Monday, 20 April 2015

Spotlight on Janice Preston - From Wallflower to Countess

This blog post focusses on my friend and writing buddy, Janice Preston. We both joined the Romantic Novelists’ New Writers’ Scheme in January 2012 and since we met at our first Birmingham chapter meeting, we have been friends.

Jan achieved publication success in 2014 with Mills and Boon. Her debut novel, Mary and the Marquis is shortlisted for the RNA’s Joan Hessayon prize 2015. I’m going to the award ceremony in London with her in May. Exciting!

Her second novel, From Wallflower to Countess is in the shops and available on Kindle now. This book is particularly dear to my heart as Jan dedicated the novel to me. Look out for her third and fourth novels soon. It is so wonderful having a friend who has achieved the goal of publication.

Jan gave me permission to reproduce the piece below she wrote for her own blog:

I first met the hero, Richard, the Earl of Stanton, many years ago when he was a drop dead gorgeous secondary character in my first ever attempt at writing a Regency romance. That attempt has not yet seen the light of day, but I always knew Richard would have his own story one day. I had no idea which lucky lady would share his journey until, one day, he ran up the stairs in his shirtsleeves and came face-to-face with an unprepossessing but sparky spinster who had absolutely no intention of ever getting married.

One year on from that meeting, Lady Felicity Weston’s fear of unrequited love is as strong as ever, but her circumstances have changed. She begs her mother to find her a quiet, unremarkable gentleman with whom she might be content, little realising she will end up with Society’s most eligible bachelor.

Here is an excerpt:

‘This is ridiculous. You are right. If we are to wed, we need to understand one another. And, I admit I have doubts. Not about you. Well, that is…’ She paused, her brows drawn together in a frown. ‘No, that is untrue. It is about you, but it is about me, also. You and me. Together. You see, I hadn’t thought…I never presumed to be presented with such a…such a…catch, if you do not object to my calling you that?’

Richard bit back a smile. He had been called a catch many times, he was aware, but never to his face before. And never by an earnest-faced female who appeared to believe herself unworthy of a ‘catch’ such as he.

‘You may call me what you will,’ he said, ‘as long as you promise not to use such insultingly offensive terms that I shall be forced to take umbrage.’

She laughed, revealing a glimpse of white teeth. ‘Umbrage? I always thought that to be a state applied to elderly dowagers. Do you sporting gentlemen consider it a fittingly masculine trait, my lord?’

This was better. The spirited girl he remembered from last year had surfaced, her face alive with laughter, her eyes bright.

‘Perhaps umbrage does not quite convey the precise meaning I hoped to convey,’ he conceded. ‘Which word, in your opinion, should I have used, if I am to portray a suitably manly image to my future wife?’

Disquiet skimmed her expression, then vanished. Had he imagined it? Was it the bald reminder that she would be his wife that had disturbed her? Her countenance was now neutral, but her eyes remained watchful and she made no attempt to answer him.

‘Would you have preferred me to use “offence” perhaps, or “exception”?’ He leaned closer to her, and said, ‘I do not, you notice, suggest “outrage” for that, I fear, would not meet with your approval any more than “umbrage”. It is too synonymous with spinsters, would you not—?’

Felicity stiffened. ‘Do not make fun of me, sir. I may be a spinster and, therefore, in your eyes, a poor, undesired thing, but I have feelings and I have pride.’

‘Felicity, I promise I intended no slight. The thought never crossed my mind that you might think I was making fun of you. I was…I was… Oh, confound it! Come here.’

He had run out of words. He clasped her shoulders and drew her close. A finger beneath her chin tilted her face to his. He searched her eyes. They were shuttered. She was rigid in his arms. Was she scared? Had she never known a man’s kiss? The thought, strangely, pleased him: knowing his wife had never experienced another man’s touch. But he must take care not to frighten her. He lowered his head, slowly, and put his lips to hers.

He almost recoiled in shock. He had expected ice. What he felt was fire.

The Prologue and Chapter 1 can be read on Jan’s blog at

Do you get excited when your friends find success?

Sunday, 8 March 2015

We survived!

Dog diary two weeks in…

I've settled well in my new home. Mummy hasn’t a clue about doggie things, but she's doing okay. Daddy and the boy seem to like me too.

They took me to the vet’s the day after I arrived and it was a very embarrassing experience. I was being so good and didn't even flinch as I was examined and injected. The boy, on the other hand, fainted and was sick three times on the consulting room floor.

I've got a socialisation plan and seem to have visitors all the time. Mummy has ticked off elderly people and men with beards. Who’s idea was the puppy party? Nightmare! What was the vet thinking? Why would I want to meet dogs four times bigger than me? There was a Staffie and a Springer – they just went for each other's throats. The Labrador, Major was nice, but not interested in a little thing like me. I shook and hid my head in mummy's arms. I was proud to be chosen as the demonstration puppy for the veterinary nurse to show owners how to health check their pups and stood very still, mainly in case the bigger dogs thought I was dinner! I had my teeth cleaned with poultry flavoured toothpaste – yum. We even got a party bag, but the frisbee they gave me was so big, I'm using it as a seat.

Whoo hoo, my owners gave up on puppy pads and take me outside on an annoying lead. I can wander around, wee where I like and try to eat weeds, sticks and moss if the owners aren't watching. I love the wind in my long hair and run as fast as a whippet.

Life is good. I'm fed, watered and played with. I've got loads of toys. I've even worked out how to get treats by sitting on command, touching my nose to a hand and sometimes fetching a ball. Ten weeks old already and I think I'm going to like it here.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Will Life Ever Be The Same?

I'm scared and excited.

