....welcome to my blog on writing, reading and living in London ......

Friday, 10 December 2010

My new book, 'Tango at Midnight' is out!

Well, the rotten snow's still here - normally I love the stuff, but it's been around far too long now. At least I had the joy of seeing my new My Weekly Pocket Novel on sale on the shelves in Tesco and they'd almost sold out! Even better, it was accepted almost instantly for release in large print so I've got the release of that version and a lovely new cover to look forward to. In addition, I've had the first instalment of a People's Friend serial accepted so I guess that's a sort of hat trick. To top it all, one of my fellow members of the Romantic Novelists Association posted that she had not only read 'Tango at Midnight' but that it had passed a few enjoyable hours while she'd been hospital visiting. That's the wonderful thing about writing. There's a magical alchemy about putting your thoughts out there and connecting with someone in a really positive way. You may never meet them in person but that doesn't matter. It gave me such a boost, I am getting right on with instalment two of the People's Friend serial which is set in warm and sunny Sorrento, Italy and I so wish I was there now......

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Sheiks......... love 'em

A while ago, I posted photos for my new sheikh story that I am writing hoping to send it to Mills and Boon. At last it's going really well, racing along in fact. I've got more into sheikhs as I've researched them. I never realised (stupidly it's true) how fabulously, ridiculously, fantastically wealthy some of them are. But they also fit the Mills and Boon requirement of being a consummate nurturer. Here, for example is Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Ali Al-Nuaimi, of the United Arab Emirates, better known as the Green Sheikh. He's actually rather cute, don't you think, whether he's looking thoughtful and all concerned about things green, or whether he's kneeling in the snow freezing his poor old knees off and praying? He sounds almost too good to be true, as he's not only Mr Environment but is also big on charity works and is opening a hospital, looking after disadvantaged youngsters in the UAE etc. I could sooooo warm to a guy like that, particularly if he had a couple of billion in the bank, sigh.... Oops, enough of this dreaming, must put the washing on, empty the dishwasher and get showered and on my bike ready for the day job......

Monday, 18 October 2010

Such a perfect day.....

Oh joy, for my birthday, my husband said, 'I've booked a table at the Savoy.' We don't often indulge but he is a believer in marking special days with memories rather than things. In fact he finds things weigh him down and is always urging me as a hoarder to clear stuff out. So, off we tottled to the Savoy on the Strand which has been closed the last few years due to refurbishment at the staggering cost of £200 million. The original ancient site was a hospital, which eventually declined and was described by The sixteenth-century historian Stow as being misused by "loiterers, vagabonds and strumpets". Which one of those were we, I wondered, all done up to the nines?!

I really would love to set a Mills and Boon in a luxury hotel like the Savoy. There was the gorgeous art deco inspired River Restaurant where we had lunch, all the pretty girls and wonderfully handsome young men who see you to your table, there was the Russian family looking mysterious and fur-collar clad, there was the view of the Thames blazing in Autumn sunshine and there was the mouth-watering food. Finally, there was the birthday cake, complimentary and so rich we had to take it home in a little white box because neither of us could stuff any more calories in. Of course you don't have to have a special birthday to enjoy the Savoy. You can save up your pennies and go for a cup of coffee and spend ages lounging on the gorgeous sofas, lapping up the atmosphere whilst you watch the clientele and the staff bustle past giving you any number of ideas for a romantic novel. Well, that's my excuse anyway for going there as much as I possibly can! Ps - note that in my hand I hold a bag from Hotel Chocolat with a few goodies to take home. Next week, I'll diet, always next week........

Monday, 11 October 2010

Where do you get your writing ideas from?

Ever since New Voices I have been mulling over new ideas. Could I get one to work? NO. But finally, things are beginning to come together. The first thing you have to do of course is find your hero. A bout of insomnia has given me a precious hour to sift through smouldering guys and finally I found him. Zaki is a sheikh in a distant nation of sandstorms and snow tipped mountain passes. He loves his semi-desert nation more dearly than he loves his own life. And here he is on the few occasions he gets to relax.

I am desperately working on the opening chapter which will either be set in the mountains, or the blistering desert. Either way, I know I shall have fun once I finally stop procrastinating and actually get something down on paper!

