Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ring in the new


Following on from ringing out the old, I think my focus for 2009 needs to be on stress management and getting a better work-life balance (by which I mean more space to work and no crises, thank you very much – last year was several years’ worth, and I just want some quiet, even months to balance things out. No serious illnesses for anyone close to me. No deaths. No messy stuff. My house fixed).

Goals for this year:

1. Work-life balance/stress management. A lot of this has been outside my control for the last year. Everyone has a defined role in their family, and mine happens to be ‘the person who fixes everything’. (Actually, that’s also my role as friend. I’m good at helping to sort things out.) That’s not going to change; I’m not tough enough to say no when people need me. And, actually, I wouldn’t like myself very much if I stopped helping people I care about. But the stuff inside my control – I can do something about that. Which means my daily routine. I think goal (2) is going to be the key, because it’ll clear my head of real life hassles and let me go into the fictional world in my head (which means I’ll meet my deadlines comfortably instead of being miserable and having everything collide because then I end up running to stand still). Putting that in balance will remove a lot of stress.

2. Exercise. Goal: 10,000 steps a day (i.e. take dog for walk as soon as I get home rather than make a cup of tea, log on and mess about with word games). This will clear my head, help me get fitter, and de-stress me. And if it’s raining… Wii Fit. DH has extracted the treadmill from behind my guitar stand, but… can I admit that I don’t enjoy exercise? I love going for walks on the beach and fossicking round ruins and what have you, but going to the gym/on the treadmill/going out for a run… It’s just not my thing. Lots of fitness gurus sneer at Wii Fit. Of COURSE I know it doesn’t replace ‘proper’ exercise. But for people who live in their head, who have a sedentary job, and who wouldn’t be able to do the gym without having a notebook and stopping to scribble down ideas… it works, actually, because it’s flexible and fun. Low-impact step (because if you bounce on the board you’ll break it) or ‘boxing’ for 3 bursts of 10 minutes = 30 minutes of exercise. (Which is a lot more than I managed in 2008!)

3. Weight management. Every single year, I say I’m going to do this. Every single year, I fail. Now, I eat relatively healthily (except when really stressed; then, I don’t sleep properly and I rely on too much coffee to get me through the day, and that’s a bit of a vicious circle). Breakfast = porridge and orange juice; lunch = home-made veg soup and a chicken salad or wholemeal pitta bread stuffed with tuna and salad; dinner = salmon or chicken with a low-fat sauce, plenty of veg and a jacket potato or new potatoes or wholemeal pasta or brown rice. In between I might have a yoghurt or some fruit. (If it’s a really bad day, there will be some chocolate involved, but not huge amounts – because I know my weakness and I’m not stupid enough to keep that much temptation in the house.) So it’s not the calorie input that’s the problem: it’s the lack of calorie output because my life is way too sedentary. I work from home, and the kitchen is two rooms away from my desk (or even the same room if I’m doing proofs – the breakfast bar is perfect for spreading papers across). So if I sort out the exercise goal, it will also sort out the weight management goal because the calorie output will improve. I’m going to use the Wii to keep a proper track of my weight (you can’t do the scale dance on it because it’ll just say ‘error’). I’m also going to stop playing online word games or Collapse (my absolutely worst habit). When I’m stuck, instead of using word/strategy games as a thinking tool, I’m going to walk away from my desk. Play the guitar or piano, or maybe do word games on paper (the act of turning the page will be enough to tell me to stop), or take the dog out, or do a couple of the Wii Fit games (i.e. move my lardy self), or watch the birds in the garden. Things that will help refill the well.

4. Writing. This year I want to lift my game. I want to write books that people remember and love. Books I can feel proud of. How am I going to track it? I guess through award shortlistings and bestseller lists, and feedback from my agent, editors and readers. And that project that fell through the cracks last year… this year, I’m going to carve out the time to do it.

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 2009. Happy New Year!

Ring out the old


Today’s a day for looking back. What kind of a year has 2008 been?

Workwise
It’s been great.

