin got kicked off last night. Rachel may have raw talent but every week so far she has been rubbish. I also think little Hedgehog, the sixteen year old shouldn't be there. Daniel, who seems like a nice man but who looks like William Shatners younger brother, is okay but he's never going to sell out Wembley. JLS are good and I absolutely love Ruth, great voice, good personality and gutsy. Laura just shouts on every song she's given. Love Alexandra, good voice and versatile. Diana Vickers is just annoying - I can't take to her at all, we get this little Diana story - she wore shoes this week. The reason she doesn't normally wear shoes is because she's not exactly little. The nude Sooty act with her hand by her face is very annoying and why can't she move around? All the others have choreography as well as a song to think about.
I don't know who I want to win just yet - at the moment I'd say Ruth.
What do you think? Who are you backing this year?

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

I love Halloween. The Belles have decorated all the house in fake webs and plastic spiders, cute light up pumpkins adorn various windows and my bat banner is out. The streets are full of excited children all dressed in their costumes and it's chance to catch up with my neighbours. Where we live is a very small estate of aprox 100 houses, people wanting to take part put up signs or decorations and the kids come round between six and eight-thirty so no one gets disturbed if they don't want to play and it's a safe fun environment for the kids.
So far I've had twelve different groups come to my door with each set of costumes more amazing than the last. The little ones look so sweet dressed as vampires, cats and witches and who can resist a baby dressed as a pumpkin with stripy tights on their legs?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Last Chance

Moonlit Romance and By Grace are closing their doors on December 31st. I haven't yet decided what, if anything, I will do with my rights when they are returned to me so if you want to read those stories then now is a good time to get them.
I'm very sad to see a wonderful publisher close, but I fully understand and respect Sheila's reasons for doing so. I've loved being part of the Moonlit and By Grace family - the books were well edited and high quality, filling a much needed gap in the e book market.
I learned so much from working with Laura Hamby, my superb editor and I doubt very much if I would have been picked up by other publishers without the skills that she and the rest of the Moonlit team gave me.
But all things happen for a reason and if anything this has shown me that I need to narrow my focus on this new stage of my writing career.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Who turned the heat off?

Just home from a lovely few days at Burnham on sea where it was sunny and relatively warm. Here it's cold and there appears to be bits of frozen white stuff lying on my lawn.
I visited the Jane Austen centre in Bath, very interesting - got a Mr Darcy fridge magnet and a large postcard of Colin Firth as Mr Darcy for my office. Purely for research reasons of course. We also went to the Fleet Air Museum to look at planes and got to stand on a simulation of an aircraft carrier. Mmm, none of the belles fancy the Navy as a career. It was all terribly macho and BBC plummy voices but great fun.
I did most of my Christmas shopping and bought a lovely Radley handbag in cream - it's a kind of half moon shape and very pretty. I must stop visiting Kate Hardy's blog, I think she's a bad influence rofl.
When we arrived home, the lovely Sara from Little Black Dress had sent me some cover flats of Animal Instincts and they are very gorgeous. I plan to frame one but I think I may hold a contest for one of the others after Christmas.
I managed a little bit of writing while we were away, not as much as I'd planned but enough to make me happy. Now, it's back to the grindstone and the laundry mountain.

Friday, October 24, 2008


Later today we're heading off to Burnham on sea for a few days. I'm hoping the sea breezes will blow the snot out of the belles heads and help them get rid of their colds in time for the dance show next month. I also plan to write - writing has taken a back seat for the last two weeks with everything I've had going on but I'm itching to get going again as I have scenes ready in my head.
I always find being by the sea inspirational, especially at this time of year, something about the deserted beaches, the wind blowing while the waves crash in and the metallic slap of sails on masts on the boats.
Christmas shopping is also on my agenda and I am determined to get my way and squeeze in a visit to Bath and the Jane Austen museum this time too.
Congratulations to my good friend Christina Phillips who has her first book Foretaste of Forever released today by the Wild Rose Press! There's a great interview with her over on my My Space blog and excerpts on her blog so go congratulate her and if you like steamy stories involving magic then Foretaste of Forever is the book you want.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

More madness

Just to make my life a little more complicated, my Dad spent last night at the local hospital. He's okay now but it was an experience both he and we could have done without. I shall be glad when Thursday rolls around now as I'm feeling distinctly frayed around the edges. I think spending two and a half hours getting soaked last night probably didn't help.
I don't know if anyone has been looking at the sunsets lately but there have been some beauties over the last few night's. Kate H, have you had good ones in Norfolk? Tonights was lovely - to misquote PG Wodehouse - it looked like a lovely big slice of underdone roast beef.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Autumn Madness

Autumn madness officially starts today - yes, it's dance show time again. For the benefit of my new readers this is where you see me being driven to the brink of insanity by rehearsals, costumes, tickets, make-up and general juggling of work, school, writing and Christmas preparations. I would like to point out that I am not in the show. I'm merely the taxi, dresser and make-up artiste for the belles.
Yesterday was dance classes, today it's rehearsals, tomorrow I have to work as I'm on a course and then tomorrow evening I have do work overtime on a special project. Tuesday I have to work and then tomorrow night is parents evening for La, Wednesday it's work followed by bring a friend to guides night for Boo, potentially overtime for me and also I have a writing chat scheduled at Coffeetime Romance (9-10) GMT with the Sweeter Romantic Notions authors if you wanted to stop by. Did I mention we're going away for a few days on Saturday?

Friday, October 17, 2008

2008 - Friday Fun - College Pudding

In these cash-strapped times here's a traditional recipe you might like to try and a Black Country favourite. We haven't had a recipe for a while.
College Pudding

4oz stale bread

4oz flour

1 tsp baking powder

half oz candied peel

2tbsp golden syrup

2oz chopped suet

2oz currants

1oz sultanas

3oz sugar

pinch of salt


Soak the bread in some cold water, then squeeze the liquid out, flattening out any lumps.

