Posted in articles, events, humour, writing

Happy Valentine’s Day!

This first appeared in Woman’s Weekly Fiction in 2010. Can’t say much has changed…. 🙂

Happy Valentine’s Day!

vintage-635259_640You might think that someone who has spent a great deal of her writerly life dealing in romance in one form or other, would embrace the celebration of St Valentine with open arms. You may imagine your average author of romantic fiction as a hearts and flowers sort of woman; floating about the home in pink chiffon, exchanging Snugglebum messages with Coochie-face, preparing heart-shaped salmon delights and chocolate coated strawberries in champagne, while the deliveryman arrives bent beneath the weight of lavish floral gifts. Not in this house.

rose-1215314_640My theory is that we scribes make up romance for the same reason as so many millions read it. It’s in jolly short supply in real life.

It would be fair to say that in the last twenty years I have generally received a card on Valentine’s Day and more often than not, some roses to boot. This is largely by dint of writing instructions in large felt tip in my husband’s diary mid-January and by teaching my son, as soon as he could speak, to repeat “Buy Mummy Flowers” whenever I gave him a Pavlovian shove through the door of his father’s study.

painting-63186_640We never go out to dinner on February 14th – all those other couples slobbering over each other is enough to put anyone off their Nipples-of-Venus-to-share – and a general air of relief descends when the day’s over and we can go back to shouting as usual.

A quick straw poll among my friends suggests we are not unique.  In novels, men may be tall, dark, handsome and capable of producing tickets for a romantic break in Paris without being asked but in reality, in my experience, they are more likely to shriek “How much?” and remind you that there’s an important league match that weekend and the only thing they’ll be holding close is the remote control.

rabbit-1312581_640The myth continues because, even if we find the whole “Bunnykins” thing pretty  cringey ourselves,  we live in hope that our fictional heroes who have the florist on speed-dial and understand about candlelight and Belgian chocolate and the element of surprise are out there somewhere. Even if the evidence to the contrary – “they double the price on Valentines Day / I can’t see what I’m eating / Won’t that make you fat? / You get it and put it on my credit card” – is overwhelming.  And that, dear reader, concludes my entire fount of knowledge on things romantic.

heart-1668185_640I wish someone would believe me. But no, it is assumed if I write romantic comedy I must be something of an authority the matter of lurve. Over the years a variety of magazine editors, radio producers and fellow hacks doing the Ten Top Tips trick when there’s nothing else to say, have called upon me to dispense wisdom on everything from handling a first date to spicing up one’s marriage to how to cope when he lives a continent away (sounds ideal to me).

audio-1844798_640I once choked on air having just heard myself introduced by one regional radio station (clearly desperate to fill five minutes before the travel news) as a “relationships expert” and finding I was being called upon to offer advice to Helen who felt Kevin no longer loved her, when I’d thought I was just there to plug a novel. “A special night out,” I suggested vaguely, trawling my memory for every cliché from every agony aunt page I’d ever read. “A quiet night in when you can really talk… Communication is so important,”  I simpered, getting into my stride, even though I knew that Kevin, as previously discussed, would rather watch the boxing and will be aghast when Helen serves up chicken a la mode, in the dark, instead.

erotica-979543_640But there are worse things to be asked to do and it’s just happened again.  Another call from the well-meaning wanting me to give a workshop. “We’ve got someone to do Crime,” she says brightly, “and a very nice gentlemen in charge of Sci Fi. Perhaps you can give us a few words on Romance and Erotica….” I most certainly can’t.

bdsm-1203191_640The only time I ever attempted to write anything erotic, the magazine in question gave up on my descriptions of passion and wrote the end in themselves. I can’t do body parts, I can’t do moaning and writhing,  I feel saying silly saying “nipple” (yes I know I said it earlier but that was a pudding) and even in my raunchiest novel where every single character is at it in some form or other, I still flinch from the squelchy bits.

I try to make this sound intelligent.  “I tend to believe less is more,” I offer. “The brain is the most potent of the sexual organs and arousal is often mental not physical. I see nothing wrong in closing the bedroom door and leaving much to the imagination.” “Perhaps just the romance then…” she says.

winter-1937626_640I am planning my opening address.

A good hero should be tall and handsome, kind and sensitive, and given to unexpected acts of generosity in the city break and floral departments.

Even if you have to write it down for him first…

***

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Posted in articles, events, Isle of Thanet Gazette, non-fiction, Plain Jane, writing

Jane remembers 2016

jwj-remembers-2016At midnight on 31st December I was travelling by car through the bottom of Broadstairs.  In Ramsgate, minutes earlier, they’d been spilling out of pubs, crowding along the waterfront, waiting for fireworks. Three miles down the road the pavements were deserted. You could almost see the tumbleweed blowing along Albion Street. I could only imagine that all the revellers were huddled behind doors – The Dolphin looked pretty crammed through its steamed up windows – in case 2016 had one final act of retribution up its sleeve. Nothing would have surprised me. In a year that saw us voting to shoot ourselves in our collective foot, our prime minister resigning, horrific acts of terrorism across Europe, losing an incredible amount of artistic talent, and gaining Trump while strangers crawled all over other strangers’ gardens looking for Pokemon, frankly anything could have happened. Now we are safely through to 2017, it’s time to breathe out and look back in wonder at the local highlights and national low-lives of the past twelve months.

A THUMBS UP FOR:

New outlets, increased business and general let’s-go wow factor in all three main towns. Margate Old Town gets ever more cutesy and the Harbour Arm continues to thrive with all units taken since the  latest addition to this snazzy food and drink destination – Mala Kaffe – in the spring.   2016 also brought the two-millionth visitor to the Turner Contemporary. Lucky teacher Linda Tucker was presented with a bottle of fizz when she walked through the gallery’s doors in June.

Over in Ramsgate, more restaurants and bars have popped up along Military Road in the old fishermen’s arches alongside such favourites as The Arch and The Greek Arch – and weren’t the lights on the boats gorgeous this year? Down in Pegwell Village, Frank Thorley – 81 this year and still working seven days a week – presided over the opening of the Seaview Bar & Restaurant – and extension to The Stanley Grey pub. I took Mike-humbug-Pearce (dining criteria: no kids, no office parties, nothing foreign, nothing spicy, no fish) along there for our annual pre-Christmas lunch and even he liked it.

In Broadstairs, despite the continuing blots on the landscape that are Costa and Iceland, the prevailing tradition of independent shops and eateries is upheld with the opening of teeny, acclaimed Stark by Michelin-starred chef Ben Crittenden, Taylors Seafood Restaurant and cocktail bar on the site of what was once the Rose pub, and the under-new-ownership, being-revamped-as-we-speak, Fish & Beer bar and restaurant, reopening on 27th January as The Reef.

