Wednesday, December 26

A Belated Merry Christmas

...to all my blog visitors, wherever you may be. I hope you had a lovely Christmas Day and that you are now enjoying all your new presents and eating yummy leftovers.

We had a great day, what with it being Little Frog's first Christmas. He, of course, got more presents than everybody else combined. He also enjoyed his pureed roast turkey and trimmings and almost ate the whole dish (although this picture wouldn't make you think so).


I'm looking forward to the New Year, as it's always a chance to get a fresh perspective on things and make plans for the months ahead. I even hope to set some targets for myself with my writing; I know I've been dragging my feet for too long where it's concerned and the truth is that I'm really missing it. So keep your eye out for some self-set targets and deadlines and, yes, please check up on me, remind me of them, and publicly humiliate me if I don't meet them!

Friday, December 7

Thought for the Day

Dreams about Daniel Craig are A Good Thing.

That is all.

;)

Thursday, December 6

Two of My Writing Goddesses

Feeling a bit better today. Upside of the last week or so is that I have lost four pounds in weight!

I thought I'd post something writing-related, so I'm going to direct you to a couple of recent web features on two of my favourite writers.

The first is Time magazine's 10 Questions for Nora Roberts. I particularly like her answer to the frequently asked question, "where do you get your ideas?" Click here to read the article, and don't miss clicking through to the second page.

The second is a seven-day interview with Shirley Jump, another very prolific author. Click here to read it.

Wednesday, December 5

The Bleurgh Zone

Not feeling so hot at the moment. I got a cold last week, which was fine -- I could deal with that. Then myself, Little Frog, and The Bloke all got a stomach bug. That was not so fine and it really wasn't fun.

Frog and the Bloke are A-OK now but my share of the bug seems to be hanging around. I'm drinking lots of water and peppermint tea and eating the blandest food imaginable (the thought of most other things is making me want to heave). Hopefully it will hurry up and get out!

And no, it's not another Little Frog. Believe me, that was the first thing I checked.


Just finished reading: Practically Perfect by Katie Fforde

Tuesday, November 20

Trying Out Some Non-Fiction

Thank you for all the congrats I received in reply to my previous post :) My ring is back from being re-sized and it's sitting proudly on my finger. I keep posing my hand in different contexts (trailing over book spines, writing a note, swishing Little Frog's bath water, etc.) so I can admire my bling. Frog likes it. If I hold it in front of him he goes wide-eyed, grabs my hand and pulls it toward his mouth.

No more progress on Truck at the moment, apart from a solo sentence I wrote yesterday: "AJ is American." At this point I have no idea what bearing this fact will have on the story!

Today I've been thinking about a slightly different writing project: an article focusing on the surprises new motherhood brings. This idea has been floating around my mind for a couple of months now, so I thought I'd get some of it down and see where it goes.


Just finished reading: Stranded with a Stranger by Frances Housden

Monday, November 12

Betrothed

So the big news from this past weekend is that I got engaged :) The Bloke asked me The Big Question on Saturday night, quite out of the blue. After checking (twice) that he wasn't kidding, I said yes. No idea yet on when or how (big hotel affair/registry office/Vegas) we'll be getting hitched. But there's plenty of time for all that, and I think it would be wise to get Christmas out of the way first!

Writing-wise, I've been doing some work on my plans for The Truck of Luck. I'm thinking about something to do with the story every day now, which is a very promising sign.

Tuesday, November 6

The Writer Who Wrote

Look at my word counter. Just to the right there. See it?

546 words.

Yeah baby!

For the first time since having Froglet I actually did some writing. This was yesterday, during nap time. I decided the laundry could wait and I opened up a Word file. It's called Chapter One and it has words and sentences and paragraphs in it :)

I am certain that it will be heavily edited, and that what I've written so far may not even make it to the final draft, but I've started. I've flexed a muscle that hasn't been used for a long time. Hurrah!


Just finished reading: Gone by Jonathan Kellerman

Thursday, November 1

Happy Halloween

I know, I'm a day late. But I had to post this:




He'll hate us for it when he's a teenager, but who could resist??


Just finished reading: Wish You Were Here by Phillipa Ashley

Sunday, October 21

Chloe and AJ

Things have settled back down again with Froglet now. Phew. I knew they would, it was just a matter of waiting a couple of days for him to find his feet with things again and let us know what his new routine would be! Miraculously he's evolved into a very predictable schedule of three daytime naps, which has been brilliant! He's sleeping now, and I've used the time to do my hair, wash up, eat something, catch up on my emails, and get some critiquing done. Blissful me time.

I'm starting to think about The Truck of Luck again. My commitments have lessened a little now that the editing work is over and the wedding has passed, plus with this new nap schedule of Frog's I have a bit more free time in the day. So hopefully you may seem my word counter start to blossom some time in the next couple of weeks.

To whet your appetite, let me introduce my hero, AJ, and my heroine, Chloe.



Monday, October 15

Baby Jekyll and Little Hyde

As promised, here is a picture of me as my sister's bridesmaid, complete with angel baby.



*Insert throaty Hollywood voiceover tone*

It was the calm before the storm. Peace and pride reigned. We nodded in reply to those who said: "Isn't he a good baby?"

But then the well-mannered Little Frog became a fickle Devil Toad...

It's the four-month growth spurt. We've had a couple already, but this one's a monster. He'd been sleeping through the night for quite a while but started waking up for no reason. He'd greedily finish a full feed and then shove his entire fist in his mouth and look for more. We tried second-stage milk for hungrier babies, but Frog did not deem it tasty enough. I garnered advice from the health visitors, and we're going to try for weaning. So far, he thinks rice is dull and spits out carrot, but considers apple a reasonably nice taste.

The health visitor tells me this growth spurt can last longer than the previous ones. I can't wait until it settles. Frog has always been such a good baby with a lovely routine of his own, which makes these unsettled days pretty hard to deal with.

All stories of reassurance greatly appreciated! And thank God for Cadburys' decision to bring back the Wispa bar. Mmm, Wispa... It makes it easier to deal with the Devil Frog ;)

Monday, October 8

Return of the Bridesmaid

We're back! The wedding was amazing and everything went so well. The weather was beautiful, the food delicious, the chatting and dancing great fun. Froglet looked uber-cute in his suit and was an angel all day. None of us could have asked for more.

Photos are still being collated from various quarters, and once I have a good selection I'll post a few of them. Oh, and we didn't get the haunted hotel room :)

In writing news, all my editing is done now, so it's on to critiques and hopefully some writing of my own. It's been quite a while!

Wednesday, October 3

Post Haste

Am posting quickly as it is a v. busy week for me; my sister's getting married on Saturday! This evening I must practice my "left-together, right-together" walk. With my heels on. Also, the hotel we will all be staying at is repute to be haunted by the ghost of a highwayman. Apparently he frequents a particular room and likes to watch women in the bathroom. When we called to book our room I asked which one we'd been allocated, but we don't find out until the day. Gulp.

Until I post again, here is a recent picture of Froglet. I have decided to title it "Help! My baby has morphed into a turnip!"


