Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Revenge of Lady Muck

Due for international release on St. Patrick's Day 2010 - are those shamrocks I see on the cover?

Friday, November 27, 2009

I Smell Christmas!

I'm not Christmas person. Apart from the visit to church. The rest of Festive Season - the turkey, the tinsel, the Christmas music, the Santa shopping - I can cheerfully live without. I suppose I'm a bit of a humbug.
But today there is the most delicious smell wafting through our house. I'm cooking a lamb tagine with dates, almonds and pistachios; it's simmering away and one of the spices in it is cinnamon.
I'm firmly convinced that cinnamon is the smell of Christmas. It's like a subliminal message. In the past hour I've dug out the Christmas tree decorations from the cupboard under the stairs. I've paused to smile at the four 'letters to Santa' pinned up on tartlets' notice board. Five if you count the one Maud wrote on behalf of our dog, Millie - 'Please send me a boy dog to play with'.
And I've started to read The Seven Secrets of Happiness, by my favourite author Sharon Owens. Now isn't that a Christmas present bookcover if you ever saw one? And the story is a Christmas story - it starts on a snowy Christmas Eve evening, with beautiful Ruby O'Neill sat in front of her Christmas tree waiting for her much adored husband to come home from work and ravish her...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Most Lamentable Comedy

Janet Mullany
It was the proudest day of my literary career when I discovered my novel The Pineapple Tart on a list on Amazon entitled ‘pure escapism’; rubbing shoulders with Nancy Mitford, Winifred Watson, EF Benson and Georgette Heyer. I had already read Nancy, Winifred and Fred, but I’d never read any Georgette; unfairly I’d dismissed her Regency romances as a bit too saccharine for my taste.
How mistaken I was! For the woman is a genius! She cannot write a boring sentence. She’s as witty, sly and ironic as the reigning queen of romance, Jane Austen, and just like Jane her stories are set among the wealthy upper classes during the Regency period, when ‘a large income is the best recipe for happiness I have ever heard of’ (Mansfield Park, 1814).
A Most Lamentable Comedy follows in the romantic traditions of Georgette Heyer and also of Jane Austen. It’s set in Regency times and is full of exquisite, meticulously researched details about the fashions, the food, the forms of address and the acceptable codes of behaviour of that era.
But, and here’s the interesting part, because A Most Lamentable Comedy is a contemporary novel, Janet Mullany has added her own 21st Century spin to the story.
It’s 1822. Artful Lady Caroline Elmsworth is having a run of bad luck. She’s only twenty three and already widowed twice. Her good reputation is in shreds; she is pursued by her creditors. She’s hiding out at a big house in the country, taking part in farcical amateur dramatics; hoping to soon ensnare another rich stupid husband. Instead she meets and is immediately attracted to gorgeous Nicholas Cosgreavance, recently returned from the Continent. Cosgreavance is also down on his luck; he’s seeking a rich silly widow to exploit. Very soon the pair are furiously flirting. This is how Nicholas tells it –
I prepare to brush my lips against hers in moderately chaste fashion...
She is the first to disengage. “Do you usually kiss ladies for a quarter-hour at a time?” she asks.
“Do you usually time such activities?” I respond.
And from here we relax into a delicious, high spirited romance as roguish Caroline and black sheep Nicholas fall hopelessly in love with each other. It’s hopeless because they’re both penniless and in Regency times there were no government handouts or youth training schemes, or student loans to assist with third level education. There was only the debtor’s prison for Caroline and the unsavory job of male gigolo for Nicholas. Fortunately for the young lovers, Nicholas is the estranged half brother of a Duke and the Duke is thoroughly decent chap...
So in the best traditions of romantic literature - everyone lives happily ever after.
Janet Mullany is originally from England but now lives in America. She has worked as an archaeologist, a performing arts administrator, classical music radio announcer and editor for a small press. Her inspiration for A Most Lamentable Comedy came when she was rereading Our Mutual Friend by Dickens, which has two minor characters, Alfred and Sophronia Lammle, who marry and then find out neither has any money.
VERDICT: Georgette Heyer once said: “I think myself I ought to be shot for writing such nonsense... But it’s unquestionably good escapist literature and I think I should rather like it if I were sitting in an air-raid shelter or recovering from flu.”
Well, touch wood, I’m rarely ill, and I’ve never sat in an air-raid shelter but I’ve spent many hours trapped in Economy class, flying longhaul, and I can vouch for ability of a witty, well written Regency romance to transport the reader far away from the discomforts of modern reality.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Chase Me Charlie

This is the first sentence of my new novel -
It was just another gymkhana. There was clear round jumping the main arena and fornication in the horse boxes parked up in military rows in the big front field at Kinelvin.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

New Moon

I've just seen the trailer for New Moon - sequel to Twilight - and it's amazing! Not only is there Edward Cullen's slender pale six pack to admire but we ladies now have added beefcake in the shape of a pack of werewolves.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pride and Prejudice

This adaptation of Pride and Prejudice is my favourite movie. I harbour a special affection for the tender romance between Bingley and Jane; both shy and both easily influenced by the unscrupulous opinions of others..
What I did not realise until today, while casually flicking through the novel, is most of the dialogue in the movie is Jane Austen's - how witty and wise she was - I especially like the words of worldly Charlotte:
"...there are very few of us who have heart enough to be really in love without encouragement. In nine cases out of ten a woman had better shew more affection than she feels. Bingley likes your sister undoubtedly; but he may never do more than like her, if she does not help him on."

