Monday, 29 July 2013

Caroline stays out

I am used to Caroline being late because of work engagements and use the time to catch up on emails, plan trips to away fixtures, and watch any available sport on TV. Women's football is very skilful.

But when I know something is going on, and I'm not involved, I find it really hard to get to sleep. Every noise after 11pm alerts my senses. By 3am, my imagination has gone into overdrive. So even though Caroline had warned me "not to worry" and that if it got late she would get a room up in town, I had one of those sleepless nights that leave you feeling exhausted the next day and wondering if the single life isn't more straightforward.

What was going on was that Caroline was meeting a business associate for dinner, a woman called Amber who was trying to sell Monsaint a souped-up version of their supply chain management software. Caroline had agreed, at my instigation, to experience the delights of a woman and felt intuitively that Amber, almost a stranger, would be the place to start. She wouldn't let me be involved in her first experiment of this kind, but promised to report back every detail.

It's surprising how easily a harmless erotic fantasy turns into a nightmare of jealousy. In the middle of the night I was utterly convinced that Caroline had been a lesbian all along and had just been waiting to jump ship from her hetero existence. No, hang on a minute, her new friend had an 'open marriage' and was introducing her to her dynamic millionaire husband. No, no, it can't be. The story about meeting a business associate was made up and my wife has a secret life as a high class call girl.

What a relief it was Friday evening when we convened in the kitchen at the usual time, bottle of red opened, and she was able to put my mind at rest. Sort of. I asked if she had enjoyed her meal.

"Oh, it was okay," she said, affecting boredom. "It was a nice restaurant. I agreed to buy the software."
"Yes, but how was the food, did you get on well with... what was her name?"

"I hardly remember what I ate. I spent the whole time staring at Amber's gorgeous eyes. I was right, you know, there was a spark between us. She kept saying funny things, and when I laughed she put her hand on my knee under the table. The time flew by and I realised I would have to book a late room. Amber saw me fiddling with the Late Rooms app on my phone and she said I didn't need to, she had a great hotel room with two double beds in it, and I was welcome to share with her.

"I still thought at that time she was just a very friendly, touchy-feely, woman, but then she kissed me full on the lips in the taxi to the hotel so I knew I was on course with your little fantasy."

I was beginning to wonder if it was my little fantasy at all. I poured us both another glass of wine.
"It was a great little hotel, one of those boutique places with white walls and clean lines. Amber said she'd ordered a bottle of champagne to be brought up to her room, because she wanted to celebrate making a sale. And when she opened the door to her room, there was hotel maid with long blond hair and high heels, holding a silver tray, ice bucket, the works.

"I thought, 'Jeez, they really take service to a whole new level in this hotel.' But that was only the start."

It was getting late and I was tired from the lack of sleep the night before. I suggested we take a shower and she could tell me the rest in bed.

"The rest? Well, I could tell you some of it. If you want the big picture you'll have to get your Kindle out and I'll download the background for you."

This is what Caroline put on my Kindle:

At least I'll have something to read next time Caroline has a late meeting.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Caroline plans a date

Sitting at home in the kitchen Caroline had said she would make it up to me, that we could try something new, and I could choose. I poured us both another glass of wine. A few possibilities skipped through my mind.
What does it mean when your partner offers to try something new? Is it:
a) I'm feeling guilty about something and want to ease my conscience;
b) I'm bored to tears with you and thinking of having an affair;
c) I have this hidden fantasy that I've never told you about but now I feel confident enough to explore it because you make me feel so safe; or
d) I love you so much I'll do anything you want, even the things I don't really like.

"You could have sex with another woman and I could watch," I proposed, taking a chance it was a c) or d) situation.
"That's so predictable, Robert. You're a typical man." But then Caroline smiled sweetly and said, "But if you really want me to sleep with another woman, I will, just for you. But I couldn't have you watching, not the first time. I've never gone far with a woman, just the occasional drunken snog and that fooling around with Antonia in Spain. But I promise I will tell you every detail."

So that was a 'yes' with two 'buts'. Not bad, better than a 'no' anyway, so I asked for specifics.
"So if you had sex with a woman, who would it be with?"
"Oh, I don't know. Just someone I met casually. I would be too embarrassed with a friend. Someone like... the woman I told you about, who gave the presentation today. The one with the lovely coffee coloured skin."

I began to suspect that this was something Caroline had been planning before this evening.
"How would you go about asking her? You can't just go up to someone after a business meeting and say 'I'd like to experiment with same sex sex and I like the look of you.'"

"You really are a man, Robert. Women are more subtle. We send out little signals. So, for example, I said to Amber - the woman I'm talking about - I said, 'I liked what I saw, but as the investment would be over a two hundred thousand, you'll have to come by my desk and run through the figures again.' Then I made her sit right next to me and share a computer screen. She smells heavenly, too."

