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Thursday, 29 December 2016

Most bestestest ever! Heroes - do they really have to be QUITE so fabulous?

Right. Christmas is over - so put down that tin of Celebrations and stop drinking double cream straight from the carton with the fridge door open to cover what you are doing... I am going to force you in to a discussion here, because it's either write this or take the dogs on a three mile run, and there's freezing fog out there and a fire in here, plus two packets of unopened biscuits and the tail end of a Christmas pudding, so...discussion it is!

Reading a lot of blurbs of a lot of books lately, has made me realise that there is a whole stream of books, maybe even a sub-genre, where the active participants in the story seem to have beamed down from the planet PERFECTO.  I'm not talking about the multi-billionaires here, they are a different species already, we all know that.  I'm talking about the ones that aren't just ordinary dog-trainers for the average person in the street whose terrier won't stop widdling on the mat (and yes, Teal, I AM looking at you...and no, insanity is not a defence, so I'm told)

No, they have to be training dogs for military defence work. Or mountain rescue work. Now, I have a reasonable grasp on dog training (although, evidenced by my mat, not a complete one), but have no knowledge whatever of what it takes to train a military dog. More sturdy mats, perhaps. So are these men more attractive by virtue of doing a job that I don't understand?  Dog training is just an example - these men seem to have jobs that are so far outside my normal comprehension of the world that I find them vaguely unrelatable. Of course not many people are going to be interested in reading about a man who cuts lawns and plants potatoes for a living, but there's surely some ground in between him and the TV landscape gardener with the limitless budget who can get five acres of turf down without blinking?

So, my post Christmas question to you is - when does a hero become more than his job? Is a man more attractive because he test drives Lamborghinis rather than Fiats? OK, he might get paid more, but is that all it is - a rich man in a borrowed Lamborghini is more hero-worthy than the bloke down the road in his Fiat 500? How much of who he is is affected by what he does?

Yeah, okay, not doing myself any favours with these pictures, am I?

And now I'm back to mopping the carpet and trying to pretend that the last of the pudding just happened to fall out of the fridge and be eaten by the dog. Or cat. Yes, the cats look slightly guilty. let's blame them..

Sunday, 11 December 2016

My day out with not-evil-sock-puppets!

On Wednesday I had the most brilliant day. Partly in the interests of research, but also because I'd been given a voucher as a Christmas present. Yes, last Christmas. Yes, I am a trifle disorganised when it comes to arranging things like this. Yes, it would be entirely my own fault if I got soaked, frozen and then dragged through nine foot mud by a deranged llama.

Anyway.  Last year my lovely OH Steve (who doesn't get nearly enough credit for quietly enabling me) bought me a llama walk for Christmas, and this Wednesday was when I got to go. And everything conspired to make it the most wonderful day... the fog that had prevailed lifted, the temperature was a ridiculous (for North Yorkshire in December) 13 degrees, the sun shone...and there were llamas!  (For reference, we went to Nidderdale Llamas, which I can thoroughly recommend), and we walked around the dales... with llamas!  Although I had an alpaca, called Paddy, so not a llama, but basically the same only smaller and cuddlier and with more fur.
I am the one on the right. Slightly less furry and a lot less cuddly
Steve had a proper big llama called Toby.
It's like the Little and Large of the camelid world
And, even though it was December, we walked around in sunshine and looked at llamas...although sometimes they do look a bit like evil sock puppets...
...they are nothing of the sort. And it was great, and I even found myself assessing my bit of rough paddock out the back to see if I could fit the odd llama out there (the answer was 'yes', but you really need to keep them in pairs, and two of these would drive the terriers into fits).  And now I want to go again...(PS, there was also tea and cake, which were instrumental in no small part in my desire to revisit...)

Sunday, 4 December 2016

What have I been up to? Well, I am glad you asked...

I know I've been very quiet lately (well, quiet for me, that is. Which means you could probably only hear me from the moon). And I have to say sorry for that, but I've been quite busy, one way and another. There's been the day job, book type thingies (hello, Lowestoft!) and spending time with DD2, who is moving out to Australia at Christmas, so I'm packing in as much seeing her as is reasonable.

So, what do I have to say to you?  Right. Well you might not be aware, but I have a Christmas Novella due out on 06 December!  At the moment you can only pre-order through iBooks, but it will be available for all platforms. Here's the blurb...
Who are the boys of Christmas?
Mattie Arden has just escaped from a toxic relationship so when, a few days before Christmas, she receives a letter informing her that she has inherited a house from her great aunt Millie, it’s a welcome distraction.
Except it comes with a strange proviso: if Mattie wants the house, she must fulfil Millie’s last wish and scatter her ashes over ‘the boys of Christmas’.
In the company of her best friend Toby, Mattie sets out for the seaside village of Christmas Steepleton in the hope of finding out the meaning of her aunt’s bizarre request.
Whilst there, a snowstorm leaves them stranded for Christmas, and still no nearer to finding ‘the boys’. But as the weather gives Mattie time to reflect, she realises the answer to the mystery might have been under her nose all along –and that’s not the only thing …

It's a very 'rompy' sort of book, if you see what I mean, lots of dashing about in thigh-deep snow, as much as one can dash in thigh deep snow, looking for clues.
And it has a cover that is just sooooo Christmassy it almost makes me want to get the tree up (and I am well known for not putting up the tree until Christmas is practically over). There's something about lighted windows in the snow that just shouts 'presents! Eggnog!', although if anyone actually does shout Eggnog! at you then I think you are allowed to hit them with a reinforced Stollen.