Just finished reading: Red Lily by Nora Roberts

Monday, September 24

Busy Bees

I've been pretty busy lately (as you might have guessed by my lack of posts).

I've taken on some editing work, which I've been steadily working my way through. I've also critiqued the final chapters of Nell's Little Black Dress book, Blue Remembered Heels. I have two other critiques/proofreads waiting in the wings for other writer friends, and I still have my plans for Truck of Luck brewing in my mind (although not much of it is getting written down at the moment).

I've also just resumed work as an Avon Lady (ding dong!); I did it about six years ago and I thought now would be a nice time to do it again so I can take Froglet out in the pushchair on my rounds. I'm also looking forward to a "Yummy Mummies" postnatal gym class, which I've registered myself for, and which starts in a few weeks. Oh yes, then there's my role as chief bridesmaid at my sister's wedding in less than two weeks!

Still, I'd much rather have things to do than not. How about you?


Just finished reading: All Work and No Play by Julie Cohen

Monday, September 10

Little Monkey

There's a new advert for Cadbury's Dairy Milk chocolate that has just started airing in the UK. It's a bit bizarre. See here:



Anyway, Froglet was sitting on my lap so I could burp him after breakfast this morning, when the advert came on. He went very still and wide-eyed, then when the drums started he nodded his head from side to side, waved his hands, and gave a big grin! Cuteness.

Sunday, September 2

I Have a New Love

It's not Josh Duhamel, king-prawn curry, Badger Baby Balm, or my new car -- although these are all some of my favourite things at the moment. No, my new love is Green & Black's organic white chocolate. It's made with Madagascan vanilla and you can actually see the dark flecks of it throughout the bar. It is good. But not good for my teeth.

And speaking of teeth... He's not even three months old yet, but Froglet has got the beginnings of a small tooth poking out of his lower gum!! Talk about speedy development! I was right to be suspicious of all the dribbling he's been doing lately.


Just finished reading: The Overlook by Michael Connelly

Saturday, August 18

Working Weekend

Little Frog went off to Grandma's again yesterday so that The Bloke and I could have a "date night" (we went to see Transformers -- v. good!) and so I could get some writing done. With each passing day I've been getting more eager to start writing again, but whenever I get around to starting something I usually have to turn my attention to something else (usually baby-related) within ten minutes or so.

I've had a couple of ideas swimming around my mind lately, and today I did a bit of work on each of them. One is already winning out by a fair mile; regular readers of my blog may remember me talking about it around this time last year, when the idea first came to me. I temporarily christened this story THE TRUCK OF LUCK, although I very much doubt that it's a title that will stick! Here's an image that is related to the story, to get you thinking:



It's been fun to get back to work. I'm not quite sure yet how I'll manage to work a regular patch into my day-to-day life, but I feel much more of a push to try and do so, now that I've got some of my plotting done.


Just finished reading: Wildest Dreams by Janice Maynard, LuAnn McLane, and Morgan Leigh

Thursday, August 9

Where Next?

I've been thinking a lot about my writing in the last few days. I feel like I'm itching to start writing something and get it out there into the ether, but I don't know what to do. I don't know what to write or where to send it, and I don't know how to envision the next one, two, or five years of my writing career. Perhaps I still have "baby brain"!

I seem to have lost a bit of enthusiasm for WISTERIA COTTAGE, although I still like the characters and story. I expect it might be because I got such a small way into the project and haven't done anything with it since. On the other hand, the idea I had for the Brava novella contest is nibbling at my heels, and I feel a little more excited about it each day. But I've decided I won't be entering the contest; I'm reading a Brava anthology at the moment to get a feel for their style and the steam level is a bit too spicy for me!

I guess I'll just ponder more and make a start on something. I think the most important thing is just to WRITE SOMETHING, and then I can decide where to send it once it's done. What do fellow writers think? Do you always have to have a target in mind when you start a new project? Or do you just write it and find that its most suitable home occurs to you once you're near (or at) The End?

And now to finish, here's a weird fact about Little Frog. You may remember that during my pregnancy I became obsessed with recording and watching many, many episodes of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. For those of you who've seen it, you'll probably know that the theme tune of the show is "Who Are You?" by The Who. Well, we have discovered that if we play the track in question then Little Frog, British rock-music aficionado that he apparently is, will actually FALL ASLEEP.


Just finished reading: Jessie's Child by Lois Faye Dyer

Sunday, August 5

Strange...

Little Frog went to stay with his grandma yesterday. The Bloke and I spent the evening on the sofa, chattering indecisively about whether to go to the cinema, or out for something to eat, or to Blockbuster, or somewhere else altogether. Our suggestions were interspersed with "I wonder if he's had his feed yet" or "How many times do you think he'll wake up in the night?" The Bloke kept bringing out the digital camera to look at photos of Froglet and every time he turned it in my direction I covered my eyes and squealed "I can't look at them!" We phoned Grandma three times and were in bed by half-past ten.

There is a kitchen to clean, laundry to do, paperwork to be filed, shopping to buy, carpets to vacuum and clothes to be ironed, and yet I somehow feel at a loss for things to do. Must keep busy until five p.m. this afternoon, when he comes home...

Friday, August 3

Not So Little Frog

He had his six-week check yesterday, and my little chubba now weighs 10 pound 7 ounces! I thought it sounded like a lot -- three whole pounds since he was weighed last -- but he's right on target. Everything is fine with both of us and he's doing more each week: the smiles have started and he's starting to do the coo-ing and aah-ing :)

It's also time to announce the winner of my mini-contest. My favourite caption was actually from Laura Hamby, but as I know for a fact that you've read A TASTE OF SUMMER, Laura, I'll send you some lovely English chocolate instead :) Just email me your address and I'll get something yummy in the post to you. The winner, therefore, of a PDF e-copy of the book is Ray-Anne -- congratulations! Let me know your email address through the Contact Me page of my website (the link is on the right) and I'll get your prize to you.

Friday, July 27

Scribblings

It's been a lovely day today, with the unexpected return of some sunshine and blue skies in my corner of the world after days of incessant greyness and rain. Little Frog, Popple the dog and I went for a lovely walk this morning. I'm hoping that summer might finally be here.

I've had some great entries for my mini-contest, where you could win an e-copy of A TASTE OF SUMMER. Click here for more details, and keep the captions coming!

I still haven't resumed any actual writing yet, but I've had my thinking cap on today while I ponder some new characters and their possible story. I'm hoping that this could possibly be an entry for the Brava Novella Contest, so watch this space.

Oh, and here's a new picture of Little Frog: one of my favourites. All I can think of when I look at it is "my cup runneth over".




Just finished reading: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling

Thursday, July 19

Virtual Beach Party

Dropping in while Little Frog is having his lunchtime nap to say that my publisher, Moonlit Romance, will be holding a virtual summer beach party on the Moonlit readers group next Monday, 23 July, to celebrate the release of the Beach Party Duet books (A TASTE OF SUMMER was the first in the trio, the other books are A HINT OF SUMMER and A SLICE OF SUMMER). The event will last all day and you can join the readers group by clicking here.