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Alpha Kids

I'm very proud of my three alpha daughters. It was the school swimming gala to day and all three brought home medals. I am very proud of them because I am so not an alpha mum - I never push them to do anything, except homework...
The girls picked what races they wanted to swim in, and filled in their own application forms. They even set my alarm clock so I could drive them to the pool this morning. And Maud packed a lunch for me to eat, and Bea carried a cushion for me to sit on, and Flor had my novel in her swimming bag so I wouldn't be bored when they weren't in the pool.
But I wasn't bored a bit. I was too busy listening to and watching alpha parents coaxing and encouraging their children - "Push, Push, Push, can you feel the pain?" -I actually heard somebody say that!
My little girls felt no pain - they swam like fish through the water - I was dazzelled by their brilliance. So dazzelled I bought them a Mc Donalds each afterwards.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Playing Dead

Rory McCormac
I’m a shameless celebrity sycophant, so when I spotted Playing Dead with a glowing endorsement on its front cover by Tony McCoy, the Ulster jump jockey – ‘A fantastic read. Odds on to be a winner’ I was persuaded to buy it.
And anyway, vets and horses, and horsey vets have a dazzling effect on me, similar to the effect a man in uniform has on most normal women. I’ve read every Dick Francis ever written – (these are horse racing novels), and all of James Herriot too (he’s the veterinary bit).
Frank Samson is a young, hunky vet. He is also independently minded and having briefly worked in a large hierarchical practice, he now prefers to go it alone – he works as a locum vet.
He’s offered a two month posting in Connemara in the West of Ireland while the regular vet is in America. The regular vet has a regular practice, but for one famous customer – Catamaran, a stallion who is standing at stud in the catchment area of the veterinary practice. Catamaran, who was never beaten, is owned by a wealthy syndicate and is worth twenty five million pounds. Frank’s not a racing man, but he’s a shameless celebrity sycophant (just like myself) – and the second day on the job he swings past the stud farm to take some photos of the horse, to show off and boast about at horsey dinner parties…
Later that day, while he’s out on his rounds, he receives a distress call from the owner of the Stud – there has been a terrible accident, Catamaran has escaped from his loose box and bolted over the edge of a cliff. Frank rushes to the scene –the horse is alive, but only just; two legs are broken; he’s in ugly shock. The only thing Frank can do is put him out of his misery, by shooting him between the eyes with the owner’s shot gun.
Not the most auspicious start to Frank’s two months in Connemara!
After Catamaran’s unfortunate death things start to hot up for Frank. First his house is broken into then he’s lured on a bogus call in the middle of the night to an isolated location where he’s beaten up, kidnapped and held hostage.
The kidnapper is nervous and non violent. He’s wearing dark glasses and a balaclava to disguise his identity. He says all he wants are the photographs Frank took of Catamaran, the morning of the day he died. Frank is immediately suspicious as to why such innocent photographs could possibly be of such value and he does not offer them up even though they’re in his Landrover. Instead he determines to escape from the farmhouse and discover for himself what is so special about them…
While Frank is investigating the mystery of the photographs I learnt loads about bloodstock and horse racing. I especially learnt that horses can be identified by their whorls – these are hair swirls on the forehead and other parts of the body. Two horses can look identical, in size and shape and colour, but just like fingerprints in humans they will never have the same whorls.
Who says learning cannot be fun?
Rory McCormac is the nom de plume of real life vet, Maurice O’Scanaill who lives with his wife in Connemara. Maurice has had a varied career, in Ireland, Malta and Oman where he was Head Veterinarian at the Stud (Breeding) section of The Royal Stables, and Veterinary Advisor to various wildlife programs initiated by Oman’s ruler, Sultan Qaboos ibn Said.
So if there was ever a man fit to write convincingly about being a vet, this is the man to do it.
VERDICT: Well done to Hawk Hill Publishing for resurrecting such a likeable hero and such fast paced, enjoyable thriller.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Thought for the Day

If you don't make mistakes, you're not working on hard enough problems. And that's a big mistake. Albert Einstein

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Middle Eastern Riding Lesson

I've lived in the Middle East for a long time. First I worked as airstewardess, then I taught English as a Foreign language. A lot has changed in fifteen years, but some things stay the same -
Tonight I had a riding lesson, it took up half the arena. In the other half was a family - mum, dad and son were having a group lesson together. The family lesson finished and mum carefully rode her horse round the perimeter of the arena to get to the gate. Dad and his son rode their horses straight through my jumping lesson, I had to abort take off twice, the first time because they were in front of the jump, the second time because they were on my landing pad.
My (male) instructor did not ask them to move away. I continued to canter round and round my half of the arena until they were gone. Then I was able to jump.