Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Stupid September

It's September. Or at least it will be in a few hours.

And I hate - oh how I loathe - September. I really, really despise it.

Why? Let me tell you.

1) It's usually the busiest month of the working year for me.

2) I have to do my tax return (cue much cat-hacks-a-hairball noises)

3) I have to reflect on my writing year and work out if I have anything worthwhile to send to the wonderful New Writers' Scheme through the RNA. This always gives me indigestion. And furballs.*

4) It's wet.

5) The garden is not a September garden

But all these things are mere bagatelle's, the smallest inconvenience, a blot, a jot, insignificant smidgen of distress compared to the supreme, governing I-Hate-September reason. They are a drop in the ocean. The toast crumb in the bed. The echoey public toilet in the bathroom of life.

Because the main reason I detest this month is:-

6) The spiders come indoors.

And they come in BIG.

No, no. That doesn't do it justice. They don't come in big. They come in HUMONGOUS. GINORMOUS.

Hey! Do an inkblot test on me! It's a spider. It's a spider. It's a spider. Oooh, it's a HUGE spider.

Here *points* is a normal spider. An arachnid. Eight legs. Little waving doohickies on the front. Too many eyes. Demeanour of furtive malice. About the size of, oh, a penny. Here little spider... keep my windows free from flies. Let us all coexist in a happy little world.....

Then there is the little-known sub-species of house spider native to my house. The OH MY GOD IT'S AGAINST THE LAWS OF NATURE IT'S STALKING ME MAKE IT STOP EEEEEEE EEEEEEEEE EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!! spider.

Right about now, in the bushes and walls, the fences and sheds, little bands of these pipe-cleaner-legged monsters are gathering together to pore over maps of my house with their silly frogspawn eyes. They're discussing tactics, firming up the rotas and choosing their access points. They're choosing their favourite methods of assault - will they go for the all favourite Lurking with Intent, the new Scurrying Very Fast Over The Carpet as favoured by the younger generation, or the ultimate Hiding In The Knickerbox an all-powerful offensive only spoken of in hushed tones, and only to be brought out at special occasions and holidays.

Like Christmas.

Lest you think I'm exagerating, let me relate to you two circumstances:

1) A spider once sat on the stairs and kept me upstairs all day. It was so big when I first saw it running over a step, I thought it was a MOUSE.

2) This conversation from last night.

Me: Can you remove a spider for me?
Husband: Where is it?
Me: Over the curtain.
Husband: Awww, it's only little.
Me: You're standing ten feet away.
Husband: (moving closer) Jesus!
Me: I told you.

It's September.

I'm so scared....

*Yes, I know. That's two references to hairballs, and I'm not even a cat. But my cats DO sleep in my mouth. Nuff said.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Lessons in Love 2

I'm sorry, I left you hanging rather there, didn't I?

We've got friends coming for dinner today and I've been busy cleaning and prepping. We're having fresh penne pasta with a spicy chorizo sauce, made with fresh tomatoes and basil, served with home made sweet pepper rolls and rocket salad. To follow we have mini strawberry pavlovas or tiramisu, all hand made, accompanied by organic, fair trade coffee. Husband has selected a couple of bottles of wine, and I'm looking forward to having a wonderful time. My whisking arm is trembling, but I had so much fun. I am SUCH a domestic goddess.

So. Where were we?

I was talking about the lessons I'm learning from writing. And about fear.

Typically, my mood had changed somewhat since I wrote the first half of this rambling thought train, and some of what I originally intended to say I think I'll edit.

But what am I afraid of?


At least, I'm afraid of writing, and I'm not.

Confused yet?

You see, when I'm not writing, I'm terrified of writing. When I'm writing I'm terrified of not writing. Sometimes, after an enforced break from the WIP, just opening the document can make me feel nauseous.

I'm worried that I might find it's crap. I'm panicked that I might find it's so good I'm convinced I can't match it. Worse than all of those, I'm strangled by the thought I might find a massive plot flaw.

And yet I'm never truly happy unless I'm actively writing.

You gotta laugh.

