Monday, April 30, 2007

Glamour Hangover

As a Presents author I spend a huge proportion of my time thinking about glamour (to be honest, I did this way before I was a Presents author, only in then it was called 'daydreaming' and now it is called 'research') and a pitiful amount of time actually experiencing it. Friday was a very pleasant break from the norm.

Savoy experience gets off to an unpromising start when the doorman reaches into the taxi (where I am enjoying a very in-depth discussion with the driver on Turkish poetry, female midlife crisis, and OK magazine) pulls out my bags and bears them off into the plush, marble-colonnaded lobby of the hotel. Hideously embarrassing, as bags consist of an awful raffia shopping basket, befitting an elderly matron buying jam and knitted tea cosies from the WI, and a vile bright blue nylon suit carrier emblazoned with the words 'Johnsons Priority Service' containing my Sainsbury's dress, both of which look utterly incongruous in the gloved hands of the top-hatted doorman. Snatch them away from him swiftly and rush into the Ladies Cloakroom to change. Emerging two minutes later I meet lovely, lovely Susan Stephens ( when I say it like this it sounds like I casually bump into her, and have not been exchanging panicky text messages with her since before getting on the train at Crewe) looking cool and elegant and exactly like everything I want to be when I grow up. She introduces me to the wonderful, glamorous Sharon Kendrick and we go downstairs to get a drink.

Am delighted to discover that I am sharing a table not only with Susan and Sharon, but also with Kate Walker (who is wearing the most exquisite chinese ebroidered cream silk jacket, which I covet very deeply) and the wonderful BM, so go into lunch feeling hugely lucky and v excited. Lancaster ballroom glorious-- like sitting in the middle of a large, ornate wedding cake-- all delicate spun-sugar plasterwork and ravishing gilded swirls and curlicues, softly lit by candles and mirrors. Find myself seated between John Jenkins, charming and entertaining editor of Writers' Forum magazine, and Heidi Rice, newly signed ModX author, whose call story I'd read on the PHS only last week. Heidi was signed at pretty much the same time as I was, so both of us bombard Kate with constant questions, which she answers with her usual good humour, wisdom and grace. Heidi's first book is out this month, and in between courses someone comes over from another table and says she has just finished reading it and thought it was wonderful. Totally cool thing to happen, and a fab tribute to Heidi's debut novel. It's called 'Bedded by a Bad Boy' and is going right to the top of my TBR list.

I nip out in the lull following pudding (oh yes... treacle tart and raspberries. Lovely Mr Jenkins beside me is so amused by the enthusisasm with which I clear my plate he offers to ask for another helping for me) In the ladies' I spot Michelle Styles and can't resist going over to say hello. With the awards imminent, she must be terribly nervous, but still manages to be warm, welcoming and ever so, ever so nice when faced with total unkown person accosting her in the queue for the loo. (She has the most beautiful, clear, forget-me-not blue eyes and is with her teenage daughter who looks so fresh and lovely I instantly feel a little like my raffia bag must have felt in the hands of the doorman; ie. old and battered.)

Back in the glorious opulence of the Lancaster Ballroom the speeches and awards are soon underway. I love Jenny Haddon's tribute to Lucilla Andrews (her boigraphy-- 'No Time for Romance' being re-released this year and another one for the TBR pile.) Dame Tanni Grey Thompson's speech is funny and warm and insanely humble, and I hope that her retirement from athletics in two weeks time will give her lots more time for public speaking as she clearly has a talent for hitting just the right note. Find myself feeling ridiculously nervous for all the nominees for the romance prize, and absurdly tearful for Nell Dixon as she goes up to claim her award. Unsurprisingly, for if there's one thing I've learned over the past year or so it's that romance writers are wonderful, generous people, there is a huge sense of collective joy for her from everyone in the room. Well done Nell!

After that people get up, drift around, chat and hug. I am lucky enough to meet HMB editors Jenny Hutton and Joanne Carr (both of whom are so gorgeous they could very well have just stepped from between the covers of one of the novels they edit), the astonishingly talented and lovely Fiona Harper, whom I adopted last year (without telling her) as my all time Best Friend, thanks to her v useful Plot Board, and the fabulous, awe-inspiring Sara Craven. After this, full of lovely wine, treacle tart and an excess of star-struck excitement Susan, Sharon and I make our way upstairs to find tea and quiet in the perfect, refined grandeur of the Savoy's riverside lounge. For a moment it looks horribly like they aren't going to be able to find a table for us, until Sharon, with a breathtakingly admirable and utterly deadly flirtation-assertiveness combo, asks the waiter to reconsider. He doesn't stand a chance, and a moment later we are being shown to one of the best tables in the room, and sinking down onto the kind of perfect little sofa I picture romantic novelists sitting on to take tea. My delight is further compounded when we pick up our menus (roughly the same length as my novel) and peruse the selection of teas available. Eventually, dazed by possibility, I plump for one that sounds pretty.

