Monday, April 30, 2012

Food Fetish

Happy Monday, everyone. Congrats to all who have are completing the A to Z Challenge! Respect. 

Reflecting on my past few novels, I've noticed my characters generally have a kind of food they love. Serenity from Build A Man scoffs Jaffas at every opportunity, while Mattie in The Hating Game has a fondness for prawn crisps. It's no surprise they adore munching so much,  I guess, given that my first thought in the morning is 'what yummy thing am I going to have for dinner tonight?'

I've lived in several different places around the globe, and I wanted to share some of my favourite dishes with you. 

Halifax, Nova Scotia (my birthplace): It's gotta be lobster with garlic butter, and Blueberry Betsy for dessert. 

Montréal, Quebec: Poutine with fois gras at Au Pied de Cochon wins every time! Poutine is chips (French fries) with cheese curds and gravy. You really couldn't get anything fattier, but oh... *rubs belly*

Wroclaw, Poland: I'd kill for some pirogi ruski, little dumplings stuffed with cheese and onion.  I'm drooling. 

London, UK: Give me some falafel from Falafel King on Portobello Road, and I'll die a happy woman. 

What's your favourite food, from your hometown or beyond? You are NOT allowed to say chocolate! :)

Friday, April 27, 2012


It's Friday! Could I be happier? I think not.

Today, I'm delighted to have author Nik Perring here. Nik is a fantastic story-teller, and if you've ever read one of his perfectly formed short stories, you'll know exactly what I mean. Nik's talking about his new book, Freaks, and one of my favourite things: celebrating.

Take it away, Nik!

How Do You Celebrate Your Book Being Released?

I’ve spent a considerable number of evenings over this past few years sitting quietly. Usually reading and often in a pub. And sitting quietly, for me, is important. It helps me recover. Because the majority of my days are spent working hard. Either I’m editing for The Story Corrective or writing stories, or doing other Writing Work, so that couple of hours of down time is really important and, I like to think, they keep me (reasonably) sane. Plus, I really love reading. I love stories. Really, what we do – it’s all about the stories, isn’t it?

Last week Freaks! came out. Freaks! is a collaboration – a short story collection I wrote with the brilliant Caroline Smailes. Its characters all have super powers, some real, some imagined, and it’s something I’m really, really proud of.

And as publication day loomed I got to thinking about how I should go about marking the event, how I should celebrate it. You know, I’ve been doing this a fair old while now and I know that these moments don’t come around too often and that, because they’re special and important, they should be marked in some way.

Now, I’m not the kind of person who really does celebrations. Or is any good at organising anything (and I mean really!). I prefer things to be low key. So, instead of any big party or anything like that, I thought I’d have a nice evening with a couple of friends. Or something like that.

But there was a problem (see the bit about me being crap at organising anything). By the time I got around to trying to arrange something, no-one was about. Most of my good friends live out of town (or the country). My brother and his girlfriend had visited the previous week – they’d even bought me a bottle of Champagne (thank you! ) – but they’d since returned to London. And the other people I would have liked to have spent the evening with were out of town too (curse those FA cup semi-finals).

So, what’s a writer to do?

I’ll tell you what I did. I went to the pub with a book and I sat there quietly. And you know what, it was brilliant. Because I love books and I love stories. And I didn’t have to organise anything with a single person. I was happy celebrating it my way. And it worked.

 So, I’m curious. How would you celebrate your book coming out?

Nik Perring is a writer and editor. He’s the co-author of Freaks!, and the author of Not So Perfect. His website’s and he tweets as @nikperring.

Thank you, Nik! Have a great weekend, everyone. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Easy Peasy

Happy Wednesday! Apparently, we're supposed to get more rain today than we normally would in a month. Can you see the glee on my face? Not...

Anyway, thankfully my virtual self isn't in London right now! I'm over at Jill Kemerer's blog, answering Five Easy Questions. I'd love it if you could head over and say hi!

Have a wonderful day, everyone.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Brawling on World Book Night

It might be raining (again) and I might be hacking up a lung with fever streaming from every pore, but hey! I won't let that get me down! Because tonight is World Book Night, and I'll be hitting the streets of Kensington and Notting Hill to give away 25 copies (along with a generous helping of flu) of The Time Traveller's Wife, one of my all-time favourite novels.

