Friday, September 28, 2007

still busybusybusy

Current work: PM job/archaeologist c2
Listening to: Bach
Reading: too tired!

Good meeting last night. (Interesting that the chair kept looking at me. Such as every time the words ‘we need a new SEN governor’ were uttered. And ‘it’d be really nice to have cake at the training session next week’. Ha. That’s me for both jobs, then, VBG.)

Lovely lunch, too – except Kate Dozy had paid her credit card and veg box bills that morning… and left her wallet on her keyboard… So had to scrounge lunch from Jo and Sarah (waves - thanks, girls).

Nice post yesterday – Kate Walker’s new book (signed), the contract for my next history book for Halsgrove (March deadline, most pics done, research all planned out and I am SOOO looking forward to doing that), royalty cheque (jam money as this book was commissioned 11 years ago… so we’ll have dinner out sometime soon).

October appears to be very full. But I’m very focused as the moment, so as soon as I finish the tedious PM job (better still, I can email it back so I can bill it today as well) I’m going to crack on with my sexy archaeologist.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Current work: PM job/archaeologist c2
Listening to: Peter Green
Reading: too tired!

Spent yesterday morning in the library – fairly productive but I didn’t manage to find some of the obituaries I was looking for, which was disappointing (may have to resort to the Mercury, which isn't as good newswise as the Chronicle - it's the 19th-century equivalent of a redtop scandal sheet, in my view, though I might be judging it a tad harshly. Need to check if the EDP was available then as it might contain what I want).

Met Ali for lunch – very civilised on the mezzanine floor of The Forum, overlooking St Peter Mancroft church. (And I had a salad – all right, it contained avocado, but I didn’t have a pudding. The bread was gorgeous, though.) Then school run, picked up books from library... and came home to a note saying they'd cancelled the proposed electric outage. Now, I left at 8.30 (when the electric was meant to go off) and we hadn't had a notice then. And had I been at home I would've probably finished the current (very tedious) PM job, so I'm less than impressed with the local electricity board's communications policy.

Am dog tired today. Don’t think I’ve caught up with myself from London, yet. (Not helped that my daughter fiddled with my alarm and it went off an hour early this morning...)

Governor meeting tonight. Son also has a friend for tea. And I’m out for lunch.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Current work: research
Listening to: Eva Cassidy
Reading: Barbara Hannay, Needed: Her Mr Right

On Sunday morning, I had intended to drop littlest one at a birthday party, nip to Sainsbury’s, then make son do his homework while I quietly started catching up with my work. Except littlest one went into limpet mode. (Now I understand why her teachers think she’s quiet and shy.) So son and I had to stay. And actually, it lit up a HUGE lightbulb for me (an idea I’d had earlier this summer but which would work better as a Modern Heat, the way it morphed on Sunday).

After lunch, DH decided that as it was sunny and also likely to be one of the last decent weekends in ages, we should go to the beach. Quick bit of persuasion by me because I wanted to go via somewhere we could take a replacement pic for the other local history book I’m working on (the new camera has made a HUGE difference, so I’m going to redo two other locations as well). Deal negotiated; took pic and then headed to Mundesley, which is a lovely beach (and has beach huts… just like my lovely Radley handbag).
Kids had a thoroughly good time playing in the shallows and making sandcastles; DH and I sat on a beach towel and enjoyed the sunshine while keeping a close eye on them; and I sneaked in a bit of work on my outline.

Monday: rainy. (But a very positive day for me – can’t blog about it, but let’s just say I can breathe again and I feel sooooo much happier.) Piano lesson went well. So did son’s osteo.

Tuesday: guitar lesson went well (Jim nagged about the Sor but has agreed to do Chopin next week); also sorted out some work. Was caught in HUGE downpour (after a bad school run – being stuck behind one tractor is bad enough, but I was stuck behind two). And I was nearly late for school in the morning because Barbara Hannay's book was on my desk and I thought I'd treat myself to a couple of pages (through the rest of the day, it ended up being the whole thing - v good read and a scrumptious hero).

Today: no electricity all day today. Choice is to work longhand or slope off to the library and work in the archives, then meet my local best friend for lunch. I haven’t had lunch out since… Well, Friday. (The fact I’m having lunch out tomorrow is beside the point.) So guess what I’m choosing?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

London, Part Three (aka London Part One revisited)

Current work: Modern Heat c1/PM work
Listening to: Xue-Fei Yang, Romance de Amor
Reading: I will start Jane’s book tonight … (not caught up on my sleep from London yet)

I have some more pics I thought I’d share. Firstly, here are Kate Walker and Mary Nichols respectively receiving their pins from Karin (courtesy of lovely Jan Jones).

And here is one where the photographer said, ‘Get ’em out, girls…’ Interesting that the first reaction of the two female subjects was to thrust their chests out. (Then again, Kate Walker has coined the phrase ‘a cleavage of Romantic Novelists’… and they do say if you've got it, flaunt it… ) So here are the two Kates plus Mr Kate W (aka Steve Wade, the Babe Magnet and my shelfmate at Breedon – I’m following his lead with Heroes, Victims and Villains of Norwich next year). Thanks to my mate Trish Wylie for the pic:

And finally… I ought to post a proper close-up of my lovely pin. It’s silver with a ruby, and I shall be so proud to wear it next month to a meeting with my agent and my lovely ed. I'm so thrilled with this. And even more thrilled to think that readers out there have enjoyed my books enough to want 25 of them. Thank you very much to all the readers who've brought me to where I am today.

Tomorrow I will catch up with the rest of the weekend. For now, I have the school run, a guitar lesson and work.

Monday, September 24, 2007

London, Part Two

Current work: [shuffles guiltily – worked on Mundesley beach yesterday instead of at home, but it was the outline for one of next year’s romance novels…]
Listening to: Newton Faulkner, Made By Robots
Reading: I will start Jane’s book tonight…

I had a fab day with Fi on Saturday in one of my favourite places.

