Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Home but not alone

The youngest belle is off school today, something she's very vexed about as she wanted to get an attendance award for her last year of primary school. She had a huge nosebleed yesterday that frightened her and she's suffering from a scratchy throat and generally feeling crappy. Thankfully as I'd spent most of the weekend on the course from hell I've been able to take today as toil to stay with her. I'll have to get my copying and printing done tomorrow for my course work as I have to hand it in on Tuesday so I'm running out of time.
Writing is still a distant dream this week - I owe loads of people loads of things but I swear after the weekend I'll be organized again.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The price of fame

Or well scarcity I suppose in my case. I heard from a reader yesterday who is busy buying up my back list. Unfortunately, as you know two of my publishers, Moonlit Romance and By Grace Publishing closed at the start of this year. Apparently this has led to a strong market for the print copies of my books for those houses. She was after a copy of The Cinderella Substitute and finally tracked one down for £15 but she tells me that most places that had it wanted £50!!! Luckily I have a few copies of my other titles that I've been able to help her with but wow - £50.
I'm still ploughing through the course work - two sections left to go. I am never - repeat never - going to do something like this again.
I just want to tidy up my house and finish writing Crystal Clear this course is so dull it's driving me to chocolate.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

House beautiful

Phew, it's hard work this new carpet business. The bedroom looks very beautiful now, even though we still have tons of stuff to put back in the cupboards. Somehow the carpet ended up with us buying new curtains, cushions, bedlinen and a new headboard too. The rest of the house is still upside down as of course we had to stash stuff everywhere when we emptied our room and even though the charity shop has acquired three big bags full of stuff and we've taken loads to the tip there still seems to be more.
I must get the rest of my course work done this weekend too. I'm hoping to get it finished before I help my jobshare partner present a piece to a conference on Monday. Once that's out of the way i can hopefully get on with Crystal clear which is now slipping behind schedule (my schedule, that is, not my publishers - but if I can't get on it won't be done and polished the way I like in time for June)
Mr Nell is planning to take the belles off next weekend in the tourer for the weekend to get the van ready for our Easter break so hopefully a whole weekend of blissful writing awaits me in the near future.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Clearing and cleaning

Tomorrow we're having a new carpet in our bedroom so today Mr Nell and I have been emptying cupboards and drawers ready to move the furniture for the fitters. Isn't it amazing what you find? I found pictures of me and Mr Nell on our honeymoon which caused Boo to roll around the floor laughing, belts that Mr Nell would certainly never wear again and various vintage items including my storm cap that formed part of my uniform when I was a student nurse.
I moved all the belles christening clothes and shawls and the handmade quilts that I stitched for each of them when I was pregnant. I also discovered four brand new white cotton pillowcases in their wrappers that we'd been given as wedding gifts (twenty four years ago)
I thinned out my book collection which had been spilling out onto the floor with Mr Nell shaking his head in disbelief at the amount of books I manage to fit on two quite small shelves (he didn't realise I'd double stacked them)
Next step will be moving the furniture tomorrow and taking up the old carpet - can't wait to see the new one down. It's really nice and a different colour so the room will look totally different.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A you've been framed moment

Today I went to a place near Blackpool with a group of colleagues to look at a commercial site that might be interesting to us. We had a lovely, if chilly visit (the wind was blowing right off the sea) and then we set back. We'd hired a nice twenty five seater coach so there was lots of room and our driver pulled into Charnock services to get more diesel. As he opened the hydrolic lift up hatch to access the fuel cap there was an almighty clang and half of the panel hit the deck.
There we were, no tools, and a metal panel dragging on the floor. A friendly coach driver attacked it with pliers and a socket set to try and either get the arm to retract so we could fix the panel back or unhook it so we could take it off. Nothing - no joy.
Then one of our colleagues flagged down a man with a van full of tools.
'I can soon fix that for you' said he.
He went to the van and we heard the vroom vroom of a petrol driven motor and he hacked the panel off with a chain saw - grinding noises and sparks flying on the petrol station forecourt right next to a tank that had just been filled with diesel.
Hmmm, we left very quickly once the panel was in the boot.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

To all the UK mum's. The belles have just presented me with a lovely cuddly girl bunny rabbit in a pretty pink dress from the Bear Factory and in honour of Animal Instincts they called her Clodagh on her birth certificate. I'll try and get a pic later and put it up for you. She'll look very sweet in my revamped bedroom when it's done. I'm having new carpet fit in my bedroom on Friday and I've new bedlinen - need to see if the budget will stretch to new curtains or getting the old ones cleaned.
I'm not looking forward to moving everything out of the room and getting the old carpet up but the new carpet is all soft and silky with a long pile. That probably means I'll be forever losing the backs from my earrings in the shagpile but it looked so lovely and luxurious I'm sure it'll be worth it.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


The weather at the moment is lovely, not that I've seen a great deal of it as I'm still buried under work. I'm hoping to get my course work finished this week and then to make my schedule I need to write one chapter of Crystal Clear and one of A Scattering of Leaves to meet my target for this month.
The crows of doubt have been pecking really hard at me this week despite the lovely review from Star magazine and I've been having a wobble over whether Crystal Clear is working. Logically I know I had the same crisis over Animal Instincts but even so it's hard to shake off those 'I am crap' feelings.
I'm sure I'll get over it, I am the worlds worst judge of my own work so I'll press on and finish, polish and let my editor be the judge of the level of my crapitude. The plot for my next story - Just Look at Me Now is forming nicely in my head and I'm starting to itch to begin it so I think that may be adding to my mood.
I think I need some sunshine - and seaside. I desperately miss the sea when I haven't been for a while and I think my Easter holiday to the New Forest will do a lot to pick me up.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Animated Brilliance!