Add the syrup to the bread, then mix the dry ingredients together and add them to the bread and syrup. Stir the whole mix well, adding a little milk if the mix is too stiff. Spoon the mix into individual, greased cups, or into a large pudding basin if a larger pudding is preferred, and steam for 90 minutes. Otherwise, steam in the microwave, following microwave instructions. Serve with custard or cream.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Dear diary

Where does time go? My diary for the rest of this year is full to bursting and next years is filling up fast. At the moment I'm doing a good impression of a hamster on a wheel - I can't understand why I'm not getting any thinner. Oh, wait, that would be the biscuits.
The great news is that Little Black Dress have offered a home for Crystal Clear and another book I've got outlined called Just Look at me now! Squee!!! So it's full steam ahead on that and on my other speculative project. Proofs are done and sent back for Animal Instincts so that's almost done with. It always feels very odd reading something back when you haven't looked at it for a while. I hope people will like Clodagh and Immi and Clodagh's lovely hero, Jack.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Something I stole

Well, stole may be too strong a word, borrowed is better. My lovely friends on Romance Diva's shared this great pic. No one knows the original source sadly, so I can't credit the creator but it just sums up the romance writers world, doesn't it?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Trip - part three

Tuesday we did some great workshops looking at public health and urban agriculture and school projects to teach kids about food. Then on the evening they took us to Reading Terminal Market on a fleet of yellow school buses for a reception. The market was closed and they had a dozen stalls open for us to eat from and a band playing. It was great, delicious icecream, greek food, mexican, more organic beef and yummy cheese. My favourite was called Vampire slayer. We watched the presidential debate on the TV in the beer garden with our US colleagues. This was much more fun than our politics - more like a reality TV show. Senator McCain has dentures that whistle and sounds like Hughie Green, the man who used to host Opportunity Knocks. 'I wanna tell you frens'
Senator Obama seemed pleasant enough but overly cautious so you still really couldn't get his measure. It was a really memorable evening.
Wednesday bought the plenary on climate change - very interesting but some sweeping assumptions were being given as facts and the historical context of natural climate change was ignored in favour of the last three hundred years. For me this devalued the points they were making which was a pity as some of them were very valid.
We then attempted to check out - due to the screw up we almost couldn't pay our bill and had to pay some of it in dollars as they couldn't get the company card to work and had locked my card out. Eventually we sorted it out and avoided arrest. We then caught the bus into Philly to see the market when it was open and to visit the tourist sites.
The market was great, we bought chillies and Amish stuff and had lunch at a salad bar where you buy your food by weight. We then made our way to the Independence Centre where I bought La a Ben Franklin bear. The centre is a lovely building, with great design. We went to see the Liberty Bell and exhibition which again was fascinating, before winding up at Penn Landing.
Shopped and Touristed out we set off for the airport. We checked in on time and went out to the plane only to find we were blocked in by a UAA plane, we spent two hours on the tarmac while they moved the plane and let thirty other aircraft take off. Flight was okay till we got to Heathrow where we circled for thirty mins due to fog on the runway. This then meant we couldn't attach to the building and had to be parked on the tarmac. The first set of steps they bought jammed and we waited again for another set of steps before we could get off and be bussed into Terminal Five.
We got tickets for the National Express coach back to Birmingham as by now it was rushhour in London and we didn't think the tube was a great idea.
It turned out the bus wasn't either - apparently due to lots of accidents on the M25 it was an hour and a half late.
We finally managed to persuade the driver of the bus to B'ham international that he could take us to the airport there as we knew we could pick up a train. Although as it happened Mr Nell came and got us.
I finally got home at 2.30 pm almost twenty four hours after we'd checked in at Philly and having been awake for over thirty hours - no wonder I'm still tired!
All in all the most amazing trip and I'm so grateful to my job that I had this wonderful opportunity to experience all these amazing things. Who'd have thought after all the problems over the last few years?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Trip - part two

Monday was the first day of the conference so we attended the plenary and workshops. Lots of interesting things going on. We learned a lot about problems in US cities with food deserts and race issues. We also learned that in the US cider is not an alcoholic drink - apparently it's apple juice. (We'd wondered why they served it at breakfast)
As evening rolled around we decided to take a cab into Philly to explore. So we set off with no clue where to go - maps appeared to be in short supply - the driver said Market street was the best place. He dropped us off in an area that reminded us of Camden in London, lots of really cute shops and bars.
We were marginally put off eating there by the squashed dead rat in the middle of the road. We spent a good couple of hours buying gifts for our kids and window shopping then as we had been asked by virtually every inhabitant of Philly if we'd tried the cheesesteak yet, we thought we'd give it a go.
We chose a ratfree looking establishment which actually was a really nice sports bar called Fat Tuesday with friendly staff. It was huge - the bread roll it came on was at least twelve inches long. The meat wasn't like the steak we'd expected but was more the texture of dona kebab meat with what looked like yellow melted plastic on top. It tasted okay but wasn't something either of us felt we'd rush back for. I think it's probably an acquired taste.
Having done our duty via the cheesesteak we carried on meandering down Market street then Tim decided he should see if American guiness was the same as our guiness so we ended up in an Irish bar called Paddywhackers. Once inside we were shangaied by a lovely lady called Peggy to play quizo - this is the same as our pub quiz.
We didn't really think we'd do any good as the questions were naturally all about the US but as Tim needed to compare guiness samples and by now my feet were aching we felt we should have a bash. We came second - we're still not sure how.It was a really good night and Peggy and her gang made us feel very welcome in the city.
Tommorrow I'll blog about our trip to the Independence centre and Reading Terminal Market

