Saturday, 26 January 2013

The PINK SOFA welcomes Pia Fenton

Pia Fenton (writing name: Christina Courtenay)

Pia is a member of the London Chapter of the Romantic Novelists' Association, which is where I first met her. (Yes, I know I don't write romantic novels, but they're a generous bunch and let oddballs like me hang out with them). Pia was kind enough to let me crash her blog to talk about my ebook, so I'm very pleased to return the favour, especially as she has a brand new novel, The Gilded Fan just published. The PINK SOFA asked Pia about her new novel, and to tell us a little about herself and her writing.

'' Many thanks for having me as your guest, Carol, it's great to be here on the PINK SOFA! Nice and squishy, isn't it? (The PINK SOFA just wishes to point out here that it has now got two NEW cushions, with tassels.) 2013 certainly started with a bang for me, with 2 Kindle releases almost within days of each other - one was a Regency novella (Once Bitten, Twice Shy), the other was The Gilded Fan, which will also be available in paperback from 7th Feb onwards.

I'm half Swedish/half English. I was born in England but moved to Sweden when I was only a year old, so my English dad and I learned Swedish together. We also learned to swim together in the summer house by the lake. Fun but pretty cold! I once swam in water that was only 16 degrees C. Brrrr!

As my family has just moved house, I don't currently have a fixed writing place - can't seem to find the ideal place, so I'm moving from room to room and trying different things. I think I need to buy a new desk and chair, then maybe I'll be more settled. Good thing I write on a laptop. One of my favourite parts of the writing process is coming up with names for my characters. I can lose myself in name books or on name blogs for hours on end, happily jotting down possibilities until I stumble on one that's perfect. And I read the credits at the end of films just to pick up new names.

The hardest part of writing for me in actually putting bum on seat. It's so easy to get distracted by social networking and reading other people's blogs, especially if the writing isn't flowing that day.
Pia's new novel

The Gilded Fan is set in 1641 and features what some people would call a 'kick-ass' heroine - a sword-wielding half-Japanese girl, trained in the arts of war.When Midori Kumashiro, the orphaned daughter of a warlord is told she has to leave Japan or die, sh has no choice but to flee to England. 

With atypically Japanese upbringing (being taught self-defence by her father and also the samurai code of honour) tempered by her English mother's foreign ideas, Midori was an interesting character to portray. She thinks herself the equal of any man. That is, of course until she meets the hero, Captain Nico Noordholt, a man like no other she's ever known. He has come to Nagasaki to trade and the last thing he wants is a female passenger, especially a beautiful one.

I have to confess I like alpha heroes and Nico is certainly one of those - big, blond, handsome in a rugged sort of way and capable of holding his own in most situations. He's used to getting his own way and not caring for anyone other than himself. When Midori gets under Nico's skin, he has no idea how to cope, which was perfect for my story. I had great fun writing about these two. Although they clashed instantly, that also had so much in common - I just had to make them realise it!

I'd love to know what other people think of 'Kick-ass' heroines - love them or loathe them? Choc Lit are offering a copy of the prequel The Scarlet Kimono (all about Midori's mother Hannah, another wilful heroine) to the best comment!''

The Gilded Fan (ISBN 978-1-78189-008-0)
Pia's website (including blog):
Twitter: @PiaCCourtenay

Thanks Pia - THE PINK SOFA loves Choc Lit - listen, any publisher with 'choc' in its name is a winner!

Pia will be staying around for a while, so do take a seat, help yourself to Japanese rice crackers and sake, and have a chat.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

New Year Cheer

Plus ca change, as the French say - although they'd say it with the correctly applied accents, plus c'est la meme chose. I am reminded of this epithet as I gaze out of the window of the writing garret on a grey January morning, and see flocks of runners passing by below. It happens regularly at this time of year. As soon as the festivities are over, the decorations dismantled and the last of the chocs scoffed, the local citizenry stares at its waistline, realises that it no longer has one, and takes to the street.

By February, the streets will have returned to the usual hardy troupe of runners with their little headphones, water bottles strapped to their wrists, and determinedly- gritted-teeth expressions. Same with the TV adverts. The moment January arrives, some faceless marketing team decides that either I need to book my summer holiday now, this instant, or seems to think I have an insatiable desire to spend the next eight weeks learning how to construct a small lifelike replica of the Titanic out of cardboard (free iceberg with part one). The ultimate nadir was reached last night when I sat through at least six successive public advertisements telling me how to eat healthily, and presenting me with luscious fruit and veg, and fresh products. Meanwhile another local food bank has just opened up...
At the rehearsal

Bridal bouquet
The 'cheese' cake. 
 Before I self-combust in the white heat of anger at the disconnect and rank hypocrisy of the current government, I thought I'd share something with you that certainly cheers me up, and I hope will bring a smile to your face, and a feeling of optimism in these grey dog-days of January.
Followers of Facebook/Twitter will know that DD got married on December 22nd so here are some snippets of the day and pre-day. They got married in the beautiful and historic 11th century church of St Bartholemew the Great, in Smithfield.