Just click on the link below, then click on play, then leave the mouse alone, sit back and enjoy a piece of creative brilliance. I wonder who had time to do this and how did they do it? Just amazing


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

busy, busy, busy

I don't seem to know if I'm coming or going at the moment. Life is so busy with the day job, all the belles commitments and this **** course I'm doing that I feel completely wrecked. I did have the pleasure of a new Jessica Hart book to read at the weekend though which was absolutely fab and I have still to read Phillipa Ashley's It should have been me.
I think I may have to reserve that as a carrot to get me through the writing up for all this course work.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

One step forward..

I managed almost 2.5k yesterday on Crystal Clear so that was good but then today is eaten up with errands and appointments. Who scheduled Mother's day, my friends birthday, my parents and my in laws wedding anniversaries and my father-in-laws birthday so close together?
I still need to make time for a post office run and I have to take the eldest belle to the podiatrist as she inherited my curly toes and one of them is causing a real problem with her ballet.
Never mind - maybe tonight I'll get an hour or so to finish a chapter.

Monday, March 16, 2009


I finished the first batch of work for my course so today I'm writing Crystal Clear. I'm so behind where I want to be at the moment and the story is eating away at me demanding to be written. I'm getting a few messages now from people who've read Animal Instincts - thank you all so much for the lovely comments. I'm glad you like it.
Now - back to work!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

on course

The day job have sent me on this course, as you know. The amount of work entailed is horrendous and I've very little time to get it done especially as I'm so close to finishing the first draft of Crystal Clear. It doesn't help when the subject matter of the course is so dreary. I'd much rather spend time with Zee and Drew in Brixham where the sun is shining and the bad guy has reappeared - sigh. So if I'm a little scarcer around the tinternet over the next couple of weeks you'll know why.

Friday, March 13, 2009

school victory

Those of you who stop by regularly will remember my rantette a little while ago about the Belle's school and the councils idea of having an academy.
Guess what... no go on guess.... why is not going to go ahead? What has the council discovered? Yes, they'd be expected to pay, huge large chunks of cash and why did the council want the academy in the first place? Yep, they have no money.
In other words they thought they'd get a fancy new building for free, never mind the upheavel the wishes of the pupils, parents, staff, houses around the site etc and now they've been told that actually it's not free - it's humungously expensive. Well, duh, did they think that creepy bloke came by those teeth and his orange tan cheaply?
So now they've managed to get back on the building schools for the future list under priority so it's watch this space - but for now all is well.
Now if we could just persuade the head teacher to stay we'd be popping champagne.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Happy Dancing

Many thanks to Sandra who emailed me to say Animal Instincts has a 5 star review in Star magazine!!!
They said 'it's a brilliantly fun read that will have you hooked.'
I must pop out and get a copy of the magazine, it will help me battle the attacks of the crows while I finish writing Crystal Clear.

Monday, March 09, 2009


Drum roll please....
All the winners need to contact me at helen @nelldixon. com (minus spaces) and give me your snail mail addys. I'll be mailing prizes out on Friday.

Winner of a copy of The Honey Trap - donated by author Julie Cohen

Winner of copy of Animal Instincts (there were so many entries for this I've picked two)
Bronwyn P
Kate H

Winner of The Farmer Needs a Wife - Maddie Moon

Door Prizes - surprise goodies!
Sue M
Adelle L
Julie Day

Congratulations to all the winners.

Time, please

Hi All, just to let you know all the contests are now closed. I'll be reading through and taking all the names so I can do the prize draws - expect the winners lists shortly. Thanks to everyone who stopped by this week and all of you who commented. Huge thanks to all the Little Black dress authors who've been so fabulous and supportive. And here's one more excerpt from Animal Instincts to keep you all busy while I work out who's won what.

I managed to park fairly close to the bank and sprinted down the high street as fast as I could in a pencil skirt and high heels. The elderly cashier on the information desk gave me a suitably frosty look and stared pointedly at the clock on the wall when I gasped out details of my appointment.
After being informed that Mr Curzon was a very busy man I was shown to the seat of shame in full view of a line of customers, where I had to wait for the great man to deign to see me. It was another ten minutes before he emerged from a little cubicle which bore the legend ‘Customer Service Suite’ on the frosted glass.
I followed him into the room and did my best to look as tall as I possibly could. I’d read this article that said tall people were more successful, and that at any formal interview a woman should wear heels to gain an advantage over the interviewer. Since Mr Curzon wasn’t particularly blessed in the height department I’d thought I’d give it a shot. The customer service suite proved to be as miserable and uncomfortable as the meeting.
Mr Curzon installed me on an old-fashioned wooden straight-backed chair on one side of the desk while he took the plush comfy leather-faced swivel throne on the other side. He adjusted his half-moon spectacles to maximum advantage for intimidation and began.
The interview – if you could call it that – didn’t last very long. The word ‘interview’ implies some kind of two-way communication, but this was more of a statement. Mr Curzon was the one making the statement. It went something along the lines of ‘you need a large cash injection in the next three months or the bank will call in your mortgage’. I don’t recall saying very much at all. Mr Curzon wasn’t interested in listening when I tried to speak and I’m sure I heard him snort when I mentioned my business plan. His only suggestion was that I ‘liquidise some of my assets’, in other words sell some land.
It didn’t help when I emerged from the cubicle to find that the bank was deserted except for Jack, who was leaning across the customer information counter and positively flirting with the old dragon behind the glass.
“Hi gorgeous. Bit of a change from this morning?” His eyes crinkled at the corners as he looked me up and down. My heart gave a funny little squeeze of pleasure when his gaze lingered on my legs.
Mr Curzon slithered out from behind me to shake Jack’s hand. “Mr Thatcher, delighted you could call in. Please come through to my office.”
Much to my annoyance, Jack had the cheek to wink at me as he strolled past to join Mr Curzon. “Love that eighties vibe,” he murmured in my ear.
It was a good job Mr Curzon was between us or I would have slugged Jack with my business folder. Jack got the invite to the office, I got the customer service suite, that said everything about the difference in our status with the bank.
(C) Nell Dixon 2009

