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Sunday, 26 February 2012

My Arch-Nemesis. Who doesn't know he's my nemesis and probably isn't even all that arch, come to think of it. But it does bring me one step closer to Robert Downey Jr.

People keep asking me.... oh, just people. You know, in passing and suchlike.  Yes, they are real people, at least they've got names and voices and things, they could be exceptionally sophisticated robots but given that this is North Yorkshire probably not.  Does it matter what their names are?  Oh, all right, let's call them Bob and Doris and Destroyer of Worlds shall we?  Yes, I know Bob is an unlikely name but there you go, and it's not his real name anyway.

Although it is a bit of a giveaway when they look like this

Well how should I know what his real name is?  I'm hardly going to take down their personal details, am I?  Especially when they are only asking me something, and if you don't shut up you're never going to find out what it is that they ask, are you?

Thank you.  People, who may or may not be robots called Doris. Bob and Destroyer of Worlds, keep asking me 'why don't you write like that bloke?'  Well, eventually they ask me that but, as stated above, this is North Yorkshire, so first we have to discuss the weather and the new bus shelter and the kids and the dogs and what we're doing for our holidays, so the topic of books eventually crops up somewhere around the ten minute mark when Robotic Bob (for the sake of argument) says 'you wrote that book, didn't you?'

Given that I have written several books (all of them quite delightful and available from Amazon ) it is somewhat hard to know what to say here., so I usually smile and nod, also in a delightful way.  I am utterly delightful under these situations, of course, when there's a chance that someone may either ask for my autograph or want to buy another book. And Robotic Bob nods slowly and says 'I don't read those romance things.  My favourite book is...' The thunderclouds gather overhead like the first intimations of doom.  Lightening spears its way from the heavens as though God's RCB has tripped.  'Now Then Lad, by...'  and I cover my ears,but I cannot help hear the name ...'Mike Pannett'.

And I make my excuses and leave.  For Mike Pannett is my arch-nemesis.  Wherever I go, whichever bookshop I visit (in professional or amateur capacity) there his books sit in stately display.  When I pass through my local WH Smith, there he is, sitting signing copies of his latest book.  Whenever I go to enquire about, you know, just maybe popping in to the local shops to do a book promo, there issues forth from the staff a heavy sigh, a clasping of bosoms (all right, maybe I imagined that bit) and a breathy 'We had that Mike Pannett in last week...'

I suppose I should consider myself lucky - I mean, how many people can say that they actually have an arch-nemesis?  Sherlock Holmes, obviously, maybe Iron Man (and I would offer to be the downfall of Robert Downey Jr any day), Superman even has his Lex Luthor.  All incredibly powerful people.  And here I am, a mere romantic comedy novelist, able to boast that I too have a nemesis!  And, oh, if that isn't an excuse for a gratuitous picture then nothing is...

So, who would have thought it?  Here's me.. here I am, waving, over here, look... a mere slip of a romantic comedy novelist... with a deep and abiding connection to Robert Downey Jr.  And all because of a man who writes books about rural policing.

Now, Robert, if you'd like to come over so that we can compare notes...?

And while I wait for that, quite frankly, unlikely scenario to come to pass, please note that next week's blog may be a little later than usual.  For, you see, next weekend I shall be in London at the RoNA awards. Drinking too much champagne, wearing unsuitable underwear, clapping very loudly and hopefully watching my friends get masses of awards.  Or very drunk.  Or both.

Now, Robert, about this nemesis business....

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Being a Centrefold, a Dalek and a Stoat - and choosing a dress that champagne won't remove.

This week I was a centrefold!  For the first time in ...well, umpty-tump years, I was a centre spread! And no carefully placed staples to preserve my somewhat random modesty! To be fair, my 'modesty' is a little large these days and therefore would need rather more than staples to preserve it - more like a wardrobe, three Ikea bookcases and a tapir (or similarly sized mammal).  But I digress.

Go here.  Go on, go now.  I know I don't look like a centrefold on your screen, but if you kind of squint, and imagine me folded, then that's what it looked like in the paper.

Anyway.  There I was.  And I even got a little tiny bit on the front page, where they put a small photo of me where I had the exact same expression as someone doing a really big pooh, but I wasn't because I was sitting on a wall.  And holding my book up beside my face with a quite ridiculously large grin on it.  That's my face, not the book.  And no, I don't think people usually grin when they're doing a big pooh but...oh, you know what I mean.

The whole thing was to do with my book being shortlisted for a RoNA.  That's the Romantic Novelists' Association (a name created purely to find out whether or not we really know where the apostrophe belongs) Awards.  I'm shortlisted - well, no, I'm not, obviously but my book Please Don't Stop the Music is - for the Romantic Comedy Novel of the Year.  Just in case this is news to you, I shall leave a pause for you to go for a little lie down and fan yourself gently with a copy of 'To the Lighthouse' whilst muttering about what the world is coming to.

