Friday, 25 April 2014

In support of Police Whistle Blower PC James Patrick

I haven’t blogged for a long time. It’s been too long. Now is the time to break the silence and what a better way to do it than with something worthwhile saying.

 In support of Police Whistle Blowers

PC James Patrick is someone the public want, and need, as a policeman. He is a man of honesty, integrity, and right.

So why have the MET put him under investigation, AGAIN, for speaking out and up about the flawed system of crime reporting, preventing him from leaving the force with his reputation intact? Channel 4 News suggest it’s vindictive and designed to intimidate him. BBC news agree.

Whistleblowers are frequently subjected to witch-hunts and driven from their careers. Those who whistle blow are often those who value their jobs more than most. If it didn’t matter, why would they bother? Yet they are victimised over and over again. It’s a typical story.

The Police need to be trusted by the public. When a police whistleblower calls time on bad practice, flawed investigations, or some other matter of concern, public confidence ultimately grows because people know there are good and honest coppers out there willing to stand up and be counted when it matters.

It’s easy to mingle with the crowd but it takes courage to stand alone, to put your head above the water and remain there whilst under attack.  And who polices the Police when they can’t police themselves?

There is a huge crowd of serving and retired police officers supporting James Patrick. We endorse his actions and back his right to leave the police service with his integrity intact.

Don’t let him become a victim of injustice. There are far too many of those already.

This is James Patrick’s open letter to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police  
James Patrick’s open letter to Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe -

 and we, the following, support him –

Alan Wright ex Met

Sharon Birch ex Met

Stephen Birch ex Met

Pat Brennen ex Met

Helen Bradburn ex Met

Brian Adamson ex Met

Willie Mohan ex Met

Chris Glossop ex Met

Stephen Southwell ex Met

Pauline Weddle ex Met

Paul Jefford ex Met

Adam Watts ex Met

Steve Dennis ex Met

Charles Walker ex Met

Peter Oldham ex Met

Phil Herdman ex Met

Ian Templeton ex Met

John West ex Met

Peter Neale ex Met

John Piggot ex Met

Neil Frame ex Met

Jackie Hastings ex Met

Mike Pannett ex Met

Eric Halfhide ex Met

Karen McGarry ex Met

Frances Wallace ex Met

Colin Biggar ex Met

Robert Southgate ex Met

Mark Cook ex Met

Andrew Holland ex Met

Mark Wood ex Met

Frank Jennings ex Met

Helen Bradburn ex Met

John Barron ex Met

Lobby Thornton ex Met

Karen Dunnett ex Met

Christopher Pengelly ex Met

William Sharpe ex Met

Ian Giles ex Met

Maurice McPhillimey ex Met

Colin Greenlees ex Met

Doug Vieweg ex Met

Ian McDonald ex Met

Karen Gilmour ex Met

Stephen Blue Hake ex Met

Richard Hutchinson ex Met

Ian Maw ex Met

Peter Burnell ex Met 

Paul Baker ex Met

Steve Bennett ex West Midlands 

Clive Bishop ex Met

Pete Plumb 

Paul Shinnick ex Met

Michael Platts ex Met

Hamish Boyd ex Met

David Pengelly ex Met

Chris Hobbs ex Met

Steve Highton ex Met

Mark Acford

Cameron McCann ex Met

Geoff Beale ex Met


Monday, 20 August 2012

The Real Me is Here

In the past few weeks I’ve heard a lot about identity. 

Nicola Morgan recently wrote a great blog post about the real her and how she had been distracted and how she now wanted to write. And write. And write.

So did Rebecca Bradley.

The Edinburgh Book Festival has taken place with various conferences about national identity, cultural identity, and so on. I’ve just watched online, the discussion with Irvine Welch, chaired by Ian Rankin, and a crowd of writers. I didn’t particularly enjoy it. Not the last hour. I far preferred the first half.;postID=8647306764886002546

Today I was humorously asked by a fellow writer who was the real me and would Effie/Sharon/Whoever stand up? It made me think, again, about identity. And who am I? Really?

First of all, I am not one thing, or one person, but the sum of all my parts.

I am not defined by my accent, a grim north eastern twang which is neither Cheryl Cole nor Coronation Street. 

