Didn’t I have a lov-er-ly time…

Another to add to my list of fab festivals I have worked for. Had a great time at the Buckingham Literary Festival last weekend, interviewing three top bestsellers. First up on Friday night a packed audience were enthralled by the mega-successful crime king Peter James with whom I always have a laugh; and then the next morning  I “did” the wonderful  Clare Mackintosh and Louise Doughty –  who both went down a storm. I also had the pleasure of meeting Sir Anthony Seldon – what an inspirational chap he is. I loved Buckingham – never been before and it is the most gorgeous place. One for the calendar next year…

   

 

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The Archers come to town…

So fab to host the Archers event last Friday at the Pavilion in Broadstairs with ace scriptwriter Keri Davies, the gorgeous Annabelle Dowler (Kirsty Miller), and the ever-entertaining Trevor Harrison (Eddie Grundy).2017-06-21 16.35.232017-06-21 17.15.152017-06-21 17.14.33 Next up for Broadstairs Literary Events @BroadlySpeakingHarlots & Hangers-on

Hope you can come along… xx

Colin Dexter – it was great to meet you too

IMG_0937Time to say goodbye to another luminary of the book world and to fondly recall the day in 2009 when I met Colin Dexter at the Winchester Writers’ Conference. It was late morning, he had just finished speaking, and was suitably dismayed to learn that the bar was closed. “Can’t we go to the pub?” he asked Beryl Bainbridge. I have no idea what I was doing standing there – I was gobbier in those days, I’d probably pushed my way to the front to announce my addiction to Morse and enduring crush on John Thaw – but I was able to share with  both these great writers, the  intelligence I’d gathered the night before when in a similar fix.   You could buy wine direct from the kitchen staff. I led the famous author to the chap who’d done the deal the previous evening, he purchased a bottle of red (it could have been two) which he  generously invited me to share. I was speaking later myself, so God knows how that went, but I do recall a most entertaining lunch with the pair of them, feeling  privileged indeed. “It was a delight to be with you,” Mr Dexter wrote in my Inspector Morse Omnibus, causing someone to joke that if I fell on hard times I could take the inscription to the News of the World. He laughed. I have treasured the tome ever since. I was pretty delighted too.

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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New Year’s Resolutions for Writers…

By way of an intro I must tell you that I found these on my computer while looking for something else. They were written for a column in 2007! And the shameful thing is, they are just as pressing – with minor updates (see notes in italics) – now, as they were then.  Proving that Old Writers Never Learn – they just get bigger arses…. (or something!).

Whatever you resolve, I hope it comes to pass. Happy New Year!

New Year’s Resolutions for Writers

1. Writers’ Bottom

I will finally face the fact that Writing does not use up 500 calories an hour and that food eaten at the desk does count – particularly when it is two packets of Kettle chips dipped in houmous, a bar of chocolate and half a bottle of white wine. The excursion from computer to sofa to watch EastEnders does not constitute  exercise. Writers Bottom is not a hereditary condition but caused by sitting on it for eight hours a day while cramming junk food. (Now of course I am the proud author of a tome designed to consign one’s writer’s derriere to a thing of the past. If you wanted to help my new year go with a bang you could always buy it :-))

2. Alcohol

I will remember that actually alcohol does not enhance creativity and that there is no point in writing down the brilliant idea I had for chapter seventeen when I  was three sheets to the wind. Even if I can  decipher it, it will still be drivel in the morning.

3. Tolerance

I will not scream: YOU JUST HAVE  when family members walk into my  writing room, saying “I won’t interrupt you but….”

Nor throw things at their heads when they answer: “But you were only looking out of the window… “

4. Deadlines

I will remind myself that the sensible, grown-up way to handle a deadline is write 2000 words a day, Monday to Friday,  with Sunday off to allow for bracing walks and cooking the family roast. I will no longer spend five months and three weeks emailing and going out to lunch and then book into a hotel for seven days and stay up all night swearing.

5. Bookshops

I will go into bookshops to buy books. I will  stop rearranging the bookshelves by moving myself from W (down in the corner at ankle level where the cobwebs lurk) to A  where everyone can see me (especially if I put all copies face out over the top of Jeffrey Archer).

Alternatively I will change my name to Arkwright.

6. Jealousy

I will stop grinding my teeth over the Bestseller lists and be totally thrilled when someone who has never written a word in their entire life gets a six-figure sum and half a million quid’s worth of film rights for their memoir on eating slugs in the jungle or having a breast enhancement operation, live on Big Brother. After all, there’s room for all of us…

7. Humour.  I will smile widely when the 4, 752nd person says: Ha, ha, ha – have you sold as many as 50 Shades of Grey yet? (of course when  I first wrote this, it was J K Rowling. Doesn’t make it any better!)

