Saturday 22 December 2012

Merry Christmas!


This year's tree is up and decorated. It is about two foot shorter than in previous years (and that's without the foot I usually have to lop off to get it in the room), but we still managed to crowd all our tree ornaments on.

The decorations have been added to over the years. As well as the general ones, we each have 'our' special ornaments that we place - and woe betide anyone who tries to sneak them on first. Just one of the family traditions that binds Christmas together and keeps it working.

Some branches this year have several baubles dangling off them but we couldn't miss them out, now could we?


Sunday 9 December 2012

Thinking back

So, in between peeling potatoes and watching last night's Led Zeppelin concert on television, I wrote this poem...

Wishing by Jan Jones

Listening to Led Zep
And wishing I was that girl again
And thinking of decisions taken
Or not taken

And wishing

Watching them grown up
Head of an irascible angel
And feeling the weight of the years
(but still fancying them, even now)

Old rockers...
Are just like me

And now they have experience in their voices
and richness in their movements
and a thousand different paths
and a thousand different lives
flash before me

And though I would never, never unwant my children...

I’m still thinking

And wishing


Sunday 11 November 2012



Flanders meets the High Street
by Jan Jones
Standing in Waitrose at eleven o’clock
All life suddenly suspended
A woman reaching for cereal
An old man gripping his wire basket
Me with my trolley as
Thousands of cheerful, too fast soldiers
March before my eyes in jerky shades of grey
Joining up together
Fighting together
Dying together
A village wiped out. A community blasted.
So wrong.
The cashiers sit down
People move
Two minutes of life, gone in the blink of an eye.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

The Lion

And here it is...

My quirky, lively story about a pampered cat, a put-upon niece, lack of amenities, artists' block ... oh, and a lion.

It is in the new Woman's Weekly Fiction Special (6 Nov-5 Dec), and I had enormous fun writing it.

This isn't a lion, by the way, it's Archer. And he isn't pampered at all, oh no.

Wednesday 19 September 2012

Mansfield Park

Yesterday I went to see a new adaptation of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park for the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds. This is going to be a challenge, I thought. A four-hundred page book by one of the wittiest writers I know featuring a largely internalising heroine that takes me well over a day to read even knowing it so well - distilled into a two hour stage play.

But it was BRILLIANT.

A very few characters had melted away, a lot of thinking had been précised down into salient-point speeches, but what was left was pure, rich, essence of Austen. In a lot of ways, the very paring down of the text brought out the humour in the book. It certainly contributed to an instant identification of who each character was and what they were like.

Mr Rushworth declaiming
With a very clever, elegant set designed to suggest the Georgian era, the play flowed effortlessly from one scene to the next. The actors brought masses of energy and realism to their roles and I believed in each and every one of them. One of the lovely things was that the parts had necessarily to be doubled now and then, and it was evident how much the actors really enjoyed the light relief of portraying the raucous, shambolic Portsmouth household for a few scenes after the intense, restrained Mansfield Park itself.

Fanny Price
I can only applaud the stupendous acting from all concerned, the sympathetic direction of Colin Blumenau and the writer of the adaptation, Tim Luscombe. I didn't want the evening to end.

All in all, this was a fantastic production - it's on tour later this autumn, so go and see it if you possibly can.

Tuesday 11 September 2012

Gone visiting...

I'm off visiting my good friend Kate Hardy today to congratulate her on her 50th book for Mills & Boon.

I shall be talking about serials and offering a slightly different prize...

See you there.

Sunday 2 September 2012

Life Imitating Art

One of the features of the Romantic Novelists' Association Conference is the annual Chairman's competition for the Elizabeth Goudge Trophy. This is only open to members of the RNA attending the conference, and usually takes the form of a chapter of a novel or a short story.

The 2012 competition was for a short story in which an animal played an integral part.

Being up to my eyes in conference administration without a single animal idea in my head, I decided to leave it for this year. But then this insane first line crept stealthily into my head...

Any writer will know what happened next. I abandoned the admin and wrote. And I have to say I felt MUCH better once I'd finished, even though it was a completely mad story.

It didn't win, but it did come fourth (after Alison Maynard, Judy Astley and, er, someone I've forgotten, sorry). So I expanded it a bit, polished it some more and sent it off to Woman's Weekly, who bought it.

So when you read the opening line, just remember that I WROTE IT FIRST

Pardon? You don't understand? What am I talking about? Oh, silly me...

The insane first line in question is:

"It's about the lion," said the woman on the doorstep.

and what was in the news on the bank holiday weekend just gone? That's right, a lion sighting in Essex...

Life imitating art, see?


