Monday, July 31, 2006

Still Celebrating . . .

As an extra to yesterday's post about the RITA results, my dear friend Anne Gracie, whose own Regency novel - The Perfect Rake - sadly just missed out on an award on Saturday night, has sent me a lovely photograph of Marion Lennox celebrating her win together with Mitzi, her black and silver mini-schnauzer . Anne tells me that a little bit of champagne was involved in these celebrations - Mitzi clearly had more than her share, seeing as Marion is having to hold her upright!

One thing I should also have mentioned is that for both Liz Fielding and Marion Lennox this is a SECOND RITA - some writers have all the luck! And the talent - and the sheer all-fired niceness that make it impossible to be jealous of them. But as winning a single RITA is a huge huge achievement, I think that for both of them to have won a second award is just stunning.

Liz won her first RITA for The Best Man And the Bridesmaid in 2001. And
I was lucky enough to be at the Fancy Dress Reception at Romance Writers of Australia Conference when Marion was presented with her first RITA for her 2004 book Her Royal Baby. As I recall, she was wearing wings at the time. Somehow I suspect that right now - to quote a certain song - she'd 'flying without wings.'

Once again CONGRATULATIONS Liz and Marion!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Celebrating Brilliant Writing Friends

I told you so

Well, no, being totally honest, I didn’t actually tell you - but I did think it.

But I did tell you that it was a wonderful, special book!What book? Well I’m sure you remember how I was celebrating writing friends and I wrote about Liz Fielding.

In that post I said what a brilliant, special book Liz’s The Marriage Miracle was

I also said that I was :

not at all surprised that Matty’s story has been shortlisted for yet another
RITA. I shall have my fingers crossed that you win. I’ll be jealous of course –
but there are few writers and few people I’d rather be jealous of. Good luck!

Well this morning I get to be jealous! And I couldn't be happier about it. Because The Marriage Miracle won the Best Short Contemporary category of the RITA awards at the RWA National Conference in Atlanta last night.
So I’m celebrating!

And the fact is that I’m celebrating twice over. I might not have actually blogged about it but there was another book shortlisted for a RITA that I really loved – Brilliant Australian author Marion Lennox had two nominations with The Doctor’s Rescue Mission and Princess of Convenience. Well, Princess of Convenience was my real favourite of the two titles and last night this book won the Best Traditional Romance Category in the RITAs.

Many many congratulations to both Liz and Marion - it couldn’t happen to two nicer women – and to two more brilliant writers. I am thrilled for both of you. And I would totally, totally agree with the decision of the RITA committee.

And if anyone who attended my course in Caerleon is reading – did I or did I not say that if you wanted to read really special writers then you should try Liz Fielding and Marion Lennox? Well this just proves me right!Great books, lovely women, great writers – a great result! (Can you guess I’m kinda pleased?)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

I'm Back!

I got back home from Wales last nightafter a long hot journey - so now I'm trying to catch up. I didn' find any time to post in the last couple of days as the mornings were taken up with teaching my course.
(If any of my students are reading this (and that includes Christine Clever Clogs - Hi! - you were a great bunch. Thank you for being there and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!)

Afternoons? Well, they were taken up with being hot, walking around Caerleon, talking, sleeping, Eating (the food at Caerleon is too good not to have Eating with a capital E) reading . . . .

But now I'm back - and hopefully normal service will be resumed.

I have good news - more of which I'll mention but first of all - the Blogparty over on Lucy Monroe's Blog - it's still going - and at some point today I'll be posting in my special Blogparty spot . Just as soon as I think of something to Blog about!

In the meantime, today may or may not see the USA publication of my latest Harlequin Presents novel The Antonakos Marriage. I say may or may not because officially the publication date is August 1st so Amazon has it still on preorder
Barnes and Noble however has it on sale, and on the cover looks like this -

Hmm - the cover doesn't show for some reason - but you get the idea!

Some friends have told me that The Antonakos Marriage is available in the shops where they are, others can't yet find it - so I hope you can find it where you are and that you enjoy it when you get your hands on a copy.

