Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Hannah's Thumb
i am typing this greeting with one finger.
yes, i know i don't post often but for the next month i will be M.I.A.

two weeks ago i had a car accident and broke my thumb....i have two titanium rods and a cast. fortunately, the break was in my right hand and i am left-handed.  Oddly enough, i can only write left-handed. for everything else - cleaning teeth, eating, putting on clothes - i am right-handed.

an inconvenience to say the least, (no driving, goodbye skiing in Park City) but it could have been so much worse.

i will be back on top form in 2012 ...so until then ....have a wonderful holiday season.

in the meantime ... here is a clip of my nephew Chris sledging out of control last christmas in Devon. Turn up the sound ... even the dog couldn't keep up.....

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Three Faces of Henry VIII

I noticed that The Tudors is back on TV. I have always had a great passion for history - particularly European. I'm embarrassed to admit I know very little about American history. In fact, when I was a teenager I thought Native Americans were a Hollywood invention just so John Wayne could show off his spurs. 

In 1970 Keith Michell gave an excellent portrayal of Henry VIII in "The Six Wives of Henry VIII."  (I am showing my age.) 

Of course, Jonathan Rhys Meyers does the most incredible job as Henry but let's face it, physically, they are as different as chalk and cheese. Even so, as the current series progressed, I gradually became captivated by Meyer's interpretation of Henry. He was utterly mesmerizing. 

Keith Michell
Jonathan Rhys Meyers

Here is a little history lesson ...

When Henry VIII came to the throne in April 1509 he was 17 years old, 6ft 2in tall, and had pale skin, blue eyes and auburn hair. He was physically active and enjoyed sport, hunting and jousting. However he became fatter with age and gluttony. His suits of armour show that in 1512 he had a 32 inch waist , which increased to 35 inch by 1520s, and then grew to an enormous 54 inch by 1545. 

Henry suffered increasingly from ill health, swelling of the joints and an ulcerated leg claimed to have been caused by a jousting accident. His pain added to his mood swings and unpredictable temper. In 1544 Henry's  portrait shows him puffy and bloated. By 1546 he could hardly walk and was carried around on a wooden chair . He had to be winched onto his horse and his armour cut open to accommodate his swollen legs. 

Henry is estimated to have weighed a staggering 25 stone (350 lbs or 158kg) when he died in January 1547.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Anyone fancy a game of conkers?

I was in Vancouver this past weekend for a family wedding. What a beautiful place it is. What I loved most was the smell of autumnal leaves. I really miss Autumn in England. I particularly miss playing conkers.

What is a conker? It's the fruit of a horse chestnut tree - hard, brown, half-dollar sized orbs. The trick is to pick the good ones, drill a hole through their center, hang them on a knotted shoelace and your conker is good to go. Two players take alternating whacks at the other's chestnut until one shattered. 

Although the game is discouraged in school, the World Conker Championship is held every year in Northamptonshire.

What to know how to win? Enjoy this informational video How to Win at Conkers

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Back into the swing of things

After many fits and starts, I'm finally back on track with my morning writing schedule. HURRAH! For weeks and weeks I've been procrastinating, faffing about, making silly lists, organizing my spice drawer etc. and I can't put it off any longer. I must write.

Starting a new project is always a challenge - especially a new series with new characters and setting. I'm suffering from the usual paralysis, need to nap constantly and the fear that I can't pull it off a fifth time. Coupled with my increasing workload at the office, all I can squeeze in is a couple of hours before work during the week. For now I am getting up at 5:30 AM - or should I say, 5:23 AM since that's when my neighbor revs up his car and leaves for work. Of course, as I get closer to my deadline, my wake-up call will be 4:20 AM for those last three months.

But for now .... I creep out of bed and head to the kitchen for a delicious cup of Keurig coffee. Thank you Molly Weston (check out her blog, she's wonderful) for recommending this machine during my "Molly Tour" to North Carolina. Coffee is made in a matter of minutes, freshly brewed and delicious. I drink it black and strong.