Sunday, March 08, 2009


Okay, the party will be winding up tomorrow - Monday.
Door Prize winners - I will be drawing these for surprise goodies from all the comments left throughout the week.
To win a copy of Animal Instincts - vote dog v cat - which do you vote top and why.
To win a copy of Julie Cohen's Honey Trap - comment saying Hi Julie or on her Girl from Mars excerpt post.
To win a copy of The Farmer Needs a Wife by Janet Gover - leave a comment here or Hi Janet under her excerpt.

My thanks to all the Little Black Dress authors who have so generously sent excerpts and comments to make the party so much fun. I'll be back tomorrow with another excerpt from Animal Instincts and to post the winners at the end of the day (GMT 6pm)

Blog Party 7 - more excerpts and a new prize

Todays special guest is currently a long way away but is stopping by to offer a copy of the Farmer Needs A Wife. To be in with a chance to win just leave her a comment under this post.
Welcome to Janet Gover!
It's great to join in your party. I'm in Australia, and haven't had a chance to pick up Animal Instincts yet, but am looking forward to getting it when I get back to the UK.

I'm researching my next book while I'm here. Australia is full of fabulous people and places.. it's the greatest fun writing books set here. Here's an excerpt from The Farmer Needs A Wife – which was released here in Australia this week. It should give you a bit of an idea about why I keep coming back… both in real life and in my books.

(Donna is an Eglish schoolteacher on a working holiday in Australia. Her visa is about to run out, and she's facing the prospect of leaving the sunshine behind and returning to a cold, grey London winter.)

"Donna, I've found it."
"Found what?" Donna walked into the living room, where her flatmate had just arrived back from the local store with fresh croissants for their breakfast.
"The answer to your problem." Cathy always sounded enthusiastic about everything, but her voice seemed even more excited than usual.
"Which problem might that be?" Donna asked.
Cathy flung herself onto the couch and started digging inside a plastic shopping back that seemed far too big for breakfast for two. "You want to stay here, don't you? After your visa expires?"
"Of course I do," Donna dropped into an armchair opposite her friend. "I love it here. But I am not eligible for resident's status. You know that."
"You would be if you were married!" Cathy announced.
"That's true. But …"
"Ta da!" With a dramatic flourish, Cathy thrust an open magazine at Donna. "The answer to all your problems!"
'Farmers Looking for a Wife' the headline declared. Donna ran her eyes over the first few lines, then looked up at Cathy's expectant face. "You are kidding," she said.
"It's the perfect solution," Cathy insisted.
"No, it's not!" Donna wasn't going to let this continue. "I am not going to be a mail order bride for some outback farmer."
"They're not all from the outback," Cathy pointed out. "There's a very cute one who grows vegetables in the Brisbane valley."
"It's close to the coast. You'd be able to come and stay with us on weekends."
"With or without this mythical husband?" Donna chuckled. "I have to leave for work soon. Let's have breakfast."
"You'd be a cinch to catch a good one." Cathy carried the shopping bag into the kitchen behind her. "You're pretty. Great figure. Blue eyes. As for your hair – it's gorgeous! Everyone loves your accent. You're smart, too."
"I'm not interested." Donna flicked the power on the electric kettle and reached for the coffee mugs.
"You could send that great photo of you in the bikini on the beach. That would be sure to get an answer.
"I wouldn't send that one. It would give the wrong impression and anyway," Donna hurried on, "I'm not interested."
"You should be."
"How many times do I have to say no? Do you want honey or jam on your croissant?"
"Stop changing the subject," Cathy lay the open magazine on the table where they would be eating breakfast. "How about a cane farmer from Townsville?"
Donna laughed. "No!" Cathy could talk her into almost anything. But not this time.

Blog Party 7

Hi All, The contests are still rolling, more excerpts to come later today. Post your cat v dog entries and also comments on Girl From Mars for your chance to win. Here are some pics from yesterday so you can see what went on at Merry Hill.

This is Phillipa Ashley and me with Josie, the lovely manageress of Waterstones who organised everything so beautifully. Huge thanks to her and her team for all their hard work.

Posing for the press. Two press teams turned up making us feel like real celebrities. This was thanks to Josie and Westfield, the company who own the Merry Hill Centre who used their press office.

With Lizzie Lamb, an RNA member who travelled from Leicester to see us. Thanks to Emma who came all the way from North Wales and Hilary who came from Surrey. We were so touched that you all went to so much trouble and we had the best time meeting you all.

With Jessica, my amazing and talented Critique partner.