8. Patience.

Even when that person says it every time I meet him.

9. Perseverance

I will try and keep to these longer than I did last year (January 17th)

10. Honesty.

I will tell the truth. (It was Jan 4th)

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

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….

With friends like Mike :-)

Whenever I give one of my friends one of my books to read (some  are too tight-fisted to cough up for one themselves :-)) I always say the same thing: you can be brutally honest. Of course, people still feel they can’t be. One pal took months to admit she hated my third novel with a passion, after loving the first two, thinking that by saying that, she’d upset me. Actually I was fascinated. It was illuminating to hear what had affected her so badly and we had a really interesting exchange as a result.

Refreshingly, My-mate-Mike, my fellow-columnist on the Isle of Thanet Gazette DSC_3476has no such inhibitions. I wouldn’t normally shove a review in front of you but the running commentary spread over several emails, made me laugh so much, I thought I’d post  the edited highlights. (The dots are where I’ve removed a spoiler – just in case after reading this, anyone still feels like braving the PRIME TIME. The Italics are mine. ) It’s been good to see how one of my books – primarily aimed at the female market – goes down with a chap too. Could he possibly empathise with the heroine? It seems not…

cover - prime-time (med)

“I’m enjoying the plot but developed an early and intense dislike for the central character. No wonder hubby cleared off.”

“Not a difficult choice when the alternative is a wine-saturated busybody, always wittering about her internal workings.”

“Too much wine and whine in first 100 pages.”

“What the hell’s it got to do with her if he….? Surprised he didn’t smack her when she started quizzing him.”

“I trust you have planned a suitably hideous end for her.”

“Don’t like the sulky son or the oily television bloke, either.”

“Really enjoying it, especially now she’s …… Very droll and picking up pace splendidly. Still hope central character comes to a distressing end.”

“I reckon oily tv bloke will turn out to be a ******” (NB he was wrong)

“Looks as if the raddled woman might finish up with ….. Serves her right.”

“Your best book so far, by a mile. Can’t understand why it was nominated in the romantic comedy section…”

“Didn’t find a typo for more than 200 pages, then two more followed quickly, but three in 300 pages is a miracle nowadays. I trust they sacked the myopic work experience dunce who allegedly roof-read ……” (Insert title of one of my previous books) (Not sure if this is Mike being hilarious or he really left the “p” out…)

“I shall be sad when I’ve finished – which is the highest compliment anyone can pay an author! ”

“Wonderful! So the two ghastlies finished up ….”

“A very good modern morality tale, which I think is too profound to deserve a rom-com tag. ”

“Wonderful! Apart from the beginning….”

Thank you, Mike! Reviewer to the Non-Faint-Hearted.

Am sure if YOU’D like a no-holds barred review for your magnus opus, I can probably persuade him to oblige… 🙂

My-Mate-Mike in the Isle of Thanet Gazette 28th December

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Remember my excellent advice on coping when the old man is suddenly at home ALL BLOODY DAY?

My esteemed fellow columnist on the Gazette, Mike Bah-Humbug Pearce, has waded in with his own rantings on the matter. Still, keeps him busy, love him. He is retired, you know…

The perils of retired life by Mike Pearce 

SO WHERE were we before we were so rudely interrupted by Christmas?

Ah! yes, my columnist chum Jane Wenham-Jones was offering advice to a wimpy woman wanting to know how could she cope now her husband is retiring, which is like asking a flower how it’s going to cope now that the refreshing rain is on its way. All chaps know it is the MAN who will need help.

So agony aunt Jane and your new pal, please go off and have a natter while I reveal what he needs to know.

Dear Jim. Make sure you invest in a sat-nav.

You are now an on-demand chauffeur and your navigating spouse will invent a new compass point – There.

Whenever you ask “Where do we go?”, she will reply “Over there”. One lady told me, when we stopped at a T-junction, that we should go straight on.

Be prepared for preposterous assertions, the most popular being “You don’t want another drink” after you have just announced that it’s exactly what you would like.

Don’t announce your plans in advance, because you will be headed off at the pass with previously unthought-of things that can be done only on the day you plan to play golf.

Women used to have sinus trouble – “Sign us a cheque for this, sign us a cheque for that.” In the electronic age, leave your credit card at home if you are ever forced to join a shopping expedition.

Buy a second television. Your beloved will sit like a trappist through hours of soaps, then gabble like a goose as soon as anything remotely interesting comes on screen.

