One, a hundred, a million

One: my first review is out! On the Waterstone’s website. Only four stars (tragic), but packed with lovely five-star adjectives to make an author very happy.

A hundred: days till the book is published. According to the Waterstone’s website. Where my first review is out (see above).

A million: my approximate position on To be precise, it’s 1,093,089. So I’m guessing the only way is up.

Other stuff …

The publishers have found a chapter they like from book 2 to go in the back of book 1. So I feel as if the characters are growing up in front of my eyes.

The garden is looking magnificent (in a small but perfectly formed way) in the sunshine, especially with all the family ranged around it, eating ice creams and teasing each other.

The weekend we happen to need to buy new bathroom stuff happens to be the weekend (are you following me here?) when it’s on sale half price.

Somebody up there loves me. Thank you, Somebody.


This week I am mostly …

  • Thinking up titles for book 2. The problem with Threads being so short and perfect, with just the right double meanings, is that it’s almost impossible to repeat the process for book 2. There’s a fab title in the wings for book 3, but that doesn’t help right now. I’m emailing the Chicken House people daily with ideas. They’re being very nice about it …
  • Wondering how Katie Price can do this to her kids when it is PERFECTLY OBVIOUS that Peter Andre is the best man she’s ever going to meet and she’s lucky to have him. Is she doing this purely for the publicity? Well, she might be, but I can’t imagine he is THAT cold-heartedly calculating. Is he? Sigh.
  • Trying not to make book 2 feel like too much of a travelogue. Feeling torn between working on research (travel, fashion … it could be worse) and working on the characters. In book 1, I tried to make sure that every single line counted. They never did anything just because I had a spare sentence hanging around. I feel the pruning shears coming out.
  • Trying to ignore my garden, which has become twice its size in the last fortnight, and needs as much pruning as the book. But isn’t going to get it.
  • Re-reading my favourite bits of June Vogue. Not the body bits, which (sorry, Alex Shulman) I don’t find that interesting. But the ‘how to make a couture-looking jacket out of a thirty quid piece from Next, tea-dyed (sic) and fluffed up with a lace collar’ bits. Wow wow wow.
  • Telling myself not to buy the sexiest cushion (yes, they really exist) I’ve ever seen with some of the proceeds from the German sale of book 1, which I probably won’t see for a year anyway.
  • Choosing carpets.
  • Choosing wallpaper.
  • Choosing bathroom flooring.
  • Trying to cuddle my sons more and refrain from thinking about plot complications and title issues for book 2 while doing so.
  • Trying to cuddle my husband more. Ditto.
  • Wondering how I get in to the St Martins degree shows in the summer. I guess you just turn up.
  • Being VERY ANGRY that Jerry Hall has lost her autobiography contract because she won’t kiss and tell enough about Mick. It’s not even her kissing they want, but other people’s kissing and the ‘devastating effect’ it had on her. Can’t you just be a phenomenally successful model, mother of four, actress, all-round interesting person and ex-wife of a rock star and write about that? Is that not enough for today’s readers? Do you have to include stuff you probably don’t share with most of your close friends, because you’re too nice and decent? WHAT WERE THEY THINKING? I’ll buy the book, Jerry, promise, and the nicer it is, the more true to your character it will be and the more I’ll like it. Mick can wash his own dirty linen in public if he wants to.
  • Starting to book tickets for various plays we Really Ought To Go To, and feeling too tired, after all the writing and carpet-choosing and cuddling, to imagine actually going out. Why do I live in London? Oh yes, so I know I can go, if I want to. Another day.
  • Watching Wings, by Aprilynne Pike (thanks, Justine) wing its way up the NYT bestseller charts. That woman is doing some PUBLICITY. She has now set the standard for what a debut teen book can do. Too scary. Can’t compete. Still happy with my 3 books on a bookshelf (public one, not my own) in September. However, if anyone wants me to do a reading …

The best job in the world

Go to coffee shop. Do new timeline for book, based on ‘research’ last night (for which, read supper with old friends, one of whom is an expert in the field. Thai chicken curry, cooked by local food shop. Prepared by husband while I ‘researched’. Top evening.).