[British Museum]

Sadly we hadn’t managed to get tickets (even though Fi had tried for a month) for the Terracotta Army exhibition, but there was still much to see. Went via Russell Square - Bloomsbury is such a gorgeous area. (And it was all research for the current book – set in Bloomsbury, would you believe?) The Korean harvest festival was going on, so we dallied a little to see some of the exhibitions. There was a moon jar there – one of only TWENTY left in the whole world. (Used to store grain – and any imperfections during firing were greeted with pleasure because life isn’t perfect and they thought that something perfect would be unlucky. Just for the record, only one out of ten modern moon jars is fired successfully.)

[moon jar at the British Museum]

Another thing that really attracted me was one of the dances. I was fascinated by the dancer, whose face was painted COMPLETELY white (grease paint, I assume). Such graceful, slow movements. That headdress was quite something, too.

[moon dancer]

Then to the Roman section. I would’ve posted the rat with a trumpet sculpture here – sadly, no replicas in the shop or I would’ve bought one because it was gorgeous – but I hadn’t fiddled with the settings properly on the camera and it came out blurry. Very inspired now for my book (and Fi pointed out something I hadn’t considered but which does make a big difference... Thanks, Fi). Thoroughly interesting exhibition. Amazed how some technology has barely changed in the best part of two millennia – this cake pan, for example. (Well, obviously now you can get the posh silicone non-stick ones… the material has changed but the shape hasn’t much.)

[Roman cake pan]

We decided to be decadent and have lunch in the posh restaurant at the top of the Great Court – I think I may have burbled on about the architecture here in the past but I think this is stunning. (I like light and space in a building.)

[Great Court]

The food’s pretty good, too. We had the best gnocchi I’ve ever tasted, followed by my second fave pudding, crème caramel. (I walked off the calories. In fact, I lost weight while I was in London. Go figure.)

Then home - had a fab time in London but so good to be home with DH and the children. Nice welcome home, too – met me at the train station with flowers.

Will post about Sunday tomorrow. Plan for today: school run, work, piano lesson, work, school run, osteopath, work. And work.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

London, Part One

Current work: sorting Med duo outline, doing some PM work, tidying my desk so I have thinking space, and my next Modern Heat
Listening to: not at the moment as everyone else is asleep
Reading: Jane Jackson, Dangerous Waters (aka I will be starting this tonight)

So… London. Was Fab. End of report.


No, of course it isn’t. I promised photos and a report. I would've had more pics but sadly some ended up blurred. (Not because of alcohol consumption, I might add.)

Had a really early start on Friday morning, which meant breakfast on the train (aka a latte and a raspberry muffin from the new Italian place at the station - the coffee was fantastic). Easy journey to Liverpool Street and then went to Green Park.

[Green Park, London]

Really nice morning (sunny with that early autumn nip in the air) so arranged to meet Michelle and Donna and worked on a park bench on the PDA until their arrival. (Great phone call ensued. ‘We’re in Green Park now. Where are you?’ [So I looked round and spotted her.] You’re wearing a black dress, right? ‘Ye-es…’ [I could almost hear the ‘How do you know?’] See the woman on the park bench in front of you with a green top, waving madly…? [She wasn’t actually that close. I have poor hearing but very good eyesight.])

[Kate Hardy and Michelle Styles]

Lunch was in the RAF club in Piccadilly; lovely to see so many friends there, includng Carol Marinelli (all the way from Aus – and, bless her, she’d brought me a signed copy of Lilian Darcy’s ‘Café du Jour’ – which I exchanged for chocolate, heh heh)

[Kate Hardy and Carol Marinelli]

and Sarah Morgan, Nicola Cornick, Kate Walker, Fiona Harper - [pause for pic]

[Kate Walker, Kate Hardy, Fiona Harper]

- and India Grey, Trish Wylie, Gill Sanderson, Heidi Rice, Michelle Reid... And lots more!

Lunch was scrummy - mushroom and asparagus tart, peppered chicken with rice and broccoli, mixed berry cheesecake, coffee and petits fours - and let it be noted that I had ONE CHOCOLATE. I was really, really, good. (Michelle Reid will back me up there.)

We had a really interesting talk on marketing and PR and the company’s centenary next year; being part of that will be so exciting!

And then it was off to a café in South Molton Street for coffee with Carol, Caroline, Sarah, Nicola and Sharon Kendrick. Talked a lot, laughed a lot, swapped perfume, sighed over shoes (yes, even me, but then I have a Radley handbag habit rather than a shoe fetish). Actually, you would’ve thought we were a bunch of women in their late teens, not their forties. (There’s a lightbulb flickering here.)

Then it was the champagne reception at the Oriental Club.

[The Oriental Club, Stratford Place, London]

Beautiful building, and we were in the library - as if I could've resisted browsing titles on shelves. :o)

Had a long chat with my lovely ed, Sheila; and chatted to the other eds and editorial assistants too, as well as the editorial director, managing editor and the head of M&B. Also enjoyed catching up with other author friends such as Jan Jones, Stephen Wade, Abby Green, Natasha Oakley and Julie Cohen.

[India Grey and Abby Green]

Karin Stoecker, the editorial director, gave us a lovely toast - and then it was time for awards. I had a lump in my throat when my dear friend Kate Walker was awarded her pin for her 50th book. Just before that, Historicals author Mary Nichols was awarded her pin for her 25th book.

[Julie Cohen and Kate Walker]

Oh, all right. I did say earlier in the week it was a special night for me, too.

So I got my pin for my 25th book, in between Mary and Kate – after an incredible speech from Karin that made me feel amazing (but has, ahem, added to my ‘Scary Kate’ reputation!).