This book won the Best Mills& Boon Modern Romance in the Books of the Year Awards 2005 on CataRomance and it's been getting some lovely reviews - here's a quote from just one:

Kate Walker has written her best romance novel yet, in this reviewer’s
humble opinion! I LOVED this story! I think others do as well since
it has been awarded the Best Mills & Boon Modern Romance of 2005 title from
the Cataromance Books of the Year Awards .

THE ANTONAKOS MARRIAGE is a novel that will have its readers on the
edge of the seat in anticipation of its ending. Will Skye’s good
intentions of helping her father only cause her to lose the only man she’s ever
loved? Will Theo have the will to fight for what he wants? The
passion is intensely sensual, the romance is breathtaking, and the hero and
heroine are both tortured with their needs for each other. Emotions and
sexual tension run high, and the intense drama is sure to hold readers’
attention. I highly recommend this new addition to my keeper shelf to
readers of sensual contemporary romance.

Sherri Myers Romance

Right - I have bags to unpack, washing to do, emails and mail to read, cats
to stroke and appease for the way they were 'abandoned' for the
week - and then I'll catch up some more

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

RWA Blogparty

Just to remind you all that Lucy Monroe is hosting a special BlogParty for everyone is isn;t going to the Romance Writers of America National Conference - and that's most of us!

The fun has already started and lots of people are posting. There are dozens of great prizes to give away and interesting topics to read about and discuss

So why not visit the Blogparty and join in?

More from Caerleon

So - just to please blueberri, here is a bit of Caerleon Castle. The truth is that there isn't really very much of it left - so this is part of the ruins.

A lot of Caerleon dates back even earlier - to Roman times. In the museum there are lots of wonderful Roman artefacts, special little pieces of gemstone with tiny engravings on them. And there's one discovery that alwasy makes me feel quite sad - when excavations were made they discovered a clay pot filled with dozens and dozens of coins. It's believed that some poor Roman soldier came out here on duty and saved up his pay, putting it in this pot, for when he went home. I have this vision of him planning to buy a home or perhaps a business so he could stay in Rome and never have to travel again. But he must have died here and his savings stayed with him.

Here's a picture of all that's left of the Roman Amphitheatre

Here at Writers' Holidays, the first courses of the week are almost over - the courses run for two sessions each morning, Monday Tuesday and half of Wednesday. Then the second course takes over and they run from Second Session Wednesday to final session Friday. My course is in the second session. So I'm about ready to start.

Yesterday there were also talks by agent Theresa Chris and a very special lady who is very dear to me and to everyone here at Caerleon - Iris Gower. Iris writes strong emotional sagas set around her own home town of Swansea. Her latest book is just out in hardback - it's title is Act of Love.

Iris has been involved with Writers' Holidays from the start and when I first came here her husband came too. Sadly, he died some years ago and it was obvious that Iris was devastated. But yesterday when I saw her there was a new sparkle in her eyes and a smile on her face - and a special Scottish betrothal ring on her finger. She has met a wonderful man called Peter who is clearly making her so very happy. It's a lovely romantic story.

I have been having so much fun meeting old friends and making new ones. One very special person I must mention is one of the brand new authors whose first book - and now her second - has been bought recently by Harlequin Mills & Boon. Abby Green will have her first romance published in January 2007 - so look out for that. Rememeber, you read it first here! I can't wait to get my hands on Abby's boook. Abby herslef is a warm and delightful person - so I have high hopes of her novels too.

Well, now I must go and prepare for my classes tomorrow - and maybe take a stroll into Caerleon itself. I think the BM is preparing for a poetry reading that will take place tomorrow night - it's all go!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Greetings from Wales!

So here I am in Caerleon.

I love this place and coming back here after 3 years away was like coming home. The organisers of the Writer's Holiday Anne and Gerry Hobbs have to be two of the most welcoming and warm people in the world and everything is so relaxed and easy going that it's exactly what it says on the tin - a Writer's Holiday. There are so many different course and talks and things to do that you can be busy all day long - or you can do nothing but sit in the sun and day dream. or you can hole up in your room or here in the computer room and write and write . . .

It's perfect.

And then if you have time and inclination you can go into the tiny town and explore.

Caerleon has two historical connections - the Romans and King Arthur

So today I'm posting a link to the King Arthur story in case you're interested.

That's KING Arthur - the other Arthur connected to Caerleon is the write Arthur Machen whose birthplace is in the village.

