Friday, 29 April 2011

Ordinary Girl in a Tiara goes to the Royal Wedding

Ordinary Girl in a Tiara gets in on the act
Well, I may not have been in the Mall, but have just had very happy morning ensconsed on a sofa and watching the Royal Wedding with a friend.  

We enjoyed all the pageantry, admired the horses, and spent a good deal of time sucking in our teeth at some of the frocks and asking each other unanswerable questions like ‘Who are those nuns?’, ‘Who’s that?’ and ‘Why did she think that fascinator would be a good idea?’  Am very, very unconvinced by fascinators generally, and today did nothing to change my mind.  Give me a stonking hat any day. Still, very much looking forward to a close analysis of Hello! next week on my way to Turkey.

But the bride was the star of the show, of course, and I thought she looked really pretty and happy, so she got full marks.  Loved the dress, and the bridesmaid’s dress was fab.  And the Abbey looked wonderful with those trees, too. 

Of course the bit I really wanted to see was behind the scenes, or the moment they step inside the doors at Buckingham Palace.  Hope someone was waiting with a glass of champagne! 

A peek behind the closed palace doors was the premise behind Ordinary Girl with a Tiara, which ends – of course – with a royal wedding.  I had a great time imagining what it would be like for Caro arriving back at the palace after the wedding and stepping out onto the balcony to wave to the crowds as a princess for the first time, but only Kate Middleton (as was) can know if I was right or not!

Monday, 25 April 2011

Cooling down, tidying up

Cooling the dog 

Back from sunny south west Scotland, where it was so hot we had to picnic in the shade … and that’s not something you say often about the Colvend coast! I know we British are boringly obsessed with the weather, but it has been uncannily beautiful recently.  We are spending a lot of time basking in the sun and telling each other how unbelievable it is.

I’ve now got just over a week to tidy up a heart-sinking number of projects before I'm off again, this time walking in Turkey, so this is just a quickie to say that a copy of Ordinary Girl in a Tiara is on its way to Desere and Katarina – and Ros, if you’re reading this, email me your address ( and you can have one too.  I liked the sound of you all in your hats!  

Oh, and last minute news (everything is last minute at the moment with me): after grumbling (quite unjustifiably) that Oh-So-Sensible Secretary hadn’t done well in any contests, it has just been short-listed for a National Readers’ Choice Award in the Traditional category.  I’ve been lucky enough to win this for the past two years, so to hope for a third time just seems plain greedy, but OSSS is one of my favourite books, so I'm very happy to see it on a shortlist.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Invitation to a royal wedding

Commoner married prince … is this story sounding familiar at all?  For those of you who have just jetted in from Mars (or perhaps don't live in the UK), Prince William is marrying Kate Middleton in London next week. As luck in the script would have it, I have just received my UK copies of Ordinary Girl in a Tiara, in which a commoner marries - you guessed it - a prince.  I wrote this book long before William and Kate announced their engagement, so now like to think of myself as prescient, although I gather from seasoned royal watchers had been expecting it for ages.

I was delighted when I heard they would be getting married this summer, thinking it would make a great tie-in with my book, but they selfishly decided to get married in April rather than in June  when Ordinary Girl in a Tiara is out.  They never even thought to ask me – can you believe it?  Everyone will be sick of royal weddings by June. Grumble, grumble.

Never mind. I hope Kate and William will be as happy as Caro and Philippe are definitely going to be.  Philippe is prince of a fictional country, Montluce, which I’ve imagined as wedged somewhere between France and Switzerland and Germany, and Caro is, well, an ordinary girl like Kate, except that Caro isn’t thin or particularly pretty, and she certainly doesn’t have Kate’s dress sense.  In fact, her predilection for vintage clothes, not all of which hit the mark, is a source of some tension between her and Philippe.

Of course, Ordinary Girl in a Tiara ends with a royal wedding too, and I will be watching next Friday to see just how closely William and Kate’s wedding matches Caro and Philippe’s fictional one.  (Will Kate’s dress be a patch on Caro’s, I wonder?)  I’m going up to have coffee with a member of the my plotting team near Northallerton and we’ll watch it together, chiefly so we can comment on the frocks, which is no fun on your own.

