Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Christmas Wishes, Mistletoe Kisses - Settings 2

I know it’s been a while since I posted and this book has been out for a couple of months now, but I couldn’t not write about these settings in Christmas Wishes, Mistletoe Kisses. Blame flu, Christmas chaos, book deadlines and family crises. But better late than never...

Across the river from Louise’s house is the little village of Lower Hadwell. Those of you who have read Her Parenthood Assignment will recognise it as the same hamlet in which Luke and Gaby live. They even get a quick mention in Christmas Wishes, Mistletoe Kisses – but if you blink, you’ll miss it.

Dittisham from Greenway Quay

Lower Hadwell is based on the real village of Dittisham on the River Dart in Devon. It’s a beautiful, chocolate-box kind of place with cottages painted in pastel colours and the steepest hill ever. Louise and her son, Jack, walk backwards up the hill to try and stop their calves from screaming. Been there, done that, felt the lactic acid building up in my muscles…

The other key location in this book is Louise’s boathouse. I had no idea when I sailed past it hundreds of times during my teenage years that it belonged to the mysterious white mansion up on the hill (see previous post). The boathouse always looked so idyllic, with its arched windows and balcony – just the place to spend a lazy summer’s afternoon.

A view of the boathouse taken from the river

In reality, it’s a pretty sparse place inside, with only a tiled fireplace and some old cane furniture, but in the book I embellished. The fireplace was still there, but Louise chose this as her bolthole, her hiding place, when life wasn’t going as planned, and renovated it to make it a little more comfortable. Think New England creams, pale blues and deep reds, a roaring fire and a wrought iron daybed covered with a quilt and you’ll be pretty much there.

The inside of Greenway boathouse, which once belonged to a certain Mrs Mallowan - better known as writer, Agatha Christie.

This is the place where Louise goes to lick her wounds when she has to spend her first Christmas without her son – and the place where her Christmas Wishes start coming true. Ben realises how miserable she is and decides to cheer her up by bringing Christmas to her solitary pity party – whether she likes it or not! And this is the place where Louise and Ben’s romance both starts and ends – in terms of the book, anyway. I like to think the romance keeps going even when there are no more words left on the page…

A sign on the boathouse jetty that inspired Louise's loathing of tresspassers.

The view from the boathouse balcony

Friday, 14 November 2008

Christmas Wishes, Mistletoe Kisses - Settings 1

My father loves sailing and when I was about 12 he bought a boat and moored it on the River Dart in Devon. Many weekends and holidays were then spent on the yacht. I can’t say I always appreciated the wet weather, anything above a force 5 wave, or some of the chores, but hey, I was a teenager, it was my job to whine about these things.

I did, however, love the scenery, the feeling of freedom that comes from sailing and getting to see things you never normally see from the road. Up the Dart, just above Greenway quay was one of these places. Just through the trees, you can see a lonely white mansion – just a glimpse, before the boat motored on and it disappeared from view. I always used to look out for the house, every time we came back to the mooring from a sailing trip, and wonder who owned the house and what it would be like to live there.

Years later I discovered the house was called Greenway and had belonged to Agatha Christie. That just made me even more intrigued. Then, a couple of years ago, I learned the National Trust had acquired the house and that the public could go and view the gardens. Next time we visited Devon, I was there like a shot, camera in hand. I knew I wanted to use this mysterious white house as a setting in a book – I just didn’t know which one yet.

The house was old and crumbling, when I visited in May 2007, although there are plans afoot to renovate the house and provide holiday accommodation in some of the upper floors! So I had to guess what it might be like inside and take some of my inspiration from the surroundings.

This was the perfect place for my WAG heroine, Louise, to come and hide out from the world when she’d finally ditched her cheating husband. The loneliness, the beauty, all seemed to match her mood. I knew at once that she would love to live there and I based her fictional home of Whitehaven on Greenway, although I did take a little license here and there. Not only is the house stunning, but the gardens and views across the river are wonderful too. Here are just a few of my favourites:

The hilly woods of 'Whitehaven'

The greenhouse where Louise and Ben first meet.

Inside the greenhouse.