And here is a lovely picture of three of my offspring, Fern, Will and Addie, during a long winter walk!
Now. Have you finished your Christmas shopping yet?

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Reviews. Show an author some Amazon love...not, like, big women with bows and arrows though. Unless you like that sort of thing.

Do you know how important it is for authors to get reviews?

Probably not, because if you aren't an author, ie, you are one of the sane 93 % of people who take one look at what's involved in writing a novel and, very wisely, decide that that kind of torture is not for you and you'd rather eat another Fondant Fancy and watch Strictly, then reviews are almost always bad things.  In most jobs the only kind of review you get - apart from when a rather nice customer says that he (or she) always enjoys your custard slices - is a performance review, when management try to think of things to say to you and you try to think of ways to answer them.
Stick to the Fondant Fancies. It's the only sensible thing to do.

But to authors, ah, to authors reviews are Very Important Things.

Not for us to read, of course. Sometimes we do and sometimes we don't.  I mean, the reviews aren't for us, are they? They are for readers to tell other readers what they thought of the book, which is fine. Even if they hated it, it's still fine.  If an author does read their reviews, then they react in the following way:

"I loved the bit where..." 'they liked that bit. That means they hated all the other bits and are just being polite. I am a rubbish writer.

"I really enjoyed this book." Only 'enjoyed'. They didn't love it. Why didn't they love it? I am a rubbish writer.

"This book made me laugh and cry." I bet they laughed at all the sad bits and cried at how bad it all was. I am such a rubbish writer.

"This was the best book I've read since The Wasp Factory." They didn't say when they read the Wasp Factory. It was probably yesterday. This is the best book they've read since yesterday. I am a rubbish writer.

So really, when you leave a review, try not to think of the author...  Instead, think of Amazon.
No, not that one. This one..
Because Amazon has Algorithms. Which aren't a kind of intestinal parasite. Or pithy sayings from Al Gore. It's some kind of number magic, by which they calculate which products get shoved in the face of their millions of perusers. So, the more Amazon Reviews a book has, the more it is wafted in the direction of other people who might buy it. The more popular it is, the more popular it becomes. Because, Maths.

So, if you have read and enjoyed a book, even if you have read a book and thought 'I liked that bit where...', even if you only think it's the best thing you've read since The Wasp Factory, last Wednesday, then please leave a review. It doesn't have to be a long one, just 'a good read' will do. 

Because we can't fight Amazon.  It's the crocodiles, you see.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Are you ready for Christmas yet?

Okay, I apologise for the goady title...I am not trying to make you feel guilty for not having all your presents bought and wrapped, mince pies made and in the freezer, cake ready to ice...all that.  Mostly because I am a person who, despite loving Christmas in all its 'tasteless decorations and more food than you can safely eat' glory, waits until approximately the tenth of December before realising that there is nothing to eat in the house, and that tree won't roll itself in glitter...

Anyway.  Yes. Christmas.  So, in an attempt to make myself feel the whole 'Christmas' thing, and perhaps communicate a little Christmassy spirit to everyone else, I have just completed this year's Christmas Novella!  (You may remember last year's 'The Art of Christmas'...)
 Well, this year's novella is called 'The Boys of Christmas'.  I've sort of painted myself into a corner now, with this alphabetical titling thing, I suppose next year's novella will have to be called The Crotch of Christmas, or possibly, if based on personal experience, The Chaos of Christmas, although I find myself now rather liking The Crotch of Christmas and trying to work a story out around it...

So. Let's take our minds off crotches, and focus on boys, shall we?

The Boys of Christmas features Ruby Arden, who is hiding out with her friend Toby, from her emotionally abusive boyfriend. Ruby receives a rather unusual bequest, which takes her and Toby off to a snow-bound village on the Dorset coast, to solve a mystery...
Richard Austin pictures, by the way...
This is Lyme Regis, which isn't a village, but it's on a steep hill - and the village in the novella is very much like this, only much, much smaller.  Well, not smaller, the houses are the same size and everything, but it has a lot less shops in it.
And the scenery is a bit like this...

I used to live not far from Lyme Regis, so it's a town I know well, although I don't think I've ever seen it in the snow. However, living where I do now, in the rural wilds of North Yorkshire, I see a lot of snow, usually from the front.

This novella features such christmassy things as snow, the world's tattiest Christmas tree, carol singers, emergency helicopter food drops and a knitted octopus called Cthulu.  There's also chalk figures cut into a hillside, a pre-prep boys' school, and an Aga of malevolence.

To find out how these all fit together - well, you'll just have to read the book, won't you?

Monday, 24 October 2016


I am often asked by people who want to write a book, how to go about it.  I mean how DO you write a book if you've never written one before? 

