Monday, December 31, 2007
Goals for this year:
Exercise. Goal: 10,000 steps a day (i.e. take dog for walk as soon as I get home, unless it’s raining in which case use the treadmill. Note to self, move guitar stand and guitar). This will also clear my head ready for work and I won’t get distracted playing Sudoku online. I could even use this as a bargaining tool: do the 10k steps and THEN I can play a game of Sudoku… (Lovely Rowan Mantell of the local newspaper – the Norwich Evening News – asked me about my resolutions and how long I think I’ll stick to them. I have to admit that my answer on exercise was ‘until it rains’, because the dog and I do not enjoy going out in the rain and getting wet – well, he doesn’t mind getting wet, but he doesn’t like the fact it means he has to dry off in the utility room, ON HIS OWN. Spaniels are very good at the ‘I am a poor, hard-done-by dog’ look.)
Weight management. This year, I’ve decided to go back to the tried and tested method of counting calories and writing things down to keep track of my eating/exercise habits. I have a lot of weight to lose (I want my BMI back down to 25) and a gradual, permanent shift is the best way to go. As a female I need an input of about 2,000 calories a day; if I reduce my intake by 250 calories a day and increase the output by 250 a day (aka exercise) = 500 calories a day = 3,500 calories a week = 1lb of blubber. Hardly rocket science, is it? I have a calorie/fat/carb book on order and a journal, so with that and the walking (with the pedometer to keep track) I should be able to do this. I also have support from my diet buddies (waves to Diane and Melissa) and am all fired up for starting afresh.
Writing. Aims: I already know my schedule this year, so the aim this year is to merge my ‘Modern Heat voice’ and ‘Medical Romance voice’ and grow my ‘brand’ (aka hot weepies with a real-world, warm feel to them). I also have a project I really want to work on this year, and to sell another local history book by the end of the year.
So what are your resolutions for this year? And how long do you think you’ll stick to them?
I wish you all health, happiness and fulfilment for 2008. Happy New Year!
Listening to: Bach
Reading: Had a bit of a binge over the last few days – India Grey’s ‘The Italian’s Captive Virgin’, Jessica Hart’s ‘Appointment at the Altar’ and Michelle Styles’ ‘Taken by the Viking’ – enjoyed them thoroughly.
Today’s a day for looking back. What kind of a year has 2007 been?
Workwise, it’s been busyish. For Medicals, I wrote The Doctor’s Royal Love-Child (in the Penhally series); The Spanish Consultant’s Love-Child; and I’m currently writing the Medical duo (hmm… I was probably finishing off The Doctor’s Very Special Christmas about this time last year, too); for Modern Heat I wrote One Night, One Baby; Sold to the Highest Bidder; and Hotly Bedded, Conveniently Wedded. On the nonfiction front I wrote about half of the Norfolk Almanac of Disasters plus Norwich: Heroes, Villains and Victims (both of which I enjoyed hugely), and revised How To Research Local History for the second edition, and I’m working on another local history book at the moment. I’ve also done a fair bit of project management, and the big thing in 2007 was getting my pin from M&B for my 25th book on the shelves with them (which isn’t bad in a little under 5 years). (This is where the Slowing Down Police will be folding their arms and tapping their feet, but wait for the post immediately above this one, OK?)
Personally – bit of an up and down year for me. Some of it was out of my control (such as DH’s job situation and a friend dying unexpectedly), and although I dealt OK with becoming older than my mum was when she died ( a very, very weird feeling), I’m cross with myself for letting some work-related hassles throw me so badly that I spent the whole year chasing my tail and feeling very, very miserable. I need to draw a line and move on. A personal highlight, though, was buying the piano. It’s enriched my guitar lessons and I’ve enjoyed playing so much. I’ve also made some really lovely friends this year.
How did I do with my goals?
Er. The first one was exercise. Considering I’ve been nowhere near the treadmill, this was out for a duck. I ended up messing about on the net more rather than less, and the dog didn’t get anywhere near as many walks as he should’ve done.
Second was weight management. Ha. I am the same weight as I was this time last year. Still, at least I’m not heavier than I was at the beginning of the previous year (which is better than last year, when I’d put on weight).
Third was writing. Write better books… hmm. I can’t judge my own work. No idea. Reviews have been nice and the local books have hit the #1 spot, and my two US retail books both ended up in the Waldenbooks top 10, so maybe. Start working on mainstream – nope, didn’t get round to it. Get another local history book contract – yes, managed that one (one from each publisher).
So I know what I need to work on in 2008…
Friday, December 28, 2007
The Doctor’s Very Special Christmas
Take the phone off the hook, put your feet up and get ready to lose yourself in this spellbinding tale of second chances and new beginnings written by an outstanding writer of romantic fiction: Kate Hardy!
Packed with intensity, drama, emotion and heart-stopping romance, The Doctor’s Very Special Christmas will move you to tears and leave you breathless as Kate Hardy tells this powerful tale of two kindred souls finding one another.
Nobody tugs at the heartstrings better than Kate Hardy and romance readers will find themselves devouring The Doctor’s Very Special Christmas in a single sitting!
Read more here.
One Night, One Baby
Romantic fiction does not get any better than this! Fresh, funny, heartwarming and absolutely unputdownable, One Night, One Baby is vintage Kate Hardy! Featuring a lovely heroine, a gorgeous hero, sizzling sexual tension, an adorable cast of secondary characters and steamy romance, One Night, One Baby is the perfect book to curl up with on a cold winter night!
