Friday, April 29, 2011

Yay! Wedding and Giveaway

Second last day of the A to Z! And it's a big day here in London. To celebrate, I'll be giving away two copies of the wonderful novel, The Golden Prince.

First, though, a big thanks to everyone who commented yesterday and offered their help for my blog situation. You can see I'm still here, and I've no idea how long -- if ever -- my 'rightful' blog will be returned back to me. I'll keep everyone posted. I realise losing a blog isn't the end of the world, but I must admit I had a few tearful moments yesterday along with several bouts of rage! I've worked so hard to connect with people and maintain those connections, and then to have it all pulled away without any warning... or chance to direct people elsewhere... well, you can only imagine how I'm feeling. I'll write another post on the whole thing at a later date, but for now, can you please just keep your fingers crossed that Blogger/ Google give me back my blog?

Anyway! On to better things: The Golden Prince.

Edward VIII became notorious for abandoning the throne for Mrs Simpson, but in the summer of 1911 he was a prince straight from the pages of a fairy-tale. Raised by the harsh disciplinarian King George V and his unfeeling Queen Mary, the prince longed for the warmth that had been deprived of him.The high society Houghton girls' lives however, were full of fun, both at their magnificent family seat Snowberry, and at the whirlwind of glamorous parties which punctuated their lives. When a moment of serendipity brings Edward and Lily Houghton together, the pressures of a stuffy court are replaced with the lightness that Edward has dreamt of.

But a future monarch could not choose his own Queen, and even an enduring love might falter under the furious gaze of a King. Could the devotion of Edward and Lily triumph against him and the impending doom of World War I? Or would they bow to the inevitable and set in train events that could bring down the Crown, and change the course of history forever?

I'm not usually one for historical romances and such, but I really enjoyed this insight into the restrictive life of the monarchy and the oh-so-romantic love story. Mixing fact with fiction, the novel weaves history into the different characters' lives, and the effect is a cracking good tale.

Thanks to Harper, I have two copies to give away, anywhere in the world! Just leave a comment below.

And over at Chick Lit Love, my Top Tip Number Three is up. Pop over if you get a chance.

I'll see you tomorrow -- probably still here, sigh -- for the end of the A to Z!

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Oh, hello. It's me, Talli! Why the different blog, you ask? Well, it's because sometime around six a.m., Blogger decided to remove my shiny lovely Talli blog, thinking it was SPAM. How insulting! Sure, I talk about wine (a lot). And coffee (a lot). But those are the finer things in life, not spam!

Anyway, I'm here until a) Blogger Support (who replied quite swiftly, so kudos) decide to give it back again; or b) Blogger Support decide not to give it back again, in which case... I don't even want to think about that right now. I've put hours and hours of hard work into that blog, and I can't face thinking otherwise at the moment!

This is an old blog I used to have before starting up my Talli one -- thank goodness I didn't delete it so it's around for emergencies like this one! And once I start a bl**dy challenge, I'm damned well going to finish it. So, X. XXXXXXXXXX! *insert swear word of choice there* Because that's exactly the frame of mind I'm in at the moment!

It's not too early for wine. It's NOT!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bye Bye Blog

You may have noticed I've been posting here with decreasing frequency. The truth is, it's very hard to keep two blogs going on what are essentially the same topics: writing, life and London!

Can I urge you all to come join me at my Talli Roland blog, where I also talk about London and the foibles of an expat life? I'll also be providing news of everything related to my travel writing, along with my fiction. Also - added bonus - I actually return all comments on my Talli blog as opposed to here, where I'm too darn lazy.

I hope to see you there, and I'll still pop in here every once in awhile to say hello!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Thank You - And Web Splash Results!

What an amazing day Wednesday was for me -- and all down to the help and support of people on Twitter, blogs and Facebook. An enormous thanks to all who spread the word about my debut novel and what I was trying to accomplish. As a fellow blogger, I know posting something like yesterday's post often receives low comments -- and as a reader, I realise it can get quite tiresome seeing the same thing again and again. So... thank you!

I'm thrilled to tell you that I made the Amazon Kindle Bestseller Top 100! More than that, actually -- I made it into the top 25! My best rank was number 24. (which I reckon has many more books and therefore more competition) came in at number 460 on the Kindle list, a number I'm ecstatic about, too.

One of the craziest moments of the day was when my publisher sent me an email with a link to the Amazon Movers and Shakers -- I was at number 1, ahead of Dickens (!) and Sophie Kinsella!

I'm not ashamed to admit at several points, I actually welled up at how many people were supporting me. If you followed the hashtag #TheHatingGame, you could see friends and complete strangers buying, retweeting, tweeting --- even one amazing tweeter @PamReader live tweeting as she read my novel!

And then when I hit the blogs! I was so chuffed to read all the wonderful comments and posts about my novel. I tried to make it around to everyone (and I'm still trying; please bear with me!), but by the end of the day, I felt like I'd run a marathon trying to keep up with everything and around midnight I collapsed, stuffed full of celebratory cake (courtesy of my husband) and pizza (courtesy of the local takeaway). Big thanks also to my parents who organised a wonderful bouquet of flowers to be delivered!

A few people have asked me if my Web Splash met my expectations. The answer? No. It didn't. It was so much better than I'd anticipated. Without a doubt, it was one of the most exciting days ever, and quite honestly I couldn't think of a better way -- or better people -- to spend my novel's birthday with.

Thank You.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Hating Game - Web Splash!

Hard to believe the day has finally come! I am so excited -- and so grateful for everyone's support. Please drop by Twitter (hash tag #TheHatingGame) to keep an eye on the Amazon stats and to get your virtual champers and assorted munchies!

UPDATE - As of 1 p.m., The Hating Game was number 32 on Amazon UK Kindle and number 25 in Fiction! I'm into the Top 100! Starting to move on, too. I can't say thank you enough!

15:35 GMT - Now number 25 on Amazon UK and in the 1700s on! Wooo!