You go into Waterstones and pick up those thick paperbacks with the glossy covers and you turn them over and read the author's name and you wonder how the hell they ever did it.  You see them interviewed in newspapers and on TV and they seem like ordinary people, if slightly better dressed and cleaner and with their hair brushed.  So what makes them special, what makes their words worthy of publication and how do you get to be one of Them?  What arcane skill do they have that gets them on TV and in Waterstones and Smiths and on the bestseller lists, and how do you acquire that skill, and can it be done on Saturday afternoons between one and four because that's the only time you have free?

The answers, in order are: nothing, luck and persistence, reading a lot and no, not really.

Writers aren't Special People. I've met lots of them - and, indeed, am rumoured to be one myself - so I know they are just ordinary human beings who worry about getting the hoover fixed and when the car is due its MOT and where that mysterious hole came from.  'If you prick us, do we not bleed?'  Well, yes, we do, but then we make a note in our book about how it felt to be pricked, how much blood there was, and the reaction of the person who did the pricking when we punched them soundly on the nose.

Because the only difference between writers and non-writers?   Writers write things. And if the thing they wrote doesn't get accepted anywhere, they write something else.  And then send that out.  And if that one doesn't get anywhere, they write something else. Or self publish.  What they don't do is sit about telling everyone how they will be published 'one day', when they have time to write something.  Writers don't talk about writing, they do it.  Over and over.  And when they get accepted for publication, they know they are lucky.  Not better, just lucky.  They wrote the thing that person wanted and got it on the right desk at the right time.

And then they go away and do it again.  And again.  They forgo watching TV (well, most of it) and having hobbies because most of them have to go to a day job and write in their spare time, which there isn't much of if you want to watch Emmerdale, Corrie, EastEnders and the Great British Bake Off.  They sometimes have to be reminded to eat, and other times eat nothing but biscuits because they fit in that slot beside the laptop.  They drink tea and coffee to excess, because walking to the toilet is the only exercise they get.  They blink in bright sunlight because they usually don't see much of it.  But they write. 

That's how it's done, I'm afraid.  There's no magic, just bum on seat, fingers on laptop, and keep doing it until it's right. Or as nearly right as we can get it.

Monday, 10 October 2016

In which I meet Sir Tony...yes, really...

Well.  That was a weekend to remember: on Saturday Rhoda Baxter and I did a day of workshops on writing romantic comedy at the Beverley Literary Festival (with many thanks to Beverley Library, where everyone was brilliant, and so efficient that I felt quite out of my depth, and also to Rhoda, who put up with me blundering my way around, getting lost and interrupting and being, quite generally, me).

And then on Sunday, with much trepidation...I donned my disguise and went to York, where Sir Tony, I was most reliably informed, was signing copies of his book.
It's not much of a disguise, but I was clean and presentable, and usually when I'm stalking...I mean, following him, I tend to be wearing less clothes and more shrubbery, so I knew he wouldn't recognise me.  We got one nice picture, where my daughter distracted him by snuggling up, and I managed to sidle in and actually get in the picture...
..and then he recognised me.

..and then, you know, the screaming and the sirens and all that began, and the running away.
But he signed my book.  So that was nice...
But I'm just going to keep my head down for a know, just in case....

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Sex. Yep, you read that right. I talk about sex...

I recently had a review for one of my books which went along the lines of  'there wasn't any hot sex in it. I read books for hot sex, so I didn't like this story'.  And this made me a little bit sad, not because the reader didn't like the book - he or she is entirely entitled not to like what I write, but because he (or she) was reading a book sold as 'romance', and therefore obviously equates 'romance' with 'hot sex'.
Hot cocoa. Because I am not putting a picture of hot sex on my blog...
And then I was reading a well known review site, which was trailing some 'forthcoming book offers'.  You know what?  EVERY SINGLE BLURB went along the lines of 'they met, he (or sometimes she) didn't want a relationship (usually for some spurious reason such as a previous ex cheating), but the heat between them was undeniable. Can the way they set fire to the sheets indicate something more serious than a one night stand?'

This made me shake my head a little bit.  You see, when you get to my advanced age, you realise that the ability to have hot sex is absolutely no indicator of a good relationship. Okay, these books are dealing with the beginnings of relationships, where two people are just getting together. It is reassuring to know that the hotness of the sex shows that they are compatible in bed.  But, let's face it, we've all had someone we fancy something terrible, with whom the sex is great, but after a few months, when the hotness of the sex begins to wane, when being groped at every available second has lost its power to enthrall and charm and has become a complete nuisance.  When you want to talk about that leak in the kitchen ceiling or whose turn it is to cook dinner without attempts to fondle your bosom it makes you want to shout THIS IS NOT REAL LIFE!
Very nice dear, but who's doing the washing up?

Many people don't want to read about real life, I suppose.  They want their romantic fiction to be swoony, gorgeous men sweeping women off their feet and into bed.  And this is fine and perfectly normal.  But it's not the kind of fiction that I write. Because I don't find sex very romantic, to be honest. It's nice as part of a romance, but building a whole life on how hot the sex is between a couple just seems a bit...short sighted. Okay, so he can make you swoon in ecstatic ecstacy every night, well that's lovely dear. But does it mean he will stand beside you and hold your hand when you get bad news?  Will he cuddle you on a cold night, and keep you company during your insomnia?  Will he cook dinner and keep the house tidy and look after the animals when you are confined to bed with a vomiting bug that is not the least picturesque?