View from Greenway looking towards Dartmouth & Kingswear

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Christmas Wishes, Mistletoe Kisses - Story Inspiration

The WAG is a twenty-first century phenomenon - WAG standing for “wives and girlfriends”. The term initially was used to describe women attached to famous sporting figures, mainly footballers, but in recent years the definition has broadened to include the other halves of just about any man who is rich and famous.

After hearing a young girl on television one day announce that it was her sole ambition in life to become a WAG, I was saddened. When I think of all the sacrifices women have made over the last century to ensure I am treated as an equal, have the right to vote and equal pay, it’s a bit of a shame that any woman would want be defined solely in terms of who her husband is, rather than try and make her own way in life.

I wondered what sort of background would push a young girl into seeking this kind of life for herself, and what would happen if she was suddenly catapaulted out of that role. Who is Mrs WAG when she’s no longer married? How is she going to feel about herself?

This is where my heroine Louise came from. She’s not a total waste of space and has long put up with an unhappy marriage for the sake of her son, but when she realises her husband is having yet another affair, she snaps and tells him she wants a divorce. Suddenly, she’s on her own again and not quite sure what to do with her life. To make matters worse, the general public seem to think her ex can do no wrong and that somehow the fact he’s been ‘playing away’ is her fault. She’s moved into an old mansion in the countryside to start a new life and lick her wounds, determined not to let any man close enough to hurt her again.

You can understand why she freaks out when she finds a stranger messing around with plants in her greenhouse. Ben Oliver is a green-fingered single dad who knew the previous owner of the mansion and promised to look after the gardens until a new owner came along. Unfortunately, the village grapevine hadn’t been working very well and he had no idea that day had come until he was faced with the wrath of Louise. And she's a pretty formidable force when roused!

Ben has his own reasons for steering-clear of high-maintenance women. His ex-wife left him to ‘find herself’, giving him custody of their daughter. Unfortunately, all of his ex-wife's plans to 'move on' seem to involve dropping Ben in difficult situations, but he keeps a lid on his anger for the sake of their daughter. Despite unfavourable first impressions, he and Louise strike up an unlikely friendship, bonding over the struggles of being a single parent. I wanted a really steady, ordinary guy for Louise - someone who was the complete antidote to her vain ex-husband.

The closest real life man I could find to my mental picture of Ben is actor Tom Chambers, who has stared in the BBC’s Holby City. How surprised was I to see he’s one of the contestants in this season of Strictly Come Dancing? There’s something quite disconcerting about seeing your down-to-earth hero strutting his funky stuff in sequins, but hey, I love the programme, so I’m not complaining!

Saturday, 8 November 2008

eBooks and other things

I succumbed! I went out and bought myself a Sony Reader, enough of an event to make me interrupt my blog silence (mainly due to impending deadline!)

Very excited to see two Mills & Boon titles on it, Margaret McPhee’s The Wicked Earl and my very own English Lord, Ordinary Lady – the one with the feisty pink-haired heroine and the stuffy English lord (see pic below!). Of course, mine now has more romance books on it, because I’ve just taken advantage of the 3 for 2 offer at the Mills & Boon website on eBooks and I’ve bought Liz Fielding’s latest, Wedded in a Whirlwind, as well as a couple of others.

You don’t even have to have a dedicated eBook reader to take advantage of eBooks, because you can download Adobe Digital Editions via M&B and read them on your PC! No more waiting for the postman! My books are on my Reader now and ready to enjoy. Or they would be if I didn’t have a book to finish… (pout).

The only problem is I won’t be able to take my Reader in the bath – I’m far too clumsy. And I have two puffed up books on my bathroom window sill to prove my point. So, for once, I won’t be in there so long as to make the water go cold and my toes go ‘frilly’ (as my youngest used to describe it) reading one of Liz’s books. Perhaps I can curl up by the fire instead. Yes, that sounds just about right on a drizzly November afternoon.

To coincide with the release of my latest book Christmas Wishes, Mistletoe Kisses, I’ll be blogging over the next few weeks about the inspiration behind the story.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Stellar Review for Christmas Wishes, Mistletoe Kisses

I was over the moon when I learned that the Romantic Times had given Christmas Wishes, Mistletoe Kisses 4½ stars!

