Friday, 23 December 2011

Merry Christmas

It must be Christmas time because...

The decorations are up & even the Christmas lights are working.

I have papercuts from wrapping hundreds of presents.

The house is groaning with food.

I'm groaning from too much chocolate.

I'm smiling from too much mulled wine.

The postman (poor overworked chap who must hate for all the parcels he delivers to this house) is smiling.

The bin men are chirpy.

I have a diary full of people visiting and parties/meals I'm going to.

I have five days off work.

The teenagers are arguing/sulking/bored despite having endless sources of entertainment (laptops, Sky, Ipads, phones that do everything apart from sort their washing or tidying up).

I have written endless cards (despite being determined not to).

I've circled the Radio Times with tv programmes that I will be watching.

The dog is sulking in his bed.

I love this time of year!

Happy Christmas.x

Sunday, 18 December 2011

I'd Like To Thank...

I'm thrilled that the Tears and Laughter team have received fabulous reviews of our ebook, Tears and Laughter and Happy Ever After.

The most recent review has been from the well respected and highly successful short story writer, Teresa Ashby. Now, when you ask people to review your book, it's very nerve-wracking and especially so when you ask someone, like Teresa, who is so successful. So, I was very excited to read that not only did Teresa love our book, but that she enjoyed my story too. *happy dance*.

Thank you, once again, Teresa.

Here are links to a few other people I'd also like to thank - very much - for their incredible support of our book.

Kirsty over at who designed a beautiful advert for our book.

Also, here are a few links to wonderful reviews of our book. Don't worry, this I promise to leave my family, friends and Grumps out of my list.

The very lovely: Talli Roland, Louise Graham, Sue as Sue's Book Reviews, Shazjera (aka Sharon Goodwin), Book-Shelf. We also have some fabulous 5* reviews over at Goodreads and on Amazon. So, thank you very much.

At the moment you can buy, Tears and Laughter and Happy Ever After in eformat here and soon you'll be able to buy the paperback version of the book. I'll post with links closer to the time (of course). You can also read Della Galton's lovely review on the Tears and Laughter website and keep up with blog posts from the Tears and Laughter team here.

Thank you.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Janice Horton Visits The Plotting Shed

Janice Horton’s new e-book ‘Reaching for the Stars’ is about a Scottish celebrity chef called Finn McDuff who is media stalked and disillusioned after winning his third star and losing his third wife. He decides he’s had enough of all the food campaigns, the TV cookery shows, the constant frenzy surrounding his private life and, after giving up all his accolades and closing down his restaurant, he disappears.

With the enfant terrible of the kitchen missing, two rival newspapers, having lost their media meal ticket, compete against each other to whip up further public curiosity in the missing chef.

Love him or hate him, everyone is out looking for Chef McDuff. Who will find him first and whose side will you be on...?

Scottish author Janice Horton launches her latest book ‘Reaching for the Stars’ this week in e-book format and I’m delighted to be hosting her as part as her blog tour. Janice writes romance novels with a Scottish flavour and I asked her where was her favourite place to write them?

This is the view from just behind my cottage on the side of a hill in Southern Scotland. As I set all my novels here, when the weather allows, sitting up here on the hill overlooking the beautiful Nith Valley is my very favourite place to write.

Here there are no distractions except for the fabulous sweeping views or the call of the birds, so I take a pencil and a notepad and I write freehand. I find it both inspiring and liberating, which is especially useful if I’m stuck or have a story plotting problem.

I’m often accompanied by my two little Westies, Polly and Ruby, and our free range rescue hens. It’s the perfect spot in the summer. In the colder and wetter months of the year however, you’ll find me wherever it is warm and peaceful. I do have a home office but, as my self employed husband uses it too and is often talking to clients on the phone, it’s not exactly conducive to my writing. The kitchen table is a good spot, right in front of the Aga - but not if the kids are home. Then the sitting room is more likely to be the quietest place in the house and it’s often where you’ll find me - and the doggies - right in front of the wood burning fire!

Reaching for the Stars is published in e-book format.
Buy ‘Reaching for the Stars’ now at the special launch price of just 99p
Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Janice Blogs
Janice is a author
Follow her on Twitter @JaniceHorton
Facebook Author Page:

More about the author:
Janice writes romantic novels with humour which are, for the most part, inspired by the beauty of the heather-filled glens around her country cottage. When Janice is not writing novels, she write lifestyle articles and has had work published in national and international magazines and regional newspaper. She edits The Review Chair for the innovative reader/writer website She is also the bestselling author of the humorous romance ‘Bagpipes & Bullshot’.

Thanks for visiting us in the shed, Janice, and good luck with Reaching For The Stars!

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Christmas Preparations...

This picture was taken out of my bedroom window a few evenings ago. In the distance is the sea, not that you can see it here, but I love the colours.

I can't believe Christmas will soon be here, but thankfully I'm slowly crossing things of my various lists (events to go to/shopping/things to do). I love Christmas, but some are busier than others. I share my children with their father and this year they will be with me on Christmas Eve and with him for most of Christmas Day/Boxing Day. Next year, when they're with me, I'll be making lunch (with Rob's help) for about 20 family members, and it's always great fun. This year though, it'll be quieter and I feel like I've forgotten something not having to do all the extra food shopping.

The decorations are up, but the worst job of all, the wrapping, still needs to be tackled. Groan. I really should do that this weekend. I've only managed to make a list of people I need to send Christmas cards to, so I should get on with that soon too.

How are your Christmas preparations coming along?

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Confidence Boost

Yesterday, as I sat in the lounge with Grumps - I probably looked grumpier than he did - I wondered if I was just kidding myself that I could ever write a decent book.

Bored with feeling sorry for myself and my stomach ache - a bug I managed to pick up from somewhere - I checked my emails and was thrilled to find one from The Harry Bowling Prize people. They told me that although, Broken Faces, hadn't made the longlist as it '... didn't have an obvious urban setting', they were intending giving ' a special commendation on our website'.

Having read and re-read this fabulous piece of news I did a *happy dance* and decided that maybe I did have it in me to write a book that others might want to read. I've received lots of wonderful comments on Facebook, Twitter and also personal emails congratulating me, and these are much appreciated. I love writing and can't imagine ever stopping, but it is such a relief to receive a confidence boost like this one.

