Monday, January 30, 2012


Current work: proofs for The Hidden Heart of Rico Rossi
Listening to: Bach
Reading: next on TBR (but I’m reading Locatelli’s ‘Made in Sicily’ at lunchtimes – fabulous and a bit inspirational as well)

Busy weekend – mainly partying as it was my BIL’s 50th. Was a good night, though being late to bed (OK, and three glasses of Pinot Grigio, which is way above my limit) meant that I was a bit wiped yesterday. (And I’m coming down with a cold, so I’m on manuka honey and lemon.)

Proofs, then back to my Vienna book. (And I might not, ahem, be tortoising today as I need to catch up with myself!)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

rip it up and start again...

Current work: new book
Listening to: Bach
Reading: next on TBR (but I’m reading Locatelli’s ‘Made in Sicily’ at lunchtimes – fabulous and a bit inspirational as well)

So there I was, stuck on the book. Choice of tortoising away or playing with iPhoto… well, you know what I’ve been doing all week. (I am a bad puppy. I know.)

And then at 5am this morning I was wide awake and realised what the problem was. I'd started the book in the wrong place, because I was so keen to get the backstory in. (This is my 52nd M&B. How can I still make such basic errors?) Oh, and I'd started with the wrong characters.

As I lay there in the dark, it hit me what needed to be done.

Cue padding quietly downstairs to make a few notes on the iPad… and today will be better.

Book so far is officially scrapped. (Though of course I haven’t thrown it away. There are bits I intend to pinch from that. The basic stuff is fine – just not for this book.)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Liz's Little Book

I have a very special guest on my blog today - one of my all-time favourite writers (and I'm speaking about reading as well as in person - I have a shelf of her books and they're what I reach for whenever life is tough, because she takes me to another world and puts a smile on my face for the right reason).

I'm delighted to introduce Liz Fielding.

A hero has to be strong, tender, a man who would never let down the woman he loves. But he has to be flawed. If he were perfect there would be no story.
— Mollie Blake’s Writing Workshop Notes from Secret Wedding by Liz Fielding

Mollie Blake is a woman who knows what’s she’s talking about. I created her for my novella, The Secret Wedding and I’ve been listening to her advice ever since.

I really, really wish I’d had someone like her to hold my hand when I set my sights on writing romance in… Well, it was a very long time ago. It would have been wonderful to have her easing me through the agony of getting the story in my head onto paper. Alas, back then there were few “how-to” books to turn to in the UK, there was no internet and I’d never heard the words “critique partner”. I didn’t actually know anyone else who was writing anything. I was on my own.

I learned by doing, by writing, being rejected, reading the writers I wanted to emulate. It was a long, slow and very steep learning curve but the one thing you need if you want to be a writer is single-minded determination. My fourth submission, An Image of You, was — with a lot of help from an editor who saw something in my writing — published in 1992. Since then, I’ve had a wonderful career with more than sixty books in print.

My Little Book of Writing Romance is a straightforward writing romance primer. It’s the book I wish I’d had when I was fumbling through my first attempts at writing fiction, a hand in the dark to new writers struggling with the stuff it took me years to learn. And when you make it into print, please do email me to share the joy. Mollie and I will do the Snoopy dance for you.

Liz Fielding’s Little Book of Writing Romance is available as an eBook download from Amazon and for all other devices except the Nook (we’re waiting for Waterstones to stop messing about with their apostrophe and get on with it). Molly Blake’s story, The Secret Wedding, is available as a free online read.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

technical hitch

Current work: new book
Listening to: Joe Bonamassa
Reading: next on TBR (but I’m reading Locatelli’s ‘Made in Sicily’ at lunchtimes – fabulous and a bit inspirational as well)

I was planning a special guest today, but had a technical hitch in that some of my mail got eaten (which included her piece for the blog - arrgh! Luckily she's a good friend and forgave my ineptitude).

(Question for next Apple training session, I think – if I delete something from the iPad, I don’t necessarily want it deleted from my desktop!)

