Thursday, March 29, 2007

Priscilla and Presley

'Oh dear!' exclaimed Priscilla as they made their way across the busy streets of Cape Town towards Kirstenboch National Botanical Gardens, 'all these flowers are making me sneeze.'
'We need to get back to the coast,' said Presley, worrying for his wife, who had always suffered from hayfever. 'I think the quickest way to go is via the Stellenbosch Winelands.' With true wifely faith, Priscilla followed her husband without question, even though he was leading her in completely the wrong direction. 'I think, if we are taking the short cut across their vineyard, we really ought to sample their wares,' Presley advised. 'It would be polite,' agreed Priscilla.

Some years later Presley and Priscilla woke with thumping headaches and no children. 'Where have they gone?' wailed Priscilla. 'Don't worry,' said Presley, 'I expect they'll have taken themselves off to the seaside. We'll soon catch them up.' As they approached the picturesque Simon's Town, once the British Royal Navy's base in the South Atlantic, Priscilla's ears pricked up as she heard the sound of penguin laughter. 'My children!' she squealed in delight and started to run through the town towards the Cape of Good Hope. Presley followed at a more leisurely pace, even stopping for a quick word with a friendly baboon, who warned him that the people authorities had now built a decking platform at Bouldres Beach so they could stand and watch the penguins at play. How odd, thought Presley, why would anyone want to watch penguins? All they did was stand around and take the occasional dip in the sea. However, when he finally turned into the lane that ran down to the beach, it seemed his offspring had been playing other games whilst they'd been away, for instead of the 22 children he and Priscilla had set out on their travels with, there now appeared to be at least 100. Oh well, he thought, while Papa Penguin's away, the petite penguins will play and with a proud grin, he placed an arm carefully around his wife's shoulders and settled down for the night. It was good to be home.

Priscilla and Presley apologise for the lack of photos to accompany this final part of their story due to a technical hitch.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

New Hero

I'm not the most experienced writer in the world (nominations for 'Understatement of the Week' to be in no later than Friday, please) but with a grand total 2 books under my belt I can just about confidently say that writing the last bit is the easiest, the best, the most exhilarating part of the whole process. I love it. By that stage I feel like I'm there, that I am the heroine; passionately in love with my man, full of despair and desperation at the thought of not having him, so haunted by his face, his voice, his hands (especially his hands...) that the words just pour out onto the screen. (And, best of all, I start genuinely feeling like I'm fifteen years younger and two stone lighter.)

The bad thing about finishing a book is that once the champagne bottle is empty, the cake is finished and the exhilaration has worn off, there remains the small issue of starting another one. (Book, alas, not cake.) Now, call me old fashioned but I'm a bit of a one-man woman, and once I've bonded with my hero I'm really reluctant to leave him and move on-- so far (that would be both times, then) I've been certain that I'm not going to find another man I can love half as much as the one I've just left.

And in that situation, what's needed is a lot of tireless, painstaking research.

Fortunately this time my selfless labours have been amply rewarded in the shape of lovely actor James D'Arcy. Oh yes. He's been around a while, appearing in quite a lot of weird, scary-type things that even I, an ardent disciple of his melancholy beauty, couldn't be persuaded to sit through (The Exorcist: The Beginning is one) but the pictures below are taken from the TV series P.O.W. in which he starred as a shot-down WW2 airman and had lots of opportunity to look gloriously brooding and dark. Sometimes in uniform.

The series went out a couple of years ago and was pretty much panned by critics for its historical inaccuracies.
Luckily my hormones have no respect whatsover for historical fact. I'm just looking forward about spending the next couple of months gazing at him, and thinking up new ways to make him suffer, because in this book the hero is going to have it reeeally tough. This is good news because torment is a look that I think James D'Arcy does very nicely indeed.
In other news: with just two weeks to go before Amanda Ashby leaves for New Zealand, she, Annie, Penny Jordan and I got together this weekend for final farewell. Aside from a difficult moment when Amanda said she 'didn't get' James D'Arcy's sex appeal, we had a wonderful time, and I like to think that by the time she left I'd won her round (the witholding of profiteroles and champagne until she'd kissed his photograph may have helped focus her thoughts on this) As it was our last chance to change her mind about going, Annie went for the old 'bribery by chocolate pudding' trick, supplying not one but two of the most incredibly dark and calorific indulgences ever, while my daughters attempted to hide Amanda's children up trees in the garden just as she was about to leave. But sadly, it seems her mind is made up.
I'm going to miss her.
(She'll probably be coming back for the kids quite soon, though... )

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Ruminations on sorrow

Judging from the signs, today promises to be a prodigious day. The bus driver greeted me with a cheerful "good morning"; far from the only person who opted to climb the escalators up from the metro — which is usually the case — everyone seemed intent on scurrying off to work despite the early hour (7:30 am); and even the homeless man who sleeps in the tunnel that connects me to my workplace appeared to be sleeping soundly, howling wind notwithstanding (poor fellow).