Come along and enjoy excerpts and special insider info on each of the stories and their authors. A copy of each book will be given away during the party, and all you have to do to be eligible to win is to post a message. There will also have a beach-themed Round Robin contest (where each person contributes to a story). Each participant will be entered into a drawing for a genuine quartz half-moon pendant.

So why not join us? And don't forget to enter my mini-contest, open until the end of the month, by visiting my previous blog post.

Tuesday, July 10

Normal Service Somewhat Resumed

What's this? A writing-related post on Jessica Raymond's blog?? :)

Well, a little bit. There is, of course, room to mention that Little Frog is doing very well and "chubbing out" in all the right places. (Dimpled elbows and dimpled knees -- love 'em.) He's getting very good at holding his head up for brief periods of time and is already fitting into clothes that were too big for him two weeks ago. The Contented Little Baby routine has gone out the window a little bit, because Little Frog seemed to hit his first growth spurt a couple of days after we'd started and all his feedings went haywire. The book was good to get an idea of the sort of day a baby could have, and in that way it's helped us find our own routine, but I'm not really reading it any more.

Back to the writing-related subject, and I'm pleased to share with you the first two reviews of A TASTE OF SUMMER, both of which are wonderfully complimentary. Review number one is from Maura at Coffee Time Romance. She gave the book 4 coffee cups, which means "outstanding great read ... you would like to keep to read again in the future". Among other things, she said:

[One Shore Thing] is a very upbeat and entertaining romance ... and the development of [Noah and Carrie's] romance is very well written.

You can read Maura's review in full by clicking here.

The second review is from Robyn at Once Upon a Romance. She also rated the book 4 out of 5, which means "excellent -- definitely worth reading". Here's a preview of her lovely comments:

A truly sweet romance awaits the reader. Carrie ... brings out the mother bear instinct in the reader. Noah is one of the genuine nice guys that we all hope to meet ... and what a bonus that he’s good looking, too. A Taste of Summer is ... something perfect for the dog days of summer.

You can read Robyn's review in full by clicking here.

In honour of these two lovely reviews, I've decided to run a little contest. All you have to do is look at the following photo, modelled by Little Frog, and think up a funny caption to go with it. Leave your caption as a comment on this post and on 1st August I'll pick my favourite. The winner will receive an e-book copy of A TASTE OF SUMMER. One entry per person, please. Good luck!





Just finished reading: The Villa by Nora Roberts

Monday, July 2

A Fortnight With Little Frog

Charlie is over two weeks old now, which is hard to believe. Before we know it, he'll be a month old! We've started to try to establish a routine of feeds and sleeps based on Gina Ford's Contented Little Baby philosophy. Some days are better than others. For instance, today he woke at 8am and fed with me for an hour, after which he was supposed to nap for a little while before his next feed. He refused to doze off and then he was hungry again, and before I knew it, it was midday. He's finally asleep again now, but swaddled in a muslin on my lap because he's cried every time I've put him in his moses basket. So it's not going to plan today at all, but then he is still only a wee newborn. (PS: Any tips and advice will be gratefully received!)

He has a nickname now: Little Frog. Whenever he goes on his changing mat for nappy check or top-and-tailing, or when he first goes in the bath, he flings his arms and legs out at 45-degree angles and wobbles them about like a mini amphibian. He's such a cutie. Here he is after his bath last night:



No idea when I might write again. The first full day of trying out the routine went swimmingly and I had a straight two-and-a-half hours to myself while he had his lunchtime nap; this gave me visions of maybe being able to start fiddling with WISTERIA COTTAGE in just a couple of weeks' time. But today that seems a long way away! I did manage to read a little bit while I fed him this morning, though, which was really nice.

Anyway, thank you to everybody who has sent messages and emails to welcome Charlie, and thanks to Judy Jarvie, Sue aka Ms Creativity, Nell Dixon, Michelle Styles, Biddy Coady, Laura Hamby, Lis, Julie Cohen, Anna Louise Lucia, Phillipa Ashley, Liz Fenwick, Sheila Holloway, Cindy K. Green, MG Braden, Chris H, Jan Jones, Sheila Riley, Kate Hardy, Fiona Harper, and Nicola Marsh for leaving such lovely congratulatory comments on the previous post.

Monday, June 18

Welcome to the World, Little Flump!


Introducing Charlie Malcolm, born at 5.37pm on Saturday 16 June safely at home and at a healthy weight of 7lb 11oz. Labour was monitored at 13 hours.

I cannot recommend a homebirth enough for women with a good support network and a healthy pregnancy. I felt calm throughout the entire process and got through it using a TENS machine for one hour while waiting for the midwife to arrive, then by getting into my heaven-sent birth pool and going on the gas-and-air when things got more intense. I doubt the birth would have been the same had I not been in my own environment.

God bless my Bloke, my sister, my two fantastic midwives, my birth pool, the gas-and-air, and Charlie for being more than worth the whole experience (including the half an hour of late-stage contractions I got through without gas-and-air because the second canister had run out and the second midwife was still zipping round the local clinics trying to get more...).

Charlie's birthday featured a range of weather from heavy rain to bright sunshine to thunder and lightning to a shining rainbow right after he was born. It also coincided with the Trooping the Colour at Buckingham Palace to celebrate the Queen's official birthday; while I was labouring in the pool in the afternoon there was an almighty roar outside as the Red Arrows flew over our house on their way back from the ceremonial fly-past.

Thursday, June 14

Judy Wins the Baby Race!

If you haven't already seen it, check out Judy Jarvie's blog for the birth announcement posted by her hubby last night! Sounds like Judy was an absolute trooper. Many, many congratulations to her, hubby, her DD and their new little baby girl, Esme Kate! :) :)

Flump: "Meh. I'm still happy where I am for now. Stop pestering me."

Yesterday I finished the first chapter of WISTERIA COTTAGE, which I'm very pleased about. It will require much polishing and editing whenever I manage to reach The End and go back to the beginning for the second draft, but I still have this great sense of accomplishment. I'm not sure why... I mean, I've had three works published now and am therefore gradually losing my "newbie" shine, so finishing a chapter is nothing new for me, but this one feels a little bit different. Maybe it's because I thought I wouldn't even start writing the book before Flump's birth, or maybe it's because once I had started it, I didn't expect to get very far with a mind that's so full of other life-changing thoughts. Or maybe it's because WISTERIA COTTAGE is different. I have plans for this book -- a publisher (and line) in mind, and even two more connected books if all goes to plan.

Either way, I feel good :)

Wednesday, June 13

Thought for the Day

Having your feet massaged while heavily pregnant = BLISS.


Just finished reading: The Dating Game by Shirley Jump

Monday, June 11

Contest Reminder

There's one week left to enter the contest that myself and Nell Dixon are running to celebrate our recent release, A TASTE OF SUMMER. Here are the details --

Prizes:
  • A paperback copy of A TASTE OF SUMMER, signed by myself and Nell
  • A paperback copy of FALL IN LOVE: AN ANTHOLOGY, signed by Nell
  • Inflatable pink beach ball (suitable for ages 1+) and a frisbee for beach fun
  • Alba Organics SPF30 green tea sunscreen
  • 400g Cornish cream fudge assortment box (coffee, chocolate, vanilla, rum & raisin flavours) fresh from The Buttermilk Fudge Shop in Padstow, Cornwall
  • Assorted Jessica Raymond goodies, including jotter pad, pens, post-it notes, fridge magnets and bookmarks
  • Assorted Nell Dixon goodies, including pens, cards, and fridge magnets,
How to Enter:

Just answer this easy question:

What is the name of the fish-and-chip shop where Carrie and Noah are due to meet for dinner? (click here for a hint)

Email your answer along with your name, mailing address and email address to helen@nelldixon.com to enter the prize pool. Gain an extra entry by going to Nell's website and answering her question, too.