"Are you going ahead?" I asked.
"Well I think the new IT system would pay for itself in nine months, so yes."
"No, I meant..."
"Of course you did. I told Amber I would think about the IT system. She really wants the business so she invited me to dinner on Thursday. She's staying over in a London hotel for a couple of days - we're not her only customer target."

"Did you get a signal back?"
"I'm not sure. She just said she would be delighted to meet me again in more relaxed surroundings. There did seem to be some tension in the air."

I made a note on my smartphone calendar that C would be late home on Thursday.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Outnumbered at the RNA Conference 2013

This is an extra post. Followers of the ups, downs, and bizarre happenings in C and I's relationship need not fear. What happened (according to Caroline) when she went to a business dinner with someone trying to sell her software will be revealed shortly. So will some of Caroline. But the reader is king, or queen, and a reader wants to know what happened when I attended the Romantic Novelists annual conference in Sheffield last weekend.

Shameless Ambition is not strictly speaking a novel. It's a factual account of what happened when Caroline met the famous German banker, Herbert Von Wolfswinkle. Some of the names were changed (see 4. below) to avoid further work for people like me. Neither is it very romantic, unless your idea of romance is a sex club in Copenhagen.

However, the RNA is a broad church and publishers have to find a label for books which enables readers to find them. Steam eReads helped me understand that Caroline's exhibitionism and the consequences of her indiscretions were in fact Romantic Suspense, even though some people laugh quite a lot.

The book having gone out into the world, I needed to know something about writing and publishing, in case Caroline agrees to let people know what happened when she tried to track down her natural mother and fell into the clutches of a dangerous, manipulative woman. Yes, there could be more Shameless titles.

That is how I came to spend the weekend with nearly three hundred women and at least two other men. Did I learn anything useful? Here's the list:
  1. Pink is a popular colour but I changed my pink shiny goody-bag for a Sainsbury's carrier for the journey home. The pink identification lanyard complemented every outfit (see below).
  2. Mills and Boon is still going strong - stronger than ever in terms of titles published, and stronger in content too.
  3. Women bring several pairs of shoes to wear for a weekend even when it's too hot to wear even sandals because the air-con has broken.
  4. When giving fictional characters a name, be careful not to inadvertently use the name of someone you once knew and is now a lawyer specialising in libel cases.
  5. The big four UK publishers are creating new imprints, digital and multi-platform, faster than you can say Bondage, Domination, Sadism, and Masochism. So fast, they've shortened it to BDSM.
  6. ePublishing means you can go all cross-genre. Paranormal steam punk meets traditional romance anyone?
  7. There are many delightful people of advanced years who have published a whole bookshop of novels and have kept up with the times. In the Q&A one speculated that dolphin sex could be the next big thing.
  8. One of the women, Gill, who has published over 30 M&B medical romances is a man called Roger Sanderson. Check on a popular search engine if you don't believe me.
  9. It is the older hands that are making money from their books. They get up at 5am, write five thousand words before breakfast and stay up all night on global social networking sites. They lunch, if at all, with their accountant, and the accountant pays. If they go on a cruise they stay in their cabin and write so it's tax deductible.
  10. The publishers are sparky and upbeat women who leap around on the shifting sands of the publishing world and smash the balls back to the other side (the writers) like a beach volleyball slam dunk.
  11. They are looking for incredible, unique fiction which is totally different, emotionally compelling and has instant commercial and mass market appeal. Got that?
  12. Everything happens very quickly now, except authors receiving any money.
  13. Transmedia publishing is a new term, but no one is sure what it means.
  14. However, when making a proposition (pitching a book, not what you do after too much wine), emphasise the transmedia potential of your dazzling concept.
  15. You have got to have a social media presence, but no-one knows which bit of tweeting, facebooking, or blogging, if any, has an impact on sales. You must have faith, it's the new religion.
  16. Julie Cohen ( ) does a great workshop. (There are other good workshop providers.) She made us think even though it was 100 degrees in the hall and people were making fans out of the programme. I believe Julie could help anyone in the daily struggle to write better books.
  17. If your plot leads to integral and unavoidable sex scenes, follow Sue Moorcroft's ( ) advice; don't call it a willy, good sex happens between compatible people, bad sex is fun to write, people sometimes speak during sex, and sex has consequences. Oh yes, yes, yes it does.
  18. The secret of instant acclaim and financial success is writing lots of really good and polished books until well beyond retirement age. Simple.
  19. What was it like being in a crowd that was one per cent male? At times I felt invisible, but never unwelcome. People were friendly from the moment I arrived, and I arrived not knowing a single soul. When I left I had met a lot of very good writers, and I met another one in the taxi to the station, Denise Barnes (
  20. I got some terrible stick at the pub when Caroline told the landlord where I had spent the weekend.

