Natasha Oakley - British Romance Author

Writer of tug-at-the-heartstrings, feel-good romance for Harlequin Mills & Boon

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Breaking News!!!!

Here's a piece of news it's been hard not to share - 'Accepting The Boss's Proposal' has been shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists' Association's 'Romance' Prize.

Click here to see my competition. :)

I'm really thrilled and very flattered at the company I find myself in. Exciting, isn't it!

Now if ever a girl had a good reason to stick to eating vegetables this has to be it. What shall I wear to lunch at the Savoy in London?

More Public Humiliation!

It's weigh-in day.


Don't regret it though. The memory of that trifle will have to carry me though the next month.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Public Humiliation!

Over at the Pink Heart Society blog it's Hamper Day. Not only that Ally has decreed we must share the name of our first love. There's nothing quite like humiliating oneself in public, is there!

Just consider, since the launch of our group blog in September, I've found myself on a diet I hadn't planned to go on and am spending far too much time googling pictures of Richard Armitage and Rufus Sewell. Now I've had to tell you about my adolescent fantasy. Any aspiring writers out there ought to seriously consider the personal cost of selling to Harlequin!!!

After a bit of thought - for I was a fickle girl - I plumped for Michael Praed as 'Robin of Sherwood'. There was something about all that chest hair which delighted my girlish heart.

Naturally I saw myself as a latent redhead. Judi Trott's hair really is worthy of any Mills & Boon heroine. I can feel the envy washing over me as I type.

Incidentally, 'Robin of Sherwood' is available on DVD in the UK and will be soon (13th March) in the USA and Canada. I've just put it on my amazon rental list. I feel it's time for me to experience a 'blast from the past'.

You'll have to come back tomorrow to hear how much damage the Tipsy Laird Trifle did to my diet. Since it was delicious, I suspect lots.

Now I must write. Daniel, my hero of the moment, has a teenage daughter who's causing me quite as much trouble as she is him. When Cordelia's grown up a little more I shall probably give her a story of her own because she keeps trying to take over this one.

I'm beginning to think this book wants to be something quite different.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Burns Night

Tonight is the night to honour Scotland's favourite son. Certainly the night to curl up in front of a roaring fire and read poetry. If you're planning on doing the full Burn's Night Supper you might want to click here.

This is probably the time to confess I'm not doing anything until tomorrow night. If you're going to imbibe whisky it's better not to have to get up too early the next day. I've finally decided against making cranachan as my contribution. I'm going to make a version of Tipsy Laird Trifle. I think! You were not at all helpful, by the way.

This one is the creation of TV chef James Martin.
6 tbsp whisky
1 orange, juice and zest
5 trifle sponges
450g/1lb raspberries
110g/4oz white chocolate, grated
1 carton good quality fresh custard
400ml/13fl oz double cream
1 tub mascarpone cheese
55g/2oz toasted flaked almonds

Method1. Mix the whisky and the orange juice and pour in a shallow bowl. Slice the trifle sponges in half horizontally. Dunk each piece in the whisky and place them in the bottom of the trifle bowl.
2. Scatter the raspberries over the top, then the chocolate.
3. Top with the custard.
4. Whip the double cream until half whipped, combine with the cheese and spoon over the trifle. Scatter the toasted almonds over the top just before serving.

Sounds nice, doesn't it, and not too time consuming to make because I really need to concentrate on my book. Despite having committed the unforgiveable sin of delivering it late, at the moment it's still heading for a December 07 slot which means I get to make it Christmas. I'm threading decorations through as we speak.

I may even succumb to snow. The practical side of my brain is whispering that it rarely snows in December in this part of the world. (End of January is more usual.) But, this is life turning out the way we want it and I always hope for a white Christmas.

It's about ten minutes until the school run - which is why I'm allowed to blog. (I put that in for my poor editor.) When I get home again I'm going to be very bad and settle my brood down in front of a DVD and hide away and write.

I'm feeling more bouyant now than I have in weeks. I've just heard my mum has made it through her operation okay. Next step will be to discover how much of the cancer they've been able to cut away. But that's for another day. Right now, I'm going to enjoy where we've got to.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Mostly about food!

Anyone else out there own an alphasmart? They do exactly what 'it says on the tin' (it's light to carry, works for ever on three batteries and doesn't need to have air circulating around it) but I just can't get on with mine.

I woke up at 4.30 this morning and decided I might as well try and 'steal' some writing time. Since the house was cold it occured to me it might be nice to write while remaining snuggled up in my duvet, so I pulled my alphie out and blew off the dust.

First off, the batteries kept falling out of alignment and the alphie kept shutting off - which would have been fine if I hadn't been typing in the dark and not noticed. Grrrr. Secondly, it's sooo darn clanky. It was far from being a quiet option that wouldn't wake my husband. I ended up having to go downstairs to make tea! :)

Back at my 'big' computer I've found a very pleasant way to waste yet more writing time. I have no idea what biorhythms actually are but if you click here you can find out who's your perfect celebrity match.