[Kate Hardy and Karin Stoecker]

Also had the most fantastic letter from Harlequin’s CEO, Donna Hayes. (Talk about crow-thwacking material. Am going to frame it and stick it above my desk.) Jan took a nice pic of me afterwards (thanks, Jan - to you and to Roger for holding bags/making sure I looked tidy/reminding me to smile and giving me the confidence not to fall over!)

[not quite a matching box but... inside there's another... beautifully presented and very exciting]

I mean, I knew I'd had 25 Mills and Boon books on the shelves - I had a fab party here in July to celebrate it, I've also had various dinners out to celebrate it, my husband bought me a gorgeous necklace to celebrate it (the one I'm wearing in the pic) - but it didn't feel quite real. Now, it does. I really do have a place to belong. (This isn't posturing or whining, by the way. It's known as 'impostor syndrome' and I'm very far from being the only author who feels that way.)

So this year is going to turn out memorable for me for the right reasons, rather than the very upsetting period during the spring.

After the party, met Fi and Liz at Bond Street tube station and we had dinner in Café Rouge off Shaftesbury Ave (and yes, of course I read the menu from the bottom up. Crème brulee. Happy sigh). Great evening catching up and reminiscing. But a loooooong day - and I was dog tired by the end of it.

Friday, September 21, 2007

off to London

Not much to say right now apart from the fact I have a title for the new Med – The Spanish Consultant’s Love-Child – and it’s out in August next year.

Plan for today (and apologies for namedropping): work on train; meet Michelle Styles and Donna Alward for coffee; lunch with lots of M&B authors at the RAF Club in Piccadilly; go for coffee with Sarah Morgan, Nicola Cornick and Carol Marinelli (possibly also Caroline Anderson as we had a good chat business discussion yesterday morning); champagne reception in the library at the Oriental Club in Stratford Place (where I get to see my editors); meet two oldest friends from Uni for dinner… Yeah, it’s going to be good.

And I will be wearing a skirt, high heels and make-up. It’s only once a year I get to play glam author. Most of the time I’m… um… I think the word is ‘comfortable’.

Will report back on Sunday. And repeat after me: archaeologists are sexy…

Thursday, September 20, 2007

and… sold!

Current work: was a bad puppy yesterday doing research; today is definitely PM work and starting new Modern Heat. I am not, repeat not, going to touch Norwich HVV or Norfolk SSS...
Listening to: Nicola Hall, ‘Caprice’ (Paganini)
Reading: Jane Jackson, Dangerous Waters

Excellent news yesterday from my wonderful ed – she read the revised book the second it landed in her inbox and absolutely loved it, then emailed me to tell me so. She particularly likes my Catalan hero – ‘just adorable’ and ‘fantastic’. Excellent. I might also add that this is the book with dance scene (think Antonio Banderas demonstrating the tango in ‘Take the Lead’) and the fencing scene (think Antonio in his ‘Zorro’ role). Should be getting the title some time this week.

So that’s my 31st M&B accepted. Am very pleased. (And – for the benefit of the crows, who have their beady eyes on my archaeologist – I still haven’t celebrated the 5th anniversary of my first M&B on the shelves.)

Was incredibly bad yesterday and did some research on the book with the furthest-away deadline (aka Norfolk SSS) instead of what I should’ve been doing. Discovered something that might just have to push its way into Norwich: Heroes, Villains and Victims. (Tudor politics are rather interesting… especially when we’re talking magic and treasure and… I have to do it, don’t I? But what do I replace? Probably the chapter on the boxers, as it’s hard to get the info I want.) I am becoming seriously addicted to the digitised books on Google. But – there’s always a but – seeing it on screen is NOT the same as handling Victorian paper with coloured plates … so I don’t regret my (expensive) purchases of last year AT ALL. And the ‘snippet’ views drive me insane. Especially if I can’t locate a physical copy of said book.

To do today:

  • charge phone

  • charge PDA

  • charge camera battery

  • copy files from PC to SD card for PDA usage on train

  • print out rough draft of new Med duo outline for scribbling on train

  • print out directions to Oriental Club and photocopy relevant page from London A-Z to get me from Piccadilly to Stratford Place so I don’t have to lug the whole book on the train

  • go to post office

  • go to cashpoint

  • buy lots of tissues and some paracetamol

  • send form to local authority re son’s next school (actually that one’s #1 on the list)

  • write ‘Dear Reader’ letter for Sold to the Highest Bidder (that’s #2 on the list… and also get someone else to email it to my ed because their email server is being stroppy with my ISP for some reason).

Business as usual, then.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

lightbulb moments and sexy archaeologist

Current work: Finished Meds revisions ; so doing PM work and new Modern Heat
Listening to: Joe Lynn Turner, Second Hand Life
Reading: Jane Jackson, Dangerous Waters

Lightbulb moments always seem to hit me at the most awkward time. Such as when I’m in the shower and the kids are refusing to get up for school, as happened yesterday morning.

I’ve been struggling with the Meds revisions (aka mulling them over/putting them off for a bit) because my ed didn’t like the ending, but her suggestion to fix didn’t work for me. What I needed was something to make the heroine realise she could trust the hero and what he really meant to her. So what better way than to have him let her down and fulfil all her fears? (This sounds contrary. It isn’t. Because there’s a good reason why he lets her down – and he doesn’t tell her because he’s not going to make excuses for himself. She finds out. And that’s when she finally realises that he’s not like her father or her ex… and can trust him.)


Except I didn’t have time to switch on the PC and wait the six hours before it boots up. (OK, a slight exaggeration– but every second counts when you need to get the ideas on paper RIGHT NOW before the kids start asking questions and you forget what was in your head. Coleridge had his Person from Porlock; believe me, said Porlockian has nothing on my two! Plus if I’d sat down to write we wouldn’t have made it to school on time because they don’t look at the clock and neither do I when I’m working.)