Better now?  Yes, so.  This Award involves myself and my Other Half, being scrubbed, washed, brushed, correctly restrained and turning up at a Reception.  Where there will be champagne, apparently.  And I am  sure I don't need to tell you that the possibility of things going wildly askew are increased manifold when drink is put into the equation.  Therefore, I must, of necessity, choose an outfit that a) cannot be easily removed after the third glass, b) I can walk in in the event that I am any kind of winner (although I don't think they are running a Stoat Impersonation contest alongside the RoNA's I can't be sure, and I do have to bear in mind that my Third Stoat From the Left has previously won prizes),

and c) or iii) as I like to call it, that doesn't make me look like a refugee from some kind of shelter for poor unfortunates.  I might be poor and I might be unfortunate, but I want to wear a frock that disguises this, also covers my modesty (see above).  I did toy with the idea of draping a sheet over my head and poking two holes for my eyes, but finding shoes to go with it proved too difficult.

So now I have to go clothes shopping.  Oh, as Doctor Sheldon Cooper would say, the horror!  Bearing in mind that, in my head I am size 8, beautifully proportioned, with legs up to my neck and a bottom as pert and perfect as two conkers (nice ones, obviously, not those horrible old wrinkled things that have a hole drilled in them and are hung from a piece of string, I'm more your 'just fallen from the tree' type).  Only, in reality I'm more...well... not.  I'm more, okay, well, you know what shape a Dalek is... take the sink plunger off its face and give it a kind of neck, and there you have me.

Just a Sec... this.  See what I mean?

And then there's the shoes!  Oh, please don't get me started on the shoes!  Bearing in mind the alcohol, the injury potential of canapes, the presence of other people most of whom have never been on the receiving end of a really convincing stoat-impersonation and that I don't get out much... the words 'recipe for disaster' spring very firmly to mind.

I do, actually, have a recipe for disaster, it features vindaloo curry paste and two tins of prune juice.  It, like revenge, is a dish best served cold and very close to medical assistance.

So.  I suppose I'll just have to launch myself at the high street and see what sticks to me.  Wish me luck, chaps...

Sunday, 12 February 2012

So much excitement I can barely contain myself! Pass me the special underwear...

I can sense you all hopping with barely suppressed anticipation from here, so without further ado let me introduce my willing victim...errr, I mean subject, yes, subject...Lynda Renham!  Look, here she is!

 Obviously this is just a picture, she moves a lot more in real life.  She is sitting here with me, awaiting my questions with an only slightly nervous expression, swinging her legs and eating my HobNobs as one born to the writing life.

So, without further ado because I don't really know what 'ado' is, Lynda, let me ask you this: -

Your recent titles (Wedding Cake to Turin, Croissants and Jam) are both food based.  So it seems only fair to ask - what's your favourite food?

‘Cough cough’ Will my husband, Andrew get to read this? I adore yogurt, in all shapes and sizes. Full fat, fat free, all flavours and in particular yogurt drinks. I wouldn’t like to admit to how many I get through in a week. A yogurt coupled with a meringue and honey is my dream food. I also adore Oranges. In fact when I was in Cambodia recently I craved them. I got totally ripped off in the market but it was worth it.

Well, I shan't hold the fact that you didn't say HobNobs against you, but I shall move the packet a little further away and try a more scholarly question.
How do you organise yourself to have time for writing?
I am very lucky in that I have been able to reduce my working hours and now have three full days for writing. I make sure that is all I do on those days. Everything else has to wait.

This is right and proper and as it should be, housework is an unnecessary timewaster.  Cobwebs are for life, not just sprayed silver and disguised as tinsel for Christmas.
You write mostly first person - how do you make the choice which POV to choose?
My last two novels have been first person. ‘The diary of Rector Byrnes’ was third person, interspersed with first person journal entries. The food series (Wedding cake to Turin and Croissants and Jam’ I very much wanted to write from the POV of the main female character. However, this is not always easy and can be quite limiting. I love writing in the first person. It somehow feels like one big blog posting and a lovely delicious fib at that!
Are you implying that this blog may be a lie?  I can assure you that every word written here is true as I stand here wearing a penguin suit and attempting to juggle pigs!  All right, let us try something a little less contentious...

What is your favourite T shirt slogan?
Inside me there is a thin girl trying to get out but I usually shut the bitch up with chocolate

Cats, dogs, or other?
Cats, cats, cats. I love them.  I even had Bendy, our cat, wear a bow tie for our wedding.
And most charming and elegant he looked too, I am sure.  He is, after all, a cat to whom charm and elegance are fitted as standard.  Now, for my readers are all agog to know (apart from those who have wandered off to use the toilet, they do that, don't hold it against them, the alternative is very unpleasant)...