So today I am wondering whether I ought to continue the story, as I imagine it at least, of the two people I encountered on my way to the YMCA last week: of the weeping young woman and her chauffeur companion (whom I presumed to be her father). Actually, it is the father's slumped shoulders and otherwise defeated posture that have stuck with me rather than the young woman's misery. His pain seemed deeper, etched into the fabric of his personality; the result, not of a momentarily disappointment or even of a love affair gone awry, but of a longstanding sorrow that has bent his spirit and blighted his every day.

What could have hurt him so badly? Or who? If it is a woman — his daughter's mother, for instance — what could she have done to stamp defeat into every fibre of his being? Did she have good reasons for what she did? If given a second chance, would he be able to forgive her?

Most riveting of all, does he love her still?


Monday, March 19, 2007

A South African Love Story

This post is Annie's, not Eva's. I'm just doing my globe-trotting pal a favour.

The minute Presley and Priscilla, a pair of Jackass Penguins, laid eyes upon each other, they fell deeply in love.

Setting up home in a beautiful, white-sanded cove called Boulders, situated close to South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve where ostriches abounded, the handsome couple looked forward to making petite penguins and living happily ever after.


Sadly, the people authorities decided that Presley and Priscilla and their increasing number of offspring were creating a nuisance to the local people residents —


— and moved the Penguin family to a different cove.

However, Presley and Priscilla decided they wanted to return to Boulders, as this was where they had met and fallen in love. So, placing all their belongings and offspring in two hefty rucksacks, they set off on the long journey home.

Unfortunately, in those days, there was no such thing as GPS and they had only the starts to guide them. Neither Presley nor Priscilla were much good at navigating and, instead of finding their way back to Boulders, they found their way to Cape Town, a sprawling, bowl-shaped city backed by a flat-topped mountain that looked just like a large table.

Cape Town

Exhausted and penniless, Presley and Priscilla fell upon a kindly hotelier who agreed to give them a room in exchange for fresh fish and a little entertainment of an evening.

True to their word, every day Presley and Priscilla made their way through the modern shopping and dining area of the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront to the busy harbour to catch fish.


But, grateful as they were to the hotelier and much as Presley’s night-time sing-alongs were proving a big hit with the crowds, Presley and Priscilla were becoming increasingly concerned about their offspring, who seemed content to spend their days perched on the floor in front of the television. So it was that one night, Presley and Priscilla repacked their rucksacks and set off once more in search of their beloved home.

…to be continued…
Will Presley and Priscilla ever find Boulders again?
What and who will they discover on the way?
If they do return to Boulders, will the people authorities let them stay for good or try and send them away again?
Find out in the next exciting episode of A South African Love Story — Coming soon at a blog near you…

P.S. Click on a photo to see a larger image.


Friday, March 16, 2007

Hot off the presses...


...or at least hot off Amanda's scanner bed. Thanks a million, Amanda! You've put so many of us out of our misery.

And doesn't it look fab?!!!

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Oooh, the loveliness.

Ooops, I forgot it was my turn to post. Sorry! And the bad news is that an overdose of joy and excitement at the weekend has left me far too excited to frame a coherent sentence. Here is a brief summary of the headlines.
  • I have a title for book 2. The story of Angelo and Anna is going to be released in January 2008 and will be called 'The Italian's Captive Virgin'. Oh yes. I have ten months to get used to saying the word 'virgin' to elderly relatives and teachers at school without blushing.
  • I have a book. A real book, with a hard, shiny cover (I think these are library copies) with a verrrrry glamorous couple welded together on the front and MY NAME right there beneath the bit where it says 'The Italian's Defiant Mistress'. Apparently this means that people other than Eva and my lovely editor in Richmond are soon going to be able to read the stuff I've written. This is very exciting, but it also makes me feel a bit like I've swallowed a porcupine.
  • As if that wasn't enough, I spent a fabulous Sunday afternoon at the very beautiful home of Susan Stephens (Presents author, Modern-xtra author, extreme glamour goddess, top hostess and all round exceptionally Nice Person) as she gave a party to say goodbye to Amanda Ashby (writing guru, soon-to-be-published literary genius, like-minded domestic slattern and total gem). The saying goodbye bit was all a bit too sad to dwell on, so for the most part we didn't and we got on with what writers do best; we talked about writing (At least, I think that's what I do best. I always find writing so easy to talk about and yet so oddly difficult to do.) Annie was supposed to be there too, but was struck down en route with The Head and couldn't make it, so it fell to me to eat, drink and talk enough for two scribes. This wasn't too onerous a task as the party included Amanda Grange-- the beauty and the brains behind Darcy's Diary and Mr Knightley's Diary, and Pat one of Amanda's famed 'witches' who was every bit as lovely and entertaining as I'd expected from reading Amanda's blog! But as a novice in the Presents stable it was particularly thrilling for me to meet another longstanding Presents heroine of mine-- Kate Walker. Eeeeek!!!!! Thanks to the fact that she is as generous as she is warm, wise and wonderful I was spared the humiliation of asking for her autograph on the back of a Sainsbury's receipt or something when she gave me one of her books and signed it too. Double Eeeeekkk!!!
  • So, not only am I currently reading and nearly finished Susan Stephens 'One Night Baby' (gorgeous cover, contents even more gorgeous, plot twist that made me gasp), I now also have on my tbr pile a Kate Walker 'At the Sheikh's Command' (signed-- with my pen!) and hot off the press, Sue's new Modern Xtra 'Dirty Weekend'. And herein lies the cloud behind the lovely, shimmery silver lining of my weekend-- what should I pick first? I'm thinking I might have to employ a similar technique to the one I used on Sunday when faced with the pavlova and the chocolate pudding. Both at once...

