Monday, April 30, 2007

Novel Racer - Jane Henry

I have promised to highlight each of the Novel Racers if they are brave enough! We are thirty-two in number and growing. Roughly a third are already published in fiction and few regulars in the non-fiction department. We cover North American, Europe, and Asia. Mostly women with three men. A pretty diverse bunch. So the first to take up the challenge and tell us a bit about herself is Jane Henry is quite appropriate as she wrote Running on Empty - The Diary of a Marathon Mum). Enough of my words here are her own:

"Although I blog as Jane Henry, I write under my actual name of Julia Williams.

I am a poacher turned gamekeeper, in that I used to edit teen fiction and now I write commercial women's fiction. My first novel, Pastures New is coming out in the new Avon imprint at Harper Collins in September, which is just a bit exciting.

I'm currently writing my second (as yet untitled book), which appears to be heavily influenced by Green Wing at the moment. I always use music for inspiration when writing and all my characters have theme tunes. My hero's are: The First Cut is the Deepest/Fifteen Years and my heroine's are: The Weakness in Me/Can't Get You Out of My Head. The Miracle of Love is the theme for when they eventually get together...

Thanks to Green Wing and because the book is going to feature dancing heavily, my hero and heroine's catch phrase is currently : Dance Like No One's Looking. This may well change by the end of the book. But that's my prerogative. I am after all a writer..."

A huge thanks to Jane/Julia for being first.......who is brave enough to be next?

I have half written up the third and final installment of the Savoy lunch. It reads a bit like hello magazine :-) Will post it tomorrow.

Finally the new fiction contest starts tomorrow on the Maht's The Moontopples blog... Check it out :-)

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Savoy 3

Well a few days later and I confess I'm still tired. I'm too old I've decided. However first things first.......what did I wear. In the end the lovely top my mother gave me for my birthday back on the 9th. If you are curious there is a photo of moi with great writing friend Fiona Harper on her blog, She also has some other photos of the Savoy. I should have brought a camera and I wouldn't have to rely on the dodgy pictures from my phone. I include one more. Nell Dixon with Madde Rowe, one of the lovely editors at Mills and Boon.

Now, onto the rest of the wonderful things at the Savoy. As I mentioned fellow Novel Racer Bernardine Kennnedy was there as was Lesley Cookman. Please forgive me as this will begin to read like Hello magazine with the names just rolling by.....I had a chance for a quick chat with Kate Walker before lunch when I saw the author, Susie Vereker who wrote An Old-Fashioned Arrangement of one of my favorite books last year. From my to be read pile.....was the lovely Jane Gordon Cummings who was one of the clever organizers. Jan Jones, another one of the brilliant organizers, who again was guardian angel in her seating arrangements. I was with two other aspiring writers, two agents, Julie Cohen, Delys Curthoys, and one wonderful author who I must confess I can't remember her name. She was brilliant and I'm off to buy the suggested books to help me find exactly what I should be writing (that will be a subject of another day). I was delighted to see Giselle Green mentioned back in the post on marketing........ Oh and I finally met Judy Astley who has a home near mine in Cornwall.

The lunch flew by with Rosie Thomas' win and then Nell Dixon's. Once on my feet I ran into Jenny Haddon, the chair of the RNA who was looking stunning and did a brilliant job as mc. Michelle Styles who had been one of the short list for the Romance prize and her lovely daughter. See I did mention it would be a bit like Hello magazine......sort of the who is who of romantic fiction. I didn 't have the opportunity to speak with the Michael Allan of the blog Grumpy Old Bookman but I was pleased with his write-up of the event on his blog. In the bar immediately after I caught with Fiona again and had a great chat to an editor from Mills and Boon and her MIRA colleague and journalist Danuta Kean.

Finally after that is was off to the pub to meet up with dedicated! Things begin to go slightly fuzzy but I had great fun with Jan Jones, Roger Sanderson, Fiona Harper, Bernardine Kennedy, Lesley Cookman, Judy Astley, Gilli Allan, Jenny Harper, Jean Buchanan, Henrietta Gyland, Mary Zacaroli and Katie Fforde. In the end the die-hards were Henrietta, Gilli, Mary, Katie and I. We ventured off into the wilds of Covent Garden on a Friday night to find food. It was a good meal from what I remember but the company was tops.