Still in pajamas and wearing my lucky socks, I collect my laptop and Mr. Tig (my muse cat). We both settle onto my "inspiration sofa" in the sitting room. It's a beautiful pale yellow two-seater with matching ottoman. I only write on this sofa when I'm creating or getting down the bones as they say. So that's what I'll be doing for the next few weeks, bashing out a really really shitty first draft.

So if you're up at dawn, you aren't alone.

Friday, September 30, 2011

My First Typewriter

"How many hours do you spend at your computer?" said my eye doctor, Dr. Richlin. When I answered a minimum of ten per day during the week and at least six at weekends," he practically fell off his chair.

I'd gone to see him concerned with this weird sensation I have in my right eye. It seems daft to say this but for those of us who have both eyes (my dad only had one) we're not usually "conscious" of our eyes sitting in our head. For the past few weeks I've been really aware of my right eye. I've also been getting horrible headaches. Turns out it is severe eye strain.

I didn't have to wear glasses until I turned 45. But as a writer, I suspect eye strain goes with the territory. I suppose I could write longhand, but I enjoy the speed of the computer; the ability to cut and paste and mess around with all different versions of the same draft. My mistakes and typos vanish with the click of the delete button.

Like many people born in the middle of the last century (gasp) I l grew up using a typewriter—or tripewriter as we liked to call it at my first reporter job at the Tiverton Gazette in Devon. My typewriter was an old 1945 Remington Deluxe. In those days articles were typed up on small rectangular pieces of paper separated by carbon paper. Four pieces of carbon paper actually so any typo was a pain to correct.

Although I enjoy the speed and efficiency of using my computer, I miss the noise of busy typewriter keys  and the satisfying ding as the carriage reaches it's end-stop only to fly back in the opposite direction for the next sentence. Most of all, I loved the feeling of satisfaction when a piece was finished and I could pull it from the roller with a flourish.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tea On My Mind

I know I've blogged about "Tea" before and hopefully I will be forgiven - I am British, after all. It's part of our culture. So you can imagine my excitement when I  was invited to an "Afternoon Tea with the Ladies of Mystery" hosted by the Friends of the Lomita Library in Lomita, California.

Co-ordinated by the effervescent Evelyn Moore from Sisters in the Crime Los Angeles, I joined fellow panelists, authors Kate CarliseDorothy Howell and Laura Levine for a fabulous afternoon of delicious food and fun.

Ruth Herbert, President of Friends of the Lomita Library, confessed she spent most of her summer devouring mystery books, selecting various dishes from favorite authors for the tea. Ruth also created beautiful name cards by hand to accompany each one. The icing on the cake (no pun intended) was a fabulous glass cabinet displaying all the books she used along with bone china tea cups and teapots.

As Kate Carlisle's character Brooklyn remarked bravely in The Lies That Bind, "I straightened by shoulders and gritted by teeth.  I could do this.  I approached the buffet table..."

Here was the menu:

Scones from the Vicky Hill Mysteries by yours truly. (And very very yummy they were too!) 
Chocolate from Bleeding Hearts by Susan Wittig Albert.
Lemon tea bread from The Silver Needle Murder by Laura Childs. (My favorite).
Cecile's brownies from The Cat Who Blew The Whistle by Lillian Jackson Braun. (I ate 3).
Chocolate chip cookies from The Cat Who Dropped The Bombshell. (I ate 3 of these as well).
Sugar cookies from The Sugar Cookies Murder by Joanne Fluke.
Chicken salad from Fatally Flaky by Diane Mott Davidson
Edible fruit arrangement from Purses and Poison by Dorothy Howell.
Molasses cookies from The Darling Dahlias And The Cucumber Tree by Susan Wittig Albert.
Cucumber sandwiches from The Darling Dahlias And The Cucumber Tree.
Gingerbread cookies from The Gingerbread Cookie Murder by Laura Levine.

Lavender flowers were on the table, taken from Susan Wittig Albert's book Lavender Lies and
Constant commit tea and lemonade from Jamie Ford's book The Hotel on The Corner of Bitter And Sweet.

And the English tea was excellent!

Although I am now on a serious diet, this fabulous event is a reminder of how wonderful our libraries are and how much they need our support. Just donating a few books or becoming a "friend" really helps to keep our libraries going.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Termites! Yikes!