Nor do I feel particularly English, or British. I was born where I was and grew up where I did, neither of which were something I had any thought or control over. I was not taught in school that I was any different to people in Scotland, or Ireland, or Wales. Or Australia. It was never instilled in me to think of myself as English. Or British. Or European. My father sailed the world and talked of many countries. My mother and her mother were born in the south of England, my grandfather was Irish, my other grandparents were from the North East. So what?

I am not defined by my gender. I grew up in a sexist world when things were changing. I worked in a male dominated profession. My husband looks after the kids when I regularly go away from home to work. He also does majority of the cooking. And?

I’m a wife but I’m not a domestic goddess. I hate housework. But I love my family and would do everything I can to protect them. 

Nor am I defined by my class, whatever the heck that is. I was born in my grandparents council house and my first home was a rented caravan because my father sailed the seas and my mother was effectively a young single mum, though married, and it was all they could afford.

My religious and political beliefs are largely kept to myself, not because I’m ashamed or embarrassed, but I’m not that passionate nor well informed, or inclined to engage in intellectual discussion about either. Also, I find it tends to annoy some people and I hate arguments.

I am a mother, sometimes a good one, sometimes not. For sure, my kids will have plenty to write about should they wish to, ala Philip Larkin.  

I was a police officer for twenty years but I was far from the stereotype that many imagine. I just believed in right. And good. And being decent.

I own a business but I’m not a typical or conventional boss. So say I. 

I have a genetic condition, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and so do my three children. It’s sometimes disabling and sometimes debilitating. I don’t let it define me and I try hard to work with it, not against it. Oh – and I am incredibly clumsy.

I write. I love to write. I have always loved to write and when I couldn't do it for me, I put that energy into my work related writing, of which there was much. I am not a literary writer. I will never win a literary award but I do win some competitions. I write mainstream stories which anyone can pick up and enjoy or discard. I write many genres but I usually write about the dark side. I just love to write whatever comes out. Sometimes it’s rubbish. Sometimes I surprise myself. It’s really rubbish!

If something in my life isn’t working, I try to change it, if I can. I moved from the North to London. I loved it. London. Twelve years later I moved back. Then I moved to Scotland. I’m not afraid of change. I actively make it happen. I believe in personal responsibility, even when I fail. It’s no-one else’s fault but my own.  

I am different things to different people. I am not my past. I am not my present. I know nothing of my future. 

I like coffee but not tea. I like wine but not spirits. I like the rain. I like the sea. I like the trees and rough, rugged countryside. I like reds and blacks. I like blues music and catching tunes and classical pieces I've long forgotten the names of. I like late nights and late mornings, though I don’t often have either. I like to be good but know I’m sometimes bad. I love to be tidy but my house is often cluttered. I colour co-ordinate my wardrobe – for ease, not obsession. I like to travel on trains, which is as well as I do it a lot, but I hate flying. 

I like reading and words and stories but hate maths, and sums, and things like spreadsheets that my sister is so good at.

I like to laugh. And I like to dance but I know I’m now at that embarrassing age where my dancing is better kept to my kitchen. Preferably with no-one else in it. 

I have a past, but who doesn’t? I’ve lived in different places, had different lovers, done things I’m ashamed of, and some things I’m proud of. I value my friends and I appreciate honesty, even if it sometimes hurts. I confuse myself as much as I confuse others. I am contrary when the mood takes me. And I have an over-riding need to understand. I need to understand. I have to be able to make sense of things that concern me. It unnerves me if I can’t. But I know I can’t understand everything.

I realise I am lucky to live somewhere that allows me freedom of thought and speech and the opportunity to make up my mind without repression. But of course, I’ve been coloured by experience, and perception, and influence, and many other things, as much as I’d like to deny it. 

Who am I?

I’m nobody really. I’m just me. Whatever that is.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Remembering Mothers and Others

This Mother's Day I will remember. I will remember a lot of things. 

My own mother who died just over two years ago. RIP. 

My husband’s mother who is in hospital in Spain, very poorly, with my husband by her side, her only child, and the place he should be at this moment. 

I’ll remember also that I’m a mother. But without their father, my teenage children might forget. That’s all right. They don’t yet have to remember. If they go about their day, doing their thing, it’s okay. They don’t have to remember. Not yet. There’s time. We have time. 