Anyway. My special guest will be here tomorrow and she is definitely worth the wait :o)

Monday, January 23, 2012

awesome sauce

Current work: new book
Listening to: Joe Bonamassa
Reading: next on TBR

Am now officially in love with my iMac. And playing with photos is definitely on the ‘not allowed until daily word quota done’ list. iPhoto is just AWESOME, and I don’t use that word a lot – it really has stunned me that I can put in keywords, so for example I can press a button and pull up all the photographs I’ve tagged as son’s or daughter’s birthday, or all the sunsets, or all the rainbows. For a nerd like me who’s built databases from scratch (so I get how it works)… I just love this, and I am so giving myself a pleasure project over the next few months of scanning in favourite photographs from the years before I had a digital camera. (Obviously that’s after I’ve done my daily tortoising. I would say I’m being good but that’s a fib as I’ve been messing about with my photos all weekend!)

Car went in for a service this morning (all fine – as expected, as it was the first service), and that gave me time to have a cup of coffee in M&S to wake up ready for my training in the Apple shop. Although I’d booked an intro session, I had a few questions on things that were holding me back, and James was brilliant – instead of sticking strictly to the session parameters, he answered my questions and showed me how to do what I wanted to do (I’m a kinaesthetic learner so this was perfect for me). I have another session booked in a fortnight, and no doubt by then I’ll have more questions, but for now I’m having a lot of fun with this and am much more relaxed.

Still on the awesome sauce front, I have a special guest here tomorrow – one of my favourite writers (and I mean in all senses – she’s a lovely woman, a good friend and I’ve loved her books for years). Come back and see what she has to say…

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Current work: new book
Listening to: Beethoven
Reading: Jessica Hart, The Secret Princess (enjoyed this one, too)

Thursday already? Where has the week gone?

Tuesday was guitar lesson (droppeddown to fortnightly at the moment so I can manage my workflow better) and we messed about with Pachelbel and building up variations (i.e. play the root of each chord in the bass with the first four notes of Frère Jacques – that was fun). Yesterday was various school stuff in the morning, and dance class in the evening; we started learning the waltz (excellent for research purposes as well as being enjoyable). DH and I have worked out that it’s better if we don’t look at our feet…

Am going through my photographs in iPhoto (at the rate of 100 a day, as there are 10 years’ worth! – though I was doing it while thinking so I did more than that on Weds) and adding in names and places. Bit of a lump in my throat as I’ve just reached the pics of my 40th birthday and there’s a lovely one of Dad with me. (Have decided am not doing a birthday party this year – I found last year hard as I always used to make Dad the centre of attention, and I don’t really enjoy the focus being on me.)

Today, am focused on the new book. Because today is a grey, wet morning and we’ve had two beautiful sunrises in the early part of this week, I’m posting a pic of Tuesday morning’s sunrise (Tuesday’s pic was of Monday’s). Glorious. (You can't see it here, but the ploughed field at the front is covered in frost.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

beautiful sunrise

Current work: revisions (typing up, almost there, and then back to new books)
Listening to: Bach
Reading: Jessica Hart, Ordinary Girl in a Tiara (great fun – lovely heroine)

Lots of typing yesterday. Word 2011 takes a bit of getting used to, and Mail is driving me faintly potty, but I am persevering :o)

Glorious sunrise on the way to school yesterday. We’re so lucky with the skies in Norfolk.

Monday, January 16, 2012


Current work: revisions (typing up)
Listening to: Blur (hence the title of this post – you know the song!)
Reading: next on TBR

Have spent the past few days being diligent. (All right. I spent Thursday in the Apple shop and having lunch with DH, Friday seeing my stepmum and putting flowers on my parents’ graves – the bulbs on Dad’s grave are coming up, which is quite exciting – and Sunday afternoon in the Apple shop, having my initial training. Oh, and in between I did the paper edits on the book. And tidied my desk. That might count as haring rather than tortoising. But it was fun.)

Even though this was a planned changeover, it was still a bit stressful, and by Sunday afternoon my words were coming out wrong and I was coughing. (This is how you can tell that either I’m stressed or it’s past 10pm – no sense out of me then as I’m a lark, not an owl.)

Barnie at the Apple shop was utterly lovely – there were two of us for the ‘Mac and Me’ session and he was great at talking us through everything. And the moment I switched my iMac on for the first time and saw my doggie on the screen… just wow. One teensy problem: my emails didn’t migrate. (My fault for using Outlook as a filing cabinet, so now I have to set up my PC downstairs again and email everything to myself, or just print the stuff out.)

Oh, yeah. You want to see it, don’t you?