You might think giving away books is a breeze. But in London -- as in any big city -- freebies are looked upon with suspicion. My strategy is to ambush the good people of West London, thrust a copy into their hesitant hand, then melt back into the crowd like a reverse pickpocket. If I'm feeling bold, I may even chuck a few books up into the air of a Tube station. If I manage to knock out a punter or two, they'll get to take home a copy. Who knew reading could be so much fun?

If you see a story on the BBC about book-related injuries, you'll know that my strategy has been successful. I want to make an impact! (Literally.)

*If World Book Night folk are reading this, not to worry. I will distribute my books with the ultimate graciousness and decorum, I promise. :)

Happy World Book night, everyone!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Women of a Dangerous Age

How's that for a title? Are you scared?

Today, I am delighted to welcome novelist Fanny Blake. Fanny's had an amazing career, working as a publisher for many years before becoming an author. She's penned best-selling non-fiction, ghost-written several celebrity autobiographies and has written two novels. Her latest, Women of a Dangerous Age, comes out on on April 26th by Blue Door. Fanny is also the Books Editor of Woman & Home.

And she's really nice!

I've read both of Fanny's novels and really enjoyed the strong female characters and focus on friendships, so I was excited to get the chance to ask her a few questions.

You used to work on the publishing side of things. As a writer, is having that behind-the-scenes knowledge helpful? Is it ever a hindrance?

It’s both a help and a hindrance. I was an editorial director for many years, so worked with numerous writers on their novels, which has taught me that there’s no right and wrong way of doing things, and of course a great deal about plotting and character - although putting what one’s learned into practice is never as easy as you hope it will be. On the other hand, the market has changed dramatically since I was a publisher, so my knowledge of sales and marketing is out of date, and I have to keep reminding myself of that.

You’ve also worked as a celebrity ghost writer. Any interesting anecdotes you can share? Is it difficult crafting a narrative that’s not your own?

A good tape recorder is essential. I once listened to someone sob their heart out over a failed relationship. At one level I wanted to stop and hug her, at the other I knew what she was telling me would make terrific copy so didn’t want her to stop. When she’d finished and recovered herself, I discovered my tape had broken, so I had to ask her to repeat the whole story which, to her eternal credit, she did.

It’s also vital not to fall out with your author, however testing the circumstances. If you do, you won’t have a book. I have been in a car with an author, having picked up their dog from the vet where it had been put under an anaesthetic. As we sped towards the motorway, the poor creature was on my lap when it suddenly had diarrhoea all over me. Despite my revulsion and fury (expensive mac never the same again), I managed to keep my temper as we stopped the car to wipe both dog and me down. Somehow our good relationship remained intact, though that was a moment when things might very easily have gone the other way.

No, I didn’t find it difficult crafting someone else’s story. The facts are there. It’s just a question of organising them in the best possible way. That’s where part of the fun is.

Your novels tend to focus on challenges facing women over forty – women who have teenage children, established careers, and mature relationships. Was this a deliberate choice to balance out the many books aimed at and about women just entering adulthood?

It wasn’t a deliberate choice but, as many of the books about women entering adulthood are written by authors at that stage in their lives themselves, so I found myself writing about women similar to myself. I found I wanted to explore and air the issues you mention, including women’s friendship too, because they’re important to me and to other women I’ve met. As we find our way through life, it can be helpful, and even reassuring, to look at the ways other women deal with those issues that affect all of us, whether or not we agree with them - and to be reminded of the funny side of life.

These days, writers must engage in social media. How do you juggle tweeting, Facebook, etc., with your writing?

Everyday I promise myself that I’m only going to social network during set times each day, and write during the rest. Each day, I fail hopelessly. It’s a gift being able to communicate with friends, other writers and readers as easily as we can thanks to the internet, but sometimes it is a distraction that makes my writing targets much harder to achieve. Sadly, will power is not my strongest suit.

I know you’re a theatre addict. What play do you wish you’d written, and why? 

That’s a great question and so difficult to answer. There are so many. The more obvious classics aside, I was thrilled by Lyn Nottage’s Ruined that I saw at the Almeida a couple of years ago which is about the plight of women in the war torn Democratic Republic of Congo. It was focussed, authentic and shocking. One other, again with an unforgettable central character, would have to be Jez Butterworth’s wild, mythic and entertaining Jerusalem. If I’d written either of those, I’d be a happy woman.