Friday, October 10, 2008

Trip journal

Now I've had some sleep and am a little more coherant I'll give you the run down on the trip.
The journey down to Heathrow was pretty smooth and we flew from Treminal 5 which we thought was amazing - very James Bond with all the technology. We landed in Philly mid afternoon and the view of the city as we landed was stunning. It really is a very beautiful city with the rivers and the glitzy skyscrappers of the busness area but with the older Chelsea style houses and the historic centre still intact.
We were a bit amused and slightly baffled by discovering all the taxi drivers we encountered were asian immigrants and the taxi's were very tatty - no leg room, slashed and damaged upholstery. I think we'd kind of expected Robert De Niro or Danny DeVito to be driving lol.
The hotel for the conference was in Cherry Hill which involved a trip over a stunningly gorgeous bridge and through the toll into New Jersey or, as the natives pronounced it, Noo Joisey.
We had a few problems with the hotel in that for a international chain they had no clue about international guests. They managed to mess up all the payments for our booking and even got my credit card blocked by keying it too many times. The rooms were nice though, lovely comfy beds. However my room had a problem with a lack of hot water and the bath didn't have a plug.
We decided that American TV is dire - no international news at all, and the quality of the programmes and lack of definition between the adverts left you feeling dizzy.
Our first full day there was spent on fact finding trips. Tim, visited Farmadelphia, a collection of food growing projects in an urban setting, which he found very interesting especially the hydroponic lettuce production.
I visited Rodale, an institution that researches climate change and organic growing methods. This was less satisfactory - partly because we didn't get as much time as I would have liked to tour the farm and also there was a strange feel about the place. The work they were doing was interesting and it was a worthwhile visit in many respects but I was left with a niggly - something missing - feeling.
Sunday evening was also the welcome reception for the conference. This was very cool and we met some interesting people who were working on some cool projects including film making and work on Native American reservations.
Philadelphia has very good cheese - not just the well-known brand - and the company was good.
For me, a big disappointment was the coffee - everyone had warned us that the tea was bad but I had high hopes of the coffee. Sadly, everywhere we went we found the coffee to be lukewarm - it is never it seems served hot - and burned tasting where it's been over brewed. The bread was also universally bad - hard and shiny almost plasticated on the outside and chewy and tasteless on the inside. The fresh producxe was lovely however and the organic beef was to die for, it was so yummy. Even Tim who isn't normally a beef eater really enjoyed it.
Back tomorrow with part two - the workshops and how we did in a quiz in an Irish pub in Philly.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Back in blighty

Finally made it home this afternoon after the journey from hell. I'll post more about the trip when I've had some decent coffee and a good sleep. Lots of positives about Philly and just a few minor things that I don't know if they are true across the US or just if we were a bit unlucky. I managed some writing during the flights but I don't know how much i'll use until I transcribe it onto the computer. That's a job for tomorrow though, after 36 hours up with only four hours sleep I'm a bit woozy.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Hi from Philly

Just a quick fly by posting from the city of cheese! We made it here in one piece and are enjoying the lovely sunshine. We've been told we should visit the Rocky statue and the Liberty Bell and eat a Philly cheesesteak sandwich so if we can navigate the US buses we plan to go and explore later today.

Friday, October 03, 2008


Okay, I'm all ready. If I can get access and time to update while I'm there I'll do a fly by post - if not then be good while I'm gone!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

On your marks..

I think we're pretty well set for the trip. Just need to get my expenses money changed into dollars and find a suitable bag to pack my things in. Apparently I can check in on line tomorrow and print off my boarding pass! I have a ton of paper to look at while I figure out which workshops I want to do and all the really cool events they are putting on. I'm getting really excited now about it all. It's felt a bit unreal as it's happened so quickly and there was such a lot to do to prepare for the trip.
I'm still undecided about taking my laptop. On the one hand I could get lots of writing done during the journey but on the other hand I don't know if I can cope with carrying it and my bags on the trains and plane and buses. What to do?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Strange day

Today was one of those odd days. I've felt really exhausted all day and there have been some lovely things like this wonderful review of Blue Remembered Heels HERE and some really depressing news from the publishing world that affects people I'm very fond of and have enormous respect for.
I had a lovely email from a reader about Blue Remembered Heels today too so I suppose the good things outweigh the bad and I've always been a cup half full person.

Monday, September 29, 2008


Everything is manic at the moment with arrangements for the trip and a thousand and one other things all needing my attention. The flights are booked - Heathrow it is - now to figure out how we get there and back. I have some dollars and flight socks - I know, the heady glamour of it all! I wonder if Posh Spice wears sexy black flight socks on long distance flights? Maybe her circulation is better than mine.
Animal Instincts now has the cover up on Amazon - squee!! Next step is finding out what i can take on the flight and using my laptop and how I can charge it up etc. I also need to find a bag for my clothes - stuff I never have to worry about when we go on holiday in the touring caravan.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Animal Instincts

Ta dah!!!
Down-to-earth Clodagh Martin is very fond of her glamorous actress step-sister, Imogen - in small doses. So when Imogen turns up on her doorstep drunk and clutching a bottle of champage and announces that she's come to stay, Clodagh isn't exactly thrilled. It's not a great time. The animal sanctuary she runs is stony broke and the animals; a foul-mouthed parrot, two gay donkeys and a goat, aren't enough to attract the hoardes.

It's not a great time for Imogen either. Let's face it, staying at Rainbow's End animal sanctuary wouldn't exactly be her first choice. Unfortunately, a combination of debt and a humiliating public scandal involving a live TV show and too much booze, has left Imogen with very little choice but to throw herself on Clodagh's mercy until things blow over.

But actually, this could be a heaven-sent opportunity to get both her career and the sanctuary back on track. What could possibly go wrong?

Just loving it!

Friday, September 26, 2008


Well, we now have new shiny biometric passports. Hotel is booked, confernce is booked - just the flights to go. Looks as if we will have to go from Heathrow which is a bit of a bummer as all the other flights seem to want us to travel via Frankfurt or Amsterdam or somewhere weird and will take us forever to get there.
I got my new cover today for Animal Instincts - it's gorgeous! I'll post it up soon so you can all admire it's marvellousness lol. Right now I'm chasing up a million things for the trip - like what can I carry on the plane? How early do we have to be for the flight? Can I take my laptop and use it on the plane? Argh, all these things that I don't know!
I did buy two Betty Neels and a Veronica Henry book today in Peterborough to sooth my frazzled nerves. Oh, and Peterborough has a beautiful cathedral.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Heading off to get the passport renewed tomorrow along with my colleague, Tim, who's going to Philadelphia with me. I think once we have renewed shiny passports in our hot little hands it will finally sink in that we're really going.
So much left to do! I need dollars and to move appointments and get the belles sorted out and pay my bills and top up my phone and and and...
Going any further than Wolverhampton is a big day out for me - this is just mind-blowing.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Colour me stunned

I got the surprise news today at the day job that I'm hopefully going to the US! Wow! To a food conference in Philadelphia on October 4th. Eek!
Did I mention I don't have a current passport? This means that on Friday I have to go to the passport office at Peterborough. Oh, and until I have a passport I can't book the flights - so do I risk securing the conference places and hotel accomodation? Hell, yes!
OMG I'm going to America!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


WH Smiths in Shrewsbury! And no I didn't have to adjust the display - Blue Remembered Heels was already placed like that with a wonderful collection of Little Black Dress books.
I'm next to Nora Roberts!!!
Twenty three thousand words in now on Crystal Clear - I already know I'll need to do my usual trick of going back over and over again to layer in things and tweak them about but it's starting to really spring to life now.
Working on my other project too and that's coming along nicely.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Taxes and me

