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Monday 13 December 2021

Funniest book I've ever read

 I had to think about this topic from Long and Short Reviews, because I've been reading a lot of nonfiction lately, and autobiographies don't always lend themselves to humour. I have been reading Michael McIntyre's two autobiographies which are quite funny, since he apparently uses episodes from his life in his comedy, but I wasn't convinced that counted.

Then I remembered these two.

This Is Going To Hurt and Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas by Adam Kay. Two compilations of stories about his time as a hospital doctor, these are occasionally wince-inducing but mostly hysterically funny. Quite educational, too - I had no idea, for instance, that steroid cream can make the skin thinner, which is not ideal if you're using it as a genital enhancer.

If you haven't read them I definitely recommend getting them this Christmas. You'll collapse laughing.

So what's the funniest book you've ever read?

Monday 6 December 2021

What I thought of Santa as a kid

 This topic from Long and Short Reviews was an interesting one.

Like most kids, I believed in Santa for a long time and would hide out in my room all night to avoid seeing him, since I thought if I saw him he would vanish with all my presents. But then something happened which removed all the mystery.

I left him a note.

I had forgotten to ask for a particular present, so I left a note under the tree asking if he had one spare. 

The following morning there was a second note left saying he had run out and to ask him again next year. I wasn't that disappointed (and I ended up getting it for my birthday anyway) but I couldn't help noticing the note was in my dad's handwriting. Funny that.

I'm pretty sure I didn't tell him I'd worked it out for a while, though.

So what did you think of Santa as a kid?

Tuesday 30 November 2021


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Monday 29 November 2021

What sparks my creativity

 As a writer, this topic from Long and Short Reviews was very appropriate, particularly since I'm in discussions for a three-book series at the moment, so needed to be creative at a moment's notice. What does actually spark my creativity?

I've posted previously about how dreams are one thing that I get ideas from all the time. I tend to dream very vividly, and can often come up with full scenes which end up incorporated into stories. My novel Photograph was heavily based on a dream I had about two sisters and their shared dream of escaping into the local theme park, so I will always use dreams as a resource.

Another source is songs. I've often wanted to include a downloadable file with my stories so the reader can play relevant songs for each scene - almost everything I write has its own soundtrack, and often songs will influence the title as well. It's only a shame that I can't actually quote from song lyrics without running up against laws, because I've often wanted to do that as part of a scene.

And finally - films. If I find myself interested in an underused character or plot thread in a film, I may borrow them or it and develop it further in a story, although I'll change character names to avoid getting sued. Films can be a great source of ideas.

So what sparks your creativity?

Monday 15 November 2021

Paperback, ebook or audio?

 My answer to this topic from Long and Short Reviews has changed considerably over the years.

There was a time when I had a Kindle but never used it, as I preferred paperbacks. I have no idea why. In any event, as soon as I actually started using my Kindle I became addicted to it. Immediate delivery, no need for bookmarks, all the books I need in one place - what's not to like?

That's not to say I don't value any other type of book. I've bought a number of hardbacks recently because they were signed copies, which are always good to have as an autograph collector. And some books still aren't available as ebooks, so paperback is still an option.

As for audio, I've never really got into audiobooks. I bought the audiobook of Doug Naylor's "Last Human" primarily because I had a crush on Craig Charles, who was the narrator - that's about it. That, however, may change soon, as Totally Bound are working on a project to bring their author's novels to audio, so I'm looking forward to mine being in audio form soon.

So which do you prefer - paperback, ebook or audio?

Monday 8 November 2021

Worst advice I ever received

 This topic from Long and Short Reviews took a bit of time, as initially I was trying to think of writing-based advice and couldn't think of any - other than "You don't want to be writing romance, it's crap!" which obviously I didn't end up listening to.

The advice that kept coming to mind was from my teenage years, when my friends and I went to university. Our parents were full of advice about men and nearly all of it was wrong.

"Don't go to university with a boyfriend. You'll be broken up within six months. " (That friend is now married to him.)

"You were right to stay single. University is for meeting lots of boys." (That friend was engaged within a week of arriving on campus and they're still together.)

And my favourite one was from my dad after I broke up with my ex - I like to think he meant well, but telling a broken-hearted nineteen-year-old "You may as well get used to it, because it will happen again and again for the rest of your life," is not the best way to make her feel better.

If you're wondering, I met my husband two months later and we've been married for fourteen years.

So what's the worst advice you ever received?

Tuesday 2 November 2021

Words to live by

 An interesting topic this week from Long and Short Reviews. Which words would I say I lived by?

The first one that came to mind was "variety", closely followed by "experience". I tend to be motivated by experiencing new things - be they new films, new books, new foods or just new experiences in general. It's very easy to get into a rut in life and I think it's important to shake things up and try something new every so often.

I also am motivated by learning new things, regardless of the benefit they'll have on my life in any other way. I'm unlikely to need half the knowledge I have on America, but I carry on reading about it nevertheless.

And let's end on a sweet one - "love". Because we all need that, even if it's not romantic. There's always room for more love in our lives.

So which words do you live by?