As I've long suspected, Johnny Depp is not quite complete without me! I, naturally, tried out my husband's date of birth and discovered that we're a respectible 84%. So that's nice to know.

It didn't seem fair not to find out who my husband would be more perfectly matched with. He's very happy to discover the celebrity who matches his biorhythms most perfectly is Nigella Lawson.

There are a few issues here I'd like you to consider. Nigella Lawson is a cookery writer who is of the 'never knowingly under-catered' school of thought and is famed for her curvaceous figure. Let's pause for a moment to remember that I am on a diet.

Not once since I began eating limitless vegetables has he uttered the words, 'Please, darling, don't lose a lb as I prefer you with more curves' rather he's taken the 'supportive' role of 'How many points is that?'!!!!!!

I feel it all quite keenly today because it's weigh-in day and I'm still really missing the snacking I used to do. I'm not convinced books can be written without chocolate as a motivating force.

Anyway, it's another 2lb loss for me.

Next week will be more of a struggle I think. Even if I save up maximum amount of points for our Burns Night Supper I reckon I'm still going to be 'over'.

Here, especially for Nic, is the best picture I could find of Haggis, bashed neeps and chappit tatties.

If you ask my dad 'what's a haggis?' he'll tell you it's a small three-legged Highland animal. He'll also tell you that catching them is all about knowing whether you're dealing with a left or right-handed specimen. (Their limbs being shorter on one side so they can run around the hills without either ascending or descending.)

I'm sure it's a tale made up for tourists because the truth sounds so revolting. There are a million and one recipes for Haggis but it's basically sheep's heart, liver and lung, minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally boiled in the animal's stomach. I promise you, it's lovely!

I'm afraid if you live in North America it breaks your food safety laws and you'll have to have a 'pretend' one. Tatties are potatoes. Neeps are Swedish Turnips. At least they are if you live in Scotland. Down south we call them Swedes and, I believe, in the States you call it rutabaga.

Cranachan is a calorific nightmare - consisting of cream, more cream and cream!

Again, there are lots of variations. I toast about 3 oz of pinhead oatmeal in a frying pan until brown. Then whisk half a pint of cream to a soft consistency and mix in the toasted oatmeal and a slug of Drambuie. Raspberries are lovely with it and do allow you to fool yourself you're not being too unhealthy! :)

Anyone care to venture how many Weight Watchers points that'll be???

Friday, January 19, 2007

One blowy day ...

'Blowy' being a euphamism for downright windy, you understand. I was sitting in a friend's kitchen having coffee yesterday (and, yes, I know I should have been writing and if anyone tells my editor I was there ....) when their next door neighbour's trampoline blew over the fence and ended up in one of their trees. All very exciting!

Meanwhile, on the book front it's slow going. I can almost hear Trish's voice in my head saying 'you do like to dig yourself a hole don't you!'. I've made the hero of my current WIP an auctioneer. Only that does kind of mean he needs to be more knowledgeable than I am when it comes to antiques. I've just wasted the longest time trying to date an Aynsley tea service. It's one sentance but I know if I get it wrong some sharp eyed person will email me to tell me I got it wrong! :)

The other great quandry of the day is trying to decide what dessert I shall make for the Burns Night Supper I'm going to next week. Any ideas? Do you think anyone else will bring Cranachan to follow on from the Haggis, bashed neeps and chappit tatties?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

It's that time of the year again

It really is that time of year again. I suppose I shouldn't be so surprised since I'm midway through the box of books I've been sent to 'judge' as part of the RITA preliminary round. I'm pretty uncomfortable with doing it because it is such a subjective thing. In the end, I can only be honest. I shall read all of them diligently and go with my gut feeling.

It has to be done confidentially which, in a way, is such a shame because I've just read the most fabulous book by a new author. Even if other 'judges' don't share my enthusisam for her book she's certainly won a reader in me.

Meanwhile, you're being asked to do some judging of your own. Which Harlequin or Mills & Boon books stood out for you in 2006?

What was your favourite read of the year? Did you discover a new author whose books you'll watch for? Was there a cover that particularly grabbed you?

This is your moment. Click here and start voting!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Miss Potter & Nice News!

'Miss Potter' was so much better than I expected. Knowing a little bit about the life of Beatrix Potter I really wasn't that keen. Remember I'm the girl that really, really likes happy endings. I knew the 'love of her life died' and that, although she did eventually marry someone else, she wore his ring until her own death. For someone as hopeless as me it wasn't encouraging was it!