As usual, all my best laid plans to write a regular blog post have flown out of the window ... if only the termites would fly away too! I'd never heard of the wretched things until I moved to California.

This weekend my husband and I are being banished from our home whilst the fumigators come in. I'm not happy. My husband's not happy. Mr. Tig the cat will definitely not be happy but hopefully, when he realizes he's going stay with the amazing Joanne O'Brien from Sittin Kitty, he'll forgive us.

Agatha Christie once had a problem with termites—or rather, an exotic bug that stowed away in her luggage.

According to her wonderful autobiography, it started during one of her travels to the Middle East. She had fallen in love with a gorgeous chest of drawers in Damascas. The chest was inlaid with mother-of-pearl and silver and is exquisite—I've seen it in her bedroom at Greenway in South Devon. ANYWAY - apparently it took nine or ten months to transport the heavy chest to it's new home but when it arrived, Agatha Christie said she'd be woken in the middle of the night by a strange noise "as if large teeth were champing something." Agatha Christie examined the chest, took out the drawers but couldn't find anything. "Yet night after night, after the witching hour of midnight, I could hear crump, crump, crump."

In desperation, she took one of the drawers to a place in London that specialized in tropical wood pests and lo and behold, after three weeks, she was summoned to the shop and proudly presented with "a repulsive cross between a worm and a slug. It was large and white and obscene, and ... obese." And that was the end of that.

I've never heard the termites gnawing away within our walls, nor have I seen any evidence of them. I'm worried about the friendly spiders that I am quite happy living in harmony with but all that will change --along with oceans of bougainvillea that surround our home.

There is an up side. We've splashed out on long weekend in a hotel that is supposed to be seeped in exotic splendor. Unfortunately, after making a non-refundable booking, an online reviewer remarked that  the rooms don't share the same splendor. I quote, "If you like the smell of stale socks ... you're gonna LUV staying here!"

I can't wait.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Scam me Once ...

Gosh. I can't believe it's been over a month since I wrote on my blog. I certainly  haven't been idle. My daughter came to stay for 2 glorious weeks and then I started writing a brand new mystery series for Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's. There has been the usual office drama, too.

However, I felt compelled to blog today because I seem to be a scam magnet. Only last Sunday, as I was filling up my car with petrol, I was attracted by one of those bright canopy tent things pitched on a street corner announcing fabulous 820-1000 thread count Egyptian cotton sheet sets for sale at the unbeatable price of $20 per set!

Cautious as ever (but clearly not that cautious), I chatted to the very cute blond (who asked me if I was a Buddhist) and suggested I touch these super-soft beautiful sheets by J. Sanders. They were soft. Very soft. And yes, I came away $44 dollars lighter - 2 sets plus a service fee - but thinking I had a bargain.

To be honest, I wasn't that surprised to discover later that the sheets were a piece of crap. Sorry - but they were. I pulled them out of the packet to wash them and the instructions said "wash only in cold water" and "do not iron" and jeez .... I could see my hand through the fabric. Arrgh ... so I googled J. Sanders scam and of course I had been fooled. The small print on the packaging said "as soft as Eyptian cotton sheets."

So I'm older and wiser and I have decided to stick to the linen sheets my mother gave me that her mother gave her. Believe it or not, mum's old sheets were not Made in China.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Stiff Upper Lips

I've actually started writing a new mystery series and since it's the early days, I am easily distracted. So ... after I alphabetized my spice cupboard, I started sorting out my iPhoto and came across my wedding photos. One of my favorite snaps is pictured here - my lovely mum (on whom my character Barbara Meadows, the Gipping Gazette receptionist, is loosely based) and our friend Mitch. Isn't that the most spectacular mustache ever? (In England we say "moustache.")

I did a little research on these magnificent specimens and, thanks to Country Life magazine, discovered the following facts. Did you know that in the 1830s and 1840s, British army officers in India began to rebel against the razor? Their dislike of shaving was driven in general terms by the Indian association of whiskers with virility. Apparently ... "The example of their bearded and moustachioed opponents in the First Afghan War and Sikh Wars of the 1840s, however, may have been a more specific catalyst for the change of heart." Basically, Britain didn't do very well out there.

