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Showing posts from 2012

The Story Behind My National Express Short Story

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On the ninth day of Christmas my publishers, Choc Lit, and National Express are giving away … my short story Touch Wood together with my hero’s easy recipe for delicious hot chocolate. Click on the link here and enter the code SHORT and you can download both for free.


The idea for Touch Wood, came from my cuttings file which, like my notebooks, contains photos and articles which speak to me in some way. An article about a craftswoman working with green oak had a particular pull, maybe because it brought back vivid childhood memories. My dad was a carpenter and joiner, although his area of expertise was not green oak but bespoke oak staircases and lantern lights. Oak’s a very costly material so there was a lot of tip-toeing around when Dad was setting out a staircase. ‘Measure twice, cut once’ was his maxim, because you really don’t want to do it the other way round!

What if, I wondered, my heroine was an instructor, teaching the craft of green woodworking? Another photo in the f…

Twelve Days of Treats

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Remember this...?
(And a lot of people round here still chuckle at that hat, I can tell you.) Well, I'm pleased to tell you that that Choc Lit and National Express have teamed up again. As a special Christmas treat you can download a free short story from Choc Lit's Love Match Selection every day up until Christmas Eve!  All you have to do is collect the relevant code from National Express at their Facebook page or on Twitter and enter it here.

The twelve stories in this collection are lovely (well, I would say that, wouldn't I?) and they all come with a delicious chocolatey recipe to match.  Mine's out on the... oops, nearly gave the secret away.


The Two Hundred Mile Lunch

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'How nice,' people often remark, 'that you and Lily both live in Wales and can pop in and see each other.' Well, it's true we both live in the same country, but there's a hundred miles between where I live on the coast and Lily in Cardiff.  I also live 45 minutes from the nearest railway station.  An hour, if like yesterday, you happen to get stuck behind a milk lorry.  We love our remote location but some occasions are worth venturing out for.  On Saturday Tom and I drove to Cardiff to see Wales v Australia at the Millennium stadium.  We lost in the last minute and the bloke behind me dropped his beer down my back, but Lily and Russ gave us dinner which was lovely.  Then, yesterday, I travelled down again to meet some fellow Welsh-based members of the Romantic Novelists' Association for a lovely lunch...

We left the house in darkness so Tom could drop me at Carmarthen station at 9 am...
The journey is very beautiful though - I bought myself a coffee and watc…

My Once-a-Year Day

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After what feels like endless rain, the day was dry, crisp and cold...

With a flat, calm sea...

An essential ingredient for the evening meal was gathered...

Strange to think that what once lived in a house like this...

... can be transformed into something like this...

Although this was couriered to our doorstep from The Fish Society as a wonderful birthday surprise arranged by Tom. Sadly, it's difficult to buy locally-caught seafood as most of it is shipped abroad.  Eating out can be a bit of a trek too, as we live in such a far-flung place.

I was thrilled to bits with my treat...

As you can see from what was left...

It's probably just as well birthdays only come round once a year!

Where Did My Year Go?

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Hmm, I think I saw tumble-weed rolling past this blog. I just don't know where the time's gone this year. More soon, I hope, but for today I'm over at Choc Lit's Author's Corner talking about birthdays and horoscopes.

Looks, Books and a Zig-Zag

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Since I handed ‘The Next Big Thing’ baton to lovely Choc Lit author Sarah Tranter whose novel, No Such Thing as Immortality, will be available very soon (look out for the Kindle edition at the end of this week!), I suppose it’s only fair that she’s handed one to me!

Thank you, Sara, for the zig-zag challenge which, thank goodness, wasn’t too challenging.I was asked to find the word ‘look’ in my current novel or a work in progress then post the surrounding paragraph.