I was also Norfolk’s ‘writer in residence’ for the National Year of Reading 2008, which was a real honour. I had a ball talking in schools and at libraries, and achieved a personal ambition because I actually cut the ribbon and opened the new school library at Wicklewood. (How cool is that? I still haven’t quite got over it.)

But best of all were the two career highlights. The big one was winning the RNA Romance Prize 2008 with Breakfast at Giovanni’s (US title: In Bed With Her Italian Boss). I wasn’t expecting it and it was just wonderful. I was also shortlisted for the inaugural East Anglian Book Awards with Heroes, Villains and Victims of Norwich. That kind of accolade from the publishing world, together with the lovely reader letters I’ve had this year telling me how much people enjoyed my books, nice reviews, and the emails and letters I had over the year from people congratulating me on the award/shortlisting, and the way everyone cheered spontaneously at the M&B party in September when Karin Stoecker listed the year’s highlights and mentioned Gio… that’s really made my year. The fact that I’ve achieved something, and people have been genuinely pleased for me.

Personally

2008 vies with 1986-7 for being the worst year of my life. Not going into details, but I’m very glad to see the back of this year. I managed to smile my way through it, most of the time, pretending that everything was hunky-dory when it really wasn’t at all because one crisis hit after another. This summer, when we had a lot of major things happen in the space of two weeks, was spectacularly horrible. So I’d like to say a special thank you to the people who were so kind and supportive in the darkest bits of the year – those who sent me cards and emails and pictures just to make me smile, those who gave me real and cyber hugs, those who sent me books and chocolate and music to distract me, and those who were careful not to lean on me because they realised I was completely out of emotional resources and just couldn’t give anything more/be a listening ear the way I normally am. I appreciated every single one of you: I truly am blessed with my family and friends. (And I hope the people concerned know I would do the same for them, if the situation were reversed.)

So how did I do with my goals?

The first one was exercise. It was fine for the couple of days until Dad went into hospital – and then, as my life for the next month became “school run, hospital, school run, help with homework and sort dinner, try frantically to keep work ticking over so I don’t end up in a financial mess, rely on husband to do much more than his far share to keep house ticking over”… I really didn’t have the time. And it didn’t get much better after Dad was out of hospital. I spent the whole year running to stand still, metaphorically. (Sadly, metaphors and worrying don’t burn calories. Or I would be fit and substantially thinner.)

Second was weight management. See above.

Third was writing. This was a three-pronged one. Firstly, I wanted 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 think I’ve managed it, but the reason I hope so is embargoed at the moment. (I will spill the beans, the minute I’m allowed to!) Secondly, the project I really wanted to work on: it fell between the cracks because Real Life got severely in the way, and it was just too much to cope with, even for me in Superwoman mode. (I had to shift deadlines, as it was; my publishers were all very kind and understanding, but I still hated having to be in that position. It felt like failure.) Thirdly, I wanted to sell another local history book by the end of the year – actually, I sold three, and the next three or four years’ books are pencilled in with Breedon. So I think that goal can count as pretty much achieved.

Three goals. Two flops, one achieved. Yup, about the same as last year. Need to set smarter goals, methinks.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Nice news and beautiful stained glass

First of all, thank you very much to the readers who’ve put Hotly Wedded, Conveniently Bedded on the Waldenbooks’ Top 10 bestseller list. What a lovely end to the year! (Thanks also to readers who’ve put it in the eHarlequin Top 10, too.)

Today, met up with lovely Jan Jones; we visited the Stained Glass Museum in Ely Cathedral.



The glass was gorgeous (I especially liked the medieval peasant – scary to think this was just before the Black Death). Two fabulous Burne-Jones angel windows (and two by Rossetti which didn’t look at all like his work, to me). A couple of the exhibits have really helped with the church book (to do with the production of glass); and one piece of glass in particular had us in stitches: The Prodigal Son by Moira Forsyth. Beautifully done, witty, and very, very clever. Apparently she has work in Norwich Cathedral, so I must go and take a look.

I also rather liked the ironwork on the cathedral doors.