Thank you a trillion and one times for helping me with this! It sounds cheesy but I really feel like you're all behind me, and it's a fantastic feeling.So without further ado, I bring you THE SPLASH!Help my debut novel THE HATING GAME hit the Kindle bestseller list at and by spreading the word today. Even a few sales in a short period of time on Amazon helps push the book up the rankings, making it more visible to other readers.

No Kindle?

Download a free app at Amazon for Mac, iPhone, PC, Android and more.

Coming soon in paperback. Keep up with the latest at


When man-eater Mattie Johns agrees to star on a dating game show to save her ailing recruitment business, she's confident she'll sail through to the end without letting down the perma-guard she's perfected from years of her love 'em and leave 'em dating strategy. After all, what can go wrong with dating a few losers and hanging out long enough to pick up a juicy £200,000 prize? Plenty, Mattie discovers, when it's revealed that the contestants are four of her very unhappy exes. Can Mattie confront her past to get the prize money she so desperately needs, or will her exes finally wreak their long-awaited revenge? And what about the ambitious TV producer whose career depends on stopping her from making it to the end?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Exciting Things!

It's almost December, and the weather is certainly obliging -- as I type this, my fingers are freezing, thanks the chilly air drifting in through our ancient sash windows. I've been rather neglectful of this blog recently, mostly down to exciting events with my alter ago, Talli Roland.

My first novel, The Hating Game, is due out this Wednesday, December 1, as an ebook ahead of its paperback launch next year! I've organised a Take On Amazon Web Splash, with almost 450 bloggers, Facebookers and Tweeters helping to spread the word about my quest to get as high as I can in the Amazon sales rank.

I often take for granted people know what sales rank is and why it's important. If you look on any book listing on Amazon, you'll see the book has a number beside the words 'sales rank'. The more copies people buy, the higher (or lower, depending on how you look at it) the bestseller list the book climbs. If you manage to get into the top 100, it can make a massive difference to your sales. The book is more visible and being labelled a bestseller gives it validation. Not only that, good sales figures for an ebook can also generate pre-orders for the paperback and hopefully make it easier for the hard copy to get into bookstores.

A number of sales over a short period of time (say, one day) has the power to get the book even higher up, since the sales rank algorithm takes into account not just the sales but the period over which the sales were made.

So! All this to say, fingers crossed for December 1! If you'd like to take part in the Web Splash, all the information you need to post (just copy and paste onto your blog on Dec 1) is here! And if you'd like to buy a copy of the book on that day, that would be fantastic, too! Just click the link for or If you don't have a Kindle, you can download the app for PC, Android, Mac, iPad and more. And if you're using, you can even buy Kindle ebooks for others as gifts now.

Sales pitch over! I'll be back on Wednesday with the Splash! Until then, have a great week.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Book Birthdays and More!

Every time November rolls around, I always shake my head in disbelief that the year's almost finished. This time more than ever -- it's been one year since 24 Hours London was published! You can read about my year in review over on my Talli Roland blog.

With everything that's been happening, time has certainly flown. Electronic proof copies for The Hating Game are ready, and things are gearing up for the Dec 1 e-book release! I've now got over 400 people signed up for my Web Splash; big thank you to those participating!

And now, I leave you with this little gem. Ah, The Daily Mail...

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Remember, Remember

Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot...

While it's not quite yet the fifth of November and time to 'celebrate' the infamous Guy Fawkes' attempt to overthrow Parliament, a balmy Saturday night before Hallowe'en provided a great excuse to head over to Notting Hill for a bonfire with friends -- and a few hundred of their closest neighbours.

Me in red, standing by the hottest bonfire ever! My face was burning (or maybe that was from the mulled wine...).

A fireworks show went on for a good ten minutes or more.

Happy early Bonfire Night!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hidden London: Lamb's Conduit Street

As the nights draw in and the days get colder, I confess I find it harder and harder to budge from the cozy confines of my flat. But yesterday, the chapter meeting of the Romantic Novelists' Association motivated me to move from my sofa and head down the Central Line to Bloomsbury -- to The Lamb pub on Lamb's Conduit, to be precise.

Although I've been to Russell Square countless times, I'd never been down this small stretch. Partly pedestrianized and lined with independent shops and galleries, it's a feast for retail-hungry eyes. The street is named after William Lambe to recognize the donation he gave to rebuild a nearby conduit in 1564 (source: Wikipedia).

At the end of the street, The Lamb (photo: Wikipedia) is chock full of charm. Built in the 1720s, Charles Dickens is said to have been a frequent punter. What better place, then, to hold a literary lunch?

Take a stroll through the street with Monocle.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Book Review: Mrs P's Journey

Embroiled in the final edits for my novel The Hating Game (out as an e-book December 1; sign up for my web splash here), I've been shying away from fiction and towards non-fiction. As such, I turned to Mrs P's Journey which, shamefully, I've had for almost a year.

Here's the blurb (from Amazon):

Disproving the theory that women can't read maps, this is the story of Phyllis Pearsall, the eccentric British artist who single-handedly mapped London's A-Z and created a publishing phenomenon. Born Phyllis Isobella Gross, her lifelong nickname was PIG. The artist daughter of a flamboyant Hungarian Jewish immigrant, and an Irish Italian mother, her bizarre and often traumatic childhood did not restrain her from becoming one of Britain's most intriguing entrepreneurs and self-made millionaires. After an unsatisfactory marriage, Phyllis, a 30-year-old divorcee, had to support herself and so became a portrait painter. It is doing this job and trying to find her patron's houses that Phyllis became increasingly frustrated at the lack of proper maps of London. Instead of just cursing the fact as many fellow Londoners probably did, Phyllis decided to do something about it. Without hesitation she covered London's 23,000 streets on foot during the course of one year, often leaving her Horseferry Road bedsit at dawn to do so. To publish the map, and in light of its enormous success, she set up her own company, The Geographer's Trust, which still publishes the London A-Z and that of every major British city.

Most Londoners are familiar with the trusty A-Z map. In my first weeks here, it proved invaluable as I shunted from one side of London to the other in my daily supply teaching duties. I have no idea how I ever would have tracked down some of the hidden-away schools I voyaged to without it!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this engaging story of Phyllis and her family. Her determination and ambition -- despite a pretty terrible childhood -- are incredible. The book reads like a work of fiction (and the author has taken certain liberties, of which she warns us) but it's a fascinating biography of talented, driven woman.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Anish Kapoor sculpture in Kensington Gardens.