Read more here.
Thank you, Julie Bonello, for making my day. :o)
Listening to: Silje Nergaard/Diana Krall
Reading: Liz Fielding, Prisoner of the Heart (an oldie but a goodie – I always enjoy her heroines so much, and this one was no exception)
Lovely day yesterday with Dad. I had great fun introducing him to the Internet and the wonders of YouTube and, ahem, Amazon’s CD catalogue. (Bad influence? Moi?)
Also delighted to discover that the eharlequin newsletter included The Pregnancy Ultimatum as one of the top 10 ‘Ring in the New Year’ books. Yup, there’s a very happy new year at the end of that…
Plan for today: get as much work done as possible before the children wake up (especially as I’ve gone back to my original idea as the heroine needs more conflict), and then maybe persuade them to watch a film this morning. As soon as DH is home from work, we’re going into the city (some shopping is apparently required – possibly cushions for the new sofa as they’re on sale at the mo), having dinner out and then off to the panto. Really looking forward to it.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Listening to: all sorts of soft jazz today (with my dad)
Reading: Christina Jones, Heaven Sent (thoroughly enjoyed it – my Seeing Stars was about pyrotechnics so it was a theme I really liked – plus she has these lovely warm characters and it was so nice to see characters from some of her earlier books reappearing)
Christmas started very early for us. Bearing in mind we’d stayed up until midnight… at six, we had a small child thundering through. ‘Wake up! Wake up! Father Christmas has been, Father Christmas has been!’ (Actually, what was funnier was the night before, when I crept upstairs with full stockings and son’s door started to open and his fingers were visible in ‘pounce on the goodies’ mode. Being mean, I made him wait... because I didn’t put his stocking back on the door until he went to sleep.)
Plus the turkey had to go on at 7 in order to be ready for lunch, so we had to give in. Dog was bouncing around, wanting to know how many doggy stockings he had and if he could snaffle any of the chocs. So it was a tad overexcited…
DH had bought me the DVD of Casino Royale (yeah, yeah, so I’m a little behind); while the kids were busy doing art and crafty stuff we chilled out with the film and a glass of wine. I can see exactly why people are calling Daniel Craig the best Bond ever – much more ‘rounded’ than previous Bonds, and his eyes are stunning. (And yes, the shower scene... fabulous.)
Highlight of the day for son was Dr Who. He will no doubt be ecstatic tomorrow evening at the panto, as Colin Baker and Terry Molloy are starring in Dick Whittington.
Today: DH and daughter are hitting the sales (and I had kittens when I saw that M&S had 50% off their furniture… luckily, the one that I ordered has 30% off, the same as it was when I ordered it, or I would be in trouble). Meanwhile, son and I are going to pick up my dad as he’s spending the day here while my stepmum’s away. (I have promised him salmon and George Shearing.)
Monday, December 24, 2007
Listening to: Silje Nergaard and George Shearing
I’d like to wish everyone all the very best for the holiday season – with thanks to my readers (without whom I couldn't do my job) and to the friends I've made in this business, who make my life a brighter place.
And the best way a romance author can do this is to introduce you to a new gorgeous hero, yes?
So here’s Ben Sharkey. I discovered him on YouTube when I was finding background music for the current book. I like his voice (though I think if he had a little polishing through vocal coaching, he would be absolutely stellar and I’d be one of the first in the queue for his CDs). And he’s also extremely cute – it’s the smile and the eyes that really do it. And the sense that he’s a nice guy who’s a lot of fun. (We need more people like this in the world. People who bring a bit of sunshine into people’s lives.)
This is the first one that caught my attention – ‘The Way You Look Tonight’
And because I’m generous (all right, because I’ve teased certain people since Friday), I’ll share some others:
It Had to Be You (one of my favourite songs – and also used in one of my all-time favourite movies, When Harry Met Sally)
You and I (Piano, eyes, smile. Yes. It’s that smile – and it’s monochrome so it’s very moody and sexy).
Everything (it’s the eyes here – not so keen on the song)
And finally, because it’s Christmas, this one. Happy Christmas – and may 2008 bring you joy.
Actually, no – not finally. Finally, here’s something you can really chill out to. George Shearing is an astoundingly good pianist (and considering he was born blind… this is astonishing). The Shadow of Your Smile is just beautiful (and the Bach he’s slipped into this version works very nicely indeed). Just close your eyes and enjoy.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Current work: Med duo
Listening to: Silje Nergaard (on YouTube until my CDs arrive)
Now, I’m known for having a few CDs… (Oh, all right, so we need another floor-to-ceiling unit as I’ve been a bit of a bad puppy lately – waves to Kate W, who says I am profligate as well as scary.) YouTube has been utterly brilliant (waves to India, who has introduced me to wonderful music via YouTube) because it means I can browse an artist’s work and see what I think of the body as a whole, instead of buying an album for just one song and maybe ending up a tad disappointed.
Buying an album for one song, when I could buy just one song for 80p or whatever it is on iTunes? Am I mad?