Had lunch in the cathedral coffee bar, then a walk by the river to see the swans. Ely’s very pretty and I liked the place very much.

On the way home, stopped at a couple of churches – sadly, they were locked. Fair enough, but there wasn’t a keyholder listed, which was a bit irksome. I did manage to get a shot of a certain monument, which was moved very slightly when the A11 was dualled; I must’ve passed it on the way from school to the city for years and years without realising it was there. The monument is to Sir Edmund Rich, who gave money towards the the second turnpike road to be built in the country, between Attleborough and Wymondham. (The first was the Great Northern Road. Just in case you were wondering.)

And now... back to work!

Monday, December 29, 2008

tail end of the year

Current work: Med revisions
Listening to: Sandy Denny and Oasis
Reading: (next on TBR pile)

Hope everyone had a lovely Christmas. Our day was fabulous – kids woke up around 8 (so I had time to put the turkey in the oven first) and bounced in with their Christmas stockings. They were delighted with all their pressies (as were DH and I) and I think we did the right thing in cutting Christmas spending back to a more reasonable level: it meant we all appreciated things much more. (And hey, I was happy. Books, music, nice smellies, and a couple of additions to my Pandora bracelet.) Sorted the veg and the table; then my family came over for lunch, and we spent the afternoon chatting and playing Monopoly (four generations...now that’s cool) and eating chocolate. Chilled out in the evening with Dr Who and the new Wallace and Gromit (which was very good).

Boxing Day, we all needed a walk and some fresh air, so we went out. There were sarcastic comments about my yen for the seaside and pointed remarks about the time we went to the sea on Boxing Day and it was so cold that your ears hurt within 10 seconds, so we went inland, this time. I really do like the church at Rougham: a quiet, peaceful little country church with the most wonderful, calm atmosphere. (OK, I admit it: it was a sneaky work trip. I wanted a pic of the acoustic jar at Rougham. But note that I took Christmas Day off and didn’t even TOUCH my computer.)

Saturday, thought a bit more about my revisions and slobbed out with films in the evening; firstly ‘Toy Story 2’, which is still just as good as the first time round – and this time the kids got some of the jokes aimed at an older audience. Then it was ‘Starter for Ten’; as this was set in the autumn term of 1985 (i.e. just after I met DH), I had fun reliving my own student days. I’d take issue with some of the clothing (where were the lovely, comfy bright red pixie boots, then? I miss mine. And we all wore long black coats. And lumberjack shirts were in, too) but it had more or less the right period feel. I must’ve mixed with a quieter set, though: I don’t remember big parties with tons of booze in the bath. More like lots of coffee and earnest discussions about English lit. (With Suzanne Vega in the background, or early Genesis, or Bryan Adams if we were going to have a bop round the kitchen. And, er, large bars of Galaxy chocolate.) DH was questioning it, too. ‘But you never did parties and discos, even when I came up to stay.’ (Well, no. When he came to stay, he took me to see Deep Purple at Birmingham NEC.) ‘And you spent your money on books, music, chocolate and going to the cinema.’ (Plus ça change, eh?)

But that whole thing about being eighteen and growing up and where you fit in once you’ve moved away from home… Lightbulbs are flickering in the back of my head; however, as I have two deadlines in January (plus my revisions), they’ll just have to stay flickering for now.

Sunday, worked on my revisions while DH braved the sales with the kids. I was making a cup of tea when I spied a visitor to our bird feeder: I think this is a Great Spotted Woodpecker, scoffing peanuts. This isn’t a good pic because it’s a zoom shot through glass, I didn’t have a good viewing angle, and he flew off before I had the chance to focus better for a second snap. But am impressed that he likes our peanuts.

Hmm. It’s somewhat appropriate to be taking pics of birds at the tail end of the year. (Appalling pun intended.)

