Friday, 9 September 2016

Make memories while we can.

At the weekend I lost a close friend to cancer. Next week is her funeral and I have busied myself with train tickets and plans to meet people and rearranging dental appointments because ticking stuff off on a list is so much easier than thinking about what it means, about facing the black hole in my life. And then at odd times I remember moments from our past, like movie flashbacks, and for those seconds it's like she's still here. So I can't make sense of it but I can remember. Here are some of the highlights:
1. The time we drank a bottle apiece of cheap prosecco at a work pub quiz and decided, at 11 on a work night, to go to the local nightclub (Eros, I kid you not) and drag her unsuspecting and sober sister and my unsuspecting and sober husband with us.
2. The time I made her get two kittens because the rejected one looked lonely and I was pregnant and VERY hormonal and cried.
3. The time I phoned her on the way to the airport to beg her to record a new TV series for me and thus got her addicted to Alias and more importantly to Agent Vaughan.
4. The time I moved into a new flat and she cleaned the filthy kitchen and bathroom because I was pregnant and they made me gag.
5. Curling up with her and my then 5yo on a sofabed on a snowy night when she was exhausted from chemo to watch Hannah Montana the Movie and Twilight.
6. A year later taking the same daughter on a fairground ride that looked innocuous and ended up flying at top speed round and round, helpless with laughter whilst clinging on to said child for dear life.
7. Crying over Buffy. A lot.
8. Cutting my hair and she knew INSTANTLY that it was a Buffy bob (season 6).
9. Heading to hers for a long weekend and somehow finding ourselves getting up at 5am to stand on  Whitehall and watch Kate Middleton marry Prince William. I'm still not sure how she persuaded us...
10. Being proper London tourists the next day with a boat ride down the Thames and a tour of the Tower,
11. Jugs of cocktails after work.
12. Dinner in the Eiffel Tower.
13. When she sat next to Joss Whedon at a play and asked him if Buffy and Angel were ever going to get together...
14. Her 26th birthday when she sobbed on me all the way back from a club because she was so old.
15. Writing Sherlock the Black Kitten and Jasper the hairdressing horse when we probably should have been working...

She was one of my closest friends almost from the day we met. I'm not a demonstrative person and it took that first diagnosis for me to tell her I loved her. Then it became normal, a sign off to a text or a phone call. It's not something I say to many people, daughter and dog excepted, but it probably shouldn't take the prospect of losing someone to force the words out. We should make the most of our friends while we can. And make sure we're not too caught up in life to stop making memories because they're the things we cling to when the rest is gone. Thank you for fifteen years of a brilliant friendship, Jo. I love you.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Introducing Jessica Gilmore

Isn't it odd how,as soon as you come under pressure to think of something NOW, your mind goes blank?

This time last year, almost to the day, we drove to Cheshire on the pretence that we were Having A Day Out At A Stately Home; in reality we were providing the perfect childhood memory (and saddling ourselves with hopefully many years of even more responsibility) and taking the daughter to look at a puppy. We thought we would look, have a measured conversation and if all went well return a week later to collect him.
We drove away that day with a small, whimpering bundle of black fluff who has since grown into a leggy bundle of grey fluff. We had no bed, food, bowls, leads, toys. We had nothing. Not even a name. And try as we might to come up with one, every spark of ingenuity or creativity was gone. We could pick up the bed etc on the way home. A name wasn't quite so easily resolved.
In the end I suggested Rufus after the red setter in the Dark is Rising series. I always wanted a red setter. You can hear me yelling it in tones of utter despair as he hurls himself enthusiastically at peaceful picnickers. And at night, when he is asleep his head on my knee, he becomes Rufus Bear. The daughter and I like to sing it to the tune of Rupert Bear, I'm not sure how he feels about it.

I always knew I would have a new name if I ever got published, there's a romance author who already publishes under my real name (to be fair we share the name, along with many, may others) for a start, but I didn't know that choosing a pseudonym was much harder than naming characters. Or the dog for that matter. Luckily I was still on holiday with @nellbelleandme so we decamped, with two of the kids, to a pub where we drank coffee and brainstormed ideas. Tempting as it was to go for a whole new identity I decided to keep it simple and not change my first name.
It took a while but we ended up with a shortlist of ten and I sent them to my editor (! Sorry, but they are still exciting new words for me to type). The list may* have been heavily influenced by my favourite books and TV Shows with just a slight hint of Buffy and Anne of Green Gables.