As a special royal wedding tie-in (!), I’ve got three copies of Ordinary Girl in a Tiara to give away, so if you’d like to read it before it hits the shelves, just tell me where you’ll be on 29th April and if you’ll be watching the (real) royal wedding or not.

I finished my book on Sunday night – hooray! – and am off to Scotland for a few days, but will be back next week to pick three winners,  so don’t forget to check back then and see if you’ve won, because I’ll need you to email me your postal address.

Happy Easter to you all, and may the sun shine wherever you are, and whether you’re marrying a prince or not.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Anyone for Lithuanian?

I have been lashed to my computer all week, and am still in the throes of the rewriting stage.  As always, I did an almost complete rewrite of the first three chapters, but the others have been going faster.  Am now on Chapter 7, but things are likely to slow down again soon, as I only have a rough draft of the last three chapters.  Still, am hoping to send it in on Monday as I promised my editor.

Meanwhile, there has been plenty of displacement activity too, with more translations dropping through the door.  One was a Korean edition of a very old book, The Beckoning Flame (1993) which was a rather silly story set in a Scottish castle, and the other from the opposite end of my writing career with a Lithuanian edition of Oh-So-Sensible Secretary (2010).  This is a book that hasn’t done well in any contests, but has had a fantastically quick international pick up - I’ve no idea why.

It did take me a little while to work out what the language was, as it looked completely unfamiliar. I picked up Vilnius from the title page, but am ashamed to say I had to check whether it was in Lithuania or Latvia.  I used to be brilliant at capital cities and dialling codes when I worked on the foreign newsdesk at The Observer, but I’ve definitely lost my touch since then. 

Anyway, I’ve never had one of my books translated into Lithuanian before, so I was very pleased about that, and wasted half an hour flicking through it and marvelling that such a complex looking language could make sense to anyone.  Although I have learnt that vasara means summer in Lithuanian, so perhaps it wasn't wasted time after all.  You never know when that will come in handy.

This book even has explanatory footnotes. One of them seems to be about New Age stuff (astrologijos, ezoterikos, alternatyviosios medicinos) so I’m guessing it’s the scene with Summer and her wacky mother, but I’ve no idea what the others are about. 

So if there’s anybody out there who reads Lithuanian, let me know and I’ll put the book in the post to you!

Have a good weekend!


Monday, 11 April 2011

West Overton, drowsing in Spring sunshine

In spite of all my deadlines, I managed to justify a weekend away in Wiltshire – and how glad I am that I did!  The weather was so perfect, it was almost surreal.  I don’t know if it’s something to do with getting older, but every year now I think it’s the most beautiful Spring I’ve ever seen.  It’s as if the grass have never been so green, the sky so blue, the blossom so fresh, the lambs so new and wobbly on their feet …

The neck of the White Horse, carved in the 19th century

And at least I could enjoy it, instead of sitting resentfully at my computer, staring out of the window.  We walked along the Ridgeway, allegedly the oldest path in Europe, from near Avebury to the white horse carved into the chalk at Hackpen Hill, and then back again through the strange litter of stones left by the retreating glaciers at the end of the Ice Age. Wiltshire has such ancient history, it makes York seem positively nouveau!  

My theory (and I’m sticking to it … at least until I start to panic again) is that I will write better for being refreshed by a lovely weekend away.   I finished the draft of Clara’s story before I left, so this blog is my last task before I turn over the pile of pages and reread from the beginning – always the moment of truth!  I predict a hollow realisation of how much still needs to be done, followed by a lifting of the heart once I actually start rewriting ... at least, that's what I'm hoping!

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Research assistance required!

Chapter 7 is done – and (cue frantic touching of wood) without the usual crisis.  That may be because I have been writing this book in clumps of two or three chapters at a time in between other projects and still haven’t got any momentum going yet, in spite of feeling sick about looming and colliding deadlines.

But I’m liking my hero, an uptight economist, and especially my heroine, Clara, whose quirk is an unlikely obsession with old musicals.  To get myself in the mood, I downloaded 100 Greatest Musicals from iTunes (my first successful download!) and have been listening as I write.  It’s amazed me how many of the songs I recognise and can sing along with.