Plans for the next couple of days: seeing my photographer friend this morning and talking books/photographs, then might take the kids to the cinema as DH is back at work and I have promised two cinema trips. Tomorrow I’m taking the kids to the stained glass museum in Ely, and meeting up with lovely Jan Jones. Wednesday, probably seeing Dad (provided none of us has a cold: particularly now, he's vulnerable to the lurgy, and I'd hate to spread it through the home). And then it's New Year. What we do will depend on the weather and when DH gets home from work. But I do need certain pics. I foresee whining to go for a wander round the Broads...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Current work: nonfic (and thinking about Med revisions)
Listening to: Kate Rusby, Sweet Bells
Reading: Alberto Manguel, The Library at Night

Wishing you a very happy Christmas and a peaceful, worry-free new year.

And thank you to the people who’ve made my working life so happy this year – my wonderful and wise agent, Dot Lumley, who knows when to rein me back and when to let me fly; my equally wonderful and wise editor at M&B, Sheila Hodgson; the team at Breedon, Halsgrove and How To Books; my ‘research team’ who don’t mind me hijacking family days out as long as I buy chocolate cake, and especially my husband, who’s the most brilliant support ever; reviewers who’ve been so kind (especially Julie from Cataromance and Sandra from Romantic Times and the readers at eHarlequin); the judges of the RNA Romance Prize; the panel who drew up the shortlist for the East Anglian Book Awards; my fellow authors who’ve been there to celebrate the good times and give me a hug/pep talk when needed; and most of all to my readers, who’ve bought my books in the shops and borrowed them from libraries, then written to tell me how much you’ve enjoyed them.

Merry Christmas – and thank you – to you all. I couldn’t write without you.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Joy to the world

Current work: nonfic and Modern Heat
Listening to: sound of dog snoring
Reading: Alberto Manguel, The Library at Night

Amazing what a decent night’s sleep can do to improve your mood… And I found a fabulous news story this morning about the Kindness Offensive. What a lovely, lovely idea. I believe that kindness is what makes the world go round, so this sort of thing really warms my heart.

Had revisions in for the Penhally book and they’re not that bad. Going to let them mull for a couple of days, as my ed is off for Christmas now.

Plan for today: depends when the pest controller arrives. Might go to the cinema. Or I might insist that the kids and I spend the afternoon curled up on the sofa with a box of Lindor and ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. That, or more board games. Daughter is turning into a Monopoly tycoon – and practically every turn round the board, I ended up in jail! ‘Mum, don’t throw an eight or you’ll have to go to j… Oh. You threw an eight.’ And every ‘chance’ or ‘community chest’ – you can guess who got the nice card and who got all the fines. But the point is to enjoy it and have fun – doesn’t matter who wins.

And they've started playing Boggle with me. Yessss. Same rules as for Scrabble: it's the joint score that counts, because I recognise that it's a bit daunting, playing word games with someone who makes her living out of words. Hey, I'm happy to play usual rules and with a big fat handicap: it's the playing that matters to me, not the result. It's nice not to play Boggle solitaire, which is what usually happens (except when my lovely best friend comes to stay and indulges me on a Sunday afternoon).

Have also enjoyed being slightly naughty and sending surprises to people, which should be hitting doorsteps about now. Not big, expensive surprises. Just something that I think will put smiles on their faces. Gifts with a bit of thought behind them. I'd definitely rather give than receive, because I really enjoy putting sparkle into people's lives. (Well, could you resist sending a copy of a CD called 'Jackie' to someone whose name is Jackie and who was a teenager in the 70s and would've read said magazine, so the music on the CD is the stuff she grew up to? I rest my case. Oh, and for the record - pun intentional - my big sister loved it.)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas hols begin

Current work: nonfic and Modern Heat
Listening to: sound of dog snoring
Reading: Alberto Manguel, The Library at Night - very interesting… and I am so envious that he has a barn as his library. Mine is too small and too cluttered. (Yes, OK, so I’m terribly untidy and I need to Try Harder next year.) Various lightbulbs going off…

It’s the school Christmas hols, so blogging may be a bit erratic for the next couple of weeks. This is the time of year when lots of plans are made but they have to be flexible – we were going out for dinner at my local best friend’s on Saturday, but she was hit by the evil lurgy, so we ended up having fish and chips instead at DH’s brother’s. (The kids had a whale of a time playing Monopoly.)

