Monday, 29 December 2008

My lovely sister!


I have had such a lovely Christmas with my family - it was exactly as it should have been. Everyone enjoyed it, we had lots of fresh air walking the dogs - Ted and Fliss's family dog, Murphy, the labradoodle - lots of laughing and just the right amount of eating and drinking.
I was very sad when everyone headed back to Yorkshire yesterday, well everyone apart from Emily who is still here with Michael so we're still having fun, although it is rather quieter.
Ted had a ball and, thanks to Vince's magic touch, was actually very good....and he has added to his harem!

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Two important people

Two important people also need thanking for making 'Extremely Very....' look so great: Joe Baglow and Christine Lacey.

Joe is our fab illustrator and I think it was fate that he found us and became part of the Schnoops family. He is an art student; one of Ian's friends in Leigh-On-Sea had taught him and suggested that he might be just right for our project. We wanted someone whose style is loose and quirky so we sent him briefs for each character and...his illustrations came back and were absolutely bang on! And the strange thing is that we've only met him once. For twenty minutes! But everyone seems to love his work as much as we do so big cheers to you Joe!

Now I know that I've mentioned Chris in the past and I'm sure I will again because she is one of my dearest friends. But her design skills turned a flat manuscript into a lively, funny book. And, I'm still blown away by the fact that she designed some bookmarks for me one Friday and I had them in my hand the following Wednesday ...she works fast does Chris! So massive hugs to her, we couldn't have done it without you!

Oh and can I just say a big thank you too (crikey this is getting to be like an Oscar acceptance speech!) to Robert for supplying bags of reassurance,for being a sounding-board and for never telling me to 'Shut up' even though he must have wanted to. And of course for putting up with me when I was being a cow. And finally to Jennie for letting me rant on in virtual style and for being supportive and making me laugh - lots.

So a big thank you to them and a big Happy Christmas to you all!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

At Last!

Great whooping and celebrations all round! I can finally FINALLY hold in my hand a copy of 'The Extremely Very Scrambled Up World of Little Doogs: Playing The Road Trip Game'. There have been many times when I thought this day would never come, for many different reasons.
3 years is a long LONG time to take over writing something and very unusual for me as I tend to write very quickly. It seems like a lifetime ago that Ian and I sat in 'The Spencer Arms' in Putney and discussed working together on a project based on his basic ideas for some characters. Oh the hours and hours of writing and discussing and drinking coffee and peppermint tea, wine and champagne (I DESERVED it!) And the hours and hours and HOURS I have spent writing and rewriting and then completely rewriting again. And although this is a joint project I was the only one of us who could do the hours and hours of stressing on my own...and oh the twists and turns to get here.
But we did it....and I am so very proud!
AND my family should be arriving from Yorkshire very soon so we can have a proper celebration....I think a few corks will be a-popping in Wimbledon tonight!

One very blatant plug coming up:

And another:

Wednesday, 17 December 2008


I don't really believe in horoscopes (or horrorscopes as Little Doogs calls them), but yet I look at mine most days. I'm a Leo which means I'm supposed to be generous, loyal and love being the centre of attention. Well I hope the first two qualities are true but I'm not sure about that last one! Leos are also supposed to be 'fixed' signs. And I suppose in so far as I don't like change then that is very true.

If you ask me what are the most important things in life I would say without a moment's hesitation: 'friends and family'. And as far as friendships go I really don't want them to change. But they do.

This year some of my friendships have become a bit looser, some have been tested to the limit but have survived - weaker or stronger? I don't know yet, but different that's for sure. But some of my older friendships have grown from strength to strength even though we don't see each other. And thanks to the magic of Facebook I've met new friends who otherwise I couldn't have hoped to have met.

So maybe I should learn to embrace change and go with the flow. What I do want is for all the friendships I have in place now to be 'fixed' for a long time

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Retail therapy!

Robert was out for a Christmas lunch so I headed to the village to do some Christmas shopping. Unfortunately most of what I bought was for myself. But it was in the sale, so that was OK.

I was trying stuff on and came out to ask the assistant's advice, you know the kind of thing,
"Does my bum look big in this?" etc
And that's not always a wise move because they usually say,
"No of course not, but you'd look good in this and have you tried that and what about this belt with that cardigan...."
and you end up with a whole heap of stuff you don't really want to try on.

When I went back into my little changing thing I heard the woman next door asking for the dress I had on in her size. I came out again in a different dress and the same thing happened. Flattering, but odd. I didn't look fantastic in what I had on by any means....but apparently I looked happy and confident and would have a lot of fun whilst I was wearing them!

Did I buy them? You can bet your life I did!