Needless to say, I'm looking much chirpier today. He isn't, but that's his natural expression so he can't help it. I'm sure he's feeling jolly on the inside!

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

21 Shopping Days Til Christmas...

And if you need a couple of suggestions for presents, ahem...

How about treating yourself to a copy of Tears and Laughter and Happy Ever After? My sister downloaded a copy to her smart phone. Here's the link.

You can read a couple of our reviews here and here and here. The paperback will be out late December/early January.

You could buy the paperback version of Watching Willow Watts by Talli Roland, out today, and you can also read my review over at Novelicious (from 1.30pm 1st Dec).

I've pretty much done most of my Christmas shopping (although I'm bound to have forgotten some) and now I need to start thinking about all the presents I must buy for the birthdays in early January.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Grumpy's New Chair

HIS CHAIR: Yesterday Rob noticed that there was a pink Lloyd Loom Lusty chair up for auction. Naturally, I decided it would be perfect for Grumps to snooze on in the shed and a great replacement for the white, plastic, garden chair he occupies now.

I emailed in my bid and Rob collected it for me today. Here's a picture of Grumps looking decidedly underwhelmed with his present. For some reason, I don't feel that he's as impressed with my purchase as I was!

MY CHAIR: This is my chair. I love it. They almost match and I'm sure he'll be much happier when I put it in the shed next to mine and he can curl up and go to sleep.

Well, that's the plan anyway...

Sunday, 20 November 2011

RNA Winter Party

I'm back at home after attending the RNA Winter Party where I caught up with, and met, so many fabulous writers, agents, editors and generally all round glamorous people. In fact I was so busy chatting that despite taking my camera, I only ended up with one photo of the event. Here's me with the very lovely Denyse Kirkby and Bernadine Kennedy.

Talli Roland arranged a Tweet Up and a group of us met up for a few pre-party drinks. Then it was on to catch up with everyone else at the party. You can find more pictures here at the RNA blog.

So, after all that glamour, champagne and fun, it's time to get back down to earth and focus on the washing, changing beds and dealing with one particularly grumpy Miniature Schnauzer who needs a long walk and a bath. After that though I'm going to treat myself and sit down to read Trisha Ashley's, The Magic of Christmas.

Oh, and did I mention that I have a couple of stories in, Tears and Laughter and Happy Ever After (out now in Kindle eformat and in paperback in December). I did? Oh, okay then. Until next time...

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Tears and Laughter and Happy Ever After

I'm so excited *places back of hand against forehead and reclines in chaise longue* that, the Kindle edition of Tears and Laughter and Happy Ever After has now been published.

You can buy it on Amazon,

You can make friends with us (and 'like' us if you wish) on Facebook,

You can follow us on Twitter,

Or, simply find out more about the book and authors on our website.

Tears and Laughter and Happy Ever After is a vibrant and varied collection of stories from writers who between them have had hundreds of short stories published in women’s magazines in the UK and around the world! Contributors have also won or been placed in dozens of competitions, published novels and written non-fiction for many UK magazines.

As the title suggests, the twenty-six stories encompass the dizzying heights of happiness, the heartbreaking depths of sadness and every emotion in between. Within the pages of this book you’ll meet a housewife with a surprising secret, a beekeeper with a problem and an undertaker with something unusual on his mind. You’ll also encounter angels, ghosts, aliens and many other intriguing characters. And, in the end, you may just find the path to happy ever after.

This is what people have said:

“This anthology has something for everyone. It’s a delight. I only wish I was in it!”
Della Galton

“Like diving into a big box of Quality Street.”
Kate Long

The authors are: Deborah Carr (me!), Karen Clarke, Sarah Dunnakey, Leigh Forbes, Helen M Hunt, Bernadette James, Helen Kara, Jenny Maltby, Kathleen McGurl, Tamsyn Murray, Sally Quilford, Jill Steeples and Cally Taylor.

I hope you enjoy reading our book.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Past & Present

It's my gorgeous daughter's seventeenth birthday this week and although the thought of her driving is a little nerve-wracking, I'm sure she'll love the freedom of not having to wait for buses or for me to take her where she needs to go. She is funny, a little ditsy (like her mother), and truly fabulous. She is special in her own right, but having suffered three miscarriages after my son was born, I didn't expect to ever have her. Happy Birthday to Sx

The day after S's birthday would have been my paternal grandmother's birthday (she's on the left of the picture). She was born in Meerut in India in 1906. Her father was in the 17th Lancers and after he retired they made their home in Cardiff. He died young in 1922 and my grandmother came to live over here after meeting my grandfather while on holiday. She was very beautiful and on the day she died, my sister-in-law gave birth and my youngest sister celebrated her seventeenth birthday. I was holding a party for my sister at my house too. A day of very mixed emotions.

My maternal grandmother was born in 1915 in Kinsale, Ireland and went to live in London when she married. Thanks to the war and constant moving around, her three daughters were born in different counties. In 1950, my grandmother came to live in Jersey with her second husband and it was here that my uncle was born. My son had a special bond with her as, although she was in her eighties when he was born, she looked after him for me many times while I worked. She died seven years ago on 9th of this month.

One grandmother was evacuated from Jersey (apparently on the last boat) with her two small sons and a nephew. She spent the war years in England, living in various places. The other lived in London and worked in a shop during the day and helped fire-watching on the roof of the shop at night. Both were seperated from their children on occasions, either because they'd been evacuated to the homes of strangers, or because they'd been sent to live with relatives. Both had husbands fighting for their country, one in the navy and one in the army. Both experienced the Blitz.

Both women were incredibly strong, supportive and dignified, but most of all I remember their sense of humour. I still miss them both very much, but have so many happy memories of times spent laughing with them that it never saddens me to think of them. I was so lucky to have had them in my life.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

All I Want For Christmas...

All I want for Christmas, apart from having fun with my mad, noisy family, is a few days off from my lovely job to laze about, write and read.

The best Christmas present I've ever received was a typewriter that my parents bought for me when I was nine-years-old. I was so excited and although I don't remember typing anything worth keeping on it, I do remember that I wouldn't let my little sister near it.