Thank you, Fanny! Have a great weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Working From Home: A Non-Users' Guide

(The cartoon really doesn't have much relevance, but I couldn't resist!)

I'm very lucky that I work from home. I love the solitude; I adore setting my own schedule; and I get more work done in one day than I did in a month at the office (not really, in case any former bosses are reading this!). 

However, there's one thing that makes working from home insanely frustrating: when people don't get the 'working' bit. Do I call it 'slothing around at home'? No. 'Stuffing my face with Twizzlers at home'? I do not. Funnily enough, I call it 'working from home' because, yanno, of a little thing called work

So, to assist others in my predicament, I thought I'd compile a non-users' (i.e., those who work out-of-home) guide to aid understanding. 

1. Basic premise: I do actually work. Hard. 

2. No, I cannot go out for coffee mid-morning for 'just a couple hours', because I'm working.

3. Yes, I'd love to go shopping with you at 3 p.m. but there's a little thing standing in the way: work. 

4. There's a reason I didn't answer your call to chat for thirty minutes. It's called a job. 

5. Oh, hello, house-guest. Yes, please stay for the night or two. But don't assume it's okay to extend your stay by five days and expect me to play host. And don't expect me to entertain you 24-7 because 'it looks like I'm free'. I'm not free, actually. I'm working. 

(This post was brought to you by the letter G for GRUMP).


And oh yes, have a happy Wednesday. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

In the News Today

Happy Monday, everyone. Can you believe it's the middle of April already? Yikes. The weekend passed in a glorious blur of cream teas at Kensington Palace, champagne, yummy Thai food . . . it's a tough life, what can I say!

Amidst all of that, though, I'm delighted to report that I've finally finished the third draft of Construct A Couple! The second and the third drafts are always the hardest for me, as I attempt to wrangle the plot and character development into something that makes sense. From here on (I hope), it's mainly fleshing out scenes and rewriting bits 'n' bobs.

And in other news:

Build A Man is now out in paperback! You can order yours now on Amazon UKor It's been available on Kindle now since November and sold over 15,000 copies, which I'm really pleased with  (not to mention 45,000 free downloads). A massive thanks to everyone who has read it and especially to anyone who has taken the time to leave a review. I'm really looking forward to getting Construct A Couple out soon.

And yay! I have a cover and blurb for my next novel, The Pollyanna Plan, due out in the autumn.

Thirty-something Emma Beckett has always looked down on 'the glass is half full' optimists, believing it's better to be realistic than delusional. But when she loses her high-powered job and fiancé in the same week, even Emma has difficulty keeping calm and carrying on.

With her world spinning out of control and bolstered by a challenge from her best friend, Emma makes a radical decision. For the next year, she'll behave like Pollyanna: attempting to always see the upside, no matter how dire the situation.

Can adopting a positive attitude give Emma the courage to build a new life, or is finding the good in everything a very bad idea?

You can add it to your Goodreads here.

And hmm, I think that's about it for my news!

What's new with you? Good weekend? Nice week ahead? Spill!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Yin and Yang (Or: The Ups and Downs of a Novelist's Life)

If you've ever doubted the life of a novelist is filled with peaks and troughs, you only need to look at a typical week. It's crazy, this job . . . I've worked in high-stress industries before, but never have I experienced the highs and lows of the writing life.

Here's a look at my past week.

Highs (yay!):

- The wonderful Helen Redders baking home-made Jaffa Cakes in honour of Serenity, my main character in Build A Man, who loves them. Totally made my day!

- Three different people asking me on the same day when the sequel to Build A Man is due out (late May, in case you were wondering). :)

- A Facebook friend letting me know she spotted someone on the Toronto subway reading The Hating Game.

Lows (boo!):

- Writing a scene. Deleting it. Writing it again. Deleting it again. Pounding the desk in frustration.

- Discovering I won't be able to get my 2011-Amazon-withheld-money-due-to-international-tax-issues released without a very lengthy procedure. Pounding desk in frustration.

- Going on Goodreads and accidentally seeing a, well, not exactly complimentary review of my one my books (I say accidentally because I really try not to read my own reviews)! I'm more hardened now than I was, but still...

- Having a nightmare where I open my novel and everything is covered in so much red ink I can't even make out the text underneath it.