Monday, 8 December 2008

Christmas spirit

It's funny but this year I am swinging wildly between being as excited about Christmas as though I was a child, and being all 'bah humbug!' about it. Today I've experienced both things, which is rather unsettling.

This morning we went to choose the tree which is always the real start of Christmas. We had the whole measuring thing to make sure it was tall enough, the looking at about 5 different ones to make sure it wasn't too spindly or too bushy, the man netting it all up, the inevitable 'shall we just have another look just to make sure' and the deciding on the one we looked at to start with. This year we also had the 'tree falling on Fiona's head' and the 'Robert tripping over a trunk' shenanigans! Oh happy days!

We then went to a big out of town M&S to look for various bits, expecting it to be at least a bit buzzy but it was so quiet it was as though a disaster had befallen Merton and no-one had told us. And that made me sad too...nowhere seems as happy as it usually does at this time of year.

I am so looking forward to my family coming down from Yorkshire as it's the first time we've spent Christmas all together. But before then there's 'Extremely Very...' coming out which IS exciting, VERY exciting, but I still have that sense of panic - are we doing enough to direct traffic to (shameless plug) because if people don't go there then it could all go horribly wrong.

What I need, I know, is a little faith, a bit of confidence. And a very large glass of champagne!

Friday, 5 December 2008


I went to badge test for the local Brownie pack yesterday. As well as testing the Booklover badge I also test the Hostess badge - that's the nice one with the cups of tea and the cakes. Unfortunately as I was doing the 2 together (multi-tasking) the girls forgot about me and although I did get a late cup of coffee I missed out on the goodies, which was a bit sad as there looked to be some nice crunchy-cakey stuff with Smarties on top. And you can't beat a cake with Smarties on the top, can you?

I've been testing the Booklover badge for 6/7 years now. In previous years almost all the girls were reading Jaqueline Wilson and J.K. Rowling. This year every single girl had chosen an Enid Blyton book as one of their favourites, which got me thinking, in a Carrie Bradshaw-type way:What has happened to give Enid such a resurgence? Is the innocent unchallenging idyll which her books represent an antidote to the ever-present restrictions and pressures surrounding children of today?(And do the publishing companies plough back the inevitable profits gained into supporting and encouraging new writers?)Enid Blyton is very very easy to knock - I must confess that I'm not a big fan - but you have to admit that if her books are still being read and loved after so many years, she must have done something right!

Anyway, back to my badge-testing. I was introduced as a 'proper author' and it was gratifying how many of the girls had read some of the 'Sleepover Club' books. (Note to HarperCollins: why did you end the series? Bring it back - please!)
As I'd finished testing each one I signed a copy of a slightly out-dated 'Little Book of Chat'. They were all fascinated by my appalling signature and one of them asked,
"Is that what you do then, write children's books?"
"Wow! Are you famous?"
Me, laughing: "No!"
To which another Brownie replied, earnestly,
"Well to some people you are!"
Have I told you how much I love children? Especially little Brownie-uniform-clad children!

Tuesday, 2 December 2008


Just lately I seem to have been defending my corner a lot when it comes to writing children's books. It's amazing how many people tell me they're going to write one - when they have a spare 5 minutes. And they usually also tell me that they won't tell me what the story is about in case I steal their idea! Well thanks for that.

But writing for children, as well as being so very rewarding, is a bit harder than it appears. Every word has to count. Every word has to be just the right one for the story, for the reader, for me...which is probably why I tend to over-analyse what people say. Words are my currency. The hardest job, but surely the most satisfying, is getting those children who struggle a bit with reading, who don't find it easy, to read a story which is fulfilling and exciting for them and which, though a challenge, makes them want to read more books.

That's a challenge I intend to rise to in future.

Writing is a brilliant job, and I love it, really really love it. I'm not sure my books change people's lives though.

Ted is struggling a bit with his hips at the moment and today we took him to Greyfriars for his hydrotherapy. The therapists there really do change lives - for the dogs and for the owners. I'm always a bit in awe of what goes on, but I love going as much as Ted does because the therapists are so lovely and funny...and reassuring. So thank you Lisa and Kim....and everybody else, where would we be without you?

Monday, 1 December 2008

Ted's women!

Ted is very fond of our female friends and is quite happy to pose with them! That's the fabulous Stephie on the left and the very wonderful Chris on the right.

I think Ted is paying for his over-amorous behaviour now as his hips seem particularly bad and he's been very subdued since he came back from being groomed. He looks gorgeous but...poor Ted, I feel so sad for him.


One of Jules' friends once dubbed us ODFs - Oldest Dearest Friends. I think he was trying to be sarcastic but the term has stuck. I don't see her nearly as much as I should but she's always the first person I turn to when I need a shoulder to cry on. She always cheers me up and I hope I do the same for her.