Thank God it's another year until the next one :-)

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Savoy 2

Well, still tired but now sitting here realizing I need to get out more!!! I met the wonderful fellow Novel Racer Bernardine Kennedy there. While chatting with her someone came up and introduced Bernardine to a striking blond woman in a fabulous dress. She said her name and I didn't catch it but smiled and spoke to her about her dress. It was from Biba and it wasn't expensive......the conversation went on. The drees was deep gold run through with metallic. it was fabulous but she had just the perfect figure to wear and the outfit was finished off to to die for brown high boots. She said if you couldn't dress up for the Romanic Novelist Lunch then when could you. How true.........

Now until an hour ago I had forgotten about this encounter. Then I received an email from the wonderful Bernardine talking about her Savoy experience. She spoke of how kind it was that her ex-editor introduced her to Amanda Ross (Amanda Ross) ........of the Richard and Judy book club fame........the most powerful women in publishing. I met her clueless and wittered on about her fabulous dress. I may never ever been lucky enough to meet her......lost opportunities???? Well, as I don't have a book in print probably not.

However if my fabulous Have You Seen Adam badge had arrived sooner I could have promoted that In Search of Adam (Thank you wonderful Caroline)............I have worm my badge proudly today looking for Adam at the plumbers merchant on Munster Road and to the Fulham Mitre for lunch.........

So hence the ghastly picture of a worn and tired me........... but proudly wearing my badge which I trying to keep away from my dd.

More on the Savoy later but had to share my utter dismay with my own lack of knowledge!!!


What a day! The day would have been wonderful no matter what but was made more so by the recipient of the Romance Prize being friend, Nell Dixon for Marrying Max. I was sitting next to Julie Cohen when the award was announced and we just refrained from totally embarrassing ourselves. The others on table you know her then!!!!
Rosie Thomas won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award for Iris and Ruby. I did managed to speak to her and she said she did remember meeting me last year and commenting of the Savoy Lunch.......well, it was nice to here.
I will blog more about the day later but will confess to being tired as I rolled home at 10......

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Savoy Lunch

Tomorrow I get to play a grown up and a writer. Tomorrow is the Romantic Novelist Association's luncheon to award the Romantic Novel of the Year. This is big stuff - very big stuff if you are a groveling little (not really a correct term for me but what the h...)aspiring novelist like me. Last year I went and trembled all day as I knew so few of the very very glamorous people there. Fortunately the members of the RNA are a kind and friendly lot. Jan Jones showed me the ropes when I arrived and soon with a glass or two of wine on an empty stomach the world looked a lot brighter. I then found the face of fellow newbie Fiona Harper and this helped tremendously. The whole event passed in a blur but again Jan who had helped with the seating arrangement had put me at a table with a great bunch which included two of my now fellow novel racers, Lesley Cookman and Bernardine Kennedy, plus Jill Mansell and Giselle Green. I had a ball and the only down side was the speaker but that is best forgotten. Post lunch I had a wonderful time chatting with Katie Fforde and Danuta Kean in the pub. I think I floated home. I, a lowly nobody, had had a ball with so many wonderful authors........I still smile thinking about it.

The following day I went to my book club which this time was taking place at the then Oktars in Putney to discuss Rosie Thomas's book Iris & Ruby with her. Well, I was still glowing (nothing to do with the copious amounts of wine consumed the day before) from my exciting day at the Savoy. I spoke with Rosie and asked if she had gone. No, she hadn't been in years. Well ,as Iris & Ruby is shortlisted this year, I trust she'll be there tomorrow.

Also awarded tomorrow is the Romance Prize. This is given to the best category Romance. There are two newcomers on the list that I am secretly routing for - Nell Dixon and Michelle Styles. I'll keep you posted.

So now down the the nitty gritty........what to wear. What fits? What's comfortable - as it's a long day and finally, what looks good? Answer........nothing. Tomorrow morning I will have turned out my entire wardrobe and nothing will make me happy. I should have taken the sound advice and bought something new but I haven't. Well, I did in Florida so hopefully something from that shopping will come up trumps tomorrow. Let's hope anyway.

So tomorrow morning I'll be meeting up for coffee before had with Fiona Harper. Both of us and really looking forward to the big event this year.............