I am practically word perfect on The Sound of Music, which I first saw in 1968 at a drive-in in Papua New Guinea.  It was the first and only time I’ve ever been to a drive-in, and the words and the pictures weren’t quite aligned, so it wasn’t the best of introductions, but at nine, I wasn’t that bothered. I must have seen it on the television a few times since then, but I don’t remember it particularly, and yet now I’m singing songs which aren’t even on the download.  I have confidenceI am sixteen going on seventeenHow do you solve a problem like Maria? … You name it, I can warble along with it.  Just call me Julie.

Worryingly, I can also singalonga to My Fair Lady, The Jungle Book, Gigi, Oklahoma! and even The King and I, which I am certain I have never seen. I am finding it all a little disturbing, as if I have let loose a hidden Julie Andrews.  Quite apart from anything else, it is SO uncool.  It might be endearing in my heroine, but I can’t tell any of my friends.

My lack of sophistication aside, I’m also concerned that no one else will get the references to The Sound of Music.  I’ve assumed that the reason I know the tunes is that this is an iconic film whose songs have somehow permeated general consciousness, but am I right?

If I’m wrong, I’m going to have to rethink the entire story, or at least bring myself up to date with some more modern musicals.  I suppose Clara could be a fan of Mamma Mia! but I feel a bit ho-hum about that.  Somehow The Sound of Music is right for her, but there’s no point if no reader is going to get it.

So come on, ‘fess up.  If I started singing Climb every mountain, would you be able to join in?  Does a Captain and seven children mean anything to you?  I’d particularly like to know if you are in your twenties/thirties! 

Up for grabs
In return for your research assistance, I’ll feed the names of anyone who posts into my computer and run a highly advanced random identification programme (otherwise known as eeny-meeny-miny-mo) to select a winner, who can have a choice of any of my spare books here (an assortment of past titles) or the first copy of Ordinary Girl in a Tiara when it arrives.

Thanks!  I’ll just off to slip back into my dirndl skirt and run over a few mountains … ‘So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodby-ye …’

Friday, 1 April 2011

Call me Quasimodo

One thing they never tell you about writing for a living is how hard it is on you physically.  Quite apart from ease of access to the fridge and the dire effects of sitting at a computer all day, there is RSI, the writer’s curse, and sundry other aches and pains.  Of course, there may well be writers out there who keep themselves super fit and go for a ten mile run every morning before they start work, but who wants to be friends with someone like that that?  Honestly? 

My latest grumble has been a really painful left wrist - not good on the typing front.  I assumed at first that it was RSI, but my mouse hand is fine, and it got so bad that I took myself off to a physiotherapist, who told me that there was nothing wrong with my wrist but that I had major problems in my back and neck caused by tension.  (Tense?  Me?  Why on earth would I be tense with five major deadlines before Easter?)  He suggested acupuncture, but the idea of having needles stuck into me just doesn’t do it for me, so I went off for a second opinion. 

That physio (nice, Irish, about 12) gave me a thorough examination, concluded that the tendon running up from my thumb was probably inflamed but agreed that ooh, my neck was bad. And then, in a casual aside, she informed me that I had a HUMP!  You can probably imagine how happy I was about that.  I am short enough as it is, without bowing down with a hump. 

The dire prospect of a dowager’s hump without even the advantages of being a dowager sent me off to a remedial Pilates session yesterday.  My Pilates teacher was brilliant but sucked in her teeth when she had a good look at me.  It turns out that not only do I have a hump, but my head sticks forward like a tortoise and I’M CROOKED!  When she pointed it out, I could see that one shoulder was indeed higher than the other.  No wonder I’m such a mess.

I was amazed at what hard work the Pilates exercises were, as the movements are very tiny, but I am resolved to do them every day until I have beautiful, elegant posture like my teacher’s and don’t have to lurch around like a cross between Quasimodo and the Poisoned Dwarf.  And sometime I’ll have to fit in writing the rest of this book too.  Am on Chapter 6, which means a crisis is due any minute … and as far as I know there's no exercise to cure that!