Contest ends 18 June 2007 and worldwide entries are welcome. Good luck!


Just finished reading: Northern Lights by Nora Roberts

Sunday, June 10

No News Yet

Flump is still in utero and I have a week and one day to go to our predicted due date. My raspberry tea bags are disappearing at a rate of knots and every night when we go to bed I think to myself "maybe this time tomorrow it will all be over and the baby will be here", but baby is obviously still quite comfortable! Good news though -- when my midwife came round on Friday to drop off two gas-and-air canisters she confirmed that Flump is now just one stage away from being fully engaged. Today I have some mild on/off lower backache, so maybe that could be the start of something...

Yesterday I wrote another six pages of the first chapter of WISTERIA COTTAGE and with some luck I might finish it off later this afternoon. That's if I haven't melted by then. Even though I'm wafting around in a big, loose Gap shirt-dress made of white cotton with every window open and the fan running, I still feel sticky. It would be nice to sit around in my maternity bikini, but oh, the horror... Maybe I'll get The Bloke to set up my birth pool this evening so that I can just wallow in cool water for the foreseeable future.

Thursday, June 7

Desperate Housewife

Do you think ironing counts as a nesting activity?



I only ask because I've done more ironing in the last ten days than I have in the last two years!

I've always hated ironing and thought of it as a very boring activity that I'd much rather swap for cleaning the toilet. Truly.

But recently I've been pressing and steaming away, mainly for a lack of other things to do. It's quite tedious sitting at home and waiting for Flump to get moving. There's only so much walking I can do each day and I'm loathe to go to the shops because (a) sitting in a driving seat is too uncomfortable; and (b) I don't want to spend unnecessary money. So I've been ironing almost anything I can get my hands on while simultaneously watching episodes of CSI that I've stored up in our Sky Plus planner. It's been quite soothing. But what scares me most is...

...I've actually been enjoying it.

Am I normal? Or has pregnancy turned me into a happy little 1950s housewife?


Just finished reading: The Laws of Attraction by Sherryl Woods

Tuesday, June 5

Good Deeds

I'm pleased to say that my "Taste of England" gift box from Brenda Novak's diabetes auction sold to its winning bidder for a brilliant USD $96. It's great to have helped raise money towards diabetes research; I won a couple of cool auctions myself. I love waiting for the items to turn up in the mail -- I won a couple of gift baskets in last year's auctions and it was great fun to rip open the big cardboard boxes and unpack signed books and American chocolate which is very hard to come by over here in the UK! The total amount raised this year was an astounding USD $141,700.

Also in the strain of doing good deeds, today I came across the Cool Earth initiative. This is a charity that combats global warming, protects ecosystems and provides sustainable jobs for local people by selling plots of the Brazilian rainforest in acre and half-acre measures that would otherwise be razed by loggers. Plots can be "bought" for as little as £35 in order to protect them, and you can pick a certain area of rainforest and have updates and pictures sent to you to keep track of your patch. I'm thinking of buying an acre in Flump's name. You can find out more about Cool Earth by clicking here.


Just finished reading: Birthright by Nora Roberts

Sunday, June 3

A Wonderful Weekend

The sun has been shining, the birds have been singing, my plants and flowers are flourishing, etc... I've spent virtually the whole weekend in the garden, sitting underneath a parasol on the deck with my laptop, a cold drink, and a Nora Roberts book (yep, another one). Yesterday I caught up with one of my friends, who is also pregnant and whom I hadn't seen since Christmas. Last night The Bloke and I had a little barbecue and sat outside to eat yummy chicken wings and salad with candles for company.

I've been noting down some ideas I've had for a novella which I'm considering for entry in the Brava Novella Contest, and I've also read my latest edition of Romantic Times magazine from cover to cover and added some new books on to my Amazon wish list (as if it needs to be expanded any further...).

I've also finally started writing WISTERIA COTTAGE (see word counter, to the right) and am now six pages into the first chapter and loving it so far! I don't know how steady my progress will be with this book, especially once Flump has decided that he/she is ready to grace us with his/her presence, but it's nice to have started a new book -- especially one whose characters I love, whose setting is beautiful, whose plot I'm very excited about and whose deadline is down to my choosing :)

How's your weekend been?

Friday, June 1

Congratulations Pip!

I'm thrilled to tell you (if you don't already know from other blogs) that one of my personal picks for the RNA New Writers' Award, Phillipa Ashley, was named the winner on Wednesday night for her wonderful Little Black Dress book Decent Exposure. Congratulations, Pip! Not only will she be over the moon with her win, but her second book with Little Black Dress, Wish You Were Here, is out this month. My copy's been sitting on my Amazon wish-list for some time, and I'm really looking forward to reading it.

The judges said some lovely things about my book, HAUNTED HEARTS. Here are their comments:

We really fell for Sam and his struggles with the violence in his past. We also loved the heartwarming, open-minded heroine and her problem-solving approach to life. In the best gothic tradition, there is a delicious haunted house, which is pivotal to the plot. You know there's Something Going On right from the path to the front door, although once inside the atmosphere builds with satisfactory slowness. Oh, and we loved the cat!

I received a lovely certificate and prize from the award sponsor, Dr David Hessayon, and a beautiful bunch of pink and cream roses from the RNA. I get the warm fuzzies every time I read the judges' comments and I'm already planning to frame my certificate and put it up in the entrance hall where everybody will see it :)

In other cool news, I saw the midwife this morning and Flump has started to engage him-/herself -- hurrah!

Wednesday, May 30

Award Season

This evening the Romantic Novelists' Association will be holding their annual Summer Party in a very lovely library in Westminster, London (see this post for pics from last year's event). One of the main events of the party will be the announcement of the winner of this year's Joan Hessayon New Writers' Award. You may remember my proud announcement a few weeks ago that my novel, Haunted Hearts, is on the shortlist for this prize.

Unfortunately I won't be attending the party; I'm more uncomfortable by the day as we wait for Flump to enter the world, and I'm quite wary of going too far from home in these final days in case something happens. I will be sad to miss the party, the announcement of the winner, and the chance to catch up in person with many of my friends from the RNA and online.

The shortlist of contenders for the award is as follows:
It would, of course, be hugely exciting if Haunted Hearts is declared the winner, but I'm up against some very strong competition! If my book doesn't win, I dearly hope that somebody I "know" from online wins instead -- so my support is behind Phillipa Ashley, Judy Jarvie, and Anna Louise Lucia.

I'll be online first thing tomorrow morning looking for pictures, gossip, and reports from the do!