Monday 25 October 2021

Favourite Halloween treats

 This topic from Long and Short Reviews is definitely not for me - I am not a Halloween person. I don't decorate, I don't buy sweets in for kids - in fact every year we go out for dinner so we don't have to pretend to be out. I envy America its rules about the porch light being out meaning no treats here, because here in the UK kids will bang on every door regardless.

And they terrify my cats.

However, as a child I used to go to my best friend's house for a Halloween party, so I do have some experience of Halloween treats. Her parents were very big on apple bobbing, and after we had dunked our faces they would give everyone a freshly-made toffee apple. I didn't care for Halloween even then, but I did love those toffee apples.

So what's your favourite Halloween treat?

Monday 18 October 2021

Scariest book I've ever read

Despite the fact that I love horror films, I don't often read horror books, so I had to think about this topic from Long and Short Reviews. Somehow the creep factor that I enjoy in a film doesn't seem to carry over into books for me. I don't mind the occasional Stephen King, such as Carrie, but I didn't find it especially scary.

So I ended up choosing The Woman in Black.

The Woman in Black has been adapted into films and a play, both of which are quite a different animal from the book. Certainly the most recent film, while scary, had very little in common with the book apart from the woman and the rocking chair. The book, however, while understated, does have a certain poignance that grips you, making you want a happy ending even though you know there won't be one.

So what's the scariest book you've ever read? 

Monday 11 October 2021

An odd or useless talent

 This topic from Long and Short Reviews was an easy one for me, as I practise this one a lot, particularly recently.

Many years ago I had the intention of moving to the US and getting my green card. To that end I started memorising state capitals, presidents and so forth as I assumed those were the sorts of things I would be asked. Life happened and I never went, but I also never lost the ability to remember and continue to memorise these facts - most of which are completely useless.

I'm currently reading a book about the vice-presidents of America and have been memorising those. Will I ever need to know who the three VPs for Franklin D. Roosevelt were? Not unless I decide to appear on a quiz show, but hey, I've already been on The Chase, so why not? You may well see me on Pointless or Impossible, hoping against hope that a question about US states or presidents comes up.

So what odd or useless talent do you have?

Monday 4 October 2021

Required reading in school - yay or nay? And why?

 Growing up in the UK at the time I did, I think I'm at a bit of a disadvantage for this topic from Long and Short Reviews. My school didn't so much have required reading as "this is what you're studying for English lit, like it or lump it." I could live with having to read particular books, but not with the way my school did it.

There is nothing more likely to kick the stuffing out of a good book than being forced to sit in class taking turns to read it out, one paragraph at a time. The number of times I had to sit and listen to the worst reader fumble their way through every word was utterly ridiculous. Why couldn't they just tell us to read it at home? Surely if we didn't bother it would become obvious when we failed the tests?

I can prove this too by "To Kill a Mockingbird". My class didn't do this one (we got "Lord of the Flies" instead) but another class did, and they all utterly hated it. Later on I read the book myself under my own steam and really enjoyed it, probably because I wasn't being made to write essays on why Scout's teacher was a mother figure.

So how do you feel about required reading?

Sunday 26 September 2021

Something I wish someone would invent

 After a week away in the Lake District and Blackpool, I'm back and considering this topic from Long and Short Reviews. What would I want someone to invent? 

I'm sure many people would come up with things which are much more useful, to do with household management or saving lives possibly, but the thing I came up with was a little more personal. I want a foolproof cat attractor.


My two cats Dash and Spot, who I love, are most definitely not lap cats. Spot is reasonably friendly, but Dash is a moody bugger and hardly ever comes over. Catnip? Don't make me laugh. If I sprinkle it on the floor they'll roll in it, but attempt to attract them with a catnip mouse and they'll just look at me like I'm weird.

We also have a lot of cats in the neighbourhood who I would love to get to know, but most of them leg it the minute you try to approach them. So I would love a foolproof cat attractor so I can finally get some kitty attention.

So what do you wish someone would invent?

Tuesday 14 September 2021

Books to include in a time capsule and why

 This topic from Long and Short Reviews was an interesting one. Should I choose current books that would showcase recent times, or books from a wider range because they're classics?

In the end, I went with the classics. Well, some of them anyway.

I think it would be vital to preserve Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters for posterity. In the case of Jane Austen, I chose "Emma". I know many people prefer "Pride and Prejudice", but I've always found the wordplay and style of "Emma" to be more up my street.

As for the Brontes, I'm going to take a more unusual route and say I would preserve "Wuthering Heights" and "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall". Okay, I might agree to "Jane Eyre" at a push, but I personally have always preferred Anne and Emily over Charlotte.

And finally? It may be undeserved, but I'd add my own "Photograph" in there. It's my favourite, and probably the only chance I'd get at being remembered past my own lifetime.

So what would you include?

Monday 6 September 2021

What I do to recharge

 After taking a break last week, since I never cook, I thought I'd put in for this topic from Long and Short Reviews. During lockdown and as we come out it's been important to find things to do to recharge, particularly when trying to switch off after working from home all day. So what do I do?

The first thing I do is read. A lot. Not just fiction, although I usually have at least three books on the go at any one time. I'm fascinated by America, so at the moment I'm reading books on American history, including one about the vice-presidents of America.

I also love to see films and plays. Now that we're allowed back out I've been going to the cinema and theatre - I seriously missed that - but I did a lot of streaming during lockdown too. The Globe had a lot of plays on YouTube, as did the National Theatre.