Yay! The bill finally came - one tinsy snag - no payment slip with it. So, I rang the incredibly lovely and helpful people at the Inland Revenue. (I suspect they have an 'idiot' stamp on my file)I explained that I wanted to pay it and they said I could wait till January till they send out a statement.
Mmm, January - who has money in January?? I like to get things done and in order in case I make an error - easily done when you're number blind. I explained this to the nice man and he then helpfully told me how I could do it and re ran the figures and found an overpayment from last year so it bought the bill down a little bit. I told him I was glad I'd rung. We had a nice chat and a laugh. So, now I'm all straight and good to go for the next year - a huge load off my mind.
My new pens came today too - they're very red and gorgeous - can't wait to see the calendars.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Things I've learned from watching Disney

I don't get to see much grown up TV. I do see a lot of the Disney Channel and feel I've learned a lot about the life of a teenager in the USA from this valuable service.

1. All US teens live in large houses with bedrooms as big as a barn which have been decorated by Ty.

2. They all have a friend who is a little 'quirky' or as we might say here 'a brick short of a load.'

3. They all wear whatever they like to school and have changes of outfit in their tardis like lockers.

4. The nasty girl at school is always a cheerleader - cheerleaders are not nice.

5. It is desirable to date the sports team captain who is not very bright.

6. Number five is not allowable. The dim sports guy must date the evil cheerleader.

7. No one has spots or bad hair - ever.

8. All US schools have food fights in their dining halls.

9. Everyone can sing - even the cheerleaders.

10. They all have a band and are allowed to play as loud as they like in a garage without anyone ever complaining.

I now consider myself an expert in this field and look forward to watching Nickolodeon where I understand I can watch Australian teens turning into mermaids.

Friday, September 19, 2008

2008 Friday Fun - Back to the 1500's

Usually I take you back to the time of the Industrial Revolution - the era that gave the Black Country it's name but this week my friends at the Bugle had this interesting archive article about a much earlier period in the history of my region.
It's difficult to imagine the heart of the industrial Black Country being as green as the outlying countryside is today. Bricks and mortar and acres of tarmac have successfully squeezed all but a few areas of park out of the region, but how different the world was in the 1500s.

Pensnett Chase dominated whole swathes of the district, where there lived people of an insular and very protective nature who were very wary of any kind of visitor, and travellers journeying along the dirt tracks and lanes did so at their peril. In 1577, the year this map was drawn up, Good Queen Bess was in the 19th year of her reign, and it would be a further nine years before the humble potato would make its first appearance on an English dinner plate. What would the Englishman's favourite take-away meal have been had they not been brought here?
The name Francis Drake meant absolutely nothing to our distant ancestors of those times, forebears who didn't even understand what the seaside was let alone where the oceans were. But it was in December 1577 that Drake set sail from Plymouth aboard the Pelican (later re-named Golden Hind) on his famous voyage of discovery and plunder around the world. Places that were mentioned in William the Conqueror's Domesday survey of England in 1086 still survived on Saxton's map of Staffordshire, such as Amblecote, Swinford Regis (Kingswinford), Oldbury, Smethik (Smethwick), Bilston, Weddesbury (Wednesbury), Cradley, Tipton and Dudley. Whereas places such as Sturbridge (Stourbridge) were relatively new and yet had become important market towns.
Health and sanitation - or a distinct lack of either - were key issues in Mediaeval times, with the Plague and Black Death causing mayhem to communities throughout the land. Very few places, if any, escaped a terrible death toll, and the Black Country was as susceptible as anywhere else. Other diseases were also prevalent; for example at the so-called Black Assize of 1577 in Oxford, all those in court, including the judge and jury, died of typhus which had evidently been carried by prisoners who were up before the beak. In the end everyone received a death sentence.
Our green and pleasant Black Country was fraught with dangers, a far cry from the romantic view which story books would have us believe. The name of the game was to survive the winter and make it through to the next harvest, the land providing what minimal income there was and hopefully enough food to feed the family, and enough animal woollens and hides to use as clothing. Travelling would have been restricted by the seasons, the rough roads becoming impassable in the winter due to thick mud, and equally difficult to travel along in dryer times because of the ruts that formed. Villages were generally self sufficient and many of our ancestors would have remained in the same community all their lives, the church perhaps their only outlet from the hard graft of living.
However, in 1577 the Church in England was still in turmoil after the trials and tribulations of the Tudor dynasty. A peaceful Black Countryman trying to keep the same faith that his father and countless generations of his family had followed, must have been scared out of his wits by the changes that were taking place. Objecting in any way to the new order of Protestant England had a habit of delivering dire consequences to a villager's door. Even - or perhaps especially - those at the top of the religious tree were not immune from Elizabeth I's anger. In 1577 the Archbishop of Canterbury, Edmund Grindal, refused to comply with the queen's order to suppress all prophesying, and within 15 months of his election he was suspended from his duties.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Holding out for a hero?

Ladies and gentlemen, click HEREand 'Meet Sebastian', for more laughs track his journey! Go On it's worth it I promise.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Little surprises

Today has been quite nice. The post bought me some lovely surprises - my friend Olivia Gates new book for Desire - The Desert King. Can't wait to read it! It's one of the Throne of Judar series. I also got a Sylvanian bear keychain courtesy of my friend Wendy in the US so now my car keys won't get lost in my bag as they have a cute little bear wearing a yellow hat and coat attached to them.
I also got some nice emails from readers today too - I love hearing from readers especially when they've enjoyed the books.
I made the man at the tax office laugh when I rang to ask if they'd got my returns. I sent them five weeks ago and normally by now I have the bill so I was worried they might not have got them. I promised not to spend the money!
I ordered new calendars and pens as I'm almost out of pens and everyone has been asking me if I'm doing calendars this year as they liked last years.
I got my hair cut at last too so I look a bit less like Animal from the Muppets. Lots of my jobs are all ticked off now so I'm good to write. Time for another chapter of Crystal Clear I think.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Monday, Monday