With Shelley and Jo, two lovely readers.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Blog Party 6 - guest author

Todays guest is the wonderful Janet Mullany who writes incredibly funny and briiliant Regency romance with a twist with fab dialogue.

Hello everyone. Thanks for inviting me to the party, Nell, and congratulations on the release of Animal Instincts!

I'm Janet Mullany Janet Mullany and I write funny Regencies for Little Black Dress. I want to introduce you to the heroine, Caroline, of my next release (August, 2009), A Most Lamentable Comedy, who makes a brief but memorable appearance in my first LBD book, The Rules of Gentility. The narrator is Philomena Wellesley-Clegg, the heroine of The Rules, who is having various adventures while trying to repair a ripped dress:

A couple reel into the room, tightly clasped together.

To my horror, it is Mr. Inigo Linsley and Lady Caroline Bludge. She shoves--there is no delicate way to say this, either--him up against the wall, her hands clasping his coat. I am most impressed that they manage to do all this with their mouths locked together.

'D--n, we can't do this,' Mr. Linsley says when his mouth is free for a moment, for I imagine they must have to breathe. 'I offered to take you into supper. You're engaged.'

'One last time. Elmhurst won't mind. He won't know.' She is breathless, and her bosom rises and falls so dramatically I wonder how it stays in her gown. 'Why were you in the country so long? I have been mad for you. And you've been in town a week and not called on me.'

'Caro, don't be foolish. I don't want Elmhurst to kill me.' I notice that although he protests, he does not attempt to escape or let her go, and his voice lacks the conviction I would have thought appropriate. So he and Lady Caroline had a liaison! It is a pity Aylesworth is not with me, for he would appreciate this greatly, loving gossip as he does.

To my surprise, Lady Caroline drops to her knees in front of Inigo. Oh, poor woman, is she about to beg for his favors? I cannot countenance this!

'Sir!' I emerge from behind the screen. 'You should be ashamed of yourself!'

Mr. Linsley says some rather interesting words--to be sure, my vocabulary is greatly expanded tonight--and Lady Caroline, whose hand is at the, well, in the vicinity of Mr. Linsley's breeches, utters a shriek, and leaps to her feet.

'Oh! Miss Wellesley-Clegg! I was, er, looking for an earring!'

What sort of fool does she take me to be? Unless she has a hidden, third ear, there is no earring she could possibly have lost.

Mr. Linsley leans against the wall, arms folded, and regards us both with a smirk.

Lady Caroline hisses at me, 'If you tell anyone of this I shall ruin you. You should not even be in society, for you are from trade and your family is excessively ill-bred for no lady would spy on another so--'

'Hold your tongue, Caroline!'

I think Mr. Linsley's response startles Lady Caroline almost as much as it does me, for she slaps his face, wrenches the door open, and leaves, slamming it behind her.

Mr. Linsley straightens his disordered neckcloth and bows.

Under the circumstances it is a ludicrous action and I cannot help giggling.

'I regret you were, ah, exposed to such a scene,' he says. 'And Lady Caroline was inexcusably rude.'

'It is no matter, sir.' Well, what can I say? That my maidenly modesty is outraged? It was, in fact, rather interesting, and I am now not convinced that she was about to beg him for anything, as I first thought.

(C) Janet Mullany
A Most Lamentable Comedy is available for Preorder on Amazon and other sites and will be released in August. I must admit I can't wait.

Blog Party 6 contests

Phillipa Ashley and I are at Waterstones today 12-2 at Merry Hill for anyone near enough to see us.
I'll be back later to post more excerpts from my lovely guest authors - including a fabulous exclusive excerpt from Janet Mullany that had me rolling around with laughter and adding her books to my autobuy list. It's regency but not as we know it - now theres a teasetr for you.
Remember all comments this week are eligible for the door prize draw which I'll do on Monday.
Enter your dogs V cats vote for a chance to win a copy of Animal Instincts
Comment on Julie Cohens girl from Mars eexcerpt or just say hi under her post to be in with a chance to win a copy of her book The Honey Trap (That's a really good read - rock stars anyone?)
See you all later!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Blog Party 5 - Squee!!!

Just to interupt the party with news that Animal Instincts is an editors top pick over at the book depository! Here
Ahem, as you were.
Plus, don't forget Phillipa Ashley and I are at Waterstones at the Merry Hill Centre tomorrow 12 til 2. We're looking forward to meeting everyone!

Blog Party 5 second guest

Welcome to my second guest for today - Julie Cohen!
Julie has generously offered a copy of The Honey Trap as a prize as well as giving us this exclusive sneak peek at her upcoming May release - Girl From Mars. So any comments for Julie's post will be eligible for the draw to win a copy of The Honey Trap. Don't forget to vote too Dogs V Cats (Dogs were winning by a nose last time I checked) which could win you a copy of Animal Instincts!

'I, Philomena Desdemona Brown, do solemnly swear to forsake all romantic relationships. There. Do I really have to repeat it in Klingon?'

It's not like the vow, made by Fil and her two nerdy best male friends so they'd always stick together, was a big deal at the time. Frankly, Fil wouldn't know romance if it hit her in the face anyway. Her one true love is her job as the artist for the famous comic Girl from Mars. Just like the comic's alien heroine, Fil's never had or needed a love interest,just her best friends.

Until one of her friends breaks the vow and falls in love, bringing her smack back down to earth. Could it be that romance is in the stars for Fil after all?