Here's the review:

Ex-model Louise Thornton's divorce from a film star has made her life tabloid fodder -- so she takes her young son to live in a small town. Landscape architect Ben Oliver has been tending the grounds of Louise's new home since the previous owner's death and agrees to stay on. The two bond over the trials of single parenthood -- and eventually attraction flares into much more. But Louise's past makes it difficult to believe in Ben, or his love for her. Fiona Harper's Christmas Wishes, Mistletoe Kisses (4.5) pairs a simple plot with complex characters, to marvelous effect. It's both moving and amusing.

If you want a sneak peak, I've updated my website and there's a short extract to read here!

Friday, 19 September 2008

AMBA 2008

People think being an author is glamorous. Believe me, if you saw the way I look most of the time I’m writing (trackies, no make-up, hair in a frizz), you’d change your mind. But once in a while, we get to go out, eat nice food, drink nice wine and, best of all, talk! Yesterday was one of those days as it was the Association of Mills & Boon Authors lunch, followed by a ‘Toast to the Authors’ by HM&B.

I arrived at Brown’s restaurant near Leicester Square a little early, but nevertheless, got a warm welcome from Michelle Styles and Sharon Kendrick, who organised the event, and also Kate Hardy, Annie Burrows and Trish Morey, who was visiting all the way from Australia!

It turned out she wasn’t the only one who had travelled from far, far away. I also chatted to Natalie Anderson, who has my undying admiration for flying halfway around the world from New Zealand with twin toddlers! She’s either a saint or raving mad. Either way, she was great fun to chat to! And since she said she reads my blog, I thought I’d better put something on it for a change. I was also pleased and surprised to see the ever-glamorous Jennie Lucas, who had flown in from America. We met last year at the RWA conference in Dallas, so it was great to catch up with each other. Here's Jennie looking serene:

As well as first time visitors from out of the country, we also had a few new authors making their first appearance, including Sabrina Phillips, whose first Modern Romance comes out next year and the very recently signed (two weeks ago!) Nina Harrington, who sold to M&B Romance.

Dinner was served in one of the old courtrooms above the main restaurant, complete with judge’s bench and chair. On the menu was:

  • Warm Goat’s Cheese with mixed salad, fig relish and basil oil
  • Chicken Breast served with mixed roasted pepper tomato
  • Provencal Rich Chocolate Truffle with raspberry coulis

After coffee we had speeches from some of the senior staff at Harlequin Mills & Boon. Karin Stoecker, editorial director of M&B, filled us in on how the various series had been doing in the previous twelve months and outlined exciting future plans and projects. Claire Sommerville, M&B’s marketing director, told us how successful M&B’s centenary year projects had been, from the ‘And Then He Kissed Her…’ exhibition, to press coverage, upcoming TV programmes and celebratory books and products. Lastly, we heard from Tim Cooper, Director of Direct Marketing/Digital. Bless him, he pretended to be scared of a roomful of romantic novelists, but we didn’t believe him. Not only did he mention the launch of the Sony Reader (and offered to let us fondle his afterwards - seriously), but he also talked about the new look M&B website, complete with whizzy features. You can now ‘Browse the Book’ – click on a link and read the opening chapter of all the current releases. I can’t wait to do that with my Christmas Wishes, Mistletoe Kisses, which goes on sale on the M&B website next month!

I’m a big fan of eHarlequin, the website for HM&B books in North America and have been an active member of its online community for over four years. The great news is that is going to get its own online community very soon! If it’s anything like eHarlequin, it’ll be a great place to come and chat about books, sexy men and just about anything else you can think of.

Authors swilling champagne (but the toast had just been made...)