In TAKEN, Emily is constantly searching for the magic ingredient that's going to take away her fear. Is it freedom? Is it safe captivity? Is it solitude, company, another country? She looks for freedom from fear in other people, and consistently blames her fear on other people, too. The hero, Tristan, makes her feel safe, but that's an illusion, too. An unhealthy dependence.

And the thing is, I don't think that fear is going to go away by the end of the book. It's not going to disappear when they get together, it won't stop when they get married, it won't stop on their first anniversary. Emily's lesson is not about not being afraid, it's about not being ruled by fear, not letting it dominate and cripple your choices.

Emily's fear can't hurt her, if she lives her life in spite of it.

Then, someday, eventually, it won't disappear - it just won't matter any more. It won't have any power over her.

So I should probably get on with it, no?


PS - If I'm making tiramisu, I'm not writing. It's a direct correlation. Domestic Goddess and Writing are an either/or relationship, trust me.


UPDATE:- The tiramisu has survived, but one of the meringues has been designated a casualty of cooking. Don't tell.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Lessons in Love

One very important lesson that I am constantly learning and then forgetting is that there is always an emotional lesson in the book I am working on, that is an emotional lesson that I need to learn myself.

My subconcious is a tricky bastard, and almost always sows something into the internal conflicts of the protagonists that's for me to find, and educate myself with, when the book's nearly done.

When I wrote my first book, I was totally unprepared for it. Oh I knew, and was quite happy with, the fact that the heroine's "be true to yourself" mantra was something I needed to do, too. That was a nice, warm and squiggly lesson. Easy peasy.

What blindsided me was the fact that the hero's "if you're not the best, you're nothing" drive was also for me. Ouch. *embarassed cough* That one gave some sleepless nights, let me tell ya.

(I'm working on it. I try to say, "I give myself permission to fail" on a regular basis, but it usually comes out, "I give myself permission to fAAAAAAAAHAHAHAAughughughgughghhggaickckcckcc *hack* *hack*")

There was a lot that Hal (or Henry John Edwin Grays-Stratton, Lord Lowick, to give him his full title) had to tell me about myself, too, when he talked about walking a fine line between the person he was, and the person others expected of him. Again, not an uncommon lesson. Rachel's tendency to punish herself for being, well, herself, we will draw a veil over. I'm NOT admitting to that one.

In DANGEROUS LIES, it was all about Marianne. And her dreadful ineptness in social situations - completely unable to tell if someone was winding her up, laughing about her behind her back, befriending her for their own agenda. But I learned that lesson a good while ago, and although it takes a leap of faith, I trust that my friends actually WANT to be my friends. Heady stuff.

I suspect there's something I need to learn from Alan in that one, too, but I haven't found it yet. That story's due revisions. Maybe it'll pop up then.

*cracks knuckles*

And now we come to TAKEN (aka The Frenchman).

I think my subconscious has given up trying to be subtle. It's no longer about little, neat, character lessons or pains. It's transmogrified itself into the Big Theme.

Usually, in my books, the Big Theme is one word.

RUN AMONG THORNS (McWife) - Conscience
RESCUING RACHEL (Tequila) - Punishment
DANGEROUS LIES (Danglies) - Guilt

And.... *drum roll*

TAKEN (Frenchman) - Fear.


You know what? I'm going to make this two posts. I'll come back in a day or two and let you know what I'm afraid of.

It may take some time.

Any guesses?

Sometimes the world gets it right TWICE

Go see. Jaci's blog

And go back to Beth's blog to see the story of her sales.

Today, I'm taking a leisurely stroll around here. Still sick, but improving, I think.

With any luck, there might be one of these there. (scroll down, on right)

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Sometimes the world gets it right.

Oh you know what I mean. There are some authors whose success seems almost incomprehensible. You don't like their books, their attitude or their approach. But the accolades, the sales, the bestsellers just keep on rolling in.

You congratulate them, because, dammit, writing's hard work and that anyone succeeds is a good thing. You mean those congratulations, but the cheers come out between slightly clenched teeth.

We're only human.

Then there are the people you love, writing books that you enjoy more than some of the ones you buy in the bookstores. They plug away for years, and seem to get nowhere.

It's all wrong.