George, a friend of ours, he died this week. He has no time left. I don’t know how old he was but he was somewhere between my husband and I, somewhere between forty six and fifty five. He was a good age but not a good enough age to die. He was a bright man, a sparky man. He was intelligent in the same way my husband is, both of them unique in a way most people aren’t. George had seen things many men hadn’t and he was tortured in a way that left a permanent legacy. 

We didn’t see him often. Sometimes five times a week, sometimes five times a month, sometimes none at all. He was a character, generous and quirky and flawed. He was a bit mad, too. But he was somebody that I liked, somebody I wanted to spend time with, somebody who made his mark. I didn’t know him well. I didn’t have to. I knew his worth. He was A GOOD MAN.

RIP George. 

And for all of you out there with your mothers, or remembering your mothers, or wishing you didn’t have to, have a good weekend.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

My So-Called World of Writing

For a number of reasons, it’s been a while since I posted here. 

I thought about it at Christmas. And then again at New Year. I couldn’t find the right things to say. Everyone is full of words at these times and I had nothing to add but good wishes and good fortune, which I gave across Facebook, Twitter and in cards and spoken words to people in my real life and people online. I wondered who would be interested in what I had to say on my blog and if my platitudes would be any different to anyone else’s. I decided not to bother. The world was full of end of year reviews and my little bit of research on Facebook told me that most people didn’t like the idea of a round-up. Naff, said one. Bragging, said another. Not interested, said someone else. A couple of odd voices came through and said, actually, I quite like to catch up and find out what folk are up to. I still decided not to bother.

Most people wanted 2012 to be better than ever. I didn’t want 2012 to be better than ever because I know each year is a variation on a theme. Life doesn’t change with the chiming of Big Ben at midnight. It comes gradually, by making little changes over time. And I had quite liked 2011.
It’s difficult to make posts on Twitter and Facebook sometimes. It can sound like bragging if you gush a success, or can be depressing if you bemoan a difficulty. Not easy, this blogging lark. Especially when I can blog all day about writing, about my family, about my nursery, about EDS. And then there’s the non-specific jumble too.

Carole Blake, the esteemed literary agent, said today on Twitter, as she tweeted from the #tweetblog conference and on behalf of the speaker, that it’s important for writers to blog. I’m just going to have to think of really interesting things to say. And I have a plan … my clever brother in law is going to create a website for me and I will be able streamline and separate my blog posts into different sections.  

I can’t not mention my nursery, what I do for a real job, the thing that pays the bills and takes me away from home once a month for four or five days. We won 2 local Business Awards last year, and a prestigious Nursery World Award for team development. It takes hard work, commitment, and passion. We built the nursery up from a business that was facing closure. I had no business experience but I knew what parents want and need in terms of childcare. I also know how I like to be treated as an employee. We have over thirty staff and care for children from over ninety families in Hartlepool. No mean feat but it doesn’t come easy and it has to be balanced with the everything we have all put in. 

The EDS (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome) thing is ongoing, it never goes away, we just manage it the best we can. It could all be so much worse and I am grateful that it’s not. 

In the meantime, in the world of writing, I have a number of projects ongoing and my head is full of ideas. I’ve teamed up with Jo Derrick, of the Yellow Room,( ) and we send each other prompts daily and write for half an hour. Since we started, I’ve written nearly thirty new pieces. Out of those thirty, four or five have been reworked, edited and sent out to various markets/competitions. It’s a great way to work. I can’t commit to writing every day, what with the business and family etc but it really does help to generate fresh stories. 

I’ve also had more and more requests for advice and information from writers who want to know specific things re the world of police and crime. It usually involves a dead body or two. I’m very happy to provide information to any writer who would like to ask a question. I can’t guarantee I can answer it but if I can’t, I’m sure I know someone who can. So if you have a pressing question for your story or novel that you need to be answered but don’t know how, or where, or who, just ask Effie!

Last year I won or was placed in 27 competitions. Sounds good – but when you add up that I entered 165, it sort of puts it into perspective. That’s roughly a hit rate of 1 in 6 (if I’ve done the maths right) or one every two weeks. Ultimately, it proves to me that if you want build up a portfolio of work and a credible CV, then you have to put yourself out there. It takes time and effort and hard work. I counted up today that since 2005 when I started writing and meant it, I have had 127 hits (publications online and in print). Just keep reminding me to sort out the novel! Please. Thank you. 