Tuesday 24 July 2012

summer song

Summer has reappeared and taken me by surprise. After a wonderful Romantic Novelists' Association Conference - of which more anon, since I have no photos of my own and will have to borrow from my pals, I have a poem for you...

SUMMER SONG by Jan Jones

Warm breeze on my skin
watering the garden in the last slow light
of evening

a dog barks
a child cries
the stallion in the field tempts the mares
still watching long-legged, awkwardly adolescent foals

and I am slow
and warm
and stupid from working through the haze of the day
half in my created world
half in summers long past
when I was invincible and laughing and willing
and the stallions came whistling


Sunday 10 June 2012

Silly Sunday

The internet is a strange and wonderful beast. All the witty, wise and thoughtful words I have written over the years - and what gets the most retweets on Twitter? This... (enjoy)

See my lawn
It is shorn
All that long grass,
It is gorn

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Written on the Wind - the finale!

The final episode of Written on the Wind is out today.

In which EVERYTHING is solved, sorted and explained. Hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday 14 March 2012

Written on the Wind - part three

The third part of my North Yorks moors serial is now out. Annie is still trying to settle into Moor End House, but is hampered by not knowing what Luke and Rob are up to.

She finds a degree of peace amongst the trees in the grove, visits old Joe in hospital, and shows that she is determined to build her own life here.

Warning: features trees.

Birch, alder, willow, oak. Holly, hazel, apple, beech.
And the ivy to bind and the yew to watch.


Saturday 3 March 2012

Written on the Wind - part two

This week in my North Yorks moors serial, Annie is baffled by beautiful Luke and reacquaints herself with Celtic trees.

I love the illustration for part two: the way it waterfalls down the side of the page and pools in the bottom corner.

What Annie doesn't ever get to have - in print anyway - is one of my favourite things from Whitby: Botham's gingerbread loaf. Firm, dry but soft, melts in the mouth and intensely gingery. Exactly how gingerbread always used to be. Much consumption went into the writing of this serial.

13th March issue should be on sale Wed 7th or Thurs 8th this week.

Friday 2 March 2012

In Praise of Books

Old Books by Jan Jones

soft feathery pages
fat with words
overflowing with memories

how long since I read you
since I absorbed you into my consciousness
to be gently, insidiously, edged to the archive shelves of my mind

you fit easily to my hand
fall open as I blow off the dust
I smile
and curl into the library chair
melting back in time

Thursday 1 March 2012

Gadding about!

Goodness me, I am all over blogland today.

First you can catch me on the sparkly new Robert Hale Ltd blog talking about romance and my #RoNAs shortlisting.

And then head over to Historical Romance UK where I sigh wistfully over Dan Snow and contemplate the Painted Hall at Greenwich.

Comments on both sites - or even here - welcome!

Sunday 26 February 2012

Written on the Wind - part one

Hooray! The first part of my new serial for Woman's Weekly is out this week!

Written on the Wind is about Annie Farrow - an artist who makes beautiful, stylised mobiles. Her dream is to create larger installations whilst supporting herself with her artwork, but this seems unlikely until her great aunt leaves her a house on the edge of the North Yorkshire moors.

However, Annie discovers that the wild seclusion of Moor End House doesn't quite provide the uncomplicated lifestyle that she'd thought it would.

Issue is March 6th 2012 - on sale 1st March!

(And yes that IS David Essex on the cover)

Friday 10 February 2012

RoNA Rose Shortlisting!

The Kydd Inheritance shortlisted for the RoNA Rose 2012!

The news is now out and I am so, so, so thrilled to be able to announce that I have been shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists' Association awards for the third year running!

This year, the awards have a new logo and a new name: the RoNAs. There are six awards being made - Contemporary, Epic, Historical, Romantic Comedy, Young Adult and the RoNA Rose for category and hardback-only romance.

The Kydd Inheritance is a Regency love story set amidst secrets and skullduggery. Nell Kydd has to outwit her dangerously creepy uncle, reinstate her dangerously adventurous brother and come to terms with his dangerously attractive friend, Hugo Derringer.

The winners in each category will be announced at a wonderfully posh "Bubbly and Bites" event at One Whitehall Place on Monday 5th March. It would be a terrible waste not to buy a new frock for it, yes?