Meanwhile, Micropubs continue to mushroom all over the Isle stretching from the Hair of the Dog in Minster to the Wheel Alehouse in Birchington. I am convinced most of society’s ills can be laid at the now-closed door of “The Local” (The Dane Valley Arms is the latest to be demolished)  so this is all good and worth its own small round of applause. 2016 additions include Nautic Ales at Northwood and Mind the Gap in Broadstairs, next to Houdini’s – our first “magic” bar…

My personal culinary discovery of the year goes to the London Tavern, Margate for their fab food and utterly superlativeburger. They do real ale too.

A DROPPED JAW AT:

Nigel Farage being shortlisted for Time magazine’s Person of the Year award.

(And then Donald Trump winning it.)

SHOCK OF THE YEAR

A dual award given to 23rd June and November 8th 2016. No doubt there was much rejoicing on the morning after the referendum in Kipper Towers (aka Thanet District Council) but most sane people I know were walking about in a fog of shock and bereavement. Waking up on 9th November to find a buffoon with no political experience whatsoever now had his finger on the nuclear button, it felt as if the world had ended twice.  My friend, the award-winning restaurant critic Marina O’Loughlin, tweeted simply: “There are no more jokes”.

Which as it’s turned out there won’t be, tragically, from some of our brightest stars. We bid farewell to Victoria Wood, Caroline Aherne, Ronnie Corbett, Sir Terry Wogan, TV comedy writer Carla Lane, ascerbic and brilliantly witty journalist AA Gill.

OTHER (NON) EVENTS

Meanwhile work started, and was then halted, in Ramsgate on what is rumoured to become the biggest Wetherspoons of all time and Margate house prices surged beyond all other seaside towns. Perhaps because, while commuters in other parts of the country faced unrelenting misery, our hi- speed trains mostly ran on time.

Tracy Emin “married” a lump of rock, Emeli Sande’s music video for her single “Hurts” filmed on Botany Bay collected over ten million hits on YouTube, Margate Caves got lottery funding, and new dog waste bag dispensers were introduced. Well done TDC. (And you didn’t think you’d hear ME say that in this decade, did you?)

Which leaves me to conclude it’s not been all bad. May I wish you health, wealth and happiness in 2017. It can only get better now. (Can’t it?)

Happy New Year! xx

Posted in events, novels, short stories, writing

Champagne de Romance at Chez Castillon

CC Champ 100515

It is always a joy to be at Chez Castillon.  Next course up – could it be for you? – Write and Sell Short Stories. Write a short story for Woman’s Weekly – and get personal feedback from their fiction editor – or a prize-grabbing entry for a competition.

Coming soon – Writing Crime with lovely Clare Mackintosh and Pitch and Sell Your Novel avec moi :-). For details of all courses see here.

To give you a flavour of what to expect I’d like to share a post from Lynne Shelby, winner of the Accent Press and Woman magazine novel competition who blogged about her experience at Chez Castillon, in May.  You can read the original – and find out more about the fabulous venue – at http://www.chez-castillon.com/437/champagne-de-romance-at-chez-castillon.

*

From Lynne:

It’s market day in the small French town of Castillon de Bataille. Writer’s notebook and camera in hand, I edge through the crowds gathered around stalls selling fish and meat, fresh herbs and spices, and dresses fluttering in the breeze like brightly coloured flags. Later, I am to write an atmospheric description of the market through the eyes of a character in my WIP.

I am spending a week at a writers’ retreat at beautiful Chez Castillon, part of my prize for winning the Accent Press and Woman magazine Writing Competition with my debut novel French Kissing (I’m so excited that it’s now available on from Accent Press!)

Days at Chez Castillon begin with a breakfast of fresh croissants and baguettes from the local boulangerie (I could get used to this!). Then I and my fellow writing students, Sue, Mary, Helen and Peter, spend the morning in the “classroom” with our inspiring and insightful (and patient!) tutor, Jane Wenham-Jones.

Janie and Mickey who run Chez Castillon are wonderful hosts. As well as being a writer (her novel, Life’s A Drag, is published by Accent Press), Janie is a superb cook, and for lunch and dinner, all the students, and the writers in residence, Katie FfordeJudy Astley, Catherine Jones (writing as Fiona Field), Jo Thomas and Clare Mackintosh, gather in the dining room for delicious food, fabulous wine and much laughter (I do like being a writer!).

Today, after lunch, best-selling novelist, Katie Fforde, one of the judges of the Accent Press and Woman Writing Competition, helps me with my WIP. I sit by the pool in the sun, holding my breath while she reads my work, and I’m so thrilled and delighted when she likes it. She very generously shares her expertise and knowledge, and gives me some invaluable advice on how to sort out my plot.

CC Champ KF

Also at Chez Castillon this week is David Headley of DHH Literary Agency. Jane helps me, Sue, Mary, Helen and Peter work on the pitches for our books, which we then present to David for feedback. I’m very encouraged by his appreciative interest in my WIP. It’s such a great opportunity to hear what a top literary agent looks for in a submission and to learn a little more about publishing.

My first visit to Chez Castillon goes all too fast. It’s been an inspiring and exhilarating week of writing, with great food, great wine, and above all great company – and so much fun. And what better way to toast a gathering of writers that includes romantic novelists than with Champagne de Romance? Santé.

If you’d like to be inspired by the beautiful Chez Castillon and its writers in residence, why not join bestselling novelist and tutor Jane Wenham-Jones in October

Posted in articles, events, Isle of Thanet Gazette, non-fiction, Plain Jane, writing

Plain Jane 140815 – Bra-vellous project

Plain Jane 140815If we live in a small world then Thanet is microscopic. Hold forth in the pub about the bloke from the garage and it will turn out you’re chatting to “that idiot’s” brother’s cousin or his wife’s next-door neighbour.

Gossip about his affair and you’ll discover you’re looking at the woman he ran away with. It was no surprise, therefore, to find that the chap my friend Ann was on the line to, when I arrived at her house, used to be my bank manager. (In the days when these creatures existed and a simple transaction did not require you to answer six security questions, punch out four different numbers on your telephone keypad, and then listen to terrible music for twenty minutes before someone in Madras cut you off.)

“What are you talking to him about?” I asked nosily, upon hearing Brian Short was now heading up the local branch of the RSPB. “Tits!” she declared. Ah yes, silly me…

Ann Munro is an artist, and the powerhouse behind an “installation” planned for the Ramsgate Festival, which she refers to as “Tits Up” and which will benefit the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds as well as the excellent breast-screening charity EKUBS, mainly so that school children taking part in the project can approach it from a feathered angle, and not give their parents the vapours.

The first I heard of it was when Ann swept into my own kitchen and demanded to know if I had any old bras. Well of course I did – what woman doesn’t? I also had uncomfortable bras, ill-advised ones, saggy-strapped affairs and a super-reinforced, upholstered, uplifting contraption that renders one like Barbara Windsor (not necessarily in a good way).

I emptied the contents of the drawer into a carrier bag and off she went. They were destined to be bunting down Harbour Street, she told me. But oh my goodness, things have moved on since then. Ann, just turned 70 and looking amazing for it, seems to have involved the entire isle in her mission.

There are beaded bras and knitted bras and a bra cake, and scores of teddy bears, each wearing their own specially-decorated brassieres.