And now we're allowed out...

Bottomless brunches. What it involves depends on the restaurant, but generally it's a brunch dish plus unlimited prosecco, beer, cocktails or whatever else they specialise in. I've become addicted to them.

So what do you do to recharge?

Monday 23 August 2021

Book I wish they'd make into a movie or TV series

 This topic from Long and Short Reviews took a bit of consideration, as a lot of the books I read were chosen because I saw and liked the film. As for TV series, I don't really watch them. However, I read two books recently which I think would be interesting to show on film.

As a movie, I would say Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro. Set in a dystopian future where near-human robots are kept as companions, this is the story of Klara and the secret of the family she goes to live with. It's a slow burn, but would make for an interesting and thought-provoking film.

As a TV series, I recently read All Girls by Emily Layden, which is a series of interconnected vignettes set at a girls' boarding school, all leading up to a shocking climax. The episodic format of the story, each chapter following a different character, would work well in a TV series. As it's a fairly new release, there's still time for someone to pick it up.

So what would you like to see as a movie or TV series?

Monday 16 August 2021

One task I wish I never had to do again

 I had a few ideas for this topic from Long and Short Reviews, and came up with one that I am frequently faced with as a writer - writing a synopsis.

A lot of writers will tell you they hate this part of the process. Condensing your work down to a page of text, trying to establish what best to include to emphasise the right plot points and depict your characters properly. If you get it wrong it can affect whether or not your story is accepted - I had to redo my synopsis of The Hand He Dealt after a publisher I'd submitted to rejected it on the grounds that it didn't sound like a love story, which obviously meant I'd screwed up somewhere.

I've found it slightly easier with shorter stories but even then it's frequently a nightmare. My last short Spiritwalker had so many plotlines I thought I would never get it onto one page.

And, as I've nearly finished my new short Hyperventilating, I'll have this to do again before long. It's an unavoidable part of submission, unfortunately.

So what task do you wish you never had to do again?

Monday 9 August 2021

My bad habits

 From a nice easy topic from Long and Short Reviews - meeting my pets - to a more difficult one. My bad habits. I can think of two specific ones, partially because my husband likes to tell me one of them, and partially because I recently did a quiz at work that brought out the other one.

The one that my husband notices? Being untidy. I grew up in a messy house - my mother hated to clean and my father only cared about the garden - so I tend not to see mess and will happily walk past it. Couple this with our two cats who like to leave fur everywhere and carry socks around the house (I suppose it's better than them bringing us dead birds) and it's a nightmare.

The one that work brought out? I hate, absolutely hate, asking for help. I grew out of this a little when I started my current job as it had a very steep learning curve requiring us to ask for help all the time, but now that I'm past that stage, I'm back to hating doing it. It's something I really need to get over because, as I often discovered, if you don't ask for help then people assume you never need it and then when you do need it, nobody knows what to do.

So what are your bad habits?

Monday 2 August 2021

Meet my pets

 At last, a topic from Long and Short Reviews that's nice and easy. Let's face it, a pet owner can talk about their pets all day, and I am no exception. And I've got plenty of photos; it's just a matter of choosing the best ones.

In the beginning there was Tigger, an RSPCA rescue who loved his food and liked sitting in boxes.

After Tigger sadly passed away, we decided to get a bonded pair. The RSPCA wouldn't touch us as we didn't have a garden at the time, so we went to Cats Protection and found a brother and sister duo who suited us perfectly.

This is Spot.

"He's my big handsome boy," his foster owner told us, and we had to agree. He's friendly, adventurous (he likes to roam the neighbourhood) and very protective of his sister.

This is Dash.

"She's a miserable cow," was her foster owner's comment, and she had a point. No matter where you are or what you're doing, Dash will be sitting there silently judging you. Fortunately she's also adorable, as long as you don't do silly things like stroke her for too long, then she'll have your arm off.

We wouldn't be without them, and I think they'd agree, even if they mostly tolerate us.

I'm very much looking forward to meeting everyone else's pets!

Monday 26 July 2021

Movie that could be about me

 Okay, I'm going to admit I cheated with this one, because I honestly couldn't think of a TV show, book or film that could be about me. There have been quite a few that resonated with me in parts, but none that I could point to and say "That's so like my life!" So I picked a character from one of my books and the film I used as inspiration. It does, at least, have a small connection to me as it's about my imagination.

The film is Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and the character is Azure Wilder.

Some time after I watched this film, which is one of my favourites, I had a dream about two sisters (I somehow managed to play both in the dream - funny how that works). One sister had visited the chocolate factory and never came out, the other was left wondering what was inside this magical place and wishing for her to come back. 

I reworked this into a central part of the plot of Photograph

Tara and Azure, as children, have often visited the local theme park owned by celebrity Liam Wilder and Tara is obsessed with him, but as an adult Azure wins a competition to fly to the American branch of the theme park and meet him - and never returns, marrying him instead. The turmoil this creates in their relationship is the driving force behind the plot.

So do you have a TV show, book or film which could be about you?

Monday 19 July 2021

5 items I can't live without

 This topic from Long and Short Reviews took some thinking about. I have a lot of things which are important to me, but what couldn't I live without? As a writer, a few things stood out straight away.