So there you have it! The yin and the yang of a novelist's life. But you know what? 

I wouldn't trade it in for anything.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Curious Case of the Red Trousers

Happy Wednesday! Hope everyone had a great Easter holiday.

As a transplant to the Land of Hope and Glory (aka Britain), I'm often enthralled by the fashion choices sported by this nation's great people. Over my eight years here, I've blogged about bow-ties and frequently wondered if I was the only one perplexed by men wearing red trousers.

Yes, men wearing red trousers -- frequently of the denim variety, usually paired with a powder-blue dress shirt and/or a brown tweed jacket. My friends, it's as bad as it sounds.

So you can imagine my delight when the wonderful Emma Pass found this link for me (caution! Profanity! Definitely called for when it comes to red trousers!).

Here's a bit from the into:

If you want your leg-coverings to let the world know that you’ve got a few quid and don’t care who knows it, or that you have some big ideas about what’s on at the ICA right now - or simply that you are completely insane (but in a mainly non-stabby way) - then you’d better get your wife or girlfriend to take those jeans and chinos down to the charity shop post-haste! 
Because there’s only one type of trousers you’ll be wanting to wear, and that’s RED TROUSERS. In fact - if you can’t wear red trousers you’d be better off wearing NO TROUSERS AT ALL. That’s what I say.
*quid = pounds
**ICA = Institute of Contemporary Arts in London

Excuse me, I'm off to buy Mr TR a pair of red trousers. Either that, or he's NOT WEARING TROUSERS AT ALL! *ahem*

Do you have red trousers? Are you going to buy some after reading this?

Friday, April 06, 2012

How Am I Going to Kill You?

Hello there! I interrupt this blog break to bring you the wonderful writer Elizabeth Bailey, talking about killing  characters!

I will be back next Wednesday. Until then, have a great Easter/ Passover/ Chocolate Bunny Eating holiday!

Now over to Elizabeth...

How am I going to kill you?

This is the first question for the crime writer, I’ve discovered. A tad macabre, but that’s the genre.

Hello there, victim, how would you like to die? I can strangle, bludgeon, knife or poison you, just for starters. But if that ain’t good enough, let’s be inventive. The sky’s the limit. The other day someone got mirrored to death in Midsomer Murders!

Problem is, the moment you decide how to kill someone, you’ve immediately got to find out what that’s going to do to their body. Enter medical research. That leads backwards to what your sleuth can and can’t notice and what it will tell her. She has to work out how it was done before she can figure out whodunnit.

Just to complicate matters, when you set your crime in a historical context, you’ve got to find out what your medical man would have known at that time. Which isn’t what he knows now by a long chalk. At which point, thank heavens for the internet!

I turned up the most marvellous contemporary treatise on poisons on Google books, which tells me exactly what was known or thought about it, as well as how to recognise it, for every possible poison you could think of, and some you couldn’t. This is for the book I’m currently writing. You can also dig up lots of accounts of horrific 18th century murders, which is extremely helpful, thank you, generating plenty of ideas.

There’s a strange satisfaction about killing victims off, I find. Does this mean I’m a closet murderer? Let’s be charitable, and say that it’s pure imagination and the writer’s mind. After all, I may kill them, but I’m also revenging their deaths and seeing that justice is done.

The other thing I’ve found is that you can’t avoid the inevitable exposition where your sleuth says how it was done. I’ve managed to steer clear of the cliché of gathering suspects together for the purpose, though, and tried to make it a natural part of the investigation process. But as a reader I wouldn’t be satisfied if the puzzle wasn’t somehow explained.

I don’t honestly think I’m going to spend too long worrying over the how-am-I-going-to-kill-you question. Ideas for future books seem to leap out at me with images of full-blown murders ready made. I’ve got a humdinger for book four, but I haven’t a clue who dunnit or why! But that, for me as writer, is the fun of the genre.

Elizabeth Bailey’s second novel in her Lady Fan Mystery Series, THE DEATHLY PORTENT, comes out in April in the US and June in the UK.

The blacksmith has been bludgeoned to death and the village blame the local witch, a girl with second sight. The Fanshawes have broken down on the road and when Ottilia hears the news, she cajoles Francis into going to Witherley, where a full-blown investigation  leads her into personal danger before she can find out the perpetrator. 

More details at