Shops, businesses and cafes have donated, sponsored and will be putting on displays. There will be raffles and auctions and workshops. It is going to be huge. “It’s about art bringing people together,” says Ann, “and raising awareness and charity. About people discovering their creativity and showing how art can promote a whole area. It’s also about my ego,” she adds refreshingly. “I’m loving my ‘old age'” Basically, loves, if I might summarise, we’re still talking tits. The beaked, seed-loving sort, naturally…

The artworks will be on display from August 24 to 31. For more information find Ann Munro on Facebook or visit http://www.ramsgatearts.org.

If art can bring people together then so can comedy. In the 1970s, the catchphrase “I didn’t get where I am today…” united a generation, and is still used as a quip over four decades later. It sprang from the genius of David Nobbs, creator of TV series The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin and 20 equally hilarious books, who died last weekend aged 80. I was privileged to interview him, teach with him, and consider him my friend.

He was a lovely, generous, kind, highly intelligent and extremely funny man. And I didn’t get where I am today by not wanting to say so.

***

Read the original article at: http://www.thanetgazette.co.uk/Plain-Jane/story-27601909-detail/story.html
Follow the Thanet Gazette via: @ThanetGazette on Twitter | thanetgroup on Facebook

Posted in articles, events, Isle of Thanet Gazette, non-fiction, Plain Jane

Plain Jane 250714: Royalty, politics, tourism and how not to waste money

Plain Jane 250714

Originally published last week but I’ve been away teaching at the fabulous Chez Castillon

HAPPY Birthday Prince George and congratulations on being able to walk.

The day before the smallest royal heir turned a year old, I was on BBC Radio Kent reviewing the papers, amused to see how the different publications approached the anniversary.

Beneath the official photo of the toddler strutting his stuff, the Daily Mail made much of the fact that Prince William was getting a job nearer home so he could be a hands-on dad (jolly good!) and informed us that the baby’s fetching blue dungarees cost £27; the Times pointed out that the Queen is ahead of her grandson when it comes to shifting royal memorabilia on eBay (8,716 items sold featuring Queenie, only 1,202 for young George), while The Sun was able to reveal that Andrew Morton, late biographer to Diana, Princess of Wales, was predicting that Prince William would one day abdicate in favour of his son (goodness and we haven’t even got Charles on the throne yet). Apparently above having its head turned by any sort of Windsor excitement, The Guardian appeared to ignore the entire event and was more interested in the fact that students in Massachusetts have developed a printer that can churn out 3D ice-cream. John Warnett, Radio Kent’s Breakfast Show presenter, seemed rather more enlivened by this too.

THERE has also been much in the news about the need to increase funding for the NHS. A recent poll suggested that 48 per cent of those questioned thought this should be done by raising taxes while 21 per cent considered patients should be charged. For the 12 per cent who answered “don’t know”, can I suggest some basic savings. Last week my husband received a letter informing him who his GP was, despite us having had the same (wonderful) doctor for the last 24 years. He was being told this, the letter said, because he is now over 75. Whether it was thought he’d forget his doctor’s name at this great age, who knows, but with an ever-increasing elderly population, with those over 75 set to double in the next 30 years, and second class stamps costing 53p, please don’t start writing to them all…

SOMEONE at the Times must like Thanet. The isle has made no fewer than three “best of” lists published by the national newspaper, with Kingsgate Bay appearing on Best Hidden Beaches (won’t be quite so secret now); the fab Royal Harbour Hotel in Ramsgate coming in at a well-deserved number ten for the best places to stay on the beach (overlooking the sea, would be a more accurate description, but we know what you mean) and the new Sands Hotel in Margate scooping a spot on Best Beach Restaurant for its Romney Marsh lamb and Kent cheeses. Hurrah and well done to all concerned. I trust the powers that be at our esteemed council are suitably thrilled. And fully primed to meet the influx of eager trippers, anxious to try these gems. Never one to shirk my responsibility to state the bleedin’ obvious, I would remind them that visitors to the area will want available parking, clean loos (that stay open) and a spot of tourist information, easily gleaned. Just saying…

WHAT I can’t say is that I was overly gripped by the comings and goings of David Cameron’s reshuffle, which is perhaps why I was only half listening to Radio Four and misheard. For a brief, joyful moment I thought our Prime Minister had displayed a stroke of genius and it was not Liz, but Lynne Truss who was to join the cabinet. Imagine my delight at the thought of the novelist, journalist and expert on punctuation being in a position of influence. At last, someone in power who would haul the BBC over the coals if they dared allow reporters to say “less” when it should be “fewer”. And who could be relied upon to take decisive action against any greengrocer found wantonly using an apostrophe to make a plural from potato.

***

You can read the original article at: http://www.thanetgazette.co.uk/Plain-Jane-Royalty-politics-tourism-waste-money/story-21937654-detail/story.html

Posted in articles, books, events, fiction, novels, RNA, romance, writing

The joy of Chez Castillon

April 2012 – the first time…CHEZ CASTILLON

You never really know someone until you live with them. A truth universally acknowledged by generations of women who’ve been swept off their feet with champagne and roses only to discover too late, that he always leaves the loo seat up and his socks on the floor. No such worries when in one’s own, beautiful ensuite accommodation,  and sharing a house with other females but the rest holds true.

Katie's bookIn return for their own silence, I have promised to be judicious on the matter of what exactly I discovered about my fellow authors when we spent a week together in France but suffice to say I can thoroughly recommend the experience . It was billed as a “Writers’ Retreat”. For which I’d suspected, you could read “Writers’-sit-around-and- Drink-Too-Much”. I was, after all, going with members of the RNA – not an organisation famed for its temperance in pastures new.

summer-time-coverBut when Katie Fforde, Judy Astley, Jo Thomas and Catherine Jones and I moved en masse into Chez-Castillon, a gorgeously restored 18th century townhouse on the banks of the Dordogne, owned by Micky Wilson and Janie Millman who have turned their talents – they are both actors and Janie is also a writer and one fabulous cook – to running creative courses, surprising discipline was shown.  Katie was up at six completing her daily word target before breakfast, Judy was heard to say she wouldn’t have any wine at lunchtime so she could work hard in the afternoon (“say” being the operative word here, I didn’t actually spot her without a glass in her hand) and Jo had completed 7,500 words by the end of day two, (by which time I had managed to pen a TO-DO list and wander down the road for a pedicure). Nor was it just writing!

51UNN9eBnbL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX342_SY445_CR,0,0,342,445_SH20_OU02_Catherine “Brace Up” Jones put us all to shame with dawn  swims; we did walking, shopping and wine-tasting (naturellement)  and in the evening made our own entertainment. “Stars in their Eyes”  saw Katie as Mary Hopkins, me as Joni Mitchell (ambitious, yes!), Jo providing the entire score from Calamity Jane (with hand movements) and Catherine as Edith Piaf.  Micky was Nat King Cole, Judy contributed hilarious jokes (in French no less!) and Janie a poem about knickers and vicars which is now a blur but went down a treat after the fourth bottle. The  whole experience of spending a week with fellow scribes was madly, gloriously, divinely inspiring and even I – Queen of Displacement –  returned with a list of book chapters, a short story, two columns  and some riotous photos. We will be going back….