First off - my computer. The source of all my information for my stories (with the possible exception of my phone) and also the location of all my WIPs. I'd be lost without it.

Secondly - notebooks for writing. Whenever I have an unexpected idea I write it down, and when I'm working on something new I use them for planning.

The third item is my Kindle. I always have at least four books on the go at any one time and many more samples saved for the future, particularly as I'm working my way through classic American literature at the moment.

Then a little less serious - wine.

My favourite is Torrontes, but I can't resist a fun label, as you can see here.

And finally - my cats.

Dash and Spot are always available to be stroked whenever I'm struggling with a plot point.

So what couldn't you live without?

Tuesday 13 July 2021

Favourite holiday (and a recipe)

 Half of this topic from Long and Short Reviews was easy. My favourite holiday will always be Christmas. I love the decorations, the presents, spending time with family over a table full of food. No problem there at all.

But a recipe?

My mother wasn't a woman who followed recipes, and I tend to be the same. We just do whatever it says in the cooking instructions. However, she was famous for one thing - killer roast potatoes. So here goes.

Put a roasting tin or two in the oven and heat to 200C. It's best if the oven is big enough to take all the potatoes in one layer.

Peel as many potatoes as you need and cut them into fairly small pieces, as they'll be crispier.

Put the potatoes on to boil in a large pan and then simmer.

Put some duck or goose fat in the roasting tins and heat in the oven.

Drain the potatoes in a colander and shake them vigorously so they're nice and fluffy.

Some people sprinkle them with flour at this point but my mother never did.

Put the potatoes in the tins and turn them over so they're coated in fat.

Roast for 15 minutes, take them out and turn the potatoes over.

Roast for another 15 minutes and turn them again.

Give them a final 10 to 20 minutes, take them out and serve.

Whatever else we may have had left over after Christmas dinner, it wasn't roast potatoes. :)

So what's your favourite holiday?

Monday 5 July 2021

Best biography or autobiography

 This topic from Long and Short Reviews was an interesting one, because I love biographies and autobiographies. Warwick Davis, Burt Reynolds, Agatha Christie, the Bronte sisters... I'll read pretty much anybody. Which is why I had to narrow it down to two favourites, in the end, as I couldn't stick to just one.

The first is The Brontes by Juliet Barker. It's thorough (this book will last you for ages), it's up to date and it deals with all of the Bronte family, as opposed to a number of biographies which only deal with one sister at a time and often get confused over who is doing what.

And the second? Gavin Maxwell: A Life by Douglas Botting.

I actually read this one before I even knew who Gavin Maxwell was, just because I saw on the back that he had worked with Terry Nutkins. He was a fascinating, if flawed, man and this is an excellent take on him written by one of his good friends.

So which is your favourite biography or autobiography?

Monday 28 June 2021

A person who inspires me

 This topic from Long and Short Reviews was surprisingly easy. As a writer myself I'm inspired by other writers, and one in particular has been a shining light for me since I was a teenager.

Anne Bronte.

Despite her novel Agnes Grey being overshadowed by her sisters' more dramatic novels, she achieved great success with The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, a fact that is often forgotten since Charlotte Bronte blocked publication of it for years after Anne's death. Her purpose was reform, not drama, although sadly her attempts to reform the situation of governesses and of women trapped in abusive marriages weren't appreciated during her lifetime.

For this reason I was very proud when I was given the chance to work on the Clandestine Classic version of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. I enjoyed the challenge of matching my writing style to Anne's and adding sections which would fit into the story. While I highly doubt this had any bearing on Anne's more recent rise in the public's estimations - there are many Bronte historians to thank for that - I'm still thrilled to have my name next to hers.

So who inspires you?

Monday 21 June 2021

Saddest book I've ever read

 I'm going to open this particular Long and Short Reviews topic by saying that I am not a person who cries over books. Hell, I'm not really a person who cries over films either. I am definitely not someone who seeks out weepy books or films (and have never read Nicholas Sparks for that reason).

So the book I eventually came up with for this topic?

The Virgin Suicides.

As you can probably gather from a title like that, it has a lot of teenage angst and, yes, suicides, but it is beautifully written and manages to avoid the tacky shock value that it could otherwise have had.

I didn't cry over it, but I did find it moving, and that's about as far as I go.

So what's the saddest book you've ever read?

Monday 14 June 2021

The best parts of each season

 This topic from Long and Short Reviews was easy in some parts and difficult in others.

My favourite season is winter. Why? Simple - Christmas. I love everything about it - dark nights lit with fairy lights, mulled wine at the German market, exchanging presents and having dinner with family. Who know, we might even get to do that this year.

Autumn, though, was a tough one. I don't like much about it - it's cold, damp and grey. However, it does contain one benefit - my birthday.

Which is always a bonus. (No, I don't know how they did that design either.)

For summer the best thing for me is holidays.

That one was taken on Capri, but it looks as though this year will be Scotland and the Lake District. No bad thing, the UK has some beautiful areas and the Lakes and Highlands are definitely included.

And spring? I couldn't find a photo of it, but a couple of years ago we went to Alnwick Castle to see the cherry blossoms, which come out around the end of April. If you're in the UK around that time I would recommend it - I love seeing the blossoms come out and they make a spectacular display at Alnwick, with swing seats to sit in under the trees.