I’ve been working on my nonfic and finding out amazing things I didn’t know about Norfolk. Have been thinking about the fiction, but today am too dog tired to create anything at all. This is to do with DH getting up in the middle of the night and accidentally letting the dog sneak upstairs. One huge spaniel sitting on you is not the best of ways to be woken. Especially at 1.30 am. And could I get back to sleep afterwards? (To add insult to injury, dog is snoring his head off behind me right now. As DH muttered at 1.30 am, dog is becoming more obstinate with age.)

Other than that, have been talking to my very talented photographer friend Steve Denby and sorted out which pics I want for my office. (OK, so I’m greedy. But these particular two are inspiring.)

And also had a visitor I do not want to see in my garden again. Remember my mouse problem from two years back? Go up a rodent size. (Wait, no, that’s a hamster. Go up a wild verminous rodent size.) He was actually very pretty and he looked remarkably clean, especially his dainty little pink feet. But. Rattus norvegicus in my garden is not acceptable. (Norway link? Er, not in my M&B.) Our council’s lovely environmental health team has booked someone to come and see us tomorrow.

I’ve probably read too much MR James (well, it’s the season for ghost stories, and MRJ stories are wonderful – ditto AM Burrage), because I keep thinking of the thing I half-saw dropping from the bird feeder last week, when it was still dark. And I mean dropping. With a thud. (It would’ve been a soft, deathly thud, had I been able to hear it.) My imagination has gone a bit into overdrive. The thing I saw was bigger than a rat and could’ve been a cat. Gingery fur… birds don’t drop, they fly upwards, so it had to be a mammal – yes? (Note to self: do not think of The Ash-Tree.) I’ve written some fairly scary modern ghost stories in my time – including for Virago – and this stuff is really not conducive to sleep…

Plans for today: grocery delivery, and meanwhile play board games with the cherubs. And eat chocolate to take my mind off Ratty and The Unnamed Thing.

Friday, December 19, 2008

something to smile about

Current work: nonfic and Modern Heat
Listening to: Christmas compilation
Reading: Diane Watt, The Paston Women

Today is the anniversary of my mum’s death. Now, I know she would want me to remember her with smiles. I do. But I also miss her very much; and this year it works out that I’ve spent more of my life without her than with her, which makes me feel quite melancholy. This afternoon, both children will get an extra-special cuddle from me. And I’m going to put the Christmas CD on and sing along with them (actually, I might just do it with the guitar) and think of her.

Today I have some good news to share: the covers of my March releases. First is my deaf doctor book: The Children’s Doctor’s Special Proposal.

The second is the real stunner: Surrender to the Playboy Sheikh. My first ever Sheikh book. (Modern Heat’s first ever Sheikh, too. And the one Harlequin asked me to write a Dear Reader letter about their 60th anniversary… in which I’ve paid tribute to the author of the first M&B/Harlequin book I read, and who started all this because her books are so fabulous: Sara Craven. It’s also dedicated to an author friend of mine, who writes fabulous books that have kept me sane in dark times, but I haven’t told her about the dedication yet and so I’m keeping quiet for the moment. That’s a pleasure I’m keeping for next year. I can’t wait to get my hands on my author copies.)


In the book, one of the key scenes involves a bath, and the cover is pretty much what I had in mind. (Well, it’s actually set in a penthouse flat overlooking the Thames. But the bath and the tone are just perfect.) In an ideal world, you would be able to press a button on the front of the book and hear the music that the characters are hearing: Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis. (If my soundcard were not defunct, I would give you a YouTube link. But until I get the new PC and a soundcard – next month – I am avoiding to YouTube. Which, from a glass half full point of view, is probably good for my bank balance.) Have told my ed how pleased I am with this cover and asked her to thank the production team.