The very lovely, Cally Taylor has her second book out today. Home For Christmas sounds like my sort of book and having read, and loved, her first book, I can't wait to start reading this one.

Here's the blurb:
Beth Prince has always loved fairytales and now, aged twenty-four, she feels like she's finally on the verge of her own happily ever after. She lives by the seaside, works in the Picturebox - a charming but rundown independent cinema - and has a boyfriend who's so debonair and charming she can't believe her luck! There's just one problem - none of her boyfriends have ever told her they love her and it doesn't look like Aiden's going to say it any time soon. Desperate to hear I love you' for the first time Beth takes matters into her own hands - and instantly wishes she hadn't. Just when it seems like her luck can't get any worse, bad news arrives in the devilishly handsome shape of Matt Jones. Matt is the regional director of a multiplex cinema and he's determined to get his hands on the Picturebox by Christmas. Can Beth keep her job, her man and her home or is her romantic-comedy life about to turn into a disaster movie?

Sounds fab, don't you think? You can buy Home For Christmas here.

So, what do you want for Christmas?

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Luna & NaNoWriMo

The puppies have now gone to their new families, but I thought you'd enjoy seeing this picture of Luna, the pup that my sister decided to keep.

Luna is cheeky, funny and my sister insists she's the dog version of me! I gather she's referring to the clumsiness of the pup. She breaks into a run (not something I'm known for doing unless: a) it starts raining, b) a shop is about to close and I need something, usually a book, shoes, or chocolate, c) I've been writing and can smell food burning (the most often cause of me breaking into a trot).

Oh, as I was saying...Luna breaks into a run...and then somehow manages to fall over her own feet. Now, this IS something I do at regular intervals at great amusement to my beloved family. She is, above all, cuddy and adorable, although I don't think we share those attributes so much. Adorable, of course (ahem!) but cuddly (other than to look at) no.

You may have noticed (how could you not?) the odd post here, on Facebook, and Twitter about Tears and Laughter and Happy Ever After. Please go to Facebook and 'Like' it, if you haven't already done so. Thank you.

Good luck to those of you who are taking part in NaNoWriMo. I thoroughly enjoyed doing it in 2009 and 2010 and found it really helped me get my thoughts down onto the page. How are you doing so far?

Hope you're having a fun weekend. x

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Tears & Laughter & Happy Ever After

I'm thrilled to have two short stories included in this fantastic anthology. Tears and Laughter and Happy Ever After is filled with stories from the best and most successful short story writers around. It will be published as in Kindle format in mid-November and in paperback a month later.

‘Tears and Laughter and Happy Ever After’ is a vibrant and varied collection of stories from writers who between them have had hundreds of short stories published in women’s magazines in the UK and around the world! Contributors have also won or been placed in dozens of competitions, published novels and written non-fiction for many UK magazines.

As the title suggests, the twenty-six stories encompass the dizzying heights of happiness, the heartbreaking depths of sadness and every emotion in between. Within the pages of this book you’ll meet a housewife with a surprising secret, a beekeeper with a problem and an undertaker with something unusual on his mind. You’ll also encounter angels, ghosts, aliens and many other intriguing characters. And, in the end, you may just find the path to happy ever after.

The idea for this book came from the successful ‘A Story A Fortnight’ writing group which brought the writers involved together in a project which has inspired and supported them in their short story writing.

Who’s been up to ‘Monkey Business'?

What's happening in 'The House At Summer's End’?

Who is 'The Girl In The Yellow Dress'?

If you want to know, you have to read ‘Tears and Laughter and Happy Ever After’.

You can find out more on our website and keep up with the news on Facebook and follow on Twitter @tears_laughter .

Friday, 21 October 2011

Tweet Treats from Jane Travers

I'd like to welcome Jane Travers to my blog today. Jane is the author of a clever recipe book inspired by Twitter. I'll let Jane tell you more...

If life had taken another path I’d have been an inventor. I’ve always had ideas about how to make things better, or things that didn’t exist, but that I really wanted. When my daughter was a baby I had dozens of ideas; from a blanket that would actually stay on a squirming baby at night, to a gadget that would quickly and efficiently sterilise a pacifier if it fell on the ground.

However, my complete knack of makerly know-how scuppered me every time I came up with an idea for something. How would I make that gadget? I knew nothing about casting, moulding, or manufacturing, and so each idea would rattle annoyingly in my brain for a while, until it went to the place where ideas go to die. (Although I did make a kitchen implement I’d always wanted in a pottery evening class once! It’s rather odd though, and I don’t think anyone else would want one...)

Then in April of last year I had another idea. I was about to go and lie down in a darkened room until it too went away, but I realised that I could do this; I could collect hundreds of 140 character recipes through Twitter, I could badger celebrities to contribute, I could combine them all into a book that would be useful, cute and entertaining, and I could give the royalties to charity!
The great thing about this idea was that it required no technical know-how. I needed only two things; words and Twitter. Oh, and lots and lots of my time. And some serious balls. And a smattering of insanity.

Ok, more than two things.

Actually, there was another thing I’d need that I hadn’t thought I’d get – help. I had no sooner thrown the idea out there than I was bombarded by offers of help from Twitter friends, some of whom I’ve met in real life, most of whom I haven’t. They went forth (virtually) and spread the word, rounded up celebrities, coerced, cajoled and celebrated with me. I couldn’t have done this without Team Tweet Treats.

Anyway, I’m delighted to say that for once my daft idea has come to fruition. Tweet Treats was published this week by The O’Brien Press and is available from, Amazon, The Book Depository, Waterstones, Easons, Dubray Books, O'Brien Press and all good bookshops. All royalties are being donated to Medécins sans Frontières, an incredible organisation who are on the ground giving medical care to those who need it most in Somalia, Haiti and Pakistan, to name but a few. Every copy of Tweet Treats that’s sold directly benefits those who need it most.
Maybe I’ll turn my attention to the perfect mouse trap next time...

Monday, 17 October 2011

Highland Storms & Deerhounds

Thank you for having me as your guest in the lovely Plotting Shed again, it’s great to be back!