So I had to resort to old technology. Pencil scrawl on the back of my revision notes. And then I had the fun of reading my handwriting after the school run. And finally it’s done, though I’m going to do a last readthrough this morning before I send it to my ed.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

full ob code

Current work: Meds revisions (still – I seem to be hacking out more as I go through it!)
Listening to: Kate Rusby
Reading: Jane Jackson, Dangerous Waters

Yesterday’s sore throat, despite hot lemon and paracetamol, is a full-blown cold. Thanks, kids – just in time for London. Am going to look so glam at the M&B do... not. Normally it wouldn't be that important, but this year it is because... Well, I'll report back on Monday.

Will be skipping guitar today (snuffling too much) and finishing my revisions with a box of tissues by my side for the wrong reasons *g*

Looks as if I have another library day next week as the electricity is off all day. This was when we’d planned to have one of son’s friends over for tea, so I need to change that.

Also had excellent news yesterday that the Castle Museum is going to lend me the pics I want for my book, at a nominal fee. My publisher is pleased.

Monday, September 17, 2007


Current work: Meds revisions
Listening to: Mozart
Reading: Amanda Ashby, You Had Me At Halo (very, VERY good)

Have hacked a good 10k out of the book this weekend and am halfway through replacing said 10k. There may be more slash and burn to come in order to increase tension.

Why am I up so early? Because I woke up hot and with a sore throat. Note to self: home via the supermarket on the school run: honey and lemon required. This bug needs to be gone before Friday.

Other things to do today: revisions, talk to desk editor about PM job, book taxi to train station for Friday. Everything else can wait until tomorrow.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sold out!

Current work: Meds revisions
Listening to: Jim Croce (Time in a Bottle... such a gorgeous song)
Reading: Amanda Ashby, You Had Me At Halo (very, VERY good and this is why I’m having a late start today)

Got my third bit of good news this week: The Italian GP’s Bride has sold out on eharlequin. US readers may still be able to get it on Amazon, from Australia, or from the UK M&B website.

Am busy on revisions (really AM doing them now) so instead of chuntering I’m posting a link to a YouTube clip, which should appeal to LOTR/Viggo fans as well as romance fans – very nicely put together with my fave track from Led Zeppelin II. The words do it for me every time… mind you, so does Robert’s voice. And I’ve heard him sing this live, happy sigh. Now, if I could hear him sing ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’ or ‘Ten Years Gone’ live, with Jimmy on guitar…

Which brings me to the Led Zeppelin reunion gig this Autumn. I would LOVE to go. Discussed it with DH. But, being practical, I know it’s not going to happen; the tickets are being allocated by lottery and millions of people have applied… (Take as read the rant about touts and greedy people trying to make money out of real fans - similar to my rant about people buying large quantities of popular toys and selling at huge profit on ebay. It’s a victory of greed over conscience.) Fingers crossed the organisers make a DVD of it or televise bits for those of us not lucky enough to be there on the day.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

what were you listening to at 18?

Current work: Meds revisions (really, really, REALLY)
Listening to: Sandy Denny live at the BBC (wonderful)
Reading: Sophie King, Mums@ home (finished it this morning and enjoyed it)

Today I’m doing a meme which I pinched from Jenna’s blog – which songs were on the radio you were 18? Apparently you pick five songs from the list of most popular songs from that year and talk about five of them.

I’m going to have to morph that slightly – apart from the fact I can’t stick to just five songs, I looked at the list here - and it’s… um… not my taste. Worse, some of those songs are being sung at the moment by my children, VERY badly, while playing ‘Boogie’ on the Wii. (Yes, I know it was my idea to get it because we’d had such fun at my BIL’s… but sometimes I really think someone should distract me with chocolate when the ideas aren’t bright ones.)

When I was 18 I didn’t listen to Radio 1, except for the Friday Rock Show (Tommy Vance introduced me to some fantastic stuff – I used to love the Friday Night Connection, where three songs were played and you had to work out the connection between them, which was usually really obscure). I did however buy a lot of records (and as an impoverished student, I didn’t do discos and the pub: I did cinema and the secondhand record shop and cheap wine while listening to said music and having deep conversations with good friends). I was listening to Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Rush, Genesis, Deep Purple, Whitesnake, Rainbow… (and Pentangle if I wanted people to go home *g* or so the story goes – actually, I love the track ‘Light Flight’ so I was sharing, not chucking people out. But I guess folk, especially back then, was an acquired taste).

So my version of the meme is to pick some songs from around that era (aka my student days) which I loved and bring back good memories. So here goes:

Bryan Adams: Summer of 69 – still my fave song by Bryan. I borrowed ‘Reckless’ from my best mate, played it on my Walkman on the way in to uni, and bought it on the way home. ‘Run to you’ was in the charts the week when I was 19, as I remember another friend buying it for me. I still play the album quite a lot: it’s really stood the test of time.

Howard Jones: Hide and Seek – my best mate always remembers calling in at my house and she could hear this one floating all down the stairs. (I wasn’t the housemate from hell, btw – this was when I was on my own in the house. My degree was in Eng Lit and my housemates were mainly scientists and lawyers, so they were in the lab or in lectures while I was studying wherever I wanted, i.e. library, garden or comfy chair with decent coffee to hand.) My fave version ever was the one he did at Live Aid: just Howard and the piano. The intro is just beautiful. [Edit - YouTube link to it here...]

Phil Collins: In the Air Tonight – another one I borrowed from Fi. If it’s snowing or I smell coffee, I think of this song because it reminds me of walking to uni in the snow, past the off-licence that sold proper coffee. Happy days. (And yeah, of course I do the air drums in that bit in the middle. Irresistible.)

Dire Straits: Telegraph Road – still one of my faves (mainly for the piano bit in the middle that goes into one hell of a guitar piece… hmm, wonder if I can get Jim to teach it to DH? Note to self, ask on Tuesday morning).