But sometimes, just sometimes, the world gets it right.

Someone has a big success and you love their writing, and would happily spend time in their company. They're clever, monstrously talented, hardworking, generous of spirit and darn good fun.

Is there anything better than that?

Go and congratulate Beth - she just sold two more books to Medallion, and three to HQN.

(Yes, I know this reads like a huge suck-up. Tough. I like it when good stuff happens to good people. Live with it. ;-) )

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Brit Films

Blatantly stole this from THISChristine, via Shannon. They're friends, it's okay.

Go ahead and filch it yourself - the idea is you bold the ones you've seen.... This should be good, I don't so much do 'classic' as 'popular' film to be honest.

1. The Third Man (1949)

2. Brief Encounter (1945) Soooooo British. But something in me wasn't quite comfortable.

3. Lawrence of Arabia (1962) Deserts, tribesmen, battles, wrestling with inner demons... what's not to like?

4. The 39 Steps (1935)

5. Great Expectations (1946)

6. Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) We own this. Too, too marvellous.

7. Kes (1969)

8. Don't Look Now (1973) Brilliant, spooky, sad film. Freaky woman in the red coat... *shudder*

9. The Red Shoes (1948)

10. Trainspotting (1996) Great film, but whatever they say, they did make it cool.

11. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) Nah. This is Husband's territory.

12. If... (1968)

13. The Ladykillers (1955) X said Truly excellent and I agree.

14. Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960)

15. Brighton Rock (1947)

16. Get Carter (1971)

17. The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)

18. Henry V (1944) Put it this way, after losing my video copy and whining for five years, Husband bought it for me on DVD. Also love the Brannagh version, for completely different reasons.

19. Chariots of Fire (1981) After the part of his life depicted in the film, Blokey-who-wouldn't-run-on-Sunday went on to be a Missionary in China, I think, smuggling food and medicines around the place on a bicycle. When the guards stopped him, he'd distract them with pictures of his children. Later, when it got too dangerous, his wife and family went to Canada. One night, his wife woke up to see a vision of him, telling her everything was going to be alright. Weeks later, she discovered he'd died that same night.

20. A Matter of Life and Death (1946) They don't make 'em like they used to...

21. The Long Good Friday (1980)

22. The Servant (1963)

23. Four Weddings And A Funeral (1994) Lovely, heart warming, clever, funny... I really love the secondary romances in this one, though.

24. Whisky Galore! (1949) My Dad's all time favourite...

25. The Full Monty (1997) Look, I know this movie's funny, but it's actually the social commentary and relationship stuff I love it for. Isn't that sad?

26. The Crying Game (1992) Never seen it, no ambition to.

27. Doctor Zhivago (1965) Why?

28. Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979) And there was great rejoicing.

29. Withnail and I (1987)

30. Gregory's Girl (1980)

31. Zulu (1964) I actually quite like it, but have to pretend I don't, since it's one of Husband's faves, and you can't let them have it all their own way...

32. Room at the Top (1958)

33. Alfie (1966)

34. Gandhi (1982) Seen it. Don't remember it.

35. The Lady Vanishes (1938)

36. The Italian Job (1969) It rules. You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors of...

37. Local Hero (1983) Oh yeah, I remember this one! Lovely.

38. The Commitments (1991) Utterly pointless, but fab fun.

39. A Fish Called Wanda (1988) Oh heaven. I fell in love with Kevin Kline in this one. We're going to see a trend, trust me.

40. Secrets & Lies (1995)

41. Dr. No (1962) Seen 'em all. Think they're all pretty good. And you know what? I think Pierce was better than Sean.

42. The Madness of King George (1994) It was supposed to be "The Madness of King George III" but the studio decided that US filmgoers wouldn't go and see it because they'd think it was the third in a series. I don't know what aspect of that is more depressing.

43. A Man For All Seasons (1966)

44. Black Narcissus (1947)

45. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) I know I've seen it, but damned if I can remember it.

46. Oliver Twist (1948)

47. I'm All Right Jack (1959)

48. Performance (1970)

49. Shakespeare in Love (1998) I always loathed Romeo and Juliet (bunch of spoilt brats - not a single character I didn't want to slap) but this movie made me 'get' it for the first time.