And often I read books where I think the answer to any of these questions is 'nah'. And that's not romance, that's hormones.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Forthcoming releases - one knitted octopus and some birds

What have you been working on so diligently, Jane? 

Well, thank you so much for asking... I knew if I went quiet for a while someone would come wandering along to see what I was up to.  Either that or you wanted to steal my biscuits, which, ha!, is NOT going to happen and don't think I didn't see you trying to lay hands on my HobNobs...

I have been working. Hard.  I've just submitted my Christmas Novella, which will hopefully make it out onto your e-readers in time for Christmas (the short fiction doesn't come out in book form at present, it's too short.  It would basically be all cover).  It's called The Boys of Christmas, and it's about a young woman who inherits a house from a Great Aunt, on the condition that she (Ruby, the young woman in question) scatters the said aunt's ashes in a particular place.  Trouble is, that there are lots of places that fit the criteria, and Ruby and her best friend Toby have to find out which place her aunt had in mind, whilst dealing with some terrible weather, a kitchen range of malevolence, two snowed-out archaeologists, an abusive ex, and a knitted octopus called Cthulu.
A bit like this. Only jollier.

And if that isn't quite up your street (or even if it is, but you also want something longer), then my newest novel will be out in the New Year (date as yet unspecified, but, don't worry, I shall be telling you soon!).

This is called The Little Tea Shop of Horrors.

It's set in an old stately home called Monk Park Hall, open to the public and run by the Heritage Trust.. Amy runs the tea shop with the help of her best friend Julia, cares for her grandmother (who is of the opinion that she is looking after Amy), and is forming a tentative friendship with Josh, the claustrophobic young man who lives in an old caravan and flies birds of prey.

When the Trust appoint a new administrator to the Hall, who wants to close the cafe, Amy is forced to do things she would never normally consider, in order to keep her job and her home.

There.  That's what I'm up to.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I must go and open a new packet of biscuits.  You've had your fingers in this one...

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Is being free a good thing? Or is it Lidl beans forever?

It might come as a bit of a surprise to some of you, but there's an increasing wave of demand for us authors to provide our work free.  Many do, for things like 'first book in a series' or older books - just the one going free on Amazon to encourage readers to buy further books - like a sort of 'taster'; those little bits of cheese that you get on top of the cheese counter that you stand thoughtlessly eating whilst you're waiting for the man to cut you four ounces of cheddar (I know I should be asking for it in metric units, but I know what four ounces looks like and I'd probably ask for something daft like 'two micrometers of Wensleydale' and everyone would look at me strangely).

But there are other authors for whom being read is more important than earning money, and they make all their content (it's always called 'content', I don't know why) permanently free.  They just want their words to be out there, and available to as many people as possible - and that's fine.

But.  Because some authors are permanently free, there is a bit of a movement out there for all authors to make their work free.  I can understand the reasoning, if some people can do it, why not all?  Why not have all words available to everyone, with no filthy lucre involved - a kind of pure intellectual exchange?

And here's where it gets messy...

I live alone. In order to make more time for my writing, I have a job that isn't 9-5, pays just above minimum wage, but is flexible enough that I can go off and teach workshops or, as this week, spend three days solid sitting in my bed writing (I know, I know, but I'm on a deadline!  I do emerge, every now and again to feed the animals or gnaw on a loaf of bread).  Like just about every other person, I have bills to pay - rent, Council Tax, water, electricity etc.  I live in the middle of nowhere, so I have to keep my car on the road with regular injections of road tax, insurance and diesel. I also quite like food.

So, should I give my words away free?  I'd like to think that, if I were a billionaire I'd make my work available to all because I wouldn't need the income from it - the earnings from my writing are ESSENTIAL (and yes, I do mean ESSENTIAL, see all the bits about living alone and having to float an entire household worth of bills alone from a NMW job that isn't even full time), but I probably wouldn't.  Do you know why?

Writing is hard work.  It's sitting alone in a room (except for the spiders and crane flies, do not get me started on the spiders and crane flies saga), bashing away on a keyboard for so long that your fingers go all numb and your wrist does this thing where it clicks.  It's turning down extra shifts at work because you're on a deadline and have to get something to your publisher so you don't lose your publication slot.  It's wracking your brains for another way to say 'it's snowing', so your readers don't get bored; it's living off nothing but Lidl beans for a fortnight because the money ran out, and putting on more jumpers than humanly possible because you can't afford heating, but you'd rather be writing than anything else.
Also, sometimes we fall off the roof of the kennel, and that makes us cross
It's actually a bit like being a drug addict, when you come to think of it, except I can't think of many drugs where you have to turn your brain inside out to feed other people's addition.

And if I gave away those resulting words, I would be devaluing all that effort.  Not just my effort, but the efforts of all my fellow writers.  Just as I wouldn't expect a decorator to come round and paint my entire living room for nothing just so I could see whether I liked the effect, I wouldn't expect a writer to produce an entire book so I could see whether or not I like their writing.  Because, nearly in the immortal words of FAME - 'writing costs.  And right here is where you start paying'.
A writer's life is almost never anything like this.