Ten became two became one. I love coffee, I talk far too fast, I have a dog with heavy eyebrows and a winsome expression, I once lived in a small, quaint Connecticut town... In April 2014, the first Mills and Boon Cherish/Harlequin Romance by Jessica Gilmore will be published.

*Okay, it definitely was. Blythe, Summers, Willows, Gilbert anyone?

Friday, 15 April 2016

What I would say if I were in Vegas tonight...

Tonight the RT Convention in Las Vegas comes to a glittering climax with the presentation of the Reviewer’s Choice Awards. If I had been able to make it to Vegas then I would have collected what may be the first award I have won since the Ashford School Book Quiz back in 1989, as it is I’ll be drinking prosecco here in York (while the Convention attendees have lunch thanks to the time difference) and raising a toast to romance readers everywhere.
If I could make a speech though what would I say? There’s always the list of names to thank (and the panic that someone really important might be missed out). But if I was there tonight this might have been what I said:
I was an awkward child. Introverted, emotional, hot tempered with really big hair, thick glasses and teeth to rival Bugs Bunny. For several years I was raised by my mother and at times my school made us feel like the only single parent family in town. Money was tight and things weren’t easy. But I had books. In books I didn’t have to be me, I could be Anne Shirley or Joey Bettany or Pauline Fossil. I could travel to 1950s America with Sally J Freedman, the Ice Age with Ayla, outer space with Monica Hughes and the prairie with Laura Ingalls. Books taught me that the best people came from hard beginnings, that sex should be consensual and mutually pleasurable (thank you Jean M Auel and Jilly Cooper) and that there’s not much that friendship, cake and courage can’t fix.
We didn’t have much money and books were a Christmas and Birthday treat. Luckily my town had a big library and every week I could take six new books – or three new and three favourites – home. And the week after I could take them back and get more books. I’m not sure how I would have made it through my childhood without that constant and free access to books. Now libraries throughout the UK are under threat, closing, handed over to community control and starved of funds. There are many despicable decisions made in the name of austerity but taking access to books away from a populace is one of the worst. The flawed assumption that in the age of the internet books and libraries are obsolete. Libraries aren’t just gateways to knowledge and new worlds, they are community hubs, refuges and sanctuaries.  So thank you Grantham, Ashford, New Romney, Glasgow, Scarborough, Stoke Newington and Glastonbury Connecticut libraries. You have all been my home at one point or another and this award is for you.
(Of course I would also have thanked my husband and daughter, my first writing partner, Merilyn, first crit group Jane, Maggie and Julia, hugely supportive York writers Donna and Pam, my NWS readers Fi and Heidi, Flo, Charlotte, Kathryn and Pippa from M&B, the HQ romance writers esp my NY partner in crime Christy and all romance readers).
This is reposted from 

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Keeping Updated!

I love blogging, I really do, but the sad reality is that work, dance mum duties and the small matter of three or four books a year make it almost impossible to keep up with this site. If you do want more up to date news about my books then I can usually be found procrastinating on Facebook or Twitter and my new website is updated more often than here. Please do pop over and say hi!

Friday, 31 July 2015

The obligatory post-RWA round up

Coastguard Beach, Cape Cod

Me. Signing. Eek!
There are many things that I dreamed about when I was an aspiring author. Many of them are still pie in the sky; I don't live by the beach, I don't write full time, I still don't know what I'm doing, I still procrastinate and I have yet to buy a chaise longue on which to while away my days eating grapes and dictating golden words. But last week one dream did come true when I attended the 2015 RWA Conference in New York.
View from our room
I didn't intend to go. Flights were astronomically expensive, it was the school holidays. I didn't have the time and 101 other excuses, reasons and problems. And then I got an email from my fellow M&B author Christy McKellen; she'd booked and did I want to share a room?
Of course I did! But I couldn't. Could I?

Not the first or the last
The wonderful Starlight Suite at the
 Hotel Astoria
Fast forward several months and it was clear that not only could I but I very definitely was. In fact I extended it to include three wonderful, relaxing days in Cape Cod with old and much loved friends before plunging into the glamorous, crazy world of Conference. In one day I attended talks by Julia Quinn, Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Jennifer Crusie. I drank numerous cocktails, ate pizza on street corners, cheesecake in Juniors and ordered my eggs over easy in a diner over on eighth. I did my first book signing desperately trying to get the right balance between welcoming smile and needy eyes 'please want a book. Please, please...' I cheered on friends at the RITAs and met in person people I'd only ever chatted to online.

