Friday, July 31, 2009

Sun and showers

Today we visited the Welsh national botanic gardens. The rain held off until late this afternoon which was good. The gardens were quite nice, especially the double walled garden. Sadly the food in the restaurants wasn't so great so we were all starving by the time we left. Tomorrow it's forecast to be a dry day so we're hoping to hit the beach again.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

By the seaside

At last T moanbile has finally let me onto my own blog! We're here beside the sea in lovely and, at the moment, slightly damp Wales. Today we visited Swansea, where there is a lovely Waterstones but it had a very tiny romance selection. Yesterday we visited Camarthen, where with the exception of TK Max, we had a lovely time. If you go to Camarthen, only shop in TK Max if you have a lot of time to spend standing in a huge, huge queue. The beach here at Pembry Country Park is beautiful and the sea is gorgeous and warm. We've had a couple of lovely hot days mixed in with the rain.
I haven't done any writing as yet but I have so many things working out in my head that I can't wait to get home and get cracking.
In other news - Big Brother! Save Marcus - vote out Noirin!

Friday, July 24, 2009


We're off to Wales for a week leaving the housesitters minding the fish. This time we're going to Pembrey and the site is supposed to have WIFI so maybe my gadget will work this time. It's right by the sea so I can't wait. I'm hoping the weather will improve but Wales is famous for it's changeable weather so we'll see. I'm hoping to visit Kidwelly Castle and the National Welsh botanical gardens while we're there but most of all I'm hoping to write, and read and just enjoy the sea with Mr Nell and the belles.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Nice warm glow

A few years ago I stumbled into the strange surreal world of the Bat Cave over at eHarlequin. The friends I made there will hate me for saying this but they are the most generous, warm, supportive group of people. Through them I heard about Moonlit Romance and one of the bats was also my editor. Without Laura and her unstinting patience through the many rewrites and edits of my first book I would never have been published. Not only is she a superb editor she is also a gifted writer herself and she's one of the people, along with Jess, Kimberly and my editor and agent, who's opinion of my writing I really trust. So I was especially thrilled when This appeared, as I know even though she's my friend she wouldn't say it if she didn't mean it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Last day of school

Me, Lizzie and Trisha Ashley

Me - dressed up.
Miss La breaks up today - it's her last day at her little village primary school and they are holding their traditional football and fairies event. This means the girls dress as footballers and the boys go as fairys complete with glitter and wings. It's a ton of fun and gives them all a great memory to take away with them.
Talking of memories, the lovely Lizzie Lamb took some cool pics at the RNA conference that she's given me permission to share. On one of them I almost look normal.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Schools not out

Argh, I was convinced that all the belles broke up on Friday - wrong. Miss La still has two days to do. Roll on September when for a whole lovely year they will all be at the same school. This weekend is the first time in ages that I was home, with four clear days and Mr Nell wasn't on nights so I could catch up on some much needed jobs. What happens? My stupid back goes. So I'm dosed on painkillers, hobbling around and muttering rude words under my breath everytime I look at the dustbunnies and piles of stuff that need to be moved, cleared and sorted.
Next Saturday we're off to Wales so it won't get done then either.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Handy Hints

In a weaker moment I somehow found myself being persuaded to help judge some short story contests this summer. The contests remits are very different but I have found the following issues so far to be pretty universal - here follows a public service broadcast on how not to win a short story contest or get yourself published.

1. Do not copy and paste a story from the internet complete with pictures and write your name in pen on the work.
2. Do not use a font so small that the reader needs a microscope.
3. Do not use anything other than Arial, TNR or Courier as your font.
4. Do not print your entry in bold.
5. Do not put a poem in the middle of it.
6. Do not write a covering letter explaining your story.
7. Do not write a cover letter that's longer than the short story giving me your autobiography.
8. Please give your story a title.
9. Stick to the word count.
10. Do not blame the computer for your spelling and grammar errors.
11. Do not print your entry on paper with a fancy background.
12. Do not put your story in a fancy binder.