Er, no. Thing is, my hearing loss involves frequencies, so I can’t hear music properly without my hearing aid. (For example, the title track of Coldplay’s ‘X&Y’ sounds discordant without it, but I can hear the harmonies with it.) MP3 players seem to work on in-ear headphones – which means I wouldn’t be able to wear the hearing aid. So I wouldn’t be able to hear the music properly, so loglically there is no point getting an MP3 player. Yes, I know I could get a player with speakers etc, but why bother when I already have a really good sound system in my office that includes a digital radio? And I can make myself CD mixes using my PC, so playlists aren’t an issue. (Plus… where can I store the MP3s safely, without taking up huge amounts of my hard disk or copying to, ahem, CD? And from what I’ve read, CDs are superior in sound quality to the MP3 format anyway.) So I’m sticking to the technology that works for me.
My other source of inspiration this year has been blogging. Other people who have a similar music habit have posted what they’re listening to, and I’ve dipped in and out. Ray-Anne in particular has inspired me (this is the point where I say thank you, Ray-Anne), and through her I discovered the Norwegian singer Silje Nergaard yesterday. I think she’s in the same area as Norah Jones and Joni Mitchell (and the odd bit of Lene Marlin – and I have several albums by those three artists) so, yes, I had another little album binge yesterday. (Only two. And my daughter will enjoy them as well. And…)
In the meantime, I’m thoroughly enjoying my current heroine. And I’m especially enjoying her taste in music. Especially because of said rather hot YouTube singer. (Shall I be nice and share?)
Out last night to see friends (Madam’s still a bit under par and went clingy on me before falling asleep on my lap – normally she’s a daddy’s girl; then she kept us awake half the night when she woke wanting a cuddle and coughing, sigh…).
Plan for today: work like mad while DH is out doing last-minute shopping, see my parents in the afternoon to drop off pressies, and see DH’s brother this evening to drop off pressies.
Plan for tomorrow: work in morning while simultaneously cooking the cheese stars and cookies, cousins round for tea (and talking weddings). And then it’s Christmas Eve. Where is the time going?
Friday, December 21, 2007
Listening to: Diana Krall
Reading: Sarah Morgan, The Italian’s New-Year Marriage Wish (as always, a fab read – her Italian heroes are always gorgeous)
The National Office of Statistics has released the top 10 names given to babies in England and Wales this year. In descending order:
Boys' names: Jack, Thomas, Oliver, Joshua, Harry, Charlie, Daniel, William, James, Alfie.
Girls' names: Grace, Ruby, Olivia, Emily, Jessica, Sophie, Chloe, Lily, Ella, Amelia.
The list of the top 50 names for each is on the press release at http://www.statistics.gov.uk/pdfdir/names1207.pdf - interesting reading for novelists. I’m using one of the girls’ names this time round (Madison) – but my hero is Greek so his obviously doesn’t appear.
I was messing about on YouTube yesterday for the right music to act as background to the book. (There’s the Venetian masked ball… and then this scene involving a hot air balloon that wasn’t in my original outline, but makes perfect sense because of the masked ball. Thank you to the lovely RNA members and fellow M&B authors who responded to my squeaks for help on research – waves particularly hard to Fiona Lowe in Aussie and Jenny Haddon.) Anyway, I discovered someone with a pretty good voice (except for the vocal runs – he does them well, but I prefer jazz without too much ornamentation). But… even more than this, this guy has a really, really spectacular smile.
And stunning eyes.
Smouldering, in fact. One of the comments to one song moans that he looks as if he’s just got out of bed. Uh, honey, that’s the POINT of a romance hero *g*. Works for me. (Wish my DH could sing like this. But no - I get bloody Badfinger crooned at me. Sigh. If I show him the clip he’ll do a parody, so am not doing that.)
I think my Greek doctor hero just morphed.
Am I sharing?
Heh. Just call me Kate Greedy :o) (And yeah, I know exactly who’s going to email me over this and make demands.)
I’m going through a real jazz phase at the moment. Have just been verrrry naughty and bought myself three albums on Amazon (not from the YouTube singer, who isn’t signed – the day he is, I’ll pre-order his CD) and a George Shearing (jazz piano, no vocals - and it took me AGES to wade through his albums and find out which one has 'The Shadow of Your Smile' on it. Would've rung Dad but it was a bit late. Look up 'George Shearing' and 'Smile' on YouTube - is fab performance in Tokyo including a bit of Bach).
As you can probably tell, the dark days of December are over for another year. Relief. I didn’t do the waking-up-crying bit this year, but I haven’t been very nice to live with, this week. I apologise if I’ve sounded bad-tempered or just plain miserable recently. I did try not to.
And I also apologise for not posting about something important yesterday: happy second anniversary of being an M&B Medicals author to my friend Margaret McDonagh (who writes lovely, lovely, family doctor books and is also in the Penhally series with me next year).
Anyway. I’m off with my Greek doctor until the kids surface.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Listening to: Diana Krall
Reading: whatever my cherub wants to hear
I did indeed end up reading a lot to cherub yesterday. But son has also gone down with it and they both insisted I join them on the sofa (complete with duvet) to watch Wallace and Gromit. Dog was not happy. He paced and paced and paced – then forced his way onto the sofa between son and me, glared at son and sat on my lap. (He’s used to having me to himself. And late in the evening he did the same thing – inserted himself between DH and me, then poked his paws into DH and stretched so that DH would move. Normally, he shadows DH, so it worries me a little that he’s suddenly gone clingy on me. Last time my dog did that, I had a week left with him. (That would be way too much for me to take at this time of year. Not because of Christmas, but because the teen days of Christmas seem to be when the horrible stuff happens.) Am pretty sure that Byron is fine and I am just being paranoid. He's probably just readjusting to the house being full during the day.