(Fil Brown, the artist for long-running British comic book Girl from Mars, has just received a script for the next episode, written by a mystery person. She's outraged by it and has brought it to her editor, Anthony, to wave in his face whilst complaining at the top of her lungs.)
The whole script is about Girl from Mars trying to get home, I said.
‘Girl from Mars can’t get home. There’s her addiction to water, and the gravity difference, and that whole negative energy thing that means that if she re-enters the Martian atmosphere she’ll…’
‘So it’s a pointless storyline.’
Anthony raised his eyebrows. ‘More pointless than saving a bunch of council homes from being incinerated by a fleet of bulletproof robots when the bloody government’s going to go and knock them down next week anyway?’
This was a reference to Girl from Mars and the March of Progress, a Thatcher-era storyline that was a particular favourite with fans.
‘Every regular reader will know this is ground that’s been covered before.’
‘Brown, we’ve been running for over fifty years. There’s very little ground we haven’t covered before.’
‘There’s one ground we’ve never touched, which brings me to my final point.’ I took a deep breath and paused, the better to get across the enormity of what I was about to say.
‘Chief, this script is a romance.’
Anthony regarded me over his fingers. His face did not register shock, surprise, or disgust.
‘You say that as if it’s a bad thing, Brown.’
‘It… Chief… I Clearly I wasn’t getting through. I turned to page six and stabbed at a paragraph with my finger. ‘Look here, when Girl goes to see the scientist Jackson Silver there’s a two-page description of what he looks like and the dimple on his chin, he’s basically Cary Grant as far as I can tell. And then’ I turned pages furiously, ‘on page nine they accidentally brush shoulders and end up looking deep into each others eyes! And then…’ more page flipping, ‘Look at this! It’s banter! And here, while they’re supposed to be sneaking through the network of underground caves, Girl from Mars actually grabs his hand and keeps holding it!’
‘Take a couple of deep breaths, Brown, you’re hyperventilating.’
‘And this is the start of a six-part series, it says at the beginning! What will she do next? Kiss him? Go steady? Get married?
‘Even space aliens need a little tenderness.’
© Julie Cohen May 2009

Available now for preorder at Amazon.com

Blog Party 5

The party rolls on - Don't forget you have till the end of Saurday to enter the cats versus dogs contest. Also every single comment throughout the week is automatically entered for a door prizes draw on Monday.
Now I'm thrilled to introduce the first of my Little Black Dress guest authors
First up is the lovely Caprice Crane and she's got a great excerpt from her Little Black Dress book - Forget About It

Forget About It

Being run over is not generally considered to be a good thing, but for Jordan Landau, desperate to escape her nightmare family, her dead-end job, and most of all her lying cheating boyfriend, it's the perfect opportunity to start over. Coming to in the hospital, Jordan realizes she has a perfect excuse for a "do-over"; she vows to fake amnesia and totally reinvent herself. And it works. It's goodbye to Jordan the pushover and hello to the life she always dreamed of--until the unthinkable happens. Suddenly Jordan must start over for real, and figure out what really makes her happy--and how best to live a truly memorable life.

my first marriage

I got married when I was seven years old. I remember it like it was yesterday. I married my next-door neighbor Todd Beckett. Typically male (though atypically unaware of the delights of conjugal benefits, as that wasn't in our second grade curriculum), Todd was against the whole affair— totally commitmentphobic—but he went along with it since we had nothing better to do that day. My best friend, Catherine Parker, presided over the ceremony.

It was the middle of July, but it was perfect wedding weather: breezy, seventy-five degrees, and a clear blue sky. I felt lucky that I could wear my best outfit—cutoff Jordache jeans shorts and a rainbow-striped bathing-suit top. Cat wore her favorite color-patched Dolphin shorts and a hand-me-down Van Halen T-shirt that wasn't handed down as much as appropriated from her older brother, and Todd wore a Hang Ten shirt and cords. The ideal weather was lost on him; Todd always wore corduroy pants and Vans no matter what the outside temperature was.

The ceremony was set up in my parents' backyard right under the swing set, where we stood before Cat, who eyed us gravely and began: "And do you, Jordan 'Jordy Belly' Landau, take Todd Beckett to be your awfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, till death do you part?" I forgave Cat for invoking the jelly bean? inspired nickname my stepfather had given me—I knew she was mad that she had to play justice of the peace rather than bride.

"I do," we each said.

"I now pronounce you man and wife. You may now kiss the bride. And you have to hold it for three Mississippi seconds."

And then we kissed. Well, our lips touched, and we didn't move a muscle as Catherine counted out one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi. And that was that. Me, barefoot with flowers in my hair. A simple ceremony. No family arguments. No stressing over having invited too many people. No registry nightmares. No problems. But there was cake. We'd always seen couples in movies smearing cake all over each other's face, and we thought that was an integral part of getting married.

"Time for the cake!" Cat shouted, and we geared up to get messy. I had taken two chocolate Sara Lee cakes from the freezer and set them out to thaw about an hour before our ceremony. I'd placed one right on top of the other in an attempt to create the tiered effect of wedding cakes I'd seen in movies. I surreptitiously swiped at my confection's double-decker side and popped a sugar-coated finger in my mouth. They were thawed and ready. So I took a handful of cake and smeared it all over Todd. Then he took a fistful and smeared it back on me, careful not to get any in my hair. At first. Until he noticed how much I appreciated his keeping my carefully feathered bangs icing free. Good-bye, feathers, hello, frosting. Cat dared to laugh, so we both smeared a few handfuls over her. Partly for revenge, but mostly so she wouldn't feel left out.