More later - it's coffee time and I need to go and be sociable!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Postcard from Malvern

I managed to get some internet access on my travels so I thought I'd post a picture of where I am today. This abbey is the view from my hotel room window - it's very beautiful and the BM and love it.

Thank you to everyone who has posted a comment so far on what they want from an author's web site - I'm reading and learning - and making notes. It's very helpful .

Today the sun is still shining but there are supposed to be thunderstorms on the way so the BM and I are going out towander about for a while before the rain comes. There are five secondhand or antiquarian bookshops within a ten minute stroll so guess where you'll find the BM today - Kate Hardy, you would be so jealous! I may have to force myself to look at a book or two as well.

Then tomorrow we move on and head for Wales.

Meanwhile, here's another image of Great Malvern

Friday, July 21, 2006

One other thing

When I get back and have a chance to draw breath I'm going to be revamping and reworking and totally updating my web site with the help of the lovely Terescia Harvey and Heather Reed from We Write Romance and HR Web Concepts.So I was wondering - what do you want to see when you visit an author's web site?
What are the most important things for you?
Book news?
Publishing dates?
Contests?A Day in the life - or a blog?

I'd love to know. Please post your ideas and let me know what you'd hope And I'll be giving out some prizes in a draw for everyone who posts

Thanks! I'll be interested to see what you say

On the road again

Today I'm setting out on the trip to Wales where as I've said I'm teaching at Caerleon Writers' Holidays. I may be able to have an internet connection while I'm there and if so I'll try to post about what's happening - but usually I'm having so much fun and talking to so many people that the time just flies by.

So in case I don't manage to get back before I'm home on the 28th, here are some things to keep you occupied:

Romance Junkies Summer Newsletter Contest is up with dozens of authors involved and loads of amazing prizes to be won. So why not take a look and see what you can win.
My prize for this contest is a Molton Brown Mini Travel Kit - The kit contains, socks, eye mask, toothbrush, ear plugs, toothpaste, lip balm, freshmint mouthwash and coco de mer hand lotion.Of course I also can't travel anywhere without a book to read - so I'll include a signed copy of one of mine and I'll put the prizes in one of my black and silver bookbags - as I always take one of these with me as they fold up small enough to go in a purse and are available to carry home souvenirs. My contest is on Postcard 3 - Hint - Click on the green space just under the word Fran on the postcard.

Secondly, the RWA conference will be being held in Atlanta July 26-29. I'm obviously not going to be there. But I am going to be dropping into Lucy Monroe's blog where she is hosting a "virtual conference" party. I'll also be giving away copies of the Alcolar Family trilogy there as well as my latest USA AUgust release The Antonakos Marriage - and for any would be writers out there a signed copy of the 12 Point Guide To Writing Romance. So do drop by -- and send everyone you know who is missing Atlanta this year. I'll be arriving late as I'll not be home from Wales till Friday 28th, but if I get a chance then I'll be there before then - if I can get on the internet!

And just to make you all wish you were coming with me, I've included a couple of photos of where I'll be for the next few days. And the food is wonderful too!

Can't wait!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Being 50

In book terms that is. In years, well there’s little point in trying to pretend that the big five oh is any way ahead of me. I work on the thoery that it’s better to tell the truth about age and have people say ‘Oh you look wonderful for 94 !’ than to lop years off the real number and have them think ‘Hmmm – 45? She looks every bit of 302!)

Anyway – books –

I wrote yesterday about the next book I write being the 50th – but then yesterday afternoon I had an email from my editor to tell me that in fact, in editorial reckoning, The Second Sicilian is actually number 50 – apparently they work in titles while I was reckoning up books so that makes the difference.

(Incidentally, I was thinking that as I wrote another pair of linked Sicilian books in The Sicilian’s Wife 2002/3 and A Sicilian Husband 2003/4 then this current Second Sicilian should really be called The Second Second Sicilian. But that would be getting silly. Sillier? Sicilier?)

So I now find that TSSS is in fact my 50th title – because in editorial reckoning, my internet story Wife For Real, the one that started off The Alcolar Family trilogy is included in the total. So 50 titles it is. Which is both good and bad.