Why is it that whenever I'm itching to be writing something crops up? Eldest belle is home poorly today - cue much moping around. I have a zillion errands that have to be run, my physio appointment and somehow I need to make a hair appointment too before I turn into Cousin It from the Addams family.
Grr, oh well, the post office must be open by now I'll go and queue with the ebayers to post my parcels then head to the doctors to order the repeat prescriptions. Just hope the line is inside or otherwise I'm by the bakery window and it's so hard to resist cake.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


I realised I haven't posted much about my writing progress for a while. I've been working on Crystal Clear - almost 20k done on that. I even have a little soundtrack made up for the story which helps me when I need to get things buzzing in my brain.
Radio Nowhere and Girls in their summer clothes by Bruce SpringsteenLISTEN
Photograph - Nickelback
All summer long - Kid Rock
Turn it up - The Feeling
and for the end of the book when i know it's going to be really emotional this is going to sound like a really wierd choice but inspirationally, it works - What I go to school for - Busted
Even my physio is helping - I have to keep completely stiil while I'm on the machine for twenty minutes and the physios give me magazines to read - wow! Got the idea for the next book already from those.
I'm also 10k into another different project - this one is a bit scary and I'm feeling my way a bit as it's a slightly different kind of thing but I always think you have to push yourself if you're to grow as a writer and this falls into my challenge zone.
How about you all? What's everyone reading and writing? Anyone else with a playlist?

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Thank you to all the lovely readers who came along today to Burntwood library to see Phillipa Ashley and me. We had a wonderful time. Thanks to the lady selling the books, the fabulous library staff, Lynda, the RNA member who came all the way from Burton on Trent and to Jill!
It really was fun. I had a lovely lunch with Phillipa and we got to talk books, the subject closest to any writers heart.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Ashley and Dixon

If you look Here at Phillipa's blog you'll see we are reprising our double act at Burntwood Library - 2pm Thursday. Take part in the discussion/vote on crimebusting duo's.
I'm feeling a bit light-headed today after tearing a load of my writing to bits and then reassembling again with the help of my brilliant critique partner. But, it's all good...

Personally I think Phillipa and I are more Ethel and Lucy.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Ranty Mc Ranty pants

I'm not a happy bunny. In the six weeks holidays as you all know I bought tons of new school uniform. Various bits for eldest - everything new for middle and everything new except her PE shorts for the littlest belle. Now despite the adverts uniform is not cheap. Especially not the items you have no choice but to buy from the school stockists like - shall we say, sweaters embroidered with the school logo?
So you can imagine I wasn't to impressed when after 2 days of wear the youngest belles sweatshirt frayed all around the one cuff and showed wear along the seams of both arms at the point where a child would rest their arms on the desk.
Unsurprisingly I took it back and was given a list of things you can't do with a school jumper from this manufacturor, like wash it with fabric conditioner?
Um, it's two days old, I could have washed it with neat bleach and it still shouldn't look like that. It's 100% acrylic! I've had silk and cashmere wear better than that.
The shop is sending it back to the maker for them to run tests - yeah right, like they'll admit they make naff overpriced shoddy school uniform that beleagured parents have no choice but to buy. In the meantime I had to buy another sweater from a different manufacturor and joy of joys if the original makers do admit it was faulty (insert snort of derision) then I'll get a refund.
School uniform should be wash and wear, no iron, no fancy instructions, just bung in the machine and good to go. This business of putting logo's and embroidering polo and sweatshirts should be stopped if they don't meet a wash and wear criteria.
Oh, and don't get me started on the school's so-called washable paint that they use for art!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Fame at last!

The October edition of Writers Forum magazine which is on the stands now has a feature on my office! Yes, my slovenly housekeeping skills are now exposed to the world all across the back page. So if you want to see where I work, play spider solitaire and drink coffee it's all there.
Before I was published I used to occassionally buy Writers forum and Writers magazine, not often as I couldn't afford it, and dream I might get a letter published in them or make a mention someday. I would devour every word of wisdom from the mega published authors that offered advice on it's pages and follow every grain of wisdom that might apply to me.
I still keep pinching myself every day that I'm published and people can read things that I've written. The Cinderella Substitute was my first book so gets a special mention in the article and I can't believe that was only 2006. A lot's happened in a very short space of time.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

End Of BB9

To celebrate Rachel's win and because this made me howl with laughter when my daughters showed me the video. I give you Mo!

Thursday, September 04, 2008


and thanks to everyone who braved the horrible weather last night to come and spend their evening with me and Phillipa Ashley at Wombourne library. Special hugs to Lizzie and June, two wonderful RNA members who came all the way from Leicester. It was lovely to see both of you. Phillipa and I really enjoyed it. The weather may have been cold and nasty outside but the atmosphere was warm and sunny.
My daughter has some pics on her phone which i'll post when she finally downloads them.
If anyone missed our double act we're at Burntwood library on Thursday afternoon.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Two posts in one day!

I just found the blurb for my next Little Black Dress book up on Amazon - The book is out March 09. It's still listed as untitled but my working title is Animal Instincts as you regular readers will know. I killed myself laughing when i read this blurb - it's just so fab I have to share.

Rising star Nell Dixon, author of BLUE REMEMBERED HEELS, is back!

Down-to-earth Clodagh Martin is very fond of her glamorous actress step-sister, Imogen - in small doses. So when Imogen turns up on her doorstep drunk and clutching a bottle of champage and announces that she's come to stay, Clodagh isn't exactly thrilled. It's not a great time. The animal sanctuary she runs is stony broke and the animals; a foul-mouthed parrot, two gay donkeys and a goat, aren't enough to attract the hoardes.

It's not a great time for Imogen either. Let's face it, staying at Rainbow's End animal sanctuary wouldn't exactly be her first choice. Unfortunately, a combination of debt and a humiliating public scandal involving a live TV show and too much booze, has left Imogen with very little choice but to throw herself on Clodagh's mercy until things blow over.

But actually, this could be a heaven-sent opportunity to get both her career and the sanctuary back on track. What could possibly go wrong?

Spilling the beans!

GO HERE and help my lovely talented friend Ray-Anne celebrate her sale to M&B's romance line! Yay! I love to hear sales stories especially when they happen to friends. It's her birthday today too! Many Happy Returns and many more fabulous wonderful sales!

Tomorrow if you're around Wombourne in Staffordshire, pop along to the library on the green at 7.30pm and see Phillipa Ashley and me. We're doing a bit of a talk and reading a few excerpts and things. We'd love to see you!

And don't forget Big Brother - Vote Rachel - nice people rule!