In 1854 the mustache was made compulsory for British soliders in the Bombay army of the East India Company and soon spread into the civilian population. The fashion for facial hair became so popular that the (sadly defunct) Punch magazine asked 1,000 men why they wore mustaches. Only a quarter mentioned their army connections but nearly half grew mustaches because they believed them to be admired by "young ladies." It certainly had the desired effect on my mother.

It was only in 1916 when the King's Regulations permitted the British soldier to shave his upper lip once more.

Incidentally, the term "stiff upper lips" is thought to originate from ... America!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Perfect Cup of Tea

Being British, I'm very particular about what passes for a good cup of tea. It's not just the brand of tea or the ongoing argument over tea bags vs. loose leaf, the teapot design is very important.

An original Brown Betty teapot is hard to come by these days so if you have one, hold onto it. It's considered by many to be the best teapot design ever created. It may be the special red clay that is used for making the pot that causes the superior tea, or it could be the unique design of the pot itself. It's said that "the design allows the tea leaves more freedom to swirl through the water as it is poured into the pot and releases more flavor with less bitterness."

The original teapots came from a red clay that was discovered in the Stoke-on-Trent area of Britain in 1695. This special clay seemed to retain heat better and so found use as the material for the perfect teapot as early as the seventeenth century. The shape became more rounded as time passed and eventually found favor at the court of Queen Victoria.

Brown Betty Teapot
How to make a good cup of tea!

If you have a Brown Betty never put it in the microwave or on top of the stove. Always wash it by hand.
To Brew Tea:
1. Run warm water in the pot to warm it and pour it out.
2. Add one teaspoon of tea per cup - and one for the pot (or 1 teabag per person and 1 for the pot) - it depends on personal taste.
3. Put fresh cold water into the kettle and heat it just to the boil. Pour water into the teapot on top of the tea!
4. Steep for three minutes and then pour. If you are using loose leaf tea, remember the tea strainer.

Drinking tea is not for everyone. It's an acquired taste but if you hate it, it could be that you've not found the kind you like. My favorite tea is P.G. Tips. I don't care for Yorkshire Gold - the box is pretty but the tea is just too strong. Liptons is ghastly ... so persevere! Earl Grey and Lady Grey are also yummy if you can't take the traditional English brands.

One of my all-time favorite TV commercials for tea is this one. Hope you enjoy it!  Remember to turn up the sound!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Marmite House

My sister has been trying to sell her house for a few months now. It's an unusual old Devonshire long house slap bang in the middle of the town, hidden behind other properties. The cobbled path to the front door is flanked by a cottage on one side and a high stone wall on the other. From the road, all that's visible is a green front door and tiny window. Yet, step inside and the house is huge with four bedrooms, a massive beamed sitting room with inglenook fireplace, a farmhouse kitchen and a beautiful walled garden covered in wisteria. It also has a ghost—but that's another story.

Her realtor (or estate agent as they're called in England), says it's a "Marmite House." You either love it - or you hate it ... so that got me thinking about my new competition. Marmite. And yes, the prize is a jar of Marmite!

Marmite is a savory spread that was introduced to the unsuspecting public in 1902. A by-product of the brewing industry, Marmite owes its existence to a German scientist, Justus Liebig's discovery that yeast cells left over from beer-making could be concentrated, bottled and eaten.

Marmite is filled with Vitamin B and soon acquired the status of being extremely good for you. It may look like tar but don't let that put you off. Personally, I love it. My favorite combination is marmite, cheese and cucumber sandwiches.

Here are some delicious combinations to try ...
Marmite and chocolate spread
Marmite and peanut butter
Marmite and marmalade

I'd love to hear your comments, folks! As always, the lucky winner will be selected by my random number generator on May 15.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Fabio and Other Matters!

I’m not feeling particularly inspired today. It could be that I experienced my very first Romantic Times Booklovers Convention and have not yet recovered from the experience. 