Fast forward to NOW…

CM blog smallAnd back we’ve been – several times!

I’ve taught a number of  courses, hung out with the usual suspects – which most recently included the lovely Clare Mackintosh, director of Chipping Norton Lit Fest, and used Janie’s recipes in my 100 Ways to Fight the Flab, proving you can eat well, drink copiously and still combat your writer’s bottom if you only know how.

Jo-Thomas-187x300Katie, Catherine (aka Fiona Field) and Judy have each had new books out, see covers above.

Clare’s amazing debut novel, I Let You Go is published later this year, and Jo Thomas has seen mega success with The Oyster Catcher – all were partly-written at Chez Castillon.

The authors will, I’m sure, testify to the magical, inspiring qualities of the place (it’s not just all the wine :-)).

100 Book cover Dec 2013 - front (small)I am back there teaching on May 17th and again in July and October (when you’ll be helped to sell a short story if it kills me! :-)). Other retreat/course dates are available.

See my page here or visit www.chez-castillon,com. Mention this blog for the chance of a discount when booking and feel free to email me for more details.

It is fab!

And I’d love to see you there.

Posted in events, Uncategorized, writing

Happy Birthday Morgen Bailey!

A quick post to say a Very Happy Birthday to the fabulous Morgen to whom I owe a great deal. This is the woman who keeps me (just!) the right side of insanity by sorting out my blogs and various online endeavours I am too dim to manage myself. It was she who single-handedly set up www.wannabeawritertvshow.com – thus allowing Stephen and I to get on with making the show and just pop in and out to add  a bit of content in between things.  I heartily recommend her services to you all – except not so much that she gets too busy to regularly bail me out… :-/

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Happy Birthday sweetie! Have a great day.

And thanks for everything

jxx

Posted in books, events, fiction, interview, romance, TV Show, writing

The Wannabe a Writer TV Show

Here at last….

Am all very thrilled – and not a little nervously twitchy 🙂 – to announce the launch of the first half of the pilot episode of Wannabe a Writer? The TV Show, a joint project between me and my mate Stephen Arkell of Retina Productions , in which we bring an exciting new concept in Writer-centred TV to your screens…

WATCH it HERE, Read all about it HERE and then do comment – I would love to know what you think…

jxx

Posted in articles, events, Isle of Thanet Gazette, Plain Jane, writing

Plain Jane in the Isle of Thanet Gazette from Friday 21st June

Bit late getting this up here as have been away to the Winchester Writer’s Conference where I had the enormous privilege of hearing Julian Fellowes speak! Fabulous. Top quote: “just because nobody’s found you, it doesn’t mean you haven’t got it”. Could have listened to him for several more hours. I have come late to Downton Abbey (currently on series three of boxed set  so please don’t tell me what happens) but adore it. In love with Maggie Smith, Jim Carter and Lady Mary. ANYWAY, the column won’t be of particular interest to those of you living outside the fair Isle of Thanet as it is a rant about local parking (high cost and general inconvenience of/Council ineptitude over same).  But just in case and because  after an encouraging start with the new website, it is impossible to find online again, (My-mate-Mike eventually tracked me down but you wouldn’t know I’d written it if I hadn’t just told you), I am sticking it up all the same.

The basic premise of it is that there’s nothing like parking to bring out one’s inner tightness, but if you’ve nothing better to do you can read the whole lot HERE. Hope you are having a nice weekend even if the weather is shite. jxx

Plain Jane 210613 blog

Posted in books, events, fiction, humour, interview, novels, review, writing

The Ab Fab ChipLitFest :-)

Well what a lov-er-ley time I had at this year’s Chipping Norton Literary Festival – a treat indeed. You would never believe the festival is only in its second year from its big-name line up and terrific organisation but it is and I’ve been lucky enough to be there for both of them. This time I had the enormous pleasure and privilege of being “in conversation with”  the super-best-selling Peter James on Saturday, who talked about his forthcoming Dead Man’s Time  (I got to read a review copy – bloody brilliant!)  fascinated us all with his police tales and amused greatly with his unique revenge tactics on Martin Amis (ha ha!). Peter is a dream to interview!

Jane and Peter Chip Lit 2013 small

(Thanks Liz Fenwick for the photo of us at the Crown and Cushion!)

As is the gorgeous and delightful Fern Britton. I met her for about a minute before we started our event around her latest entertaining novel The Holiday Home but she was as warm and relaxed as if we were old friends. What a totally lovely, natural and generous lady. The audience adored her and so did I. She had some hilarious stories too… (Was Chipping Norton ready for the word c*ck?  Certainly seemed to be…. :-)) We all laughed lots.

Fern and Jane

Thanks Jan Harvey for taking this one

So put next year’s dates in your diary now. Chipping Norton Lit Fest 2014 runs from 24th – 27th April and I’m excited already….

Posted in articles, books, events, novels, Plain Jane, writing

Plain Jane. Isle of Thanet Gazette. Friday December 21st 2012

This might not make entire sense to those not blessed with living on the Isle of Thanet but perhaps you would would wish for similar for your town too…

Happy Christmas anyway!

jxxx

***

What would make a perfect gift for Isle?

THE GAZETTE’s regular columnists Jane Wenham-Jones and Mike Pearce have been set a Christmas challenge by editor Rebecca Smith.

It’s better to give than receive, we are told, so what could glass-half-full Jane and glass-half-empty Mike come up with as the perfect gifts for Thanet?

Jane & Mike Xmas 2012 photo by Bill Harris
WHO’S BEEN GOOD? A bumper parcel for Jane and socks again for Mike (photo by Bill Harris)
​JANE: What would I give Thanet this Christmas? Some positive vibes! Thanet has its problems but it’s got a whole heap of potential too. So I’d like to see less negativity from the disaffected quarters and no scaremongering. I wish the Isle further art galleries and creative ventures (to quote Ms Emin: where art comes, regeneration follows); a few more restaurants you can sit outside; and bars that face the sun.

I want the new micro pubs to do well, the older pubs to survive, the High Streets to hang in there and huge success for Manston Airport, (yes, yes, during the day! Don’t start that again).

I’d like to see certain councillors stepping down and others stepping up. I’d like derelict properties restored and landlords held to account and bad housing sorted.

Had I a magic Christmas wand, I would of course bring more employment and prosperity, fewer punch-ups and help for smaller shops and businesses. I’d say no to superstores and give a fat grant to anyone opening up an empty retail space and making jobs.

I’d have an open police station in each town, no more ridiculous “traffic-calming” and put Richborough Towers back where it was. I’d see the theatres full, the churches unvandalised and the loos unlocked. But in the sad absence of my fairy wings, I’ll just send a group hug. Have a good one!