There wasn’t much time between the end of the lunch and the start of M&B’s party to toast the authors. Time whizzed by so quickly and I can hardly remember all the people I talked to. We had some great achievements to toast (forgive me if I can’t remember them all!):
  • Caroline Anderson’s 75th book
  • Liz Fielding's and Jessica Hart's 50th books.
  • Nicola Cornick’s and Louise Allen’s 25th books.
  • RITA nominations for Nicola Cornick, Heidi Rice, Natasha Oakley and Kelly Hunter.
  • Bookseller’s Best win in the traditional category for Donna Alward.
  • National Readers’ Choice Award win for Janice Lynn.
  • Romance Prize win for Kate Hardy.
There were still so many people I hadn’t chatted to by 6pm when we had to finish! Still, it left plenty of time for a few of us to wander off for a drink at the National Gallery bar, then eat our way through lots of wonderfully spicy curry in Soho, then onto India Grey and Abby Green’s hotel for more drinks – I stuck to coffee by this time, although I should have asked for decaff, because my head was spinning so fast I couldn’t get to sleep by the time I crawled into bed just before midnight!

Julie Cohen, Abby Green, Biddy, Jennie Lucas and Heidi Rice

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

News for September!

I’ve decided blogging and school holidays don’t mix very well. But the Harper chicks are slowing trickling back to school this week and it’s high time I reappeared in cyber space!

I have two good bits of news!

First of all – and I have had to keep quiet about this for months – I can announce that the Sony Reader eBook launches in the UK on Thursday and a copy of my Feb 08 book, English Lord, Ordinary Lady is going to be pre-loaded on every one sold in the UK! How cool is that? I’m very excited.

Secondly, I have a new cover!!! This is the North American cover for my November release Christmas Wishes, Mistletoe Kisses. Isn’t it lovely? And here’s the blurb, just because I love it:

Three Christmas wishes…

1. A new life in the country:

It’s taken all of Louise Thornton’s courage to start again with her young son. This will be a different life, one away from the paparazzi – and her cheating celebrity husband!

2. Someone to help decorate the Christmas tree:

Louise is determined to make this Christmas perfect for her son. But it’s not until she meets meltingly attractive landscape architect Ben Oliver that she starts to sparkle again.

3. A proposal under the mistletoe?

Single dad Ben puts his daughter first. But when he catches Louise under the mistletoe, Ben realises only he can make Louise’s wishes come true…

Friday, 1 August 2008

Behind the Scenes: Saying Yes To The Millionaire - Chp 8 part 1

Chapter 8 also brings enough locations to split it into a couple of posts. Fern and Josh’s first clue leads them to another tube station, but since they only make a pit stop at this point and return to it later, I’m going to skip on to the next couple of locations first.

The first destination is Old Billingsgate fish market. It lies on the north side of the Thames between London Bridge and Tower Bridge and was the city’s main fish market for more than 900 years, renowned for its noise and foul language. The market moved to new premises in 1982, but old building remains, although it is not open to the public.

This is where Fern has her least favourite challenge – eating yucky things! There is a large terrace in front of the building, where I placed my imaginary fishmonger’s stand. And as Fern leans over the railing, feeling a little green, she gets a fantastic view of Tower Bridge.

From there, my hero and heroine race to the most romantic destination in Saying Yes To The Millionaire – St. Dunstan-in-the-East. I wandered into this ruined church completely by accident more than 20 years ago and was entranced to find a beautiful garden inside. It truly is one of London’s hidden treasures, tucked away inside the old city. The spire was built by Christopher Wren, the architect responsible for St Paul’s Cathedral, and is one of the surviving features of the Blitz in 1941.

“Instead of the musty air and vaulted ceiling of a centuries-old church, it was as if she'd stumbled into a corner of Eden. The ancient stone walls were still in place with their ornate arched window frames, but where the pews should have been was a garden—stone paths, drooping shrubs and a softly gurgling fountain. Another world amidst the pollution-stained buildings and grimy streets.”

Chapter 8 , Saying Yes To The Millionaire.

A thunder storm rolls in and things get a little hot and steamy between Fern and Josh in this very spot in one of the ruined towers:

"She found a spot under a thick branch thrusting through one of the glassless windows where the rain wasn't falling so hard. She reached out and grabbed a handful of Josh's T-shirt and pulled him close so he was covered too.