Writers are often asked, 'where do you get your ideas from?' and I find the web and the newspapers are both fertile ground for starting up your imagination. So, where do you get your writing ideas from?

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Mudlarking on the Thames

My (new) husband and I celebrated our first anniversary by staying at the hotel we stayed in on our wedding night, the Grange City Hotel next to the Tower of London. Purely by chance that weekend is when they always hold the Thames Festival. It's great fun and a wonderful way of celebrating the Thames. I absolutely love the river. For our wedding reception, we took a Thames barge from Tower Hill down to Greenwich. During the Thames festival, there are stalls all the way down the South bank and they close one of the bridges, lay it up with clothed tables and have a massive open air picnic. One of the most interesting stalls was one set up by a guy who goes mudlarking. In the past, mudlarks, mainly young children would make a pathetic living raking over the mud at low tide to find anything they could sell. Rivets from the boatmaking at Limehouse to sell to scrap metal dealers, canvas and rope and even fat thrown overboard by ships cooks could all make a farthing or a halpenny. These poor destitute children would work in rags through the bitterest winters scraping a paltry living, and the mud on the Thames still tells a million stories and still makes a living for some. The guy we met digs up bits of china, old clay pipes and makes pictures of them so that people can own their own small bit of history. In the picture above you can see odd white china figures like ghostly corpses which I thought were dolls. In fact, they were some of the first 'promotional' items given away with soap powder. He has also used one of the commonest finds on the river, pins (you can see them scattered over bits of old clay pipes) which were made by children and used to fix elaborate clothing throughout the ages. Apparently, an Elizabeth neck ruff could take a thousand pins to fix into place. There will soon be a TV series made about mudlarking and then the banks of the Thames will be heaving. So if you want to get there now, while it's relatively quiet and find your own piece of history, all you need is a licence from the Port of London Authority which costs around £40 for three years.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

New Voices results

Rats! I didn't get placed in the comp, in fact I didn't get anywhere, not a whisker of success. Still with 800-odd entries and some really terrific ones at that I have to admit defeat gracefully. Well, not defeat exactly as we all live to fight another day. I still have a partial with M&B and we can all submit again through the normal channels. It's just so nice to have a quick response rather than have to wait. Nevertheless, Romance HQ have taken pity on us all and offered a further ten entrants the chance of having their chapters critiqued. All you have to do to enter the draw is to go on the New Voices website and log in your request to be included - they will then pull names from the hat. So, guys, it's not all over. Good luck yet again!

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

New Voices - finally, I posted my entry......

Phew!!!! After ages of writing, re-writing, throwing what I'd done in the bin and starting again I have finally posted an entry on to Mills and Boon's New Voices competition site.

It's incredibly difficult knowing how one's writing will be out there for all the world to see. Strange really, as I have a number of things published with My Weekly and People's Friend but of course these have been passed by an editor and purchased. That gives you faith in yourself. But to put something up that no editor has read and approved as worth having is an entirely different matter. Anyhow my cheesily titled entry is 'Cougar Mum, Cub Dad.' Yes I know it's an awful title but it does what it says on the tin. I wanted to do something different and thought the idea of an older woman and younger man might buck the trend a bit although of course that is a trend that is happening in spadefuls in real life. Mills and Boon are pretty good at keeping up with trends which is one of the things that makes them so successful. So, if you fancy going to have a read of my entry, it's at romanceisnotdead.com and you just have to put my name or that cheesy title into the search box for it to come up.

It's been great looking at the entries although I have been so busy with other things I didn't have nearly enough time to read as many as I wanted or to post comments but I have looked at a couple of really excellent ones, far better than mine. The M&B dream is not dead, just slumbering....... Good luck to all the entrants and hurrah to everyone for making it such an interesting comp.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

New opportunities at Embrace

One of the really good bits of news for all of us romance writers and readers is the opening of opportunities with Embrace, a new imprint of Salt Publishing. At a time when there is a lot of gloom around about supermarkets grabbing book sales and dominating the market, e-publishing is really coming into its own. Embrace have two different 'heat' lines and have just acquired their first manuscripts. They offer useful tips for new writers on their website at embracebooks.co.uk and are not afraid to look at innovative and adventurous romance. I'm sure we all wish them the best of luck with a really exciting new venture.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Stuck with your writing? Try this.......