Monday, May 28

A Couple of Reminders

There are three days left to place bids in Brenda Novak's Diabetes Auctions: most of the lots close this coming Thursday, 31st May. I'm thrilled to say that my Taste of England gift box has received an astounding 26 bids and currently stands at $96 USD! Click here if you'd like to consider bidding on my donation, and I highly recommend that you take a look around at the other items while you're there. Once they're gone, they're gone!

Also, there are still three weeks left to enter the brand new contest that Nell Dixon and I are running to celebrate the recent release of our summery romance duet book, A Taste of Summer. Do you like fudge? Reading? Sunbathing? Then our lovely collection of prizes will be right up your street! Click here for your chance to win.

I've been doing quite a lot of work on my plans for Wisteria Cottage in the last few days, and yesterday I did at least two hours' worth of work and research. I wasn't going to force myself to start writing the first chapter before Flump's arrival, because I thought that a finished plan file and a nice blank "Chapter One" waiting on my laptop would be a nice starting-point once I've established some sort of routine with the baby and feel ready to write again. But I actually feel virtually ready to start writing now, and seeing as I have three weeks to go until my due date (but am full-term today!), I still have some time to fill.

Maybe that word counter will start creeping up some time soon :)


Just finished reading: Driving Him Wild by Julie Cohen

Saturday, May 26

A Countdown to Flump...?

Big Brother is due to start here in the UK next Wednesday, May 30th. They start advertising it ten days before the launch night, and right now there are little countdown-style adverts sprinkled among the commercial breaks on the network channel the show will be broadcast on. See here for yesterday's advert:



Now, it's probably just me being weird, but every time I've seen one of these adverts -- starting from the "ten days" version -- I've had this weird feeling that somehow it's a countdown to Flump's arrival. One of our friends has already bet that the baby will arrive on May 30th (and also that it will be a boy), so they'll be in the money if it turns out to be true.

But will it? Am I just being suckered in and brainwashed by advertising (and how ironic that such a thing should happen as a result of viewing advertising for a show called Big Brother)? If I'm right, will this post get comments like "spooky!" after the event, or will I be wrong and blog again next Thursday to assure you all that Flump is, in fact, still in utero?

I guess we can only wait and see...


Just finished reading: Angels Fall by Nora Roberts

Thursday, May 24

Pucker Up

One of the great online romance sites, eCataRomance, is posting a brand-new smooch excerpt (a kiss scene from a romance novel) every day in May. I'm pleased to say that I am the author of today's smooch!

You can read this exclusive little scene of mine from A Taste of Summer, in which Noah and Carrie kiss for the first time, by clicking here.


Just finished reading: The Marriage Contract by Anna Adams

Wednesday, May 23

Turning the Pages

Not long to go now, as you can see from the Flump's Progress ticker above. My due date was one calendar month last Friday (the 18th) and Flump will be full-term as of this Monday coming (the 28th).

Everything is ready now. Nursery is painted and furniture set up. Flump clothes are washed, folded and put away. Birth pool has been inflated, filled, tried out by me, then emptied and deflated again. Drinks and snacks for labour (as well as choccy biscuits for midwives and birth companions) are sitting in a bag in the kitchen. Birth plan has been finalised and copies printed. All we need now is for the little one him-/herself to arrive -- but not before next Monday!

Recently I've been taking full advantage of "me" time while I still have it. I've been having nice long baths and reading lots of books, because I expect I won't be able to do either of those things for quite a while -- I'll miss them! I'm almost getting through a book a day at the moment, which is doing wonderful things for my TBR shelves :)

What are you reading at the moment?


Just finished reading: House of Many Shadows by Barbara Michaels

Sunday, May 20

Excerpt from ONE SHORE THING

I just realized that I'd promised to post an excerpt on Friday, yet I completely forgot! I blame Flump hormones.

So here's an excerpt from "One Shore Thing", the novella of mine that comprises one half of A Taste of Summer. You can also read an excerpt from Nell's novella, "Making Waves", over on her website. I've also put up a permanent link to the buy the book over there to the right, on my sidebar.

Enjoy!

At closing time Carrie went out to the back-room and collected the shopping bags she’d acquired at lunchtime. It was about time Carolyn-Ann Vaughan disappeared altogether and that required a few changes, the means for which were inside those bags. Noah set the alarm and locked the door, and they walked down Cove Street together toward the soft whisper of the surf.

“How did you find your first day? Think you’ll stay?”


Carrie looked up at Noah’s smiling face. As they exited the cobbled lane on to the main road sunlight struck them. It burnished Noah’s dark blond hair, making some strands appear lighter than others.


“I loved it and I’d definitely like to stay. That’s if you’ll have me, of course.”


He bumped his upper arm against her shoulder. “Yeah, I think you’ll do.”


She laughed and for a few moments they walked along to the simple soundtrack of the surf washing the sand below them and the cries of the seagulls that soared overhead. A strand of hair loosened from Carrie’s ponytail and drifted across her nose.


“Do you, uh, have any plans for dinner?” Noah’s hands were buried in the pockets of his cargo trousers and he gazed studiously at the sea as if to emphasize the breeziness of his question.


“Not particularly. The last couple of days I’ve just thrown together a salad.”


“Salad? That’s not a proper dinner! Tell you what, because you did such a fabulous job today, I’ll treat you to fish and chips. Atlantic Fresh, the bar down the promenade, only uses fish that has been caught that day and you cannot beat the taste. It’s nothing like what you would have had in London, believe me.”


She looked up at him and smiled. “All right, you’re on. That sounds miles better than lettuce and tomato. But I have to be somewhere in—” she glanced at her watch “—ten minutes and then I have a couple of things to do at home. Shall I meet you in Atlantic Fresh at, say, half-past seven?”


Noah nodded. “Perfect. See you then, Carrie.”


She waved as he left the promenade to walk up the hill.


In another five minutes’ walk along the seafront, Carrie reached her destination: Tresses on the Breeze hair salon. The door was open and delicious smells of coconutty cleanliness wafted out on to the pavement.


She gave her name at the desk and barely had time to open a magazine before someone sat down next to her.


“It’s Carrie, isn’t it?” A tanned young woman held out a hand, her wrist ringed with beaded bracelets.


A cautious jolt shot through Carrie. “Um, yes.” She shook the woman’s hand.


“I’m Vanya, your stylist. What can I do for you today?” She indicated that Carrie take her hair out of its ponytail.


Relief sighed through Carrie when she realized that she hadn’t been recognized. She released her hair and turned away slightly so Vanya could look at it. “Actually, I’m looking to make quite a change…”

Just finished reading: What's Cooking? by Sherryl Woods

Friday, May 18

A Taste of Summer: AVAILABLE NOW!

A Taste of Summer is now available to order from the Moonlit Romance website -- yay! Here's the back-cover blurb to whet your appetite:

A Taste of Summer: A Moonlit Romance Beach Duet
featuring "Making Waves" by Nell Dixon and "One Shore Thing" by Jessica Raymond

Making Waves
by Nell Dixon

Cassidy Jones needs a holiday and her friend, Tammy’s cottage in New Bay sounds perfect. The beach could heal the bruises from losing her job and her fiancé. Josh Parker is also looking forward to a much needed break after eighteen months of non-stop work. His friend Tammy’s cottage would be just right for some time alone. Or would it...?