To all Canadians near and far... Happy Thanksgiving! I actually forgot it was this weekend until a blogging buddy (thanks, Jemi!) reminded me yesterday. To that end, The Man and I took a wonderful jaunt through Kensington Gardens in the Indian-summer air, then over to the local Tesco's to buy a bird. Despite trying to explain what 'traditional' turkey means (i.e., plain) The Man still insisted on stuffing the fowl with cracked wheat -- but I'm not complaining, at least he's doing the cooking!

Have a great gratitude-filled weekend!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Home Again, Home Again

I'm back! The vacation was glorious, but it's good to be in my other home -- London. We flew in early Friday morning and after paying a £600 fine and picking up the car at the Chelsea pound (don't ask), we settled back in to our London life!

It was great fun touring around the Maritimes (Nova Scotia and PEI, anyway) and everywhere we went, The Man kept exclaiming: 'It's like a different country!' The last time he went to Canada, it was covered in snow and -40 C, so fair enough!

There's something very endearing about showing your partner from a completely different culture the customs of your homeland. From ceilidhs and run-drinking to lobster-eating and sea shanties, I can definitely say The Man now fully appreciates Maritime culture. I'll leave kissing the cod and Newfoundland for another visit!

In Websplash news (I've changed it from Blogsplash since I want to also incorporate Facebook and Twitter), I'm now up to 298 people participating! With two months remaining, I might just makes my goal of 1000. You can join the Facebook Event Page here, read the recent Websplash email, or sign up if you haven't already. All you need is a blog, a Facebook page or a Twitter account!

And now, a couple more photos...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Gone Canoeing

As an expat, the concept of 'home' can be a difficult one. I feel London is my home, but Canada will always be home too -- no matter where I am or how long I've been away.

I'm going home tomorrow for two weeks and after two years away, I really can't wait. I won't be blogging again until after October 1, but I'll drop in from time to time on Twitter!

Thank you to everyone who has signed up to my Take On Amazon Blogsplash -- I'm up to 160 people now. Have a great few weeks and I'll see you on the other side!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Regents Canal Cruise

A few weeks ago now, The Man and I -- along with my step-daughter -- took a lovely cruise along Regents Canal. It was quiet and peaceful and in some places you've never actually believe you were in London at all! Until you get to Camden Market, that is..

Starting out in Little Venice.

Passing canal-side mansions.

One of the many boats on our way.

Shops in Camden Market.

Fishy pedicure. Yuck!

Interesting seating arrangement in Camden Market!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Help Me Take On Amazon!

Happy Friday all! Apologies to those who follow my Talli Roland blog, but I wanted to spread the word on this blog as well!

On December 1, The Hating Game will be released as an e-book, ahead of its UK hard-copy launch in early 2011. I can't wait! I'm excited because anyone, anywhere in the world can buy a copy of the e-book version on Amazon. You don't even need to have a Kindle to read it -- you can download the Kindle software to your computer and read it that way. Plus, it will be very reasonably priced (likely well under a fiver in the US and the UK).

Here's where you come in. It's amazing how few copies it takes to rocket your sales rank on Amazon. Wouldn't it be incredible if people bought copies of The Hating Game ebook -- all on Dec 1 --- and brought it up the charts? If for one brief moment in time (or maybe more), The Hating Game was an Amazon Kindle bestseller?

So on December 1, I'm hoping you can all join me in a Blogsplash to help spread the word. If you sign up, all I ask is that on Dec 1 you post a short paragraph about what I'm trying to accomplish and The Hating Game blurb. I'll send you all the content so you just have to cut and paste! I am aiming to have one thousand bloggers take part (I know, I know -- but it might happen! I'm thinking big!) so anything you can do to spread the word would be FANTASTIC.

Please leave a comment with your email or just email me at: to take part.

And... of course if you could purchase a copy of the book on December 1, that would be fab as well. The closer together in time the sales are, the higher the book climbs in the ranking. I understand not everyone may be able to so no worries if not! There will be prizes for those who take part in the Blogsplash, there will be more prizes for those who buy, and there will be even more prizes for anyone who writes a review! I should clarify this is just for the ebook launch; the hard-copy launch will be coming in the New Year (you'll be sick of me, I'm sure).

Thank you all for reading this and for all the wonderful help and support you've given me so far! You rock!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Notting Hill Carnival!

Yes, I have been a very bad blogger. On this blog, anyway. I have some nice photos to post of a little jaunt down Regents Park Canal, but downloading them created multiple issues and I got tired of trying. Maybe next week!

It's the August Bank Holiday weekend -- the last holiday before Christmas! And every year at this time, almost a million people flock to the Notting Hill Carnival for music, food and the pinnacle of it all: the Parade, where hundreds of drummers pound out the beat as crowds line the streets.

Here's a few photos from last year's celebrations to get you in the mood.

Have a great long weekend!

Monday, August 16, 2010

On Author Nicola Morgan's Blog...

Happy Monday!

Today I'm over at author Nicola Morgan's blog talking about, well, blogs! Since I started my Talli Roland blog, I've seen a massive difference in the increase of followers over there versus here.

Why? Click to read more!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Life of an Expat

I read this post by Kim in Dublin on expat frustrations and it just clicked with me. Living in a place long-term is far, far different than spending a week there. Real life -- miles from your family and everything you're used to -- is often hard work and, once the shiny glow wears off and routine descends, sometimes downright lonely.

It takes awhile to make your home in a brand new place and to build up a network of friends. One of the things I find most challenging is that London's a revolving door. Often the good friends I make leave to go up North, back to Canada or America or Australia or Spain or... you get the picture. I've been here for six years and in that time more friends have come and gone than I can shake a stick at (not that I can find a stick to shake in central London). Of course it's better to have loved and lost, but still!