Having been invited by my new friend, Kim Adams from Hawaii, whom I had met in cyberspace following a “virtual” appearance on her wonderful blog SOSAloha, I was quite excited about the prospect of prowling the floors of the Bonaventure Hotel, Los Angeles, in the hope I’d brush shoulders with aspiring Fabio’s. 

Nothing could prepare me for the sheer number of women equally eager to brush shoulders with those aspiring Fabio’s culminating in the infamous Mr. Romance Pageant competition on the Saturday evening. (The last time I was exposed to such hard-muscled flesh was watching the Chippendales on tour in England way back in the 1980’s.) 

There was also an all-day Book Fair. Over 300 authors were selling their wares and let me tell you, Vampires are not really dead; Young Adult is super-hot and Regency Romances have never been more popular. I was pleased to see some kindred spirits bravely signing their mystery books there too—Rhys Bowen, D.P. Lyle, Sue Ann Jaffarian, Lee Goldberg and Harley Jane Kozak to name but a few. Evening events included “Ellora’s Cave Fantasy Party, the Venetian Masquerade Faery Ball and the Heather Graham and Helen Rosburg Vampire Ball. 

According to the Business of Consumer Book Publishing 2010, the romance genre saw 9,089 new titles and $1.36 billion in sales in 2009, making the romance genre the single largest category in the consumer book market. 

Much as I am tempted to dip my toe into this popular genre—if only to have an aspiring Fabio on my book jacket—my real passion still lies in writing mysteries and suspense. It’s not the chase that keeps me reading a book, it’s solving the puzzle. It’s not the challenge of catching a handsome husband, but capturing the villain. I don’t want to be kept awake all night by a hot-blooded rake but by excellent storytelling. Having said all that, I did come home with quite a large bag of racy pirate adventure stories set in Devon, England. My Vicky Hill Mysteries are set in Devon, too …I always think one can never do enough research, don’t you?

Friday, April 8, 2011

March Winner Announced!

The correct answer for the March Guessing Game's question "Where is The Nobody Inn?" is ... Doddiscombleigh.

Doddiscombleigh is a tiny hamlet to the southwest of Exeter. It was first mentioned in "Expose!" when Vicky Hill set off for The Nobody Inn to meet Dave Randall who was drowning his sorrows in drink. It took Vicky Hill 3 hours to find this remote location in my book and it took me 3 hours to find it in real life, too! Although I'm notorious for getting lost (just ask my husband), the country lanes in Devon rarely  have signposts - or if they do, they aren't very helpful.
Here is a photo of a typical Devon country road.

There were quite a few eager souls anxious to win a British prize so I had to use the Violet Cottage Random Number generator (I have no idea why it has such a great name) to select the "random number."
DRU is the winner! Congratulations Dru. Please send me an email with your address.

Must go and make myself a cup of tea. It's gone 4 pm.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Belated March Guessing Game

Sorry for the silence!

I'm feverishly writing a proposal for a new series plus prepping to teach my upcoming UCLA workshop (this coming Saturday) --- AND working on a gazillion other things ... and then our water heater exploded this morning - so you could say I'm a tad stressed.

My day job is INSANE at the moment since we're doing a lot of new business stuff which means very long 10 hour days and of course, it's tax time (and I handle all that too). As my character Annabel Lake would say "Poor you! How awful to be you." Yes. Poor Me. Sigh.

However ... FINALLY I have a subject for the March competition.

Pictured here is the name of a pub ... The Nobody Inn (don't you just love that name) ... it really exists. The question is ... where?

Listed below are a few names of small towns and villages in England. Simply pick one at random and those who picked correctly, will enter a raffle for a great British prize. Clue: The Nobody Inn is mentioned in one of my books. 

Pott Shrigley
Haselbury Plucknett

Leave a comment here or contact me via email or on Facebook. The answer will be drawn at the end of March. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Curious Kind of Scam

About a month ago, as my sister and I were walking back to our car in the Wholefoods parking lot on 3rd Street, a woman asked for help. Apparently she was an Elementary school teacher and had car problems. She offered me $5 for my Triple A membership card so she could "call the breakdown service."