Good –

I get to reach this milestone achievement almost a year before I thought I might . The book is written and hopefully (barring revisions and Acts of God ie the Editor) will be out in 2007

I don’t have to wonder about what sort of a book to write to mark the very special milestone achievement – it’s done – TSSS is that title, whether I like it or not. And as the thought of ‘What makes a 50th title had started to look slightly paralysing, perhaps that just as well


Speaking personally, I’m actually prouder to say ‘My 50th book’ than my 50th title. And much as I love Wife For Real for the fun I had writing it, watching the serial episodes go up and discussing it with the readers on the eHarlequin board, it is only a short story and so I couldn’t put in the sort of character development and increasing plot twists that I would want to put into a full length novel

I was going to run a contest with a prize of being a character in my 50th book! That was to run through the summer while I pondered on the thoughts of what would make a 50th book plot and planned the characters etc. Oh well, I suppose I can still do that for the 50th book – just not the 50th title!

And I suppose that I can celebrate both 50s – title and book – next year when they are published.

But it is a sort of weird feeling that I’ve actually written that book - the one I thought was still to come.

So now I have to go and write a special Dear Reader letter to go into TSSS to mark the event of the 50th title. And I have a very special dedication to put into it. Luckily I had already had that planned – I just thought it would be for the next book, not this title. If you see what I mean.

And as it hasn’t got a publishing title yet but is still known as Vito’s Story , I need a title too for my 50th title – the book formerly known as TSSS.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

In Between

So I’m at a sort of ‘in between’ stage of things – finished Second Sicilian – the First Draft. All I can do about that now is wait for my lovely editor to say she’s read it and let me know what she thinks. And no, for those who wonder, that waiting doesn’t get an y easier, not really. I know I did a professional job, but at the risk of repeating myself, I will never, ever sit back on my laurels(which sounds pretty uncomfortable) and think ‘Yeah, done that – she’ll love it– next one . . . To my mind that’s a recipe for complacency and complacency is dangerous - it can lead to laziness and letting standards drop. And that’s never a good thing.

So I wait . . .

And I can’t do my usual thing of launching into a major overhaul of my office and spring cleaning it from top to bottom because on Friday I’d heading off again, To Wales and the wonderful Writers’ Holiday where I’ll both work and relax – and meet the newest of new M&B authors Abby Green (waves to Abby – see you there!) The office could do with the major overhaul – in fact it needs such a major overhaul that that’s why I’m not launching into it until I get back as I don’t have the time to do what’s needed and prepare my course for Caerleon.

And I have a pile of books I want to read. Top of the pile are books by three favourite authors and friends – Michelle Reid’s The Ranieri Bride – Julie Cohen’s Delicious and Kate Hardy’s Strictly Legal (this book- out this month - is dedicated to me so I get an extra thrill when I pick it up or see it on the bookshop shelves). And there are dozens of other titles. The non-romances that I didn’t have time to concentrate on when I was slogging over Sicilian2. I'm partway through Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper - a book that's been on my TBR mountain for an age now. I was riveted by her The Pact and this one has the same grip on my mind and emotions. Not an easy read - emotionally - but the way she writes is so clear and sharp and the subject matter makes you think - hard.

The next decision I have to make is how many of these I take with me to Caerleon to read when I’m not teaching/talking/attending talks/socialising. Oh and then there’s the major problem that Caerleon runs a half day trip to Hay on Wye – the town of books! And the BM just can’t resist a bookshop . . .and another bookshop . . .and another . .

I have 3 RNA New Writers’ Scheme scripts to read and critique. And that’s not easy. I want to be fair and honest so reading takes time and the reports take more of it.

I want to revamp my website. I recently changed to new designers and we’re looking at a total revamp so I’m thinking, planning, looking for ideas . . . It definitely needs an update now that the Bag of Books Contest is over.

I have an important book coming up next – my 50th title! I need an idea for that. One that’s worth writing for such a special milestone. I want it to be a book that marks the occasional with a bang. . . Still debating on which idea- but it does give me an idea for a contest . . watch this space.

And have I mentioned that it’s hot?? So really all I want to do is to go and sit in the shade of the apple trees and read – and sleep – and read – and sleep . . . .