And I’ve had some other nice stuff this week. Really wonderful reader feedback on Hotly Bedded, Conveniently Wedded (thank you to everyone who wrote to me); and said book at one point managed to be #1 in both the eHarlequin top 10 books AND the eHarlequin top 10 ebooks. Thank you again to the readers who put it there. You’ve made this particular author very happy.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

starting to feel Christmassy

Current work: nonfic and Modern Heat
Listening to: Christmas compilation
Reading: Diane Watt, The Paston Women

It’s nearly the end of term, so I’m trying to catch up with things. Busy week so far.

Tuesday: the radio interview before school, the carpenter and decorator in as soon as I got back, the dentist after school (disastrous news – my lovely dentist is moving! But I can still have a female dentist – not being sexist, just that my big dental nightmare was with a male dentist and I’m now a nervous patient. Actually, my new dentist is DH’s dentist and he has reassured me that she’s nice), and Madam’s school disco in the evening. (Anyone remember Abba in their ‘Waterloo’ days? Madam was plastered in about the same amount of glitter. Bless.)

Wednesday: Painting is ongoing and the kitchen and downstairs loo look much brighter, now. (Looks as if the floor and cabinets are going to be the other side of Christmas, now.) Exciting news on the bird feeder: I think we had a thrush visiting. I might be wrong, but a female blackbird was also in the garden at the time and the thrush was a little bit smaller and had a spotty chest. My new RSPB bird book (the one with the photographs in) arrived so I double-checked in that. Thrushes are declining, so if I’m right I’m so pleased. Very quick trip into town (royalty cheque – sooner it’s in, sooner it’s cleared, and I have a tax bill coming up shortly); and I caved. I said this year we were having a less material Christmas. But. There was this game I knew Madam wanted (not to mention lovely vanilla-scented sparkly stuff from Lush) and a set of Warhammer models son really wants… and I just got paid… and… Ahem. Deal with DH: he took them for food while I did some quiet shopping and stowed it in the car – so they have NO IDEA and their little faces will just light up so much on Christmas Day.

In the evening, we had Madam’s school carol service and nativity. Walking down the path to the church on a crisp evening, with the stars out and the church bells ringing, was really magical.
St Margaret's has a family connection to DH’s great-grandfather. Maybe he sang carols there, too? The children sang beautifully, and Madam made a great shepherd; and the way all the rest of the congregation were drawn in, too, was wonderful. ‘We Three Kings’ was lovely, with the kids singing one verse (discovered that son has become a bass – blimey, when did that happen?), the women singing the Frankincense verse, and the men singing the Myrrh verse (DH has a lovely voice, when he can be bothered).

Today: gloss paint. And the kids insisted on having the Christmas compilation on in the car. This is a home-made version of their favourites from the usual selection, plus some weird ones of mine tacked on. You can’t beat dear old Dean Martin’s ‘Let It Snow’ and Nat King Cole’s ‘Frosty’ and Chris de Burgh’s ‘A Spaceman Came Travelling’ (and yeah, of course Wizzard and Slade). Madam loves the Medieval Baebes’ version of ‘Gaudete’… but baulked at Christian Forshaw’s ‘Mortal Flesh’. Which I happen to think suited the sky we saw this morning. (Potential front cover? Maybe…)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

pleasures (and a big congratulations!)

Current work: nonfic and Modern Heat
Listening to: Kate Rusby
Reading: Next on TBR

First off, the congratulations. Somehow, Kate Dopey didn't read the RNA longlist properly. And she missed noticing an important name. (Big slap.)

So please go over to my mate Milly Johnson's blog and congratulate her, because she's on the longlist for the RNA Romantic Novel of the Year 2009 with THE BIRDS AND THE BEES (which I thoroughly enjoyed, back in March. I think she needs to stop slacking and write faster so I don't have to wait a year between her books - got that, Milly? *g*)

Pleasures - well, Michelle was talking about guilty pleasures, last week. The little things that make life so wonderful.

Some of mine are quite similar to hers. The only thing is, I don’t actually feel guilty about mine. (So either I'm a hedonist or I'm well adjusted. Or even both.)

Here, in no particular order, are seven of my favourite pleasures.