Life in a new country is exciting and a wonderful experience. But that doesn't mean it's always going to be easy!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Boris Bikes

We didn't get off to a good start with the new Barclays Cycle Hire scheme (or Boris Bikes, as I like to call them). We registered, then waited and waited... and waited to get our keys in the post. I rang them up to ask where our keys were, only to be told they'd call back. Which, of course, they didn't. Then we got a notice in the post saying someone didn't pay the postage and we had to cough up £1.10 to get our letter.

And guess what? Surprise, surprise: Transport for London hadn't put the proper postage on our keys. Not a great beginning. But once we got on our bikes, it all changed. Sure, it was a bit difficult figuring out the logistics of the whole thing (redocking was a bit of a mystery -- there didn't seem to be any instructions but there were plenty of confused people around) but once we sorted it out, we had a great time flying through Hyde Park on our Boris Bikes. The bikes themselves are quite heavy and the handlebars very sensitive but they're comfortable enough for short journeys.

There's something very magical about moving around London on a bike. It makes you see how small the city actually is -- we went from Kensington to Leicester Square in about twenty minutes! I loved gliding under the trees, past Buckingham Palace and right into Trafalgar Square. Riding over Tower Bridge was another story (and not one I'd like to repeat anytime soon), but it was certainly an experience.

It's the second weekend the bikes are available and we felt a bit like stars as people pointed and stared. Many actually stopped to talk to us about the bikes and it was great to see Londoners chatting with each other -- something that never happens on the Tube!

I loved the bikes and despite my rather sore butt I'll definitely be out again soon!

Friday, August 6, 2010

One Year On

All week I've been meaning to post and all week I forgot! I've been busy working on edits for The Hating Game and my mind has been swamped with character arcs and plot points. Today I finished this round of edits and sent it off, breathing a big sigh of relief. I'm desperate to take some time away from it!

Then I got some great news from The Times' Travel Editor: my article 'Paris for Kids' came out today! If you subscribe to The Times, you can check it out here.

And... Sunday if my first wedding anniversary with The Man! For schmoopy photos, head over to my Talli Roland blog.

Happy weekend!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Doctor WHO?

Confession time.

Doctor Who.

I just don't get it.

I've been here for six years and I've tried and tried to understand. Why the obsession with bad sets, clunky costumes and strange skinny men? Every time I try to watch, I cringe and turn it off. There's something in my genetic programming that simply doesn't understand why so many are obsessed -- to the point that last weekend, the Proms held two dedicated Doctor Who concerts.

Can anyone provide illumination? Am I alone in this?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

What Makes You Smile?

A few days ago, I got an email asking if I'd like to take part in The Science Museum's latest project, Who Am I?

Since The Science Museum was one of the first museums in London to stock my book, 24 Hours London (followed by the British Museum and the London Museum of Transport, yay!) I was definitely keen to help return the favour in my own small way.

More details of the project here, on their Facebook page or on Twitter.

Just leave a comment on my blog or send them a tweet (@sciencemuseum; hashtag #smwhoami) telling them what makes you smile.

What makes me smile? A nice long bubble bath at the end of a productive writing day. And wine.

Your turn!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

On Yer Bike!

Ping-pong aside, it's now my turn to be excited! Because finally, London's Cycle Hire Scheme is about to begin! And even more thrilling, one of the rental docks is just around the corner from where we live.

The empty rental docks in Kensington.

I haven't had a bike since my uni days (and I'm not going to say how long ago that was). Although I've contemplated several times buying a bike in London to glide through the pathways of the park, I've always come up against a typical London problem: storage. But now -- starting on Friday -- I can round the corner, pop in some change, and cycle my rented bike all the way from Kensington Gardens to Hyde Park and beyond!

The cycle hire sign, ready for its debut this Friday.

Since I'm terrified of traffic, I definitely won't be going on-road. But come next Friday, if you see a blonde streaking past you (not that kind of streaking!) in the park, I'm finally on my bike!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

As Promised: Ping Pong!

The Serpentine Pavilion in Kensington Gardens.

Who knew the potential of playing ping-pong could be so exciting? Certainly not I, but when The Man found out the new Serpentine Pavilion featured ping-pong tables he was practically salivating. Having grown up playing the game, he was now itching to put his skills to the test again.

The beautiful game.

Desperate to stop his bragging at just how good he really was, on a hot and sunny day we marched through the park and over to the tables. The two of us playing any game is usually a recipe for disaster -- we'll practically kill each other to win -- but we'd be in public so I was confident we could control ourselves. That, and we'd sipped a glass or two of wine while waiting in the shade for our turn at the tables.

Thankfully we were both a bit out of practice and the only thing heating up was our bodies under the beating sun. We soon retreated back to our shady patch, wine in hand... until the next match!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Parks, Ping-Pong and Paris

I had an exciting post planned today -- all about my ping-pong exploits in Kensington Gardens -- but a technology fail means they'll have to wait until another day, sadly!

However, three very nice things happened over the weekend:

1. My article on surviving jet-lag in Paris appeared on Bonjour Paris, which has already boosted Kindle sales of 24 Hours Paris;

2. Polly-Vous Francais did a great review of 24 Hours Paris, listing 24 reasons why she likes the book! You really can't get a better review than that! and

3. I had this lovely blog post pop up on my Google alerts!

Oh, how I love nice surprises.

Coming soon, when technology decides to co-operate: ping-pong in the park!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

To Prom -- Or Not to Prom

Me and my dearly departing Canadian friend at the opening night of the Proms last night.

It's my favourite time of year: Prom time!

No, it’s not a graduation dance for freedom-drunk teens – it’s one of the biggest classical music events of the year. Started in 1895 with the goal of bringing classical music to the masses, the BBC Proms is an annual eight-week series of concerts by symphonies and orchestras from around the world.