One Shore Thing by Jessica Raymond

Desperate to escape London, Carrie Vaughan heads for the Cornish coastal town of New Bay. Noah Trevanion needs an assistant in his deli shop. He is delighted when Carrie walks through the door. Soon, their relationship becomes something special. But even in New Bay, where the sun shines and the sea whispers, could Carrie's past catch up with her?

You can order your own paperback copy for $8.81 (approx. £4.50) or download it as an e-book in either HTML, PDF, or Mobipocket versions for $2.00 (approx. £1.00). Click here to buy!

I'm also pleased to announce that my new contest begins today.

You could win:
  • A paperback copy of A Taste of Summer, signed by myself and Nell
  • A paperback copy of Fall in Love: An Anthology, signed by Nell
  • Inflatable pink beach ball (suitable for ages 1+) and a frisbee for beach fun
  • SPF30 green tea sunscreen from Alba Organics
  • 400g Cornish cream fudge assortment box (coffee, chocolate, vanilla, rum & raisin) from The Buttermilk Fudge Shop in Padstow, Cornwall
  • Assorted Jessica Raymond goodies, including jotter pad, pens, post-it notes, fridge magnets and bookmarks
  • Assorted Nell Dixon goodies, including pens, cards, fridge magnets etc.
To be in with a chance of winning all these great prizes, just answer this easy question:

What is the name of the fish-and-chip shop where Carrie and Noah are due to meet for dinner? (click here for a big hint)


Email your answer along with your name, mailing address and email address to helen@nelldixon.com to enter the prize pool. You can also gain an extra entry by going to Nell's website and answering her question!


Contest ends 18 June 2007 and worldwide entries are welcome. Good luck!

Wednesday, May 16

Worst Night's Sleep... Ever.

  • Dog barked for an hour.
  • I had to make two bathroom visits.
  • Hips went dead every twenty minutes because of sleeping on my side.
  • Turning on to other side with approximate 5-and-a-half pound baby inside = bump ache.
  • Pelvis clunks disconcertingly if movements too sudden.
  • One hour of Braxton-Hicks contractions.
  • Loud bird outside started dawn chorus at 4:10 a.m.
Tonight I'm going to try sleeping on the sofa. Apparently that can sometimes make these last few weeks a little easier. At least then I don't have to wake up The Bloke by getting up to go to the bathroom and if I have no luck sleeping I can switch on the TV, work on my laptop, or turn on a light and read.

On the up-side, the release of A Taste of Summer is now only two days away! On Friday I'll post an excerpt from my novella, "One Shore Thing", and links to buy the book. I'll also be announcing news of an exciting contest that I'll be running in collaboration with my fellow author Nell Dixon, so make sure you check back for that.


I also got some good work done on my plans for Wisteria Cottage yesterday. I may even be ready to start writing the first chapter soon, which will be a really good distraction for me. I have my hero and heroine models in mind now. Regular readers of my blog may not be surprised by my hero choice, but what can I say? I had no choice. He MADE me pick him.





Just finished reading: The Carriage House by Carla Neggers

Saturday, May 12

Eight Things About Me

I've been tagged by Lis to do the "Eight Things About Me" list. Here are the rules:

  1. Each player starts with eight random facts or habits about themselves.
  2. People who are tagged need to write on their own blog about their eight things with a copy of these rules.
  3. At the end of your blog you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
  4. Don't forget to leave them a note saying they've been tagged.
Hmm, not sure I'll be able to tag eight other bloggers, as most people seem to have done this list already! And I make no excuses for the fact that my "Eight Things..." list is baby-focused. I can't think of much else at the moment.

  1. As I write this, Flump has a case of the hiccups. He/she gets them at least twice a day. It's not particularly uncomfortable, just a bit weird -- like having an extra little heartbeat that you can feel in the bottom of your stomach.
  2. I have three separate checklists of "Things I Need For Labour/Birth". One is a list of things for the homebirth (e.g. towels, birth-pool), one is a list of things for the hospital bag in case we need to transfer in (e.g. dressing gown, babygros for Flump), and the other is a "cross-over" list of things that will be in use for the homebirth but which will need to be packed into the hospital bag if we transfer (e.g. my aromatherapy stuff and facial spray).
  3. I must have drunk enough milk to fill Lake Windermere during this pregnancy.
  4. We don't know whether Flump will be a boy or a girl, but we have names chosen and ready for both. It's weird to think that one of those choices will become so familiar to us, and yet now we don't even know who that little person is...
  5. Flump's already head-down, but isn't engaged yet. Apparently this tends to happen about two weeks before labour in first-time mothers (but there are no guarantees).
  6. I try to make a little time each day, or every other day at least, to listen to my CD of Relaxing Birth Music while lying down with my eyes closed. There is one track in the middle that always makes me tearful because whenever it starts I picture us holding Flump and saying hello to him/her.
  7. I've never loved pillows and cushions as much as I have while being pregnant.
  8. For a long, long time I only had two ambitions for life -- to be published and to have a family. I've already accomplished one, and in just a few weeks' time I will have achieved the second. Not bad for twenty-six years of age ;)
I've taken a quick skip around the blogs to try and find some people who haven't done this list yet, so I hereby tag: Liz, Sue, and Phillipa (when she's back from her hols).


Just finished reading: The Daddy's Promise by Shirley Jump

Wednesday, May 9

A Taste of Summer

An exciting post today -- the cover for my next book, A Taste of Summer, has been released!



Isn't it lovely? The book features two summery novellas, one by me and one by my (ahem, award-winning) critique partner and Moonlit Romance labelmate Nell Dixon. Following is a little taster on each of our stories; mine is called "One Shore Thing" and Nell's is called "Making Waves".

"One Shore Thing" by Jessica Raymond

Desperate to escape the seemingly never-ending repercussions of her failed marriage, Carrie Vaughan abandons London for the Cornish coastal town of New Bay. She finds a small apartment with sea views and the perfect job as a delicatessen assistant and life, for the first time in a while, begins to look rosy again.


Noah Trevanion, fourth-generation Cornishman, has only ever worked in one place: Cove Street Deli. He's also been the sole employee since his parents left him the business. Having finally decided to get an assistant, he is delighted when it is Carrie who walks through the door, job advertisement in hand.


The two quickly become friends as Noah teaches Carrie the arts of bread-baking, ham-slicing, and cheese-cutting, and soon it is clear that their relationship could easily be something more. Together it seems they are the perfect fit, able to help each other realize a future filled with laughter and happiness. But even in placid, picturesque New Bay, where the sun shines and the sea whispers, could it be that Carrie's past is about to catch up with her...?


"Making Waves" by Nell Dixon

Cassidy Jones needs a holiday and the free loan of her friend Tammy’s cottage in the small surf town of New Bay sounds perfect. Battered and bruised from losing her job and her fiancé, Cassidy’s looking forward to some time alone to regroup and recover her confidence.

Josh Parker is also looking forward to a much-needed break. Since he set up his online consultancy business eighteen months earlier he hasn’t taken a holiday. His friend Tammy’s cottage will be an ideal venue for much needed R-and-R.