To ring the changes from my current novel Move Over Darling, I’ve gone to the work in progress. Or rather the work I’m battling with as usual.  This is the first ‘look’ I found and it’s in the second chapter.  Some of you may recognise the location…


“'My pleasure,' she exhaled, closing her eyes, ‘I look forwards to meeting you at the end of the week then.'  In the two years since Fiona and her husband, Paul, had opened Walton House, Little Spitmarsh had seen its financial tide beginning to turn thanks to the openi…

Remembering

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This war memorial at Aberbanc is one we pass regularly.  Standing alone and in the midst of such beauty, it never fails to remind me of the sacrifice made by just one small village in west Wales.

Sea and Star

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Sunday 4 November 
Lovely Lily, aka the new Mrs J is staying with us for the weekend while Mr J is away. We have a fine old time replaying her wedding day and looking at photos, but a bitter wind and heavy downpours put us off going for a walk to the beach.

‘Never mind,’ says Tom, ‘we’ll drive up to the tea hut at Aberaeron instead.’ A sense that the man in the tea hut is not, perhaps, as delighted to have any customers at all on such a miserable day as we would hope is offset by the fact that his tea is served in decent mugs. The sea is silvery green with impressive rolling waves and we park ourselves on a bench in a painted concrete shelter to watch it.

‘Tea time, is it then?’ says a man sitting on the adjoining bench to offer a biscuit to his scruffy little scrap of a dog. The little dog crunches delicately. ‘Sweet,’ Lily and I say to each other and, ‘oh look, it’s coming say hello!’ whereupon the little dog lifts its leg and does an almighty wee in front of us instead. I’m not…

Choc Lit Author's Corner

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I'm over at Choc Lit's Author's Corner today talking about the story behind that article in Best magazine.  How much would you dare to bare?  Do come and tell me.

My Worst Writemares

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At the invitation of lovely author, Liane Spicer, I'm over at Novel Spaces - a universe for writers and readers -  talking about writing terrors that go bump in the night.  Join in the discussion about writerly fears for a chance to win a copy of Move Over Darling


'The Next Big Thing' as tagged!

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My fellow Choc Liteer, Christina Courtenay tagged me in her post ‘The Next Big Thing’ and kindly handed the baton to me… there’s only one problem, which is that I don’t actually discuss my work in progress and I’m far too worried about jinxing anything I do to describe it as a 'big thing'! That said, this post does give me the opportunity to talk about some different aspects of my current book, Move Over Darling, so that’s what I’ve chosen to do instead. 

What is the title of your book?
… the tricky ones first, eh.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
Initially it was moving to west Wales and discovering that the population of the county I’d moved to was roughly equal to the small Surrey borough I’d just left. The legacy of working in various research posts in the past has left me (someone who loathed maths at school) with a bit of an appetite for statistics. Looking more closely at the figures, I noticed that increases in the population here are mainly due to middle-ag…

Doris Day, Shades of Grey and Sasha Fierce

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Absolutely the best bit for me about being an author, apart from writing… or maybe that should be ‘having written’ since the process involves an awful lot of toil and tears… is getting feedback from readers. The ones who’ve enjoyed it, that it is. Getting feedback from folks who haven’t enjoyed it isn’t much fun at all, but, there, everyone’s entitled to their opinion.

Reaching those readers, though, is the tricky part. I’m put off by authors who use social media only to trumpet about their latest book so it makes me reluctant to shout about mine. 

Sometimes, however, I’m genuinely too excited to keep it in, like on Monday, when Move Over Darling did something extraordinary, racing up the Amazon charts and settling – for a heady moment – at #2 in the Movers and Shakers chart and at #3 in Women Writers & Fiction. I was very tickled to see my title with its bright cover and Doris Day references resting between two editions of Fifty Shade of Grey so forgive me for sharing the scr…

Romantic Novelists' Association

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I'm over at the Romantic Novelists' Association blog today talking about myself again, but if you've got a spare moment I'd be very happy to have someone to talk to so please leave a comment if you have time.  Thank you!