50. My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)

51. Tom Jones (1963)

52. 'This Sporting Life' (1963)

53. 'My Left Foot' (1989)

54. 'Brazil' (1985)

55. 'The English Patient (1996) Can't bear the 'someone I love is dying and no one will listen to me' motif. I have nightmares like that.

56. 'A Taste of Honey' (1961)

57. 'The Go-Between' (1970)

58. 'The Man in the White Suit' (1951) Wonderfully gentle.

59. 'The Ipcress File' (1965)

60. 'Blow-Up' (1966)

61. 'The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner' (1962)

62. 'Sense and Sensibility' (1995) I want to kill Marrianne, but that may just be a jealous lust for Colonel Brandon. Nah. It's her.

63. 'Passport to Pimlico' (1949) Fab. I have a friend who lives near Pimlico, and every time I go to visit, someone in my family will say, "don't forget your passport!". Yes. Okay.

64. 'The Remains of the Day (1993) Yes, good, but... TELL HER. JUST TELL HER.

65. 'Sunday, Bloody Sunday' (1971)

66. 'The Railway Children' (1970) I cry, every time.

67. 'Mona Lisa (1986)

68. 'The Dam Busters' (1955) Another one in the "I don't watch war films but I've seen it" category.

69. 'Hamlet" (1948) Interesting take on the 'get thee to a nunnery' thing.

70. 'Goldfinger' (1964)

71. 'Elizabeth' (1998) Oh, just perfect. And I speak as a huge fan of the mighty Gloriana. I am in complete awe of her intelligence and resourcefulness.

72. 'Goodbye, Mr. Chips' (1939)

73. 'A Room with a View' (1985) Oh, wow.

74. 'The Day of the Jackal' (1973) Sigh. This may have been the start of my lifelong fascination with the bad guys.

75. 'The Cruel Sea' (1952) Yup. Please don't make me watch any more war films. I've seen too many.

76. 'Billy Liar' (1963)

77. 'Oliver!' (1968) I love musicals, but this isn't one of my faves.

78. 'Peeping Tom' (1960)

79. 'Far From the Madding Crowd' (1967)

80. 'The Draughtsman's Contract' (1982)

81. 'A Clockwork Orange' (1971)

82. 'Distant Voices Still Lives' (1988)

83. 'Darling' (1965)

84. 'Educating Rita' (1983) Good

85. 'Brassed Off' (1996) Not yet, but I want to.

86. 'Genevieve' (1953) Dammit, I wanna see again!

87. 'Women In Love' (1969)

88. 'A Hard Day's Night' (1964) And why would I want to?

89. 'Fires Were Started' (1943)

90. 'Hope and Glory' (1987)

91. 'My Name Is Joe' (1998)

92. 'In Which We Serve' (1942) I watched LOADS of war movies with Dad and bro when I was young. Which is probably why I don't want to see them again. One exception: Ice Cold In Alex.

93. 'Caravaggio' (1986)

94. 'The Belles of St. Trinian's' (1954)

95. 'Life Is Sweet' (1990)

96. 'The Wicker Man' (1973) *shudder*

97. 'Nil by Mouth' (1997) I love Gary, but films with 'gritty' in the description are not my oevre.

98. 'Small Faces' (1995)

99. 'Carry On Up The Khyber' (1968) Worth it just for the dinner-and-assault scene at the end. "Oh deyah! I seem to have become a little plastered..."

100. 'The Killing Fields' (1984)

Well lookee there. Saw many more than I thought I had. IMO, lots of gaps, though. Ice Cold In Alex, for one.

Fear the Camera

I keep telling Husband that if he let me take ordinary, everyday photos, he wouldn't get caught on candid camera and revenged on the internet for failing to let me win an argument.

Fear the woman with the camera, dude.

... Posted by Picasa

(Thanks for the smiley cat, Bronwyn - I did indeed grin like a loon)

Monday, August 22, 2005

Make it stooooooop!

So, we're entering week four of The Sore Throat That Wouldn't Die.

Although I made it into work maybe three half days last week, Monday was a wash-out.