Last time I was here I think I talked about dogs, because of Grumpy and the fact that my first novel featured two little dogs just like my own. I hope you won’t mind if I do it again? As you’ve probably gathered, I love dogs (well, all animals really, as long as they have no more than four legs!), so I guess it won’t be a surprise to hear that I decided to include a dog in Highland Storms as well – a deerhound called Liath.

This time, however, I gave him more of a starring role. Perhaps because a deerhound is so much bigger than the small, fluffy pooches I wrote about before, I was able to include him in the plot to a greater extent. And being an intelligent hound, he’s also a whole lot more obedient than the ones I live with in real life – trust me, you couldn’t get less obedient if you tried! Anyway, Liath is the heroine’s constant companion, friend and guard, and boy does she need him! He saves the day at least once and does his best to help out in every way, and that, to me, is what a proper guard dog should do.
The best thing of all, however, is that Liath likes the hero and decides not to guard the heroine against him, which annoys her no end at first! To me, this just showed that Liath was clever and knew a good person when he saw one, but it takes a while for the heroine to reach the same conclusion. I had great fun writing those scenes!

Different breeds have different characteristics, of course, and I tried to incorporate those of a deerhound into Liath. The lovely features and the fact that although they’re big, they are gentle and docile if treated right. The more I read about them, the more I wanted one, but sadly I don’t think my current dogs would accept another one into their pack. One day maybe …

I enjoyed all aspects of researching this novel, because I love Scotland and all things Scottish. It was a great excuse for visiting the Highlands and taking my daughter to see Loch Ness, where she hadn’t been before. Urquhart Castle, Eilean Donan and all the other sights we saw were breathtaking. We also enjoyed getting to know a small herd of Highland cattle (which are also mentioned in the story), owned by a friend of mine. The calves were adorable and some of the bigger animals allowed us to go near and even comb them! (I was a bit wary of those horns though.)

But enough about animals, I think. Instead, here is a short synopsis of Highland Storms:-

Who can you trust?

Betrayed by his brother and his childhood love, Brice Kinross needs a fresh start. So he welcomes the opportunity to leave Sweden for the Scottish Highlands to take over the family estate.

But there’s trouble afoot at Rosyth in 1754 and Brice finds himself unwelcome. The estate is in ruin and money is disappearing. He discovers an ally in Marsaili Buchanan, the beautiful redheaded housekeeper, but can he trust her?

Marsaili is determined to build a good life. She works hard at being housekeeper and harder still at avoiding men who want to take advantage of her. But she’s irresistibly drawn to the new clan chief, even though he’s made it plain he doesn’t want to be shackled to anyone.

And the young laird has more than romance on his mind. His investigations are stirring up an enemy. Someone who will stop at nothing to get what he wants – including Marsaili – even if that means destroying Brice’s life forever …

To win a signed copy of this novel, please tell us which breed of dog you like best and why?

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Sunny & I'm Inside Editing

The weather has been gorgeous for the past few days and I think it's set to last into next week. I'm inside editing, of course, but here's a picture of Grumpy standing at the front door about half an hour ago. He seems intrigued by whatever it is that Rob is doing. Notice how he isn't helping though.

It was the anniversary of Rob and I meeting up (wedding anniversary is in August) and my lovely husband bought me these beautiful roses as well as some chocolates. I would have taken a photo of the chocolates...

Well, you know how it is? Chocolates aren't made to be looked at, they should be eaten.

This week I'm thrilled to have two guest bloggers telling us all about their new books. Can't wait.

Have a fun weekend. x

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Tui - Before & After

Meet Tui.

She's the only long-haired black pup and so pretty. Don't you think she looks too sweet?

This was naughty Tui ten minutes later!

Poor sis, I do hope her garden recovers soon.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Pups Leaving, YA Novel & NaNoWriMo 2011

Do you think Milo is sad that he's leaving the rest of the puppies? Actually he's one of three leaving early next week and I'll be sorry to see him go. The beautiful pup I posted on Facebook (Mowgli)is also going as is one of the black girl pups. Milo is going to a friend of my sister's so my sis will still be able to see him regularly, which will be nice. The pups are causing a bit of mayhem now and sis's garden looks like it's been ransacked.

I'm 2/3 through editing my WW1 novel and having received wonderful suggestions and support from my RNA NWS Reader, I hope to finish my edits by the end of this weekend. I'll then probably take a few days to read a book before I take a look at the dirty draft of my first attempt at a YA novel. I started this during NaNoWriMo 2009 and haven't had the time to look at it since then. So maybe now is the time to do so. I enjoyed taking part in NaNoWriMo 2010 too and managed to write the required 50,000 words for both the years I took part.

If you haven't taken part before and need something to spur you on, then NaNoWriMo 2011 is a great way to do it. Both times I reached the half-way point and wondered why I was putting myself through such a battle, but in the end it was very satisfying to achieve 50,000 words in 30 days.

I'll be visiting the pups again tomorrow morning before having lunch with a very good friend who is over in Jersey with her husband for a week. Can't wait. What are you hoping to do this weekend?

Friday, 30 September 2011

Renovation, Renovation, Renovation by Nell Dixon

This week sees the e-publication of Nell Dixon's latest romantic comedy, Renovation, Renovation, Renovation by Myrmidon, with the paperback to follow 2012. Nell won Love Story of the Year in 2010 with Animal Instincts and having read her books, I can assure you this will be a fabulous read.

Kate insists she's had enough of her boyfriend, Steve. After seven years together she was hoping to settle down, get engaged and maybe start to think about having a few babies together. Instead, Steve invests in Myrtle Cottage, a rundown Elizabethan cottage with, it seems, occupants other than themselves from the English Civil War. Her sister suggests they sign up for Evening Classes and Kate agrees to join the course, Research The History Of Your House. If she's going to discover what's making the suspicious noises in her home, this seems like a good place to start.

This book is great fun and well worth reading. Here's an excerpt:

Overworked, over budget and just so not over him! Kate would like an engagement ring from Steve but instead he's lumbered them with a thirteenth renovation project, and doing up Myrtle Cottage disturbs a ghost from the English Civil War who has romance troubles of her own.
“This bloody door is stuck again!”