Short for Promenade Concerts, Proms refers to the walking or strolling some audience members used to do inside the hall. Now, it refers to the standing areas in the hall, where you can buy a ticket on the day for only £5. Queue up for access to the Gallery – where you can lounge on the cement floor high above the Royal Albert Hall. Or, you can stay standing at ground level in the Arena. Either way, you can’t get better music at a better price. (Extract from 24 Hours London)

With yet another expat friend heading back to Canada after a three-year stint in London, we decided to mark her departure with a final dose of British culture at the Proms. I've been to loads of Proms -- and the final night at Hyde Park, which has an atmosphere all its own -- but I've never been to the opening night. Due to broken trains, though, we didn't join the queue until around 6:45 pm, by which time it stretched outside the Royal Albert Hall, down a small side street, and back again.

The queue outside the Royal Albert Hall.

Sadly, we didn't get in -- we weren't even close! Still, we managed to drown our sorrows with a final pit-stop in Soho, so all wasn't lost.

The ornate facade of the Royal College of Organists.

The side of the Royal Albert Hall.

The Albert Memorial and the top of the Royal Albert Hall.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Surviving a Conference!

Happy Bastille Day! 24 Hours Paris was just named a hot July read by Girls' Guide to Paris, so I'm having my own little celebration! If you're on Twitter, tweet me any time before 9 pm GMT today to be entered in a draw to win a copy of 24 Hours Paris.

As you know from my previous post, I've just returned from the wonderful Romantic Novelists' Association Conference. It was my first writing conference and I thought I'd share a few tips for survival!

1. Don't wear high heels. Seriously. I attempted to do so on the first day and I paid the price, big time. It was the hottest day of the year, my feet were swollen, and several lovely little blisters quickly sprouted. Just... don't.

2. Take Nurofen, just in case. The first day of the conference (and the second, but that was due to, ahem, too much champagne) I had a brutal headache. Honestly, if I didn't have my trusty Nurofen, I'm sure my head would have exploded.

3. When there's food, eat it! Due to nerves and the heat, I wasn't really that hungry during the day which meant by around 4 pm, I was almost ready to fall over! While eating usually isn't a problem for me, I would have been able to concentrate better if I'd chowed down when I could.

4. Don't be afraid to introduce yourself to people. I'm usually the sort who slips off into the corners when faced with a large group of people I don't know -- particularly if that involves big-name authors, editors and agents. But if you're friendly and don't interrupt them mid-conversation then they're usually very open and friendly themselves!

5. Take business cards/ promotional postcards, etc. I had some postcards done up for The Hating Game just in time for the conference, and I'm glad I did. It was great to be able to hand people something so hopefully they'll remember me when the book comes out.

All in all, it was a fantastic conference and I'm so glad I went. Next time: no high heels, lots of chowing down, and boatloads of Nurofen!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Hidden London: The Old Royal Naval College

While you could hardly say it's 'hidden', this collection of Baroque buildings is a world away from the hustle and bustle of maritime Greenwich. I've been to Greenwich several times but never had I thought about wandering into the campus of the Old Royal Naval College, just a five-minute walk from the Cutty Sark DLR.

Last weekend, I attended the Romantic Novelists' Association Conference held within the grounds of the College. As nervous as I was, as I approached the building where the conference was being held I couldn't help but look around me in awe. Every building loomed over me with perfect proportions; it was almost like wandering around the Vatican!

Designed by Sir Christopher Wren as a hospital for pensioners, the College took over the buildings after the hospital closed in 1869. Admission is free and you can take a wander around the grounds -- including the chapel and the Painted Hall -- anytime between 10 am and 7 pm. For information, go here.

If you want to here more about the conference and see a few extra photos, head over to my Talli Roland blog.

Happy Monday!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Summer in the City: What to Do?

This year -- for the first time in many -- we're having a proper summer. By 'proper summer', I mean that it's not raining every day of the week, the temperature's above 15 C, and you don't need to head out swathed in scarves to brave the elements. (I'm not joking. One year, I didn't even unpack my summer clothes.)

So to celebrate, this post will be all about my favourite summer things! (Apologies to followers of my Talli Roland blog for the duplicate, but I thought this post worked well for both my blogs!)

1. Pimms. Pimms is a yummy liqueur that you mix with lemonade, cucumbers, strawberries and gin. I know it sounds strange but it can actually be very refreshing. And lethal. A friend of mine once streaked through Richmond after consuming too much Pimms.

2. Proms. Every night from mid-July to mid-September, you can attend wonderful classical music concerts at the Royal Albert Hall for only £4!

3. The Serpentine Pavilion. Each summer, a new architect is commissioned to design a pavilion in Kensington Gardens. It's up for about two months and then they dismantle it.

4. Stripy deck chairs in Hyde Park. Plop one down by the lake, lean back, and watch the trees sway above your head. Bliss!

5. Regent's Park Open-Air Theatre. The only permanent professional outdoor theatre in Britain, Regent’s Park Open-Air Theatre holds over a thousand people. With its pitched seats, though, you’ll feel like you can practically touch the actors on stage. Founded in 1932, the resident company is the New Shakespeare Company. At least two Shakespeare plays are performed each summer – one of them usually A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which lends itself perfectly to the park’s leafy environment.

6. Swimming in the ponds at Hampstead Heath. Bizarre but true - if you fancy a dip in a secluded pond, head up north to the Heath. There's a men's pond, a women's pond and a mixed pond.

7. Opera Holland Park. Every summer, a massive open-air opera stage is constructed in Holland Park. Tickets range from £10 to £57 and if you're a young person (not me...) then you can get free tickets here.

8. Pavement Cafés. Being able to sit on the street and eat probably doesn't seem that exciting, but when you live in a country where the sun rarely makes an appearance then it's downright intoxicating (in more ways than one).

9. South Bank Stroll. I may have mentioned several thousand times that The Man proposed and we got married on the South Bank, so it's no surprise strolling along the Thames when the sky is brilliantly blue is on my top 10 list.

10. Sun. SUN! SUUNNNN! Although technically, I'm not sure sun can really be classified as part of a British summer, when it does make an appearance we appreciate it that much more!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Guest Post and Giveaway!

Happy Monday!

Today, I'm over at Hell or High Water talking about how I attempt to juggle fiction with non-fiction!

And if you're in the UK and you'd like a chance to win a copy of 24 Hours Paris, head here to enter.

Happy Fourth of July to all my Amerian friends! Hope you're all enjoying the long weekend.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Canada Day!