I went to the doctor. Again.

"You're sick, and eventually you'll get better." I paraphrase, but you get the point.

*sigh* He's right, of course. It's viral, and it's going to take it's own sweet time.

But doesn't this damn thing know I have a LIFE to LEAD?

*cue much hoarse screaming*

And for God's sake don't be sympathetic, or I'll snivel. Tell me jokes or something. Link to pictures of hot men. Rant about books you've read. But Please God, don't make me cry....

Friday, August 19, 2005


I should have realised the minute I came home. I should have got it straight away.

I should have got it from the way the cats sat looking at me, ever so slightly freaked out.

I should have got it from the darkness in the utility room and the silence in the kitchen.

I definitely should have got it from the way Husband's Grandad's clock ticked so smugly, and so loudly.

We have a powercut.

The automated robot-woman message on the electricity supplier's line says the power has been out since 12.30, and "should be restored at... as soon as possible."

Now, you're probaly clicking your tongue in sympathy and frowning in concern. No, no! Don't worry.

As soon as I did get it, a sense of illicit glee stole over me. I dumped the shopping that I couldn't put away in the freezer on the kitchen counter. I ignored the computer that wouldn't turn on anyway. I fed the cats by touch and memory in the darkened utility room. I poured a martini rosso and lemonade, plated a cream cake I treated myself to, and slipped outside with Beth's latest.

The birds are going crazy, bidding for the air while they have no competition. The cows are understandably voicing their concern at their non-milking milking machine. But that's it.

No TV. No radio. No hum of fridge and freezer, boiler and pump.

I'm sitting here in the front garden, writing this longhand for later, and I feel like a kid playing hooky.

Absolute bliss.

(Don't worry. The power's back on now.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


I have a card by my desk that I picked up in the goodies room during the RWA conference in New York in 2003.

It says, Worry is the misuse of the imagination.

Which is something of a handicap if you have a really good imagination, no?

I am a champion worrier. I mean, Worldclass. Worrying about being a worrier is really only the beginning. I am capable of finding whole new worlds of things to worry about. New ages of anxiety. New dioramas of disquiet. New fields of fret.

But remember that quote? If I'm a worldclass worrier, I also have a worldclass imagination.

It's about time I put it to its proper use. Because the only really effective way I've found to balance out that worry/imagination equation is to write.

I'll see you on the other side.

Moments of Lucidity

In the face of the mountains, not even all the Castles of the Cathar counted for freedom.

I'm not sure what it means, I don't even know if it'll make it to the final draft, but, hey, I like it.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Cumbria - Brace for Impact

I have a few really good friends that I don't see nearly often enough.

Here are some of them:-

... Posted by Picasa

From left to right me, Kate Walker (link to eHarlequin sponsored blog), Biddy Coady and Julie Cohen.

Happily, sometimes one or two of them make the Great Trek northwards to Cumbria to visit me. Today it's Biddy's turn. Yay!

The great tragedy is that I'm on antibiotics and can't drink.



And just to prove we're completely ready, here is a picture of the spare room, ready and waiting, with Minnie guarding Biddy's bed for her.

... Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

From the Mouth of Husband

Selected sayings from the first half hour of the day.

"I feel a bit down this morning. And it's all your fault! You never make me tea anymore." "But I offered you a cup of tea ten minutes ago, idiot." "Yeah, but you were just taunting me with what I couldn't have."

"Go to your room!"

"You haven't coughed yet this morning. Cough for me!"

"A cup of tea is for life, not just for breakfast."

Monday, August 08, 2005


Since my malfunctioning thyroid gland was zapped with radioactive substances - Back! Back, Evil Gland! ZZzzzzzzzapp! Aaaiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeee!!! - last year, I've been remarkably healthy. Shares in various pharmaceutical companies have suffered as a result.

In fact, Husband - he of the iron-clad constitution - has had more colds and sniffles than me.

It couldn't last.

So me and my pet sore throat (8 days and counting) are taking ourselves off to the docs today. Every time I go to the doctor I feel somehow guilty. It's worse than customs, I swear.

I'd rather scrub cat poop off the utility room floor.