The church

The newly-married couple
It rained the whole day, but somehow, the guests didn't notice. As you can see, they hired an old Routemaster to take us all on a trip round London visiting locations that were significant in their courtship. Oh - the dress? Bought at a Red Cross Designer Bridal sale. For the cognoscenti - it's an Emma Hunt bridal gown, should have sold at £3,500. A snip at £500 and the charity got the money. The shrug is vintage, as is the silver hair clip. There was Afghan food at the reception (DD spent 3 years out there), a sitar player, and a cake made out of delicious fresh cheeses (see pic).
Mr and Mrs

The most impressive aspect of the whole lovely day was the knowledge that DD had organised it all herself. A feat of not inconsiderable brilliance. Her ability to micro-manage big events and produce complex spreadsheets has not been inherited from my side of the family, believe me. As you all know, I am to technology what fish are to dentistry, and I do not see this state of affairs changing much in the future. Sadly.

And so, as we each pedal our unicycles of hope across the tightrope of destiny, juggling the beanbag penguins of optimism as we go, it only remains for me and the PINK SOFA to wish you all a belated, but Very Happy New Year.


Saturday, 5 January 2013

The Conspiracy of Inanimate Objects

It is now just over Two years since I joined Twitter, sixteen months since I started this blog, and I can't remember the date when I set up my Facebook page. All of which is NO EXCUSE whatsoever for revisiting some of the more popular blog posts. But then, when have I ever needed an excuse.
Remember this one?

A vexing week at Hedges Towers. I think I am developing Copenhagen Syndrome. Every time something goes wrong, I find myself putting on a different jumper and thinking: 'what would Sara Lund do?' The new mobile phone is a case in point. I decided to upgrade to a new phone when the B H  E and U keys died on my ancient one, and the predictive text stuck on 'I am in the bar' rather than 'I am in the car'. Wrong impressions were being conveyed, I was having to think sideways every time I sent a text and my street cred was rapidly descending into the clown zone.

What I had failed to grasp however, was that mobile phone technology has moved on considerably since I bought my little silver 'mum-phone' many moons ago which means that currently, if you chose for so many reasons, most of them associated with sheer terror and no money, to lurk down the shallow end of the technology pool, your choices are few. Basically it was either the black Nokia one that looked almost but not exactly the same as my previous mobile, or the Hello Kitty phone with free pencil set. I chose the Nokia; I chose wrong.

Getting it out of the box was, in hindsight, the easy part. It then took me ages to unlock the keypad - simply couldn't get the Press * key to align with the Press Unlock key. By the time I'd mastered that, my faith in the ability to absorb new skills had melted away like snow in summer. Two days later, tentative progress has been made, despite the instruction booklet not being aimed at someone with technological skills so low you couldn't limbo under them. I still haven't worked out how to switch it off, though. (Am I the only person on the planet who turns off their mobile phone to save the battery? Apparently so.)

It's all part of what I see as the Conspiracy of Inanimate Objects, something I've observed is becoming worse as I grow older. Although the truth of that sentence could lie in the reverse premise. Whatever. Everything just seems to be getting proactively more annoying. For example, I'm fully expecting Sainsburys to post a notice any day banning me from the store, because I always end up rowing with the invisible purple gremlin inside the self-checkout till in a 'That's not an unidentified object in the bagging area - it's my SHOPPING, you stupid woman!' sort of way. I've noticed that assistants now seem to hover apprehensively whenever I approach.

In the same category is the Orange phone lady who tops up my pay-as-you-go account, and will not allow me to deviate from answering either 'yes' or 'no' to her questions. But my life is full of uncertainty, I wail, how can I possibly commit myself to only two possibilities? Is there no room for 'maybe'? At which point, she cuts me off and I have to restart the whole process from scratch. See what I mean?

 Before writing this post, I had to restore and reload Chrome, as it had decided to stroll off somewhere and commune with itself. Oh - and the printer is currently not working, despite kicking it, feeding it with paper and pressing all the buttons. Stuff that is supposed to make my life easier is by default managing to make it far more complicated. I am careening towards a farcical cliff. Time to break out another jumper?