One of the most wonderful ways to kick start your brain is to go on a writing retreat. It doesn't have to be something mega-organised. In my case it's just 3 or 4 friends. We choose somewhere low cost, preferably in the country but with access to civilisation (a Costa and a little high street are enough) and we all go and stay for 1 night to a week. Importantly where we go has no telly and no wifi access. Painful but useful.

It also gets you right away from home life which although lovely simply eats into writing time. It also means you set your own clock and your own agenda. I am an unreasonably early bird, my best any time from 5am onwards. When on retreat, I can simply roll out of bed and onto my writing chair, fire up the laptop and I'm away. At 11am I might feel like some company. If I then see one of my writing friends sitting outside nonchalantly on the bench in the little garden opposite the bedrooms where we stay, I can take my coffee out and have a natter. The afternoon's a bit of a dead time for me writing-wise as I always experience a dip. That's when I will stroll out into the country for some excercise (to counterract writers' bottom which is a horrible complaint leading to lardiness and pins and needles in the buttocks). Or I tottle off to the shops to have a quick float around and to buy something inappropriate for a lady of my years such as blue nail varnish. Then back for some more writing before dinner. We tend either to nominate one of us as cook for that night or to go out to the local pub. It's amazing how much you can achieve when in such a cocoon, ideas flow, words pour out and things get FINISHED. I'd recommend it to anyone. But the best thing is if you go with writing friends they will not only understand your dilemmas, rejoice in your triumphs but also they'll be happy to talk to you about that niggling plot twist or that elusive character slant. Now my family are lovely but quite frankly all that stuff bores the pants off them.......

Saturday, 7 August 2010

My new toy...... the Ipad

Well, actually it's not a new toy so much as a work tool. The Ipad. The much trumpeted about beautifully designed light as air little computer you can put in your handbag. I have been given it by my lovely husband as an early birthday present. Why early? Because I am shortly off to a writers' retreat where we just sit and write each day and I have a ton of projects I am working on. I need a light word processor with a good battery and so, we bought the Ipad. So, how's it performing? It looks and feels wonderful and is great for searching the web. On the word processing front however, there are a couple of glitches. Firstly, you have to download a word processing programme and pay exra for it - yes folks, everything costs extra with the Ipad. Secondly, the programme Iwork Pages has certain fundamental flaws for a writer. The first one is that there is no word count facility. Why not Steve Jobs? Why on earth when you invented this lovely thing did you leave out that very simple, absolutely essential for the writer tool? So I beetled off and investigated the web to see how to get around this. There is after all a way around everything. Yup, you guessed, you have to download yet another app which has a word count facility. I duly paid my pennies and downloaded. But, can I work out how on earth to use it? No, and what's more doing so has taken up writing time. So, back to the drawing board..... It is however a wonderful piece of equipment, slim, light as a feather and the battery life is great. Also, it has a natty keyboard/dock which has been pared down to the bone in inches but where the keyboard bit is actually full size and incredibly easy to use. So, marks out of ten? Eight so far but nice, very, very nice.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

A slow boat to Bilbao

Have just enjoyed our very first cruise. Well, okay, it was just a mini-cruise and we spent only four hours in Spain but it was still absolutely wonderful. We sailed from Southampton and it's about a million times easier to get on and off a ship than it is a plane. None of that rigorous security, going through endless scanners with your shoes off and queuing for hours. The ship had loads of wonderful places to sit - our favourite was looking out of the back (is that stern or aft or even bow, I have no idea!?) and watching the wash from the giant propellors underneath. Very soon, you begin to chill out and we sat happily there for many hours whale and dolphin watching. The Pride of Bilbao has for 10 years been a base for a conservation charity devoted to dolphins and whales and the guy running it gave an interesting talk during the voyage as well as making announcements whenever the creatures were in view. But, the highlight for us was when we went out very late one evening just to look at the moon. It looked stunning, full and creamy with its reflection glistening for miles on the sea and the water was so calm, it was quite quiet. Until that is, we heard splashing and there below us was a dolphin leaping in and out of the water, just having fun. It was magic, sheer magic. What's more, a four day crossing gives ample time for writing and I got the revisions for my magazine serial well underway. We loved it and will definitely be saving our pennies to go on another more substantial cruise.