And for my dear colleague Mike? I would give him a season ticket to Turner Contemporary events, a hot night out with Iris Johnston (his favourite!), a night flight from Manston and a signed, life-size photograph of Tracey Emin. Happy Christmas mate!

MIKE: AS A child, I would plead for expensive toys and receive a gift-wrapped box containing a battery and a message saying “Toy not included”. I offer my presents for Thanet, but remember – Santa is an anagram of Satan.

For Margate: A new road behind Dreamland, allowing a pedestrianised seafront paradise with a cafe culture in its true sense. Not just a few late-night boozers, but coffee bars, eateries and a tip of the hat to the glory days, with ice cream parlours, candy floss and family-friendly amusement arcades.

For Broadstairs: A large field, miles from anywhere, where morris men can beat each other with sticks, and lank-haired minstrels of indeterminate sex can whine about Strawberry Fair, Widdecombe Fair and Betfair for all I care, without providing an excuse for every yob this side of Tilbury to converge on the town centre and cause mayhem.

For Ramsgate: A fairy godmother to sprinkle stardust on the precious Ramsgate Sands site, shoo off would-be developers and turn back the clock to when it was a tourist magnet – or at least a car park.

For Thanet: A spaceship to descend and take away this hapless council. And then (oh Santa, if only) for 56 good men strong and true to come forward – people who will spend more time discussing agendas and less time discussing genders; people with intelligence and enthusiasm; people less concerned with causes and more concerned with the common good.

For the High Streets: An end to hand-wringing, silver-tongued soothsayers offering false dawns.

For the Turner Centre: A ticket machine, so they can finally admit there’s no such thing as a free Munch.

And following Margate’s inclusion in the Rough Travel Guide as the world’s seventh best tourist destination, an early copy of next year’s, showing Cliftonville has the world’s best forests, Manston the most successful airport and Westwood Cross the most efficient traffic system.

For Plain Jane?: A film company to buy up one of her novels. And an address book with the page for D torn out, so she avoids the duckies and divas and darlings who turn her pretty little head!

Posted in articles, events, Plain Jane, writing

Plain Jane: Playing the Party Season

Isle of Thanet GazetteAs some of you may know, I write a fortnightly column – alternating with My-Mate-Mike (he who hovers just to the right of Genghis Khan and is considered a suitable antidote for what he views as my ‘dangerously-pink” tendencies) – in the Isle of Thanet Gazette. In theory this appears online on http://www.thisiskent.co.uk. In practice it frequently doesn’t. If it does, you need a degree in orienteering to find it and then, when you get there, it doesn’t bear my name.

Plain Jane. Isle of Thanet Gazette. Friday November 30th 2012

So we’re almost at December and the time, I gather, to start thinking festive. No, I don’t know where this year’s gone either, but if one more person tells me they finished their shopping weeks ago I shall slap her with some wet tinsel. It can only be a She. Men don’t get involved with presents at all if they can help it and when finally forced to face the inevitable, hare round on Christmas Eve, panic-buying gift packs. I sometimes wonder if I have male hormones. The joys of wafting around in a pinnie, hand-pressing cranberries and making my own mince meat, have passed me by but at least I have learnt  to keep stress levels low.

The way to approach C Day without fear and dread, is to keep one’s head firmly in a bucket and acknowledge nothing until December 23rd. When you’ve been self-employed as long as I have, with a tendency to let the entire year’s deadlines accumulate, leaving one no option but to be welded to the computer instead of counting down the retail days, the whole build-up can very easily slide past. Especially since nobody has Christmas parties any more. Or if they do, they don’t invite me.

Once upon a time, journalists wrote wearily about mantelpieces stiff with gold-edged cards (be an email these days of course) – too many to possibly ever attend all – while double pages were devoted to how to choose a little black dress and the best way to get through three weeks of champagne and canapés and still fit into it.

Now in these dark hours of austerity and gloom, it’s a buy-your-own down at the local chain pub or a memo urging staff to contribute half a goat for the third world instead. Friends who still have gainful employment with companies that turn a profit (three at the last count), tell me to thank my stars, but it is a small regret to me that never having had what you might call – and my husband does frequently – a “proper job”, I have never attended a traditional office party. I can only imagine the lecherous, bottom-patting general manager and the droopy typist who adores him. The dropped jaws when Doris from the canteen turns up in tight satin and fishnets; the sobbing after too many advocaats, the throwing up in the waste-basket, the passing round of intimate-body-parts-taken-on-photocopier hilarity and  the secretary found in the stationery cupboard doing something inappropriate with Stanley from accounts. I can’t help feeling that at  some fundamental, formative level, I have missed out.

Jane
Preparing for a previous Murder Mystery, at the Victorian Tearooms, Broadstairs
Dodgy photo by Matthew Munson

So it was perhaps with me in mind that my dear friend Lisa Payne, of the Perfectly Dreadful Murder Company, set the theme of her next Murder Mystery evening as “1970s Office Christmas Party”. I have been in a few of Lisa’s mysteries before and they are enormous fun. I am invariably cast as a cross between Barbara Windsor in EastEnders and Les Dawson in drag, allowing me to trip about in fishnets myself – with perilous heels and inadvisably short skirt – and Lisa to murmur sweetly: “and all from her own wardrobe too…” If you’re feeling festive already with no invites either, dressed up and no place to go, why not come along? Just remember ignorance is bliss for a little longer and don’t mention the  sh***ing…

Jane will be appearing with the Perfectly Dreadful Murder Company in their 70s style murder mystery on Saturday 8th December at the Sarah Thorne Memorial Theatre at 7.30 pm. Box office 0845 2626263. Prizes for best-dressed and  super-sleuth. Bring your own snacks.

Posted in articles, books, events, novels, Plain Jane, romance, writing

Plain Jane column 16 November – public speaking & event with Lesley Cookman

Isle of Thanet GazetteAs some of you may know, I write a fortnightly column – alternating with My-Mate-Mike (he who hovers just to the right of Genghis Khan and is considered a suitable antidote for what he views as my ‘dangerously-pink” tendencies) – in the Isle of Thanet Gazette. In theory this appears online on http://www.thisiskent.co.uk. In practice it frequently doesn’t. If it does, you need a degree in orienteering to find it and then, when you get there, it doesn’t bear my name.

Plain Jane. Isle of Thanet Gazette. Friday November 16th 2012

As you may know to your cost, I do a spot of “speaking”. This has taken me to Manchester and Edinburgh, Telford and Torquay and on one best-forgotten occasion, a village hall buried so deeply in rural Wales that it took nine hours to get there (geography has never been my strong point).

But it all started, as so many things have, here in Thanet. When a lovely lady, Rusty Macintyre, invited me to address something called the Beta Ladies. One of them was married to the Hon Sec of the Omega Men (or some such) and they all had friends in the Rotary or Round Table – I never remember which is which.  (One group are youngish and like a drink; the others are oldish, like a drink and then doze off.)