Believe me, it isn't just readers who pay for books.  Writing the things isn't easy either (see above re no heating and there's also bum fat and lack of socialisation to take into account.  You can always tell a writer at any gathering, they are the ones with wobbly buttocks and a tendency to burst in while other people are talking and try to lick their faces).

So.  Free books, or sane and happy writers?

Tch, listen to me.  Sane and happy people don't write books...

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Things someone should invent...

...I mean, I'm giving you the ideas but I'm not very good at practical things.  I mend most things with a bent nail, which is tough when it's the underwiring in your bra that's gone, but I am also a dab hand with sellotape (lots of) and, when all else fails, wrapping it in toilet paper.  But there are some things that I think the world needs, and, if I had the time, I would go off and invent them properly.  But, since I don't, I am putting those ideas out there for someone else to do the hard work on...

A washing line brake.

I've got one of these.  And I live on a very windy hilltop.  If you have ever experienced the delight that is trying to peg out damp towels whilst the washing line rotates at a speed equivalent to that of a turbine blade, you will know what I am talking about. It is no fun to bend down for the next item in the basket, only to straighten and be kicked in the face by your own underwear.  So, something that would stop the line turning, so I could reliably hang things out without having to run around it, like someone tied to its central pole.

A Wireless Freeze Device

This may already exist, I don't know.  But what I need is a device that can be set to cut off the wireless to my laptop.  I know I could turn it off, but being able to turn it off means that I can turn it on again at moments such as wanting to know whether anyone has emailed me. whether Twitter has anything to say on the subject of biscuits, and whether there are any particularly fetching pictures of kittens anywhere on the internet because, after all, this book will virtually write itself as long as I have a HobNob in each hand and lots of pictures of kittens.  What I'd like to be able to do is to 'freeze' my wireless, so, for example, for four hours each day I could NOT turn it back on again, and would thus be forced to sit in front of a word document and eat biscuits hopelessly.  And, possibly, you know, write something.  I am aware that this device is actually called Willpower, but I don't have any of that,. although I do have lots of HobNobs, and I now think those two things may be connected.

An Arm Cage.

Full body cage, actually might be more use...  You see, I spend a lot of time out of the house, at work.  So, when I am home, I like to be around my dogs - they have enough time on their own, plotting and scheming and generally eating the furniture, so I think it's only polite that, during my 'not at work' times, I am available.  However.  I have a work station under the stairs (no, it's not in a Harry Potter sort of way, my stairs are open plan and everything), where I sit and work on my laptop.  It's in the living room so I the dogs come and sit on my feet.  And my lap.  And then the cats come and stomp all over my keyboard, and try to sit on my head, and the dogs climb up on me and try to chase the cats, and it all becomes one big mass..

So I want a body cage, in which I can sit. I'll still be visible, and the dogs can sniff me and know that I am there, but I will be able to work even if they are sitting on the top of my cage.  I suppose this is otherwise known as 'going into another room', but they can't see me in there.

Plus, they won't be able to steal my biscuits...

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Five easy ways to annoy a writer

So, as another in my series of 'How To Write a Book Whilst the World Conspires Against You', I bring you my List of Annoyances, otherwise known as Ways to Annoy The Writer in Your Life (Should You Want To Risk All You Hold Dear). 

You'd think writing would be a fairly relaxing activity, wouldn't you?  On the flopometer somewhere between a warm bath with candles and an undemanding episode of 'Shed of the Year'?  Oh, how wrong you would be! It's quite astonishing the things that will irritate a writer, particularly when they are mid-manuscript, and if you wish to avoid the wrath of a writer close to you, here are some simple ideas for things you should not do, for fear of riling them beyond all mortal understanding:

Want Things. If your pet writer is mid writing-stream, then avoid wanting anything at all costs.  Questions like 'how long should I cook this chicken for, then?' or 'when do these fish want feeding?' should never be asked...if you need an answer to your question, then make sure you do not disturb your author, but Google instead.  Although Google, to be fair, probably won't know where you put your socks.

Try the big cupboard on the left. Behind the sheets.
Ask How They Are Getting On.  Particularly if you have an opinion about how fast they should be writing and/or what they are writing about. You have no idea what is going through the head of your writer - it could be anything from the next plot point to wondering whether there are any chocolate digestives left in the cupboard, so don't make them feel any worse about sitting staring at the wall.

Turn The TV On Loudly.  Especially if you then walk away, returning only to complain 'I was watching that!' when the author in question turns it off.  Be warned, an author with a long stick can turn a TV off from quite a distance away.  If your author also has white, thin lips whilst this is going on, then be very careful, authors are quite adept with that long stick and can rearrange your undercarriage very quickly, should they be sufficiently annoyed.
Just imagine this coming at you with extreme prejudice and a tight-lipped writer at one end...
 Develop A coughing, clearing your throat repeatedly, humming, tapping your foot or, in extreme cases, even blinking.  You might think your author is completely involved in their manuscript, but, believe me, that author is just waiting for a reason to explode away from the keyboard, shouting something along the lines of 'how can I work with all this NOISE?'  In the case of the blinking, you may find this confusing. Trust me, it is normal behaviour from an author.