Monday, September 01, 2008

When it's good...

Physio today - hip is very sore so I have an extra session on Friday and some new exercises to try. Good conversation with my agent about the direction of my work so we'll see how that all shakes down but very positive vibes. I feel really energised and good about my writing at the moment, tons of research pics to download so I may share some of those in the next few weeks.
I also just got a fab email from a writing friend and she has exciting news but my lips are sealed until she spills the beans herself - but I am over the moon for her because I know how hard she works and it is so deserved - squee!!!

Anyway on to the important stuff - Rachel to win Big Brother - Nice people rule!!!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Big Bro

Final week! I'm finding it hard to pick a winner. I want Rachel to win, I think anyone who can get so much joy from eating baked beans and cheese is a real treasure. Plus she's nice. I like to see nice people win things. Sara the slapper is still there and Darnell needs serious psychiatric help. Mikey is strange and far too fond of dressing in skirts. Rex is well, Rex. Loved his winding up of the others but I don't want him to win. Mo would be a good winner. He's funny in a more understated way. Kat hams it up for the cameras too much and i think she should support Rachel much more than she does.
Who do you want to win?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Did ya miss me?

Home! Huge mountain of laundry as usual and tons of stuff to do to get the belles ready for school on Tuesday and Wednesday - yes, they go back on different days and at different times - sigh.
But first, back to my fabulous review at HERE Here's what Julie had to say 'Jill Mansell meets Nora Roberts in this terrific debut novel by Nell Dixon! Hilarious, funny, feel-good and with an intense emotional edge that will tug at your heartstrings, Blue Remembered Heels heralds the start of an exciting career for a smashing new voice in romantic fiction: Nell Dixon!

Witty, romantic and utterly compelling, Blue Remembered Heels is one of this summer’s must-read books!'
Wow! La Nora and Jill Mansell all in one sentence - squee!!!

I managed to do loads of research during my holiday but no writing (my laptop was hijacked by the belles) so my brain is bubbling now to get the words down on paper. No bill yet from the Inland revenue for my taxes - hope that comes soon so I know if i've worked everything out correctly and I can pay it and see what i've got left in the overdraft. I also need to speak to my lovely agent as we need to work out what I'm doing next. All exciting stuff!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

And today

I'm posting from the Apple store in Exeter! So this is just a quick catch up. Thanks to the lovely Julie at for a wonderful review for Blue Remembered heels. I promise once I'm home late on Friday i'll put up proper links. But for now it's back to the shopping and hoping my plastic card doesn't melt under the strain.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

sun and sea

So far so good with the weather. Yesterday was a lovely sunny day so we visited Woodlands leisure park where the belles and mr nell slid down various slides and rides. Today we're in Torquay so I'm at the internet cafe which does great sandwiches and coffee and has lovely staff. Unlike the staff in the shops at Dartmouth who are universally bored and unpleasant. Speaking of bored and unpleasant Hooray that Nicole is out of the Big Brother house.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

By The Sea

I'm posting this from the Shoreline Cafe on Paignton sea front. The sun is shining, people are on the beach. It's a little breezy but warm. I love this cafe as they have wifi, great food and an excellent view down the esplanade. I suspect it may rain later but for now it's all good.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Five go off to Devon

We leave for Devon tomorrow in our touring caravan to stay near Brixham. As I'm using Brixham as my setting for Crystal Clear this is a bit of a working holiday. I've loaded the caravan up with my nice new books, some nice wine, and bought healthy treat snacks so i won't wander off my new health regime too much. Now I need Mr Nell to finish work so he can come home and totally repack everything I've just packed and add in all his stuff.
I'm hoping to get some net access while I'm away as i found a nice internet cafe last time and I've invested in a wifi finder gadget.
I found out yesterday that WH Smith in Merry Hill had sold out of Blue Remembered Heels and Waterstones only had a couple of copies left which made me a very happy bunny.
I'm really looking forward to this holiday as I love Devon and I've been working hard lately in the day job - lots of exciting but massively big projects on the go! I'll pop in and post when I can - be good!!!
And if you can't be good, don't get caught.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


We're off to Devon on Monday for a couple of weeks so posting will be random. I went book buying so I've a lovely stash to read - Phillipa Ashley, Erica james, Jenny Colgan, Rachel Gibson and a book that Phillipa has been recomending to me about Goddesses (yes, Pip I succumbed and bought it!)I also got Lynne Marshall's book and stocked up on my Clinique make up while the bonus buy is on. If you go to Boots and get it from there you get Boots points, free goodies and a five pound voucher to spend on number 7 or Ruby and Millie so the eldest belle has a new nail polish too.
Now to hide my lovely book goodies in the caravan before Mr Nell spots them and starts making grumbly noises about weight and filling up the storage.
I'm also pleased to report that I'm a full 7lbs lighter than when I started my health journey a few weeks ago. Long, long way to go but still it's a start.

Friday, August 15, 2008

2008 - Friday Fun - Sports of times past.

With the imminent arrival of the football season and the Olympics now underway here's a reminder from the Black Country Bugle of 'so-called' sports of yesteryear.

Football, rugby, cricket, athletics, speedway, horse racing and greyhound racing - most people in the Black Country can identify with at least one of the above; sports which have always managed to fill stadiums with vociferous and passionate supporters who want their team or their favourite runner to win at all costs.