It's July 1, the one day Canadians feel it's actually OK to show we're proud to be Canadian. So what is Canadian?

I have pondered this question several times during my six years living in the UK, and my two years in Poland. What is it that makes us so different from our unforgettable neighbours to the south? And are we really that different?

I'm often mistaken for an American, due to my accent. I'm always quick to point out that I am, in fact, from a completely different country. But when people ask me what's the difference, I'm at pains to answer succinctly. Is it that we like hockey? No, Americans have that passion (obsession, some might say) as well. Tim Horton's? Nope, it's spread across the States. Crazy cold winters and lots of snow? Again, it's like that in the US, too. Perhaps it's the way we say 'about' (I've never understood that one, but apparently it's different!).

I'm not sure Canadian is something that can be defined. Perhaps it's in the way we react to events that find their way through to our little peaceful piece of the world. Like the 9-11 tragedy, when the people of Gander, Newfoundland -- a town of only 9,900 people -- took in 39 trans-Atlantic flights forced to land there, with over 6,600 passengers and crew, opening up their own homes and even organizing sight-seeing outings for those stranded.

Or, indeed, in the referendum of 1995, when the Quebecois voted on the possibility of Quebec independence. Over 100,000 Canadians from across the country travelled to Montreal to show their desire for Quebec to stay Canadian. And it did, with a narrow majority voting to remain in the country.

I don't know what it is but I do know this: I'm proud to be Canadian! And many thanks to Lynn for making this Canada Day particularly special by mentioning me on her Great Reads by Canadians post! I'm so honoured and thrilled to be in such great company.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Have E-Book, Will Travel

24 Hours Paris is now available as an e-book for Kindle and is coming soon to all good ePub formats near you! :) It's great if you're travelling and don't want to carry your travel books with you. 24 Hours London is next in line.

And in other news, 24 Hours Paris just got another great review, courtesy of Nayu's Reading Corner! Check it out here.

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, June 28, 2010


Crikey (yes, I've just said crikey; it's my new favourite word), I can't believe a week has gone by since I've last posted here! Time flies -- and I've been busy working on lots of projects.

I've just finished the second draft (a complete rewrite!) of The Hating Game, my novel due out next year under pen name Talli Roland. While the basic elements are the same, I've made several plot changes which had a fairly major cascading effect, necessitating a lot of plunder and rewriting. I started the third draft today and while there is still a lot of work to be done, it's coming along! (You can add it to Goodreads here, or preorder from Amazon here.)

I've also started giving some thought to my next novel, and I've been hard at work writing a short story for a competition being held next week at the Romantic Novelists' Association Conference, which I'm looking forward to attending! The topic is anniversary, and let's just say my story has to do with an anniversary of a rather non-traditional kind... It's been ages since I've written a short story and I have to say, as fun as it was, it was also very difficult to get a whole story arc into 1400 words!

All that, and 24 Hours Paris will soon be available as a ebook via Amazon and Smashwords.

And that's basically where my week went! It's a scorcher here in London today and I may go curl up under a tree in the park. So much for productivity...

Monday, June 21, 2010

The State of Publishing and What We Can Do

On her wonderful blog, author Nicola Morgan recently wrote about the difficulties facing the writers these days. Good writers are being dropped from their contracts if there aren't enough sales, and what was already a tough industry is getting even tougher.

Before I was published, I didn't understand just how important it was to support an author. Small things like Amazon reviews, asking for the book in your local bookshop, or even pre-ordering can help authors immensely.

India Drummond wrote a fabulous post on how people can help authors, and vice versa. Take a read to see what you can do to support your favourite author!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday Interviews!

I can't believe it's Friday already - the week seems barely to have begun!

Today, I'm over at The Literary Project where the lovely Gemma Noon interviews me on pen names, travel research and so much more!

And on my Talli Roland blog, I interview short-story author Nik Perring, who has recently published a brilliant collection of short stories.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

In with the Big Guns

Two very nice surprise reviews this week: one for 24 Hours London on Lost & Found in London (in French! thank you so much, Fabienne!) and one on the lovely Catherine Ryan Howard's blog for 24 Hours Paris!

Both reviews compare and contrast the 24 Hours books with other big guides and travel books, and it's so great to see that my book stacks up!

Over on my Talli Roland blog today, I speak about how I'm suffering from sleepyitis.

(Photo by Fabienne. Can you spot my book?)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hidden London: Debenham House

As readers of my Talli Roland blog know, I recently did a photo shoot at the lovely Debenham House, just outside of Holland Park. One of the things I love about Holland Park is all the gigantic houses scattered about, popping up behind fences and rearing over walls, taking you by surprise.

Just off of Addison Road, Debenham House is definitely one of those. In the early-evening light, the glazed blue and green tiles sparkles like jewels, looking oddly out of the place amidst the rather dull stucco exteriors of its neighbours.
Built in 1906 for the chairman of the famous department store chain Debenham's, the house is now worth around £30 million -- and it's up for sale, if you have the dosh!

Here's what the estate agent has to say about it:

The house is a mixture of the Arts and Crafts movement, neo-classical and Byzantine styles. Glazed tiles are used extensively inside this ten-bedroom, five-bathroom house. Some depict peacocks, eagles, flowers, galleons and mythical beasts. Many may have come from an assignment originally commissioned for the Russian czar's yacht Livadia, built in the 1870's. In addition, there is a covered walkway from the road, a front garden laid out in a formal Dutch style and an Orangery in the back garden, where there is also a croquet lawn and a coach house with two-bedroom suites.

Go on, treat yourself!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Paris Porn

Ahem. Did that get your attention?

Today, I'm at the HiP Paris blog, talking about some of my favourite Paris places alongside some stunning photos of Paris! If you don't follow the HiP Paris blog, you're missing out on some truly great Paris photo porn.

If I haven't excited you too much, hop over to read more!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Where I'm At

Just a quick one to say I'm over at author Nik Perring's blog, talking about why writing 400+ travel-guide listings isn't boring!

And on my Talli Roland blog, I ask: if you had the choice, would you write full-time?