Still concentrating on the camera, he shook the water out of his hair. Her pulse began to gallop. He was very sexy when he was damp, and he was only a few inches from her.

He stopped checking the camera and smiled at her. ‘Back to Aldwych tube station. Do you want to wait here for a minute or two or shall we just get going?’ he stuffed the camera into his pocket, then flinched and let out a yell as a big drop of water hit him on the back of the head and rolled down between his shoulder blades. ‘Not much shelter here, is there?’

She looked at him, suddenly feeling very serious.

‘It's enough.’

Rain was running down his face and she reached up to smooth it away from his cheeks, to explore the damp spikes of his hair with her fingertips.

Josh froze. The look in her eyes totally floored him—so full of warmth and tenderness and... desire... for him. He shouldn't want her to look at him that way but, oh boy, he did."

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Behind the Scenes: Saying Yes To The Millionaire - Chp 7 part 2

Every good treasure hunt needs a map, doesn’t it? I think the clue involving the London Underground map was my favourite bit of the treasure hunt element of Saying Yes To The Millionaire. I had an idea early on that I would like to send them on a photo scavenger hunt on the London Underground system as it’s such a vital part of the city.

I remembered reading about the Henry Beck’s design for Tube map and how ground-breaking it had been. Before Beck’s map, the stations had always been depicted in their geographical locations. Take a look at this:

Confusing isn’t it! Henry Beck came up with the idea of showing the stations in relation to each other, ignoring the geographical distances and kept it simple by only using horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines. The ironic thing was that Mr Beck, an engineering draughtsman by trade, was unemployed at the time he came up with his idea, after having been made redundant by London Underground. He was paid five guineas for his work and was often not credited for his idea, even though it was the basis of many modern transport maps.

Here’s a copy of Henry Beck’s original drawing that I printed out while I was writing the book. It is little more than a doodle, with a few sketchy lines representing the different Underground lines and a few dots to represent the stations. It wasn’t easy working out a trail of ten stations that would tax the treasure hunt contestants because, if you look closely, you’ll see there aren’t that many dots and they are on just one or two lines.

I wanted to map out the ten stops on the trail, even if I didn’t use most of them in the book. The first challenge was to work out which stations the blobs were. I got out my trusty pocket tube map and almost instantly got stuck. Some of the stations were obvious, but I couldn’t work out the rest. It wasn’t until I took a good look at the 19030s version of the map, which resembles Beck’s sketch much more closely, that I could identify the stations.

Noticing the differences between the original map and today’s map – changes in names, stations that had appeared or disappeared - gave me an idea for Fern and Josh's final destination for this day of the race, but more about that in the post about chapter 8…

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Behind the Scenes: Saying Yes To The Millionaire - Chp 7

After the Covent Garden busking challenge, day 3 of the treasure hunt leads Fern and Josh all over the place. They find themselves in the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, which runs under the River Thames between Cutty Sark Gardens and Island Gardens, on the Isle of Dogs. It is 1,217 feet in length and approx 50 feet deep. Its original purpose was to allow south London residents to get to work in the docks on the Isle of Dogs without having to rely on the ferries and was opened in 1902.

Twin glazed domes sit on either side of the river. Inside is a circular lift, which used to have wooden benches all the way round. I’m not sure if they’re still there, as the lifts were updated in the 90s and I’ve never been there while the lifts have been open in recent years. No lifts means you have to use the stairs. If my daughters and I counted right on our last visit, there are more on one side than there are on the other, but there are more than 300 steps on both sides. The tunnel itself reminds me of some of the tunnels that join various sections of the London Underground, with its uniform white glazed tiles.

Once on the south side of the Thames, Fern and Josh visit the Cutty Sark, a fabulous old tea clipper that has been a popular tourist attraction there for many years. You can walk on the deck and go below to see how the sailors lived. This was a favourite place for my grandmother to take my sister and I when we were small and my favourite, favourite bit was the display of old figureheads that almost completely filled one of the lower decks. There are the traditional type carvings, beautiful women or spirits to guide the ship safely home, but there are also more unusual ones – Florence Nightingale, Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli and a fox hunter, complete in riding pinks.