Bon Jovi: Bed of Roses – I still love this song and I don’t care that it’s corny. DH bought me the album. And I’ve used that to, um, soundtrack a few love scenes. (I also sing it really loudly in the car with the kids.) I had a huge crush on JBJ back then and he’s aged very well – in fact, I reckon he’s sexier now than he was in his 80s poodle perm days.

Duran Duran: The Chauffeur – this was a B side, and I bought the single because I wanted this version of the song (I think the A side was ‘Rio’ but my vinyl isn’t to hand). Now, I wasn’t a Duranie but this song was acoustic and melancholy: just my cuppa tea. This is NOT the same as the one that’s on the album of ‘Rio’, btw – the version I’m talking about is the acoustic guitar (aka ‘Blue Silver’), not the synth version. I want to get my mitts on this but I don’t really want the CD box set of singles from the early 80s. I suppose I could finally stop being a Luddite and get I-tunes. Apart from this single, I do own one vinyl Duran Duran album and a best-of CD. I like Simon’s voice, I like some of the songs (DH likes one of the videos *g* - and yes, of course it’s that one), and if Duran Duran ever did an acoustic/unplugged CD of certain songs they’d have a definite hit in my age group (my kids like them, too). The acoustic version of Save a Prayer on YouTube here is gorgeous. (Oh, lord. Please someone reassure me I’m not going mad/having a middle-aged crisis. I’m confessing in public to liking Duran Duran. What next?)

Suzanne Vega: The Queen and the Soldier – another one I can thank Fi for introducing me to, and another album that has definitely stood the test of time. A few years after graduating we went to see her at the UEA together and heard her play this live. Fab. (Though I’ve just scared myself because I remember I was pregnant at the time… with son, so that was back in 1996. Blimey. I am ooooold.)

So which songs do you remember from when you were 18? If you do this on your blog, please put a link below so I can come and be nosey…

(Oh, and for the record, India Grey is a bad influence. She sent me a YouTube link… I liked this enough to buy the album, and I’ve flicked through a few of the other videos – impressive guitar playing.)

Friday, September 14, 2007

and more excellent news

Current work: REALLY Meds revisions OR ELSE
Listening to: Kate Rusby, Awkward Annie
Reading: various nonfiction

Excellent news from my publisher yesterday: How To Research Local History is going into a second edition. And it’s only been out a year.

That’s two really nice pieces of news this week (and what a sea change from last week). Wonder what the third is going to be?

Oh yes – and I did buy the book. (CD is NOT the same. And it wasn't that expensive.) Had a lovely chat with the bookshop owner (who was born in Norfolk), and I’ve bookmarked their site so I’ll browse there as well as ABE in future. We had what he called 'a bit of a JR Hartley moment' when he asked me if the city had changed much - because I recommended looking through Norwich: Street by Street by a certain P. Brooks… :o)

And today I really, really am going to do my revisions (I, um, got sidetracked by some research yesterday – am very chilled now so will do a better job on said revisions). And on the subject of revisions, I’m going to leave you with a very funny sketch from Mitchell & Webb on YouTube, passed to me by a friend this morning. (Thank you, Michelle.)

Plan for today – really, REALLY do those revisions. (Buy Minstrels on the way home as bribe.) Then we’re over to see DH’s brother this evening. Work tomorrow… and then Sunday might be a research trip to Thetford Priory. (DH actually offered. Can’t pass up on that, can I? Especially if the sun is shining...)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

some excellent news

Current work: Meds revisions OR ELSE
Listening to: Kate Rusby, Awkward Annie
Reading: various nonfiction

Good day in library yesterday – got a couple of pics I wanted. Car went through service without bankrupting me. Picked up my research books from the other library (yay, they got my inter-library loan – and it’s saved me spending £80 on an antiquarian book that isn’t going to be useful).

Came home to excellent news – one of the nonfiction books I really, really, REALLY want to write has just been accepted. Am so pleased. I’m itching to work on it (sold on proposal). But I’m having a sensible deadline – together with the other one I’m writing now, this means I have enough nonfiction to keep me going through the rough spots until March.

Quite amused last night. The footie was on; England were playing and son begged to be allowed to stay up and watch the match. Every so often I heard him and DH roaring, ‘Goal!’ and chanting the score. I have a feeling that DH is going to start suggesting a season ticket to NCFC…

I’m thoroughly enjoying the Kate Rusby (thank you to Michelle for the recommendation). Had a spooky moment when one track started playing, and I thought ‘I know this one’ and started singing along – and I was singing completely different words. I’d forgotten that different folk songs often use the same tune (and there are cases of same song, different tunes). My brand-new Sandy Denny collection has arrived but has been annexed by my husband. Grr. Also got caught out as the postie left me a parcel in the garage, and DH retrieved it when he put my car away. ‘You’ve been buying antiquarian books again, haven’t you?’ (Obviously he’d looked at the label.) I tried for the innocent look. ‘What, me?’ He didn’t buy it. So I had to confess. There is another I have my eye on (though it’s… not as expensive as some of the ones I’ve bought, but it’s quite a bit above my ‘£30 is a reasonable price to buy now’ limit. Question is, do I buy the CD version, which is probably searchable and is quite cheap, or do I go for the proper book? It’s tax-deductible; I’ll use it a lot; and I got paid yesterday… I’m off to order it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

bad bad puppy

Current work: library day, YIPPEE!
Listening to: various classical guitar
Reading: nonfiction in the archives…

Guitar good yesterday; came home to discover I’d just missed out on an antiquarian book purchase. (My fault for not following it up last week.) So naturally I had to sulk a bit (even though two lots of research books were delivered a little later), and during said sulking process (aka browsing antiquarian bookshops on the internet) I discovered that Rod Neep is having a sale, and a certain CD book I’m after is half price at the mo. Now, I’m still kicking myself for not buying the original when I saw it: reason being it was 10 years ago and I couldn’t justify spending £150 on a set of books at the time because I had a small baby and was still on maternity leave (the unpaid part of it). I could justify it now, but last time I saw it for sale it was over £3k, sigh. So as the CD was such a bargain I had to buy it. (It’ll be a constant research book – and even better because it’s CD it should be searchable, which will save me a little bit of time.) Since it was a bargain, I managed to justify (to myself, anyway) spending my ‘savings’ on more antiquarian books. And they’re research for the next book or three and something else that’s bubbling.