So what are your favourite parts of each season?

Monday 7 June 2021

The best gift I ever received

 I had to think back for this topic from Long and Short Reviews. What counts as the best gift? 

Best as a child was probably the keyboard-synthesiser my parents got me when I was 14. I never did learn to play it properly, but I was never off the thing.

Most expensive would be either the opal earrings my dad got me for my 18th birthday or the honeymoon in Portugal my mother paid for.

However, in terms of being most special, it would have to be this:

My husband commissioned one of his friends, who is an artist, to paint this for our wedding anniversary. It's exactly the sort of thing I like - I love beach scenes - and it's absolutely beautiful. The photo probably doesn't do it justice, but it's still the best piece of artwork I have - and I have a lot now.

So what's the best gift you ever received?

Monday 31 May 2021

My favourite book and how I'd cast it for a movie

 I've decided to go a little off-piste for this topic from Long and Short Reviews, as I was struggling to think of a favourite book of mine that hasn't already been made into a film. My automatic response when I like a film is to check out the book. So I decided to do this with my favourite of my own books, because I would love to be able to cast it for a film.

Photograph has one particular trick in that the two heroines are fraternal twin sisters - as written, Tara and Azure are facially identical but have opposite colouring. As a result, I would prefer to cast one actress in a dual role and have her wear wigs and coloured contact lenses. My favourite actress for this role would be Katharine Isabelle, who I've loved in every film I've seen her in.

For Tara's love interest Ryan, I would cast Taron Egerton. Ryan is American, but I'm pretty sure Taron Egerton could manage an accent. I loved him in the Kingsman films and also Rocketman.

For one of the side characters, Tara's roommate Kiki, I always saw Kirsten Dunst. She's possibly a little old for the role now but I don't believe I ever stated Kiki's age, so I don't think that would matter.

The most difficult character to cast would be Liam, Azure's husband, who is a celebrity theme park owner and was originally inspired by Gene Wilder's performance as Willy Wonka. I eventually settled on Benedict Cumberbatch. He's very good at playing genius characters.

So which book would you like to cast for a movie?

Tuesday 25 May 2021

My fantasy vacation

 I'm currently on leave from work and just back from a short holiday, so this topic from Long and Short Reviews was quite appropriate. However, in our case we're just back from the Scottish Highlands. It was a lovely few days, but certainly not fantasy level.

My fantasy holiday? A driving tour of America, taking in New York City. Niagara Falls, Route 66, the Grand Canyon and everything in between.

I've always been fascinated by the USA. As a teenager I fully intended to emigrate and become a citizen as soon as I finished university, and I memorised as much information as possible in service of that process (state capitals, presidents and so on). However, life happened and I never went, and since I couldn't do without the NHS I'm never going to move there now. But I still love the place, and would love to do a driving tour - or maybe a fly-drive, as there are a lot of wide open spaces in the middle of the USA.

If I did drive the whole way, it would be in a pink Cadillac Eldorado. Just because.

So what would be your fantasy vacation?

Monday 10 May 2021

My favourite indulgence

 I really had to think about this topic from Long and Short Reviews, because the timing isn't ideal - I have just started a WW diet, and while it's going well (lost a stone already) I've had to cut back on basically every indulgence known to man. I haven't even eaten cheese for three weeks, and coming from me, that's something.

There are, of course, low-calorie versions of a lot of things, but it's often a balance between saving the points and enjoying the food. Low-calorie bread tastes like cardboard to me, so I would rather just use the points and have real bread. As for low-calorie wine, forget it.

However, I have discovered one indulgence I can still have - low-fat chocolate ice-cream.

There are a few companies like Halo Top and Oppo that do great ice-cream, so I've been keeping a tub of chocolate fudge brownie in my freezer for those days when nothing else will do. It's not quite up to the level of Phish Food, but it tastes amazing.

So what's your favourite indulgence!

Tuesday 4 May 2021

Fictional character I'd love to meet and why

 After a break last week due to being away, I've picked up this topic from Long and Short Reviews and, just for a change, I had an idea straight away.

I've been very into reading Kazuo Ishiguro lately. His novels have a contemplative air which somehow draws the reader even when you realise that very little action has taken place. I read "Never Let Me Go" some years ago and "Klara and the Sun" just recently, so after that I took up "The Remains of the Day".

For which reason I've decided that I would like to meet Mr Stevens, the famed butler.

Why? The central point of the novel is that Stevens has dedicated his entire life to serving as a butler, never allowing any time for a personal life, and as he grows old he goes on a journey and starts wanting to enjoy what is left of his days. So I would like to follow Stevens on his journey and introduce him to a few places and life experiences he hasn't known. Frankly, given how limited his life has been, even taking him on a tour of the UK would be an adventure for him.

So which fictional character would you like to meet?

Tuesday 20 April 2021

Creative outlets I enjoy

 I was rather ashamed when I saw this topic from Long and Short Reviews come up, because I am surprisingly limited in my creative outlets.

I am not, for instance, a person who goes in for arts and crafts. I can't draw, I don't knit or crochet, and while I know people who cross-stitch and embroider, I've never done it myself. So at the moment my only creative outlet is my writing.