Yep. It tasted as good as it looked.
And I dressed up in black and white and, like Cinderella, I did go to the ball. Not just any old ball, the Harlequin ball at the Waldorf Astoria. Free dessert bar, free ice cream bar, free drinks bar, a crowded dance floor in the most wonderfully glamorous surroundings filled with people who loved to write romance. It was completely, utterly wonderful.

Next year it's in San Diego. There's no way I'll be able to make it.

Central Park

Friday, 8 May 2015

Wearing my heart upon my sleeve

You may be aware that the UK held a General Election yesterday - or as the US media called it a 'US Ally election'. You may also be aware that the result was a bit of a shock and left a of people feeling battered, bruised and disenfranchised - myself, my family and the vast majority of my real life and social media friends amongst them. Which I guess proves that we really do surround ourselves with like minded people!

One of the interesting things about politics is how many people feel it is a dirty word, that it shouldn't be talked about, that it's private. It wasn't always so; Anne Shirley famously said the a beau had to agree with a girl's father on politics and her mother on religion!

Obviously it's important that people feel free to vote the way they choose according to their own convictions but how can we grow, develop and learn without standing up for our choices and being open to debate and alternate points of view? After all, the choices we make at the Ballot Box have ramifications far beyond our own lives. And if debate is stifled whether through social mores or something more sinister then abuses of power become easier and easier as history shows over and over; my own great uncle spent his too short life in a concentration camp in Poland after distributing anti Nazi literature.

I have often seen other writers refuse to discuss politics in order not to alienate readers in an increasingly polarised political world - on both sides of the Atlantic, the Pacific and throughout Europe. I understand that; after all, as the daughter and granddaughter of immigrants I would be disappointed to find out one of my favourite authors belonged to a certain anti-immigrant party. And yet...

And yet our beliefs help shape us, help shape the worlds we write. My own politics would be seen by some as dangerously communist, by others as depressingly middle of the road.I believe in equality, in free education right through to advanced degree level, in free healthcare, free social care. I believe a child brought up in care should have equal life chances to the child of a Prime Minister. I believe education is more than facts and figures. I believe in social housing for all who need - or want - it. I believe that transport, energy, mail, water should all be run by the state and profits ploughed back in to make them better. I believe in overseas aid, equal marriage and I am a feminist. I believe climate change is real and we need to stop it. I also think we should have tennis courts in every green space and roving coaches so it is no longer the sport of the rich. That will be found in no manifesto, sadly but I still believe it.  I am proud of my beliefs.

My books are fantasies, romances. My heroines are not all me, thank goodness; tea drinking, time poor, introverted bookworms don't make interesting copy. They stand apart from my beliefs, my day job, my family. But I don't want to hide my beliefs in order to sell more books. My Twitter account will remain an eclectic mix of politics, writing and boring on about the dog/scandi drama/cake/what I am reading and my Tatty Devine collection. And just as my political friends and followers sometimes find something of interest in my writing chat so might readers or authors find something interesting in political chat. Or we could have a debate. Because that's democracy...

Now if you'll excuse me I am going to go and watch consecutive episodes of Say Yes to the Dress and gear up for five more years of opposition.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Read All About It!

Things have been crazy recently - in a good way! New books, awards and exciting plans have got 2015 off to a fantastic start. Here are a few of the highlights:
* It looks as if I'll have four books released this year. The Heiress's Secret Baby is out now,
Part one of the Summer Weddings Trilogy
- look out for Book 2 from Scarlet Wilson and
Book 3 from Sophie Pembroke
The Earl's Baby is released in April and A Will, A Wish and A Proposal comes out in August. I'm writing a Christmas themed book right now so if everything works out we should see that this year too. It's a friends to lovers book set in the beautiful Austrian Alps. Pinterest board up and running with loads of lovely snow scenes (and lots of pictures of Eddie Redmayne).
*Expecting the Earl's Baby is currently on Netgallery so if you like the look of it do request a copy - I'd love to see your reviews!
*I am heading to New York *cue Taylor Swift song*. Yep, I am heading over in July for my very first RWA Conference - and to say I'm excited is a massive understatement. I'll be rooming with my fab friend Christy McKellen, will get a chance to catch up with my Summer Weddings writing buddy Scarlet Wilson and finally meet my long term crit partner Julia Broadbooks. If you're planning on attending make sure you head over and say hello. I'm the shy Brit reading in the corner (until I've had a glass of wine that is...).
*And I am VERY pleased to announce that the lovely reviewers at CataRomance awarded The Return of Mrs Jones a Reviewers' Choice Award. It's my debut book and very dear to me so to see it honoured in this way, by people who know and love category romance, is just incredible. Thank you so much.