Friday 21 December 2007

Christmas Poem

Anyone want a Christmas poem? I wrote this a considerable number of years ago when the kids were at primary school. Home-made Nativities just hit the heart, don't they?

 Angel Hems by Jan Jones

Today the sky is dark, clouds lie in wait
I’m sewing tinsel for an angel hem
The first drops hit me as I reach the gate

At school and wonder why it’s always them
Who’ve lost their gloves and bags and by the way
We should have had our stuff - I try to stem

The flood of petty grievance of their day
And shield them from the rain slant-driving down
As Mary shielded Jesus in the hay

Did she know then that he would wear a crown
Not like my son’s, all glitter and gold paint
As fits a King, but thorns and greeny-brown?

She must have known, but put aside the taint
Of things to come by calling him a boy
Like any other. Oh no, not a saint -

Just Jesus bringing visitors and joy
Just Jesus asking questions to make sense
Just Jesus with a woolly lamb his toy.

To make the barn they’ve borrowed someone’s fence
My daughter’s tinsel snags the cardboard stall
.... the Natal magic smooths away pretence

Small wonder that He railed against the call
From Christmas, Easter is no time at all.

(By the way, there's a special term for the form of this poem. I can't remember what it is for the moment, but I'll look it up and post later. Unless anyone else gets in first, of course!)

Tuesday 18 December 2007

Longlist for the Romantic Novel of the Year 2008


Excellent! The RNA party season has started already!

The longlist for the Romantic Novel of the Year 2008 has been announced. Shame there aren't more of my pals on it (partisan, moi?), but I do spy my chum Kate Lace in her debut outing in her new persona (she's more generally known as Catherine Jones, or "mine's a large red, please").

Next will be the Romance Prize (category romance) shortlist, some time in the New Year. And then the RNotY shortlist announcement in mid-January.

And then the Awards Lunch! I'm salivating at the very thought.

Wednesday 12 December 2007

Tuesday 11 December 2007

Not Being Distracted

Nope. I know I've got this lot to deal with, but there's only one chapter to go until I've finished the first draft, so nothing Christmassy is being done until I've got the hero and heroine to their happy-ever-after.

And then I'll have all that writing, posting, buying, wrapping, stirring, decorating time to revolve in my head how the heck I'm going to unpick the wretched thing to make it into the book it's supposed to be.

Friday 7 December 2007

Mobile technology?

Whilst browsing racing prints for my Regency work-in-progress, I came across this one by Henry Alken from 1802.

Look closely at the leading jockey. Is it me, or is he trying to text and ride at the same time?

As Louise Allen commented to me, convincing proof of time travel!

(PS You can click on the picture for an enlarged view)

Monday 3 December 2007

The perils of forgetfulnes


Never, repeat never, forget to take your reading glasses with you to the library when you want to do some research.

I have just written an entire strand of of my only-two-chapters-to-go-until-I-reach-the-end Regency based on the assumption that Lady Jersey owned racehorses.


The tiny black abbreviation Ld stands for Lord not Lady.

LORD Jersey owned racehorses. Lord Jersey who wouldn't in a million years have inveigled my hero into investigating a tiny matter of race-fixing.

No prizes at all for what I'm thinking right now.

Tuesday 20 November 2007

Who dat cat?

From dogs to cats. Have I mentioned that Merlin got his name partly because he has always had a thing about caves? Well, whilst son was watching this encounter in the back garden this morning...
(look closely under the magnolia tree)

someone snuck into the backpack he takes to work...

Wednesday 14 November 2007

Found dogs!

Hurrah! Dogs have been found and are now with the RSPCA!
Much relief all round.

Later that same day...


Home again, safe and sound!

Tuesday 13 November 2007

Lost dogs

Heart in mouth and fingers crossed today for my friend who had her car stolen in Cambridge yesterday - with her two liver-and-white springer spaniels in the back.

They were in a dog cage, so hopefully whoever stole the car will have just hoisted the cage out and left it somewhere obvious for a decent human being to report.

As you can imagine, my friend is torn between hope and despair every time the phone rings.

Monday 5 November 2007

Monday indulgence

It's not just me, is it? I mean, everybody gets days when it's grey and cold and you can't find the right present and you'd forgotten this was the day the library closes early and someone else put the last Brussels paté in their trolley just as you reached for it, don't they?

So everybody mutters "s*d the calories" to themself and comes home with a toffee pecan lattice, right?

Yeah, thought so.

Wednesday 31 October 2007

Happy Hallowe'en!!!

Not quite sure how it got to be hallowe'en so soon, but here are stage-by-stage pics of last year's pumpkin (designed by son, hacked by me). The fiddly eye cut-outs were a pain!

This year I only gave him the pumpkin
five minutes before he left for work, so surgery should be a little easier.

Mwah ha ha.

Sunday 28 October 2007

Cats and internal clocks


Ahhh. Butter wouldn't melt, would it?

And I suppose they thought they were being very restrained, leaving it until quarter past seven this morning to point out to me that I hadn't yet fed them.

They weren't to know that British Summer Time finished last night so all the clocks in the house said quarter past six...