Last year Katie Fforde came to dinner. I met up with Ian Rankin in Aberfeldy for the music festival here and I had the privilege of meeting his son and Jon, his son’s carer. I also met Ian in Edinburgh for coffee, with JF Derry and Louise Kelly. I attended another workshop run by Nicola Morgan – as brilliant as ever. Then I went for a drink with Vanessa from The Edinburgh Bookshop and we talked books and other such gossip. I thoroughly enjoyed it. And I have finally met Jon Pinnock, one of the people who inspire me the most, when I attended the Get Writing conference in Hatfield with Verulam Writers’ Circle. Lovely he is too. I networked and got to know some well known and some not so well known writers. I met a few people from the world of Twitter.  The thing everyone I have mentioned has in common is not the writing, but the support for each other.  

As much as I sometimes fear it, become scared, lose confidence, and beat myself up about it, I love my writing world. Long may it continue.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Why I Want To Go Back

They say – don’t go back. It never works. It’s the wrong thing to do. It’ll be a mistake. But what if … 

I was compelled to watch the news unfold over the last few days. My heart was breaking as I watched London on fire, people distraught, losing all they and their families had built up. I saw police officers useless in trying to combat gangs and thugs with mindless acts of violence. Mindless because I am sure many of them didn’t think about what they were doing when they were destroying property, other people’s belongings, livelihoods and hurting fellow mankind. Or maybe they did think and did it regardless but I am sure there will be many that regret it today. I hope so. 
I watched places I had lived and worked become enveloped in riot situations that were beyond control. I remembered the communities, the housing estates, the shops, the cultural, cosmopolitan city that I had policed some years ago. And I cried for the family heritage that belongs to my husband and my children, as he was born and brought up there until I took him to the north east of England in 1997. My eldest two children were born in East London and are proud to say that. And as I watched these terrible events unfold, not just in London, but across the country, I felt powerless and felt I had to do something. 

I believe the same things today as I did when I joined the Metropolitan Police on 22nd July 1985. I was nineteen, naïve and wanted to help people.
‘But you cry whenever you see a tramp!’ my best friend, Jo, said to me.
She was right, I did. Shrugging, I said, ‘I know ... but perhaps I can make a difference.’
She scoffed. ‘You’ll be taking them all home with you.’
I knew what she meant. I also knew this was different. It went deeper than that. There was part of me that wanted to make a difference, even if it was to just one person’s life.
‘You’ll get too involved, take on everyone’s problems as your own. You can’t solve the world’s issues you know!’
I think she was angry with me. ‘I do know,’ I smiled, trying to defend myself. ‘That’s for the politicians.’
‘Does it really concern you though, all these things going on in everyone else’s lives?’
‘It won’t be everyone’s. It’s just one small borough of London, a little pocket teeming with people.’ I cupped my hands to show her.
‘There you go again, getting all poetic.’
She didn’t get it. I don’t think I could explain it, then or now. It wasn’t anything romantic like a need or a calling, nothing like that. It was just something I felt I had to do, something I felt I could do, something that would ultimately make me feel better; about others. And about myself.
I haven’t yet told her that I plan to go back … I don’t wonder what she’ll say.

After my twenty weeks at Hendon training school, I worked in Limehouse and Bow (HH) from 1985 – 1989. I then transferred to Vine Street (CV) and worked in uniform and plain clothes, and as a TI (temporary investigator – something the Met invented for a time as an apprenticeship into CID). In 1994 I transferred to Chingford where I worked with vulnerable people, domestic violence and was introduced to the world of child protection.
In 1997, when my son was 19 days old, we packed up and transferred to another force in the North East of England. I went back into uniform for two years and we worked opposite shifts with two babies. It was tough, but I loved my job. Then in 1999 after the birth of my youngest, I became a fully fledged detective and worked in child protection. There were many paedophiles, child abusers, child deaths and neglect. I thrived. I was good. I was better than good. I was bloody brilliant and I have the documents to prove it. And then, in October 2005, I left.
A senior officer said he expected me to be a success and to do well in whatever I chose to do next. I said nothing but I didn’t intend to prove him wrong.
We now have Footprints nursery, an award winning business that with a lot of hard work, we have turned around and made into a success. We have Gold Investors in People, two local business awards and have just been shortlisted for the prestigious Nursery World Awards – down to three from all the nurseries in the UK. Some achievement.
But I still miss ‘my job’. When I heard the call for ex officers, I rang my husband and asked him if he fancied it. I knew what he would say and I wasn’t wrong. ‘You go. I’ll stay home and look after the kids.’ He knows me as much as I know him.
I rang. They took my details. They rang me again today and took some more. It’ll be a process of four stages. They may not want me. I might be too old, not enough recent experience, too much history …
But if they want me, I’ll be there. I couldn’t not go. Twenty years experience and knowledge and hard work shouldn’t be wasted at a time like this. I can take statements, collate information, do enquiries, video interview vulnerable people and children who have been victims/witnesses.
Whatever the causes of the terrible events of the last few days, and there are many, it’s a job that needs doing. And I can do it. If they'll have me.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