But I did have some really nice news yesterday. My lovely editor was really pleased with the revisions to the archaeologist book – so Hotly Bedded, Conveniently Wedded will be on sale in the UK in September next year.
Today… hopefully the kids will sleep late and I can work straight through. Sainsbury’s delivery this morning (veg box arrived yesterday), and much playing of board games this afternoon; then (if littlest one is better) we’re going to see DH’s brother to drop off Christmas pressies.
I’m currently having this really mad idea: supposing my med duo runs concurrently rather than consecutively? Might be too ambitious… but the more I think about it, the more I like the idea.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
2) Go and see India and wish her happy anniversary (she was a child bride).
3) My fabby new cover for my March title, Sold to the Highest Bidder (ignore the mountain - there are none in my part of the world, where this book is set - but at this angle you wouldn't see the lake from his bedroom!)
Listening to: Diana Krall/Led Zeppelin
Reading: whatever my cherub wants to hear
Today is a day when I’m counting my blessings. It’s actually not a good day for me as it’s the anniversary of my mum’s death (and from this year my life has had more of these anniversaries than not), but I’m trying really, really hard to put a smile on my face. I was privileged to have a really fantastic, inspirational mother (even if it wasn’t for anywhere near long enough), and I hope that I’ve inherited some of her good qualities and will pass them on to my children. (Sadly, I didn’t inherit her patience… and at the age of 41 I don’t somehow think I’m going to learn it.)
Anyway. My blessings. I have a wonderful husband, two fabulous children, and a soppy (albeit smelly) spaniel. I’m doing the job I love; the house has been remodelled so it’s just right for us; and I’m healthy. I’m lucky to have so much. I’ve worked hard for it, but I’ve also been really lucky in my family and friends when it comes to support – Chrissy and Rich, my favourite uncle and aunt, are particularly brilliant. (Sure, there are those who are the complete opposite, but every family has its less pleasant members. The trick is finding a way to deal with the situation.)
Very nice post yesterday. Apart from a pile of cards and the contract for the nonfiction I’m working on right now (as in alongside my fiction, of course), I seem to have what feels like books and chocolates that I wasn’t expecting (yes, this lack of patience thing means that I am a present groper).
Also had my remaining Christmas shopping delivered, and an antiquarian book I bought at the weekend; it’s a little bit on the spotty side inside, but I can live with that. DH’s first reaction on seeing the parcels was, ‘Are any of those NOT books?’ Ha. I haven’t bought a book since… um, Sunday. I also got the little extra gift for buying DH a year’s subs to Mojo (apart from the fact that Mojo sent it to me, not him, as purchaser of said subs, he agreed up front that it was mine, because I was going to buy it anyway; I'll make it up to him with more Pete Ham stuff after Christmas) and the clarity of sound on Mothership is stunning, even on headphones. Took me right back to being a teenager and the first time I heard ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You.’ Superb.
Spent yesterday playing games with Madam: Boggle (she’s getting the hang of it, but we’re playing joint rather than competitive), Tetris and Guess Who. Today will doubtless be more of the same. Bless her, she really isn’t well (high temperature, headache and sore throat – along with about 10% of the school), and she just wants her mum around. And right now I know that feeling, so I’m not going to fob her off with a film so I can work. I can always chug down some coffee and catch up tonight. Today she’s getting the cuddles.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
And there's a special party going on right now - my mate Julia Williams is celebrating the launch of her novel Pastures New. (My copy is on its way over the next few days, and I can't wait!)
So go over to see her and join in the party - complete with cyberchampagne, nibbles, and games involving gorgeous men. (Might I point out that one of them is mine, all mine? Daughter says only one of the men is handsome (not the same as mine, phew - but she recognised the hero her mum would pick).
What are you waiting for? Go party!
Listening to: Ella Fitzgerald
Reading: (hollow laugh)
I forgot to mention what else I did at the weekend. Firstly, I ordered some ‘return address’ labels. This was after a row with our horrible temporary postie (not my normal posties, who are very nice men and excellent at their job). Thing is, if I’m paying £5 to send books to America, I want them to go to America. Not to return to me. And when the parcel was delivered to me on Saturday morning for the THIRD time that week… Sigh.
And then – because a couple of things I can’t blog about here really stuffed up our weekend – during the three minutes when I did actually manage to see my husband on Sunday, I got him to measure furniture and choose from my shortlist so I could take advantage of the sale and order it. So hopefully in about six weeks we’ll have comfortable furniture again. (The current lot isn’t particularly old. Just the quality wasn’t what we thought it would be, and it’s looked tatty and felt uncomfortable since the week after it was out of guarantee.)
My pillow also arrived. DH agreed to let me have it early, and it’s luvverly. Nice and soft and I can’t feel/hear the feathers. (Yes, it’s possible to hear feathers - if they scrape against each other. Like the noise of scrunched/turned paper, it manages to penetrate my bad hearing and drives me bananas. It’s the pitch rather than the volume.)