While I was writing Saying Yes To The Millionaire, I was horrified to catch an article on the news which showed the beautiful old ship on fire! I was so saddened to think of all those wonderful artefacts – especially the figureheads – going up in flames. I later learned that, because the ship was undergoing renovation, most of the items of historical value had been removed and were elsewhere, but part of the hull and ship’s support system had been damaged. I decided to keep my scenes on the Cutty Sark in the book, because I think it’s a fantastic location, even though, in reality, Fern and Josh would probably not be able to visit the ship in it’s full glory until at least 2010. Although the police originally suspected arson, the cause of the fire has never been confirmed.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Behind the Scenes: Saying Yes To The Millionaire - Chp 6

The beginning of Chapter 6 sees Fern and Josh navigating their way out of Chislehurst caves (see Chp 5 post for info). All Fern’s confidence has evaporated by the time they reach the sunlight. She’s started to realise that she can’t plan for everything and that to move forward, in the race and in life, she is going to have to take risks.

The first challenge of the day is busking to raise money for the day’s race in Covent Garden and it starts in Chapter 6 and concludes in Chapter 7. It’s an area of London filled with open-air cafes, street performers and markets. In the centre is the Piazza, with its covered central market which houses little shops and boutiques. Prices are not for the faint-hearted! There are also arts and crafts stalls here an in the nearby Jubilee Hall.

Covent Garden is a great place to hang out on a sunny summer’s day and people watch. If you like street entertainers, this is the place to come. The portico of St Paul’s church (see above) on the west side of the Piazza. Originally, this was to be the grand entrance to the church, but this meant placing the altar at the east end of the building, which caused a furore, and it the altar was moved the conventional position at the east end of the church, meaning the portico on the Piazza is now a fake door as the church is entered from the other side of the building. It provides a great backdrop for street entertainers, though, and this is where Fern and Josh, with the help from another team of twin brothers, wow the crowds with some hot salsa dancing. Josh starts to see a side to Fern she wasn’t even aware of herself, especially as they end the dance with her hand on his rear end and she really, really doesn’t want to let go!

Thursday, 24 July 2008


She shoots, she scores!

A million billion thanks to all of you who cheered me on while I almost totally rewrote my last book in 10 days. Just had an email from my editor to say 'fabuous more revisions needed.'

So relieved and overjoyed I have gone slightly hyper and the kids are giving me funny looks. I don't care. Rosemary's Blind-Date Baby has sold!

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Behind the Scenes: Saying Yes To The Millionaire - Chp 5

Now I've sent the current book in (again!), I'll get get back to the buisness of locations and inspirations for Saying Yes To The Millionaire. Here's a quick re-cap of the locations with a little bit about what I was trying to do with the story at the same time:

Chapters 1 & 2 found Fern and Josh on the banks of the Thames - either high on a crane about to bungee jump, or walking along the Thames Embankment.

Chapter 3 was where the race started in Trafalgar Square.

At this point I wanted Fern to be terrified out of her wits. She doesn't like spur of the moment, high adrenaline things, so she's struggling, and happy to follow Josh around and do what he says.

Her lesson for the first day of the race (Thursday) was to be open to the world of glorious possibilities. Even though she might not enjoy all her experiences during this day of the race, at least she is experiencing something! I wanted her to see that even having a negative reaction to something was better than no reaction at all - it let her know she was alive rather than just hibernating!

Chapter 4 took them to Berwick Street Market, Speakers' Corner and the National Gallery.

In the market, Fern totally relies on Josh, even when he doesn't have the best ideas. But at Speakers' Corner she has to think for herself and finds that she can do something she's really scared of. By the time they get to the gallery clues, she's starting to feel more comfortable, starting to find her feet. She's actually starting to enjoy herself. By the time they head off into chapter 5 she's feeling pretty confident. Maybe over-confident? Time will tell.

The first part of this chapter covers the finding of the painting clue that has all the other teams flumoxed (see chapter 4 post).

Fern and Josh travel to Chislehurst Caves in South East London. Under a leafy, affluent suburb lies a network of caves that stretches for 22 miles. They are not actually caves, but mines. Although some people theorised they were made in the time of the druids (and there are plenty of spooky stories the tour guides tell) historical records first date mining for flint, chalk and lime in the 1200s.