Thank you

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Conference report pt2

Where was I? Oh yes, After Saturdays lunch came more workshops. First a round up for the New Writers Scheme, where we all look at what works and what can be made better. Most of the published writers have experienced the scheme themselves when trying for publication and know how it feels to be anxiously waiting for that precious feedback. Then came Jessica Hart's workshop on character, plot and emotional tension. If you visit here regularly you'll know I am a huge fan of Jessica's, not only is she a great writer but she really knows her stuff when it comes to sharing her expertise with other writers so it was a really useful workshop. Then I have to admit I skived the last workshop in favour of a quick chat with Jessica before she dashed off and then I had a quick shower - taking care not to fall through the damaged floor of my bathroom - and a nice lie down before the Gala Dinner.
The Gala dinner is always a highlight with everyone dressing up and photographing one anothers shoes. We did take pictures of cleavages one year but I think we'd been in the bar for a long time then. The food at dinner was a bit of a disaster - we learned later that there had been an accident to one of the kitchen staff - but the only edible part of the meal was the soup and roll we had as a starter and the mint that came with the coffee. We did contemplate sending out for pizza on our table but decided it was too late at night. Luckily Sandra Forder came to our rescue once more as it was her birthday and there was cake in her kitchen.
I made it back to my room round about midnight by which time it was raining. Biddy and Anna arrived a few minutes later. I went out into the hall when I heard mild shrieks and giggles from the upstairs landing to find Biddy - dressed in a rather lovely black bra - perched on a chair and waving a pipe from a hoover at the open skylight while Anna hung onto her legs. They managed to close the skylight to stop the rain from pouring in and we finally went to bed after we'd had a conversation about the sex appeal - or not - of the Top Gear presenters.
Sunday saw some rather sore heads in the dining room for breakfast. Next workshop was Freda Lightfoot's 'Creating a Brand', another superb workshop. Then it was Linda Gilliard on exploring all the senses when writing. I'm in two minds about that workshop. The exercises were very good but there some statements made that as someone who has clients, colleagues and friends with vision and hearing issues, troubled me a little.
This was followed by the conference round-up and lunch before the lovely Judy Jarvie gave me a ride to the station where I spent a very happy half an hour comparing bookshelves with Allie Spencer where we discovered we both loved Chaucer and PG Wodehouse.
So there you have it, the insider goss on what we did last weekend. The wonderful Liz Fenwick is giving superbly detailed accounts of all the writers tips she gleaned on her blog - link is in the sidebar.
Now to save up ready for next year - and I think I may have volunteered to deliver a workshop.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Conference report pt1

Longtime regular readers will know that I'm not the world's best at writing these. Other bloggers do a far better job when it comes to detailing workshops and who had the best shoes, but here goes!
I made it to Penrith on the sardine special - aka Virgin Trains - too many people for not enough train. I shared a cab from the station with three other lovely novellists including fabulous new Little Black Dress author and recent winner of the Joan Hessayon prize, Allie Spencer.
The campus at newton Rigg is in a gorgeous spot and the staff there are lovely. The food however and my room were another story but at any conference it's the company that counts and I had the best company.
I was chuffed to be sharing a block with Nina Harrington, new M&B romance author and my good friends, Anna Louise Lucia and Biddy Coady. I soon met up with other online friends,and we went to the panel meeting on How much is too much? with Melanie Hilton, Liz Gill, Helen Scott Taylor, Sue Moorcroft and Veronica Henry.
Ten to six found me, Biddy and Anna joining the queue outside the bar where I met the lovely Sue Rix and her hubby Graham.
Dinner was less than stellar as they ran out of food by the time we got inside so I ended up with a Cumberland sausage four tiny potatoes and some orange stuff that may once have been carrots but by then you could have used them as rubber bullets. Fortunately Sandra Forder had a stash of biscuits in her room.
Saturdays workshops were fab - really, seriously good. I went to Myra Kersner's Non fiction proposals - excellent workshop on selling, publishing, writing and promoting non fiction. This was followed by Hugo Summerson's brilliant talk on How to do public speaking really well. I really needed this one!
Then we had a plenary session with one of my favourite writers - Veronica Henry.She told us all about her scriptwriting for the Archers, Family Affairs, Crossroads, Holby, Heartbeat etc and how this has informed her novel writing. Fascinating stuff.
I'll tell you more in part 2!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Friday, July 10, 2009

I'm off

to the conference. I really can't wait. Lots of people I'm longing to see. Lots of people to congratulate on all kinds of things. Gossip to catch up on, wine to be drunk, workshops to be attended.
Have fun while I'm gone and as they say, if you can't be good, be careful.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

RNA conference

I'm off on the train again tomorrow to the RNA conference at Penrith. I still have no case - wondering now if I'd be better with my back pack. My nails aren't done, I can't find my conference schedule that I know I put in a safe place ready, my phone is on charge and I already read the magazine I bought to take with me to read on the journey.
Oh hum, good job the train isn't till mid day tomorrow. You never know I might be almost organised by then.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009