Thursday 25 October 2007

Roving canapés

It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it. Yes, one of today's bits of business is to choose the menu for the Romantic Novelists' Association Winter Party.

The IMechE at One Birdcage Walk does splendid roving
canapés (so christened because the waiters wander around with trays of nibbles which hopefully won't have disappeared by the time they get to you), so narrowing it down to five hot and five cold takes some doing.

Let's see...
Chilled spears of asparagus and hollandaise shots --- tick
Cocktail Cumberland sausages with cheesy mashed potato dip --- tick
Crispy tempura vegetables with plum sauce --- tick
. . . . .
. . . . .

I should go and talk amongst yourselves if I were you. I may be some time.

Tuesday 23 October 2007

The bread of life

I'm making bread today (son and I get through a LOT of bread), so thought I would post a poem I wrote ages ago. It came out of a writing challenge to describe your favourite food. I think I was supposed to come up with something lyrical and beautiful (probably along the lines of Julie Cohen's terrific sex-and-chocolate workshop), but being on the contrary side and feeling somewhat hassled at the time, I produced this instead.

It, er, didn't win - but the bread tasted good.

No Mystery by Jan Jones

There’s no mystery to bread
... provided you remember to get the bowl out the night before
... to remind you when you stumble eyes half-closed into your
... early morning kitchen to

Get out the frozen yeast
Defrost for half an hour
... or as long as it takes to force your body awake with that
... first shock of coffee, get the children up and dressed,
... put the washing on, make the packed lunches...

Meanwhile rub the butter into the flour
... I made the coffee with just hot water and milk once - I
... still remember the surprise that I could actually
... taste the difference that time in the morning

Add some salt and make a well in the middle
Add sugar to the yeast then pour on
Two-thirds cold water, one third boiling
... using the rest for a second cup of gulped-down, searing coffee
Mix and pour into the flour well
Sprinkle with flour
Cover with a tea towel and leave to froth
... meanwhile turning off the Nintendo, cramming feet into shoes,
... plaiting hair, wiping faces, finding bags...

Knead together well
... when you get back from school after two false starts. Why
... do they always remember things thirty seconds out of the door
... and not the night before despite you asking?

And leave to rise in a warm place
... like money for the cake stall and oh, yes, the lace is broken on
... one of my trainers and I need it today, Mum, and -

Knock back
... when you get home from the supermarket
... weary in body and wallet

Divide into two oiled tins
Leave to rise again
... while you make a cup of tea this time, unpack the shopping,
... get the washing out of the machine, hang it up...

Then cook for twenty-eight minutes in a hot oven.

No, the only mystery to bread is what shops do to make it
So devoid of life.


Tuesday 16 October 2007

Most hated job

Today is going to have to be Desk Tidying Day.

It wasn't going to be. it was supposed to be an admin day. The trouble is that one of the things on the admin list is to update my website - and the instructions on how to do that are scribbled on a piece of paper towards the bottom of the pile on my desk. And as I was brought up never to waste anything, all my pieces of paper have lots of different things scribbled on them.

So I do know where the instructions are, I just don't know where they are.

..... looks at desk unenthusiastically .....

Of course,
I could simply wait for my son to return from his place of employment tonight...


Thursday 11 October 2007

Not so gone!

The deed was done. All her worldly possessions (actually not all of them, only the ones cool enough for student life) were packed into two cars and at the end of September her brother and I drove her to Warwick.

All the way up I was thinking that I simply couldn't believe I was taking my little girl to University. Where had the years gone?

Her brother fixed up her computer and checked the Internet was working. I bought her what might be her last square meal until Christmas. We drove home.

Communication was restarted by email. Maternal fears were allayed by the friends she'd made, the societies she'd joined, that fact that she'd discovered the local Tesco.

Then I get an email: "I'm thinking of coming home this weekend."
"Why?" I replied, distraught all over again. "I thought you were having a whale of a time?"
"Oh I am! It's fantastic! I'm loving it!"
"Then why do you want to come home?"
"Um, the laundrette in our block isn't working and I'm running out of socks..."


Sunday 9 September 2007

Promenade Summer

Every time I watch the Last Night of the Proms, I am transported back to 1976 or so when for three years I worked at the Royal School of Mines and my tiny slip of an office window looked out over the queue for the promenade concerts.

That was a particularly long, hot summer, so here, in homage, is a slice of memory.

(Photo courtesy of the BBC)

Promenade Summer by Jan Jones

That summer
When boys came up to my room to sit on my bed and
Gulp cold orange straight from the box
When coruscating music ran around the vaulted stone gallery
And seeped into my Indian cotton skirt as I sat cross-legged
Or lay full length on the wide empty floor to listen
When the heat in the park hit ninety and my stifling
Third-floor bedsit was visited by lads whose grants had run out
Or whose girls had got better degrees than they had
And who loved me because I was there and it was the thing to do
That summer

That summer
When I would refill my fridge daily with two quarts of orange
And a four-pack of lager
When I’d go to bed at two and wake every morning at six
When I was high on London and patched its tatters
Into a flame and russet headband
When I shed my skin eagerly and quickly and thought I had nothing to learn

I went alone once to listen. Queued alone
Without my girlfriends to tell me which music I would enjoy
Paid twenty pence extra and slipped with guilty pleasure
Into a promenade large with sharing
Immediate with excitement
I rode a boy out of the hall
Made love to him in the park and lost him
Glad really to be alone
That summer

Sunday 15 July 2007

Large Print edition of Stage by Stage

The Large Print edition of Stage by Stage has just been published by Magna. Priced at £19.99, it is aimed mostly at libraries. As you can see, the cover is quite different to the original, but it does say, very definitely, that this is a romance set against a theatrical background.