But before football became an official, organised sport during the latter stages of the 19th century, and the sport of kings was made more accessible to the ordinary punter, what did our ancestors get up to on a Saturday afternoon? The answer can be found in an article written over one hundred years ago in 1903, about the sports of a bygone age, when our forefathers were followers of the Black Country's more horrible sports:
"Some seventy years ago (in the 1830s) the Midlands, especially that portion known as the Black Country, won an unenviable reputation for base cruelties and fabulous prosperity. The "sport" of thousands consisted in watching with almost breathless interest the vagaries of infuriated bulls, chained to huge stakes, and baited to death by vicious dogs on public holidays; whilst occasional half days were spent in the cock-pits, where high-bred gamesters, trimmed and spurred, ferociously battled until death or blindness ended the fray; or in the broad fields or large rooms of public houses rings were formed, and local champions fought with their bare fists for a purse of a few pounds. The credit of being victorious was of greater value both to the contestants and the owners of the birds than treble the amount of the stakes.
"These were not all the degrading exhibitions of brutality of the simple days of long ago. Occasionally there were struggles between a dog and one who stood very little higher in the intellectual scale, though he was called a man. Such were the sports of men whose muscles were their glory, whose delight was the torture of dumb animals, the cruel sports of men who, all but naked, worked like horses in the cavernous mines or at the glaring furnace fires, and spent their money like "asses" in fostering cruelties they termed pastimes, and pursuing pleasures rightly described as vicious, inhuman, and dishonourable. Happily such sports are now abolished, and we cheerfully content ourselves with amusements shorn of disgusting details, and leading to a more elevated conception of things in general.
"Wakes, fairs and carnivals are the festivals of such horrible scenes as were witnessed by immense crowds at the bull-baits in the Bull-Ring, Birmingham, the High Bullen and Market Place in Wednesbury, the Bull Stake, Darlaston, and at Tipton, Walsall and West Bromwich. Crowds of persons travelled to a town which promised an exciting bull-bait, and numerous anecdotes could be related of one of the most popular pastimes of the simple days of long ago. The pursuit of the sport was not confined to any particular class of persons. Young and old, rich and poor, were numbered among those whose special delight was to watch the infuriated bull's vagaries as he gored and tossed the dogs with all the ferocity of a member of the bovine tribe when driven to desperation by a howling crowd, and oppressive and persistent attacks. Sometimes he would break away from his stake and charge through the people, causing a general stampede and no small amount of injury to the onlookers, until pursued and killed. Bull-baiting, though not invariably carried on at any fixed period, was known to be a concomitant of the wakes, which in those times was the signal for three days of riotous and immoral conduct on the part of the majority of those who welcomed their arrival. That age has gone, and we refuse to recognise as in the category of true English pastimes the old sports with which our forefathers amused themselves."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Why you should visit

There are so many great places to visit that sometimes we forget about the ones that are on our doorstep. For ages now I'd been wanting to take the belles HERE to the Avoncroft museum of buildings. Yesterday afternoon was a bit showery but we set off. It rained a tiny bit on the way but once there we had glorious sunshine and sadly there were only a dozen visitors there. This is a fantastic attraction and very reasonable, it cost £16.50 for five of us. Inside you can see the national collection of phone boxes - including a 'Tardis' my eldest belle has taken pics on her phone, tudor houses, a toll house, a chain shop, a nail makers, a vintage 1940's prefab, a windmill, a tin chapel, a Georgian earth closet, a dovecote and loads of other buildings. You can see an Edwardian showmans wagon, a fibreglass spire, an eighteenth century cell block and what's really great is you can go inside all these buildings, see how people lived and what they did there.
For a lover of architecture like me it's a dream place but just as a interesting day out it's great. There are lovely grounds for a picnic and they have lots of events there.
Support your local museums and see what you're missing.

Monday, August 11, 2008


Taxes are done, the form is sent back - now to wait for the bill. It came out better than I thought so I'm hoping I did them right. I'm sure I did though, the form was different this year and seemed a bit simpler to understand.I have my second session of physio later today. I've been doing my exercises like a good person so I hope I'll show an improvement in my leg.
So far on my new fitness, health regime I've lost five pounds so with luck by Christmas I might be less Weeble like. I have to say that despite the hip problem I feel happier and healthier than I have in years. Probably because my work life balance is better and I'm able to begin to tackle things that I've been needing to do for ages.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Warm fuzzy hugs and thanks

In lots of ways this has been a really nice week. Thanks to the lovely Judy Jarvie who mailed me a surprise package of gorgeous soap and candles. Big hugs to my good friend Olivia Gates for a copy of her latest Desire book - go buy it, it's goooood!
Thanks to a Liz, I don't know if it's a Liz I know or a random stranger who posted a five star review for Blue Remembered Heels on Amazon - mwah! whoever you are, it was so lovely, I often get nice private notes on my books but people are shy of putting them on sites. Thanks to my fellow authors, they know who they are, who sent me lovely notes saying how much they loved Blue Remembered Heels too and as they write in very different fields to me and as I admire and respect their work hugely, this was a massive compliment. Thanks to This Lady for her lovely, lovely comments and finally to Joanna D'Angelo for doing this!
I'm basking in the glow at the moment in the hopes that those hateful black crows of doubt will keep away while I write some more of Crystal Clear.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

This time of year

This time of year is very expensive - even worse than Christmas. Three lots of new uniform including extras like a blazer, tie, badge, labcoat, football boots, hockey socks, all new p.e. kit, swim stuff, trainers, shoes, bags, lunch boxes, stationary. Sigh - it's worse than Christmas.
On the good side my eldest belle's bedroom is almost done with being redecorated. She decided that the Laura Ashley pink ballerinas and glittery walls that she'd adored when she was seven were a touch passe now she's coming fifteen. So we're now cool creams and duck egg blue instead with no glitter in sight.
I'm still finding out my stuff for my taxes - usually I'm very good and have everything all put ready in one spot. I have no idea what happened this year but I suspect it was the upheaval over work when I was ill and when we changed the cars and caravan earlier this year. I'm gradually reclaiming my house and garden again now I'm feeling better and can have a life once more. I will get everything done in the next few days - I promise.

Friday, August 08, 2008

2008 - Friday Fun - 18th Century life at Dudley Castle.