When it arrives in a huge cream porcelain pot, my Hummingbird Vanilla tea proves to be as far removed from the tea I am used to as is possible to imagine. Delicate, scented, wonderful, it tastes of distilled cream cakes and is as delicious as it is exotic. I find myself wishing I could drink it all the time but know this is impossible-- it's rarity and glamour belong solely to the Savoy and would not translate well to home.

Reluctantly set my cup down, say grateful, affectionate goodbyes and go to retrieve the raffia shopping bag from the cloakroom. In the taxi I slip off my skyscraper heels and replace them with flat ballet pumps, but drifting down the platform at Euston I feel ridiculously happy, and am tempted to start twirling around pillars and tap dancing in the manner of Gene Kelly in 'Singin' In The Rain'. This could be a result of lunchtime drinking, but I rather suspect it is due to a combination of glamour, good company and Hummingbird Vanilla.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Going green

No, I'm not referring to my skin tone at the thought of India's Savoy lunch, but to my intentions to start writing in a more environmentally-caring manner.

I am, by heart, a nature lover and it has bothered me for some time the amount of paper I get through when I write, which, in turn, equates to the number of trees destroyed for such purpose.

Therefore, I am imposing some strict eco-rules upon myself:

1. Thou shalt use both sides of the paper at all times (unless sending to agent, publisher or competition judge);

2. Thou shalt welcome all junk mail (such as unpaid bills, bank demands, tax assessments)that fall upon the doormat and use the often-blank, reverse side to print all drafts, notes, etc.

3. Thou shalt rip partially-used pieces of paper into usable-sized pieces, place within an appropriately-sized ring binder and use for all jottings of random thoughts, brilliant brain waves, etc;

4. Thou shalt print all drafts in single-line spacing; any editing notes to be written in teeny-tiny writing or, alternatively, on paper within 'jottings of random thoughts, brilliant brain waves, etc' ring binder;

5. Thou shalt give up writing, sit in the sunshine and give thanks for the shade of the old oak tree.

Does anyone else have any other 'green writing' suggestions?


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Sainsburys. Savoy. Surreal.

Tomorrow is RNA lunch at Savoy. Am spending today in a frenzy of disorganised last-minute preparation, which should involve lovely things like painting nails in elegant, springlike pink, having split-ends snipped off and selecting uplifting reading material for train. However, am way behind, so shall be mainly tearing around trying to beg/bribe someone to take daughters 1 and 2 to swimming lessons and work out exactly how I'm going to get to Crewe station for 8.34 and also get children to school.

Preoccupation with these issues is preventing me dwelling too long on the event itself, which is a good thing, as when I do think about it the thoughts tend to be of the Doom-Laden Panic variety. Feel utterly unsuited to London on every level, coming as I do from a Small Town, filled mainly with people I have at some time been at school with/shared breastfeeding nightmares with at toddler groups/sold cushions to during the Laura Ashley years. The very word 'Savoy' sends out messages my wardrobe is unable to interpret. Hence, in a gesture of passive fashion-avoidance, I shall be wearing a dress purchased from Sainsbury's last week while buying milk and catfood. Oh dear.

However, on the other hand, lunch at the Savoy will certainly compare very favourably to cheese on toast in front of the computer, and how fantastic will it be to meet people whose names I have seen on the covers of beloved books, and whose characters are as familiar as old friends? Am also secretly delighted by the prospect of two hours suspended from reality on the train, with nothing to do but read and pretend to be ultra-efficient business person on the way to glamorous power-lunch.

Which, in effect, I will be.


Labels: , ,

Saturday, April 21, 2007

When hubby's away...

...I don't play much but I do have more time to read.

Last month when he went on his annual ski trip with "the boys", I picked up two Harlequin Historicals. Sadly, both were disappointing. One was too period, which isn't a criticism; obviously it was simply not to my taste. I can't read Georgette Heyer either. Besides, the paternal streak many heroes feel towards their Regency belles in books of this fashion I find a real turn off. I actually skipped a few of the love scenes, a telltale sign that it's time to move on.

The other historical, which I was quite excited about after reading the back jacket cover, ended up driving me mad. From the blurb and first few chapters, I imagined the heroine to be tough, beautiful, a real fighter, but then, at every turn, the poor thing seemed to dissolve into a fit of tears. It's a wonder the delectable male (and he was quite something; the woman was daft not to fall into his arms) still pursued her.