One Big Social Faux-Pas

I will be forty six this year. Forty six! How did I get to be so old? I’m twenty eight, or sometimes thirty seven, deep inside my head. I liked those ages. I was temporarily happy with myself then. I was slim-ish, confident, happy with my life and the way it was all going. Then I hit forty and my world turned upside down and I was lost, bereft. It was more than a mid-life crisis, everything I believed in and had worked so hard for disappeared. I also hated the thought of being forty. It was not a joyful time, back then and I entered a darkness from which I am just emerging. I see the light ahead. But it’s dim.  

I think back over the years and I was never blessed with confidence and much self-esteem. I was a thin, scrawny child who never spoke and was crippled with shyness. But I got over that. Now I just babble. A lot. Especially in social occasions. I am apt to making a fool of myself and leaving people staring at me in wonder – who is this woman? I feel like a character from a sitcom. Miranda perhaps. Or Frank Spencer. You see, I also have a coordination problem, one not brought about by drink but linked to my condition of Ehlers-Danlos. It’s the clumsy gene, the thing now called Dyspraxia, once termed Sharonitis by people in my life. The real name for this particular problem is Proprioception. It’s a kinesthetic thing, the sense that deals with sensations of body position, posture, balance, and motion. Mine is out of kilter. It doesn’t help with my confidence. I’m a large clumsy oaf. 

I know I have achieved. I know I am a capable and able woman. I can be strong. I worked hard at a career I loved and I was good at it. And when it went, I started a business in 2005 without any prior experience or knowledge of the field. This month my business won two prestigious awards. We have a Gold Investors in People, because I believe in my staff and working with others for all benefits. I collected my First Class honours degree from the Open University at the weekend after eight years of long study. Yesterday I found out I had won first place in a writing competition, my third big competition win this year, with many more stories shortlisted and published, not just this year but over the last five. I know I can do many things with a lot of graft and hard work. I’ve had lots of things published now. I have a successful business. I’ve battled the demons of being forty. Nothing has ever come easy but I value the rewards all the more for it. 

So why am I still crippled with self-doubt and poor self-image and hatred. Yes. Hatred. It’s a big word. For a big woman. I’m a large lady. Really large. I was five foot nine and a half once. Now I’m barely five foot eight. But I’ve always liked being tall, even at school when I worked hard and kept my head down. I think it saved me from the bullies. That, or they just ignored me, didn’t see me. I’ve often felt invisible and often wanted to be invisible when I wasn’t, but you can’t hide someone like me very easily, even if you can ignore them. 

I’ve never been pretty, but then, I’m not sure I ever wanted to be ‘pretty’. Attractive would do. Perhaps it stems from childhood – Freud says so. Perhaps it comes from that abusive boyfriend I had for four years in my teens who told me I was a big fat lump and I was ugly and nobody would want me so I should be grateful he was with me. The irony was, he was a big lump and I was slim in those days. Perhaps it comes from a lifetime insecurity that’s part nature and part nurture. Whatever. It doesn’t help me much today to figure out where it came from. The fact is - this is me. A huge fat bleb who wants so much to do well and be accepted and to achieve but I’m wracked with how I look. I have nice hair though. 

I need to lose five stone. At least. I can’t look at the photographs from my graduation ceremony last weekend. I am a house-end. I don’t want to be seen in public. How can anyone respect someone who looks like me? I can’t even respect myself. And I can’t see how anyone can possibly like me. Whether we like it or not, we live in a world of image, where a good image is promoted and a bad one ridiculed. Heck, even Cheryl Cole has been told to lose weight and has been sacked for her accent. It’s not so dissimilar to mine.