And yes, you can afford to have Sky Sports, if she can afford to buy glossy “style” magazines. And if you can’t afford both, get her interested in football. Tell her the centre-forward’s having an affair with someone from Eastenders, which she will find interesting and will probably be true anyway.

Treat yourself to an ipod and a set of earphones. Enjoy records you haven’t played for years, while at the same time blocking out the hour-long phone calls to the friend she had lunch with just hours earlier.

Accept that your suit-and-tie days are over. Casual clothes always look rumpled on an ageing frame, so don’t be ashamed to wear them for days or to leave them lying around the bedroom, the bathroom, the dining room and the hall. She will pick them up eventually, if only to allow the door to close.

Be careful how you react to her cooking. Be over-enthusiastic and you will get the same dish over and over. And when you point out that liver and bacon three times a week might be excessive, expect the: “I thought you liked it. What’s wrong with it?” sulks.

Say you’re not that keen and you’ve taken a short cut to the “What’s wrong with it?” stage.

Be prepared for sighs, an irritating affectation exclusive to women.

You spill your coffee, they go “Tch-huhhhhhhhhhh”. You forget (along with an increasing number of things) to put out the dustbin – “Tch-huhhhhhhhhhh”.

Be prepared for daft questions. When your phone rang at work, nobody would chirp up “Who’s that?”, as if you were Claude the Clairvoyant. Now you’ll get it all the time. Same if there’s a knock on the door. You might try answering “The neighbour I’m having an affair with”, or “The bailiffs”, but it’s a high-risk strategy.

And remember Jim, if this all sounds too daunting, B&Q are always keen to take on older workers.

Plain Jane 14th December 2012: Coping with (his) retirement

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 December 14th 2012

A missive from one Hilda Rarebit of Ramsgate (real name supplied). She doesn’t want her husband to know she is writing, as she is seeking my guidance on coping with retirement. His! Mr Rarebit is due to hang up his working shoes come Christmas.

“Have you,” Hilda enquires, “got any tips on how I am going to hack it  when he’s under my feet all day?”

Well, strange you should ask. I am not sure whether the good Mrs Rarebit, who describes herself as “an avid Gazette reader”, recalls that my own spouse is some two decades my senior and put down his own tools of the trade (a phone and corkscrew) longer ago than I care to remember. Or if she has heard that my enduring ambition is to be an agony aunt (a reincarnation I am hoping to slide past the editor at the Christmas Drinks, leaving Mike-things-aren’t-wot-they-used-to-be-Pearce to moan about the council and gripe about Turner Contemporary, while I solve the Isle’s dilemmas). But I am ready to meet the challenge. My advice, dear Hilda, is as follows:

  1. If he lives for the 18th hole, count your blessings!  You may have railed against being a golf widow for all the years he disappeared for hours whenever the kids needed collecting or your mother was coming to stay, or be used to muttering darkly about his train-spotting, fishing and time in the pub. But a good, solid, time-consuming sport or hobby partaken outside the home, will now be your saviour. Forget socks and hankies and present him on Tuesday week with a new notebook and bobble hat, tankard or gross of maggots.
  2. Discourage any interest in cooking. It may sound good to have all the food prepared but it won’t end there. There is a definite syndrome displayed by Men Who Are At Home Too Much and it is encapsulated by the word “system”.  As in “I have a system when I do that” whenever he watches you chop an onion or wash the kitchen floor.  And he may be watching a lot! My friend Anna was driven to distraction by  her newly-retired husband  delivering  lectures on the correct way to both stack and empty the dishwasher until she was forced to threaten him with one of the saucepans he’d re-positioned. He’ll also use every utensil you own and expect you to wash up.
  3. Give him other things to be in charge of (if these happen to be based at the end of the garden, so much the better). In our house it is the Composting and Recycling System. This has involved our son receiving in-depth training on The Correct Way to Flatten a Cardboard Box. And regular interrogations over whose transgression had led to a tin being found among the newspapers. But it gets him into the driveway.
  4. shed 671283Be creative when his birthday comes along. Buy him membership to the gym, evening classes or a new shed with running water and its own kitchen.
  5. Get a shed of your own.
  6. Leave articles lying around claiming older men are sexier if they spend several hours a day in the fresh air. Or possibly a week…
  7. And those who do voluntary work live longer.
  8. Encourage him to join things. Flattery can work well here. That committee/theatre group/local choir really needs someone like YOU. And  they’re crying out for aid workers in Africa…
  9. Make a space of your own. Take over the spare room as your crafts or sewing room. You don’t actually have to do either. Just leave lots of material and coloured card all over the floor then, shut the door,  put your feet up and  read the paper.
  10. Book yourself on a long cruise.
If YOU have a problem you’d like answering, send it to Dear Plain Jane (address below). And Hilda, don’t mention it…
Plain Jane
Isle of Thanet Gazette
Suite 1
3rd Floor
Mill Lane House
Mill Lane
Margate
Kent CT9 1JU
Editor: Rebecca Smith

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 🙂

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

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….