This has happened to me before. I've trusted the publisher as opposed to the writer herself and gone awry. I shall continue to pick up the works of my favourite Harlequin Historical authors—such as Nicola Cornick, Michelle Styles, Diane Gaston (I did enjoy her recent Innocence and Impropriety), Gail Ranstrom, and Deborah Hale. Or perhaps turn to another line altogether. My recent introduction to the Presents line has piqued my interest to say the least. Thanks, India!

jacketThis time while hubby is away, I discovered that one of my all-time favourite authors has turned her hand to children's literature. I thoroughly enjoyed Jeanette Winterson's Tanglewreck—think orphaned girl charged with the task of healing the rent in time that has wrought havoc in not only her native England but the entire world. Next on the list is Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty. I'm much more comfortable in the Victorian period, anyway.

I can forgo romance for a week or two.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Greed, sloth... and lust.

Ooops, I did it again. Forgot it was my turn to post. This is because I'm still in a state of extreme lethargy brought on by an extended (Thursday to Tuesday) Easter weekend of over-indulgence and laziness. Here are the stats.

Calories ingested in the form of chocolate and hot cross buns:
5 678 392 (approx)

Units of alcohol: Similar to above figure

Words added to wip: 0

Days left until RNA lunch at Savoy when all effects of chocolate and wine must be erased: 15

In this situation I always find denial and distraction are excellent coping strategies. So while I go and finish up the last half bar of Green & Black's butterscotch chocolate for breakfast, here is a lovely picture of James d'Arcy for us all to enjoy.



Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter, Happy Spring

Easter weekend. Hidden treasures buried in the grass - or snow, in our case.

I haven't been searching for eggs, this weekend, but movies. And it's as though the planets have aligned for me. I've been treated to movies I haven't seen in years, but absolutely loved: Sleepless in Seattle, Anne of Green Gables, Innerspace, You've Got Mail.

What is it about these movies, that even though time has passed and I can almost recite them word for word, each time I watch it, it's like seeing it for the first time. What is the tie that binds them to me?

Plot? I doubt it. Let's face it, the adventures of Anne Shirley, an orphan trying to find her way in the world, is far different from Innerspace's Jack Putter, a hapless & hypochondriac store clerk.

Setting? Well, Anne takes place in PEI, and the scenery is fabulous. Innerspace's location are the insides of the human body. Most of You've was a store, and Sleepless is a house & plane.

Dialogue? That definitely plays a part. Between Anne (Anne), Kathleen (You've...), Sam (Sleepless) and Jack (Innerspace), the lines are quick, clever, leaving you laughing one minute, tears in your eyes, the next.

There's the physical comedy, too, of which Martin Short is the hands-down King.

But you know what I think it is? Character.

Whether it's Jack, Anne, Sam, doesn't matter. I'm rooting for all of them, cheering them on. And even though I know they're going to be fine, and the ending is happy, I'm still devastated when Anne loses her friendship with Diana, or Joe thinks Kathleen will never love him.

Character, personality. I see myself in them, the parts I want to be, and the parts that I wish I wasn't.

Good movies are like old friends. Who cares if I've heard the story over and over again? I'm just happy to hear their voices and to relive the moments.

I hope that one day, I can write like that....that my book will sit on someone's shelf and be all dog-earred and stained because of all the times the person's read it.

Happy Easter, everyone. Wishing you blue skies, warm breezes, and great movies.


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

I'll tell you mine, you tell me yours

On the weekend, while indulging in our first pedicure of the year — I know I'm not the only one at this blog eagerly anticipating open-toe season — a friend and I shared engagement stories. It all started as a dramatization of how my hubby can't keep a secret. Here's my story:
Soon after returning from (me) backpacking in Europe and (he) finishing a work-study exchange program in France/Hungary, he started researching diamonds and specifically carats. We looked at a few rings but didn't dare venture into a jeweller's shop. (The usual state of affairs when the idea is brewing.) Then one day while shopping he flitted off, leaving my friend and I busy in the cosmetics department of a Toronto department store. He appeared several minutes later, wild-eyed and excited. He sent my friend away (who dutifully took in events from a nearby column), dragged me to the slipper section (it being the first area of the store affording a modicum of privacy), and proposed right then and there (my friend grinning ear-to-ear all the while).
At dinner that same night (as the pedicure, that is, not the engagement — grant me some taste!) — it was my pedicure friend's birthday, you see — I took a poll. Wonder of wonder, our story proved the most romantic. Here are the results:
  • One couple (the birthday girl and her beau) became engaged over the telephone, months before he, who was then in the army, was due to be stationed in another province. She said to him, "Well, should we get married or what?" He said, "Sure, why not?"
  • The second couple became engaged over dinner in a fancy restaurant, but only after she gave him the order. (She's Italian, so I'm not kidding: It was an order.)
  • The most recently married couple's engagement came to a head when she said, "Come on already, I know you've been to see your uncle the diamond merchant, but that was weeks ago. Get on with it. If I have to face my girl friends yet again without a ring, it's over!" He dropped to one knee at once (metaphorically speaking, of course).
What about you? Care to share your engagement story (or let's-move-in-together/share-our-life-together tale)?