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

To Kiss or Not to Kiss

Something has been bothering me for the past six years. I'm really hoping for some answers!

You know when you meet someone for the first time, and there's that awkward moment? They lean forward and in one split second, you must decide: to kiss or not to kiss?

Since I moved over here, it's a constant conundrum. Some people shake hands. Some kiss on one cheek, some on both. What to do?

So someone, please, tell me: how do you know to kiss or not to kiss?

Monday, June 7, 2010

24 Hours Paris - Reader Reviews!

Only two weeks after the launch of 24 Hours Paris and reader reviews are starting to roll in! Here's a few of the notes we've received. Thanks to everyone who's bought a copy and reviewed it!

And I've broken over 100 followers (Jen was my 100th)! Thank you all for reading and following along over the past year and a bit -- I really appreciate it.

Received the book within five days and have read it cover to cover twice. Highlighted everything I want to do. That would take extending our travels however! But my list is certainly looking different than it was a few days ago. I'm sure this trip to Paris will be so distinct from my previous visits because of you. I will be back to you upon my return and report. Thanks so much for all your research. I will certainly recommend your books to anyone I know traveling to London and Paris.
-- Marcy Eisenberg, USA

What a fun, intriguing book! I've been to Paris only once. However, I shall return. Soon. I'll have 24 Hours Paris with me.
-- Rosemary Henley

Whether you are passing through, staying awhile or starting a new life, there are some books about Paris that are a must and this is one of them. You may have been before, you have searched online as what to do, you have asked friends, STOP. This book offers the alternatives to the regular "things to do in ......" Yes, it still offers the best places to eat, drink and see but it also offers a quirkier side to this amazing city. This book will take you that little bit further under the skin of this great city. 24 hours is never enough in Paris, but if that's all you have, then what a 24hrs you will have. Already in the bag for the next visit. A great book for every type of visitor.
-- Mr MJ Blades, New York

Paris is, unfortunately, a city I seem to end up in while 'just passing through'. Be it on the way to the Disney resort, or stranded there while waiting for a connecting flight to India. On both occasions, we just 'did the sights' I wish I had this book back then. Pocket sized (essential!) and easy to flip through and set out in sections relating to the time of day, you simply turn to the hour you're in and voila, instant suggestions for places to visit and eat. Most of them are quirky, interesting and different, there are plenty of places to visit for the whole family during the day-light hours along with more unusual haunts for the more adventurous (sewers and sex shops anyone?). In short this book allows you to get the most out of a city at any hour of the day, perfect if you're passing through or spending a long weekend. Looking forwards to seeing what city Marsha tackles next!
-- Fenschwing, UK

Friday, June 4, 2010

Author India Drummond to Be Published!

I am so thrilled to have an interview today with friend and writer India Drummond, who has just signed a contract to have her novel Ordinary Angels published!

India and I 'met' through our blogs and Twitter -- over a year-and-a-half ago now! Through phone calls and emails, we've shared the pain of trying to get published, lots of laughs and a little (OK, quite a bit) of snark, too. India gives the best critiques ever, and she's been so helpful to me in my own journey to get published. I've read Ordinary Angels and I think she has a hit on her hands!

Here's the blurb:

Most of Zoë’s friends are dead, but she doesn’t mind because they died long before she met them. Then one Tuesday night an angel takes her salsa dancing and turns her world upside down. Grim reality closes in when she discovers a body in her company’s boiler room and Higher Angels accuse her best ghost friend of murder. Knowing she’s the only one who can stand against them, Zoë resorts to lying, stealing and summoning. In the end, getting blood on her hands forces Zoë to question herself.

You’re an American living in Scotland writing about angels. Tell us more about how you got to Scotland and the paranormal!

I moved to Scotland nine years ago after marrying a Certain Highlander. We'd met a few years before when we had been working at an American company on their Y2K project (remember those?) and became good friends. A few years later we got back in touch, found we were both single, and he said the single most romantic thing I've ever heard uttered: "I can't let you go again." (Awww!) Actually, the kernel of the idea of Ordinary Angels came from him. He was saying to me one morning after a rambunctious bout of mischief (you have to watch those Highlanders... very mischievous), "What?!?! I'm a perfect angel!" And I replied something along the lines, "Yeah, some kinda crackhead angel you would make." This silly moment made me think about what angels would be like if they were real. The story unfolded naturally from there.

You’re going to have your first book published. What was the process to get there, and what’s it about?

The road to publication has been fraught, as it is for most authors! I had my share of rejection from agents, and then I started doing the math. I realised that most agents want celebrities, people with huge platforms, or experts in a field because they need a book to be a super-seller before they can make much money. Remember they're making 15% of a paperback's 5-10% royalty. That's why a debut author with no sales record is such a risk. So after banging my head against that wall with requests for partials and even fulls that would get "almost, but not quite" replies, I decided to look at smaller presses that would take submissions without agents. This year I sent to three publishers, one of which was Lyrical Press. They offered me a great contract, their authors love them, and their standards are really high (judging from their books I have purchased and read for myself), so I know I made the right choice!

What’s the one thing you found most frustrating about the journey to publication? And what’s the best thing once you have a signed contract?

The biggest frustration by far is the uncertainty. Is my work any good? Am I wasting my time? I felt like the school dork asking the class president to the prom... over and over every day! I can't tell you how great it felt to get a "Yes!" The best thing about having that contract is the surge in confidence it gave me. Making it over that first hurdle told me I could jump all the ones to come. Since receiving that contract, I've really been feeling energised and inspired on my current works-in-progress.

Describe your writing space.

I have a PC in a home office I share with a Certain Highlander. I tend to get up early in the mornings, so I have a couple hours to myself before he comes in and starts bothering me. (I swear it's what he lives for!) Recently, though, I did get a new laptop, and I've enjoyed the mobility. Now I sometimes write in the living room or the bedroom. I'm not as pernickety about these things as I used to be. The more I write, the more naturally it comes... no matter where I am.

What are you working on now? An epic on sheep farming in the Scottish Highlands?