It’s at times like this that I really wonder how I find the time to write when there are so many other things I want to do. And the problem is that when I’m in between books I have so much I want/need/would like/would love to do that I sit here slightly paralyzed thinking ‘I don’t know what to do . . .’

I wonder what it feels like to be bored . . . .

Monday, July 17, 2006

RNA Conference - the reality

It's hot! And my brain cell is Scrambled by a Sicilian - and I just realised that I haven't reported much on the RNA Conference. But, as I said - it's hot - and my scrambled brain hasn't come up with anything new and interesting to say. I've been looking at various reports on the RNA Conference in the blogs of people who were there and they cover so much of the event that my comments probably wouldn't add very much - but there weren't many photographs. I have photographs so I'll post them instead of words. I can manage that, even with a hot and scrambled brain cell. So here are some snapshots of The RNA Conference Penrith 2006

We did do some work - honest ! The first pictures show some of us hard at work -

Michelle Styles deep in discussion
over breakfast

HMB editor Maddie Rowe
runs a workshop, here
discussing a suitable heroine

Julie Cohen, Anna Lucia
Biddy Coady - Maddie Rowe
in the background
(they're hard at work smiling)

But of course, at most conferences the real conversations go on in the halls of residence kitchens
- late into the night . . .

Nell Dixon and
Allison Littlehales

Biddy brings more supplies

Someone called Kate Walker

with Michelle Reid in the background

Anna Lucia

And after a while, the pictures got a little blurred . . .

I wonder why. . . .

(This is Michelle Nell and Allison)

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Normal service can now be resumed . . .

The space between posts has been longer than I planned.

First there was the trip North for the RNA Conference and several days away. Then there was the usual sorting out when we got back.

And then there was the damn Sicilian! I had hoped to finish this book before I went to Penrith but a migraine put paid to that, so I've been fighting a battle to the death with Vito Corsentino for the past few days. I usually love endings, but this time these two just wouldn't get to that Happy Ever After - they kept arguing! I began to feel like someone climbing a wild, difficul mountain, believing that there was a lovely, peaceful village on the other side, and a nice smooth slope leading down to it - just get to the top, and the journey would be so easy from then onwards.

But it seemed that each time I got to the top, all I actually saw as another mountain needing to be climbed! You'd think after 48 books - 49 with this one - I'd be used to it! But it was one of those books I had to wrestle with all the way.

But it's done now - finished. I wrote the last words yesterday afternoon, and I'm just checking through the ms before I send it off to my editor's desk and then can relax a little bit.

But not for long - I have a course on Romance writing to prepare. From Sunday, I shall be at Writers' Holidays in Caerleon when the BM is teaching Getting Started as a Writer and I'm teaching a series of workshops based on the 12 Point Guide To Writing Romance. So that's going to keep me busy for a while.

Incidentally, if you're interested in the course and have the week of 23rd-28th July 2006 free, I understand that there are still just 5 places left on this year's bookings. Check out Writers' Holidays website for details.

And I'll be posting a little more regularly again now.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

See you soon

I shall be away from my desk for the next couple of days - I'm attending the Romantic Novelists' Association National Conference in Penrith. On the way up North I'm staying with my friend Michelle Reid in her lovely cottage and then we're going on to the Conference together.

If you live in Penrith or anywhere near, then Michelle and I and lots of othe writers will be in the town for 'Meet The Author' on Friday morning.

DATE: Friday 7th JulyPLACE: Penrith Public LibraryTIME: 10 am - 1pm
I will also be giving a talk on Plotting a Story together with Catherine Jones (Vice Chairman RNA) who will be talking on Writing Romantic Fiction. This is at 11am

While I'm gone, here's some bits that might interest you and give you something to read when there are no posts here-

Romance Junkies writing contest is now live!! This is what RJ's Cat Brown has to say:

Come Vote! Both readers and authors can vote on the entries! Check back every week for more entries to read and vote on ;-)If you are a writer - we are still taking submissions. We have a very cool prize for the grand prize winner and the top three entries go off to a very cool editor to read ;-)If you are a writer we also have a new area we just added - find a critique partner listing - check it out and pass the link on to your friends ;-)

And have you visited the Harlequin Presents Authors' site?
If you love Harlequin Presents then this is the place to check out all the new and upcoming titles - and find out more about your favourite authors. In the Monthly Feature this July, authors are interviewing the hero or heroine from their latest book. Including - in my case - Theo Antonakos from The Antonakos Marriage. The updates should be posted very soon so why not take a look?