There were no wet shoulders this weekend though when she and Adrian came to stay. We had such a great time - talking, shopping, eating and drinking - the only problem was that it sped by all too quickly.

Adrian proved to be something of a dog whisperer, managing to calm down Ted with a spot of massage. Unfortunately it didn't quite work when Jules was around and Ted spent most of the time humping her leg. Strangely enough she found that the way to cure him was to get down on all-fours....I know, don't ask. Consequently every time she came in the house we all yelled,
"On your knees!"
Oh we know how to live here in Wimbledon!

Friday, 28 November 2008


I hadn't heard of Malcolm Gladwell until Monday, and now it seems the guy is everywhere - OK he was on 'The One Show' - and the one thing that everyone seems to know is his theory that to be 'great' at something you need to have spent 10,000 hours doing it. Which I think he said equates to doing it for around 4 hours a day for 10 years. I am sure there is more to it than that, and I'm not entirely sure I buy into it - some people are innately good at something, surely - but by his theory at least I should be a great children's writer as I've been doing it for over 10 years now. I just think I'm 'quite good' at it.

I know that when I walk into a bookshop and I see all those other books I think 'Crikey, my stuff has to compete with all this! Am I good enough?'. There are people, I know, who look at other books in their genre and think 'My book is so much better than all these other ones I don't know why the bookshop bothers selling them as well.' But that, I think, is a) not usually true and b) very arrogant. But at the same time I wish I shared some of that supreme confidence.

With 'Extremely Very...' I swing from being wildly excited to being butterflies-in-the-stomach panicky - what if no-one buys it at all.

But for me passion is the most important thing there is. If you don't have it you won't succeed and maybe you don't deserve to succeed. In anything. I am passionate about 'Flipside' - I can bore people forever (and I quite often do) about what I love about teenagers and how fantastic Zambia is. But I am so passionate too about those little Schnoops. And I want everyone else to be as well.

So buy the book for goodness sake (and shut me up)!

Oh and I know that I'm truly great when it comes to footwear and the buying thereof!

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Stress Test!

We are big fans of 'The One Show' and encouraged by Chris we took the 'stress test'
I was in the lowest section of 'Mild' and Robert was just about as unstressed as it is possible to be by being at the very bottom end of 'Normal'.

Inevitably then, I found myself tossing and turning and unable to sleep last night because I was 'stressed' about everything I have to do today:

1. Clean No.7 as Jules and Adrian are coming down for the weekend (YIPPEE! - That's for the J & A bit, not the cleaning!)
2. Buy poster for Will's Christmas present so they can take it back with them
3. Check arrangements for Saturday as I have been vague as usual and I'm not sure whether Keith and Jayne are coming round or not!
4. Try to sort out some bookmarks for 'Extremely Very...' but as I haven't a clue what I'm doing that could take some time...
5. Do a little bit of research and write down some names and addresses for Peter
6. Do some more research for a children's book and make some notes for when I meet Jenny on Monday
7. Send off a cheque
8. Oh yes...there's writing 'Flipside' to fit in there somewhere!

I suspect if I took the test again now I would be hovering in the 'Severe' section.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Designed by Chris

On Saturday we had a chilled evening with Chris and Nigel. They are very very good friends and very very good with Ted. Even when he is being very naughty and rude they ignore him, turn their backs on him (easier said than done when a 40kg dog is getting frisky with your leg) and carry on talking. Ted does calm down eventually, which just leaves me to apologise for all their inevitable bruises!

Not only is Chris a dear friend but she is also a very talented book and magazine designer and it is she who created her magic and made 'The Extremely Very Scrambled Up World of Little Doogs' come to life as it has done. I had my words, we had the fab illustrations from Joe, but it was only when Chris put them together as she did that I thought 'Yes, this is really going to work'! I got more excited every time I saw a new PDF.

I suppose the design is something you don't often think about when you look at a book - I know I didn't - but it is such a vital part of it. And quite frankly we would have been stuffed without Chris's skills. And patience. Lots and lots of patience when we kept changing our minds.