Friday, 23 July 2010


Back in May, I sent off a) an idea to a magazine for a serial b) a short story and c) a completed draft of a pocket novel to My Weekly. Then, I sat back and waited....and waited.....and waited. Also I checked my e-mails not just every day or every hour but yes, practically every minute. But it wasn't just days which ticked by with no news, but weeks and then oh horror of horrors, months. Two to be precise. Obviously my precious manuscripts hadn't arrived. Was it too soon to chase? If I chased would I be seen as a troublemaker, a stalker, a pain in the a"*+! I'd spent so long sitting tight. I must be a failure, no one wanted my rotten stories, I should just give in and give up. That was whispered in the cold dark hours by the horrid gremlin who sits on all writers' shoulders whispering sour nothings in our ears. But instead of listening to him, I shoved the little devil off my shoulder and into the mud where he belonged. Then I stamped on him and ...... got out my laptop and started something new. Because that's what you have to do when you're waiting. Luckily I had the RNA conference to look forward to. And, it was while I was there that my gorgeous husband 'phoned me to say that a package had arrived. Yes, it was from the magazine I'd sent the serial to. 'Rip it open, take a look,' I urged my husband. 'They liked it,' he said, 'they want some revisions. Nine in fact. But they liked it!' Hurrah. Then, lo and behold, also while I was at the conference an e-mail came through to say that My Weekly had accepted my latest novel, 'Tango at Midnight.' Double hoorah!!!! But, the moral to this story is that I kept writing, even when I thought all my efforts had turned to dust and that editors hated me. You've got to keep that wagon rolling even when you think all is lost. Because it's not. What's more, even if I'd have had rejections which I would have felt rotten about, I'd have still had something new to keep me going. Here by the way is a photo of me at the RNA gala dinner at this year's conference in Greenwich sent by my good, good friend Penny. And there also looking very serious is my gorgeous husband who loved every second of attending the Greenwich dinner and, as one of the few men at the conference, basked in having been given a round of applause by all the girlies on our table, simply for being there!

Monday, 12 July 2010

A tale of two Elizabeths.....

I was really delighted to be at the Romantic Novelists Association 50th anniversary conference to be able to see Elizabeth Fearon win the Elizabeth Goudge Trophy for her short story. The theme was based around an anniversary and Katie Fforde who is in the photo presenting Elizabeth Fearon with her trophy said that the story made her cry - wouldn't we all love to be able to write fiction that inspires such a reaction?! Apparently the standard was extremely good this year so a hearty cheer to all those who entered. I can't wait to read Elizabeth's story and look forward to seeing it in print as soon as she's placed it. Also in the photo is Jan Jones who deserves our congratulations for being one of the main organisers of what was a wonderful, wonderful conference.

50th Anniversary Romantic Novelists Association Conference

What an absolutely superb conference! Jan Jones and Roger Sanderson who have quite enough to do being successful writers also run this show every year. This 50th anniversary conference in beautiful Greenwich surpassed all the others I have been to with a superb location and wonderfully hot weather. Also the talks were superb. One particular one which I enjoyed was that given by Sarah Duncan whose 'A Single to Rome' and 'Kissing Mr Wrong' I shall be rushing out to buy. I'm sure she writes as well as she speaks, with boundless enthusiasm and huge energy. I'm summarising her points here for anyone who didn't make it to Greenwich. She runs writing courses and I would urge you to look them up at http://www.sarahduncan.co.uk because for me, her talk on its own was worth the cost of the conference. Sarah covered the following points:

1. Dreams - how many of us have dreams of starting our own business or moving abroad? How many of us do it? THOSE are the sorts of characters people want to read about - characters who take action.
2. Caring - think about the people in an earthquake thousands of miles away that you read about in the paper, and think about a close friend who has maybe had an accident. Who do we care about more? We care about the person we know and that is what a good author has to do, make their reader care.
3. Emotion - Go deep into your characters' emotional state. Your characters have to be fighting for things the other people ie. your readers care about. The film 'Gladiator' was given as an example (and any excuse to watch that again is a good one!).
4. Qualities - If we overheard a conversation about ourselves, what would we want people to say about us? That we were loyal, honest etc. Give your characters similar qualities BUT no one is a cardboard cutout. We all have shades of good and bad. Likeable characters however, ones that people want to read about have redeeming qualities, they are self aware and they make amends.
5. The lift test - when you persuade someone to read a book, you are stealing their time. Think about your characters. Would you want to be stuck in a lift with them? Think of the people you could be happy being stuck with and write down why. It is those sorts of people your readers will be happy to spend time with.
6. Cherries and cake! - No one likes a cherry cake where all the good bits have sunk to one place. Think about where you pleace your good bits in a novel and don't chunk them together, spread them about a bit.
7. Suspense - make people wait. Don't set up a problem for your protagonists and then solve it on the next page.
8. Ending your chapters - when you read bedtime stories to children chapters often end with them all snuggling happily to go to sleep because that's what the parent who buys the book wants the child to do. We don't want to send our readers to sleep. We want to force them to start a new chapter and keep reading so they have to buy lots more of our lovely books. Think carefully where you put your chapter breaks, encourage that page to turn!
9. Tea drinking - there can be too much of it, try and keep your characters active.
10. Flashback - be very wary of it. It can act like the accelerator or worse, put the action in reverse.

Well, that, in a very small nutshell was Sarah's talk, but I do urge you, if possible to go and hear her, she's a new speaker to me and one of the most absorbing ones on writing fiction I have come across.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Surrey or the South of France

This glorious field of lavender is a fairly recent addition to the countryside just outside London at Banstead in Surrey. Or is it? I've only tried one historical novel but historical references are all around us and this is one of them. This part of Surrey was once famous for its lavender fields which would have supplied the lavender sellers on the streets of London with bunches of the fragrant flower. Resonances of the past are all around us but often only apparent to us in our busy daily lives if we really look for them. Lavender sprigs are depicted in the area in Wallington's Christmas lights and on Mitcham borough council's coat of arms but it's a long while since the flowers have been grown in this area en masse. The 25 acres of lavender fields at Mayfield lavender www.mayfieldlavender.com are stunning this time of year and well worth a visit. They've also given me a nice idea for a book which when I've finished the one I'm working on I shall tackle and I have a feeling the research, being surrounding by the evocative scent of lavender will be sheer joy!

Friday, 2 July 2010

Society of Authors reception

Today, on one of the hottest days of the year, I went to the Society of Authors new members' reception. They are based at 84 Drayton Gardens in Kensington, one of the loveliest parts of London. It took me a while to join the Society of Authors because I wasn't sure what benefit they would be. However, today's reception was well worth the price of entry - I am easily swayed by a nice array of nibbles and lashings of wine! But, of course as with all these things, it's all about meeting people and talking about things of mutual interest. There were so many different authors, the fiction ones being in the minority at this particular reception. There were quite a few art historians having a lovely time researching in places like Venice. There was also a psychotherapist who'd published her third book on child psychology and there was a guy who wrote comedy. So, a pretty mixed bag. The most useful thing about the mixture of individuals for a fiction author I found was that there are times when you need just a few nuggets of specialist knowledge to make your characters come alive. I would take bets that the Society of Authors has representatives from practically every profession on earth and being a member will I'm sure be a useful way to find someone if I ever need to make contact with - say - a landscape gardener or a specialist in musical instruments. They were a really friendly bunch and they run regular seminars on things like e-publishing. An incredibly useful service offered by the Society is that they will, for free, look over any publishing contract clause by clause. That alone I'm sure is worth the cost of membership! They can be reached at http://www.societyofauthors.org/ .

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Internal and External conflict for Mills and Boon

I have been lucky enough to get a slot with a Mills and Boon editor at this year's Romantic Novelist Association conference. To make the most of it, you are invited to submit a first chapter and a synopsis and I have just sent mine off.

Now, I tried Mills and Boon years ago, I gave it my best shot and although I came close-ish with a request to see the whole manuscript (after submitting the required three chapters) I ended up with a rejection.