Think about next scene, which is a biggie. Get idea to make it more exciting. Get other idea about first idea, which makes it so exciting it’s like watching a particularly gripping bit of someone else’s movie. Walk across Common to library rehearsing scene to myself, in case I forget it. Can’t wait to write it down. Counting the minutes.

Get to food shop next to library. Coincidentally, the shop that produced the Thai chicken curry. It also does cappuccinos. Order cappuccino. Have chat with shop owner. Go to library. Read papers while drinking cappuccino (second of day). Get serious caffeine high. Set up laptop in favourite bit of library (including earphones, phone on silent, banana, smoothie, Kit-Kat etc. – this takes some time). Answer emails. Google. Answer answers to my emails. By now at least an hour since I absolutely had to write scene.

Write scene. Eat banana. Drink smoothie. Eat Kit-Kat. Write other kick-ass scene. Get several thousand words ahead of schedule. Do more celebratory googling.

Look at time on laptop. It’s 17.06. Go home in time to watch 2 year-old eating sausage and broccoli supper. Catch up with husband, who’s been shopping.

Put 2 year-old to bed. Call mother. Watch husband doing his blog. Watch America’s Next Top Model and Eurovision semi-final.

Contemplate ironing. Do blog instead. Are there better jobs in the world?

No. There aren’t.

Other people’s books

The danger of hanging around on writing blogs and websites is that you risk encountering someone who’s written something more engaging than you, with a better hook. Like Gayle Foreman, who’s written If I Stay.

It’s her third novel for teenagers, so I guess she’s had time to get really good at this sort of thing. I’ve read the synopsis and the first chapter (on Amazon). Already worked out how I’d have written the book based on that synopsis and realised how much fun it would have been. Now waiting to read the real thing.

Think The Horse Whisperer meets The Lovely Bones, but with a cool teenage voice and lots of impressive cello music in the background. What’s not to like? Go, Gayle.

Chickens bearing gifts



I am really hoping something.

I’m hoping that when my publisher has tried really, really hard to do the best by my book and make people excited about it, the people in question (big book trade people, not sure who exactly, but I’m assuming critics and book buyers and people) will think ‘Yippee, this book looks fun; love the wrapping; how lovely’. Not ‘Oh, right, no book is ever EVER going to live up to this build-up; what can I find to be disappointed by?’

Of course, if I have to choose between a publisher who puts my copy proof (???? still working on terminology here) in a pink box and wraps it with a blue ribbon and one who can’t quite remember who I am, I pick the pink box people every time. I love them to bits and I’m very happy to be a part of their world.

But a pink box means Expectations. A blue ribbon is abutting the borders of Hype.

Help! it’s a little fashion fairy tale for teenagers. Be nice to it, everyone. Treat it gently. It simply wants to give you a warm glow of happiness. And you can use the box for Keeping Things In. And recycle the ribbon for presents. How fabulous is that?

The silence of the Tweets


The god of social media is having his revenge.

Tuck yourself up on the sofa, Carla, remind yourself of the magazines sold, the album sales, the pre-Letizia (and pre-Michelle, actually) glowing reviews, and laugh the laugh of the righteous woman.

In this networked world we live in, I’ve discovered two things.

First, I’ve made enough of a splash with my book for one (yup, one singular) stranger to have mentioned me on Twitter.

Second, I made no impression on her whatsoever. None. Zip. Zero. She had 140 characters at her disposal for a follow-up tweet, and I didn’t merit any of them. Not even an emoticon.

Not only this, but I was doing a reading at the time with four other people and they all interested her in one way or another. She got more enthusiastic as she went along and by the end she was positively cheeping.

But for me, she was eerily silent. Was she perhaps having her wineglass refilled? Was someone having a whispered conversation in her ear? Had her BlackBerry temporarily run out of juice as I read and chatted my way through my allotted five minutes?

We shall never know. We don’t really care. This was simply designed as a reminder that By your blogs and tweets shall ye be judged.

Carla may not have looked Vogue-cover-perfect in her dodgy Dior, but at least we cared enough to comment. I thought I looked rather spiffing in my last-minute-present little cocktail number. And I did the voices and everything when I read. But I was speaking to a void. Stephen Fry, Oprah and Barack Obama have nothing to fear from me.

The rest is silence.