This is it – and the new printer – just after I set everything up. There are bets on how long the clear desk will last. (Two days, according to DH. And people who know me in real life and have seen inside my office will be looking at this and going, ‘What, that long? That is so NOT the usual state of her desk.’) I admit, my iPad and my glasses case and my hand cream migrated within 20 minutes of taking that pic (well hey, I’m middle aged, and Neutrogena Norwegian formula is the only stuff that gets rid of scaly lizard skin on my hands). But I am going to have a general tidy of my office in half term, including the cabinet on which my printer stands and which hasn't been opened for about three years, and am on a promise of help from lovely daughter, who was also very good at helping me tidy my desk on Friday.

Plan for today: get used to Word 2011, and put the paper edits onto soft copy. And then I might start going through my photos and putting in the details. I have LOTS of photos. This is all so exciting. (Thinks: how to persuade DH to buy me an external hard drive that’s the same size as my iPod… Ah, yes, upcoming birthday.)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

a big, scary change...

Current work: revisions (yup, they landed perfectly on time)
Listening to: Pachelbel
Reading: Louise Allen, Married to a Stranger (still enjoying)

I’m making a very, very big change in my life today.

My PC is currently running on borrowed time. Apart from the fact that it’s running out of space on the hard drive, it’s become slow and creaky, and a couple of times recently it’s even refused to switch on. Scary. It means I could lose stuff. (Like the books I’m working on. Despite the fact that they’re all backed up to a memory stick and the iPad and, um, an external hard drive. Paranoid about backing up? Nope. It’s good practice. Though I admit that it usually takes losing something important before you start doing it properly.)

So I thought I’d do the sensible thing and plan its replacement rather than do what I’ve done the last two times, i.e. left it until it’s actually conked out on me, and had to rush off to my lovely tecchies in a panic, asking them to build me a new one and rescue my data from the old machine.
My very first word processor was one of the old Amstrads that came with tiny floppy disks and a dot-matrix printer (which we couldn’t actually afford, as we’d just bought our first house, but DH believed in that I was going to make it as a writer and said I needed a proper word processor. Top hero material, that man).

From that, I went to a computer which had to be booted up with a floppy disk – it was state-of-the-art at the time, but didn’t actually have a hard drive. And then, 20 years ago, I qualified as an ACIM (Associate of the Chartered Institute of Marketing), and the company I worked for gave me a bonus. I spent the lot on a PC with a 386 processor (which was state-of-the-art at the time), Windows, a hard drive, an external modem and Lotus Smartsuite. (Incidentally, I still haven’t found a calendar/organiser program anywhere near as good as Lotus Organize. I’m hoping that iCalendar, along with iCloud, will sort that for me.) I had a very early version of voice dictation software, too (all right, all right, so I’m a bit of a gadget fiend).

I’ve replaced PCs several times over the years, but today I’m switching to a completely different system. My PC is off to the Apple shop to have its data migrated over to an iMac. If all goes to plan, I’ll get them both back on Saturday (as well as a quick lesson so I can migrate my email subaccounts across, sort out iCloud and find out how Word 2011 works). They have promised me that my data, my photos and my music will all be intact and there is nothing to worry about.

Doing what I do for a living, I have an overactive imagination. So you know what I’m worrying about. That I’ll lose data/photos. (Um – I’ve spent ages backing them up to an external hard drive. So I can’t lose them, right?) That I’ll have spent a small fortune on a new machine that’s robust and have lots of storage – but which has a different system and I won’t get on with it. (Despite the fact that I have been lusting after one of these for a couple of years now and I’ve played with one in the Apple shop enough to know that I do like it!) And that all my routines are going to have to change. (Um - that one's true.)

It’s scary and exciting, all at the same time. I can manage without a computer for two days (I have the iPad so I can still say hello on FB and have email access, and if I’m really stuck I can borrow lovely daughter’s laptop). But I have a feeling I’m going to be a bit twitchy and difficult to live with, for the rest of this week. Except, of course, I have revisions to take my mind off things, and I guess I can always try to persuade DH that we need to practice the new step we learned last night...

Monday, January 09, 2012

the first week as a tortoise

Current work: new book(s)
Listening to: Bach
Reading: Louise Allen, Seduced by the Scoundrel (enjoyed – lovely heroine – and wanted to push the anti-hero in a puddle of slurry! Easy to forget how limited women’s choices were, 200 years ago – very glad I wasn’t around then)

So, my first week as a tortoise. I did spend too much time messing about, so I think I need to implement a rule of ‘no email or internet until wordcount is done’. And it wasn’t helped by only having two proper working days last week; the kids were off for two days and DH was off for one (though that did count as work as we had a very long discussion with the tecchies and I can plan what I’m doing now). Exercise: could’ve been a bit better, but the dancing was good and DH has agreed to go again this week. Food: mainly good except for bread at the weekend that put back all the lard I’d taken off during the week, so I need tor remember that bread needs to be scant rather than in moderation.