Back to the plot next time.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Work, work, work

My holiday mood lasted five minutes into the journey to Waterloo when the honey voiced zombie reminded me that 'CCTV images are being recorded for your safety and security,' interrupting my day dream recreation of the beauties in and around the hotel pool.

The holiday mood only just made it home from Croatia, the flight being delayed due to a baggage dispute. The golfing sporty stags maintained they had paid the golf bag excess, the airline said they hadn't. The cheerful vibe in which they had embarked on their long weekend of continuous drinking had turned into a long hangover of sore heads and hammered bank accounts.

Caroline was wearing dark glasses and an ankle support bandage. She was not her usual chatty self, burying herself in the Kindle on the journey home. We had almost missed breakfast. When she woke up she asked me if we had had sex last night. I said no. She looked surprised and said she had meant to, and why hadn't I kept her awake.

At least we had slept in the same bed, and when we staggered into breakfast together, hitting the orange juice with five minutes to spare, Caroline limping slightly, we got lots of knowing looks from the other guests. I noticed a few sneers from some of the women I had talked to the day before, as if C was the best I could do. To be fair, she wasn't looking her most sophisticated.

I have made it a rule not to talk about current cases. There's a danger someone might discover my real identity. I will just say it was a bad day at the office. The band re-union which was going to solve the protracted song rights dispute is off again over a disagreement on which former members of the line-up to invite to the gig. Caroline arrived home half an hour later than me, and I had already opened a bottle of wine.
"How was it being back at work?" I said, pouring C a glass of red and hoping she would ask me about my day.

"We had a presentation from a company about upgrading the supply chain IT system. I couldn't concentrate. I spent the whole time just staring blankly at the woman doing the presentation. She had such beautiful skin. My head was still beside the pool. I had so much fun. It really was like being single again."

"I'm glad you enjoyed it. I'm not sure I did."
"They do say men benefit more from marriage than women. I'm so busy at work that I forget to make time for friends."
"More time for friends? How about your husband?"
I know, I was a bit mean in Croatia. But I'll make it up to you one day."
"I don't know. I'll think of something, or you could think of something. What would you like to do that we haven't done?"

"Let me think about that a moment," I said. I had another sip of wine.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Singles Holiday, Part Five

10am, Breakfast.
It's Saturday already. Time is different when you are on holiday. I feel like I've been here forever, but tomorrow we go home and I still haven't seduced Caroline. Last night, after she gave me the brush off, I wondered if after four years of married life I'd forgotten how it's done. Faced with a problem I react with a practical solution. I will practise, with someone else if necessary. I will spend Saturday trying to seduce one, any, of the single women on our trip.

7pm, Dinner
It was an interesting experiment. I will share the results with you.
  1. Many of the single people on a singles holiday are not really single. I thought C and I would be unique, but no. The difference was, the other 'singles' had left their partner at home. Not just the stag party men.
  2. Every one has a story to tell. I expected to get an adrenaline rush from my seduction attempts, but mostly I ended up crying.
  3. The advice on those sites which tell you how to seduce women does not work.
  4. Roaming charges for Internet access on mobile phones are still astronomic.
  5. Tamsin is only interested in men with a very pale complexion.
  6. Nudity is a barrier; it's much easier to talk with clothes on.
  7. Lawyers are not popular. My colleagues have driven the population mad with their adverts, spam, and nuisance calls promising money for spurious accidents and bank errors.
  8. Most women are still not interested in football, and even fewer support Manchester United. Rafa Nadal is very popular despite his OCD, which women find endearing.
  9. Winning at ping pong against a seduction target is not successful.
  10. Neither is losing.
You probably want to know if I had any success at all, but there is a risk Caroline might read this in an idle moment so let's just say it made me more aware of my strengths and weaknesses. Technique honed, after dinner I will turn the RF charm on the redhead that was my real target all along.

1am, Room 704
There was a dangerous 'last night' feel to the party in the bar. People were drinking more, knowing they could sleep it off on the journey home. It was the last chance for love, or at least a shag. I could tell Caroline had hit the vodka because she was laughing at the sporty stag party's jokes about their visit to the local lap-dancing club, something she disapproves of if I go when on a work trip.

I prise her away from the shaven-headed mob by showering her with a compliment and steering her onto the dance floor. We rediscover our old moves and fling ourselves around until C twists her ankle. Result, I think.
"Let me help me back to your room. Which one is it?"
She clings to my neck all the way up in the lift. I virtually carry her onto the bed, remove her flimsy sundress and strappy sandals, and pop into the bathroom.

By the time I return, Caroline is fast asleep.


Who are these people?

The world is divided into voyeurs and exhibitionists... It takes one of each to make a good marriage.

Robert and Caroline Fanshaw are an ambitious young couple trying to make their way in a complex world.

What happens when their private affairs collide with world events and the big issues of our times? Drama, comedy and x-rated scenes.