I'm currently working on a piece with the working title of Hyperventilating. It has been re-planned about five times now but it's finally getting somewhere - and it has the advantage of allowing me to use a past creative outlet, which is songwriting. My hero is a rock star, and in my past I made several attempts at writing song lyrics, none of which were worthy of anything but which can be quoted safely whenever I write about my hero in performance. 

Makes a nice change from having to remove all song lyrics for trademark purposes!

So what are your creative outlets?

Monday 12 April 2021

If I won a large lottery jackpot, I would...

 This topic from Long and Short Reviews was an interesting one, in that it reminded me how much life has changed since covid happened. My first thought was that I'd travel... if covid let me. As things currently stand, nowhere on my bucket list is available at the moment without having to self-isolate afterwards, which isn't ideal for a pair of key workers.

In any event, if I had a large amount of money, I would travel. I've always wanted to take a fly-drive across America - there are hundreds of places in the US I would love to see, such as the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls. I would also like to visit Thailand for the stunning beaches and the food (which is probably nothing like Thai food over here) and tour around Europe. I'd love to go somewhere like Iceland where we might stand a chance of seeing the Northern Lights.

The other thing I would get is a car. I absolutely love classic American cars and would really love a customised pink Cadillac Eldorado, one with a right-hand drive and better fuel consumption than they're known for. Actually, with enough cash, I'd probably end up with a T-bird as well.

So what would you do with a lottery win?

Monday 5 April 2021

Books I chose based on the title

 I deliberately missed out the part about covers in this topic from Long and Short Reviews, as I couldn't think of a single book I chose based on its cover. I have, however, chosen a number of books based on their title.

Here Be Sexist Vampires - Suzanne Wright. I had no idea what this would be about (other than sexist vampires) but I couldn't resist a title like that. As it happened, it's a remarkably well written erotic romance with some interesting world building.

In Appreciation Of Their Cox - Janine Ashbless. This is a short erotica about an eight-man rowing team with a female cox, and definitely does what it says on the tin.

Stacy's Dad Has Got It Going On - Giselle Renarde. The title made me collapse laughing - the song is a guilty pleasure for me, and this was certainly a take on romance that I had never seen before. It didn't go the way I expected, but was always entertaining.

So which books did you choose based on the cover or title?

Monday 29 March 2021

TV Shows I binge watch

 I had to twist this topic from Long and Short Reviews a bit, because I don't generally binge watch shows. My husband does - he likes to watch "The Expanse" while I'm working, since he finishes before I do. But I tend to watch things I've recorded, nothing that I could watch in large doses.

So what have I been watching recently?

We recently got a subscription to Disney Plus, so we've been watching shows on there. As well as the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe in timeline order, we watched "The Mandalorian" (loved the ending to the last series), "WandaVision", and are now watching "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier". I admit I'm not enjoying that last one as much as "WandaVision", but I've always been a fan of Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, and it has only been two episodes of "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" so far, so it may get better.

So what do you binge watch?

Tuesday 23 March 2021

What my last meal would be

 This topic from Long and Short Reviews was a tough one. I have a fairly wide-ranging palate and my favourite foods can vary from week to week, so trying to come up with one dish - or three, if you allow for a three-course meal - was hard work. I can like something one week and be bored with it the next.

For the starter, I think I'd go for burrata. For those not in the know, it's mozzarella cheese mixed with cream. I discovered this at a local Italian restaurant since I love mozzarella, so this is the perfect way to begin a meal.

I'd follow this with a roast dinner of some description. I've recently been hankering after roast pork with crackling, so I'd probably go for that, along with roast potatoes, carrots and green beans. You can't beat a decent roast.

And finally - cheesecake. I love almost all types of cheesecake but my favourite is lime, which unfortunately is impossible to find anywhere at the moment.

So what would your last meal be?

Monday 15 March 2021

My theme song

 I had to laugh when this topic came up at Long and Short Reviews, because this is pretty much how I work when I write - a lot of scenes are written with music in mind. Unfortunately we're not allowed to quote lyrics and just using song titles doesn't always cut it, as not everyone will know why "Break Me Shake Me" would make a good background track to this sex scene. I've often wanted to include a flash drive or CD with every book and tell readers to play track X for scene Y.

I have also embarrassed my husband a few times by singing along to music in public. I can get away with this a bit more at the moment because I'm wearing a mask, so he doesn't always notice I'm doing it. I can still remember the time I found myself doing a duet of "Blurred Lines" with a random stranger in Asda, or the lunch break last year when everyone in Greggs was singing along to "Love Yourself".

But what would be my theme song?

I actually came up with this last year, before it was mandatory to wear masks in supermarkets. I had gone shopping wearing a mask and found myself surrounded by shoppers wandering around maskless, ignoring the arrows on the aisles - and, appropriately, playing on the radio was Chesney Hawkes' "The One and Only". Yes, I really was. And I think it works for most of my life - we all are, after all, the one and only.

So what would be your theme song?

Monday 8 March 2021

Best non-book gifts for readers

 The first thought that came into my mind when I read this topic from Long and Short Reviews was a Kindle - however, I'm not sure whether that fits the spirit of it. An ebook reader isn't technically a book, I suppose, so that would be first on my list. I wouldn't be without my Kindle.