My husband is notoriously suspicious of everyone (he has a vivid imagination - oh wait, he's a writer, too). He shreds every scrap of paper that ever crosses his path and is obsessed with the prospect of having his identity stolen. Knowing he'd freak out, I said "sorry no." But - I felt terrible. Especially when it began to rain.

Last week I was shopping in Ralphs downtown and the same woman approached me! I couldn't believe it! This time she offered $60 for my Triple A membership card. This store is 9 miles from Wholefoods! She obviously has some kind of scam going. I pointed out that she'd already "asked me" and she scurried off.

I'm more annoyed by the fact that I wasted all that energy feeling guilty the first time. So for you gullible people out there - beware! On this occasion (just this one), it would seem my husband is right.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Biggest Mushroom

Yes, I know I have been lackadaisical on this blog recently. It's been busy, busy, busy at the advertising agency with lots of new clients and lots of "stuff" swirling around. Since I write in the mornings and try to do promo/blog things in the evenings, I haven't had much time.

HOWEVER ... at least I am squeezing in this quick announcement. February's Guessing Game was to guess the diameter of this giant puffball mushroom.

The correct answer ... 9 and a 1/2 inches.

Congratulations to the wonderful Pamela Priest who came close with 10 inches. A fabulous prize is winging it's way to you.

Since the idea originated via one of my characters (yes, characters do talk to their creators), I am waiting for Barbara Meadows (the receptionist at the Gipping Gazette who started all this nonsense), to let me know what she has planned for March.

Stand by!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Trip to the Dentist

As I reclined in the cushioned, comfy chair this afternoon at Toluca Lake Dentistry, I felt irritated. I'd planned on enjoying a 40 minute nap whilst the hygienist cleaned my teeth.

Instead, the lovely (and gentle) Joyce was in a chatty mood. She asked the usual barrage of questions, barely audible through the surgical mask and the perspex face grill that seems to be the standard uniform these days.

How times have changed.

Thirty-five years ago I had such a dreadful experience at the school dentist that scarred me for life. The silver gray van would park in the school playground and we'd be dragged in one by one for a check up. It was where I first experienced the horror of gas. It was also where I first bit the dentist (who I swear had the alchoholic tremors as he went for my tooth with pliers) and where I also got a slap for my trouble. You couldn't get away with that today (the slap - not the bite).

But it started my long terror of going to The Dentist. An appointment, even scheduled months ahead would give me sleepless nights. I'd spend hours throwing up in the loo beforehand. In the end I point blank refused to go. Until I moved to California - the land of the Perfect White Teeth.

Weeks after moving to Los Angeles I was plagued by a brain numbing toothache and surrendered. I asked my colleagues at New Line Cinema if there was a special dental surgery that specialized in weedy people who were scared. And so, my life long love of Dr. Don, Joyce and Toluca Lake Dentistry began.

For my first appointment—just a check-up, no visible tools—I was dosed up with Valium and just felt sleepy. Obviously there was a lot of work to be done but it was all painfree. I didn't even mind the injections of Novocaine. Now I am happy to say that I rarely need dental work and when this afternoon, as I left the surgery and was told I didn't need to come back for 6 months for a cleaning, I felt ... well ... sad.

Is there something wrong with me?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Just call me Ma'am!

Yes. It's true. The time has come to accept that I am a woman of a "certain age." At Wholefoods supermarket yesterday, a woman called me "ma'am." I'd accidentally taken her trolley full of overpriced goodies and wheeled it away.

It reminded me of an incident a few years ago when I was crossing the road with my daughter who was 21 at the time. A ghastly man passed by and made a lewd comment that had a lot to do with wearing a short skirt. Outraged, I turned to my daughter and said, "Can you believe it! I'm not even wearing a skirt!" And she said, "Mum, you're wearing trousers. He was talking to me." It was very humbling.

I entered my thirties with the optimistic joy that comes with having suffered a horrible decade of "finding myself"; I embraced my forties as a woman who knew who she was and what she wanted (and married unexpectedly at 45); I hit 50 and had a mini crisis but still bravely soldiered on.