Painting is Blue Pool by Tom Tomos

Relieved and Release

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I’m afraid,’ says the man peering into The Cesspit of Doom at the bottom of our garden, ‘that you will have to have The Big Lorry out.’ He then goes on to give us the grave news that if this tactic isn't successful, deployment of The Jetter may also be required at considerable extra cost.

It’s only now, since moving away from a house with the luxury of mains drainage, that we are discovering what country living really means; constant vigilance against incoming mice exploring the cavity walls and defending the loo from outgoing foreign objects. Visitors blanch when they get The Loo Lecture, but I have stopped short (no pun intended) of putting up a sign that boat owners sometimes display (boat loos also being notoriously fussy): ‘If you can eat it, so can I. If you can’t eat it, I won’t try.’ (I’m not sure I want to think about that too deeply, but it sort of makes the point and it was National Poetry Day last week).

After a certain amount of cross-questioning when our loo st…

Settling and Getting Set

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With nothing specific on the agenda, it’s been good to be able to take a few moments to pause and reflect. I’ve especially enjoyed looking at all the wedding photographs coming in from friends and family and absorbing different impressions of a day that fills me with happiness whenever I think about it.

I’ve also been taking stock this week because next Sunday sees the official release of my second novel, Move Over Darling. Without, I hope, wishing to sound in the least bit boastful, it feels particularly good to have reached this point after all the doubts, fears and long, long hours. I joke that when I look at my daughters, I’m filled with a sense that, wow, I made a WHOLE person (okay, with a bit of help) and then I did it again! Well, it’s a similar feeling holding a second book in my hand and seeing my name on the cover. With it come the same mixed emotions about holding on and letting go. There’s the joy of celebrating with loved ones, sadness for the people we miss.

It’s one …

Unforgettable

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Friday 14 September, my elder daughter’s wedding day… a day of pure joy! 



After weeks of Welsh rain, the sun shone, the location was glorious – look at those views – and the atmosphere really was one of love and great happiness. Here’s a flavour of a very special day.

Monday 17 September… a day of utter terror! BBC Radio Wales were kind enough to invite me in to chat about my novels with Roy Noble live on his afternoon show. My thanks to Roy and everyone on the team for being so gentle with me! Here’s a clip if you want to listen to it… and, being radio, you can’t see my glass of water shaking as I tried to take a sip!


Thinking of the Days

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This Friday 14th September, is my beloved elder daughter’s wedding day.

I’m a terrible worrier, but when I found myself worrying about a hair colour that had gone a bit wrong and not being able to find the right tights, I realised - just in time - how ridiculous I was being. This morning I remembered a friend from university who didn’t live to have children. When I attended her funeral on a bright spring day, I had a toddler and a young baby, waiting to be fed. I also thought of my younger daughter’s school friend who died before the Leavers’ Ball, whose parents were left to open her A Level results. Gloomy thoughts, yes, but those reflections made me extra appreciative to have the great good fortune to have come this far and to know that my lovely daughter is marrying a good, kind man.

On Saturday 15th September

We’re coming home and bringing Ma to stay with us for a few days. I’m pretty sure the conversations will include a lot of discussion about the wedding!

On Monday 17th …

Move Over Darling: Kindle Release

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Yearning to be kissed (oh please!), Move Over Darling has just popped out on Kindle



We Captured the Castle

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‘I really don’t understand why more people aren’t in the sea!’ I exclaim happily after an exhilarating leap about in crashing waves. ‘Because,’ says Si, who with my daughter, Rose is staying with us for the holiday weekend, ‘you’d have to be NUTS to go in! It’s FREEZING!’ Ah, that would explain it then. It’s true it’s not exactly toasty on the beach or in the sea, but at least it isn’t raining… at the moment.