I'm delighted to see so many of my friends on the 2012 shortlists. The full lists are as follows:

Chances, Freya North, (Harper Collins)
Christmas at Tiffany’s, Karen Swan, (Pan Macmillan)
It Started with a Kiss, Miranda Dickinson, (Avon (Harper Collins))
Summer of Love, Katie Fforde, (Arrow (Random House))
The Untied Kingdom, Kate Johnson, (Choc Lit)
To the Moon and Back, Jill Mansell, (Headline Review)

Epic Category: 
Crimson China, Betsy Tobin, (Short Books)
Jubilate, Michael Arditti, (Arcadia Books)
That Liverpool Girl, Ruth Hamilton, (Pan MacMillan)
The Kashmir Shawl, Rosie Thomas, (Harper Collins)
The Lantern, Deborah Lawrenson, (Orion)

Historical Category: 
A Gathering Storm, Rachel Hore, (Simon & Schuster UK)
Daughter of Siena, Marina Foriato, (John Murray)
Highland Storms, Christina Courtenay, (Choc Lit)
Perhaps Tomorrow, Jean Fullerton, (Orion)
The Noble Assassin, Christie Dickason, (Harper Collins)

Romantic Comedy Category: 
Lizzy Harrison Loses Control, Pippa Wright, (Pan MacMillan)
Please Don’t Stop the Music, Jane Lovering, (Choc Lit)
The Look of Love, Judy Astley, (Transworld - Black Swan)
Who’s Afraid of Mr. Wolfe?, Hazel Osmond, (Quercus)
Wrapped Up in You, Carole Matthews, (Little Brown Book Group - Sphere)

Young Adult:
Angel Fire, L. A. Weatherly, (Usborne Publishing)
Artichoke Hearts, Sita Brahmachari, (MacMillan’s Childrens’ Books)
Dark Ride, Caroline Green, (Piccadilly Press)
My So-called Phantom Lovelife, Tamsin Murray, (Piccadilly Press)

RoNA Rose: 
Flirting with Italian, Liz Fielding (HMB Riva)
A Christmas Knight, Kate Hardy (HMB Medical)
Ordinary Girl in a Tiara, Jessica Hart (HMB Riva)
The Kydd Inheritance, Jan Jones (Robert Hale)
The Dangerous Lord Darrington, Sarah Mallory (HMB Historical)
Winning the War Hero's Heart, Mary Nichols (HMB Historical)

Further information can be found at the RoNA Awards site and the Romantic Novelists' Association.

Thursday 26 January 2012

The 'Write A Great Synopsis' blog tour lands...

The synopsis - love it or loathe it, every writer has to tackle one some time. I really don't find them simple and nor do most of my writing pals, so I was delighted when my friend Nicola Morgan casually announced on Twitter one day that she thought she might have a go at a How To...

Not only that, she's done it and jolly good it is too! So I thought I'd ask her a few questions.


Jan: Hi Nicola, welcome to my blog. I know you are on a whirlwind tour, so I won’t keep you long. Thank you for sending me Write a Great Synopsis. Definitely a keeper, and I enjoyed all the very valuable advice, but a few questions occurred to me as I was reading through it.

Nicola: Hello, and thank you for letting me visit!  Is that a Botham’s of Whitby Landlord cake I see on the table?

Jan: Er, yes. Do cut us both a slice. Oh, you are. [Pause for satisfied chomping] Where was I? Oh yes, in your acknowledgements you thank everybody who has ever moaned about the stress of writing synopses for giving you the idea to write this book. Did you really not know that lots of people had problems writing them?
Nicola: I actually really didn’t. There was never a sudden moment of awareness, just a gradual realization that everyone seemed to complain about doing them. Want to know a secret? Just to keep people happy, I used to pretend I hated them, too. I didn’t want to be like that teacher’s pet who loves weekly maths tests. Then I decided I wasn’t going to be a teacher’s pet, just an enthusiastic teacher!

Jan: Very glad you did! Like you, I adored doing précis exercises at school, but I also enjoy filling a whole book with words. I often think writers hate doing a synopsis because we are unwilling to admit that our wonderful characters, complex plots and witty words can be reduced or cut at all, let alone condensed down to a single page. Do you think that may have something to do with it? What would be your response?
Nicola: No, I think that’s an ex-post argument. I’m not sure why it would be so bad to admit that our complexities can be distilled. I think the problem really is that we’re so close to our book that we can’t see what to leave out. We both love our book too much and yet don’t trust it enough to let it stand on its own – like a parent who won’t let a son or daughter be independent. We’re too emotionally attached. The difficulty is that we do need emotional attachment in order to do a good job of distilling the book, but we also need distance, in order both to omit the right stuff and also to see the whole picture from an outsider’s viewpoint.