Even though I did cry a little, the movie is charming. I also think Lloyd Owen isn't a bad consolation spouse. Here in the UK we know him as the Laird of Glenbogle from a long running Sunday night series called the 'Monarch of the Glen'. If there were more photos of him on the web I might be tempted to initiate him into the Pink Heart Society roll call of inspiration males! It's something in the smile I think ....

The lovely Barbara Hannay has just emailed me to say she'd noticed my 'A Family to Belong To' is listed in the interim votes at All About Romance in the 'Best Category' section. It's always a fabulous feeling when you hear someone has read and loved your book. It's certainly put a smile on my face this morning!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Diets, Disasters and Distractions

Okay, that's two very hard won lbs. I suppose I should be grateful because I did have a spectacular fall from grace on the 'chocolate biscuit day' and offspring 3 is doing school cooking this half term. I decided it was probably better not to even try and calculate the points in Pineapple Upside Down Cake since I was going to eat it anyway.

I think, perhaps, I'm not destined to be very thin anymore. Apparently Liz Hurley has stopped eating anything after 4.30pm in order to fit in her English size 8 wedding dress. She's quoted as saying she doesn't want to be too thin because she doesn't think that looks good on a woman over thirty. (Pause for a splutter here!)

More mind-boggling still is the news that she allows herself to snack of six raisins!!! That can't be true, can it???????

Fortunately I've not had too much time to ponder the pressure women everywhere are being put to achieve such a daft and distorted view of what's beautiful. Offspring 3 announced that he believed he had 'two cities' in his hair. These are words that strike doom into the heart of a mother-of-five.

There is something particularly unromantic about nits, don't you think??? I will freely confess to having been pulled entirely out of my WIP. So leaving the keyboard I went to find the nit-comb - and he's quite right! I've just spent a very productive hour torn between a very natural recoil and enjoyment at getting the little beggars.

Fortunately I never intended to try and do much writing this morning. My mum goes back into hospital on Wednesday and fancies a trip out somewhere. We're going to see 'Miss Potter' when, hopefully, the cinema will be empty!

Left to myself I don't think it's a movie I'd rush to see but I may be pleasantly surprised. Normally I'd be able tell you what I thought about it in my 'Film on Friday' Pink Heart Society slot - but not this month. Since picking Richard Armitage as my 'Male on Monday' I've discovered there are huge swathes of romance readers who have yet to discover 'North and South' and that has to be addressed first.

Besides, any excuse to include pictures of Richard Armitage has to be good, right??

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Forgive me father ...

for I have sinned!

Quite a bit, actually. It's been a difficult day and I've eaten too many chocolate biscuits.

There just are not enough hours in the day to do everything that has to be done. Anyone else feel like they're running fast in order to stay still???

And I've discovered I find it very difficult to write when my mind is so full of other things. My poor mum went for another scan today. Since she's very sick from the chemo the hour drive to and from the hospital was particularly gruelling. It's hard to watch someone you love having such a dreadful time of it.

Aside from that there's the usual 'family' stuff - homework/clubs/music practise/cooking/cleaning/washing .. and the dreaded tax return. They've just started doing those adverts on tv saying that 'tax doesn't have to be taxing' (huh) and reminding everyone that if you don't do your self assessment return by the end of the month it's a £100 fine. Just what I need right now!

Somewhere I've got to fit in writing. My current book is crawling along at an alarmingly slow pace - and that has absolutely nothing to do with how I feel about the story. I'm going to have to make a late night of it tonight but I could honestly 'sleep for England'.

But all is not lost. My husband has just come in for my 'expenses' file and says he's going to make a start. Excellent! That's one of the reasons why I married him. That and spiders in the bath .... :)

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The embarrassing ticker thingie

Oh stuff! I cannot let Trish be more courageous than me!

That will take me back to a point at which I can fit into my wedding dress. I soooo wish I'd danced less fifteen years ago!

Diets and Distractions

Today is weigh-in day - and, under the terms of the Pink Heart Society Diet plan, I'm duly pledged to report my progress. Week 1, having not cheated at all (but done no exercise) I've lost 7lb. I have no top tip to share because I've not got the hang of it all and have been hungry pretty much all of the time.

It's led me to wonder whether we ought to redefine the aims of the Pink Heart Society. Maybe we should not confine ourselves to raising the appreciation of category fiction but also launch an international initiative for more curvaceous women??? Then we could all give up and curl up with a nice box of chocolates and a good book .... Just a thought!!!

It's my turn to write the Male on Monday blog for the Pink Heart Society (will be in situ in about 5 hours) and I've decided to initiate English actor Richard Armitage into our hall of inspirational men. As ever I've been left with 'spare' pictures which I duly share with you all.

It's such a tough job, but someone has to do it!

Now I have to stop playing and get on with writing my book. I've reached a tricky bit where I can't quite decide which way to take it - and I have a very interesting secondary character who needs slapping into shape. Oh the problems that beset one!