Age is all the mind, isn't it? Especially in California! This is Cougar Town! But somehow, the words "ma'am" stopped me in my tracks. It could be those glorious southern manners that I really love, it could be that she saw the ring on my finger - but most likely, it was because she saw a dotty woman tossing vegetables into her cart muttering "Could Professor Plum kill Miss Scarlett in the library with the lead piping ...?" (a mystery writer is always plotting).

However, I much prefer the French way. "Madame" sounds ageless, don't you agree?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Not Made In China

I've been a bit lackadaisical (great word) on this blog recently.

Not because I have run out of ideas but mainly because I am feverishly promoting THIEVES! and every spare minute I am either at a book signing, library or writing a blog or arranging an event ... or going to work. Oh! And I also can't work out how to update my events page on my website. Sigh.

However, tonight I found a few spare moments to go through my iPhoto from Christmas. Yes - it's February but better late than never.

ANYWAY - I just had to share this terrific store in Totnes, Devon. I love that it specializes in goods NOT made in China.

Of course ... there wasn't much in there to buy ... but even so, I'm all for it.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Squeaky Kittens and the Gipping Guessing Game!

It’s always exciting to have a new book out. Although public appearances make me nervous, I love meeting new people and making new friends. One question that seems to surface all the time is how I come up with my quirky backdrops—hedge jumping, snail racing, farmers “in the buff”, Morris Dancers etc. Honestly, everything is true. I swear. I eavesdrop a lot and scour rural newspapers. Actually, even our British national newspapers carry some great stories.

My current favorite involves a certain Garden Party where HRH the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall were entertained by a rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow played brilliantly on a Xylophone of squeaky kittens. If you don’t believe me – here it is … http://tinyurl.com/2fgkmfk

And speaking of unusual entertainment, it’s not too late to enter the monthly Gipping Guessing Game. How many pairs of underpants is the man on the top right wearing?

The winner will be announced on February 1. The prize (not underpants) is an English linen tea cloth and a copy of my new book in the Vicky Hill Mysteries, Thieves!

Breaking news re: possible new feline friend for Mr. Tig. It’s looking good.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Faye Dunaway Update ...

... There isn't one. My pet psychic is traveling and communicating with animals across Europe. I eagerly await his return (and I have mentioned it to Mr. Tig who sort of seemed intrigued). 

Now for something completely unrelated. On Sunday my husband and I went to see The Kings Speech (excellent!) and driving home on the 10 Freeway, we were overtaken by a motorcyclist zipping along at a cracking 65 mph ... TEXTING! 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Faye Dunaway and Mr. Tig

I had a huge surprise this morning.

My husband Jason has found a potential wife for our cat, Mr. Tig.

It's no secret among family and friends that Jason is really a dog lover. He's slowly grown to accept (and respect) Mr. Tig my high maintenance cat who was in my life well before Jason was.

Mr. Tig - now a feisty 14 - has become increasingly needy. He misses little Calico, the dearest sweetest little thing ever who moved with me from England and passed away five years ago.

Jason was adamant that we were not going to get another cat so this is BIG NEWS. Of course, we'd love a dog but with our long working hours and living in a city, it wouldn't be fair.

It turns out Jason's spinning instructor at Up Dog Fitness (great name, yes?) supports an
adoption center in West Hollywood called Molly's Mutts and Miaows. It's a really cool shelter and honestly, when I watched the video of Faye Dunaway, I fell in love with her too.

However ... there is one final step. I must consult Ben Scuglia, our cat psychic first to see what Mr. Tig thinks! Yes! I hear the groans and cries of "Hannah's turned Californian!" but believe me, Ben's insights into the workings of Mr. Tig's mind improved our marriage ...

Photo: Mr. Tig and Calico enjoying sashimi ... a special treat (which sent the Japanese chef into shock when we ordered "something to go" for our cats).

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Best Hamburger in Southern California!

It promises to be a very busy week. With Thieves!—Vicky Hill’s fourth adventure—out in the world, I have a ton of events coming up which I really love to do. On Saturday afternoon, I signed at the Mystery Bookstore in Westwood. On Sunday, my husband and I drove the 120 miles to San Diego for a book signing with the hugely talented and lovely Wendy Corsi Staub at Mysterious Galaxy.

