Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas is even closer!

Like Liz, I'm rushing around trying to get everything ready in time for Christmas and it's all a bit manic!  I honestly don't know why this happens every year because I always swear I'm going to start earlier/be more prepared/more organised/write better lists etc, but somehow it doesn't work out that way.  But maybe that's part of the fun?  If we were too organised, it wouldn't be so exciting!

I love Christmas, and especially all the preparations beforehand – buying and wrapping presents, cooking, cleaning, decorating – and the 'will we be finished in time' factor adds a certain something to the proceedings.  The special magic of Christmas is that it usually always ends up being all right on the day though, so I've stopped worrying too much about it.  And if the decorations aren't perfect or something's missing from Christmas dinner, does it really matter?  One year we ended up eating just potatoes, vegetables and gravy, because the turkey wasn't cooked (thanks to faulty instructions for a new AGA it was completely raw in the middle - yuck!), but it didn't make Christmas any less fun.  In fact, it's one we remember with lots of laughter now!

So I'm just going to take a deep breath now, tell myself there are still two days to go and plenty of time and I have both my daughters here to help.  They've just decorated this lovely gingerbread house, our tree is up, and we're about to make a special (calorie free, ahem) dessert, so hopefully all is in hand.

Hope your preparations are going well too and I wish you a VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS and hope 2014 is a brilliant year for all of us!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas is almost here…gulp!

Christmas is catching me on the run. I'm still writing cards, buying presents, wrapping presents, buying food, planning menus and decorating…..

Yesterday I finally bought the tree. I was forced into buying a taller one as there were so few left. It always bothers me that I have to pay so much more for a spike that sticks up a foot and that I will need to cut off (we live in a cottage that is around 400 years old = low ceilings). However having had my moan it does look lovely after DD and I decorated while wearing Santa hats and singing at the top of our lungs…

Despite having the tree up I am feeling fraught. I have edits calling to me on A Cornish Stranger yet this time of year passes in a blink of an eye…so this morning I began making...

Aggie's Spiced Fruitcake 

At Christmas time when are all in a flurry of cooking and baking and organising it is wonderful to do something that grounds us and brings us back to a time when things were a little less crazy. For me it is stopping in the rush to make my Great Aunt Agnes' spiced fruit cake. The smell of the fruit and spices boiling wraps itself around me and slows me down just a bit. It reminds me of Christmas' past and also reminds me to treasure the present one. For me Christmas isn't Christmas until I make this cake.

Like all handed down family recipes nothing is exact. This is a wonderful recipe which is quite flexible in its ingredients and is especially useful using slightly old fruit like apples or oranges or satsumas that are just about to go off. 

Pre heat your oven to 180 degrees and butter several loaf tins or oven proof dishes. I can't say how many because it depends on how much extra fruit you add...

In a large pan add:

2 cups of sugar
1 cup of raisins
1 cup of mixed fruit (this being a US recipes that would mean glacé)
1 teaspoon of ground cloves
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 stick of butter (I think this is about a 1/4 pound)
(additions - old fresh fruit - apples, oranges etc...can add ginger and allspice)
3 cups of water (although my aunt would sometimes used left over coffee or tea)

The liquid should cover the fruit, if it doesn't add a little more. Bring the fruit to the boil. The scent that will fill the kitchen is divine. Let it simmer for a while - at least ten minutes. I am usually doing many other things so I can't say precisely. Then turn the heat off and let the mixture sit and cool. Sometime I simply cover and leave it over night. When the mixture is cool you can add a little whiskey or brandy.

So when the fruit mixture is cool (it will be quite thick and syrupy) add straight into the same pot slowly, bit by bit and mix with a big spoon:
3 cups of flour
then slowly add 2 teaspoons of baking soda mixed in a tablespoon of hot water

Give the mixture a good mix with a big spoon before pouring into the greased loaf tins.

Bake for about 45 minutes (this depends on the size of your tins) if a knife inserted into them comes out most ly clean they are cooked. 
If the cakes seem dry for any reason - which it shouldn't be - pour a bit more alcohol on it once cool.

