Just Jane: tribute to Carole Blake

carole-blog-post-medIn the absence of a Gazette column to post this week, I thought I’d share a Woman’s Weekly piece I wrote back in 2013. In memory of, and with love to, Carole Blake, who died so suddenly on 25th October and is missed by so many of us.

It made me sad to re-read it but it is also a happy memory of a great evening with Carole – to go with many more of some fab times. Here’s raising a glass!

The article reads…

Would someone please tell me where this year has gone? One moment we were all moaning about how winter was dragging and the daffodils were late, we sneezed and it was summer for a day or two, then I got distracted and found it was October and now suddenly everyone’s using the C word and preparing to take the tinsel out of the loft.

Time flies as you get older, they say. And it’s not only ten months that can pass in the blink of an eye. Three weeks ago I had the privilege of rolling up to top literary agent Carole Blake’s party held to celebrate her astonishing fifty years in publishing.

Astonishing because Carole looks far too youthful to have been at it that long – they clearly started ‘em young in those days – and surprising for me too, to realise that I first met her, screwing up all my courage to speak, when I was a wannabe novelist back in 1998. Which means I’ve been knocking around the book world fifteen years myself and I don’t know where that has gone either.

I arrived at the bash with Katie Fforde and a wild look in my eye.

We had flown back from France for the event – I’d been teaching at the fab Chez Castillon (Google it now!) and Katie had been working away at her 21st novel (she, too, has been going a while) – on a journey which was punctuated by minor crises, mostly of my doing. These began when I left my mobile on the floor at Bordeaux airport while trying to stuff my handbag into Katie’s suitcase (that one item of baggage rule has a lot to answer for) and went downhill from there.

“J’ai perdu mon telephone,” I stuttered frantically to the couple sitting where I’d last seen it. “Avez-vous seen it? S’iI vous plait.”

“Never mind all that, love,” said the husband. “Try the information desk.” Mercifully it had been handed in by some wonderfully honest being, and after a small panic over where Katie’s passport was and me leading us purposefully to the wrong gate, we arrived in Gatwick intact but with not much time to spare.

Katie’s face was a picture, therefore, when at passport control, she whizzed through and I got the cheery chap who fancied a chat. While I explained why I’d gone to France, why I was coming back, whose party it was and why I didn’t look at all like my passport photograph (it was taken nine years ago, mate!), I could see her expression ten metres away, frozen in horror, convinced I was about to be led away and we’d miss the revelry after all.

I’ll spare you the sagas of the taxis, my blisters and the curious incident of the laddered tights, but eventually we got there to find Carole, her usual cool, glamorous self, in a room brimming with warmth and affection.

The fizz flowed, the speeches were heartfelt. Fellow agent, the beautiful Isobel Dixon, recalled her interview at Blake Friedmann 18 years ago when she was offered a glass of wine and wondered if it was a test. I would say it probably was and she passed it by having the second glass – she’s been working with Carole ever since.

Colleague Conrad Williams told how he had learned from Carole’s example, the “centrality of lunch” and the bestselling crime writer Peter James, hailed by Conrad as the “Uber Client”, stated quite simply that he adored her.

Carole said she’d promised herself she wouldn’t cry – by that time I was fumbling for a tissue myself. And looking round the packed room I went on my own little trip down memory lane.

There was the agent who wrote that she hated my first novel so much she couldn’t even encourage me, and the other poor chap I practically stalked while trying to flog it anyway. The smiling one-time boss of the publishers who eventually gave me a deal; the authors I was once so shyly in awe of – now my friends. The big book-seller who was so kind to me when I was newly in print and the editors I’ve only ever known by email – now here in the flesh. Looking at the guest list later there were more names from the past I sadly didn’t spot among the 300-strong crowd, all there to raise a glass or three to a long-serving pro. I need her to have another gathering when she’s been doing books for the full sixty.

The next morning Katie and I were back on the plane to Chez Castillon a little jaded but very glad we’d made the trip, and four days after that I flew home. The napkin that came with my complimentary salty things bore the maxim: “Time flies but you are the pilot.” I think we can safely say Carole Blake has earned her wings.

***

blackbird squeaking at the break of dawn

And now for something entirely non-brexit! In a welcome distraction, I’ve been feeding this little chap, who seems to have fallen out of his nest yesterday and who spent most of his day squeaking outside the front door. We were worried a fox or cat would get him so when he wandered in to what we call our lobby, we left him there overnight. I fed him last night – he had a sleep – and woke me up at five a.m. for breakfast. He’s now back outside – still squawking – and his mum has taken over… Blackbird breakfast on youtubeIMG_0120

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

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

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

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

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

 

Short story – Carla’s Gift

Here by popular demand (Tony said he liked it, Morgen said we could alway pop it up on the blog….) is a short story for you. See – some of us were doing raunchy long before Fifty Shades of Grey.
Carla’s Gift first appeared in Jo Good‘s QWF (Quality Women’s Fiction) back in 1997 I think, and I later resurrected it for the anthology Sexy Shorts for Christmas in 2003.
Quite funny to read it again now – my writing style has changed a bit since. And some details are a little dated. It’s all quite mild by today’s standards, of course, but it raised a few eyebrows at the time. “I didn’t find it funny,” wrote one reader, crossly. “Just embarrassing…” Hope you, dear blog follower, are made of sterner stuff… 🙂
Am in bountiful mood (ie have had my first glass of weekend wine) so  all comments will be put in a draw for a free copy of my latest novel Prime Time (or another of my books if you’ve had the good taste to buy this already) – signed and sent to you or a friend anywhere in the world.
Draw made on Monday at midday…
Hope you enjoy it – feel free to pass it on if you do!
***

Carla’s Gift by Jane Wenham-Jones

What do you say to a woman who has just had her first orgasm on the top of the multi-storey in a Ford Fiesta?

Congratulations was the word that sprang to mind but the others were strangely silent.

‘Good for you,’ I muttered to a cold shower of black looks.

I have always liked Carla. I liked her when she was married to Stuart and so I like her still. Round here, however, things are not so simple. I had witnessed a definite ripple of unease running around the circle of women I call my friends ever since Stuart walked out of 25 Arnold Drive and Carla – dry-eyed – walked out into the world and began to enjoy herself.

It was as if they feared that having gasped her way to ecstasy with her garage mechanic today, the next logical step would be tempting away their husbands. Frankly, she was welcome to mine. If she could stir Norman into producing the merest erect nipple, I’d cheerfully buy her gins all night. And quite honestly, by the look of the other lot’s assorted and spreading spouses, I thought they should be jolly grateful for any spark of enthusiasm injected there too.

Muriel, after a lot of sniffing, eventually said that Carla should be careful not to catch anything. Sylvia swallowed and did a lot of what I think the novels call, ‘dabbing one’s eyes’ with a pink tissue, before twittering on about the terrible ordeal that Carla had been through and how we were all so sorry and how she couldn’t imagine how she would cope if Roger left her, because he was such a comfort.

And I was just reflecting on the way we all just sat there, simpering, even though we knew that Roger had systematically got his podgy white leg over every barmaid the squash club had ever had, and that Carla had got totally slaughtered on champagne when Stuart had finally stopped just screwing them and had the wit to imagine he was in love and piss off, when I caught Carla’s eye and she gave me the most enormous wink.

It was then that I decided to discover her secret. For actually I’d never had an orgasm either.

Click here to read the whole story.

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