Hopefully the profiles of the novel racers will start to filter in.......slowly I am slipping around blogs and asking them. Of course I would greatly appreciate anyone being proactive and emailing (address in profile) to do my broken nails for tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Novel Racers Update

Well, its now half a week since the rough draft of A Cornish House has been in the bag. Have I forgotten it? Only when the champagne bubbles made me forget why we were drinking it! Seriously things have been bubbling around in the old brain but I have not touched it, I promise. I know I need distance to read it objectively. Mind you I have plenty of distance from the beginning of the book as I have not read it. Yes, it's true. I have written 92,500 words and have not read them. Brave? Foolish? Both? Don't know yet.......

So in this sabbatical from full-on writing I thought I would like to high-light the Novel Racers one by one if they are game. We are a diverse bunch and it has been so much more fun writing with them cheering and commiserating along side lines. So today I am going to ask each racers to write a paragraph or two about themselves or their work or their dog or cat or whatever takes their fancy........

Before that though we have added a few new racers. The latest is Cally at I recommend a prompt visit to see her as she has a wonderful clip from Family Guy about it taking three years to write a novel. It was so true it almost made me cry.......with laughter of course.

Also new to the racers is Jacqui Lofthouse at She is not only a novelist but a writing coach. I signed up for her newsletter and with that came some wonderful articles on the just getting writing that would have come in handy at the middle of the book when I was dragging my feet. Definitely a worth while read..........

Maht over at is gearing up for another writing contest on his blog on 1st May - so pop by and see what's happening. He also entered the competition at the "endless Hour" short fiction contest. You can still enter today. For some reason I don't do short fiction so I have avoided it but I thoroughly enjoyed Maht's entry.

Other news.........The house is shaping up nicely from all my attention. Still no word on the location of our imminent move. So today I thought I would tell you the likely options and maybe we could run a bet on which one will win out???? So here are the main contenders:

Kuala Lumpur
Wild Card

Let me know your guess and I'll keep a running tally.

Finally the big stress item in my life at the moment........what to wear on Friday at the RNA Romantic Novel of the Year award lunch at the Savoy. When all around you is crazy I find it best to stress about those items you can do something about........if there is nothing in the wardrobe them I have the perfect excuse to shop :-)

Monday, April 23, 2007


Well, A Cornish House is in capable hands. She will tell me if it's total crap. Trembling in my boots a bit but this is good. I know that it is very rough at this point and there is much to do to make it something special. However I am quite excited to begin the revision process in a little bit of time.

Right now I must focus on organizing for the move to who knows where. So this morning I spent in the boys room going through! Clothes that wouldn't fit since they have both become giants, toys they no longer play with......and things I can't part with.......brio train sets and Lego. Still trying to hold onto my little boys who now tower over me!

I have begun lists and then as a treat printed off the He Wrote She Wrote I missed while on holiday and the push to the end of the book. This afternoon I will curl up with the print off and cut of tea (With note pad nearby as I start thinking about what needs to change in A Cornish House). Did I say I was taking a week or two off??????

Friday, April 20, 2007

It's Done!!!!!!!!

News flash.......the very rough draft draft of A Cornish House is finished!!!! What a relief. I can now sit back and say although all 92513 may be crap it is done and it is the third complete novel I have written!!!!

Will be breaking out some bubbly tonight - in fact must go put it in the fridge. Just wanted to say thank you to all the other novel racers and other friends who have kept me going along the way. I won't say I wouldn't have done it with out you but it would have been a lot more lonely and certainly less fun. THANKS!!!!!

Have a great weekend on and all :-)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Wise Words

"There is nothing more challenging, to my mind, than grabbing a stranger and making him or her feel things with nothing more than the alphabet. To take someone on a ride with such meager tools is an accomplishment indeed, and I salute all of the writers who have taken me on such journeys. "

This wonderful insight is from Maht at He is a fellow novel racer and as I read these words yesterday I thought wow that is exactly what I am trying to do but never thought of it in quite that way. It also made me think of all the books that have swept me away so that I forgot all their components and became lost in a new world.......