This place used to seriously freak me out as a child. It was cold and damp and local legend mentioned a ghost of a woman who haunted a pool in the middle of the caves, and of people who had tried to stay the night there alone, but had died trying to find their way out of the maze of tunnels, screaming in fear after seeing the ghost.

Actually, getting lost in there would not be fun, as the tunnels all look the same and it's very difficult to work out where you are sometimes. However, this didn't stop the place being used as an air raid shelter during the Second World War, where it became like an underground city with 15000 inhabitants. In fact, the caves' history attracted artists like Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix, who all performed down there in the 1960s.

Fern, at this point, has become too comfortable. She's dug herself another little rut and she's going to stick in it, no matter what. And Fern's refusal to follow her instincts causes her team to miss and opportunity to maintain their lead. Her first lesson of this day of the race is to grab chances as they happen.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Coming back to earth

Well, after my marathon writing session, it's been kind of strange to be back in the real world. For a start, my brain won't stop. I kept being woken up last night in the middle of a dream where I had to write a section in my book where the characters had to go to Yorkshire. And, as much as I told myself it was all finished - I didn't need to write any more -every time I went back to sleep I had the same dream.

I have emerged into the world of people, blinking in the sunlight. It's freaky out here. There are beings who exist outside my head, and I can't make them do anything I want - especially the small ones who live in my house. Mind you, if I'd been able to make the people inside my head do what I wanted, I wouldn't have been in this state in the first place.

Today has lasted forever. It's almost five o'clock and I feel it should be bed time. Just goes to show that I got used to 'losing' time when I was locked away in my imaginary world.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

By George, she did it!

I've finished the second draft of my new book! I just counted and realised I salvaged 13061 words. The final count is 51726, which means I wrote over 32K in eight days. I think I need to lie down now...

Thank you so much for all the cheers and pom-poms (Nell!)

I'll see you in 2073 when I recover.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Thursday Stats

Word count goal: 43,600
Words written: 4,965
Actual word count: 43,642

I've had my Black Moment! I'm rolling down the hill towards the end. And, a complete shocker for me, this one may actually come in at closer to 50K than 60K!

Again, many thanks to all those who have cheered me on. You're all fabulous!

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Wednesday Stats

Word count goal: 38,000
Words written: 5,697
Actual word count: 38,667


I can't believe that, between Sunday morning and Wednesday night I have written almost 20K! And now I'm heading towards the Black Moment, it's all starting to make sense to me. of course, this means I've got to go back at the end and make sure I've weaved in enough of the hero and heroine's conflicts in to foreshadow the coming disaster.

And I've got to change the setting (again) because, in my can't-see-the-wood-for-the-trees state, I'd forgotten that we've got a tag line with a link between three cities (London, Sydney and San Francisco) and it kind of misses the point if I have my story set in a little cathedral town in Kent. Whoops.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Tuesday Stats

Word count goal: 33,200
Words written: 4,706
Actual word count: 32,022
Chicken curries left to bubble on the hob, totally forgotten about: 1

The extra three hundred words didn't make it onto the page because I went to see my eldest daughter's school play. I don't regret those 300 words, because it was fabulous. She was fabulous. She played the part of Hermia in A Midsummer Night's Dream, a version for eleven-year-olds, where she also had to sing.

Other mums kept saying to me, "I didn't know she could sing like that!" And I had to mutter back, "Neither did I!", because she really doesn't like performing in front of us and hid herself away in her bedroom to practice, so I was totally blown away. I know I'm totally being the proud mum, but I think I'm entitled!

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Monday Stats

Word count goal: 28,200
Words written: 5,066
Actual word count: 28,286

Thanks for all your cheers, girls! I really appreciate it.