No, wait! I have to do that AS WELL. Excellent.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Marianne Mancusi - appeal

Imagine you get home from a conference and your home and everything in it just... isn't there anymore.

I don't know Marianne, but I can - God help me - imagine how that feels.

Please go see the Literary Chicks to see how you can help.

Thank you.

The Awful Truth

Some time ago, I posted some pics of my office (which is also the second spare bedroom) and a couple of people commented on how organised and tidy I was.

Oh dear.

Today, I present the Awful Truth.

THIS is more usual for my office:-

I hang my head.... Posted by Picasa

In my defence, I can only say those are chocolate crumbs on that paper....

What can I say? Posted by Picasa

And that dirty plate had cheesecake on it.

There will be those among you asking, "how can she write in that mess?" I can't. This is what happens when you have a rush tax enquiry and need to send a new partial in the same week, and shortly afterwards get a sore throat.

And since, "I can't" is my certain answer, before I do any more writing, this PIGSTY is getting an overhaul.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


I'm a little behind the times with this, but see this and this.

Watch the blogosphere go boom.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Our neighbours think we're mad

Among the Incestuous Feline Tribe that is the farm cats behind our house, there is a scraggly eared, moth-eaten tabby who is a truly Evil Cat. He's Top Cat, behind most of the fights, jumpy, edgy and downright mean.

But the other day we found Evil Tabby nose-to-nose with our little Minnie Kitty in the front garden.... and he wasn't attacking her. In fact, he appeared rather bemused by her beauty.

So today, when we get back from work, I notice Evil Tabby sitting shyly on the coal bunker, under the elder tree. "Oooooh!" I exclaimed. "You lo-ove Min-nie! You lo-ove Min-nie!"

Without missing a beat, Husband came up behind me and chanted, "You luuuuuuve her... you luuuuuurve her."

Seconds later, we were standing on our front path, arms still full of work bags and shopping, dancing and singing, "you luuuuve her... you want to kiiiiiiss her...." at this mangy tabby tom. Evil Tabby was frozen on the coal bunker, manky eyes wide in horror, his claws making little panicky squeaking noises on the galvanised steel surface.

But I swear he was blushing underneath.

Our neighbours think we're mad.

They are COMPLETELY right.


Addendum:- Pippi kitty was driving me crazy trying to scratch her way into boxes in my office, so Husband bore her off to the catty play box in our bedroom. Distantly, I heard him talking to her.

"You want the box? You want the box? YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE BOX!!!"

"Was that funny, then?" he asked from the landing a moment later.

I'll answer him when I get my breath back.

Monday, August 01, 2005

And a close-up.... Posted by Picasa

By popular request, the "I didn't know the wind was blowing that hard, honest", incident Posted by Picasa

Scroll Down

So, yes, I realise far too late I should have done the photos in another order... just scroll down and follow the story from the bottom up, okay?

I could, of course, edit the posts to get them all together in one post, but I can't stand the thought of all the C&Ping. *shudder* Forgive me!

And sometime tomorrow I'll try and work out where my sidebar went.

Anyway, enjoy the pics.

But I did get there. A milkshake in the rain is my just reward. Posted by Picasa

The car's parked in that village down there. Posted by Picasa

...but don't look down. Posted by Picasa

... to some lovely views... Posted by Picasa

Emerging from the mists... Posted by Picasa

Trust me. This is NOT the path. Posted by Picasa

Then the cloud came down. Posted by Picasa

But it took its toll. (How brave am I, posting wildly unflattering photos?!) Posted by Picasa

... and I did. Posted by Picasa

I've got to get up there... Posted by Picasa

On the way up. Posted by Picasa


Sorry, didn't find time to wrestle 'Hello' for my photos - they'll come later.

In the meantime, I wanted to ask your help. I know my current heroine (snowed in with the Hero in the Pyrenees, lucky girl) is craving some sort of food or drink. It's something she usually has regularly but that the Hero would never think to provide.

Chocolate's too obvious, of course. I've wavered around some sort of tea or cake?

So what drives you crazy with wanting if you can't get it? And what do you think my rich, sheltered, American heroine is desperate for (apart from the Hero).