Also had a good chat with my desk editor and the next batch of project management jobs are lined up. So I’m feeling much more settled. In some respects, I could’ve done with my library day at the weekend, but I’m treating today as a bonus, and I’ve put in so much headway on the nonfiction that I can afford to ignore it for the next month and concentrate on fiction.

Today my car is in for its first service. As it isn’t a year old, if they find anything wrong with it I hope they will fix it under warranty. Meanwhile I’ll be in the library – I have a list of the books I want to see (and possibly take photographs of some of the illustrations as they are out of copyright – we’re talking pre 1850s) and a list of dates for looking up newspaper reports.

And then tomorrow I will be back on track with the fiction...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

almost back in routine

Current work: Med revisions/new MH book
Listening to: David Gilmour (didn't get round to it yesterday - the new Athlete album is good)
Reading: nonfiction (research books)

Back to piano yesterday. Still doing the Katie Melua piece (though Frank is pleased with my progress, and I sight-read the bass clef on the second half really well – a bit slowly because some of it’s below the bottom line of the stave, but I felt I’d achieved something).

So what did I do yesterday?
  • Finished off my PM job
  • Sorted my admin
  • Went to post office
  • Had a chat with my proofreader (need to talk to my desk editor today about the next batch and schedules)
  • Sent off the newspaper cuttings
  • Had a nice email from my agent about THAT review (I really do have this out of proportion, but if someone catches you at a vulnerable moment… these things HURT, which is why I have a policy of not saying anything about something I’ve read/heard/seen unless I can say something nice – there’s enough nasty stuff in life)
  • Went to governor meeting (went well - am still chairing Curriculum committee for my last year at the school)
  • Had a nice chat with my dad (who sounded the perkiest I’ve heard him for AGES).

Writing… um. Added a couple of thousand words to the nonfiction (which has a December deadline) and today I need to sort out my library research needs for tomorrow (it's an enforced day because of the car service). But most importantly I need to get those revisions sorted and firm up the new outline so I can start writing the new book. And of course I have guitar this morning and I want to play the Ferrer reasonably well so I can talk Jim into letting me have something new.

Some of my research books arrived yesterday – two on Roman food and cooking. (No, I’m not going to start poaching on Michelle’s area – this is contemporary – all to do with my heroine’s very cool job. If I didn’t have the job I do now, I’d love to be a museum curator or an archivist.)

Finally - please go and see Kate Walker and give her a hug. She needs it right now.

Monday, September 10, 2007

200-year-old crows (not mine!)

Current work: finalising some PM stuff and admin, then Med revisions
Listening to: Athlete; David Gilmour
Reading: just finished Elizabeth Oldfield, Vintage Babes

Quote from Amelia Opie, writing to her friend Mrs Taylor in 1801 just before the publication of her first (acknowledged) book, Father and Daughter:

‘As usual, all the good I saw in my work, before it was printed, is now vanished from my sight, and I remember only its faults. All the authors, of both sexes, and artists too, that are not too ignorant or full of conceit to be capable of alarm, tell me they have had the same feeling when about to receive judgement from the public.’

So it't not a 21st-century phenomenon, then.

Apart from that, have discovered a Norwich character I hadn't heard about before... and although I have one chapter devoted to the, um, 'characters' (I may have mentioned before that our county's/city's/university's motto is 'Do Different' - and we really do have some characters), I really think he deserves a chapter all of his own.

I'm also getting lightbulbs for something I really shouldn't be working on (bearing in mind the deadline situation, now is NOT the time to start something in a completely different genre) but have made notes and ordered some books.

Roll on Wednesday and the archives (though I'd better earn that visit today...)

Sunday, September 09, 2007

still a bit fidgety

Current work: should be fiction but I’m escaping into 19th-century Norwich
Listening to: Bach
Reading: Elizabeth Oldfield, Vintage Babes

Still a bit fidgety (but thanks everyone who’s sent me private emails or commented on yeterday’s post).

Spent yesterday morning working on my current nonfiction – researching Amelia Opie. The Edinburgh Review rated her with Austen and Edgeworth as one of the finest women fiction writers of the early 19th century, and although she was slated for writing ‘an appalling domestic tragedy’ (Father and Daughter) she did at least write for everyone, not just the middle/upper classes. Her work made Sir Walter Scott cry – and she’s quoted as saying, ‘I like to make people cry, indeed, if I do not do it, all my readers are disappointed.’ Hmm. Sounds like a 21st-century romance author who lives in Norwich. Actually, I think I would’ve liked her. From my researches, I think a lot of her views were quite similar to mine.

DH came home with the local paper and my bit in it – lovely write-up (I smiled at the description of me) though sadly I do indeed look like a Belisha beacon in the pic – dear reader, please just pity me and read my book, because those dungeons were BOILING and I am happiest in a cool climate. Not quite enough to take away the bad taste of the nasty review (if anyone has any good methods of how to deal with upsetting reviews, please tell me – although it related to my nonfiction it’s actually scuppered my fiction right now) but it helped.

Afternoon – sneaked in some more work and then we had friends over for a barbecue.