It’s easy to say ‘lose weight’. Very easy to say. Very hard to do. I know. I’ve done it all my life. I’ve been a very thin ten stone which was far too thin for me and my frame. I looked ill. I’ve weighed much much more than that. I have clothes from a size twelve to twenty four in my wardrobe. I hate it. Clothes shopping. I have big feet too – size nines, sometimes a ten. But that’s all right. You can’t make your feet smaller so that’s not my fault. Like my height. 

I’ve dieted my life away since I was twenty one. I’ve toyed with bulimia, couldn’t face anorexia. I’ve used diet pills. I like them. They worked for me. But it never kept the weight off. And now I’m stuck in this body that I hate. Not only is it defective because of Ehlers-Danlos but it’s gross because I’m fat. There, I’ve said it. I’m fat. I also have an intestinal problem due to EDS but I can’t use that as an excuse as I’m still fat. I don’t scoff or cram food. You hear stories of women who eat ten packets of biscuits in a morning and then three packs of bacon with five eggs. They tell stories of how much of this and that they would eat. That’s not me. I rarely snack between meals. I don’t eat chocolate. I once had an addiction to it – I did scoff many bars a day but I successfully did the Paul McKenna hypnosis thing eight years ago and I rarely touch it now. Shame I can’t get it to work for food in general. I like good food, rich with flavour. My husband cooks and he’s brilliant at it. Of course, I have to eat it. I like to. Maybe I should just eat less of it. That’s probably the key. If only it was that easy. 

I’m supposed to be going to an event tonight. Ian Rankin and Sara Sheridan will be there, two people who inspire me and who I look up to. It’s a book swap in Edinburgh. There will be other people I know from twitter. Some I’ve met before, others I haven’t. I’ve got this huge pain in my very large gut. I can’t go. I can’t face these people. I will babble. I will make a fool of myself. I will be clumsy and trip over and spill my drink, like I did at a works Christmas do when I fell over the Chief Inspector’s table, pouring gin and tonic over his guests. I will be, and look, a fool. Or worse. If I don’t go I won’t have to see the look in their eyes as they speak to me, or avoid me. I won’t have to suffer the humiliation of them looking at me and knowing what they think, that I’m a big fat middle-aged woman who wants to be a somebody but never will. Not whilst she looks like that. Nice hair though. 

I’m just one big social faux-pas. I know I am able and capable. I can study at home in my own world. I can chat and make friends over the internet without anyone having to see me. I can pretend I am normal, that I am okay really. I can cheat and post pictures of me in my better years when I was almost passable. They don’t have to see the real me, the me that repulses me so therefore must repulse them too. 

Perhaps one shouldn’t meet one’s icons. I am only setting myself up for failure. We all want to be liked. I can’t even like myself.

Monday, 23 May 2011

So Much Has Happened and #thisiswhataromanticnovelistlookslike

Since I was last here, so much has happened. I have so much to blog about. It's good, right, that I've been so busy? Yes?

Since I was last here I've been to Turkey to sort some final things in respect of my mother and to England, twice. I've had a number of stories published (for pay and otherwise) and my nursery has won TWO!! Business Awards in the Hartlepool Business Awards ceremony last Thursday.

I'm tempted to say 'I'm happy!' but I know every time I utter those words, my world has a habit of tumbling down ...

Anyway, what has prompted this blog tonight is the tripe and rubbish that I have read about the Romantic Novelists Association Summer Party. It was written and published in the Daily Mail recently.

I have many friends who are published authors in the romantic fiction genre and the twin-set and pearls ideology just doesn't cut it. Some might adorn such attire, but I don't know of them. No problem with that if they do but to categorise them all in such a stereotypical and cliched way is disgraceful. If you've read the article, you'll understand the furore.

So - as a writer who has had romantic fiction and erotica short stories published FOR MONEY I stand up to be counted with them, even though I cannot claim to have a novel published in this genre.

What does a writer of romantic fiction look like?

#thisiswhataromanticnovelistlookslike  I post this in defence of them all and if I can be considered as such, this is me when I first started out -

How far removed from twin-set and pearls is this?

In support of all writers of romantic fiction everywhere and in spite of the Daily Mail and their ethics.