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?