Yesterday… well, I was full of good intentions. And then school phoned. Madam has the lurgy. So I had to go and pick her up early. Although she perked up a bit last night, I don’t think she’ll be back this term. So I foresee lots of cuddles and stories today, and not very much work being done (JUST as my heroine was actually talking to me… arrgh). Means I have to cancel guitar, too. Sigh. Better now than Christmas, but…
Monday, December 17, 2007
Listening to: Christmas compilation
Reading: various obscure antiquarian books [aka pure bliss - officially I suppose this is work, but this is the stuff of my heart]
Busy weekend. DH was working for a lot of it, so I was either helping with homework or working on nonfiction (which can survive interruptions relatively unscathed!). Also had lovely 'early Christmas' with Ali and Martin.
Have put the structure of my new nonfiction in place and sorted out which pics I still need to take (two new, one to be redone, three to borrow if they exist). Have also been checking Google books (which is wonderful if the books you want are on ‘full view’, and highly frustrating if they’re ‘snippet view’ – particularly the stuff that’s been out of print for over 100 years, sigh). The books I bought last summer (the eye-wateringly expensive ones) have been earning their keep. And there’s just something about handling books that are 200 years old (give or take ten years). For me, this is why digital media can never completely replace the original: sensory deprivation. The feel of the binding, the weight of the book in your hand, etc etc.
I have to admit that medieval life is one of my favourite topics so the research (which is my favourite bit of nonfiction anyway) doesn't feel like work. This feels like pure indulgence. No problems reading Middle English, so am enjoying myself thoroughly with source material. (Note to self: you need to learn medieval Latin properly.)
Three more days of school, so I need to really get cracking on my fiction today.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Listening to: Christmas compilation
Loved the nativity yesterday. Also had a couple of fairly long and very enjoyable phone conversations (I’m being amazingly sociable at the moment, considering it’s not my favourite time of year). And one with my publisher about the copyediting (and yes, I was good, I stuck to my guns. No more project management, but I will do the occasional bit of straight copyediting… which I enjoy doing and I think I’d miss it too much if I gave it up completely, but this is the stress-free version where I get to put sticky notes everywhere with queries to author and don’t have to follow them up and nag until I get the answers).
Madam thoroughly enjoyed ice-skating; meanwhile DH and I took son out for a spot of last-minute shopping (and now I have lots of Christmas sheet music) and out for tea. Actually, I’m surprised I was allowed to go shopping as my credit card bill arrived yesterday and I have blown the Christmas budget, big time. Oops. Luckily I have royalties on the way. Anyway. ’Tis paid. Also picked up fabric swatches and everyone in the house agrees with me on the fabric for new sofas. Now to make DH help me measure the sofas so we can check the sizes and choose between my shortlist (M&S has a good deal on furniture so I’m planning to order this week and make the most of it.)
Took the evening off (yes, REALLY). And no, I didn’t peek in the bags DH bought yesterday – he and son were bubbling about having found me a brilliant pressie, and as they left me in Jarrolds’ book shop while they went into the kitchen shop, I am highly intrigued. They are not telling Madam, as she is notoriously unable to keep secrets, so I have ten days to wait. (Yes, ten – DH and I open our presents at midnight on Christmas Eve with a glass of champagne while the children are in bed, so we get to enjoy our gifts. Dog is allowed one of his, too.)
DH found a couple of things on YouTube that amused us both highly. And one of them I really want to share because I like it so much.
(And I really AM working today. I am not messing about on the Internet looking up Venetian masked balls. Honest, guv.)
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Listening to: Christmas compilation
My guitar lessons this month have been fabulous because we’re doing arrangements of Christmas carols. Generally, this involves harmony and the fact that I need a lot more practice at being able to write down things from my head without resorting to playing the notes on the guitar to check the intervals. This week, we were talking about how early music was written, i.e. before staff notation and bar lines – all very interesting stuff, especially because in religious music the lyrics were more important than the melody. Apparently the belief was that a beautiful melody could distract from the words. There is a story that Mozart heard a piece of music at the Vatican that was ‘too beautiful’ to be written down – so that’s what he did when he got home. Note perfect. Eight minutes of it. After one hearing. Amazing.
Anyway… then it was time to choose this week’s carol. It seems that my taste in Christmas music is, um, weird. Jim ended up asking me a somewhat rhetorical question, exasperated and amused at the same time: ‘Why can’t you choose a well-known carol like anyone else?’
The short answer is because my taste in classical music and carols mirrors my taste in art. I like medieval and 19th century. (Actually, it’s slightly wider in music – but my big loves musically are Beethoven, Chopin, Mozart (who, had he not died so tragically young, would have written in the 19th century) and Haydn (who died in the 19th century). I rest my case.)
I probably shouldn’t be a bad puppy and soundtrack this book… but as I’ve just done a compilation for the car, I probably will. We’ve gone through the compilation and picked out our favourites (interesting that the kids like the Brat Pack stuff… I was after a jazz compilation this year but couldn’t find the one I was after), and I’ve added a couple of my own favourites.