Further bookings followed and I learned on the job. “I generally recommend,” said the President of a Dining Club for Gentlemen of Mature Years, when I enquired how long I should speak for, “that you keep going until half the audience are asleep”. The average age in the room was 86 and one chap had already been snoring for ten minutes when I stood up. I punctuated each anecdote with any large noise I could muster. “And then there was a knock at the door,” I’d cry, slapping the flat of my hand hard down on the table and waiting while the front row jerked awake. “And the woman next to me shrieked…” I’d add, illustrating this with an ear-piercing scream to make sure they didn’t drop off again.  It was apparently the most excitement most of them had had for years – previous speakers had held forth on “The Workings of the Local Authority” and the “History of the Rubber Stamp” (with slides) – and word spread about my ability to bring on a coronary till my oratory career was forged.

I’ve done Probus and the Over 41 Club, Retirees United; the Under 65 Society, Young Wives (they were eighty if they were a day), Old Mothers, Small Businesses and more fundraisers than you can shake a stick at. And whether the audience numbers six or a hundred some things never change. There is always  a woman who glares throughout – even if it transpires she looks like this naturally  – and another who cups her ear and says loudly to the first one “what’s she on about?” There’s a guffawing bloke who calls out “Can I heckle?” (as long as you stay awake, pal, I don’t mind what you do) and when you take questions at the end, someone who wants to tell a long, unrelated story about something that happened in 1976. The more courses they bring out, the more often your glass is filled and the longer they linger over the coffee and mints while reading announcements about the Christmas Coach Trip, the less you feel like standing up and trying to raise a laugh. Which is an inexact science to say the least – the quip that had the Bowls Club in stitches is greeted with stony silence at the Goldfish Appreciation Annual Lunch – and you have no way of knowing if the three people who’ve just left are disgusted by your last anecdote or having a bad reaction to the shellfish starter.

What I do know is that after six months of book promotion involving a more than usually-heavy schedule on the oral front, even I can get tired of the sound of my voice. Relief all round then that at the next gig, Lesley Cookman is coming too. Lesley lives in Whitstable and sets her highly-popular, Libby Sarjeant crime series here in Kent.

She and I are going to be talking about our locally-based books in Waterstones in Canterbury next Friday.

You can glare, you can ask questions, you can heckle. Just don’t fall asleep…

***

Jane and Lesley will be in conversation at Waterstones, St Margaret’s St, Canterbury at 6.30pm Thursday 22nd November. Entry free. But if you are thinking of coming along it would be great to know. Please do leave a comment or if you’re a facebooker Lesley’s made something clever here 🙂

Posted in competitions, events, fiction, writing

For those who don’t like tea…

You’ll be glad to know I have found one I don’t like either. It has to be a thumbs down for the teapigs‘ exotically-named tung ting oolong tea which is billed as being “between green and black”. I should have known from that, really. Am not keen on black tea generally and green tea without flavourings tastes of compost. So needless to say it was a mega UGH at the first mouthful.

However, waste not, want not is my mantra (my mother was a war baby) and I can happily report it was perfectly salvageable by the addition of a super fruit on which Morgen has written a veritable essay right here.

Anyway, it seems most of you DO like tea – have had lots of hits since I started carrying on about it – but in case you also like marketing your books, today is the day that the podcast came out that I recorded with lovely  Sue Cook recently. You can hear How to Market Your Book – words of wisdom from Alison Baverstock, Catherine Ryan Howard and me (twittering on in an alarming manner), here.

And back to those who like the dried-leaf beverage – may I offer you Pat Wood‘s verdict on the peppermint selection…

“Had to try the Liquorice and Peppermint first: they sounded dead odd and I’m not sure I would have volunteered to buy any. But the tea was lovely. A huge surprise. Not especially liquorice-y or minty, just a warming comforting yumminess. Great winter’s day tea. Mmm. 🙂 I will be looking out for these so I can buy them. Really good. And the little ‘tea temple’ made a second cup!

The ‘Tummy Tonic’ peppermint leaves made another great cuppa. Not overly peppermint, just enough to be tasty.  I drink a lot of mint teas and this one compared very well in flavour with my usual brands.  Thumbs up again.

The third tea temple was Green tea with Peppermint. I’m familiar with  the Tea Pigs Green Tea and do drink that occasionally, but never had this particular one, so that was interesting. Nice minty flavour without being over the top, plus that always welcome caffeine hit.  I don’t like my green tea very strong,  so didn’t leave it as long as they advise. Floated the bag and out again quite quickly,  so I could not only get a second cup, but it didn’t have that bitter after-taste you sometimes get with green tea.

Thank you for sending them and for letting me participate in the tasting.”

Thanks Pat!  Think we may have had enough tea for now (am still up for Champagne and Chocolate tasting – bring it on) but never say never cos I still have popcorn, rooibos and chilli flavours sitting here…

PS I almost forgot – as a special for you, my blog followers, there is a DISCOUNT no less.

Go to www.teapigs.co.uk and enter code BLOGGERS12 and you will get 15% off your order (excluding gifts and cheeky deals as these have  already been discounted).

Finally – don’t forget that anyone making a comment here will be entered into a draw to win a teapigs mug and pigs set. We’ll do the draw on Thursday at 4pm (or thereabouts) and announce the winner here shortly after.

Until then x

Posted in competitions, events, writing

pure lemongrass, silver tips white, but no mint thank you…

I used to drink so much coffee it gave me blotches. In the decade that I gave it up entirely (I now have the odd cup here and there) my skin improved, the jitters went, but I had to find another way to get my caffeine fix so started drinking gallons (literally) of variously-flavoured green teas instead. I usually begin the day with a lemon one, so on Day One of the teapigs tasting extravaganza, I started off on a pure lemongrass. Think the clue’s in the name here. Lovely and lemony but yes – lemon grass only – no actual tea in there I suspect. Definitely felt a lack of the morning caffeine kick BUT being a resourceful sort, I solved this by putting it together with a “silver tips white tea” pig (in answer to those who’ve enquired, the pig is a little biodegradable “tea temple” of a bag filled with proper leaves of tea and not the powdery bits swept up off the floor) and the resultant brew was very pleasing – tho quite light and delicate. Probably not for those who like Builder’s tea you can stand a spoon up in.

Teas drunk today: pure lemon grass; silver tips white

Verdict: thumbs up

Today’s tasting notes: I really don’t like mint teas much – so if you do and would like to taste the green tea with mint, the caffeine-free peppermint leaves or the liquorice and peppermint tea pigs, email me your address, say which one you fancy, and I will post my sample to you to test out instead and contribute your verdict.

Remember that if you leave a comment here (keep ’em clean please) you will be entered into a draw to win some teapigs of your very own together with a special teapigs mug.  Oh, the excitement….

Posted in competitions, events, writing

Tea(pig) anyone?