And I'll be back on Monday.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

And the winners are -

Sid goes into action
(this picture was taken for an easlier contest - with much fewer entries!)

Sid has done his job - he has generously taken the great trouble to eat some cat crunchies in order to select the prize winners for the Bag of Books Contest (It's a tough job but some cat has to do it!)

And the winners are -


Agnes Matthew Aberdeen Scotland
Norma Zaleski Texas USA

Who each receive a signed copy of one of my books and a bookbag

Oluwatoyosi Akinyele USA who wins His Miracle Baby

Debbie Ellison Ontario Canada

Jo-Anne Heyrman Canada who wins Their Secret Baby

Sundipika Kapoor India

Andrea Fisher Australia who wins Bound By Blackmail

Amanda Edmond Seychelles who wins The Spaniard's Inconvnient Wife

What an international set of winners. I shall hope to see lots of interesting red dots on my clustr map soon!

To everyone of the 200 other entrants who didn't win this time - there will be another new contest just as soon as I can think of one (and when Sid has digested 210 or so cat crunchies!)
Keep calling back to my web site - or make sure you're on the mailing list to get the details as soon as I know that.

Thanks to everyone who entered and made this the most successful contest I've ever run - and thanks to all the authors who donated books to make up a really great prize.

A Rose For Love

Julie's Rose - 'Remember Me'

In my previous blog, on eHarlequin, I wrote a very similar post to this on a slightly different occasion. I make no apologies for reposting this. Not today.

Almost ten years ago, my beautiful sister-in-law was killed in a shocking car crash. She was on her way to work, to the junior school where she taught, and her car collided head-on with a van coming round a very tight, sloping corner on an icy road. She was the BM’s little sister – the baby in the family – she had two young children, aged ten and twelve, and her death devastated us all.

The following July her birthday came round as a desperately empty date. There were no presents to wrap and deliver, no cards to send. But we had to mark the day somehow, So the BM and I went to the local garden centre where I bought a beautiful rose bush. The flowers are a deep, burnt orange colour with a golden centre, and the rose’s official name is ‘Remember Me’. We planted the rose bush in our garden, with the other roses we have.

It has now been there for nine years. The other rose bushes grow and flower and are beautiful all the summer. This rose, known as Julie’s rose, has three separate flowerings Every summer, it puts out leaves, then buds, tightly curled buds that only unfurl slowly- slowly. Other roses around it flower much earlier, but this one seems to wait to open into full bloom , without fail, in the week of July 5th – my sister-in-law’s birthday. The next time the beautiful blooms appear is in September when it should be her wedding anniversary. And then, in November, the week of her death, in spite of the cold and greyness of the weather, there is always one last tiny rose opening up as if in memoriam.

I’m not quite sure what this really means. I’ve tried to do things in ways that might change them slightly – prune the rose bush slightly differently, feed the roots more - or less . The weather conditions should surely affect the way it flowers? But nothing seems to change its flowering pattern in any way. And this week, it's just the same. This is the week in which Julie's birthday falls - she would be 45 - and the rose that illustrates this post is her rose, photographed this week, blooming beautifully to celebrate right on cue. It is the only rose in bloom on that bush - right at the very top of it.

And so today, as I was waiting for the kettle to boil to make the first cup of tea of the day, I looked out of the kitchen window towards where the rose bush is blooming in all its glory, and I said ‘Morning, Julie. Happy Birthday!’ as if I was speaking to my sister-in-law herself. I hope I am in some way. I don’t have a great explanations for why this happens except that as a message of love between Julie, the BM and me, it’s just about perfect.

And it reminds me once again that love is the strongest possible force humanity has. Love is the strength we have to carry on in the face of horror, tragedy and loss. That’s why I write about it.

I wish every one of you the special warmth that love can bring in your hearts today – and always.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Hedgehogs Part II

Remember those hedgehogs? And their assignation under the magnolia tree? And the grunt snuffle grunt noises in the darkness of the night? Well for the last 3 nights it has been very very watm here. So we have tried to sleep with all the windows open - and believe me, when you are trying to sleep and all you can hear is grunt snuffle grunt! grunt snuffle GRUNT! from the back garden, it gets a little wearing.