Part of the reason, I am sure, is that I did not understand the difference between internal conflict and external conflict. After many years which has included on/off flirtations with writing for M&B, reading many examples and attending a couple of sessions at writers weekends listening to their editors and authors I believe I have now got to grips with internal/external conflict. So I will try and do my bit for other aspiring writers to explain it here.

An external conflict is basically one that someone or something else can resolve. So, if your hero and heroine have been marooned on a desert island because of a plane crash someone else could send in a rescue craft. If they are in conflict with one another because of a case of mistaken identity, a simple conversation with one of the other characters (or with each other) could put the situation right. More importantly, with external conflict the reader will be able to see that there are easy-ish ways out of the problem. A Mills and Boon can of course contain both external and internal conflicts but the internal ones are by far the most important. They are the problems which are not nearly so easy for the hero and heroine to extract themselves from - their own internal conflicts. Internal conflicts are the things inside us shaped by our personal histories that make us the people we are and on occasions form blockages to relationships.

An excellent book by Penny Jordan, one of the acknowledged queens of Mills and Boon which I read years ago concerned a woman who had been raped by an ex husband. This had lead to her finding it almost impossibe to let another man near her, even one to whom she was deeply attracted. This afforded all sorts of opportunities to display the hero's sensitive, persuasive and very Alpha characteristics - those of the ultimate nurturer. I am at present reading a fabulous Mills and Boon by Annie West (www.annie-west.com) 'Scandal, His Majesty's love-child', about an Arab prince - sheik books are enduringly popular - the ultimate escape!

Annie West's prince has many redeeming characteristics but these are hidden behind a cold exterior borne of a childhood with a brutal father. Given that sort of history he has built a wall around himself brick by emotional brick which our heroine is very slowly having to knock down. I will not reveal any more as it is on the shelves now and do not want to destroy an excellent read. But this is an good example of internal conflict, mainly in this case the hero's, which prevents him forming strong relationships. These sort of internal conflicts are difficult for us all to address and require the characters to undergo a considerable amount of change within themselves but of course they cannot do this on their own. The other half of the pairing has to help them through the conflict to a happy conclusion and thereby lies a good read! Fiendishly difficult to write, I take my hat off to all the Mills and Boon authors who do this so well.

Monday, 21 June 2010

London to Brighton Cycle Ride - we did it!

Well, we all survived the 54 miles from London to Brighton even though it took us ten hours! You'd think ten hours in the saddle would be excruciating and although it was, all time seemed to go out of the window as you just focus on the goal of getting there. Bit by bit, mile by mile.... It's a bit like writing a novel, word by word, chapter by chapter ...... you just have to keep the faith and know you will get there in the end. Here's a picture - I'm the short fat one - of our team at Ditchling Beacon. At the top of Ditchling you are rewarded after a hideous climb (which we walked up, we were too exhausted to cycle up that massive hill) with stupendous views of the South Downs dotted with poppy fields. The other reward is that after that it's about 9 miles all the way downhill into Brighton. Will I do it again next year? Don't know! This year I was on the back of a tandem where you have someone to chat to and can forget the pain. Not sure if I'd make it on my own. I'll see how I feel in 12 months time when the agony has worn off a bit!

Friday, 18 June 2010

New book 'Leaving Home'

Hurrah. Complimentary copies of my latest new book, 'Leaving Home' have arrived on the doorstep from those lovely people at Ulverscroft. In the Linford Romance Library range, there is a lovely picture on the cover of a very happy young lady. As it's a feelgood romance (albeit with a few bumpy moments along the way) it's great that the cover has a warm feel about it. Thank you Ulverscroft, and D C Thomson (My Weekly) who originally published it as a novella.

Elephants in London

London is full of elephants! Elephant Parade 2010 is all about raising money for the endangered Asian elephant. Walk more than a hundred yards in the West End and you're bound to come across one of the elephants. Last night in the ten minute walk from Covent Garden to Charing Cross we spotted two. They're everywhere! Brightly coloured, painted or, in the case of the elephant twirling around on its electric turntable in the window of Coutts on the Strand, encrusted with Swarovski crystals and little pearls. This is the most luxurious I've seen so far and very pretty he was too, http://www.elephantfamily.org/ are the charity raising awareness.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Wish me luck as you wave me goodbyeeee......