Those nice teapig people did a spot of sponsoring at the Guildford Book Festival – where I first discovered the teabag-with-real-tea-in-it – and have now kindly sent me a selection of their “pigs” with which to tempt you. A full tasting (with full reference to their mood-o-meter) with full tasting notes, will be taking place over the next few days with a chance for YOU to win a delightful mug-and-teapigs prize. All you have to do is leave a comment here on this very blog and the winner will be picked at random (not by me!) when I have exhausted all the flavours (this could take some time). Watch, as they say – when needing to procrastinate, this space…

Posted in books, events, fiction, humour, interview, novels, writing

Guildford Day Six

Yes a bit of a delay there but Saturday I was doing a workshop in HMP Send, Sunday I had taken to my bed with Strepsils and Lemsip (the entire population of Guildford seems to have a cold – thanks folks) and then I was waiting for photos with which to illustrate my illuminating and entirely subjective (never mind the rest of the festival – let’s just look at what I did) account of Guilford 2012.
Judy Finnigan and Jane
Judy & Jane – Photo courtesy of James Davies

Monday brought Judy Finnigan at lunchtime – she was great and Richard came too – talking about her intriguing and atmospheric debut novel Eloise. We did forty minutes of chat and then took questions. Mindful of those unable to journey to Guildford, I had invited contributions via Twitter. @missdaisyfrost obliged with a deeply meaningful, profound and erudite enquiry. “How hairy is Richard’s back?” I can confirm to all of you worried about such matters that the answer, straight from Judy’s mouth, is not at all. That’s a relief.

Next up was Kay Burley – she had a cold too. But had had the good sense to come via the chemist. We discovered that a combination of Actifed tablets and white wine will deal with most symptoms or at least render one past caring. I’m not sure what we talked about now –  I expect her new novel, the entertaining Betrayal, got a mention – but we enjoyed it anyway. I won’t include a photo cos streaming eyes and red noses are not a good look.
The evening saw Jenny Eclair who nearly went into meltdown at all the sore throats about the place – she is on tour with her new show Eclairious and needs her vocal chords! Jenny was her usual hilarious self.  She has the wonderful gift of being able to get away with pretty much anything – only she could render the good ladies of Guildford helpless with laughter over a gag about pubic hair – and her new novel Life, Death and Vanilla Slices is well worth a read. My own review here (you’ll need to scroll down a bit).
David and Jane – Photo courtesy of George Parkes

And now I’ll break the rules and talk about someone else other than me and tell you that following us were Kathy Lette and Sandy Toksvig discussing Kathy’s new book The Boy Who Fell to Earth (sweet, sharp, funny, sad, endlessly touching). They were both hysterically funny too. Tho’ as David Nobbs pointed out, the whole evening seemed revolve around menopause and female bodily functions. (Luckily, as he also added, he is not at all squeamish)

He is tho, very, very entertaining. He didn’t really need me at all this morning but I felt  privileged to be sitting there and croaked out the odd question. We talked about his latest tome The Fall and Rise of Gordon Coppinger – a work of bloody genius if I might say so –  his most famous creation, Reggie Perrin, and his long career writing comedy. God Bless Mr Nobbs.
Tomorrow is my last day at the festival and I am hosting a panel of erotic writers (or should that be writers of eroticism??), including Hazel Cushion, MD of Xcite Books – the UK’s largest publisher of steamy tomes. Still time to get a ticket. 9pm (after the watershed) in the cafe bar at the Electric Theatre.
More of that in due course…
Posted in books, events, fiction, humour, interview, novels, writing

Guildford Day Two

The end of the second day of Guildford Book Festival and tonight was Peter James and Ann Cleeves. Fab interviewees both – and both with great news to share. Ann has been inducted into the Crime Writers Association Hall of Fame (I’m not entirely sure what this involves but I am deeply impressed) and Peter has knocked Fifty Shades off the top of the Bestsellers List. Respect!  Peter is,  of course, extremely shy and retiring (ho de ho) but I managed to coax a few anecdotes out of him. I’d never met Ann before but thought she was really lovely – how could she not be having created DI Vera Stanhope (a new series being filmed right now folks! If you love Brenda Blethyn – I do – don’t miss it). And that’s all I can muster right now cos it’s been a long day and tomorrow I’m off to HMP Send (not permanently).

But lots more to come at Guildford – On Monday I interview Judy Finnigan, Kay Burley and Jenny Eclair. Tuesday brings David Nobbs  – hilarious creator of Reggie Perrin. Do roll up if you possibly can.
xx till then

PS yes I did learn where I’ve been going wrong on the Victoria Sponge front with lovely Rachel Allen and Jim N was most entertaining…

PPS Photo courtesy of Morgen (thanks Love!!! :-))

Posted in events, fiction, interview, novels, writing

And off to Guildford….

It’s begun – I am here in my Guildford for my annual stint in the interviewing chair and. as always, thrilled at the prospect. Last night was the launch do at the fab Radisson Hotel where I did an “in conversation with Kay Burley“, the country’s longest-serving news anchor – she’s been with Sky News since the start – who’s great fun.  (Her books are too – I’m going to be discussing those with her on Monday!). The audience loved her. I love seeing her too and getting the gossip! 🙂 I do hope she publishes a scandalous diary when she’s in her dotage…
Today I am off to the Electric Theatre to talk to Rachel Allen about her new book CAKE (I am hoping to finally learn how to turn out a sponge that is not either flat or lopsided) and this evening I get to introduce James Naughtie who will be talking about The New Elizabethans. I am addicted to Radio Four so this is an honour indeed. I’ll let you know how sexy he is later…
Guildford Book Festival is wonderful (potential sponsors please note!). It boasts terrific venues, big names, truly great writers. And deserves wider fame. If you are anywhere within striking distance, get yourselves along. And come and say hello if you do! Mad dash now but further bulletins in due course….
Posted in events, fiction, humour, novels, writing

Back from Chez Castillon….

I came back on Saturday, in fact, but it took  the rest of the weekend to sort the faint air of bachelor pad – why don’t men notice dead flowers or demonstrate  that  same technical expertise with which they  handle the iphone or Playstation, to get to grips with the washing machine? – and then there were the 497 emails to deal with, three deadlines and no chocolate in the house. Yes, I should have answered the emails while en France but there really wasn’t a spare minute between teaching, eating a long lunch, more teaching, walking off the long lunch, talking a lot, and suddenly finding it was G&T time…

It was my second visit but my first one as a tutor so thanks to Jo, Betty, Brenda, Julie and Sally, my inaugural  students for making it a great baptism of fire (that’ll teach me to say “interrupt as much as you like”  :-)) and even greater fun. Lovely Katie Fforde came too with her husband Desmond and Captain Catherine “Brace Up” Jones (aka @LaceKate) was also on hand to route march me in the evenings and make me laugh so much my stomach muscles hurt.

Janie and Mickey who run the gaff were their usual wonderful selves – far be it from them to let a glass be empty – and Rory the dog has stopped chewing things. A result all round. Oh and David Headley  (the literary agent and bookseller – googling this name throws up some interesting options) came for a couple of days too. See his twitter  – bless ‘im.

