Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Glittery book in a store near you….

Woohoo, The Secret Shopper's Revenge is out in paperback this week! And very satisfyingly chunky it is too. It is also the first book I’ve had published that features glittery bits on the cover. Obviously other books have glittery stuff, but mine is extra glittery. Go on. Stroke the screen. Use your imagination. It feels a little bit rough, doesn't it, like festive sandpaper?

The cover also features cute charms below the title – those were my idea!

I’m always excited and nervous when a novel comes out, and this time is no exception. Especially as the book is the Asda Book Club book of the month for December, which means it should be in all their stores AND if you buy it in Asda, you get an extra section at the back with special material from my three secret shoppers – a guide to luxury on a budget from Grazia, advice from Lucy on how NOT to be treated like dirt by shop assistants, and a shopper’s guide to spotting the best stores by Sandie. And all for the same cover price… I believe it’s also in the WH Smith’s travel stores as their book of the week, too (not sure WHICH week) so if you see one in a station or airport let me know. Or if you see one at all, I'd love to hear how it looks. I can never quite believe it's on sale until I have confirmed independent sightings...

The novel begins just a few days before Christmas, with my poor underdog heroine Emily (not Lucy, as I wrote before - doh! I get my characters confused!) realising that her dreams of a perfect celebration in London aren’t going to plan – read the first chapter here – and as the book even looks a bit like a parcel, it makes a great present...!

Right, end of hard sell. Back to reality.

In other news, have hit a bit of a block with the new novel. I’m at the 25,000 words stage of an extremely rough draft and am now wondering what to throw at my characters next. I also have a cold and have just hit my head on the door above the washing machine, so I don’t think I’ll be finishing the Nanowrimo challenge unless I can write 25,000 more words in five days. This would be technically possible but utterly insane.

Ah well, knew it was too good to last.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Getting the words down...thanks to Dr Wicked!


First of all, many thanks for the lovely comments on my Rainbows post - much appreciated.

So life's settling back into a kind of normality after my various trips. I'm getting on with building up the word count. This year because the timing of starting the new novel coincides with Nanowrimo, I'm joining in and my word count, as of ten minutes ago, is 21,964. Since the beginning of November.


Now I don't want to give you the wrong impression. I'm not really a ruthless hackette who will throw out a novel in two months and then send it off to print, untouched. This time round I think I'm going to have to work hard at getting the tone right with the main character so I suspect there will be more editing than ever before. So it seemed logical for me to get on with it, discover by writing, and then overhaul it completely.

Don't know if I will carry on to the 50,000 target that Nanowrimo sets, because in a way it's slightly irrelevant - my novels tend to be around the 110,000-120,000 mark so I can't exactly pretend to myself that I could possibly be finished by the end of the month. On the other hand, 50K is a nice round number!

My best tool so far is here. Three cheers and then some for Dr Wicked. I love this gizmo, it has worked wonders. I was telling a friend the other day and she was hysterical at the idea that I had to use tricks like this to force myself to write, even though a) I love writing and b) I dreamed for so long about doing this full-time. I am an excellent procrastinator, as I have said before, and sometimes we all need props to get us going. Better this than gin at elevenses, eh?

By the way, anyone intrigued by the Arvon Foundation after my account of my retreat week, there's a programme about the origins of the charity on Radio 4 tomorrow morning, presented coincidentally by one of my favourite writers, Mavis Cheek. I expect it'll be available on Listen Again for a week afterwards if you can't catch it tomorrow.

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Monday, November 10, 2008


It’s been an up-and-down couple of weeks. First, the boyf and I went to Barcelona for five fab days. I remember going there when Inter-Railing in the early nineties and the place scared me half to death…

Now it’s thrilling for different reasons – a truly vibrant, cosmopolitan city. I’m glad I don’t write guidebooks as it would be seriously tough to find new ways of describing the place, but suffice it to say, if you’ve been there, you’ll know and if you haven’t been, you should. As soon as humanly possible.

I didn’t do much writing but I took loads of photographs and notes, and the city might well turn up in my fiction before too long…we also caught up with friends who’ve moved there and had a severe dose of lifestyle envy.

The down was that while I was away, my aunt died. She had been ill for many years but was still only in her sixties and I think it’s always a shock when someone important dies. My best memories of her are from when I was a little girl and visited her house which had – luxury of luxuries – a piano! My aunt and uncle were both extremely musical and made their living playing and teaching the piano and violin. I used to buy sheet music of my favourite West End shows (I was a bit of an actress wannabe, but my ambition was thwarted as I was a useless dancer) and ask her to play my favourites while I sang along. Evita and Annie were particular favourites – the poor woman (and neighbours) must have been well and truly fed up with The sun’ll come out tomorrow and Don’t cry for me Argentina by the time I left each time.

She also introduced me to the delights of curry (and those yummy little pre-made orange sorbets in the shell you can still find in more old fashioned Indian restaurants). Music and masala. That’s what I call a positive influence.

Again, I'm slightly at a loss to describe how I feel about it all (call yourself a writer, Harrison?). The funeral is this week and I am hopeless at funerals – the opening to Brown Owl's Guide to Life is semi-autobiographical – so I probably won’t post about it again.

Straight after Barcelona, with memories of my aunt uppermost in my mind, I went to The Hurst, the Arvon Foundation Centre in Shropshire, which was home to playwright John Osborne. Although I used to work in the Midlands region for the BBC, I had never had much time to admire Shropshire at leisure and the countryside was mind-bogglingly gorgeous. It wasn't a taught course - I've done two previously, both outstanding and recommended for all writers - but a retreat, where we were at leisure to work on our own during the day, then come together for dinner in the evenings. I spent the week chatting and sharing experiences with other writers, getting started on my next book (the whiteboard came with me in the car) and going for a few lovely walks.

I wouldn’t describe myself as a spiritual person – as with most other things in my life, I find it hard to make a decision about where I stand on creation – but the landscape around there really did make me appreciate the spell-binding beauty of life. During my Friday walk, I kept seeing rainbows everywhere, including several that melted into the trees. The photo doesn’t quite capture it, but it was gorgeous.

Downside was being unable to watch the TV after the Obama victory but oddly listening to the radio made it seem more special, like being in a WW2 drama, relying on the wireless to bring the news we’re all hoping for…the speeches made by both the winning and the losing candidates moved me deeply. I hope...well, I guess we're all hoping the same, are we?

Oh, and I had lots of lovely food. And got 11,000 words in the bag. That’s the wonder of no broadband.

Here’s to rainbows, and dreams, and curries, and music, and my aunt, and making the most of what we have…