Sorry! No sheep in this one. Will have to work some into a story sometime. I have to admit, I love the sheep. So adorable! I have a few projects that I've been tinkering with, but the one that is getting the most attention is a romantic sci-fi called Wildings. The blurb will go something like this (although it's still rough, I admit): The Overlords have captured Avid, a rogue human, and discovered he has a psychic ability which makes him incredibly valuable in their society. They send him to be trained by Rain, a telepathic slave who is both repulsed and fascinated by the Outland barbarian. He must somehow convince her to give up everything she's ever known and to help him escape before it's too late.

And finally, a question of utmost important: cupcakes or donuts?

Ooh, that's a tough one! I'm such a tart for pastries. (I know... bad pun. Sorry!) I'd say I'd take either, as long as it came with sprinkles.

Thank you, India, and CONGRATULATIONS! If you can, please hop over to India's blog to say hi!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Arts Mentoring: Launch Party!

I'm in an utter disbelief that it's actually June! And for once, London weather seems to be co-operating. After a week or so of being plunged back into winter, we've emerged into the light: pale, blinking and stunned. The sun is shining, people are going crazy with shorts... I hope it lasts!

This Saturday night, The Man and I will be putting on our finery (if I can find some) and heading down to Westbourne Grove for the launch party of the Arts Mentoring Charity. I can't wait -- it's going be a blast and it's for a great cause; who could ask for more? If you're in London and want to get a ticket, go here.

Here's some more information on the charity:

Arts Mentoring is a new charity set up by 3 Notting Hill residents who wanted to bring the joy of the arts to children around the world who have not had the chances we’ve had. We decided to do something about this and Arts Mentoring is the outcome. We will be raising funds and recruiting artists to spend time in orphanages bringing their own talents and enthusiasms to those children.
By ‘arts’ we mean everyone involved in artistic expression from singers, to actors, to painters, photographers, musicians but not limited to these at all!

At Artsmentoring we know we have had the luxury of personal experience in the arts and have always been keen supporters but we know that these experiences are not typical for millions of children around the world and in the UK and it was time to help change this. Children whose lives are hard can find joy through the arts as they see another side to life, have a chance to express themselves and learn skills that may change their lives.

See you there!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

WAG: The Unexpected

I've missed out on the past two-ish WAGs due to, well, a basic lack of organisation... but I'm back! This will be short and sweet, though, as I've just written 3000 words and I'm brain-dead!

Today's WAG topic:
“Unexpected”. Surprise is the hardest thing to fake (in real life and in fiction), but something essential to a well-written story. So observe (or imagine) someone who is experiencing something they didn’t see coming. It can be something big or small. Sometimes the smallest surprises have the biggest impact!

She sat down at her desk and, as always, looked out the window to the street outside. But something was not quite right.

Where was it?

Her eyes scanned the pavement, searching frantically back and forth. Her mouth formed a silent O and she rose with disbelief.

This could not be happening. She blinked, but when her eyes opened nothing had changed.

The rubbish bin was gone. GONE! Disappeared into the night, along with its hidden treasures so frequently searched for by those who sought she knew not what. Now, she would never know. Now, she'd have to do more work instead of indulging in free rubbish-bin entertainment.

Now, life would never be the same.

(Yes, I miss my RUBBISH BIN! RIP, rubbish bin.)

For this week's other WAG participants, follow the links below:

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Bank Holiday Catch-Up

The past few weeks have been a bit of a blur, with the 24 Hours Paris launch, my parents visiting, and my citizenship! I've spent this long weekend trying to catch up on all my emails and updating my website (if you have a chance to take a look, I've completely redesigned it)! With rain, wind, and the random bit of sun thrown in, it's actually been a good time to delve into the pile of work awaiting and start hammering away at it.

With edits of my novel The Hating Game well underway, I've also added the book on Goodreads -- and it's now available for pre-order on Amazon! I don't know how this happened, but people must be pre-ordering because earlier today it was at 22,000 (better than it sounds!) in the salesrank! Roll on 2011!

Now I need to really get my head down and focus on my novel edits. I'm about one-third of the way through and doing some major rewrites, but it's much stronger already and I'm starting to get really excited (and nervous) about releasing it to the general public. There's something so anxiety-inducing about knowing your work will be seen and judged (hopefully in a good way!).

Happy Bank Holiday weekend, everyone!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Picture's Worth a Million Words

Still basking in the glow of my new citizenship, but what better way to remind me of how great my fellow expat countrywomen are than by seeing this on Within Ireland's blog?

Thank you so much -- you made my day!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I'm In!

Thank you for all for the congratulatory messages yesterday! I'm happy to report that I'm now officially a British citizen!

The ceremony, held in Kensington Town Hall, was lovely and surprisingly ceremonial.

I've been to one or two of such ceremonies back in Canada, and (although it may be slightly unpatriotic to say this), I have to say this one was better.

Maybe it's because I was taking an active part, but the individual oaths that we had to take, the Alderman in his ceremonial dress and the music that played throughout the ceremony certainly put a tear in my slightly jaded eye.

Afterwards, we had tea and biscuits with the ceremony officials, where we learned that Kensingon is one of three Royal Boroughs in the country (the other two are Kingston and Windsor).

And then The Man and I took off to the nearby pub for a celebratory Pimms in the sun.

What better way to celebrate being British?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

My Brit Birthday!

With about two hours to go until my Citizenship Ceremony this afternoon and my wardrobe all decided thanks to the help of some friends on Twitter, I've decided to make this post a tribute to my adopted homeland! I'll try to drop by later to upload some photos from the ceremony.

So here's England's most patriotic anthem, based on Blake's poem Jerusalem:

And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England's green and pleasant Land.

Monday, May 24, 2010


A great few days in Wales! Here are a few photos - enjoy! Drop back tomorrow when I BECOME A BRITISH CITIZEN! Yay!

Chepstow Castle.

Tintern Abbey.

Isolated graveyard on the Gospel Pass, Black Mountains.

On top of the Black Mountains.

The Wye River, Hay-on-Wye.

The largest second-hand bookstore in the world, Hay-on-Wye.

The Olde Ferrie Inne, Symonds Yat.