The door was old, possibly original and it wedged tight every time it rained. Steve had been promising to plane the edge ever since we’d moved in. My family usually used the back door when they visited, unless it was wet, like today, when picking their way through the weeds tended to be a slippery and soggy exercise.

Whoever was on the other side gave the door a helpful shove, and sent me scooting backwards straight into Steve who’d come into the hall behind me. He caught me in his arms and steadied me. He held me securely but gently around the tops of my arms.

“Kate?” My sister was on the doorstep clutching a bag containing what looked like a takeaway and a very welcome bottle of wine.

I jerked myself back upright away from the familiar comforting hardness of Steve’s bare chest. My heart thumped against the wall of my chest and I had become a little breathless.

Lou’s mouth was a round ‘o’ of surprise.

I glared at her. “Damn door, I nearly broke my neck.”

Lou raised an eyebrow and stepped into the hall. “Thought I’d better come in the front way to dodge the jungle you so fondly call your back garden. I bought us an Indian.” She gave a Steve a pointed look.

“Catch you later, LouLou.” He flashed her a smile and slipped past us both, disappearing up the bare wooden stairs of the cottage.

“I didn’t interrupt anything, did I?” Lou asked as she made her way into the kitchen.

I followed behind her clutching the mug I’d rescued from the stairs. “Puhlease, you know how it is between me and Steve. It’s over, done, finished. If we could get this bloody house completed and off our hands I would be so out of here.” I ignored the little voice at the back of my mind that tried to suggest that my statement wasn’t entirely truthful.

(C) Nell Dixon 2011

Available from October from all good e-tailers.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Pups First Day Outside

I went to my sister's house the other day to help her watch the nine puppies when she let them out into the garden for their first outing. As you can see, they were a little nervous, but were soon persuaded to give it a go and ran around, played and generally investigated the garden for about half an hour.

This picture is for James. He wanted this pup so much, but is about to start his third year at university, so it wasn't possible. He helped my sister when Mowgli was born and fell in love with the little chap. Mowgli is going to a family with two little boys who were beside themselves when their parents bought them to see the pup.

What? I haven't got anything in my mouth!

I think this one is Milo, he's the only blonde boy (the other boy is Mowgli) and is nearly 4kgs. He's adorable and is going to a friend of my sister's so she'll see him grow up, which is lovely.

Fun pulling Tigger across the patio.

This cheeky one, is Luna and the one my sister is keeping. She's the most placid out of the nine pups and is like a cuddly teddybear. I'm glad she's keeping one, so we'll be able to see her grow up. They're a handful now, but so adorable and I'm going to miss them when they go to their new homes in about three weeks.

However, as gorgeous and cuddly as the pups are - and they really are - His Grumpiness will always be #1 in the Plotting Shed and with me. He's had to stay away from my sister's house sine the pups were born and I look forward to being able to take him there again and introduce him to Luna.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Competitions at Novelicious

We've got two fantastic competitions over at Novelicious this week.

You can read my review of Persuade Me, Juliet Archer's second novel in her Darcy & Friends series published by Choc Lit. It's a fabulous book and I'm not just talking about the cover. To be in with a chance of winning a copy you'll need to go to Novelicious (from Thursday morning) and leave a 'Pick Me' comment.

Also, Novelicious has teamed up with the Festival of Romance and you can win a full day ticket, including access to all events, refreshments and a two-course lunch.

To find out more and to enter, please go to Novelicious from Thursday (22/9) lunchtime.

Good luck.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

If I Could Be Anybody I'd Like To Be...

Florence Boot (1863-1952). She was a Jersey girl, born in St Helier and her parents owned a bookshop. Florence met Jesse Boot (founder of Boots The Chemist) when he visited Jersey from Nottingham.

Florence worked with her husband and as Lord and Lady Trent they became great benefactors to the island. As well as F B Fields (sports fields in St Clement) they built Florence Boot Homes, La Motte Street School, Coronation Park (beautiful parks, with playground and paddling pond) and various other developments for the local people.

After her husband's death in 1931, Lady Trent commissioned Rene Lalique to design the incredible works of art in St Matthew's Church (aka The Glass Church). It's one of my favourite places to visit and if you ever come to Jersey you should definitely make the most of seeing so much Lalique in one place.

Today is Launch Day for Talli Roland's second novel, Watching Willow Watts. You can buy a copy of Willow on Amazon UK for £1.71, or on for $2.99. (Paperback coming in November).

Here's the blurb:

For Willow Watts, life has settled into a predictably dull routine: days behind the counter at her father's antique shop and nights watching TV, as the pension-aged residents of Britain's Ugliest Village bed down for yet another early night. But everything changes when a YouTube video of Willow's epically embarrassing Marilyn Monroe impersonation gets millions of hits after a viewer spots Marilyn's ghostly image in a frame.

Instantly, Willow's town is overrun with fans flocking to see the 'new Marilyn'. Egged on by the villagers -- whose shops and businesses are cashing in -- Willow embraces her new identity, dying her hair platinum and ramming herself full of cakes to achieve Marilyn's legendary curves.
But when a former flame returns seeking the old Willow, Willow must decide: can she risk her stardom and her village's newfound fortune on love, or is being Marilyn her ticket to happiness?

So, who would you like to be?

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Puppies, Zumba & Reading

Isn't this the cutest little puppy?

Actually it's one of nine. Some short-haired, some long, six blonde and three black labrador x retriever puppies. They're four weeks old tomorrow and their mum (my sister's gorgeous bitch, Gyps) is the most placid dog I've ever come across - and the complete opposite of the Grump!

Zumba was great fun again on Monday night. I was still doing a pretty good impression of a tomato an hour after the class had ended. Talk about red-faced! I went with sis and sis-in-law and together with about 15 other women we had fun as we danced and tried our best to follow the zumba instructor. Such a relief that I enjoy it so much, especially as I've paid for a 12 week course!

Better get on, I have to finish reading The Generation Game so that I can review it for Women's Fiction Thursday over at Novelicious. All comments welcome and if you wish you can also vote for the site in the Cosmopolitan Blog Awards.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

9/11 Anniversary

Remembering the bravery of those who were killed on that fateful day 10 years ago and the families and friends who've had to live with the consequences of the actions of a few. Also to those who've been killed since that date in the fight against terrorism.