Offer Help.  Trust me, if your author needs help they will ask. Or, more probably, shout. It doesn't matter how gently you ask, or how carefully you approach, you will be met with a 'what do you want, now?' and a waving of the long stick in a threatening manner.  Leave your writer to come to the conclusion that they need your help in their own time.  Most likely they will source this help by suddenly yelling at you, out of the blue, a random question such as 'so who the hell did win the Grand National in 1955, then?!'  Again, here Google is your friend.  And never ask why they want to know - they just do.  It's safer if you don't know.
Quare Times, actually.
 So, if you do have a writer in your life, it's probably best if you stay at quite a distance while they are writing. At least, further than the length of their stick.  And learn not to hum.

It's for your own safety.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

My brother, the rover...which sounds like the opening line of one of those folksongs. know the kind of folksong.  The ones which start with a long nasal note (perhaps, as Terry Pratchett speculated, to give bystanders the chance to get away) and then descend into a lot of vocal twanging and that sort of 'singing with a clenched jaw' that gives everybody a faux Irish accent.  The songs are usually wildly mysogenistic too, lots of 'dewy maids' doing euphemistic things to cows and their herders.

But I digress.  The title of this blog is actually literally true, my brother has been a bit of a rover.  In fact, he has just been the first person (properly really and everything) to spend 24 hours travelling on a London Underground train.  It might be news to you, but the Tube has just started to run a few 24 hour services on Friday and Saturday nights (I always vaguely wondered how Londoners got home after late nights out when there were no trains. I assumed buses, but for all I know there were licenced Pogo-Stick suppliers and you had to hop your way back after a late date).

Anyway.  The boy done good, he spent 24 hours on the Underground, without ever breaking surface, and he did it to raise money for the Samaritans.  You can read some of his story here, it comes with pictures of said brother, so be careful.  And, should you wish to donate to his cause (which is a very good one and everything), then here is the JustGiving link - both he and the Samaritans will be extremely grateful for anything you can spare.

This is him.  No, not the big red circle, that's the Underground symbol.  He's standing next to it, and isn't the big long silver thing (that's a train).

The part that really worries me is that he wasn't allowed to leave the station at any point, so all his food and drink came courtesy of the vending machines on platforms, and...and I want to be delicate here... he could only use the station toilets.

Anyway.  If you admire his spirit, ability to stay awake, and restriction on toilet usage, then please pop over to his JustGiving site and leave a few pennies to support the Samaritans.  Otherwise I shall subject you to folk songs until you do...

Monday, 15 August 2016

I go to the seaside...

You know the best thing about being an author?

No, it's not the biscuits - although, I must admit they are a contributing factor.  Neither is it the free and ready access to Lovely Tone (well, I get to mention him frequently, anyway), or the fact that I can sit around the house in my jammies covered in egg stains, staring out of the window and say I am 'working'.  No.   The best thing is being able to go to places and call it work.

Yesterday I went to Scarborough.  There's nothing truly remarkable about this, Scarborough is a nearby town and I'm often found there. usually in the winter, accompanied by howling gales and dogs and showers of spray that threaten to knock me off my feet.  When you live near the sea, especially a seaside town which tends to be overpopulated in summer, you don't go that often in the Season.  But I had Visitors (my brother and his wife), who fancied a trip to Scarborough, so I took them.  It's all right, I brought them back as well...

Anyway.  Having toured the sea front, with its arcades and smells, I took them into the Old Town.  It's not generally recognised by many people that Scarborough has an Old Town, but before it was a purveyor of fried food and bingo, Scarborough was a working harbour, with ship owners and an old castle, and once you get up into the steep streets of little houses and views over the whole bay, it becomes a lot nicer experience.

At least, it's a nicer experience until my big face looms up over it.

Of course, they had to paddle, but they are from Down South, so that was all right.
And I took them to visit Anne Bronte's grave, and we walked along the headland that divides the two bays and looked out to sea.  All in all it was an example of 'how to look under the surface of the expected' - which is a writerly lesson if I ever heard one.  Superficially, Scarborough is a tacky, slightly down at heel seaside town with far too much face paint and the smell of fried food.  But when you get a bit off the beaten track you can find yourself looking at the place from a whole new perspective.  With a fresh doughnut in each hand, admittedly, and often wearing a 'Kiss Me Quick' hat, but at least you are getting some culture...

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

The Perfect Hero...must have own head,, and no My Little Pony tattoos.

Right.  I now know what I must write to make big mega-bucks...  I've been conducting a survey (for which read looking at a lot of book covers and blurb, because I don't have time to survey..I barely have time to get up and dressed...actually, no, not time, that's not the word.  Ah yes, inclination. I barely have the inclination to get up and dressed).  And this survey (yes, yes, all right, I only looked at covers, it's hardly scientific) has shown me a few trends that I really should get in on, in order to sell those millions.