I remember that we'd recently seen The Karate Kid Part II, and there was some kind of ceremonial bonding ritual in the movie where a Jap an ese couple drank tea from each other's cups, so we thought that maybe we should have a bonding ritual too. It was too hot for tea, so Todd and I each chewed a piece of grape Hubba Bubba bubble gum, blew a bubble, and then moved in close to each other so that our bubbles would touch and stick together—thus bonding the two of us for life. And as a wedding present Todd gave me a whole unopened pack of Watermelon Wave Bubblicious.

It was a hell of a day. What I remember most is how simple it all was. It probably took two minutes from my hatching the day's activity to "I do." That was before I had the chance to be scared I may have gotten pregnant from our three-second kiss. The more I thought about it, the more nervous I got, so I grabbed Todd and tugged at his arm.

"Do you think I could have just gotten pregnant from that kiss?" I whispered.

"I don't know. Do you?" he asked.

"If I knew, I wouldn't be asking." And we stood there and looked at each other for a moment, Todd's eyes blinking, eyebrows raised.

Then he shrugged. "Well, we did just get married, so if you are pregnant, I guess it's okay. I think it would be worse if we weren't already married."

"I think so too," I said.

Problem solved. The celebration resumed, and we consummated our marriage with a game of tag.

My marriage to Todd was perhaps my way of trying to create a union more perfect, or at least less disastrous, than my own parents' marriage. I remember the day my first dad sat me down and put a hand on each of my shoulders. He looked me square in the eye and said, "Jordan, I want you to know that I love you very much, and I want you to always remember that." I remember feeling a sense of dread, although I didn't know what the feeling was exactly—I just knew it didn't feel good, so I distracted myself by studying the hairs that were growing just a teensy bit too far out of his nose. "Do you know that, Jordan? Do you know that I love you as much as I'm capable of ?" he asked. I blinked and watched the one gray hair that was peeking out of his left nostril like a little mouse amid the other black ones, checking to see if the coast was clear. " Jordan?"

"Yes, Daddy."

"You understand that?"

"Uh-huh . . . ?" I said, with less certainty then he'd probably have liked.

"I may not see you for a while," he continued, "but that doesn't mean I won't be out there somewhere . . ." His words then drifted off with a theatrical pause. His nose hairs whistled slightly in the silence. I was mesmerized. Then he snapped back, ready to make his final point. "I just want to make sure you know that you are loved by your father, so that you don't grow up to be a man-hating lesbian."

I was barely five. A million thoughts raced through my head—a million questions that I wanted to ask him—but I felt paralyzed. Why are you telling me this? Where are you going? When will you be back? What is a lesbian? And most important, are you ever going to cut your nose hairs?

Nothing came out of my mouth. Well, none of the elevendy-million questions that whirled through my brain like a meteor shower, blasting through my mind until they'd exhausted their energy and faded away. The only thing I uttered was "Okay."

And he nodded, said, "Good girl," and then he was gone.

When my mom came in from the backyard a few minutes later, she didn't believe me when I told her that I didn't think Daddy was coming home. She got angry at me for saying such a terrible thing and asked me if I "thought I was a psychic." I told her no. I told her that I wasn't a psychic and I wasn't a lesbian—because even though I didn't know what either thing was, it just seemed like the right thing to say and I could tell my mom needed some reassurance.

"WHAT?" she yelled. And then I explained—told her everything he'd said, as nearly as I could recall it—and I must have captured the sense of it pretty well because afterward she went into the bathroom and cried for three and a half hours.

When she finally came downstairs, her face was dry and her head held high. She'd obviously spent some time in her fancy clothing closet; she wore a black dress I'd never seen with a double strand of pearls around her neck. The effect was classy with just a hint of sexy—and frankly this moment destroyed the little black dress for me forever. She took me into my room, put my fancy velvet party dress on me, and combed and fastened my hair with two ribbon barrettes. She then sat me down and told me that we were starting over. And that was exactly what we did.

Three years later I had a brand-new life, complete with a new house, a new dad, and a new baby sister. You'd think I'd be scarred from all this, and maybe I am, but at the time I really didn't suffer. Walter Landau quickly came into our lives, married my mom, and told me to call him Dad. My mom called him my "new and improved dad," but I didn't really see what had been so bad about the old one. He gave me Mrs. Butterworth, a brown mixed-breed mutt of a dog who had a white stripe on her head that looked like nougat. Mrs. B. was my best friend in the world. She sat under my feet at the dinner table, followed me everywhere— even if I was just going to the bathroom, where she'd wait outside the door—and slept with me every night. I had a happy family, my best friend, Cat, and my new husband, Todd.

Cat, Todd, and I were the three musketeers. We did everything together. Cat and I were polar opposites, lookswise. I had long brown hair, and she was blond. I was fair with freckles all across my nose, and she was perpetually tan. We were both about the same height, but she was always thinner than I was. We became blood sisters by pricking our fingers and holding them together. We were too young to know about AIDS and how that sort of contact might not be the best idea, but that was a simpler time when the first grade was considered early to be having unprotected sex and shooting heroin, so everything turned out okay.

My wedding had taken place a month before my birthday, and I remember that for that particular birthday I desperately wanted a metallic-blue Schwinn bicycle with a banana seat and a white wicker basket with neon flowers on it. I wanted that bike more than anything in the world, and when my dad told me to go outside to get the newspaper that fateful morning, I caught my first glimpse of my dream bike—the coveted Schwinn. I shrieked a joyous victory scream so loud it set off a river of tears from my baby half sister, kicking off a bitter rivalry that would last for two decades.