It’s always exciting when a new book comes out but it does make me very hungry.

On our drive home we stopped at California’s famous In and Out Burger – one of the very few privately owned hamburger joints. Founded in 1948, it was the first drive-thru hamburger stand ever—well before McDonalds. In-and-Out have THE best hamburgers in the world. Even my English friend Giles keeps a photo of a Double-Double with fries on his iPhone “to remind him” since he now lives in Colorado. Jason and I tucked into hamburger’s “animal style” which is a burger wrapped in iceberg lettuce minus the bun. We then devoured a mound of French Fries and finished off with delicious strawberry milkshakes … …And this is where my husband’s obsession with chemicals is puzzling. 

Like Coca-Cola, the In-and-Out milkshake ingredients are a deadly secret (as well as the special sauce they use on their burgers) but it’s definitely loaded with something unnatural. (Probably the same chemical that covers Pringles and M & M’s – the “hard to stop eating” chemical).

 Somehow, this doesn’t seem to matter. He says that sometimes, life is too short ... 


Saturday, January 8, 2011

McVities Digestive Biscuits!

Today is my launch party at the wonderful Mystery Bookstore in Westwood, California. I hope people come! One never knows!

My husband Jason helped create a fun British Trivia quiz for the occasion. I brought back some great British prizes for the raffle—making sure nothing was Made In China (of course). I also brought back a wonderful hamper that was given to us by my nephew, James and his new bride, Sarah. The hamper contained my husband's favorite digestive biscuits so you can imagine my surprise when Jason sheepishly said he couldn't eat them.

This is big news.

My husband is a night-time snacker. He sometimes has a "triple" snack - meaning he'll snack three times. It's an endearing habit and since he keeps fit and trim, he can snack all he wants. So why not the digestives? "Because they've been through the X-Ray machine."

I know Jason when he has a bee in his bonnet about chemicals in the home - we don't have a microwave etc. so I did some serious research. According to the Health Physics Society, there are no short or long-term effects whatsoever to passing food through an airport screening machine even if this went on every day for twenty-five years (have they really done that research?)

The thing is, I really love digestive biscuits ... would it be wrong to keep to keep my findings to myself?

Monday, January 3, 2011

We Never Forget You Have a Choice!

The great thing about having jet lag is that I am bright and chipper at 4.30 am. When I'm not on a deadline, getting up at that godforsaken time, is normal and something to dread. Today, it's GREAT!

I'm typing away in bed on my laptop with a large cup of coffee and a very very happy Mr. Tig (who has finally stopped grumbling about being left with our wonderful cat sitter.) For those cat lovers who live in Los Angeles, I can't recommend Joanne O' Brien from Sittin' Kitty highly enough. She is fabulous.

Of course, I'll be fading by about four this afternoon - but as a rule, I really don't suffer much. As an ex-flight attendant, my trick is to immediately switch to local time at my destination. I might take a nap if I arrive before 12 noon, but usually I stay awake. I don't drink any alcohol on the plane or during the first two or three days (boring I know but I don't drink much anyway) of arrival. I don't take sleeping pills or Melatonin.

I still love flying -- though I wouldn't want to do it now. The crew work so hard. Flying long haul in the old days usually meant at least four of five days off down route. Sometimes I'd get a 10 day lay-over in Brazil or somewhere equally exotic to sightsee or lay by the pool. Now the crew are lucky if they get 36 hours and they're often stuck in a hotel close to the airport.

Now you can be any shape, size, age or sex. When I first started flying with British Caledonian, girls couldn't be less than 5' 4" tall (to reach the overhead hat racks) or married or even engaged. The "retirement" age was 29! There were no male flight attendants. We had to speak at least one other language and were trained how to deliver a baby. We were subjected to uniform inspection before going onboard—white gloves had to be immaculate, shoes polished etc.

They were such fun days - but knowing the average number of miles walked by flight attendants on a transatlantic flight is 12 miles, let's just say that these days I'm happy in the passenger seat being pampered by the ever friendly Virgin Atlantic folks ...