Right.  The hero should be (in no particular order) at least three of the following: - a motorcycle rider, tattooed, ex (or current, jury is out) Navy SEAL (I'm not quite sure what one of those is, I'm imagining a lot of swimming and looking cute, which never did any hero any harm, and, come to think of it, the motor cycle had better be one of those huge big throbbing jobs, I'm fairly sure a Vespa won't cut it.  And the tattoos shouldn't be 'I Luv Mum' or a My Little Pony one..), billionaire, troubled (dark past optional), bringing up his nephew/sister/child-after-traumatic-death-of-his-wife (see, dark past), immensely HOT (probably looks-wise. Unless they just mean that he has trouble with heat regulation and is often sweaty), protective, unable to take 'go away, I never want to see you again' as an answer. If his 'trouble (optional dark past)' can also cause him to have episodes of 'brooding', that appears to be good too.

If the covers are anything to go by, having a head is optional, but he must possess a torso that looks like a tarpaulin stretched over builders' sand and planks.  How the hero and heroine are ever to have a conversation when he hasn't got a head is a question one must ask, but I suppose conversations are not required when he's a hot tattooed, motorcycling SEAL billionaire - once you've got the 'take me, I'm yours!' out of the way it's pretty much grunts from there on in.

But... y'see, my main problem with heroes like this is that I have to be able to believe in them.  And I just find it very hard to imagine that a man who spends most of his life either in the gym (working on those concrete abs) or riding his motorcycle moodily up and down the corridors of his multi-million pound business, will make a good partner for more than six weeks, before he gets either bored or moody and rides (or swims, if he's a SEAL) off in search of the next pretty girl.
Sigh.  Tony wouldn't do that.  Mind you, I'm struggling to find him on the above list, unless he's got secret tattoos, of course...

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Home Decorating - a fancy excuse for not writing that novella...

My life at the moment seems to be spent racing ineffectually from one thing to another.  All right, I've decorated most of the living room, but there is still the Wall of Shame in the dining room that hasn't been painted (mostly because it's falling down, so it's less of a wall and more lots of separate lumps of plaster of various textures).

I need to hire a carpet cleaner too, but am reluctant, on account of the terriers thinking that, in the absence of a good walk, the carpet will do just as well for an emergency wee (they never do this in front of me, which is the only reason I even suspect them of being housetrained).

And it's all really just prevarication, because I'm supposed to be writing a christmas novella.  Well, I am writing it, just very slowly.    So, all these things, not one of them finished. Throw in a lot of hours at the day job, and you have a picture of a slightly frazzled person, dashing from place to place and getting nothing much done.

These are the colours. Yes, it's all grey.  No, it's not fifty shades - it's currently four shades, although I suppose 'dust' is another shade of grey. But I cleaned the windows (it's daylight outside - who knew!) and it's all looking rather lovely (apart from the carpet, which is best described as 'patchy').  And most of the walls have needed at least four coats of paint to look reasonable, which means, in effect, I've painted this whole room four times (excepting the Wall of Shame of course, which needs something done - it currently looks like something out of Sleeping Beauty's castle, what with the cobwebs and the peeling paint and the patchy plaster).

Oh well.  That's the trouble with decorating.  You get it all looking nice, and then fifteen years later you have to do it all again...

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Lost in the random squishiness of the blog...

I used to write this post every Sunday.  Well, no, not this post, because that would involve me repeating myself, which, according to my kids I do anyway, so... but a post very like it.

However, lately I have wavered, and sometimes I post on a Sunday, sometimes on a Monday and sometimes, dear reader, like today, I post on a Tuesday.  You see, I used to have a job which was a sensible one, school terms only, mornings only, five days a week, which gave me Saturday and Sunday to lollygag about the place, holding a hand to my forehead and moaning about how haaaaarrrd writing was, and doing blog posts about random subjects like my spare cats (I've only got three real cats.  The other two are accidental acquisitions and therefore don't count as real cats, even though they eat as much as real ones).

But I work for the Co Op.  This involves working any number of hours between 16 and 40 in a week, any time between 6.30 am and 10.15pm, any days of the week between Monday and Pluhday (Pluhday is the little known day which comes after any five day stretch of working when you had been banking on a day off, had arranged your bed to be extra-comfy, asked for no visitors, turned off your phone, made an extra-large cup of tea and picked up your most diverting book only to receive a message asking you to come in and work).

I actually enjoy the chaos of having random hours off during the week.  Today, for example, I am at work at three o clock this afternoon - giving me all morning to do stuff like ramble on at you, walk the dogs, stare at the unpainted walls of the dining room and vow never to do this decorating thing again.  But, for all of you who harbour deep fantasies of all us authors lounging around on sofas, eating peeled grapes and chocolates whilst dictating our latest work to a lithe young man of undoubted attractiveness who, for some inexplicable reason, can't keep his eyes off our honed forms.... well.

...not so much.

Now go. I have a wall to stare at until 3 o clock.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Book Midwifery...what happens when a Critique Baby appears

You know how they say that having a book published is like having a baby?  Well, watching a book that you have helped work on through the critique service published is like being a midwife.  No, I've never been a midwife, but that's what I imagine it's like... - helping someone that you've nurtured through the post-conception stages, through the 'I can't do it', stages, to bring forth something new...

That's exactly what it's like.

So, here's where my book midwifery (or midwiffery, because I'm quite smelly right now, two hot dogs and a day at work would make anyone less than fragrant) has paid off.

