This Thursday our Natasha isn't actually here. She's in France. Research is a tough job but someone has to do it!
I must have been sooooooo wicked in a previous life. It's 5.30am and here I am writing a blog which will appear while I'm somewhere in France. The Dordogne, I think.
Of course, you might argue I should have been more organised but if you were within striking distance you wouldn't dare! 'Five go off to Camp' might have done well for Enid Blyton but it sure as heck is running me ragged. (How difficult is it to find 7 pairs of pants????? Mind, come to think of it one of her five was a dog and the parents never went too.
Still, as long as I remember passports and a credit card nothing much can go wrong, right???
Last summer was all about chemotherapy in the Oakley household. The whole year was just grim, start to finish. Funnily enough, and I'm sure there's an obvious psychological reason for it, I've found it harder to write since the trauma of my mum's death and my husband's cancer treatment has passed. I can best describe it as feeling like a wrung-out rag. I have nothing left to give.
I've tried, obviously. I had deadlines to meet. But missed them all. That little voice sitting on my shoulder reminding me that 'professional writers make deadlines', 'real writers write' and that 'writers' block doesn't exist' only made me feel worse. Actually, I'm here to tell you that writers' block does exist. It's different, very different, from those days when the words feel sticky and you know you are writing rubbish. On those days you keep your bottom in the chair and write on through. Writers' block, imo, is triggered by trauma and the treatment is different. You step away. You go 'I can't do this' and give yourself permission to heal.
For me, that's been this summer. Hiding from the very nice man who single handedly has been sorting out the mistakes of our kitchen floor (long story) we went to a ye olde English cottage, loaned by a friend of a friend. Unusually for a cottage it came with it's very own disused quarry (perfect for cricket) and wood.
What's more a five minute drive away there was this - and I defy anyone not to feel the cobwebs blow away when walking along a deserted beach.
And then there was the day when I escaped my family and drove to Brighton. (I'm sooooo tempted to write a regency romance you know.)
I went to see the Royal Pavillion, favourite home of the Prince Regent (later George IV).
This amazing place started life as a 'respectable farmhouse'. In 1786 George was seriously in debt and determined to make a very public display of economy so he retired to Brighton. The following year, his debts paid, he turned the farmhouse into a small neo-classical structure which became known as the 'Marine Pavillion'. Over the years the place was enlarged still further and it's truly incredible.
Through the Octagon Hall (where the invited would have alighted from their coaches), the Entrance hall and the Long Gallery you reach the Banqueting Room. Generally no more than 30 people dined in this room and it's as jaw-dropping now as it would have been in the nineteenth century. Right in the centre of the room is a 30ft chandelier held in the claws of a silver dragon. Below, six small dragons exhale light through lotus glass shades.
Then it's on through the Table Deckers' Room, the Great Kitchen (I liked that room - and it's probably where my ancestors would have been found. Just can't find any aristocracy anywhere!), the Banquetting Room Gallery, the Saloon, the Music Room Gallery and into the Music Room.
The Music Room is extraordinary. It's lit by nine lotus-shaped chandeliers and your eye is drawn upwards to the huge domed ceiling decorated in gilded cockle shells. In 1975 this room was severely damaged by fire and it took a decade of intensive work to restore the gilt dome, coving, clerestory windows and their surrounds. Barely completed, in 1987, a hurricane dislodged a stone ball on top of one of the minarets which fell through the retored ceiling and embedded itself in the newly-laid carpet. Can you imagine?? You'd never know now. All you can think of is how it would have felt to have sunk down in the luxurious carpet in your regency pumps.
And now I'm off to France. First stop is half an hour from Honfleur - because I like it. It made a small feature in 'Crowned: An Ordinary Girl'. It's the place Marianne was going to spend the year as an au pair.
Then I'm off to the Loire - a five minute walk from this chateau. Then I'm driving on down to the Dordogne where we're moving upmarket and staying in a villa. I have visions of myself sitting poolside, chilled drink by my elbow, stories flowing from my fingertips ....
Have laptop will travel!
So, what recharges your batteries?????
Natasha's latest Harlequin Romance Wanted: White Wedding is available in the UK here and in NA here!
Romantic Times Magazine says: 'Natasha Oakley's Wanted: White Wedding (4.5) has its share of deeply touching moments, but what makes it stand out are the humor and the wonderful characters.'
You can find out more about it on her website and you can hear her moan about her sheikhs and other assorted disasters by visiting her blog.
Her contribution to the Niroli series, 'The Tycoon's Princess Bride', is available here and won the Romantic Times Magazine Best Presents of 2007 and was nominated for a RITA®.