So I am writing today. I haven't started yet. I was doing my warming up of scanning blogs when I hopped over to Therese's blog She is talking openly and honestly about the climb to be a writer but not just a writer but a best selling one. Her insights were brilliant and the discussion of the craft portion of the entry hit home. It was about upping the stakes. So near the end of A Cornish House I am now thinking about how I can up the stakes. Take the story from good to hot.........but of course I must finish it first. Off to open word :-)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Still Laundry and No Words

Still attacking the laundry pile. Why does it never diminish? One son has disappeared to the world of school not to be heard from until he needs something. Sniff.

Littlest back to school this morning and that leaves gorgeous ginger son home for the day before he heads off to school tonight. Sniff.

Words will begin again tomorrow. They must. It is imperative that I finish A Cornish House before the rush towards the move begins which it will soon. This morning I was quite weepy handing in a term's notice on littlest school. She began there as a wee thing in a pinafore and now has grown to kilts and proper big girls clothes. Times flies.

I thought I would speak about my wonderful trip to Florida. The photo above was taken by littlest who wrestled control of the camera during a visit to Corkscrew Nature Reserve. The Dh and the three kids went there while I was packing. Out of 40 photos - fifteen are in focus, five are of the family and remainder are of what looks to be leaves and branches and grass. The one above if you look closely has some bird at the centre. It is wonderful when you put a camera in the hands of child. Some of my favorite holiday photos have been taken by the kids. Their perspective is so different to adults. Therefore I will cherish the photo of half a gecko amongst the 40......and post my favorite picture of DH and me taken taken by littlest three years ago in Cairo........

That leads me back to the expat life again. I'm originally from Boston, MA. I left in 1989 and moved to London and since then I have lived in Calgary, London (again), Moscow, Houston, Jakarta, Dubai, London and ????. So going to visit my parents in Florida was very strange this time. I hadn't been back to the States in two years. I felt very strange. I was so out of touch with my native land. I spent hours discussing with friends of my parents the different perspective you have of things when you are away from it. We were specifically discussing the Catholic Church. I was living in Dubai at the time that the Archdiocese of Boston blew up with the abuse scandal. It was reported and discussed and then moved on. Because we didn't have the media harping on about it every two minutes it didn't have the impact it clearly had there. Once it was out and new safe guards put in place it became an issue of the past that needed to be dealt with but didn't affect the daily life of the Church outside Boston. I couldn't understand fully the angst of friends back home who were on the verge of abandoning the Church. It didn't make sense to me dealing with different issues like being a practicing Catholic in an Islamic country - which in Dubai was easy but not so in Jakarta. The issues of poverty and how much more spiritual the Catholics from Asia were seemed to occupy my thinking.

This was just one of the things that struck home when I landed in Florida and thought how far removed I have become from those of my homeland yet I am not one of my husband country either. I am a global nomad now. My perspective has been shaped by my upbringing but all my expat experiences have put a very different twist of how I look at life. I can no longer look a problem from one side..........this I take as being good but there are times when it would be wonderful to have the blinkered vision that comes from being firmly rooted in one spot. It is something my children will never know having been dragged round the world...........

Enough rambling for today. Back to laundry and name tapes. Tomorrow my reality of writing begins :-)

Monday, April 16, 2007

Laundry and Expat Blues

I have piles of laundry. My eldest son goes back to school today and I have masses of laundry before that event can take place. He arrived home the day before we left for Florida with all his kit including trunk and tuck box. All that stuff has remained in the front hall fermenting for the past three and a half weeks. Last night when we returned from Cornwall, I approached the trunk with great trepidation. He sat on the stairs and watched so he could tell me whether the kit would be needed at school this term! His next comment was, 'I can smell it from here!'

The odor of adolescent boys socks filled the fetid atmosphere of a hot London house that hadn't been lived in for three weeks. The aroma should be bottled to kill off opposing armies!

Today begins the slow return to normal. I am happy to say the sun is shinning. All the off-spring are tucked up in bed and a feeling that all is normal is returning. With that comes the huge tasks ahead of me. Finishing A Cornish House is the high point to look forward to in the next day or so. The low is the knowledge that we are moving and don't yet know where. Once in my life I looked eagerly to each transfer but at the moment with the sun shining in London I can't think of another place I want to live other than my home in Cornwall.

This is the joy and pain of expat life. The problem was that although the company treated this as just another move - coming back to London was returning home. This happened once before and it was was brutal then. Leaving home is not the same as leaving another international posting. You know in your mind that you are on borrowed time in some foreign locale but back in the UK roots start to find their way into the soil and it hurts when they are pulled up.