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Slow ebb of misery

A glimpse of a face twisted with pain. A furtive glance away, followed by a wrenching of the gut in sympathy. A few footfalls later I hear the sobbing. Recollect that the woman emerged from the passenger seat of a car. And immediately I begin to imagine.
Did she break up with her lover and is it he who is behind the wheel? Will he drive off now that she is safely deposited at home? And is he a gentleman for seeing her home so early in the morning, or a brute for breaking it off with her and causing such pain?
Then I hear the car backing into a parking space along the side of the street. I hazard a glance over one shoulder and see an older man, maybe fifty, cross the street to follow the woman into a house. His shoulders are hunched, hands in his pockets.

Now I think:
Did she call Dad to rescue her from the lover who jilted her? Or am I totally wrong and she's a a minor whom Dad has just rescued from a jail cell, the poor girl unlucky enough to have been picked up for underage drinking? Or maybe Dad and daughter simply quarrelled.
Of course the myriad theories occupied me most of the morning. 'Tis the fate of the writer, is it not? To question and wonder and imagine.


Sunday, March 04, 2007

A Taste of Africa - plus CONGRATULATIONS, INDIA

I was first introduced to Rooibos tea by Mme Ramotswe (the main character in Alexander McCall-Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books) who drinks gallons of the stuff, but it wasn't until my recent trip to South Africa (who would have thought the good old cuppa would give one an opportunity to country-drop?) that I had the opportunity to try it for myself.

And, for all of us writers who drink tea like Mme Ramotswe, I cannot recommend Rooibos highly enough. It's the only herbal tea I've ever come across which doesn't need honey to make it palatable or give it flavour. Of course, this doesn't please my friend, Pooh, but if, like me (and I know this may surprise some of you), you are not a bear with a penchant for honey, go out and get some. Rooibos tea, that is, not honey. It is so smoooooth and it also contains loads of those wonderful antioxidants, so is verrrry good for your health too. Plus, if you have a dairy intolerance, you can drink it without milk. Perfick.

(Perhaps I should point out at this stage that I am not actually running a competition for how many literary characters you can pick out from the clues mentioned in this post, ie: there will be no prizes. Although, come to think of it, maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea? Perhaps I could send out a Rooibos tea bag as a prize? )

However, I digress. Eva suggested I write a travelogue anecdote or two but I seem to have got bogged down in tea today. So, if you don't mind, I'll leave this post here and give you a bit more of Africa next time. Besides, it's time for another brew - and off she went singing (with a cockney twang): 'So Charlie and me 'ad another cup of tea...' (not a literary reference but a musical one, as only the very ancient among you will know!)

(just in case you didn't notice this wonderful piece of news tucked modestly away in her last post entitled World Book Day.)


Friday, March 02, 2007

World Book Day

...was yesterday, and in honour of the occasion my daughters had to dress up as a character from a book. I would have so, so liked to have dressed one up in a lovely pistachio-green vintage cocktail dress and sent her along as Eve from The Italian's Defiant Mistress. Mainly because it would have saved me the 5 hours of sewing and one small mental meltdown that went into the Little Red Riding Hood cloak.

I also heard yesterday that book 2 has been accepted, and celebrated in the same manner as last time-- with cake. I fully intend to establish the cake thing as a tradition. In fact, I think that when I've done researching heroes on youtube and printed out some pictures of the hottest to pin above my desk, I'll start searching bakery websites and pin up a picture of the cake I'm going to have when I'm finished.

(Or is that a bit sad?)