I also suspect that it should by rights get a little wearing for Mr Hedgehog - because we have
discovered that there are not just 2 hedgehogs - there are 3. And I think that there is one Mr H and 2 Ms Hs - so last night when they came for cat crunchies and water (perhaps I should get them to choose the prize winners in future?) - anyway - one little hedgehog just got on with chomping crunchies and slurping water while another two hedgehogs played grunt snuffle grunt under the magnolia bush.

So now we are anticpating the arrival of some hoglets in the future - and as grown Hogs can have 3 -6 hoglets in a litter and Mr H seems to have two ladies, that'sa lot of little ones. So we've decided to help. Now Mr H has a lovely detached home to take his lady friends back to - that is what's in the picture - Hedgehog Towers. We left plenty of potential bedding in the form of woodshavings and leaves outside the main tunnel and as the picture shows, most of it has been taken inside - and elsewhere - for nesting purposes. No one is actually in residence yet, but the food that has been left in there has been eated so we hope that soon a small family will decide to live there. Specially in winter when Hogs need a nice snug place to hibernate.

There's another reason for my post today - you may have noticed that, following the example of Anne McAllister and other authors, I have install a ClustrMap on this blog. Yesterday I talked about Sicilians - and today the adverts on the map when you click to enlarge are all about Sicily. So this post is something of a challenge to them - what will the adverts be about tomorrow? 'Buy your own hedgehog here'? Detached country residents for hedgehogs For Sale?

We shall see. I'm also interested to see where those intriguing red dots start appearing on the map. Wherever your from, you're welcome - and I'm glad you came to visit. Please post a comment to say who you are and where you're from.

Happy July 4th to all my American friends who are celebrating today.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Bag of Books Contest - an Update

The official closing date for the Bag of Books Contest was June 30th. I gave it an extra 24 hours or so to allow for all time zones for entries - and the contest is now, officially CLOSED.

Now I need to get organised in finding a winner - for this, I need Sid and a set of names and some cat crunchies. The problem is that this contest was so popular I had hundreds of entries.

So the putting names on pieces of paper may take some time. And then adding the crunchie to each name

And I do have this Sicilian whispering in my ear.

But I'll get to it just as soon as I can. In the meantime, Sid is looking forward to the prospect of several hundred crunchies - but he's just had his breakfast, so there's no rush . . .none at all . . . In fact, he's perfectly happy just lying here in the sunlight, dreaming of crunchies

I'll be back when I get myself - and him - organised

Listening to Sicilians

Yesterday Sicilian 2 (Vito) pointed out to me that I had forgotten something vital . (Vital for Vito – oh dear!) He told me, in a very resigned sort of way that he had given me this vital information on the previous Sunday – in fact, he had made quite sure that I wrote it down. It was in one of my ‘idiot talks’ with the BM

Now, I’d better explain that. If I’m stuck on a book I take the BM out for coffee. Somehow this always works best in neutral surroundings – though the conversations can get us some strange looks if overheard. We sit down and I start by saying something like ‘You’re a man’ which is fairly obvious . ‘So what would you do if . . .’ In this particular case ‘What would you do if you’d met this gorgeous girl, on a beach, that night you’d made mad passionate love and then - then you discovered her deep dark secret ?(hereafter known as the DDS)’

And then the BM starts to tell me how he would feel and what he would do – this is the ‘idiot’s answer’ bit. Not I hasten to say because the BM is any kind of an idiot, but he calls his answers that because as soon as he suggests something, I say ‘No – he’d not do that – but what he would do is . . .’ Something in hearing exactly what my hero would NOT do (because the BM and Vital Vito are not one and the same person, though one may well have elements of the other) sparks of the realisation of just what he would do. It’s as if Vito is listening, and whispering in my ear ‘Well, I wouldn’t do that!’

Vito says that of course he’s listening. Of course he says that. What am I trying to do – convince these people that he’s not real for heaven’s sake? Madre de Dio!

Sorry – excuse me while I gag a Sicilian! He's been visiting Anne McAllister's blog a little to often and he and her hero Spence are getting a little bolshie since they banded together.