Hence why the elder two kids are ensconced in boarding school. They are both at an age when ripping them out and changing schools every few years isn't fair. But then my soul yells what about me...I miss them terribly and yes I say this with a long bickering car journey from Cornwall still clear in my mind.

So back to smelly laundry and to unpack from Florida which is just a distant memory. Why haven't I unpacked yet.......well, we had to go to our home in Cornwall so once we landed and hit London I became a fierce animals herding the troops into the car and straight down without a chance to think. I knew once settled into the house in London they would never get out the door again and our beautiful home beckoned........

Enough rambling.........back to normal soon before the packing crates start arriving :(

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


I'm packing and leaving in a few hours.......I don't want to go. It's been a fabulous holiday. We are rested and tanned and not too fat after our time here in Naples. Hell, I even managed write a few thousand words. What more could I ask for except another couples of weeks?????

So hopefully spring has found the London again while we were gone. There was frost on the ground at Gatwick as we left and I send a silent prayer that it won't be bleak grey skies on our return!!!

I will be back to more regular posting and finishing A Cornish House. The last few hundred words I wrote were crap.........not in content but style. I had so much I wanted to say but did it all in flash back in order to put the words down. The scene is totally crap. However the thoughts were captured and I can rewrite the scene in a better manner later. Normal writing will return soon. The kids still have another week of hols so I will progress slowly as sniff sniff I will be back to cooking and housework too..........

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


This holiday business is brilliant. My kids are happy. My parents are happy. My husband will soon be with us. I am happy and I am writing :-) Madde's story is almost told. I would think things will have resolved themselves in the next 5000 words give or take. Today may be see The End which is quite exciting. It means rewrites will begin and I will see all I need to do but the basic story is out and on the page. I can work with that.

But that not the high point of the holiday although close. Its great coming to my parents because I actually have a holiday. My parents let me off the hook for lots of things that go one at home - like house work, so I can just enjoy sun. sea, and shopping. Plus reading........which goes onto my next bit. I finished Haunted Hearts by Jessica Raymond last night. She made me cry - the sod. It was a perfect poolside read. I loved the characters and the twists of the supernatural - highly recommended. Now I am on to my next book club selection The Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky which will not quite be the poolside read but so far brilliant.

This brings me onto book shopping. I brought most of my books out with me - except I ordered Jess's and had it delivered here but my kids had run out of reading materials. A trip to the local Barnes and Noble was required - what a shame. Once the kids were sorted I browsed the book sections and there I was thrilled to bits so see some friends names. In fact so thrilled I played the complete tourist and took a photo or two. So Katie, Kate and Fiona I was so excited I felt like a little kid when I saw your books there. Especially for Fiona Harper who attended the RNA conference in Egham as a novice like me. She has now gone from strength to strength with her debut book, Blind Date Marriage,which is currently up for a RITA. I go all tingly with excitement for her!
But I can't leave Katie Fforde or Kate Walker out of the comments. Both women are unstinting in their support of new writers. Even though I am not aiming for the Harlequin Mills & Boon market any more Kate Walker's support is still there cheering me on. Plus she writes great books to sink into when life stresses! Several of hers eased me through my house move last summer! I love Katie Fforde's books in fact I brought one with me which is next up after the book club selection......and she has always been so kind and encouraging each time we have met. Oh, I have also brought her sister's, Jane Gordon Cummings, book A Proper Family Christmas with me to read!

Finally I was able to pick up C.S.Harris's book What Angels Fear to add to the holiday reading list but I have a feeling my Dad might nick it first.

Now back to wrapping up Madde's story and the pool of course!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Glimmer of Light

The words have been gushing out today. There is a glimmering of light peaking through for Madde. All the world's darkness may not yet settle into her soul and I want to push towards her joy but the pool and my kids beckon. Tough isn't???

Florida is lovely. I won't wax on about it as it's not fair be enjoying such glorious weather :-)

I am half way through Haunted Hearts which I am loving (breath easy Jess). I'm also feeling terribly guilty and missing checking in all the other racers....My thoughts are with you all even if my comments aren't. I have to confess I popped over to check out Kate's blog to read the coffee comments and was thrilled to see she had won the race. Now the push is on for second!