Check out the free treaser on and you'll see exactly what I mean.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Grown-up stuff

I had a long chat with a neighbour yesterday about a book he is writing. I didn't know until then that he was writing one but it sounds brilliant, exactly the kind of book I would choose to read myself. Talking to him I realised 2 things:
1) The way he described it was so intriguing and funny, he 'sold' it to me. I envied him that clarity. I am always so vague when I'm describing my writing and I really have to work on that.
2) I do know what I want from my writing, because I articulated it to him: I want to make children laugh!
I don't think there is anything like having a good laugh. I laugh out loud at Louise Rennison's books. There is no way on earth that I am in the same league as her, but I would so love it if I could inspire that kind of response in a reader.
I have a friend - and Jennie, you know who you are - who makes me laugh like a drain (which is not very attractive, believe me!) She has always made me laugh; I remember trying to stifle snorts at school in lessons. There's nothing like that feeling is there? And I think one of the tragedies of being 'grown up' is that we sometimes forget what that feels like.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008


For the last few days I've been writing 'On The Flipside' and I can't begin to tell you how much I'm enjoying it. Because I'd been busy with 'The Extremely Very Scrambled Up World of Little Doogs' writing 'Flipside' has got very much pushed to one side. At first I worried that it would be hard to pick it up again. But because I'm so familiar with all the characters it was like taking up with old friends. And I know that sounds SO corny, but I'm afraid it's true!

My one worry is that I get carried away with scenarios and I don't rein them in enough - one little scene takes on a life of its own and lasts pages and pages just because I'm enjoying the interaction between the characters. And I'm not sure whether that's a good thing or not. I think maybe I should send it off to Lindsey (my agent) so that she can exercise some control! Poor Lindsey!

Monday, 17 November 2008

He still wasn't too sure about the drying bit though!


Walking Ted is an important part of my day: it's the first thing I do in the morning and it's what I always do when I've finished writing. In the morning I sort out plot strands in my head as he's snuffling through the leaves and racing across frosty grass. And in the evening as I'm walking I go over everything I've written and make a mental list of what I have to do the next day.

Today that pattern was interrupted by Ted's swimming! We hadn't been since July so it was just a case of him getting used to everything again and not doing too much. He wasn't too impressed with the yappy little dog who was swimming at the same time, but I think he was glad to be back.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Oh dear!

I am a very tidy person, I don't like mess. I'm always tidying up the kitchen because I don't like to see bits all over the work-top. I get cross when Robert leaves his clothes on the back of a chair instead of hanging them up. I'm forever picking Ted's toys up off the floor and putting them back in his toy box.

So why in the name of Little Doogs' bottom does my desk look like this???

Monday, 10 November 2008

Mary Poppins a go-go

Flipping heck but it's wet and windy here. I had a meeting up in London and when I came back the wind swept me off my feet. My umbrella was just about useless as all the spokes had gone a bit limp so goodness knows what I looked like as I drifted helplessly up the road.
I'm busy sending out more emails alerting people to It's amazing how many far-flung friends I have, the website has already had hits from the States, Japan and Belgium and I've just sent emails to friends in Holland and New Zealand, but really the most important thing is spreading the word on the home front ...and translating the word into copies bought!!!
And actually what I really REALLY want to do now is get back to writing 'Flipside'.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Tired and Emotional!

I think yesterday was the first time that it finally hit home that 'The Extremely Very Scrambled Up World of Little Doogs' is about to be published. Ian had been rewriting a press release which captured perfectly what 'Little Doogs' is all about and reminded me of the journey we've taken to get this far. 3 YEARS!!! At times it has felt like a long road but right now, when it is all finally coming together, every step has been worth it.
Ian sent me a photograph he'd taken of 'Schnoss' right at the beginning of us working together and I must admit that I felt quite emotional...
Celebrated with Stephie and Martin. And Ted. Who was a little bit naughty. But calmed down - eventually!

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Tapas, teething trouble and Ted

Yesterday I had a really fun day - retail therapy with my good friend Anne, a late tapas-type lunch and a new pair of boots. Heaven! I'd been away from my desk for most of the day so returned to deal with emails including one from James who is building the website for The schnoops - I had to give him some quite simple information but my brain went into panic mode: TECHNOLOGY ALERT wibble, wibble, wibble. I'm sure James thought I was completely stupid and I was SO cross with myself. It all got sorted out (very easily) and I am determined not to sound so wet again.

I'm a bit worried about Ted (my gorgeous Old English Sheepdog) he's only 20 months but has hip dysplasia, that means his hips don't fit into the sockets as they should so they tend to get very sore and can cause a lot of pain. We take him swimming which really helps but because we've been going up to Yorkshire a lot over the summer he hasn't been for a while. Now his legs are looking very stiff and he's looking a bit hunched up which was one of the signs he had a problem a year ago. I MUST book him in at Greyfriars asap.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Things I have done today

Today I was supposed to be extra efficient - sort out 'loose ends' on 'Extremely Very...' and start writing 'Flipside' again - the book NOT the blog! And what have I done?
Went shopping
Tidied up a few loose ends - and unravelled a few more
Did a bit of 'research' i.e. surfed the net
Tried to change my driving licence online -from my very torn paper one to a flash new photocard, but the site kept crashing
Set up this blog...
Not really sure about the style of it yet - may have to use a new template. What do you think?