The fly in the suncream? Tammy forgot to tell Cassidy and Josh they would have to share.

The book is due to be released next Friday, May 18th, and I'll post up links to purchase along with news of an exciting celebratory contest soon.


Just finished reading: Sanctuary by Nora Roberts

Thursday, May 3

It's Getting Real...

...this baby business. I'm 33 and a half weeks pregnant now. Babies are classified as being "term" (on time) any time from 37 to 42 weeks, which means Flump could be here in just three and a half weeks' time. (Of course, he/she could arrive before then, but hopefully won't.)

I've written out my birth plan and gone through it with my birth companions (The Bloke and my sister) and also with my midwife, who says it's well thought-out and a very good care plan. My eco-friendly birth pool has also arrived, though we've yet to do the test-run of inflating it, filling it, and emptying it again.

Birth pool, you say? Yep. After a lot of thinking, talking, researching, and reading, we've opted to have a home birth. Nobody in their right mind is a fan of hospitals, let's be honest, but I've had panic attacks in the past for various reasons and being stuck in hospital is one thing I really don't fancy. Funnily enough, the more information I read about home births, including stories and accounts of women who've been there and got the T-shirt, the calmer I began to feel about impending labour; I even started to feel a little excited about it all. Wouldn't it be nicer to go through it all in your own surroundings, with your own things, and be tucked up in your own bed with a cup of tea, a slice of toast, and your baby just a couple of hours afterwards?

So that's the plan. And it means Flump really can't arrive until three and a half weeks from now, because home births are not allowed to take place outside of the 37-42 week period. So stay in there for now, little one. (And don't hurt Mummy too much when you do decide to come out...)

In Diabetes Auction news, my "Taste of England" gift basket has already had 21 bids and currently stands at $68 USD! Click here if you're interested in making a bid, and take a look around at the other fabulous items while you're there.

Tuesday, May 1

Go Bid!

Brenda Novak's stupendous auction in aid of diabetes research starts TODAY!

My gift basket is now live and ready to be bid on -- click here to see it. Be sure to take a good browse around all the other wonderful lots while you're there. I'm about to do the very same thing myself!

Friday, April 27

Nell Wins!!!

So I planned to blog today about how my lovely spanky new laptop has turned up -- they could have repaired my old one but I was offered a brand new replacement laptop for a reasonable fee, so I opted for that. However, there is now a more important announcement to make...

I'm thrilled to tell you that my critique partner, Nell Dixon, has won the RNA Romance Prize 2007 with her book Marrying Max! I don't know any more details yet (such as what the judges said) as I only just found out on a frantic mobile call from Nell, who's quite rightly celebrating at the awards luncheon at The Savoy in London.

Congratulations Nell!!!

Will boast about my shiny new widescreen Samsung with Windows Vista another day :)


Just finished reading: All He Ever Wanted by Allison Leigh

Wednesday, April 25

A Gift Box of English Treats

With less than a week to go to the start of Brenda Novak's annual diabetes auction, here's the full description and a photo of the English-themed gift box I'm donating. You'll be able to start bidding on my gift box (among many other fabulous prizes) from May 1st, at which time I'll post up a link to the auction. In the meantime, you can check out a list of the other fabulous items up for auction by clicking here.




My English-themed gift box contains:
  • An autographed copy of Fall in Love: An Anthology (pub. Sep 2006), which features my romantic Oxford-set novella “The Little Shop of Dreams”
  • An autographed copy of Haunted Hearts (pub. Oct 2006), my full-length romance set in a haunted house in an English village
  • An autographed copy of A Taste of Summer (pub. May 2007), a 2-in-1 beach-themed romance featuring my romantic novella “One Shore Thing” [Please note this book is not seen in the photo since its publication date will occur while the auction is in progress!]
  • A 125g box of Twinings English Breakfast teabags -- as supplied to The Queen!
  • A 250g box of Duchy Originals Organic Butterscotch Shortbread, produced by Prince Charles’ organic food company
  • A fabulously fragrant Laura Ashley “Crème Anglaise” votive candle (a creamy vanilla scent enhanced with subtle notes of caramel and cinnamon)
  • An all-natural handmade pocket notebook decorated with gold and silver skeleton leaves
  • Two packets of English Cottage Garden seeds. These delightful and well-balanced mixtures of quick-to-flower annuals bring all the nostalgia of an English yesteryear and are guaranteed to provide a welcome splash of colour for many weeks. Simply sow and forget! Each packet is sufficient for 2 square metres (20 square feet).
  • A selection of Jessica Raymond goodies, including bookmarks, fridge magnets, a jotter pad, and pens

The total value of the gift box is approximately $80 USD.

Friday, April 20

Top 100 Favourite Romances - UPDATE

Here's the latest update in my Top 100 Favourite Romances project. There have been some changes to the five books with the most votes, but I've got to say that number one is way out in front!

5. Born in Fire by Nora Roberts (new entry)
4. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers (new entry)
3. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (up 2 places)
2. Persuasion by Jane Austen (non-mover)
1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (non-mover)

I'm still taking votes for the list and will continue to do so until May 16th (this means the voting period will have lasted two months). Everybody is welcome and encouraged to vote for their own personal favourite romance novels, and books from all subgenres of romance fiction are welcome. If you haven't yet voted, click here to go to my contact form and fill in your choice of titles. If you've already voted, please do spread the word about the project; I am still receiving nominations but they have slowed up a little and I really would like to make this list as comprehensive as possible.

In Flump news, we went for another scan this week to check on the bubba's growth rate. He/she is going great guns and has a current predicted weight of 3lb 9oz. On a less positive note, today I had to have a glucose tolerance test done -- bleurgh. The drink was gross and there was a lot more of it than I was expecting. Luckily I have had no indications of gestational diabetes in any of my previous tests, but I still had to have the tolerance test anyway because my dad was diabetic.

Speaking of diabetes, don't forget that Brenda Novak's Diabetes Auction launches on May 1st. My gift box is now ready to be bid on! Next week I'll post a picture of it and a description of the contents. Once the auction is live I'll place a permanent link to it on my side-bar.

In fruit-tree news, the cherry blossom is still blooming nicely and the apple tree now has lots of emerging peachy-pink buds :)


Just finished reading: Angels by Marian Keyes

Sunday, April 15

Cherry Blossom


Last spring I planted three fruit trees in my garden -- a Peregrine peach, a Sunburst sweet cherry, and a Worcester Pearmain apple. We didn't expect them to do much in their first year, and although none of them blossomed, the peach tree did produce a couple of small fruits.

A few weeks ago the peach tree started to sprout a few pink blossoms. Then, earlier this week, I saw one or two white buds on the cherry tree. A few days later, and the picture you see above is how it looks today. Isn't it pretty? The apple tree is also covered in green shoots so I'll have to see if we get any blossom on that too, and if so, what colour it will be.

On to another subject, and I realize I didn't do an update for the Top 100 Favourite Romances list this week. This is partly to do with the laptop troubles I've had. Once I've reloaded the database of current votes on to The Bloke's laptop and added in all the latest votes I'll post a new current Top Five -- hopefully in the next couple of days. I'm still taking nominations for the next couple of weeks, by the way!