My name is Nell and I am a Blueberry addict. I love this time of year when those tempting little boxes of fruity juiciness appear in the supermarkets. I really don't eat much chocolate at all - maybe the odd Bounty bar if I'm feeling stressed but Blueberries - yum.
One more day to go and I can focus on the RNA conference at Penrith. I need Mr Nell to rescue my case with the wonky wheel from the loft and I need to ensure that I'm packing extra caffeine in my handbag and I'll be good to go. I travel pretty light as I don't possess a huge choice of clothes and I only possess four pairs of shoes altogether and one of those pairs are my green work wellies. So I'll be the scruffy woman with the dodgy suitcase and the coffee in her bag eating blueberries at the railway station. I am harmless and if you come and talk to me I might even offer you a blueberry.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Errand day

Day off today from the day job - I'm supposed to have Mondays and Tuesdays off but like yesterday things get moved around. I made it to Warwick and back despite missing a connection in Birmingham and cutting it a bit fine. Today is a bit of a run around day, schlepping the belles to school, work experience, Morris dancing etc.
I need to dig out a case to pack my stuff in for the conference. I don't actually take much with me but I tend to bring a lot back - mainly books - so I need to make sure I can manage everything.
I'm hoping I can get some writing done today too. Have started the new project and need to make sure I stay on schedule for Just Look at Me Now. I usually find going to the conference really boosts my productivity when I come back as I get all enthused after listening to other writers and hearing about how they tackle different issues. Just lately having written a load of academic stuff it's really knocked me off my creative writing stride.
I can't even get into Big Brother this year. They are all so unlikeable. The only people I quite like are Marcus and Servash. The rest are just either creepy, unpleasant or bitchy with no redeeming features. On the other hand I love watching Supersizers - I was livid last week when they took it off because the tennis over ran. I hate sports and tennis is so deadly dull, I wish they would spare a thought for those of us who really don't want to watch it. Last night's Supersizers was set in France at the time of the revolution. Giles and Sue are hilarious and the shows are so interesting.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Food and Warwick

I'm off to Warwick today to do a presentation with my lovely jobshare partner at a conference for Food Security. I had intended to drive but that means three different motorways and the combo of me, lots of changes, psycho Sally the Satnav and an inability to understand left, right, north, south and how many yards? is a very bad idea. So I'm taking the train and then a taxi. I'm more nervous about the journey than making the presentation.
I'm looking forward to Friday's train journey to Penrith with much more confidence. Pop over to Nina's blog if you haven't already and join in her launch party - see the post from a few days ago for directions. Down a bit, down a bit - there it's a clicky link - you got it. Why can't we just do that to get to places in reality - 'Beam me up, Scotty.'

Saturday, July 04, 2009


Well, as you all know I had a real wobble last week about my writing and where I was going. My lovely agent has helped me clarify a lot of my thoughts and basically I've decided to shelve 'A Scattering of Leaves' for the time being.
I'm focusing on Just Look at me Now and finishing off edits when they come in for Charlie Darling and Crystal Clear. I know now where my strengths lie and I've a new project i'm really excited about. It's another speculative thing and it's going to be so much fn to write that I just can't wait. It's working title is 'Me, You and Him.'The story is just falling into place and I'm just so jazzed about it.
I think I'll be making a playlist and hunting up some inspirational pics in the next few weeks but I'm definitely going to be diving head first into the unknown!

Thursday, July 02, 2009


It's always a special thrill when someone you know sells a book and even better when you see their precious baby launched into the world.
Look out for Nina Harrington's 'Always the Bridesmaid', available from eharlequin!
Go congratulate her yourself HERE and don't forget to grab yourself a copy!.
Congratulation's Nina!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

ants and sticks

Do you ever have days where you feel a bit like one of those ants that you see scurrying around carrying a big bit of twig? They never put the twig down but are just busy, busy, busy. Well, that's how I feel right now. I might as well move in at the high school, I'm there so often for one thing and another - inductions, awards, parents evenings.
Then work at the day job is manic - interviews, abstracts, academic papers, visits, research and hands on garden stuff.
Somehwere in the craziness I'm going to the RNA conference soon at Penrith, am writing my contracted book, editing - two sold books and playing with my speculative almost half done book which my agent is feeding back to me on in the next couple of weeks.
I'm looking forward to the end of term and my next holiday then maybe I can put this twig down for a bit - it's hard work being an ant.