My favourite carols are:
- ‘The Angel Gabriel’ (translated by the Victorian academic and writer of ghost stories, Sabine Baring-Gould)
- Gaudete (I like the version by the Mediaeval Baebes – it’s 16th century so strictly speaking it’s probably more Renaissance than late medieval)
- Coventry Carol (15th century… except Madam objects hugely to this one and I need to talk her round a bit)
- In the Bleak Midwinter (again, Victorian, written by Christina Rossetti; my favourite artworks are by her brother and his friends)
I also like something that was originally a Breton carol – ‘Mortal Flesh’. I have a version by Christian Forshaw (saxophone) and Aimée Green (soprano) and it’s incredibly haunting. Close your eyes and you can see people walking through a forest in the depths of winter, with the sun setting – oh, and they’re wearing medieval dress and they’re on some kind of quest. It would work brilliantly in several historical films. It’s the kind of music that gives you goosebumps.
As for life: yesterday was Christmas lunch at the Red Lion (beautifully presented and very scrummy). We exchanged gifts and I am incredibly fortunate that my friends know me well: choccies from my fave place (which I shared with DH so am not completely greedy) and crème brulee bubble bath… Happy sigh. And then I was a bit naughty and bought myself something for Christmas. Jazz. DH is not going to like this… but I like Diana Krall. And Ella Fitzgerald. And this is the time of year when a bit of food for the soul is very necessary for me. Thought about buying DK’s Christmas album, but decided against it as the last track would make me bawl.
Plan for today: Madam’s nativity at school. This will be her last one, as they don’t do it at junior school. Must take tissues. Lots of. Am hoping DH will be able to make it – otherwise I’m in charge of the camera. And then I’m coming home to work.
Edit: the nativity was fabulous. I think because I had to be camerawoman, it stopped me bawling. But my baby did so well – she sang beautifully and acted out the songs and I was just so PROUD of her.
Just checked on YouTube – I can’t find the versions I really wanted, but here are links to the following:
- Mortal Flesh – this version is by Helma Sawatzky (beautiful voice – I may have to find her albums)
- Gaudete – this one’s the Steeleye Span version (I do like Maddy Prior’s voice)
- The Angel Gabriel
- Coventry Carol - this is Aled Jones and it’s fabulous
- In the Bleak Midwinter – well, it has to be Bert Jansch, doesn’t it? :o)
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Listening to: Christmas compilation
Very pretty trip to school this morning – the sky was pale pink, and the rose-gold rays of the rising sun lit frosty bare branches, with a backdrop of mist rising from the river. And in the background, Chris de Burgh was softly singing his spaceman’s song…
Needless to say, at minus 2 degrees C (when we left), the minor roads around here were not pleasant. We left ten minutes earlier and went the long way so I could avoid the skid-pan hill where I had a nasty moment yesterday. The kids know the drill: if it’s icy, we go through Taverham. Interestingly, on these mornings they don’t mess about: they get dressed, have their breakfast and are ready on the dot (as opposed to reading in bed instead and having to be told three times to get up; taking ages to choose what to have for breakfast; and taking even longer to find where they put last night’s homework etc).
Nice day ahead today – Christmas lunch with Jo and Sarah. Madam is also having her Christmas lunch at school (but asked if she could gatecrash mine. Er, no). And this morning I need to catch up with the book. The beginning has changed completely, so I'm off to research Venetian masks. (Yes, this is a Medical romance. But I'm happier when my characters are making demands - it means they're living on the page rather than being two-dimensional.)
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Listening to: Led Zeppelin
Reading: Liz Fielding, The Sheik’s Unsuitable Bride (I couldn’t resist it any longer. And what a treat it was. A strong, caring hero; moments I wish I’d written – Berkeley Square being a big case in point, and a certain scene involving a cloak; a lovely, warm heroine; great secondaries; her usual brilliant dialogue; and – oh, just go and buy it. Not in the shops yet, but you can buy advance copies at Mills & Boon)
If wishes were horses… then I would’ve ridden a white charger to London yesterday and seen Led Zeppelin live. I didn’t bother applying for tickets because the odds of getting them were so small.
But, oh, I would’ve loved to see them play together.
I’ve seen Robert Plant a few times. The best was his date at my local university, where I was all of six feet away from my favourite singer ever – and it was fabulous. (Especial thanks to the 6ft2 guy in front of me who was kind enough to swap places so I could see; being short and round, I didn’t even come up to his chin.)
I do hope the event was filmed, so those who desperately wanted to be there but didn’t have tickets will get a chance to see the show… at least, more than just the little tempting bits shown on breakfast TV this morning. I don’t watch much TV and absolutely not in the mornings, but I made an exception for this.
Guess what I’m going to be playing on the school run this morning? And what I’m going to be agitating for in my guitar lesson this morning? :o) I was supposed to be practising a very fast version of 'Ding Dong Merrily on High' - er, no, I was too busy to practice. Will do better next year with all my new free time. Some of which I am also going to use for exercise.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Listening to: Christmas compilation
Fab weekend – dinner out on Friday night (excellent food and company… and I did indeed wear the outfit).
DH’s reaction to the weird Christmas present request: ‘You’ve spent more than that on pillows in the last six months. So if this one lasts for six months it’ll be worth it. Go and order it. And you don’t have to wait until Christmas – you can have it as soon as it arrives.’ (What a star. And no, that doesn’t mean he gets to rummage in the bag in my office – which he did yesterday and worked out what the dog bought him.)