The second possibility is a reading light. My husband has one that clips to the headboard so he can read in bed without keeping me awake. Considering he often reads when he can't sleep, it's a real marriage-saver.

Thirdly - well, it's always nice to have drinks to hand while you read, so I have two options. For my non-drinking friends, a large mug for tea or coffee (or indeed hot chocolate, if you're like me and don't like either). And if you feel like something stronger, a bottle of Torrontes wine (trust me on this, it's stunning) or one of the cocktail packs our local restaurants are doing at the moment. 

There's nothing quite like reading your favourite book with a glass of wine or a Mojito to hand.

So what are your best non-book ideas for readers?

Monday 1 March 2021

My greatest weakness

 Okay, so we went from greatest strength to greatest weakness in the Long and Short Reviews list of topics. If I was a superhero, I'd probably refuse to answer. However, I don't have any kryptonite-level weaknesses lurking, so I'll have to come up with something a bit more realistic.

My husband would probably say my weakness is an inability to see mess. He notices every misplaced item, while I can walk straight past it - and this happens a lot, because our cats have a habit of carrying things around the house, so I'll walk into the living room and find the teatowel and washing up sponge lying in the middle of the floor. As long as we're not living in filth I don't really mind misplaced stuff, which is just as well given these two animals.

The other weakness is probably insecurity. I am never happy with the work I do, even when other people are happy with it. This, I think, is just part of being a writer - we nitpick our own work and then pass it to editors who nitpick it even further. I suppose it can be healthy to want to make things better as long as I don't get too obsessed with it.

So what's your greatest weakness?

Monday 22 February 2021

My greatest strength

 This topic from Long and Short Reviews was a tough one, because this is the sort of thing I'm terrible at. I can tell you plenty of things I'm not good at, but my strong points? No chance.

At one point I might have said my imagination, but I'm not sure I can push that at the moment, because lockdown has left me with a severe case of writer's block. I've struggled to get any writing done at all recently - if not for the new plans by my publisher to release my books as audiobooks, I'd barely feel like a writer at all.

So, strong points at the moment?

I'm good at learning new things - I can pick up a wealth of new information quickly.

I have a very high pain threshold - that's what having a chronic pain condition gets you. Someone else's level 10 pain would probably be my level 5.

And, thanks to my introversion, I'm good at being alone. Obviously I live with my husband, so I'm rarely completely alone, but I'm dealing quite well with not being able to go anywhere, unlike many people I know who have been climbing the walls for months.

So what's your greatest strength?

Monday 15 February 2021

How I take care of my health

 Self-care is a topic which is hot recently, thanks to coronavirus locking us all up in our homes, and since I'm not high on the list for a vaccine it's unlikely to change any time soon, so when this topic from Long and Short Reviews came up self-care was the first thing that came to mind.

I'm the first to admit I'm not the healthiest individual. I can't really exercise at the moment as I have a respiratory condition which prevents anything strenuous, and I have to be careful which vitamins I take as some clash with my medication. So for my physical health, there's not a lot I can do other than eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, take my meds and go out for a walk when I can. My husband and I like to go out to local wildlife reserves whenever possible, which at the moment is unlikely as a lot of the nearest ones are flooded.

Taking care of my mental health is trickier. I've been working from home for nearly a year and it takes a toll, even for an introvert like me. I keep a steady supply of books and films and stay in touch with friends as best I can - we've been having Zoom meetings for each other's birthdays and sending memes to each other. It's tough, but I'm soldiering on.

So how do you take care of your health?

Monday 8 February 2021

Most romantic book or movie ever

 It will probably be a surprise that I don't tend to read or watch a lot of romance. I may write erotic romance, but my taste in reading runs to historicals and autobiographies mostly (I'm reading Phillip Schofield's at the moment) and my film collection is primarily horror and action. So I had to think about this topic from Long and Short Reviews quite hard. 

After all, what constitutes romantic? I've always been told, for instance, that the romance I write needs a happy ending, but a remarkable number of romantic films (many based on Nicholas Sparks) end sadly. I've been told that Titanic is deeply romantic but the ending is mixed at best.

So, having thought about it, I came up with two possibilities. For films, I went for The Time Traveller's Wife. It holds the crown of being the only romantic film to actually make me cry - I don't do that often, and certainly not for romance. However, I felt the central relationship between the characters was very engaging, and the ending was a little more hopeful than the one in the book.

And honourable mention goes to Emma by Jane Austen, both the book and the Gwyneth Paltrow film, for having the most romantic proposal. Mr Knightley's passionate declaration of love is beautiful, and was sadly ruined in the otherwise excellent recent version by having Emma get a nosebleed in the middle of it.

So what's your most romantic book or film?

Tuesday 2 February 2021

A few of my favourite things

 This week's topic from Long and Short Reviews was a tricky one since it was so wide-ranging. I have a lot of things which could be considered my favourite, and many change day by day. So what are my favourite things?

First is something I've mentioned a few times on here - horror films. I love all cinema, but am a particular lover of horror and have a very high tolerance for junk, so can watch some really terrible horror and still enjoy it (Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus, for instance). My favourite at the moment is Hell House LLC, which fortunately is available for free on Amazon Prime and also via Shudder.