Friday, January 05, 2007


I'm becoming fixated about chocolate biscuits. Not a good sign since it's still only Day 5 of my Weight Watchers experience. What an excellent thing I'm so competitive and cannot give up since I've pledged to blog my progress to the Pink Heart Society on the first Tuesday of February. (Trish is doing *very* well, btw.) To make matters worse I've got a 'Twelfth Night' party to go to tonight - can you imagine the temptation I'll be faced with there ...

Apart from my fixation with unhealthy food groups, I'm now able to report I've finally updated my website. Or, if I'm more honest, Kim at WaxCreative has done the deed.

Owing to all the health problems in my family I've been so very bad at getting anything organised to send them and they've been really lovely. It's not quite as 'finished' as they'd like it but you can at least find an excerpt from my February 'Romance' - 'Crowned: An Ordinary Girl'.

I've taken it straight from the beginning because, personally, that's what I like to read on other people's websites. I'd love to know what you think about that. Maybe everyone else prefers a tender moment or real cliff hanging ending???

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Importance of Being Ernest and Much Ado ...

My mum had another dose of chemo today - the final one before they hope to operate.

The treatment aside it's such a long day. In part it's down to the travelling to and from the hospital and part it's having to sit around waiting for blood tests, results of blood tests, the chemo itself and collecting the anti-sickness medication.

She'd not been looking forward to it at all because the last run was so tough but, actually, she's feeling quite good this evening and instead of falling into bed she felt like a movie.

So, with my daughter, we sat and watched 'The Importance of Being Ernest'. It doesn't matter how many times I see that it makes me laugh. I once played Gwendolen Fairfax, too, which makes it all the more incredible I can watch and enjoy it. (Didn't get to kiss Colin Firth though! And, actually, I can't remember *who* I did kiss. That's bad, isn't it!!!)

And then I remembered I never did come back and tell you how brilliantly successful my trip to London to see 'Much Ado About Nothing' was. It all worked perfectly.

The Novello Theatre is incredibly beautiful - but it would be very uncomfortable for anyone over 5ft 7". There really isn't much leg room. But the Royal Shakespeare Company production was interesting - and fun. They'd chosen to set it all in 1950s Cuba which made a change! At least, I think that's what they were doing because I didn't buy the programme. Instead we bought ice-creams and offspring number three was horrified that four small tubs cost £12.00. He stood in the line stating very loudly, 'that's a rip off'. Hugely embarrassed his siblings which was fun! :)

All three children were successfully 're-tuned' as planned so I came home feeling quite smug.

I know not everyone is as passionate as I am about Shakespeare but I'm convinced that's mostly down to it being taught as an academic subject. Unless you see it performed, and performed well, I don't think you've really experienced it.

However, offspring three says that, in his experience, 50% of Shakespeare plays are rubbish. So, I've still got a little work to do.

And ..

For those of you who are suffering with me on the Pink Heart Society diet experience - I've still not cheated and don't feel too hungry. Just enough points left for a glass of wine before bed. But I've not done any exercise and Trish is doing stacks. Hmmm

Oh and Ally has organised a lovely little logo thing - which I shall have to work out how to put on my blog - BUT I HAVE TO WRITE A BOOK FIRST!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!

Personally speaking, I'm thrilled to see the back of 2006. Though I'm not entirely sure the next few months are going to be particularly great. My lovely mum, who is being treated for Ovarian cancer, had to be admitted into hospital between Christmas and New year. She came home again today but has to go back for another dose of chemo on the 3rd. Just not nice, is it.

I do seem to be somewhat surrounded by cancer patients at the moment. Nigella Lawson who lost her first husband, her mum and a sister to cancer was quoted as saying she felt like 'Typhoid Mary' (the first person in the United States to be identified as a healthy carrier of typhoid fever). I know exactly what she meant!

So, spurred on by fellow Pink Heart editors Trish and Jenna, I've decided to take control of what I can. Tomorrow, on the Pink Heart Society blog we're launching No Temptation Tuesday - which is all about tackling the difficult issue of 'writers' bottom'. No one warns you of that when you start writing, do they?

I began today. I'm now a fully paid up member of Weight Watchers - and I've managed beautifully. I did think I was going to run into terrible difficulties because I found their site complicated. In about half an hour I'm going to watch the final ever episode of 'Vicar of Dibley' and want a glass of wine - but could I find what Weight Watchers considers a medium glass to be? Could I heck! I did wonder whether that was a cunning plan on their part. If I hadn't been avoiding the loading of the dishwasher at the time I may well have decided I didn't want one badly enough. :) Only it's 2 points - so all is well.

I'm also giving excercise a go - and that's quite amazing because it's really almost against my religion I'm so passionate in my hatred of it. I've bought the DVD - this one - and have watched it all through with a nice cup of coffee. Tomorrow I'm going to buy the trainers ....