This is courtesy of Ian Bott of Wednesbury and my friends at The Black Country Bugle. This is a fascinating story of handed down family history.
It comes from a book entitled Dudley Castle and published in 1834, its author a Mrs Sherwood. She describes herself as the wife of a worthy tradesman and the mother of several children, and grew up in what must have been the Dudley Port or Great Bridge area. And even in the pre-Victorian period, the locals could look back on what seemed a lost golden age, as Mrs Sherwood explains ...
“My native place lies in the road between West Bromwich and Dudley, a part of England which was once very beautiful, exhibiting such a rich diversity of hill and dale as only to require to be left to the hand of nature to render it delightful to the eye; and, in times past, as ancient records tell us, these hills and dales were planted with fir forests, extending for many miles, and interspersed at intervals with a few thatched cottages, a convent, or an embattled tower.
“But more recently, it was discovered that there were mines of coal, and iron, and limestone of considerable value, under the surface of this fair country; and, in consequence of this discovery, there is now little to be seen in the neighbourhood of my native place, but the mouths of pits, engines pouring out smoke, ground blackened with soot, and innumerable habitations of human beings, scattered in wild disorder as far as the eye can reach.”
Mrs Sherwood, if that was her real name, had grown up living with her father, a head clerk in the house of one of the first iron masters, her mother and her maternal grandmother, the latter of whom had waited on a well-to-do lady in her youth; a fact which becomes key to the unfolding story.
Mrs Sherwood begins the tale with a recollection of a family trip to Dudley to fetch new dresses for herself and her sisters when she was aged ten, presumably sometime around the year 1800. It left quite an impression, and the author recalls vividly her new frock; featuring a rose leaf on a white background, with a very small rose bud peeping from behind each leaf. Each of the three sisters was given a new summer bonnet of plaited straw, tied on with a green ribbon, and a pair of mittens made by their grandmother from silk stockings. But the new outfits were to be untouched until a particular day, when the girls’ father was to take a rare day’s holiday and escort the family by cart to Dudley Castle, which, though they could see it from just outside their house, the girls had never visited ...
“We jostled merrily away, till the towers of the castle burst upon our view, lifting themselves above the woods with which the hill is decorated. After we had seen the castle, we presently arrived at the foot of the hill, having the town of Dudley on our left, and then getting out of our cart, which my father led away to the nearest place of entertainment for horses, we passed through a gate in the wall into the woods, where a winding path led up the steep. At length, coming out upon a lawn of considerable extent just upon the brow of the hill, we had a full view of the keep of the castle standing upon the highest point of the rock, and immediately on the right, but somewhat lower, the old gateway.”
Once the family are settled in the wide expanse of the castle’s courtyard, the girls’ grandmother sits them down and begins to tell them a true story. During her younger days in service to a wealthy lady, which must have been around the 1730s or 40s, she had accompanied her mistress and her daughter, as the latter’s maid, to an evening of feasting and dancing at Dudley Castle, which, although beginning to deteriorate even that far back, was still owned and sometimes used by the Ward family, whose main residence now was at Himley:
“It was quite dark by the time we arrived at the foot of the hill,” she recalls, as the young girl who will eventually become Mrs Sherwood begins committing the tale to memory, “and the snow was on the ground; however, there were lamps fixed among the trees all along the private road up to the castle, and there were lights upon the towers, which shone as beacons far and near, for it was a great day at the castle. The horses, though we had four, had hard work to drag us up the snowy path. However, we got up in time, and passing under the gateway, we found ourselves in this court.
The court was, she continues, brought buzzing to life by the many guests and their attendants that night:
“But, Oh! my children, how different did it then show to what it does now, being littered with splendid equipages, and sounding with the rattling of wheels and the voices of coachmen and grooms calling to each other, and blazing with lights from almost every window. There was such a bustle among the carriages, that we could not drive up to the principal door for some time, and during that delay I had abundance of leisure to look about me. The keep stood much as it does now, a huge and gloomy monument of past days; but all that portion of the castle which extends before you, my dear children, was alive with the bustle and stir of persons bent on pleasure and little thinking of the various changes and chances to which human nature is liable ... the oriel windows, the stone frames of which are still so nearly entire, were at that time filled in part with painted glass, through which the lights which were within emitted rays of various tincture. And the sounds of merry voices and of harps and viols, issued from every door way.”
The room which the ladies were given for the night is described in some detail, and it’s fascinating to think that the empty grey skeleton of a building we all know today was once full of cosy, well-equipped rooms. Mrs Sherwood’s grandmother describes the ladies’ chamber as follows:
“It was a wide low room, and there was a light closet in it, and it was hung with a tarnished paper, which looked like cut velvet. And there were huge stout-backed chairs, and a large toilet, set with Indian dressing boxes.
“There was a bright fire in the grate, and whilst the housemaid assisted me to set everything in order for my ladies, she informed me that she had lived for forty years in the castle, and hoped to finish her days in it. She spoke of her lord and his family, as if there were none in the land that could compare with them.”
The old woman then goes on to describe some of the remainder of the castle’s interior as it had been during her one visit as a youth. Even in the early seventeen-hundreds, comfortable as it could be made when the occasion demanded, the castle had an air of forlornness, of past glories:
“I wish I could bring before you, as it were in pictures, the curious old-fashioned ornaments and pieces of furniture which I saw in the castle,” she recalled to her granddaughters. “There was not a window which was sashed, but all were casement, in stone frames, many of the panes being of coloured glass. And there was scarce one chamber on the same parallel with another, but there was a step to go up or a step to go down to each of these; then the chimney pieces, being mostly of carved wood or stone, were so high that I could hardly reach to the mantle shelves, when standing on tiptoe ... then the chairs were of such a size, that two of the present sort would stand in the room of one, and doors, though very thick and substantial, were each an inch or two from the floor, so that the wind whistled all along the passages, rattling and shaking the casements, and often making (as my conductor informed me) a sort of wild and mournful melody when not mingled with the sounds of voices and musical instruments; for, as she told me, the castle was even then but seldom visited by the family, and occupied only, excepting on extraordinary occasion, by a few servants.”
The grandmother was told by her guide, one of the resident staff, that during the summer there were usually just three or four servants in the castle, who took delight in breathing the clean air up on the hill above the smoke of the works below. And even though the lord of the castle had by that point removed the bulk of his treasures to one of his more comfortable residences, the few paintings that remained were enough to lighten the lives of the domestics. One in particular, which hung in the state bedroom above the dining room, was described as follows:
“It was a hard, rude painting, the colours being much faded, but it represented a lady and a knight with a numerous assemblage of sons and daughters of all ages, from the babe on the mother’s lap to the son just stepping forth upon the stage of busy life, and assuming all the airs of manhood; the towers of Dudley Castle arose in the distance, although their outlines could hardly be traced, for the painting was on boards, and empaneelled in the wainscot; the lady was rested on a bank of flowers and her husband was looking upon her with such an expression of love and confidence ...
“The dresses seemed as if they had belonged to ages past, perhaps to the time of Elizabeth; but, be that as it may, the picture representeed a domestic scene, in which the beautiful and the brave, the noble and the delicate, had lived, and moved, and acted, years before even I had entered into existence.”
Spellbound by the picture, the young maid was eager to discover who the family were, but none of the servants of the castle knew, and, as the sounds of merry-making had begun to waft up from below, they were keen to take her down to the great hall, which she then goes on to describe