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…

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…

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!!! :-))

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….

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…

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…

your free gift today

Is a copy – totally gratis – of my third novel ONE GLASS IS NEVER ENOUGH (and it often wasn’t, when I was writing it…)

If you’ve got a kindle (and if you haven’t you can download a free kindle app from amazon don’t you know) it is yours at the mere click of a mouse… HERE (.CO.UK) or HERE (.COM)

It would make me very pleased with you indeed if you’d download it.

Thank you – have a lovely Sunday xxx

PS and it would make me downright adore you if you could tell your friends… (all about charts/ratings etc and blah. I just do as I’m told…)

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…

    

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

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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Fifty Shades of Wot?

The only way I’m gonna get any sales….. ho ho

Thank you to Neil, Gabriel, Donna et al at Thanet Waterstones where I had a most entertaining signing on Saturday. And even bigger thanks to those who came in and bought Prime Time instead of Fifty Shades of Grey. Sitting watching which shoppers made a beeline for the FSOG display was fascinating… 🙂 Apparently a lot of “non-readers” are buying it, Donna told me, quoting women who’d announced it was to be the first book they’d ever read. We agreed this was astonishing. Not only that it should be true, but that anyone would be prepared to admit it!

I rearranged the stock this morning….

And the winner is…

David Rankin receives a copy of Prime Time plus a Wannabe book of his choice…

If Clever Morgen was doing this there’d be thumbnails of covers and links and all sorts, but cos it’s just me and a glass of wine, that’s all you get… 🙂

Waterstones, Westwood Cross, in the morning from 11am signing books (in theory). If you happen to be passing please come and say hello

Thanks for all the visits to the blog today jxx

Prime Time paperback is now out!

Prime Time is officially out now!  I am bracing myself to start peering in bookshops (does one copy mean they’ve sold em all or is that  all they ever had?) and am just about recovered from the local bash last Saturday – coined by my fellow columnist on the Isle of Thanet Gazette, Mike Pearce (pictured below), as “The Launch that faced a thousand quips“. This is one of his….
The paperback version is available here and the Kindle version here.

Prime Time paperback out 5th July

May 2012

Hello! I’m thrilled to announce that my latest novel, romantic comedy ‘Prime Time’, is now available for the Amazon Kindle and will be available in paperback from July 5th 2012. To celebrate, the lovely Morgen (with-an-e) Bailey is in the process of building this blog for me and will be filling it with book news and happenings until I eventually get the hang of doing it myself (probably circa 2014).  Do have a poke around if you have time, or come back another day to see what’s new. The idea is that something will be!

If you live anywhere near Thanet I’ll be signing copies of Prime Time in the Westwood Cross branch of Waterstone’s on 7th July from 11 am and will be popping up in places various all summer (see the Events page).

In the meantime, here’s the blurb…

Laura Meredith never imagined herself appearing on TV – she’s too old, too flabby, too downright hormonal, and much too busy holding things together for her son, Stanley, after husband, Daniel, left her for a younger, thinner replacement.

But best friend Charlotte is a determined woman and when Laura is persuaded on to a daytime show to talk about her PMT, everything changes. Suddenly there’s a camera crew tracking her every move and Laura finds herself an unlikely star. Wined, dined, and pampered, she begins to see the charms of a younger partner herself. But as things hot up between her and gorgeous TV director, Cal, they’re going downhill elsewhere. While Laura’s caught up in a heady whirlwind of beauty treatments, makeovers and glamorous film locations, Charlotte’s husband, Roger, is concealing a guilty secret. Stanley’s got problems at school, work’s piling up, and when Laura turns detective to protect Charlotte’s marriage, things go horribly wrong.

The champagne’s flowing as Laura’s prime time TV debut looks set to be a hit. But in every month, there’s a Day Ten…

Prime Time Goodreads Book Giveaway

Prime Time by Jane Wenham-Jones. Giveaway ends July 05, 2012. See the giveaway details at Goodreads. Enter to win

The heroine, Laura, lives in Broadstairs (the setting for my last novel too) – there’s a recent interview in The Isle of Thanet Gazette  here.

NB for those of you not up on your East Kent Geography – Thanet is that knobbly bit  at the bottom of the map, consisting of Broadstairs, Ramsgate and Margate as well as surrounding villages. I live there. 🙂

Update July 2012: The paperback version is now available here and the Kindle version here.