We’ve had lots of visitors over the last few weeks, but as the weather doesn’t seem to know that it’s the summer holidays, we’ve learned to adapt to whatever it’s throwing at us that day. For me and Tom that means a trip to the beach whenever there’s a sniff of sunshine. I’ve been trying out some daily disposable contact lenses just for swimming, rather than risk losing one of my gas permeables. Now I can brave bigger waves, which is great fun – well, I think so. My girls swam in the sea from an early age and despite a horrible incident of near-drowning in Greece, they still …

Cae Hir

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We’ve seen a wonderful garden on Countrywise,’ says my sister who, with her family, is staying with us. ‘It’s not far from you. Shall we go and see it?’

Although Tom and I enjoy introducing our visitors to the attractions of this lovely part of the world, those regular trips can lose some of their charm if repeated too often. It makes a real change to go somewhere new to us. It’s also interesting to see how other gardeners are dealing with the challenges of this summer; the non-stop monsoon since April – apart from a handful of dry days – has rotted our veg, turned innocent shrubs into towering triffids and the lawn into a meadow.

Both Ma and my sister are passionate gardeners; Ma, who hates not being able to get outdoors, can make the saddest specimen grow. My sister’s a wonderful plantswoman who creates elegant designs. Looking at the jungle that’s our garden at the moment just brings out my impatient streak and I feel like taking a shredder to the lot.



It’s just as well than t…

Author's Corner and Bits and Pieces

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Today I'm over at Choc Lit's Author's Corner blogging about the secret of success... my research shows there are no short cuts, unfortunately.

My apologies to all for being a tardy blogger and even tardier visitor.  Despite all of us doing our best to hold our nerves, the fast-approaching wedding seems to have created a frenzy of off-line activity.  I can't even begin to describe the trouble I've had looking for shoes (I have found some, thank goodness, two pairs, in fact, phew!; shiny heels for the day and some flatties - which looked very pretty in the picture but look suspiciously like slippers sprouting cabbages in real life - for evening).

The wedding's also galvanised me into attending to all those bits of essential maintenance I've been putting off too long; that niggling toothache - who wants to grimace through their daughter's wedding day?  Spare contact lenses - imagine squinting through the whole occasion!  And I've arranged long overdue ap…

Don'ts and Do-ers

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There must be some equation to the effect that the bigger the occasion, the worse the outbreak of bad behaviour.  I remember a few scraps at birthday parties when the girls were little and the usual round of ‘who’s going to eat what with whom’ at Christmas time, but the run-up to Lily and Russ’s wedding has certainly brought my blood close to boiling point several times.  It’s astounding how many people seem to forget that this is not about them, but a young couple marking the start of their journey together as husband and wife.  It is Their Special Day.  Surely that’s not too difficult to remember, is it?
On a happier note, I always admire the ‘can dos’, folks with a zest for life, and feel a bit sad for the ones who talk about the things they ‘used to do’.  It’s not about getting older - Ma’s a good example of someone whose lively curiosity is undimmed by age and infirmity - but about seeing opportunities rather than the lack of them.  So it was a lovely surprise when we got a call f…

Author's Corner Post

This week, I'm over at Choc Lit's 'Author's Corner' talking about wedding preparations. Do feel free to share your wedding day triumphs and disasters with me there!

Voyages of Discovery

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The process of editing, having a second or, if you’re really lucky, a third pair of eyes scrutinising your work is a valuable experience. It picks up any extra hands; she’s already holding his hand. Do you mean his other hand? Those repetitions; could you look at the number of ‘gazes’ ? And any pesky time anomalies; Two weeks? I thought this was supposed to be the next morning? It’s also a useful reminder that you can never know enough about your characters; what they do, where they live, and, most importantly, what they want (or think they want!) – you don’t have to regurgitate all of that information, but you need those details very firmly fixed in your mind.

As Move Over Darling comes closer to publication, I’ve put the splurge that’s currently Book Three to one side to do some research. I know that two strangers are about to find themselves offshore in a small boat and I know that Little Spitmarsh, my sleepy seaside town from Turning the Tide will reappear somewhere along the …