I am terrified, petrified, that awful rising wall of terror hits me whenever I think about it. Yes, I have signed up to do the 54 mile London to Brighton cycle ride this Sunday. Nooooooo!!!!!!

I have got myself a gel saddle, and a gel saddle cover and will shortly go out to buy myself a pair of gel shorts or whatever other padding it is they slip into those hideously unattractive black lycra short-thingies. I do actually have a massive gel bum sad to say but somehow it never seems to be quite enough cushioning. I shall be on the back of a pink tandem and have been told I must not peddle and I am not to try and steer. I have also been told, rather menacingly by the front part of the pairing, 'I will know if you aren't pedalling'. Drat and there was I thinking I could put my feet up, cross my legs and catch up on Facebook and a bit of e-mailing!

The longest run I've ever done is 8 miles in total and that nearly killed me so heaven knows what I will be like physically and mentally after tackling the hills around Brighton. Ah well, tis now or never I guess. Why on earth I didn't choose to just go down on the train like sensible people and tottle on down to the front with a bag of chips to welcome all the lunatic cyclists in I don't know. Instead I shall indeed be one of the puffing, pink, pelvically pulverised who limp of their machines at the end and never want to see a bike again as long as they live. The only good thing is that we have raised nearly £600 in sponsorship for Mind, the mental health charity.

So, wish me luck as you wave me goodbyeeeeee........

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Writing a Mills and Boon

Oh, I've tried, and tried and tried..... But not for some time. At one time I'd tried so hard, I thought I might have made it as my whole manuscript was requested after sending them my initial three chapters. There was one problem though. I'd only written the first three chapters! I foolishly dashed off the next nine chapters and whizzed them off. A rejection letter whizzed back. It taught me a lesson though which is that at least 90% of success in writing is completion. Also that it's one thing to produce three fizzing chapters. It's quite another to produce a whole, coherent, gripping, well-crafted twelve chapters. There is loads of advice around such as this great and succinct summing up of the alpha male on the Mills and Boon website at http://community.millsandboon.co.uk/forums/write-stuff/how-write-modern-romance (After reading that, I'm in love with him already). Also, as one of my writing friends so succinctly put it, 'never leave their side'. That is, the hero and heroine and I think those four little words sum up one of the essences of a Mills and Boon, so thank you Jan S, it's something I keep remembering whenever I start to veer off on a pathway away from my two main protagonists. Never leave their side........ I'm 8881 words in so far, around two chapters and I've stuck with them all the way like their consciences, on their shoulders, interpreting their every move and studying their every motive. Only 41,119 words to go...........

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Short story competition - The Lady with Mills and Boon and the National Trust

Good news for all short story writers. The Lady in conjunction with Mills and Boon and the National Trust is launching a short story competition. It's all part of the drive the National Trust is making to pull more people into their properties by emphasising the romance element. Personally I find their houses and wonderful gardens a constant source of inspiration as a writer. The most atmospheric recently was a trip down to Ightham Mote a medieval moated manor house on one of the few balmy evenings we had recently. We had mistimed it and got there just as the property closed. But a secluded walk nearby took us to the back gate of the house from where we could peer in and see the grounds, deserted under a golden evening haze. In the silence you could feel you were looking through a window into the past. Magic! Details of the competition can be obtained from The Lady's website by following this link http://www.lady.co.uk/?q=node/94482. Stories should be no more than 2000 words and the closing date is 31 July 2010. This is excellent news since The Lady recently stopped their regular fiction slot following the appointment of a new editor to the magazine. Maybe this latest move means that they are reconsidering their break with fiction. We live in hope......

Friday, 4 June 2010

Waiting for a result ........

Why have I decided to Blog? I guess every writer feels they have something to say, and hope that there is someone out there who wants to hear it. That's one reason to blog. The other, in my case is that I have four things out there waiting for a result. That is four pieces of writing. Firstly I have a novella with a publisher, then I have a proposal for a serial with a magazine as well as two short stories which I have sent off to magazines. The wait is horrendous and in the meantime I feel I need to do something constructive. So, here I am creating a web presence. People tell me blogging can be fun so, here goes, and welcome to my blog!