In unknown territory.

We are having a puppy! A Maltese.

Lily will be joining us later this month. We have half term to puppify the house.

All advice and tips welcome. I am a first time dog owner. Writing may suffer. May be the subject of many blog and Facebook posts. Help!

Friday, 2 January 2015

A Year's Worth of Happy Moments

At the beginning of 2014, I read an article by Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote Eat, Pray, Love and The Signature of All Things. She suggested keeping a happiness jar for the year. Basically, you start with an empty jar and put into it a note of anything that makes you happy or grateful during the year. I always have a daily positive thinking calendar, so used the back of the used pages for my notes.

I was busy running a New Year's Day celebration on 1 January 2015, but was itching to open my happiness jar. There were fifty three notes in the container and an analysis shows that four categories of things make me happy - Achievement - 15, Family Time - 15, Health - 10 and Writing - 13. This is fascinating.

In my Achievement category, eight notes relate to my personal achievements, mainly to do with my swimming lessons (jumping in, swimming a length of proper breast stroke, spending time in the deep end of the pool) and writing, but one covers learning to use loom bands and another my love of selling jewellery at the school fete. The one, which will probably make you laugh, is my joy at learning the roll on method of putting on a quilt cover - almost as exciting as learning how to fold a fitted sheet!

Most of the other notes in the Achievement category relate to little son - progress and prizes at school, settling into secondary school and cooking a Victoria sandwich cake from a recipe without any help.

The final note in this group relates to the publication of Janice Preston's debut novel, Mary and the Marquis. I was so proud of her.

Family Time covers lovely holidays and days out. New Year's Day and Christmas Day celebrations. This group emphasises to me how lucky I am to have a lovely family.

The Health category covers the health of family members and myself. My joy that little son's knee cap wasn't broken after a fall at school (the casualty nurse suspected it was before the x-ray). The sigh of relief when big son's suspect mole was okay. The miracle that my hubbie didn’t suffer serious injury after a fall down fourteen tube station steps in London. My minor operation that wasn't as bad as I'd feared.
Considering that I nearly gave up writing in 2014, the Writing category relates solely to me. It covers my joy at completing the NaNoWriMo writing challenge to complete 50,000 words in November, the writing courses and events I've attended and enjoyed - including the RNA conference, a Sue Moorcroft course, an Alison May course. Having an uplifting Twitter conversation with the lovely Iona Grey. Finishing my novel to send to the RNA New Writers' Scheme and then a later note celebrating the positive comments on that manuscript. The amazing appearance on the charity book stall in Sainsbury’s of a book on the very subject covered by my work in progress - a clear sign I was not meant to give up writing. The encouragement and fun provided by a small group of writers in my local area who meet to beat the doubt crows.

I could go on, but don’t want to bore you. I have found the process of keeping and analysing a happiness jar, very uplifting and, needless to say, I have started one for 2015 already. I recommend the process to you.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas Thoughts

I was reading somewhere about how your family traditions anchor you in your society and culture. What traditions do you have at Christmas?

We put up our trees early in December and every bauble has a story or a memory associated with it. For example, the five glass icicles that my grandfather bought back from somewhere during the Second World War. There are more, my sister has some too. The Santa koala on a surf board that my mother bought back from Australia. The silver foil bells my eldest (now 26) made at nursery school. The glass candy cane my nan gave to me. The gorgeous baubles and wire hearts that belonged to my husband's late first wife - I think of her a lot when I'm decorating the trees, even though I never met her (she died aged 38). Numerous decorations made on creative evenings with my sons and friends. The glass balls that once graced the Christmas trees of my childhood.

As I decorate the trees, I have happy memories and tears. I remember the year our family Christmas tree was much too tall and my dad had to cut the top off to make it fit. The year the turkey my father was given was so big it sat on the fridge shelf and no one wanted to eat it. The little glitter house with Santa on the roof, which was always at the bottom of childhood trees – it had been my mother's when she was a child. My childhood concerns that because we hadn't got a chimney Santa wouldn’t visit - explained away by a book my mother found where Santa arrives in a helicopter and comes to the front door.

Childhood sacks were always put at the bottom of our beds. If we were lucky we'd wake to fantastical ice patterns on the bedroom window (no central heating of course) and pillowcases full at the bottom of the bed. We'd take them next door to my parents room to open. There was the one year my sister saw what she swore was a naked Santa - dad must have dashed in to leave our gifts! Another year, Santa was disorganised and our presents weren't at the bottom of our beds, but scattered all over my parents room and we had to guess which gifts were for me and which for my sister seven years younger - my parents must have overslept. 

My eldest son has now left home, but my little one, eleven and still, as far as we are aware, believing in the magic, will put his sack underneath the Christmas tree tonight with excitement. We always put out an alcoholic drink and a mince pie for Santa and carrots and water for the reindeer.

Merry Christmas to you all. I hope Santa brings you what you desire for Christmas. I'll settle for a peaceful family time. What would you like?

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Strange Times and Successes

I haven't posted on my blog for a while. When I last posted I was doing well with editing one of my novels using a technique of analysing the text with coloured post it notes. Shortly after that I'm not sure what happened, but the doubt crows began to circle and I also started to have a lot of headaches. So, I stopped editing and writing for a while and wondered if I would ever start again.

Having always enjoyed the November novel writing challenge NaNoWriMo, to write 50,000 words of a novel in the month, I decided to clear my mind and start something new and different. It worked! I wrote with enthusiasm and completed the 50,000 word challenge in 24 days. This novel needs work, but I have a full outline of the plot, including the ending. It felt so good to get my mojo back.

I'm back!