Long may it attract both readers and PLR!

Friday 15 June 2007

RNA Summer Party

One of these days I'll be sufficiently beforehand with the world to blog about things as they happen rather than as they were some time ago. The Romantic Novelists' Association Summer Party 2007 was its usual glittering self with excellent company, rather nice wine and pretty good nibbles. I'm so glad the chef at One Birdcage Walk decided to retain the tiny sausages with cheesy mash as one of the canapé options this year. He also retained the asparagus spears in Hollandaise sauce - sadly they all disappeared en route between the serving door and me. Never mind, enough of the tempura vegetables with chilli dipping sauce made it past the crowd to mollify me.

Part of the pleasure of these parties is the opportunity to catch up with friends, such as lovely Caroline ...

and equally lovely Kate (seen
here on the right chatting to Jenny Haddon).

The highlight of the evening was the announcement of this year's RNA NWS winner. Dr David Hessayon sponsors this every year in
memory of his late wife Joan (and gives us all a glass of fizz to boot!). I have an extremely soft spot for this award since I won it myself with Stage by Stage in 2005, so felt it entirely appropriate that Phillipa Ashley should greet her own win this year by shedding a few tears. I was with you all the way, Phillipa!

Left - Dave Hessayon. Right - Phillipa and her husband John, together with her book,
Decent Exposure, and the trophy.

Seems a shame evenings like this can't go on for ever!

Monday 14 May 2007

Romantic Novel of the Year and Romance Prize 2007

Posting shamefully late about this (excuse being that I've been working on the RNA Conference programme instead), but it was a lovely do at the Savoy to celebrate this year's Romantic Novel of the Year Award and the RNA Romance Prize for short romantic fiction.

The advantage of being the one with the camera is that I have nice shots of other people and none of me.

Above is Rosie Thomas just after Dame Tanni
Grey-Thompson announced her novel Iris and Ruby as the winner of the Romantic Novel of the Year Award for 2007, and (right) Dame Tanni and Rosie with her crystal star.

Next up was the Romance Prize for short romantic fiction. Jean Chapman, a previous chairman of the Romantic Novelists' Association announced the winner as Nell Dixon, with Marrying Max, published by the People's Friend Story Collection. There was a short pause at this point during which various kind friends tried to persuade Nell that she wasn't hearing things and that she really had won.

All in all, it was a splendid luncheon with delicious food, some seriously nice outfits (see Jenny Haddon's to-die-for lace, right), and congenial companions.

On my table we had Jessica Hart, last year's Romance Prize winner, also Natasha Oakley and Fiona Loakes.

Natasha was one of the 2007 short-listed authors and Fiona is the current holder of the Joan Hessayon award (a very distinguished body of people)

And then, once all the food had been eaten and the drink had been, er, drunk, my friends and I ambled round the corner to the Coal Hole.

As I said, a very good day.

(Pictured are Judy Astley, Katie Fforde, Gilli Allan, Bernardine Kennedy, Lesley Cookman and Jenny Harper)

Saturday 21 April 2007

Had a lovely day on Monday 16th April when I travelled up to sunny Wigan to the launch of the NW Libraries Time to Read initiative featuring romantic fiction. Entitled Pure Passion, it will run in all 22 libraries of the partnership for the next year.

In the Atrium of Wigan Town Hall, we were served 'Pure Passion' cocktails (ribena and sparkling wine - very pretty) and I got a chance to catch up with lots of
Romantic Novelists' Association pals, including Jenny Haddon, Melinda Hammond, Roger Sanderson, Penny Jordan, Trisha Ashley, June Francis, Eileen Ramsay and Angela Proctor.

Librarian-in-charge Jane Mathieson explained the scheme and thanked the RNA for their help in drawing up a shortlist of excellent modern romantic reading. Jenny Haddon (centre in this photo; RNA chairman) then spoke about the history of romantic fiction and the wide choice available to today's lucky readers of the genre.

She was followed by two writers whose books are on the suggested Pure Passion reading list: Erica James (right; current Romantic Novel of the Year holder with Gardens of Delight), and Linda Gillard (left) with Emotional Geology published by the lovely Transita. Both talked about their writing and read a short excerpt from their own book.

Then it was time to network with the gathered librarians, finish off the cakes and fruit platter that had been provided by the Time to Read team, and wend our way home.

Monday 19 March 2007


Hi, I'm Jan Jones and I write Romantic Comedy, short stories and poetry.

I am a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association - a fine body of people!

My debut novel Stage by Stage won the Romantic Novelists' Association NWS Award in 2005.You can read more about it on my website.