My best friend came up for the weekend, so there was much chatting and much wrapping of pressies (thank you, Fi, for saving my sanity), and much playing of games. Fi is one of the few people who will play Boggle with me; I think my daughter is up for it now, but clearly there’s a huge gap between the vocabulary of a 7-year-old (albeit a booky one who’d annihilate most 10-year-olds) and one who’s spent 20 years making her living from words. I might change the rules slightly so it’s a joint game and we see how many words we can find together – she’s quick to ask if she doesn’t know what a word means, and she only needs to ask once before she’ll start trying it out in a sentence. (She’s scarily like I was as a child when it comes to reading and words… and at the moment she’s writing poetry in her special notebook. I’ve bought her a sparkly ‘jewelled’ one as part of her stocking – you can guess the colour.)
There was also much eating of chocolate and much listening to music and much laughter; and later, much writing of Christmas cards. And I did indeed opt for the ‘off my desk and into a box’ temporary tidying. Followed by a long chat with DH about what I want to do next year with my career. Being a star, he is supporting me (something has to give, and this means I’ll get more time to write – and both he and the children have pointed out that I have shadows under my eyes). So I have to write a letter today which isn’t going to be easy but… it needs doing because this pace probably is too much. (OK, SDP, I admit it.) And after that and my piano lesson, fingers crossed, I’ll be able to work on fiction today without interruption. Ten days until the children break up for holidays, so I’m making the most of a quiet house: just me and my dog. Am also laying off the coffee – I’ve bought lavender and lemongrass tea, so we’ll see how it goes.
To find out who won a copy of The Doctor’s Very Special Christmas at the Medical Romance Authors’ joint blog, go take a look (sorry, I am such a tease)… and while you’re there you get the chance to win a copy of Fiona Lowe’s fabulous Vietnam book.
There’s also a Christmas Stocking competition over at Kate Walker’s blog (win lots and lots of excellent books, including a signed copy of One Night, One Baby), and at Liz Fielding’s blog she’s doing daily giveaways from her backlist – she writes the most beautiful books (and I allowed myself a bit of her new Sheik book last night – what a treat).
(And if you don't win, One Night, One Baby and The Doctor's Very Special Christmas are both available on the Mills & Boon website. As is Liz's excellent Sheik book.)
Friday, December 07, 2007
Today I had to do some panic shopping because we’re out tonight and I’m not 100% sure I want to wear what I’d planned to wear. And I found this really nice camisole top in M&S. (In my size, too. Except strictly speaking I am too fat to wear a camisole.) And a really nice hand-crocheted bolero top (which would cushion the fact that I’m too fat). So I ignored them and picked up the kind of top I buy because it’s safe (albeit a tad frumpy). Then something completely mad made me try on the camisole and bolero as well. I liked it but… (unhappy wriggle) I’m not little and slinky, never have been except on my wedding day (and I have been told that I looked fat then – by someone I dislike and who’s not very nice to me, so that might just have been aimed at making me feel bad rather than being the truth).
I chickened out – and said as much to the assistant, who made me go back and try it on (after promising she’d give me an honest opinion and if it looked awful she’d come into the shop with me and help me find something). Verdict: great, but not with those trousers. (I knew that already – said trousers are my comfortable, practical working clothes. )
I have a new pair of black velvet trousers (as opposed to my ancient ones which are only fit for dog-walking), so I decided to be brave and bought the top and jacket. I’m going to try it on and see what DH says. And if he says ‘ick’, it’s going back for a refund tomorrow.
DH will also be pleased that I’ve finally found something I want for Christmas. But it’s terribly, terribly princessy (not to mention pricey). A 100% goose down pillow. I have a feeling he’s going to respond with ‘I am not buying you a bloody feather pillow’ (possibly because I lasted two nights on the last feather one I bought before refusing to sleep on it again. But you can feel the feathers in a feather pillow, whereas all you feel with 100% down is lovely, lovely softness).
Hmm. Well, if he hates the outfit, I’ll return it and go buy my pillow.
Where’s the chocolate?
Listening to: Sheryl Crow
Yesterday, finished the last chapter and the final readthrough of Norwich Heroes, Villains and Victims before my governor meeting. This morning, I printed it out ready to send to Breedon. (Yes, I was up that early – thank you, DH, for waking me up – and no, I didn’t write it *that* quickly. I run a nonfiction book at the same time as a novel, so I can switch between them depending on my mood/the deadline. Am at the research stage of my next one for Halsgrove, which is my utterly favourite bit of writing nonfiction.)
Plan for today: nip into the city to buy a pillow (I am a bit princessy about this, I admit…); library; do proofs; finish sorting post and go to post office (very important, this!); do something about my terrible office (this might end up being ‘put contents of desk in box to sort out later’). Might start the new Med today (it’s in my head, which is a good thing). And then we’re out for a Christmas meal with friends this evening (foodie pub – and the menu is to die for. Grilled halloumi, traditional turkey roast, and lemon tart – needless to say today is salad for lunch!), and my best friend is up for the weekend tomorrow.
I’m still battling with my new keyboard. I’ve been having moans from DH and the kids for months because the letters had worn off, but I liked my old keyboard so I resisted change. However, last weekend the keys on the left half of the bottom row kept sticking, so I gave in and bought a new one. It’s more solid, less responsive (the amount of time I’m spending adding in spaces between words is really annoying me) and the insert/delete/page navigation keys have a different layout. Ah well. I’ll get used to it eventually. Funny how the little things interrupt a writer’s routine.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
So today I'd like to bring your attention to I ♥ Presents.