So all in all, a good time was had by all and I am going back in April. Email me or visit www.chez-castillon.com if you want to come too…

Posted in events, fiction, humour, novels, writing

Slacker

Am all behind on this blogging lark – as I am on so many things – but I have a small array of excuses. Been away in Manchester doing workshops for Woman’s Weekly at their live show and  London where I’ve been recording a podcast with lovely Sue Cook of Write Lines as part of National Short Story Week.  As I had one one foot out of the hotel door, when writing this, clever Morgen is going to post this up and do the twiddly bits as she so often does and I’ve been writing things for other people’s blogs too. Thank you Vanessa O’Loughlin for this one.

I shall try to do better once I get to France – still one last place left. Remember the ever-wonderful Katie Fforde is coming too – and hot off the press there’ll be a session with agent David Headley – so if you know anyone…

In the meantime I leave you with my latest piece of fan mail, left on Thanetonline blog and relating to the Isle of Thanet Gazette where I am one of the two  mentioned – guess which?  “When will they appoint a professional editor and sack those two whinging columnists … the alcoholic obsessed novelist and the grumpy old git?” (I presume he means “alcohol-obsessed” but still entertaining all the same :-))

More soon…. xx

 

Posted in books, events, novels, writing

Room for a little one…

Room, indeed, for two little ones – or even two quite big ones (bedroom sizes generous).

Due to a cancellation, there are now a couple of places available at the fabulous Chez Castillon, where I am teaching “Is there a book in you?” in October. And I can’t tell you how lovely it is! (The place, not necessarily the tome lurking within, but we can work on that). Full details here.

The food is fab, the wine flows, the sun shines and I’ll be there (see footnote)… What’s not to like?

My entirely impartial verdict:

˜˜˜˜˜˜Worth selling your body or breaking  the piggy bank for. 

footnote 1  and the lovely Katie Fforde will be there too. Your chance to share a dinner table  with a mega-selling novelist. We might even persuade her to sing. See here.

Posted in books, events, fiction, humour, non-fiction, novels, writing

Greetings from (not-so) sunny Swanwick…

Actually it has been sunny but just happens to be p***ing down as I type.

I am here at the long-running Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in Derbyshire where I am teaching  “Truth is stranger than…” which, as the  astute among you will infer, is a four-part course on writing non-fiction. No-one has walked out or fallen asleep yet. (The week, as they say, is still young).

In the meantime, I have another freebie for you. Perfect Alibis – my second novel which landed me on daytime TV and various you-will-burn-in-hell type Biblical tracts on my doormat – is available for nowt until Saturday. Download onto your kindle, or (with free Kindle app from Amazon) your ipad, PC or Mac… and please  tell all your friends.

Click on the cover, or these links to go to the Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com stores…

More when I return to what I hope WILL be sunny Broadstairs. Back Friday in time to catch the last night of Folk Week.

Mine’s not a pint but I might manage half a strawberry cider from The Chapel. Further details of that little gem another time…

Posted in events, humour, writing

Barry’s on the ball…

To my talk at Caerleon and a spot of audience participation from Barry Adams who gamely agreed to attempt to balance on my exercise ball to demonstrate one of my hot tips for keeping one’s Writer’s Stomach at bay…

I was afraid I might fall off myself…

It was a jolly hot night and some had had a rather longer-than-expected coach journey. So many thanks for turning out and listening…

      

(and apologies for lowering the tone…. :-))

Posted in events, novels

Greetings from Sunny Wales

And it really is sunny! Am here in Caerleon at Writer’s Holiday  where  yesterday people were dropping by the wayside with heat exhaustion cos nobody’s used to it being over 20˚C.

I even got a touch of sunburn. So imagine the British grit it took for Val Webster & Co to be dressed in full medieval regalia – see pics – for their fab presentation on  women in the 15th century. They danced dressed like this! It was terrific but I have no idea how they managed it. I roasted just watching.

Tonight it is my turn. Not to dance (that may come tomorrow) but to  speak at 8pm on the “the highs and hazards” of being a writer today. About to have a little lie-down and think about it…

    

Posted in books, events, fiction, novels, RNA, romance, writing

RNA Conference at last

  

Did two stints at the splendid  RNA conference this year, brilliantly organised as ever by Jan Jones and Roger Sanderson. On Saturday, a panel – In it for the long haul– with the ever-delightful Annie Ashurst, our veritable Chair (on whom I have a small crush), Judy Astley and Freda Lightfoot. These lovely ladies have written an astonishing number of books between them (making me feel a downright slacker with my mere six) and sold ’em in their millions. I asked the questions, and they enthralled  with their wit and wisdom. Next up was a talk of my own. They gave me the hangover slot as usual – 9.m. Sunday morning –  tho the audience, gathering there in the middle picture before I started, seem to be holding up quite well.  Thanks to Blue Stocking Mum  Debbie White for the panel pic and Liz Fenwick for catching me  pulling one of my usual faces.

And special thanks to all who dragged themselves along to listen. We had a giggle or two didn’t we? jxx

Posted in events, novels, RNA, romance, writing

How to lose a day….

Intended to post suitable witticisms and photos from RNA conference this morning but day went to Ratsh*t when someone drove into me necessitating endless conversations with police and insurance companies, long hot baths to ease hurting shoulder and medicinal wine, ditto.

Photos to follow tomorrow or maybe later tonight if not comatose.

In meantime totally lovely to see everyone in Penrith. Thank you for making it as fab as ever and for your warmth and support.

God Bless and Long Live the RNA…. (etc)

(Morgen – can you do something clever and make that RNA into one of those link thingys?)  (ps love yer x))

More later…

done  🙂 M x

Posted in events, RNA, romance

Trying to travel light to Penrith

Off to the fabulous RNA conference – or at least I hope it will be fab – I hadn’t realised quite how far Penrith was from Broadstairs when arrangements were made. And I’m used to driving to these gigs!

Suddenly all the essentials – see pic – this is student accommodation – has got to fit in one small case with my laptop. It weighs a bloody tonne.

But am on the train as I write and hugely looking forward to chairing a panel with the lovely Annie Ashhurst, Judy Astley and Freda Lightfoot tomorrow and the sound of my own voice (always a pleasure :-)) when I give a talk on Sunday.

If you’re coming, see you there. It WILL be fab. It always is.

*** Click here for the blog tour details of my latest novel Prime Time ***

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Posted in books, events, fiction, novels, poetry, writing

Loose Muse

No, I am not trying to summon the dead, lead the gospel singing or appeal to the Almighty*. This is me attempting to impart some words of wisdom to those gathered at the Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden yesterday evening.

I was there at the invitation of Agnes Meadows who is the power behind Loose Muse – a monthly gathering of women poets and writers (tho’ I did spot a chap or two) – and apart from getting drenched on the way, a very nice time I had too.

Thank you to Joolz for wielding the camera. Yes, I’m afraid I do always wave my arms about…

PS * or, looking at the first pic again, tell the story of my breast enhancements… 🙂

Further details of these events at www.loose-muse.com and http://www.poetrysociety.org.uk/content/cafe.

     

*** Click here for the blog tour details of my latest novel Prime Time ***

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