Plans for today: spent the morning working on the nonfiction; need to get my head back to where it should be, and do revisions NOW.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Definitely one of THOSE weeks

Current work: should be fiction but I could do with some archive time
Listening to: Bach
Reading: Elizabeth Oldfield, Vintage Babes

Am finding it a bit hard to settle at the moment. I’m not quite back in routine and this week really does seem to be a stinker. Yesterday things came in threes. First up, communications from my accountant – I would really like to have someone like my lovely first accountant (who retired or I’d still be with him), someone who’d give a personal service in a reasonable time and who understood what I do for a living instead of a faceless corporate outfit that makes mistakes three years running (not nitpicky ones either), sends me inappropriate letters (the latest, ‘You can pick up your papers when you’re ready’ – um, I did that last month) and then asks me to recommend them to others… (Cough. The Society of Authors are sending me their list of accountants in my area, and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs have been very nice and explained what I need to do to change accountants – simply fill in a form.) Then I discovered a real stinker of a review for one of my nonfiction books. DH says to ignore it because you can’t please everyone, but that’s a lot easier said than done, sigh. And then I compounded it all by upsetting someone I like and respect very much (not intentionally and I have apologised, but even so I feel bad about it). So right now I'm down in the dumps.

When I’m fidgety like this, it’s eat chocolate or have a music-and-books spending spree. Yesterday, I ended up doing both. Bought a pile of research books, another guitar CD (this one has Nicola Hall playing one of the tracks – recommended by my guitar teacher) and Kate Rusby’s ‘Awkward Annie’ (having heard bits on YouTube – I love her voice. And thank you, Michelle, for the recommendation). Oh, and I pre-ordered Robert Plant’s new CD. Still, at least I stayed off the antiquarian books – possibly because I’ve already had my fix this week with MR James’s ‘Norfolk and Suffolk’ (AND it had a dustjacket… am v pleased).

Friday, September 07, 2007

Where did the week go?

Current work: Med revisions/finalising outline for archaeologist book
Listening to: Sor, progressive guitar studies
Reading: Cheryl Reavis, Blackberry Winter

How is it Friday already? It’s been a hyper-short week as I had both children home on Monday and eldest home on Tuesday. But even so it’s thrown me. I’m not quite back into routine yet.

Finished Blackberry Winter last night. Good read – enjoyed it, but it was a bit close to the bone for me. I knew this within the first few pages of reading it, and it’s probably a good sign that I didn’t put it down and back away.

· Finished project management job bar a couple of author queries
· Did the proofs for Sold to the Highest Bidder
· Organised my thoughts on the Med revisions
· Started the Modern Heat novel (must remember new series name)

Today: must sort some post. Onward with revisions. And leaving you with the thought that archaeologists are sexy. My heroes are the “thinking woman’s crumpet” (ahem) – in other words, what does it for me. So I’m suggesting Michael Wood. (OK, he’s not strictly an archaeologist, but his postgrad historical research is in a period which really interests me literature-wise - Anglo Saxon. If he read certain bits of The Exeter Book to me, I’d go VERY weak at the knees.)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

One of THOSE weeks…

Current work: PM job/thinking about revisions on med/finalising outline for MX
Listening to: Mozart Piano Concerto no 20
Reading: Cheryl Reavis, Blackberry Winter

One of those days? It’s turning out to be one of those weeks. You know I said about things coming in threes? There was something on Tuesday – news from a close friend – but hopefully things are working out there and I have all my fingers crossed. But my personal third thing was… I misplaced my son yesterday.

The hill was so full of cars that my normal parking place (halfway between the schools, usually with loads of space round me) had been taken (and so had all the other spots). So I had to park a lot closer to the first school (I couldn’t be late for daughter on day 2, could I?). The problem was, son didn’t come up far enough up the hill to meet me – he got to where I normally park, decided I wasn’t there, and decided he’d try the other direction.

Then one of his friends spots me. ‘Oh, poo. He’s gone the other way because he couldn't see your car.’

Even if Madam had been in the mood for walking quickly, we wouldn’t have been able to negotiate the mixture of crowds, pushchairs and open car doors.

Finally get to son’s school. Lollipop lady tells me she’s seen him and thinks he’s gone back into school to wait for me in reception. Ohhh. Son is apparently being sensible. Freaky, but good. Go in to ask at reception if he’s there.

He isn’t.

(Though I did meet his teacher and am reassured about the SEN situation this year. And the headmaster was in fits of laughter. ‘Yesterday you brought him in on the wrong day. Today you lose him.’ Perhaps I should’ve pointed out that I have four deadlines before January 1… which is distracting me just a tad...)

Anyway. No son. I’m about to head further down the hill (to where we parked in the morning), when I spot him. Definite evidence of wobbly bottom lip (which reminds me he’s still my little boy, really – even if he is in double figures and is nearly as tall as I am. And he'd kill me for saying so). A big hug and an apology put a smile back on his face. I explain. And he gets the point now – if he hasn’t met me on the hill, KEEP WALKING towards the Infant School – because actually I was delayed on a quick governor confab before I left school. (The fact I then met one of my friends and had a quick chat probably didn’t help…)

On the plus side, finally I have more or less agreed the outline of the new MX with my ed (I argued that archaeologists are sexy – Michael Wood crossed with Brendan Fraser in his ‘The Mummy’ role – and although I don’t think she’s that convinced… guess I’d better pull out the stops on this one). And I spoke to my author on my current project manager job and he’s a sweetie, so this is going to be nice to work on – won’t need vast quantities of chocolate. And the Sainsbury’s internet shop was so successful I think I’m converted: all my shopping, no hour spent trudging round the aisles, and best of all no moaning from Madam.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Pink Heart Society first birthday treasure hunt!

Current work: PM job/thinking about revisions on med
Listening to: Romanze (aka the piece in the YouTube clip below)
Reading: various nonfiction

Happy first birthday to the Pink Heart Society!

I’m so pleased that as an author member of the Pink Heart Society I’ve been asked to take part in the treasure hunt for the amazing hamper at the end of the month. I’m giving the little Pink Heart Dancing Guy a very special gift – a pink guitar.

(Well, it had to be pink, for the PINK Heart society – and it had to be a guitar because… well, when you get to my bit of the hamper it’ll be obvious.)

Keep checking the links each day on the PHS and send them a list of all the birthday gifts at the end of the month to be in with a chance of winning the hamper.