Just finished reading: The Redemption of Matthew Quinn by Kathleen O'Brien

Friday, April 13

It Sleeps, It Squirms, It Sleeps, It Squirms...

The last twelve hours or so has been a time of great contrasts in the world of Flump. For the first time in a while he/she seemed to sleep for almost exactly as long as me, resulting in the best night's sleep I've had for a while :) I still woke up every time I had to move, so I could rearrange my pillow collection, but I got used to that a while ago. Prods and kicks, however, were at a minimum = slumberous bliss.

Since getting up this morning, though, Flump has been All. Over. The. Place. His/her current activity of choice is kicking (or punching) outwards all along the far right-hand side of my stomach, resulting in that tickly, jumpy sort of feeling you get when someone comes up behind you and pokes you in the waist with sharp fingers (but from the inside).

Yesterday I worked some more on my plans for Wisteria Cottage. I'm perfectly able to work on The Bloke's laptop using my CD-ROMs, but I've decided to take this opportunity to go "off piste" and work by hand. Subsequently I've started to fill an school-style exercise book with my notes. It's been really refreshing to work on a story through the medium of actual, physical writing for once! (My Laptop Update: It's being collected on Monday and I'm due to get a report on whether it will get fixed or replaced around Wednesday.)


Just finished reading: Black Rose by Nora Roberts

Wednesday, April 11

The Great Laptop Farm in the Sky

That may be where my little Packard Bell is headed. It had a bit of an accident yesterday and won't switch itself on. My claim's been put in and it's due to be picked up and looked at by the professionals any day now. In the meantime, I'm appropriating The Bloke's laptop to access my emails and work off CD-ROMs. Mercifully I do have all my stuff backed up and can still access all my emails (dating back to January, thanks to Google Mail), but I may get a bit behind on emailing people simply because I'm working directly from the web and not from all my little Outlook Express folders. So if you've contacted me lately, I apologize if there's a bit of a delay before I get back to you.

In other news, I've been working more on my plans for Wisteria Cottage and have a better idea of my hero and heroine and their stories. I'm also getting my gift box ready to go for Brenda Novak's Diabetes Auction. Keep checking back here for a picture of my donation and a description of the gift-box contents!

Saturday, April 7

Interview With the Writer

Flying by to say Happy Easter to everybody! Hope you all have a lovely holiday weekend and that the weather with you is as pleasant as it is with me.

Also, I was recently interviewed by the lovely Connie from Once Upon a Romance, and am pleased to say that my interview is now up on the site. Click here to read it!


Just finished reading: Blind-Date Marriage by Fiona Harper

Monday, April 2

What's Your Dream Writing-Space?

Last week I was contacted by a young woman called Emma Henry, a design student from a university in Belfast. Emma has been given the brief for a project in which she must design the interior of a cabin for a writer, which would be located in the back garden of the client's house. She's doing some research into the habits, inspirations, motivations, and environments (actual or dreamed-about) of writers and the spaces in which they write so she can design the perfect writer's cabin.

If you think you might have a little time to spare to answer a few questions for Emma, please let me know and I will forward your details on to her accordingly. Just leave a comment, email me if you have my address, or send a message through my website. Thanks!


Just finished reading: Paradise Fields by Katie Fforde

Saturday, March 31

"Haunted Hearts" = Award Contender

This is a piece of news I've known about for some time, but I have (mostly) sat on it until I could make a proper announcement -- and now I can!

As you may (or may not) remember, before I submitted Haunted Hearts to a publisher I sent it to the Romantic Novelists' Association's New Writers Scheme ("NWS") for a critique. This was an absolutely invaluable opportunity for me as a member of the RNA, and I can say fairly confidently that I don't think HH would have ever been published if it weren't for the critique report I received from the scheme.

Any manuscript that goes through the NWS and subsequently becomes contracted for publication becomes eligible for the distinguished Joan Hessayon New Writers Award. I am thrilled to announce that HH is one of this year's contenders! There is quite an extensive list of nominees (some of whom I know), made up of a wonderful mix of writers, books, and publishers. You can view the full list here. Congratulations to all!

The winner of the award will be announced at the RNA's Summer Party on 30th May. I'm hoping to attend but it's really quite close to my due date, so I'll have to wait and see.

In other news, I realized I should have provided an update for the Top 100 Favourite Romances yesterday, being that it was Friday. There's been a small shuffle in placings since last week, so I've annotated each placing a la the music charts :)

5. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (-1)
4. Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding (-1)
3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (new entry)
2. Persuasion by Jane Austen (non-mover)
1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (non-mover)

I'm planning on leaving voting open well into April -- possibly until the end of that month -- so please do continue to send in your nominations for the list. For more details on the aim of the project and how to get involved, click here.

Friday, March 30

Reasons Why I Can't Wait for Birth

  1. We will finally get to meet Flump and find out if we have a son or a daughter.
  2. To get the ever-looming spectre of labour out of the way.
  3. So that I can get a comfortable* night's sleep once again.
  4. I'll be able to put on foot-cream myself and won't have to ask The Bloke to do it for me.
  5. Because waiting for something to happen is one of my worst "things".

*Note that I say "comfortable", not "a good night's sleep" or "an uninterrupted sleep". I'm no fool.

Tuesday, March 27

Falling for Forensics

Now that I've agreed with myself to shelve You Don't Know Jack, I've been taking things a bit easier. I have a new idea that I'm currently exploring -- working title of which is Wisteria Cottage -- but other than that I've been reading, napping, catching up with paperwork, and watching many episodes of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

The seventh series of CSI has recently started here in the UK, on the Five channel, but I only watched it for the first time a few weeks ago. I, or should I say we, got hooked straightaway. The Bloke and I have watched the Miami and New York versions when there isn't anything else on, but for us, original Vegas is the best. We're also fortunate enough to have Sky Plus, and since both old and new episodes of CSI are playing on three different channels, we've series-linked all of them so that there's always a nice little bunch sitting in the planner for us to watch when there isn't anything else we fancy.

So, do you watch CSI? If so, which is your favourite team -- Las Vegas, Miami, or New York?


Just finished reading: Swept Away by Karen Templeton

Friday, March 23

Does My Flump Look Big In This?

A couple of weeks ago Judy Jarvie posted a picture of herself+bump on her blog at the 27-week stage of her pregnancy. I promised I'd do the same, and since you'll see from my "Flump's Progress" ticker bar at the top of the page, the time has come. So, here we are -- me, Flump, and Popple the devil-dog, who also wanted in on the action...


By the way, I know it looks like I'm consciously thrusting out my chest, Dolly Parton-style, but I'm really not -- I'm just throwing my shoulders back for posture's sake!

It's also Friday today, which means it's time for the first update in the Top 100 Favourite Romances nominations! In descending order, here are the current top five titles:

5. Katherine by Anya Seton
4. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
3. Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding
2. Persuasion by Jane Austen
1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Do you agree? Disagree? Want to have your say and get your favourite romances on to the list? Then click here to find out how you can contribute!