Dress Up, Lie Low

Princess Letizia of Spain and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy

Princess Letizia of Spain and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy

Oh, the schizophrenia of following fashion and celebrity stories.

Why do I feel so smug and indulgent reading about Princess Letizia’s 1-0 fashion knock-out against Carla Sarkosy last week, but almost physically sick watching Lindsay Lohan being hounded over her breakup by the very press who then accuse her of becoming anorexically thin?

There’s no totally justifiable answer. Somewhere, there’s a thin line between what’s appropriate and what’s prurient, and the papers and weekly magazines stray over it several times a day. I try and play hopscotch along the line and trip myself up endlessly.

It is, I know, wrong of me to be fascinated by Jennifer Aniston’s love life, for example. I can’t help it, because, like every right-thinking female, (including her best friends, according to ‘sources’) I want to grab her perfectly toned shoulders and shout “He’s a self-confessed cad, you silly girl. Of course he’s going to dump you on Twitter and write a song about it.”

We’ve all had friends like that, known men like that. Reading about her is like having a large glass of chardonnay with a bunch of girlfriends from school and righting the moral universe.

Similarly with Brad and Ange. Not my business, I absolutely agree, but nevertheless a part of me wants to sit down with that girl and tell her to stop dieting, take a few months off, de-stress and focus on her family. Do I know for a fact that she is dieting? Or that this is causing her stress? Or that the family needs more of her focus? Not at all, but ‘sources close to the family’ suggest it does. And while I’m flipping between Jennifer’s love life and the Top 10 Floral Summer Dresses, I can’t help skim-reading the main points and coming up with a theory. But would I be happier if the people they paid to work for them, or trusted in other ways, didn’t blab to the media and I didn’t have these stories to read? Yes, I would. Much.

I don’t buy the magazines for this reason. In fact, when they go too far (which, let’s face it, has to be way too far in this day and age), I deliberately don’t buy them at all and have to forego knowing what this week’s top 10 summer dresses are.

I don’t buy them when they feature super-thin Li-Lo on the cover, looking harrassed and hounded, and speculate about how she’s coping since her break-up. I can imagine how she’s coping. We’ve all been there. It doesn’t take ‘sources’ to speculate on that one. And we all wanted to be left well alone when we were there. Not photographed and asked for a sound-bite by some cable channel that will run with it as a headline story for the next five days. What schoolchild sits in class thinking ‘One day, I’m going to make my fortune out of upsetting famous strangers and driving them to prescription drug dependency’?

But oh, boy do I buy the magazines when they feature the matching, couture-clad bottoms of Princess Letizia of Spain and Carla Bruni-Sarkosy, and indulge in a bitch-fest (with which I agree on every point) about who came out on top. Oh, the shoes. On the shoes alone, the Princess scored 150 and Carla was minus a zillion.

My justification is this. These girls dress up for a living. They were doing it at a state occasion, in this case, in which tax-payers’ money was probably involved. So sort-of indirectly, I paid. They expected to be photographed, and possibly even hoped for it. They are both fundamentally gorgeous (although we now know that Princess Letizia is more so, heh heh heh), and the worst we have to say about either is that one of them (not the Princess) chose inappropriate tights and sleeve length and heel height (oh, and dress colour and fit) and did her hair funny. Their meeting in Madrid was the fashion equivalent of the Hatton/Pacquiao boxing match in Vegas, and if nobody had commented on that, a lot of people in sport would have been deeply disappointed.

Don’t quote me on that, though. It’s a justification as far as it goes, but it can really be summed up as ‘nobody got hurt’. Not the world’s most noble argument, but it will have to do.

Were either of them to be door-stopped in the days that followed, and asked for their opinions by paparazzi hoping for a public display of tears, I would be appalled. I wouldn’t buy the magazine that paid for the photo. It’s easy to imagine Carla looking in shocked horreur at the pictures of herself in Paris Match. I don’t need a re-run of it on E! channel.

Meanwhile, somebody wore sky-high pink platforms to go with her raspberry pink bandage dress and somebody wore black kitten-heel Louboutins, to underscore the monotony of her too-tight Dior. Pass me a glass of chardonnay, girls. I need to see those pictures of Jennifer Aniston and the Oscars again so I can re-run my mental ‘Stay Away From Him’ conversation and imagine she was listening.