My memories of childhood are mostly pleasant up to that time, and I half suspect it's because they're not memories at all but stories built up around photographs and home movies I've seen. Because the truth is that after my father walked out on my mom and me, she cultivated a deep-seated fear of abandonment and destitution. She responded by becoming an abject materialist in every aspect of her life, and my new family would essentially become an uneasy alliance between a man who made a lot of money and two women who liked to spend it—those women being Mom and my sister, Samantha, who would grow into a carbon copy of my mother. And then there was me. I was in the mix with them, but more like a leftover ingredient from the failed family than a perfectly blended addition to the new one. Maybe that was all just in my head. Like the time Samantha told me that my father must have had some seriously powerful ugly going on for me not to have gotten any of Mom's good genes. Maybe that was just sisterly ribbing. If the issuing of cracked ribs is normal between sisters.

If our memories were true records of everything we've seen and felt, a lot of us would probably be overwhelmed or even horrified by what was going on. But I arrived at my eighth birthday in good spirits. Though I already had my first set of wheels, my first day of school, and first marriage . . . my first car, first job, and first sexual indiscretion were still years away.

Copyright © 2007 by Caprice Crane

Stupid and Contagious, (Warner/5 Spot, May '06)
Forget About It, (Warner/5 Spot, August '07)
Family Affair, (Bantam Dell/Random House, Coming Fall '09...)
My Thanks to Caprice for stopping by to share her excerpt, more Little Black Dress excerpts from other authors later today and a new prize contest!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Blog Party 4

Hi, I don't think we've met, my name is Jack and I'm a friend of Clodagh's. Well, I'd like to think I was her friend, and if I'm honest I'd like to be more than friends but Clo can be a bit prickly that way. Do you know how long it took to get a date with that girl? Then it was a disaster - something about steak and she didn't pay, followed by her crazy sister assaulting a journalist. At least life is never dull with Clo. She's busy today so Nell asked me to come and host the party.
First up a winner for the signed cover flat and surprise goodies for the best animal story - LAURA for her story about Pikachu and the McDonalds. So Laura, you need to get your snail mail addy to Nell.

New contest for a signed copy of Animal Instincts - Nell says it hits the bookstores today! To win a copy Nell wants to know cat or dog? Most people seem to have a slight preference for one or the other - tell her your vote and why and the best answer will win. She'll draw the prize on Saturday.
Coming on Friday, Saturday and Sunday are more prizes - remember every comment this week will go in the hat for door prizes - tons of excerpts and stories from your favourite Little Black dress authors
Caprice Crane
Janet Gover
Julie Cohen
Janet Mullany
Kristen Harmel
Phillipa Ashley
So keep checking in ...

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Blog Party 3

Hi, It's me, Clodagh again. I love all the animal stories, don't forget you can still enter today too. I've got tons of animal stories but Nell said I wasn't eligible. Keep dropping by as there are tons of goodies coming up.
Look out from Friday, Saturday and Sunday for a whole host of Little Black Dress authors who will be dropping by with excerpts and some prizes, Julie Cohen, Kristin Harmel, Caprice Crane and Phillipa Ashley, amongst others are just some of the guests - exciting!

Anyway today I promised another excerpt from Animal Instincts: This is the scene when Marty, my sister's agent appears to try and bail her out of the mess she got into on the chat show -

The sound of another car barrelling up the private track and into the yard was a good indication that today wasn’t shaping up to be particularly lucky. This time the car in question was a trendy little hot hatch in bright red. Or, at least, it had been bright red before it got coated in dust from the lane.
I watched as Immi’s agent emerged from the car wearing a peacock-blue silk suit and shoes so high they would give any normal person a nosebleed. She crushed her cigarette beneath the toe of her stiletto before opening her boot to pull out one of Immi’s pink suitcases. This was not a good sign - it looked as if Immi would be staying.
“Marty!” My sister deafened me with a yelp of delight at the sight of her agent.
I left Immi in the kitchen and went to help Marty with the case. It turned out she’d packed more than one. It definitely looked as if Immi would be with me for much longer than either one of us really wanted.
“Bloody awful journey. Traffic was terrible. Is she in the house? No press? Good-oh.” Marty picked up a pink vanity box and matching holdall, leaving me with the big suitcase. She strutted briskly toward the house while I struggled along in her wake. If I didn’t know better I would have sworn she’d packed bricks in the thing, it felt so heavy.
By the time I had panted up the back step and into the kitchen Marty and Immi were already air-kissing and ‘darling’-ing one another. I dropped the big heavy case and put the kettle on as Immi took Marty through to the lounge. Just before the door closed behind them I heard Dave shout some welcoming obscenities from his cage in the corner.
I’d barely had time to put the mugs on a tray when the door into the hall opened again and Immi bounced back into the kitchen.
“That bloody bird.” She whisked the tray of coffees from my hands.
“I’ll cover him back up if you like. He gets lonely and he enjoys company. At the brothel he had all the working girls to talk to him.”
Immi rolled her eyes. “I’ll strangle him if he doesn’t shut up.”
I followed Immi into the lounge. Marty was perched on a chair next to the window. She’d pushed up the sash and balanced her ashtray on the sill. Dave huffed up and down his perch, cackling and bobbing his head.
“Twenty-five quid for topless!” He gave a squawk of protest as I dodged his beak to put the cover back over his cage. He’d still shout but at least the noise would be muffled.
Immi passed a strong black coffee to Marty, who promptly produced a small tub of sweeteners from her bag and dropped three tablets into the mug.
(C) Nell Dixon 2009 Animal Instincts