I think what happened that day changed all of us in some way.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Give Me Sunshine

Aren't these delightful? I received them as a thank you recently and was so thrilled. I love sunflowers, although I have to admit that they terrified me as a small child. I must have been a bit of a wuss!

After a long, not so glorious summer - weather-wise - it's back to school for my daughter on Tuesday. She did very well in her GCSEs and is about to start her Alevels. She's taking Maths, Physics, ICT and History and was hoping she'd get a high enough mark in her Maths GCSE so that she didn't have to do English instead. When I asked her what was wrong with English, she said, "Er hello? I'd have to read all those boring books." I ask you how did I end up with a daughter who:
a) Doesn't like reading novels
b) Is not only good at Maths & Physics (she got As for both in GCSE!) but enjoys the subjects. *shakes head in bewilderment*

My son was lucky enough to get a placement for the summer holidays working in finance, but the twelve weeks have flown by and he'll be leaving on Sunday to return to Reading, where he'll meet up with his girlfriend and they'll go travelling in Europe for three weeks. *sniff*

I, on the other hand, will be waiting nervously to see what my RNA NWS Reader's report says about my WW1 novel, reading books to review over at Novelicious where today I've reviewed Christina Jones' fantastic new book, Never Can Say Goodbye and Nina Bell's also wonderful book, The Empty Nesters (both published 1 September) - please pop over and leave a comment . I also start my Zumba classes on Monday, so that should keep me quiet for a bit.

Right now, I'm going to forget that son is leaving soon and go back into the garden and make the most of the sunshine while it lasts.

Have a fun/relaxing/calm (delete where applicable) weekend. x

Friday, 26 August 2011

Dead Silent Blog Tour - Shirley Wells Visits The Shed

First, I must say a huge thank you to Debs and Grumps for welcoming me to The Plotting Shed. It’s wonderful to be here!

Debs and I are both members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and I can’t tell you how many times someone has said to me “But you write crime novels. Why are you a member of the RNA?”. That question always takes me by surprise.

I became a member of the RNA in the early nineties when I was writing romances. Since then, I’ve made countless friends, enjoyed parties and conferences and learned so much. One of the highlights of my month is the Northern Chapter meetings. What can be better than talking shop with good friends over a tasty lunch?

By definition, writers spend long hours shut away from the world with only a keyboard or pen and paper for company. They slog away for months on end on something that may never be published. They go through the pain of rejections or bad reviews. They experience the joy of a new contract, a wonderful book cover or a great review. And I believe that the only people who understand a writer’s lot are other writers.

I also believe that writers, and it matters not a jot whether they give us crime, romance, sci-fi or steampunk, are the friendliest, most generous people on the planet. They’re always there to offer advice and sympathy when a bad review spoils your day (week). They’ll punch the air with delight when you share the good news. They willingly share hints and tips when it comes to publishers requirements, marketing or writing software. In short, they’re the best.

Where would I be without the RNA? It’s difficult to say. I was already published when I joined so was unable to make use of the wonderful New Writers’ Scheme, but I’ve learned so much from fellow writers about the whole publishing business. It sounds strange but I don’t think I’d be shouting about the release of my seventh mystery novel without the help and support I’ve received from the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

Thank you for having me, Debs and Grumps. You’re very gracious hosts! Thank you so much for visiting us here Shirley.

Having had several hundred short stories, ten serials and ten novels published, Shirley Wells is finally getting the hang of this writing lark. She’s lived in Orkney, Cyprus and the Cotswolds, and now lives in Lancashire where the Pennines, with their abundance of great places to hide bodies, provide the inspiration for her popular mystery novels. She shares her home with her husband, two dogs, two cats and any other stray animals that fancy being pampered. You can connect with Shirley via her website, Twitter or Facebook.

Her latest Dylan Scott mystery, DEAD SILENT, is available from Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all good e-book retailers.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Puppies - One Day Old

Here's a picture of my sister's puppies. I was going to upload a video, but it took forever, so I gave up.

They were born on Wednesday and although I was only at her house for three hours while the last few were born, I was exhausted. All I did was faff about in the background and make her children supper, change the youngest for bed and help lift puppies away when another was about to be born.

I don't know how my sister managed especially as there were nine puppies. They are adorable and Gypsy, their mum, is the most placid, sweet dog I've ever encountered. She was calm and quiet throughout, which is more than can be said for me.

I'm off to see Alfie Boe with Rob this evening and I can't wait, but before then we're entertaining his nephew who's coming over for the day from St Malo where he's been visiting his French grandmother. He actually lives in New Zealand, but is taking time out to travel for a few months. Lucky devil.

Right, I'd better get on and do something with my nails. I can't go out with them in the state they're in. I've always said I'm not made for housekeeping. Unfortunately, I'm the only one who seems to think this way.

Monday, 15 August 2011

The Star Struck Blog Tour - Shed Visit

And so, here I am, back in the shed. Oh, in a good way, obviously, I’m not locked in – look, door opens and everything – and there are still biscuits. Although I must say, I think she’s hidden the HobNobs, I can see crumbs everywhere but all I’ve got is a Jammy Dodger...

Anyway. I’m not here to talk about the lack of oaty goodness, and it is very good of Debs to allocate me this cushion on the floor. No, I’m here to tell you about my latest novel, Starstruck which, as we speak, should be rolling its way off THE presses and making its way to a the retail outlets, ready for the grand release on 01 September.

What? I hear you cry, so soon? Yes indeed, my hungry friends... ’tis but a matter of less than three weeks away! And, if you fancy a taste of heat and dust (items with which this summer has been sadly underendowed if you ask me), then this is the book for you – set in Nevada, where the sun is hot and there is no underendowedness of any kind.