But the main thing was reducing stress levels. That’s definitely working. So am tortoising on :o)

Thursday, January 05, 2012


Current work: new book
Listening to: Van Morrison/Michael Bublé
Reading: Louise Allen, Ravished by the Rake (enjoying - the Indian setting is interesting, too)

We did a bit of research, last night – i.e. we went for our first ballroom dancing lesson (one of the new books I’m working on is the dance book, so this sort of counts as work). I'm a big fan of Strictly (for the dancing, not the dresses), and DH promised me before Christmas that we’d learn to dance this year. However, he's had a major case of cold feet since New Year. Cue much uxorial nagging this week, and much discussion, and we decided that, instead of going to the class that’s five minutes down the road from us, we’d go to the class run by the teacher I really liked on the phone and who said it was a class for total beginners.

And learning to dance is DIFFICULT! You have to be co-ordinated (DH and I both struggle a little bit there), so I have utter respect for the celebs you see on Strictly who struggle to do the dances. The idea of having to learn the steps and then do a routine in front of an audience, on your own… Nope. I doubt I could do it even with a pro as a partner. But we managed to learn the steps for the “social foxtrot” (i.e. how to move round a room to a song). The music she played was great. Van Morrison’s ‘Moondance’ – which I sneaked into Breakfast at Giovanni’s – and then Michael Bublé’s ‘Under the Sea’. So, ahem, we have the music at home to practice. (Or will do when I next raid DH's iTunes account - and he owes me because he asked me to buy Sherlock.) DH admitted that the teacher was nice and the class ‘wasn’t bad’ (this is high praise in DH-speak), and the helpers were also lovely. So hopefully we’ll go again next week. It was really good to have some time just for us, too.

The picture? That’s from the school run this morning, just before the sun rose – actually, it's on the hill outside daughter's school. I couldn’t resist the drama of the clouds. Here in Norfolk, the skies are amazing. After this, as the sun rose, everything turned silver-gilt and very, very bright.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

sad news

Current work: new book
Listening to: Bach
Reading: next on TBR

So far the new year has been a bit of a rollercoaster, starting with very sad news about Penny Jordan passing away. I began devouring her books as a teen; Penny, Charlotte Lamb and Sara Craven were the authors who really inspired me. She’ll be very greatly missed by readers and writers around the world, and although I didn’t know Penny very well (and could never dream to aspire to her kind of elegance) I did meet her a few times at RNA/M&B dos, and talked to her about our shared love of dogs by email. Rest in peace, Penny.

Everything else I was going to write feels a bit too trivial right now, so I’m going to stop here. When I mentioned the rollercoaster – there is some nice stuff going on, too, but at the moment it has to stay under wraps. Will reveal all the very second I can do so, because I'm all in favour of sharing the good stuff.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

foodie stuff

Current work: on holiday (last day!)
Listening to: Colun Blunstone
Reading: Lucy Dillon, The Secret of Happy Ever After (really enjoyed – the ending put a lump in my throat)

Today I start a new column at the Pink Heart Society – Kate’s Kitchen. The title rather speaks for itself :o) And I’m delighted about it as I get to indulge my foodie heart a little.

Today’s recipe? You’ll have to go and see for yourself!

Monday, January 02, 2012

Happy New Year

Current work: on holiday (yes, still)
Listening to: Jon Lord
Reading: Lucy Dillon, The Secret of Happy Ever After (brilliant – so far this is my fave of hers. I really like the two main characters and can particularly empathise with the bookworm)

Happy New Year! May it bring you what you want most.

Yesterday was the warmest New Year’s Day I can ever remember. We went to the beach to see the seals, just as we did last New Year. (Hmm. This might become an institution. If I get my way, that is…)

Walking along the dunes, listening to the waves swishing onto the beach and with the wind blowing out all the cobwebs, was pretty much what we all needed. It’s one of my favourite activities ever – and if we lived nearer to the beach then I’d do this every single day. I don’t mind getting a bit windswept!

And the seals? Well… they can speak for themselves.

Happy New Year :o)