Now, if you have a guitar, you have to play a birthday song, don’t you? So my choice is this one: variously known as Spanish Ballad or Romanze, used in the film Jeux Interdits. My own performance is nowhere up to the standard of putting it on YouTube (it’s not that easy to play – it always makes my little finger hurt) so instead I’m bringing it to you courtesy of someone who plays it beautifully (or you can just go and buy a copy of Xue-Fei Yang’s ‘Romance de Amor’ – it’s an excellent album).

My part of the hamper? It’s a copy of a very special book for me – my 25th Harlequin Mills & Boon title, Breakfast at Giovanni’s. Giovanni plays classical guitar (hence the PHS birthday gift – though his guitar isn’t pink). Giovanni has sacrificed his dreams for his family; Francesca, the heroine, persuades him to play for an audience again – starting with her. ‘Spanish Ballad’ is the first song he plays for her: and as it’s also known as ‘Romanze’ I think it’s very fitting. As well as the book, I’ll be including some Lindor truffles – because you can’t have a birthday without chocolate…

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Kate Dopey

Current work: (Bangs head against wall)
Listening to: Mark Knopfler, Golden Heart
Reading: something off my TBR pile…

This week is turning out to be frustrating. Starting yesterday with a strange light glowing on my dashboard. Look it up in the car manual. ‘Take the car to your dealer IMMEDIATELY.’ Eh? The car isn’t quite a year old, has done about 6,000 miles and I haven’t noticed anything bad. Ring DH. ‘It’s telling you the car needs a service.’ But the service is every two years. ‘Just ring them.’ So I did. ‘Oh, it’s your service…’ Then they told me how much it’s going to cost. Ouch. Apparently this includes free coffee. At that price, I think it should include free premium chocolate…

So then it’s today. First day of school. Kids up on time, Madam has tantrum that new shoes are too tight (no, they’re not – she’s used to bare feet during the hols), breakfast, packed lunch, roads nice and quiet… Drop off son first, go up the road to take Madam in and there’s a phone call from middle school. ‘We’re not back until tomorrow…’ So son is going to have to go to guitar with me today, and my plans for working might be scuppered. (I have a deadline…)


I hate to think what tomorrow will bring. (Oh, yes. My first Sainsbury’s grocery shop online. This could be interesting.)

And DH has organised social stuff for the weekend.

Deep breath. Chill. I’m leaving you with a couple of YouTube pieces. The first one is by ‘Zepfreakxx’ – his other ones (such as the Satie piece) are also worth checking out. This is a particularly lovely rendition of Bach’s ‘Air on a G string’, which is one of my utter faves.

This one’s by Anthony Deaton – another piece I really like (Pachelbel). Beautifully played… though there’s a bit of a twist. (Just watch it. Incredible.)

Monday, September 03, 2007

E-harlequin - what keeps me writing?

I'm also blogging over at Eharlequin today as part of their big September blog bash. So please come over and see me - it's all about keeping your writing fresh. And I'm asking readers what keeps a book fresh from their perspective, so please go over and talk to me. (And you will also stop this particular author feeling like Billy No Mates...)

Last day of holidays, officially

Current work: PM job/thinking about revisions on med
Listening to: Kathryn Williams, Relations
Reading: just finished Nicola Cornick’s Deceived – excellent read. Usual great characterisation, snappy dialogue, involving plot and accurate period detail.

Yesterday was the Police Gala day. It’s pretty much the same every year but we really enjoy it – the dog agility demos, the police search and rescue team demo (they vary the costumes each year – and the star of the show is the police dog, of course), wandering round the old cars, the police dog display and the motorcycle display. Last year was blazing hot and I looked like a reverse panda for days. This year was perfect weather – cool and not blazing. So what did we see?

For Life on Mars fans – yes, this IS the car used in the series. (Sadly, no, John Simm and Philip Glenister were not there…)

For Ferrari fans – this is son next to the car of his dreams. (There was also an E-type Jag there that had DH whimpering.)

John Nettles opened the show (what a lovely man – he appeared for no fee because it’s a fundraising day) – and he was also a good sport and took part in the police dog display, being a ‘hostage’ which the police dog had to rescue. (My favourite bit, as always, is the ‘ball race’ for the sniffer dogs… and the springer spaniel’s team won this year, yay.)

Very impressed with the motorbike demo this year as the Imps are a children’s team – they even had six-year-olds standing up on the little 50cc bikes and driving them round. And one of the older members of the team drove up a ramp and over all the other members of his team… which was pretty impressive!

Today is the last day of the school hols – not sure what we’re doing yet but the weather’s good so we might go to the seaside.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Laughing until you cry

Current work: PM job/revisions on med
Listening to: Athlete, Tourist
Reading: Nicola Cornick, Deceived

Very late start today. Busy day yesterday, in town with the kids, where we took more pics for the book. Here’s the interior of Cow Tower, one of the city’s old defences.

Although we wanted to explore one of the churches there was a talk going on at the time and it would’ve been rude to go in partway through. We did however get a peek into the garden, which has set off a lightbulb for me. (Apologies for the purple fringing. I will work out how to get rid of it.)

The kids enjoyed walking along the river, and then suddenly we saw a huge group of swans. (Well, about a dozen, but I’m not used to seeing so many together at once.) Anyway, this is Madam looking all cute and nice (she’d promised me faithfully not to have a tantrum or whinge… let's just say it’s been a long week).

Went to DH’s brother’s in the evening and the kids all had a great time playing Boogie on the Wii – they did a girls v boys thing and it was hysterical, with son controlling the dancing and his cousin doing the singing… and then son ‘edited’ the video with special effects. He may have a new nickname of ‘Tarantino’, vbg. Then the girls did us real-life dance routine - except they had a ‘backing dancer’ … I was actually crying with laughter at one point and my stomach hurts this morning!