Jan: You are probably right. Now, in the book, you say: “The tone or voice of your book is conveyed seamlessly by the language of the synopsis.”  This is where I get stuck - how to make it so when a synopsis is third-person present tense narration and most novels, er, aren’t?
Nicola: Now, Jan, I know that you’re a good enough writer to do this without thinking, so you are just playing devil’s advocate, for which I thank you!  
[Jan: Ha! Little does she know] 
Nicola: Conveying tone by language is writing – without that skill, a writer has no voice, and writing a synopsis is only writing. I don’t see difficulty in creating a light tone (for example) in a synopsis for a light-toned first-person narrative and I think it would be the natural thing anyway. You wouldn’t write the synopsis in heavy, ultra-formal language if your novel was a modern comedy, would you?
[Jan: er...]
Nicola: The point I was making is that the voice or tone of the book does need to be suggested in the synopsis, not by saying “My book is hilariously whimsical” but by perhaps using the odd phrase of hilarious whimsy in the synopsis. It should come naturally, once you know that’s what you’re meant to be doing. In WAGS, you’ll see several examples – both in the two synopses that I offer myself, and in the sample synopsis by M Louise Kelly, which I specifically say I’ve chosen because it “nicely shows how to convey the tone of your story in the synopsis.”

Jan: Thanks very much - and the best of luck with the book. Where can people buy it?
Nicola: Thank you! And thank you hugely for letting me come and sit myself down here today. The cake was delicious. People can buy it (the book, not the cake) on their choice of ebook site – I’ve tried to gather various links on the relevant page of my website but the Amazon UK link is here. Remember, you don’t need a Kindle to read a Kindle book or even any e-reader at all: with the free software, they can all be read on laptops or even phones, if your eyes are that good! NB: it’s at a silly cheap price till the end of January!

Nicola also has a fabulous draw going on  at the moment. All commenters below (by Feb 15th) will be entered into the Big WAGS Competition, with chances to win a critique of your synopsis by the Crabbit Old Bat herself! One comment per person on each blog – though you can add to your chances by commenting on the other posts on the tour. Details of all stops on the tour will appear on her blog Help, I Need A Publisher as they go out.

Happy synopsis-writing!

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Penny Jordan

This is going to be a hard post to write. Yesterday I attended the funeral of friend and writer Penny Jordan. Penny was 65, but looked and acted and had the drive and outlook of someone far, far younger. We were members of the same email group, to which she was posting right up until the day we heard that she had been taken into hospital gravely ill.

It was cancer. We'd known she had 'boring tummy trouble' for quite a while, but no one had any idea how serious it was. She hadn't wanted it widely known, because she didn't want to be treated any differently to normal.

Penny always knew what she wanted. She was a perfectionist in her home and in her writing and in the wonderful parties that she threw. She was also modest and unassuming. These twin facets of her character were reflected in her funeral and the gathering that followed. There must have been something like two hundred people in the very handsome St Mary's Church, Nantwich. Wintry sun flooded through the stained glass to light up the brickwork with unexpected colour. Everyone in their best - not necessarily black - as Penny had asked. There were family, friends, neighbours, writers, editors, publishers, representatives of the RNA, of her local chapter and email groups, other people Penny had worked with over the years.

The service was simple, but uplifting. A compassionate vicar, poems read by her nieces, heartfelt singing, the coffin - absurdly slight for such a hard-working, dynamic person - mounded with white roses.

And then afterwards at the elegant restaurant she often went to, with good food, good wine, good company.

I believe she was with us, slipping in between the guests, just checking all was well. Rest in peace, Penny. You will never be forgotten.

Penny wrote as Penny Jordan for Harlequin Mills&Boon and as Annie Groves for HarperCollins. She was awarded a Lifetime Achievement star by the Romantic Novelists' Association in 2011. 

Friday 13 January 2012

Wet Sundays

I haven't posted a poem for a while, so here's one for the weekend. When my kids were younger, we used to spend a lot of time at the swimming pool!

Rainways by Jan Jones

Hurrying along the rainways
Mums with bags and children shouting in front
Passing posers from the squash courts pretending it’s dry
Kids in threes, rolled towels
Oldest one hand tight on money


Inching delicious, past grave babies slowly rotating
Plunging silk ripples, sea-person hair
Lightflight fantastic
Oiled limbs
Blue laughter, blue laughter, blue laughter

Children scramble free
Restless to do everything
Pirate slide, bubble seats, giant floats
Warm water, cold water, blue flume, black flume

Detached on the side, half-smiling
Girls whose swimsuits never get wet
Ankles dangling

And in the middle, Sunday fathers
Centred on their vanished world
Buying love, attention, anything on the menu
Desperate for a fleeting touch, hauling minutes out to hours
Fixing this pain in their memory