Then we have two things I can't do at the moment - trying new restaurants and going to rock concerts. I attended a streamed version of a Darkness concert recently, which is likely to be the best I can do for some time. As for new restaurants, I'm using Deliveroo a lot to try new cuisines, although nothing beats trying a new place out in person.

And finally... my cats.

Dash and Spot like to sit behind me and get strokes whenever I need a break from work. They also have remarkably accurate watches, since they know exactly when I'm due to log off and make their dinner.

So what are your favourite things?

Tuesday 26 January 2021

A movie that influenced my life

This topic from Long and Short Reviews was a tough one. I read a lot of books and watch a lot of films, but struggled to think of one that had been particularly influential. Eventually I came up with a film which has been my favourite for many years - Heavenly Creatures.

I first discovered the film when I was 13 and became fascinated by both the film itself and the backstory behind it, to such a degree that I started researching the Parker-Hulme murder in depth. It's a shocking case, both in its startling violence and also in the attitudes of the time - the attitude towards the close friendship between the girls, which would be viewed quite differently now, and also the disgusting comments made by journalists when they discovered Pauline Parker's younger sister was institutionalised (claiming this proved she came from "bad stock"). 

The film also introduced me to Melanie Lynskey, one of my favourite actors, and made Peter Jackson one of my favourite directors. The passion he brought to the project shows in every shot.

So what has influenced your life?


Monday 18 January 2021

Something I collected as a child

 This particular topic by Long and Short Reviews was easy, as I had a fairly extensive collection as a child, sadly having long since been thrown away.


All my friends collected them, and we would take our collections round to each other's houses and swap them. I can distinctly remember one friend who had a lucky rabbit's foot she had got from a trip to Disneyland, which unsurprisingly she was never willing to swap out no matter what I offered her.

My personal favourite was a small paperweight containing underwater items such as a shell and a starfish, plus a little egg timer. I can't remember who I got that from but I valued that one with my life. There was also a skeleton with green jewel eyes which I think everyone had some variant of, and for some reason a hotdog that I refused to let anyone have.

These days I collect autographs. I'm a member of two autograph collectors' forums where we share addresses and successes from writing to celebrities, and I have a fairly vast collection now including two prized personalised photos from Alan Rickman and Gene Wilder. I even got a two-page handwritten letter from Tatiana Maslany just before "Orphan Black" became successful - fairly rare from any celebrity.

So what did you collect as a child?

Monday 11 January 2021

5 best places I've visited

 This topic from Long and Short Reviews gave me the chance to look over some of my old photos at places I've been in the past and would love to go again in the future, if the combination of lockdown and Brexit doesn't ruin any plans. I don't claim to be particularly well-travelled but I've managed a few good holidays and trips in the past, many of which I hope to repeat at some point.

The first one I don't have a photo for - Amsterdam. I went for a weekend trip as a student and fell in love with the canals, the windmills and the Anne Frank House, which I found very moving but which went completely over my then-boyfriend's head.

The second? Rome.

I could have stood in front of the Trevi Fountain all day. We spent four days here and took in as many of the sights as we could, plus we visited every ice cream shop we passed and discovered that apple and cinnamon gelato is delicious.

New York City...

I've been here twice now. We took the subway all over Manhattan and a little of Brooklyn, went up every skyscraper we could, and spent a lot of time standing in Times Square marvelling at everything. Funnily enough we spent very little time in the theatre district, considering there was a time when I wanted to be on Broadway.

Cala D'Or...

We visit here most years, and it's beautiful. The beaches are stunning, the people are friendly and there is a wildlife preserve at one beach, Cala Mondrago, where we got to see hoopoes last time we visited.

And finally...

The Isle of Wight. When I was planning my wedding I discovered a boutique hotel called the Enchanted Manor which is designed as a fairytale cottage, and I couldn't resist going, even though my husband is definitely not into fairies and cherubs. The Isle of Wight is a beautiful little island and, among other thing, includes a wildlife park where we got to meet the owl above. 

So where have you loved to visit?

Monday 4 January 2021

My goals for 2021

 Well, after a very long 2020, this topic from Long and Short Reviews was quite appropriate, although I'm not going to assume 2021 is going to be much better yet. Here in the UK we're entering yet another lockdown and I'm fairly far down the list for a vaccine. So what would I set as a goal that isn't likely to be scuppered by covid?

My usual New Year resolutions still stand. I always decide to read one new book, watch one new film and try one new food per month. In the case of films I always overshoot that by miles - I got through over a hundred last year - but I stick to that resolution nevertheless.

I also intend to finish seeing all of Shakespeare's plays. Maybe not strictly in the theatre, but there are DVDs of recorded performances, so I intend to get hold of those and finally see the ones I didn't get through last year.

A new resolution is to take better care of my skin. I suffer a lot from dry skin, so I've been on a tour through Boots and picked up various creams and serums which I'll test out this year and see what works. Hopefully it will make up for not being able to treat myself to a facial occasionally.

And writing goals? I've found it much harder to write in lockdown, so I simply intend to finish the two stories I've been dragging out for the last few months. I won't go into detail yet in case I still don't manage to finish them, but I've been reworking my plans for them so hopefully I'll get them done.

So what are your goals for 2021?