For me a piece of the cake is Christmas past and present. Enjoy.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year….

Thursday, December 5, 2013

All You Want for Christmas...

Christmas anthology - release date 19th December 
Kiss from The Kiss Collection - release date 12th December

Are lots of short stories! Yes, you know that is top of your Christmas list. And what is even better is that you get to have these stories EARLY!

It is amazing that at Christmas last year I was unpublished. This year I have had a short story published, one more next week and a Christmas themed anthology published on 19th December.

I feel a little greedy.

I have also been indulging in some promotional madness. I was sent my beautiful Christmas cover and decided it HAD to be my Christmas card this year. Which was all good until the website I was on started tantalising me with other promotional goods that I could have my cover displayed on.

I managed to resist them all except one. The phone cover. I made the mistake of mocking one up with a book cover on it. It looked soooo good but I thought I should check what the other covers looked like. I think I started drooling.

But which one should I have made into an actual phone cover? I sat there flicking between the different versions whilst drinking some wine. Which could explain why I now have three new phone covers due to arrive sometime in the next few days. Ho hum.
Pretty in pink...

This is what they look like from the site…

Never putting phone away
All I Want for Christmas

How cool?!?! I did stop myself from buying a huge pop up banner for each cover so I was reasonably well behaved. Now when I am in coffee shops I will leave my phone face down waiting for comments or hold it up on the Tube for all to see. No one is going to mistake my phone for theirs.

So other than downloading my next kiss, The First Kiss and A Stocking Full of Romance anthology, what else are you wanting for Christmas?

'The First Kiss' is released on 12th December 2013 to pre-order click here
'A Stocking Full of Romance' is released on 19th December 2013 to pre-order click here

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Glamorous Life of an Author

Julie’s post last week made me think about how an author’s life might be perceived by people who don’t know us – glamorous, exciting and rewarding (in both senses of the word)!  While I was still ‘pre-published’, I dreamed of earning huge advances, having launch parties with canapés and champagne (even though I hate the stuff) and perhaps even going to movie premieres as my book was turned into a film.  The reality isn’t quite like that ...

Huge advances are not all they’re cracked up to be – from what I’ve heard anyway.  You might end up not earning out and then having to pay some of it back (even if you’ve already spent it!).  So having a small advance and decent royalties is much to be preferred I think.  That way, you might get a nice surprise if your book is selling well.

I haven’t had a glitzy launch party yet, although I did organise one in a pub for myself once.  No canapés and the ‘bubbly’ wasn’t champagne – just as well, since I scandalise my friends by putting 7Up in mine to make it taste better :-) (Sorry, I know it’s sacrilege!)

And the movie premiere?  Nope, not happened either, but maybe that’s a relief too since I only know two authors who have had their novels turned into movies, one of which bore very little resemblance to the actual book.  If you’re not J K Rowling with the power to vet the script and pick the actors, is it really worth it?  Well, I guess that would depend upon how many squillions of pounds/dollars you were offered.  (Any movie directors out there?  I’m willing to negotiate!)

As Julie said, the everyday life of an author is far from glamorous – slobbing around in your PJ’s or tracksuit bottoms with no make-up and your hair in a mess.  The housework rarely gets done (because there’s this one scene you’ve just got to write first) and the cooking is a bit hit and miss because your characters are talking to you and distracting you.  But none of the above matters because for me it’s the best job in the world – I get to decide my own working hours and routine, I can take a day off any time I want, I don’t have to get up early (yes!) and I can do all sorts of things in the name of research.  Brilliant!

I don’t care about the advances, parties or movie premiers either, as long as I’m allowed to make a living out of telling stories, in my own time, on my terms.  The thrill of holding a copy of my own book in my hands is all the reward I need (although of course it’s nice to be paid too!) - that is the great reality of being an author.  Anything else would just be a nice bonus (ok, a very nice bonus!)

Happy first Sunday of Advent, everyone!