A small snippet, to allow you to MEET a couple of the characters as they meet each other...
‘Oh. My name’s Jack, by the way. And you’re…?’
‘Skye. Skye Threppel.’
‘Well, Skye. Here’s to hiding from the world.’ Jack picked up another glass from next to the laptop and raised it, seeming to toast the screensaver picture of purple-heathered moorland, as though he was blocking out the Nevada desert with a picture of home. Then he plonked himself on the floor, knees drawn up. The only chair in the room was in front of the laptop and covered in papers, so for want of anywhere else available, I sat on the bed.
‘Are you? Hiding from the world?’ I asked, jiggling my wine between my fingers.
‘Ah, now there’s the question.’
‘I know. That’s why my voice did that going up at the end thing,’ I replied a little sharply. I was nervous and being nervous made me edgy these days, and defensive. ‘Maybe I should write the conversation down for you.’ Jack seemed nice, a little tense perhaps, but the raw feeling of connection that we’d shared earlier had ebbed and I was concerned that maybe I’d imagined it. I couldn’t always trust the way I felt, when those feelings were built on memories or associations I could no longer recall. It was as though my body reacted in certain situations without my mind having any kind of control and I was very conscious that this made me easy to take advantage of.
He made an appeasing gesture, holding his hands out and spilling some of his drink on the T shirt. ‘Point to you. I’m still struggling with the lack of dramatic convention.’ He sipped and looked at me over the rim of the glass.
I felt the blush start again and the edgy sensation that my nerves had all been driven to the surface.
‘Maybe I should go. Rather than sit here and force you to make conversation.’
‘Maybe.’ Jack rested his glass on his knees and looked up at me. It might have been my imagination but I was fairly certain that what was in his glass wasn’t wine. It was too clear, too transparent. ‘But I’d quite like it if you didn’t.’
Despite the Valium I could feel my skin growing clammy and my hands had moistened as though beads of blood were seeping through the palms. ‘I ought...’ My voice sounded croaky and about a hundred years old. I cleared my throat but it didn’t help, just made the air thicken around me so that I had to concentrate on breathing.
‘What is it you’re frightened of, Skye? You look terrified right now, and no-one’s ever found me that scary before – arrogant and self-righteous, yes, scary, no.’ His head tilted to one side. ‘Panic attacks worse when there’re lots of people about, yes? And yet being alone, closed in, scares you too. Am I getting warm?’
Suddenly uneasy at the intensity with which he was looking at me, I drained my glass in one gulp. ‘I’m not scared. It’s stress related, I get... when I’m a bit... when things are different, when I don’t know what’s going to happen next, sometimes I get panicky. But it’s not that, I’m just worried that Felix will wonder where I am.’
Jack stood up and refilled my glass. ‘Do you want me to leave the door open? Will that help?’ He was looking at me with an expression that seemed partly compassion and partly curiosity and I hated myself suddenly, which surprised me. Hated this pathetic, helpless Skye with her inabilities and her carefully modified behaviour. ‘I’m guessing the panic attacks have to do with feelings of loss of control,’ he tilted his head to one side, stubbing out his nearly completely smoked cigarette without taking his eyes off me. ‘You might feel better if you know you can run whenever you want. A bit more in control of the situation. And if Felix comes back, you’ll be able to hear him.’
I gave a short, tight nod and he snicked the door off its latch, propping it open with a lone trainer. ‘Thank you.’ I could feel my airways relaxing. ‘It isn’t you, I’m sorry, they think it’s something to do with the accident, the head injury, it’s been over a year and a half and I still can’t…’
‘Oh, and there was me feeling special.’ Jack grinned and his face was suddenly attractive.

So. There you go. I hope you enjoyed that taster... more of a HobNob than a Jammy Dodger, I think you’ll agree. And thanks again to Debs for allowing me in here to chat to you all. Now, I’d better go and ... hang on, the door opened a moment ago... must be stuck...
If you’re reading this blog, please send help, a locksmith and HobNobs...

Jane Lovering is, we are assured, real and not a cover for the McVities biscuit advertisers. She writes books, which, now you come to mention it, do seem to have a lot of biscuits in them, has five children (largely raised on biscuits), and has taken to keeping chickens (to dispose of the excess biscuits). She also works in a school, in a job which doesn’t feature biscuits at all. She is often described as ‘quirky’, and cannot understand why, since everybody loves biscuits.

If you've been following Jane's blog tour you'll know about the competition to win one of three copies of this fab book. If now, here's how it works, follow Jane's blog tour to be in with a chance of winning one of the three copies, together with some delicious Montezuma chocolate and pick out the word in capitals and write it down. Each succeeding blog will have another, or maybe several capitalised words and each one of those must be noted. When the tour is over you should have a collection of words which you then have to put in to a sentence, which will form a question. You then e-mail the answer to Choc Lit.

Although we're part of the way through The Starstruck Blog Tour, you can visit the previous stops to find the words you need to take part and then carry on with the final two stops after this one. They are as follows:

18 July – The Nut Press

25 July - LoveRomancePassion

01 August - Dizzy C’s Little Book Blog

08 August - Katy Little Lady

11 August - Novelicious (for my review, but no words for the competition!)

15 August - Debs Daydreams In the Plotting Shed

22 August - Lucie Wheeler

29 August - Choc Lit Author’s Corner

Starstruck is Jane's second novel is published by Choc Lit pm 1st September. You can pre-order it from, Amazon UK, or The Book Depository.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Zumba, Battle of Flowers, Book & Puppies

This is me. Okay, that's a big fat fib, how can it be me, I'm blonde. Hang on a sec, that's a fib too. Well, this is how I expect to look at the end of my 12 week Zumba course. Shouldn't be too hard? Should it? Hmmm? Well?

Today was the Battle of Flowers parade and as fun and jolly as that is, sitting in one place in your car for 40 minutes on the way to work while the floats make their way to the grounds is a bit of a bore. My usual 20 minute journey took an hour and I was late for work. Not fun, especially as I spent most of the time trying to figure out how my car radio worked so that I could listen to the local news about the traffic. Needless to say, I didn't get it to work, and as I wasn't moving it was pretty obvious, even to me first thing in the morning, that whatever they said, I couldn't take a different route, so really didn't matter too much.

The winner of the copy of The Woman He Loved Before by Dorothy Koomson is Mama J. I've left a comment on her blog and will be posting off her copy of this fab book as soon as I know her address. Thanks everyone for entering.

Hope you have a fab weekend. I'll be 'on call' as my sister's labrador x retriever (the sweetest dog I've ever known) is due to have her puppies any day now. I'll probably be more of a hindrance than a help, but I thought I could at least offer my assistance. (Nurse Debs, I'm not, so this should be interesting).