So, last week, I had an idiot’s talk with the BM about the story and the DDS and Vito listened and said , ‘Well I wouldn’t do that – and what I would do is . . . And what I would say is . . .’ And I wrote down what he would say and do and came back home with the rest of the story so clear in my head that I sat down and carried on writing and - bad mistake – I didn’t check my notes. Until yesterday, when, about to begin what I thought was the ‘home run’ on this book, I found I’d stalled. To continue the racing metaphor, I was stuck in the starting gate – or perhaps my horse had refused the final hurdle. He (Vital Vito) just wasn’t going anywhere but round in circles. Something was wrong. And when something is wrong like that I did what you have to do at moments like that, I looked back at the scenes before this to see where the blockage was. And I found it wasn’t a blockage, but a jump – an omission - an empty space where a line should be. Something didn’t quite jell – and I wasn’t sure why.But when I got out my notes and read through them, there it was –the particular sentence that Vito had whispered in my ear during that ‘idiot talk’. And I went back and put that line in - and today I have to follow it through but I know already that it’s going to have changed everything and, hopefully, make it work. I already feel the buzz of electricity that I hope means the blockage has gone.

And yes, on this occasion, Vito finally gets to say, ‘I told you so.’ Or whatever that is in Italian.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

New Enterprises

This morning a dear friend of mine (waves to Mama Duck) is waking up in Malaga Spain at the start of – as she says - " a month's work on land, orchard and vegetable garden." This is a stage in her and her husband’s plan to move out to Valencia to live. (That’s move from Dubai where they now live, not from the UK!) There’s plenty of thinking, planning, organizing ahead of her but I wish her every success and happiness with this new venture. And I’m definitely happy that it will bring her that bit closer. Though in Dubai she was my ‘sheikh researcher’ and both Desert Affair and the upcoming At the Sheikh ‘s Command owe a lot to her. In fact, those of you who have copies of my very first sheikh story will see that the book is dedicated to her – though not under her Duck personna.

And moving on to pastures new, fits with a project that my sister has started up in the hope of turning it into a business. Personsdotcom is – I suppose you could call it a meeting service - not a dating service but a way of bringing people together – it has two sections –
Leisuredotcom is an Internet service, which enables members to increase their social circle, by accessing others who share their leisure interests.
Expatsdotcom is an Internet service, which enables members who live overseas (or who are about to move abroad) to access others from their home country.

These two ‘new beginnings’ dovetail together quite nicely – with one of them being a ‘ex-pat’ heading out into a new life in a new country – and the other being a way to bring such people together in their new home country. But I think that what really comes home to me as the point about all this is that both my sister nor my friend are - well, shall we say they’re not in the first flush of youth. They’ve both already had one – or two – careers already. And as someone who didn’t start on this, my writing career, until I had first been a librarian and then a mother, I have always subscribed to George Eliot’s comments that
“It is never too late to be what you might have been."

In just over a week’s time, the BM has interviews for two new Writing Residencies – new jobs, new ventures – at a stage in life when many are thinking about settling back and retiring. (Officially he’s taken ‘early retirement’ from his first career of teaching – early maybe, but you can forget the retirement bit!) And I know that my own life is as active and busy – more so really, certainly more adventurous – than when I was twenty years younger. And the great thing about writing is that writers don’t retire. I can’t imagine not wanting to tell stories so I hope to keep going for a long time yet. And of course, for me, each new book, each new story of a new heroine and hero, is a brand new enterprise.

All this seems to fit quite well too with today’s date – 1st July – the start of the second half of the year. I’ll be honest, I’ve been saying, I’ve no idea where the first half of the year went – (Well, yes I do, it went on one cataract operation and 2 Sicilians!) – but I’d much rather have it this way than sitting in a chair and – as the TV programme once put it – Waiting For God.

So I wish my friend and my sister every success with their latest new stage in life. I hope it brings them every success and happiness, new friends, new satisfaction and new memories for even later in life. And what about you? Have you planned or started any new enterprises recently?

Or if you’re one of my American friends and your only plans are to celebrate the holiday weekend – I hope you have a very happy time doing that.

Just let’s never, ever decide that it’s ‘too late’ to try something new or aim for what we want -
“It is never too late to be what you might have been."

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