What's your all time-favourite book (to read) and why?
‘The heart listens’ by Helen Van Slyke. This book is like a box of chocolates to me. I can curl up and escape into the world of Elizabeth Quigley and live her life. Wonderful.
Sounds fascinating, this is unknown to me - the book I mean, not sounding fascinating.  I shall have to seek it out and give it a try.  All right, what about your own books?
Of all the characters you have created, who is your favourite?  And your least favourite?  And why?
My least favourite is Rosemary from ‘The Diary of Rector Byrnes’ she is capable of such chaos and ruins so many lives. I hated her from the moment I created her. My favourite character is Christian from ‘Croissants and Jam’ In fact, I feel sure I have a crush on him. Don’t tell Andrew.

Where do you write (physically, I mean, in the house, not where in the country...)?
In the winter I crawl to the warmest place because our cottage is one big freezer. So, in the winter it is usually the lounge. The summer is much more exciting and I retreat to our summer house with the doors widen open and the sun streaming in. I love it. The birds singing and it is so peaceful in our village that the only sounds are the birds and the occasional drone of a lawn mower. Pure heaven.

Do you have any writing rituals?
I can’t write without music and all my novels have had theme music all of their own. I cannot even begin until the music is on.
Hmmm.  This is getting all together too serious and scholarly by half.  Which is all very well, but you have read my blog, haven't you?  I am notorious for asking the questions people didn't even know existed (probably because the word 'arseyblankitude' hasn't yet been created..), so I feel obliged to ask the one REALLY IMPORTANT question that all writers should be forced at gunpoint to answer.
If you were a cheese, what kind of cheese would you be?
Smooth and fruity

And now, regarding the funny...
  What do you like most about writing romantic comedy?  And what do you find the hardest aspect?
I like that I laugh a lot while I am writing as the research is such fun. I find coming up with humour quite hard at times. If I have had a bad week it is quite difficult to get into the frame of mind to be funny. However, it does help to pull you out of the gloom.

What are you working on next?
The final novel in the food trilogy and I’m stumped for a title but I am sure it will come.
(Cough) How about something featuring HobNobs?  They are one of the major food groups, you know.  As are Maltesers.  But, given your proclivities, maybe something yoghurt based? 
What goals/projects do you have in mind for your writing future?
I have tons of ideas that are on paper so there are books in the pipeline. My goal is to write an episode of ‘Miranda’ Well, to write an episode of any situation comedy really. One can dream, right? Oh, I think that is Jo Brand on the phone, must dash…

But, Lynda, I was about to open this second packet of biscuits!  Oh, she's gone, although I must confess I didn't even hear the phone ring...  And, surely that can't be a safe speed at which to drive away? Oh well, nothing left for me to do but await the restraining order...and give you a glimpsette at Lynda's lovely covers.
For more details, and to purchase, go here

 And Lynda is accessible to all at

I strongly suggest that you all go there now and look. 

Oh, and in other news, Please Don't Stop the Music is shortlisted for the RoNA Romantic Comedy Novel of the Year.  You can go and look and see who else is listed here but, rest assured, I shall be updating you on the whole process of choosing the right shoes to wear to the ceremony next week.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Vampires, Buffy and HobNobs, Midsomer Murders and... where was I again?

Right, now, before I forget.  The deliciously fragrant and lovely Lynda Renham-Cook has interviewed me on her blog, so if you have any burning desires to read about my views on toilets or that dream I had about Tony Robinson and the cream bun... now is your chance.  I will be returning the favour here next week, although I don't think Lynda has views on Tony Robinson, but then, HE'S MINE, ALL MINE, MWAHAHAHAAAHH.  Ahem.  Anyway.  So.  Here, next week, Lynda.  All right?  Don't say I never give you anything, although I would like three cases of headlice and one of syphilis to be taken into account.

Also, in breaking news.  Vampire State of Mind is now rearing its head on the Choc Lit homepage!  It is being described as Choc Lit's 'Buffy'! This may be a slight exaggeration, since I don't remember Buffy so much as mentioning HobNobs, or Betty's Tea Rooms, but then maybe she did and I just wasn't listening because I was too busy polishing my slippers or something.

Right, that's the links bit out of the way.  I always worry about those, since I'm a bit prone to wandering off and thinking of Other Things whilst in the middle of bloggage and may therefore post random links to things that bear no relation to what I'm talking about.  Or just press the wrong button and end up with something really odd and largely unidentifiable cropping up in the middle of
a sentence.  I blame my inherently fidgetty nature which causes my brain to rocket off on random trains of thought whenever it is supposed to be did anyone else see that weird episode of Midsomer Murders where the men dress up as stags and try to rape women from the other village?  Because one of their girls married a man who 'wasn't from their village'?  Like Midsomer Murders is set in 1630 or something?  That was just odd.

And I think now is the time to confess that I never understood the rules of Rounders. Or Netball, despite twice making the primary school team.  I can't play Backgammon, am afraid of slippers (even unpolished), and have an uneasy relationship with jam.  So, you know, go figure.