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Dorothy Koomson Day at Novelicious

Today we're having a Dorothy Koomson Day over at Women's Fiction Thursday on the Novelicious site to celebrate the publication day of Dorothy's brilliant latest book, The Woman He Loved Before, out today (4th August).

There are four copies of this fantastic book waiting to be won over at Novelicious, as well as my review, an interview with Dorothy Koomson, discovering about her writing space and much more. All you'll need to do is visit Novelicious and leave a 'pick me' comment at the bottom of one, or if you like, all of the features on the site.

I also have one copy to give away here, so should you wish to be in with a chance of winning, please leave a 'pick me' comment below and I'll announce the winner next Thursday when I also post the winners of the four copies of, The Woman He Loved Before.

Good luck.

Friday, 29 July 2011

St Malo With Himself

Yesterday it was my gorgeous husband's birthday and he wanted to go to St Malo for lunch with me. How could I refuse?

We arrived at 11.30 (1 hr ahead of us in Jersey/UK) and after a bit of a wander around the town and a drink, we finally decided to have lunch at Les Voyageurs (near to Chateau Briand - turn right at the main entrance to the walled town). I hadn't eaten there before and I'll definitely be going again. The food was delicious, as was the bottle of rose I managed to consume (with a little help from Himself, I hasten to add) and we relaxed in the sun as we slowly worked our way through several courses. Then it was off to find some white peaches for his mum and chocolate for my daughter/son.

Whilst we were sitting having yet another drink at yet another bar, Rob spotted a policeman from the Hampshire Constabulary and being a nosy chap (Rob, not the policeman) he asked him what he was doing in St Malo. Apparently he'd been partrolling the streets with a couple of the French Gendarmerie for three weeks to help with any undesirable british holidaymakers. What a clever idea.

Our last visit was to L'Absinthe, a small bar where the floor is covered in fine sand and you sit around huge barrels with parasols even though it's inside. Highly recommended.

On the boat on the way home, we were invited up to the wheelhouse by the captain - Rob knows a few of them - and he was surprised when I didn't want to join him. The sea, although calm, was a little choppy and I'm happiest sitting down when the boat moves (at all!). When Rob came back and said for the umpteenth time, "You would have loved it, you should have come to the wheelhouse." I finally said, "How would you feel if I asked you to come with me to a literary festival so you could listen to one of the authors giving a reading from a romantic novel?" He grimaced. "That's exactly how I feel at the thought of spending time in a wheelhouse hearing about how a ship's engine works." "Oh, I see what you mean," he replied. Bless!

Today I'm editing, and tomorrow, and the next day... However I've done more than enough for the timebeing and the sun is shining, so I'm going to go and make the most of it and read the latest Dorothy Koomson novel that I'm going to be reviewing for Novelicious this Thursday. There'll also be my interview with her and a piece on Dorothy's writing space, as well as a book giveaway, so do try and visit the site if you can.

PS Does anyone know how I can preserve an ivy leaf? (Odd request, I know!)

PPS I promise I'll catch up with all your blogs this week. x

Monday, 18 July 2011

Shakespeare & Co

I've just returned from an incredible few days in Paris. I especially enjoyed Montmartre where I watched artists drawing portraits of diners; wandered passed other artists displaying their paintings and visiting small galleries.

Then walking through the streets from the grandeur of Sacre Coeur down passed Le Bateau Lavoir where the likes of Picasso, Matisse, Mondigliani painted whilst mixing with actors (Gertrude Stein, etc) and art dealers.

I spent hours wandering around Pere Lachaise taking countless photos and gazing at the gothic graves of many people and spotting among others the graves of Jim Morrison, Rene Lalique, Edith Piaf, and Oscar Wilde (covered in lipstick kisses).

One of best places I visited was Shakespeare & Co the second-hand bookshop on the Left Bank shown recently on The Book Show where writers including Ernest Hemingway have congregated since the early part of the Twentieth Century. I could have stayed for hours resting on one of the comfy settees, or sitting in a little cubby-hole where writers (including moi) have left short notes about their time spent in this fascinating place.

I was also there doing research and made a thrilling discovery, but it's something I needed for the book I've just finished writing, so I won't post about it for now. Suffice to say that sometimes in life things happen that are so serendipidous that if you wrote about them they would seem hard to believe.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

The End

I've just typed 'The End' on my historical romance which at 124,000+ words is too long, but with editing I'm sure I'll bring it safely within the 120,000 word limit for the RNA NWS. I still have to edit before sending it off hopefully in early August, but for now I'm thrilled.

I've loved writing this book. It's set in WW1 and follows the harrowing experiences, passion and betrayal of four characters, two men and two women, whose lives are unavoidably interlinked and ultimately altered forever.

I'm going to go and have a glass of wine now to celebrate and will be taking a couple of days off to read and get used to the idea that I've finished the first draft.

This picture of the moon above hydrangeas growing over nextdoors wall was taking a couple of nights ago.

Have a lovely weekend. x

Friday, 8 July 2011

Chainsaws & Holidays

This picture is of the beautiful roses my son's girlfriend bought me as a thank you when she was staying with us last week. Aren't they lovely?

Today is the first of 17 days off work. I'm so excited to have time off, even though I do love my job, so that I can spend more time with the family, read, relax and ultimately finish the first draft of my book. I'm already up to 121k words and still have to write the final couple of scenes, but I know that after edits it will come down under the 120k words I want it to be and then I'll be able to send it off to the RNA NWS for their report.

I was up at 6.30 this morning. I know, you'd think that as it's my first day of the holidays that I'd at least stay in bed for a while, but once I'm awake, I'm ready to get on with things. So, the laptop was switched on at 7.30 and instantly a chainsaw started revving (do they rev?) and cutting down the elderflower hedging from the nextdoor property over looking the field behind us. So noisy and so much for a couple of hours of peace before I have to get going with other things ie hairdresser for daughter, visiting parents, shopping, etc.

Nevermind, Grumps is thrilled to have me at home, even if it does mean that I spend a lot of the time tapping away at my laptop.