Ooh, and I discovered that an interview I did for Classic Fm's daily arts podcast has finally been broadcast. It was my first radio interview and I think I did okay. Only, I have interviewee's remorse - thinking of a better answer on the train home. So, when you hear the question about Jessica Fletcher at the end, and whether writing romance has a similar impact on my life, imagine I said something along the lines of wouldn't it be lovely if tall, dark handsome men appeared round every corner, wanting to whisk me away - although I can't imagine Mr Harper would be very pleased.

If you want to have a listen, it's available here.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Sunday Stats

Thank you so much to everyone who has popped by to cheer me on! Here's how I did yesterday.

Total word count at end of Saturday: 19205
Goal for Sunday: 23200 (5000 words)

Word count at end of Sunday: 23217 (4062 words)

Brain too frazzled to do maths (see above): 1

Wonderful friends who prised me out of my hermitage by inviting me and the kids round for Sunday dinner because they knew I was writing and might not have time to cook: 2

Therefore, chickens not burned because I'd forgotten I was supposed to be cooking dinner instead of writing: 1

I'm sure the chicken is very grateful.

Word count goal for Mdnday: 28200 (5000 words)
Authors who can't type properly anymore: 1

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Naughty Blogger

I'm such a bad blogger. After promising all those juicy details about Fern and Josh's treasure hunt, I've gone AWOL. I have a good excuse, though. The dog ate my homework.

Okay, that wasn't a good excuse. And I don't even have a dog...

So far, the whole being-an-author thing has been relatively painless for me. In six books, I've had 'tweaks' of revisions and two books went through without any at all. But I knew, one day, that my luck would run out. Unfortunately, my day of reckoning has come.

The current book, the one that is part of a trilogy with Jennie Adams and Melissa McClone, needs a new hero - which kind of means a new plot to go with him. My part of the trilogy is provisionally titled "Blind-Date Baby". I'm tempted to add "Rosemary's" in there somehwere. I've managed to salvage about 10k from the original book (but that amount keeps going down every time I go through it as I pull more and more stuff out).

I'm going to post my word count and hope that some of you kind souls will cheer me on!

Total word count at end of previous day: 19205
Goal for today: 23200 (5000 words)
Total written today: still working on it (5 hours down...)

That's my 10 min coffee break over. Back to the saltmines...

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Going away for the weekend

I'm off to the RNA conference in Chichester for the weekend. I'll be back on Monday and will post my pics and memories. You have been warned...

Friday, 20 June 2008

Behind the Scenes: Saying Yes To The Millionaire - Chp 4

Fern and Josh’s first clue is this:

Make your way to Berwick Street market. There you will find ten stalls with the Secret London logo on them. Two teams may work on each stall. Your team must sell £30 worth of fruit and veg in order to receive your next clue.

Berwick Street is a crowded little road lined with fabric shops, many selling material for saris. Incense wafts out of the fabric shops and mixes with the smells of fresh produce on the market stalls that line the pavement. I seriously wouldn’t consider buying electrical goods from some of the ‘geezers’ manning the stalls. Ever seen the comedy show ‘Only Fools And Horses’? Nuff said.

Next stop is Speakers’ Corner, an area at the edge of Hyde Park. On a Sunday, people can exercise their right to free speech here. Some of the 'speakers' make sense, some are out and out nutcases. It’s normally empty on weekdays (see photo), but for the purpose of the book, I invented an extra session complete with a baying crowd drawn by the radio coverage of the contest.

The following clue is a little more complicated and Fern and Josh find themselves back in Trafalgar Square and start hunting for a Turner painting – The Hay Wain:
It's housed in the National Gallery. I actually spent a day navigating Fern and Josh's route and working out which rooms they would end up in following their clues. The area of gallery that is closed in the book was really blocked off on the day I visited. Things are going fairly well until Fern starts to find her stride in the race and realises that they’re not only barking up the wrong tree, but in the wrong gallery looking for the wrong painting. Josh is so impressed, he plants a kiss on her, and that’s where things start to get complicated!

Next stop is another gallery – the Tate Britain. Fern and Josh discover they painting they are actually looking for is this one:

Which leads them to another paining, one of my absolute favourites – Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose by John Singer Sargent. I swear, when you stand in front of it, those paper lanterns really seem to glow. And I could stare at the frill details on the girls' dresses for hours...