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Blog Party 2

Hello, my name is Clodagh, I see you've met my sister, Immi. She's the glamerous one of the family. I prefer to live more quietly on my animal sanctuary Rainbow Ridge. I've lots of animals, some are suitable for rehoming and some will stay here with me. We've geese, chickens and ducks, a vietnamese potbellied pig called Rosie, Mr Sheen, the goat, rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs. I've two donkeys, Miko and Pasquale and ignore Immi, they are not gay, donkeys are simply happier if they live in pairs. I've a cat called Clive and a large Irish wolfhound called Nigel that I'm minding for someone. Then of course there's Dave.
Dave is a parrot, he's rude and noisy and a bit vicious. Nell called him Dave as a joke. Apparantly it's her husbands name and for years now whenever she's talked about her plots with Mr Nell he has two suggestions - one is the plot from Lassie come home - well, that's clearly never going to happen. The other is to put a parrot in the story.
So she did and I got lumbered with him. Dave the parrot's former owner was the Madam of a brothel and Dave lived in a room where the girls took their breaks and made rude phone calls. He picked up their language. I've rehomed him five times now, the parrot that is - not Mr Nell, and like a boomerang he keeps coming back.
Nell is offering a prize today of a signed cover flat of Animal Instincts along with some other surprise goodies to whoever can tell her, and me, the most entertaining animal story. She'll pick a winner on Thursday so loads of time for you all to comment.
I'll be back tomorrow with another excerpt. See you later, I need to go and muck out the stables.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Blog Party 1

Hi, It's Immi again, Nell asked me to put up another excerpt today so here goes, this is from Clodagh and Jack's first official date - enjoy the read - oh! and I did not do anything to that man - well, not much anyway. Check in tomorrow to meet Clodagh and for the first of the door prizes and a contest

I released his sleeve and he opened the door of the Range Rover. My heart was pounding with a mixture of concern for Immi, annoyance that I’d allowed myself to be coerced into this date, and, strangely, desire for the man who was standing so close to me in the moonlight.
“I’ll give you the money for my share of the meal.” I opened my bag.
“It doesn’t matter.” Jack’s voice sounded surprisingly gentle considering the way I had behaved.
His mouth closed on mine and somehow my arms found their way around his back. His lips traced a line along my jaw to my ear lobe and my insides turned to mush with longing. I tried to focus and remember that I was mad with him.
“Jack, we can’t…We need to get back.” My words came out as a mumble. What was I doing dallying about under the stars when my sister could be in danger?
He lifted his head and his eyes met mine. “Then we’d better go.”
My legs shook for a good five minutes after we’d set off towards Rainbow Ridge, driving in silence down the deserted lanes. I guess neither of us wanted to talk about what was going on between us.
As we neared the edge of the town, guilt compelled me to speak. “I did call Immi from the loo, but I don’t think she’s pretending about there being a prowler. Before you picked me up tonight I thought I saw someone in the yard.”
Jack flicked a glance at me as we zipped through a set of traffic lights. “I don’t understand. What changed between us arriving at the restaurant and your great desire to escape from me?”
He turned into the private lane that led to the sanctuary yard. The blue car was back in the lay-by.
“It’s complicated.” I didn’t know how to explain. I didn’t want to explain. “You had steak and you didn’t let me pay.” I had the car door open before he’d even turned off the engine.
Jack followed me out of the car. “Wait up, Clo. What do you mean I had steak and you didn’t pay?”
The sensor light above the back door clicked on. Immi must have been looking out for us because the door opened and Nigel came loping down the step barking his large furry head off. Before I could grab him he’d galloped off down the path by the donkey pasture.
“Nigel. Heel!”
Fishcakes. I set off in pursuit of the dog. Behind me I heard Jack shout to Immi to bring a torch.
I caught up with the runaway hound as he sniffed around the silage bales. In the distance I heard a faint shriek that sounded like Immi and some more masculine cursing that I suspected might be Jack. It didn’t sound good, heaven knows what they had found. My imagination ran wild and I wished I’d got my mobile in my pocket in case there was trouble. I managed to get Nigel away from the bales and with a bit of persuasion we headed back to the yard.
All I could see as Nigel and I puffed our way back to the house was Jack and Immi standing next to what appeared to be a man’s body.
Or a pair of legs, at least.
(C) Nell Dixon 2009 Animal Instincts

Animal Instincts is available from Waterstones, WH Smiths, Amazon, Play.com and all good retailers.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Blog Party

Hi, my name is Imogen Martin, Immi to my friends, and all this week we're going to be holding a party here on Nell's blog to celebrate the release of Animal Instincts. Nell did say something to Clodagh about doing it - apparantly this book is about her, but really, Clodagh's a bit busy any way with those animals of hers. I'm considering some film offers at the minute and said I could spare a few days. After all I am a professional actress, so this should be a piece of cake. You may recognise me as the face of Blitzclean mouthwash and from my role as Gemma in the daytime soap, All our families. (I was the neurotic daughter of the vineyard owner)Of course there was also that small 'contretemps' on a chat show a while back but that's water under the bridge.
Nell is offering some prizes and I'll put up some more excerpts as the week goes on so come and leave a comment and say Hi. It could be your lucky day.