Lynda Stacey has her first book released from Choc Lit Publishing on Tuesday.  It's called House of Secrets and it's based around a real place, Wrea Head Hall near Scarborough, which appears on the cover, look,
isn't that lovely?  This books was a winner in Choc Lit and Whole Story Audiobook's 'Search for a Star', and very well deserved the win was too.

You can buy the book  here . Go on, you know you want to...)

It's a fast-paced romantic suspense, and here's the blurb...

A woman on the run, a broken man and a house with a shocking secret …
Madeleine Frost has to get away. Her partner Liam has become increasingly controlling to the point that Maddie fears for her safety, and that of her young daughter Poppy. .
Desperation leads Maddie to the hotel owned by her estranged father – the extraordinarily beautiful Wrea Head Hall in Yorkshire. There, she meets Christopher ‘Bandit’ Lawless, an ex-marine and the gamekeeper of the hall, whose brusque manner conceals a painful past.
After discovering a diary belonging to a previous owner, Maddie and Bandit find themselves immersed in the history of the old house, uncovering its secrets, scandals, tragedies – and, all the while, becoming closer.
But Liam still won’t let go, he wants Maddie back, and when Liam wants something he gets it, no matter who he hurts …

So if you like romantic suspense, big, mysterious old houses, protective heroes, appealing heroines and a bad guy who's BAD, then this is the book for you and you should rush out and buy it immediately.  Hell, it's only £1.99, so even if you don't usually read rom-sus (as it is increasingly called by people who are too busy in their daily lives to actually use whole words, or who-wo, as they would no doubt say) then it's pretty well priced for you to take a chance on.

Now, as midwife, I think I'm entitled to sit back and eat chocolate and be quietly complacent, whilst wishing the new mother all the luck in the world with her offspring.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

RNA Conference 2016, the one with the penis-bra discussion.

Right. I'm back.

Now I know you lot just thought I'd got lost in a particularly tasty daydream, in which Tony (sigh) came round and cooked me dinner, during which we sat and chatted in a uniquely chaste way, whilst Tom Hiddleston hoovered the carpet, walked the dogs and then did a truly heroic amount of dusting.  But NO!  Although, if either of these gentlemen would like to pop over - Tony, there's a chicken in the freezer...
You tackle that chicken, Tone...
and Tom, I've taken the curtains down for you to wash, the table needs a polish and the hoover has bunged up again so you might have to take it to bits.... know, just stand there...that's good for me too...
anyway.  Pending the arrival of these two, I am free to tell you that I've been doing stuff. Yes, me! Yes, stuff!  And, yes, you at the back, I am free!

I've been to the RNA annual Conference.  Where conferring takes place.  Also discussions about (in no particular order), DEFRA regulations, celebrity Best Friends, cats, penis bras and the necessity of, the difference between Irish and English tea, oh, and we talked about books and writing a bit too.  And there was a Gala Dinner, at which I found out that my story 'Holding Florence' was second placed in the Elizabeth Goudge competition (which was won by the lovely Chrissie Bradshaw), so that was nice too.

This is the dress I wore.  And the body I put inside it and the face I had to take on top.
And here's Kate Allen and Kath McGurl eating dinner and gesticulating wildly to one another, in front of a waiter moving at light speed (or near enough).
And finally, here's Sarah Wendell, of the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books site, who gave a talk on dealing with reviews without mentioning the words 'punch' 'kill' 'drive a knife through their gullet' or 'curl up and cry', which I thought was particularly noteable.  She did mention chocolate a lot though, which was good.

It was all lovely, and I want to go back there now.  But, if I did, I might miss Tom and Tony, and I'm quite hungry and the house is filthy, so I think I'll just wait here for a bit.  You know.  To show them what needs doing.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Released tomorrow!  Here! Yes, really!

It seems to have crept up on me a bit (that's what going away will do for you...), but Can't Buy Me Love releases as a Choc Lit Lite book available for Kindle tomorrow!  It was previously published as Reversing Over Liberace in the US, but it's been updated and titivated and had the crumbs brushed off and a spat-on hanky wiped over its face, and now becomes available to everyone!

It's about Willow who has..err...issues when it comes to attractive men.  When she literally runs into Luke, who she had a mad (apparently unreciprocated) crush on all through University, and he asks her out..well, would you turn it down?  He's still gorgeous, still sexier than hell, and this time round he wants her.

None of this has ever happened to me, sadly.  Men seem extraordinarily resistant to my charms (except Tony. I'm working on him. And I have high hopes of Tom Hiddleston too, although I may have to work a bit harder there).
Look at his little face, LOOK AT IT! 
Sigh. Oh well, there's always chloroform...
So when Willow is swept off her feet by Luke, wined, dined and romanced, well, she's a gonner, obviously.  But then her new friend Cal, a computer geek and all round weirdo, throws some doubt on Luke's intentions...

Tom Hiddleston could take my house, Tony can have my hand in marriage. They can have any kind of ulterior motives. I'm not proud...  But, then again, my house leaks and I've been known to...well, anyway, Willow is more of a catch than I am.

If you want to know what Luke's true motives are, and whether Cal is right or wrong to be suspicious of him, you'll have to read the book!  However, if you just want to ogle Tom and Tony...'re welcome.