Here’s what you need to know (and the tutorials are very good, btw - am not just saying that because my books are included as part of the 12. The other thing you need for this is Kate Walker's 12-point guide because it's practical, no-nonsense and won't scare the pants off you like Donald Maass does to me):
A brand new writing competition from the world’s best-selling romance series is about to hit the blogosphere!
It’s an exciting time for Harlequin Presents: from January 2008, there will be 12 of our intensely passionate romances available every month. And with this increase of titles comes a great opportunity for aspiring authors – we will be looking to buy more books for publication!
The old saying goes that first impressions are lasting impressions – and when it comes to reading a Harlequin Presents, that certainly holds true. If the first chapter doesn’t immediately grip the reader with its pace, passion and intensity, then she won’t continue to turn the pages.
So Presents is inviting unpublished writers to show us how they can grab the attention of our readership with first chapters that really sizzle. The INSTANT SEDUCTION competition offers prizes that are chances of a lifetime for the lucky winner and runners-up:
*First prize – win yourself an editor for a year!
*Two runners-up will be given editorial critiques of their first chapter entries and also a personal telephone consultation about their writing!
Visit the Iheartpresents.com blogsite for full details of the competition – and the chance to prepare for publication with an exclusive series of writing tutorials prepared by the editorial team at Harlequin Presents, including advice on First Chapters, How to Write a Synopsis, Loving the Alpha Male and Generating Emotional Conflict.
Entries for the competition will be accepted as on-line submissions only from 1st January until 14th February 2008.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Listening to: various
Reading: Judith Lennox, All My Sisters (haven't had time to read since Friday... the book isn't dragging but my schedule is!)
Finally finished my revisions yesterday and I’m taking a breather today, aka taking my dad out for lunch and putting the Christmas wreath on my mum’s grave – 21 years this Christmas, and although certain people are going to look at my schedule and the line that says ‘current work’ and think about telling me off, maybe I should remind them that it’s December and I need to be busy.
I admit I probably overdid it on Monday, though. Normally I do my shopping at the end of October and it’s all wrapped by mid-November. However… I did my shopping online this year, and the retailer for my biggest order let me down badly, so on Monday I had to lug heavy baskets around and queue up. (I think Marks and Spencer owe me Antonio Banderas for all that extra stress.)
But I’m taking the half-full view. The good things:
- I walked over 18,000 steps so that will make up for my bad eating (read: excess chocolate) this weekend.
- My lovely, lovely, lovely best friend emailed me to tell me to stop stressing and offered to help me with the wrapping (have I mentioned lately how wonderful she is?).
- I went into WH Smith just as they’d finished putting the December books on the shelves, and they gave me a lovely position for BOTH of my books. Yay. (And of course I was sad enough to take a picture. The thrill of a new book on the shelves never, ever goes away. And note what it says under my books - pure reading pleasure. That's exactly what I hope people get from my books.)
Then yesterday lovely Fiona Harper told me she’d been to QS and saw our books there on the special promotional deal. Even better, as my nearest QS is 40 minutes away, she’s let me borrow her photo to display here. (Thank you, Fiona.) So if you have a QS near you and you want a treat – go in, spend £15, and you get a lovely gift of either Breakfast at Giovanni’s or Fiona’s Blind-Date Marriage (which is an excellent read).
And while I was in my guitar lesson yesterday, I had a text from my accountant cousin, whose client happens to be QS, telling me that he’d just walked into their reception and seen this huge display of my books...
Other than that, yesterday was spent finalising my revisions. With my dodgy takeaway last week followed by the kids’ tummy bug and Christmas celebrations and the million and one things that I’ve been sorting out (am trying to be assertive and tell people they have to wait until I’ve done my book… but they’re being more assertive back and I end up agreeing to do stuff and I need more sleep), it’s been a bit of a struggle. I also can’t work in such a messy office so I’m going to have to do something about my desk later today. I also need to get things in the post, so if you are expecting something from me I apologise profusely and you should get it very soon.
Quick reminder – there’s a competition to win a signed copy of The Doctor’s Very Special Christmas over at the Medical Romance Authors’ joint blog this week and another one here this week to win a signed copy of my other December UK release (question: what’s the title?).
And tomorrow I’ll be talking about another competition – something really exciting, so watch this space!
Monday, December 03, 2007
Listening to: Sheryl Crow
Reading: Judith Lennox, All My Sisters
What with sick littlies, ‘early Christmas’ with the family (wonderful) and trying to sort out my missing Christmas parcels (note to self, don’t be so idle and do the shopping in person instead of online next year because it’s less stressful), I haven’t done a huge amount. (Well. Since Wednesday I’ve ripped about 20k out of my book and put 15k or so back. But it's not the same as straight writing as you have to remember the knock-on effects of what you rip out.)
So instead of whining about my revisions (which, weirdly, I am enjoying), I’d like to direct you elsewhere. To something exciting. The launch of the Medical Romance Authors’ joint blog, 'Love is the Best Medicine'.
There’s a chance to WIN FREE BOOKS. (There will be a new one each week. This week's book, all you have to do is answer a very simple question.)
First one up is by, um, me. And here I’m giving a second chance to win the other of my December UK releases (winner to be picked at the end of the week and announced next Monday). Question: What’s the title of my Modern Extra romance released in December? (Clue – if you really need one - look to your left for the book with the moody cover; and if I remember to take the camera with me this morning, there will be another clue tomorrow…)