Romance novels. Not just because I write them. I really, really enjoy reading them. What I look for is a story with a hero I could fall in love with, a heroine I’d like to be friends with, witty dialogue (oh, how I envy Liz Fielding’s deft touch here), a good plot (I like a bit of external conflict to mirror the internal conflict) and that little touch of magic that takes me into a different world for an hour or so. (Sixty minutes for a book? Um. I’m a fast reader. And when I’m under the weather, I’ll go to bed early and then read three or four in an evening. Greedy. But good for the soul.)

Chocolate. I’m going to be specific here. Gianduja – which is a mix of ground hazelnuts and cocoa butter. It’s the stuff I referred to as ‘better than sex’ chocolate in my London City General trilogy. (I sent my editor some, because she didn’t believe me. Immediate convert.) It’s also very rich, so I can’t overindulge. So actually, it’s probably quite good for dieting, despite the fact that it doesn’t have the catechins that you get in dark chocolate (70%). This stuff is good for the soul.

Music. Whether it’s a snatched ten minutes playing the piano or the guitar, or listening to something on the radio or CD – music is one of the great joys of my life. Especially now I can hear it properly: my hearing aid has made a huge difference to my life. I have a very eclectic taste, from classical to jazz to rock to pop. (I’m not admitting to how many CDs I have. Let’s just say that there are 5 full floor-to-ceiling cabinets in my living room, and a few CDs more scattered round.) One of the wonderful things about writing and using a playlist for inspiration is that several of my friends do the same. Take a bow India Grey, Ray-Anne Lutener, Jill Shalvis and Michelle Styles for introducing me to some wonderful music.

Coffee. OK. I know it’s not good for me. But I adore lattes. I don’t overindulge (it’s only on days when I’m in the city or on a research trip and my research team demand payment in chocolate cake in the nearest café, so it averages out at one or two a week) but a good latte is utter pleasure. (Especially when a bacon sandwich accompanies it…)

Baking. It’s something I loved doing with my late mother, and something I love doing with my children. Experimenting. Reading recipes and adapting them. Madam’s godmother bought her a set of cookery cards last year, and my daughter makes wonderful brownies. The scent of vanilla, cinnamon or chocolate in a warm kitchen… now, that’s pleasure. (And yes, of course taste-testing everything when it’s still warm from the oven. Though that probably should be a guilty pleasure.)

Ruins. Actually, in this category you also need to add stately homes, castles and churches (albeit not in a ruined state). I love visiting them. Fossicking. Finding the hidden treasures (especially stained glass windows and brasses). I get to call this ‘research’ and ‘work’ (which it is, for my nonfic), but it’s truly a pleasure. Especially when my entire research team comes with me and we make it a family trip.

The sea. I live about forty minutes away from one of the nicest stretches of coast – north Norfolk. If I’m feeling out of sorts, the best thing I can do is go to the sea and walk along the beach, with the wind whipping through my hair (winter is my favourite for this) and the sea swishing beside me. And one of my greatest pleasures is walking on the beach, hand in hand with the love of my life, watching our children racing along the sand in front of us. (OK, so I’m mushy. I’m a romance author. I believe in living the dream – in looking for the good things in life rather than dwelling on the bad. Not a head-in-the-sand approach: just not letting the bad stuff weigh me down.)

This is a meme of sorts, but as it's a busy time of year I'm not going to pick on anyone. But enquiring (all right, nosey) minds would like to know: what are your simple (or guilty) pleasures? Tell me here, or put a link to your blog so I can come and be nosey!

Plan for today: writing, and making tea for the builders. (Still not going to be straight before Christmas. But we're on the way.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

does romance ruin your love life?

Current work: nonfic and Modern Heat
Listening to: Take That
Reading: Next on TBR

Had an interesting call yesterday from BBC Radio Norfolk – would I talk on the breakfast show about the new research showing that romance ruins your love life?

So I duly went and found said research, to make sure I knew what I was talking about. Actually, the study from Heriot-Watt covers films, TV and magazines as well as books, and the sample appears to be college students. (At 18, we all have unrealistic expectations – which is absolutely right at that age. Go for the dream.) The finding is that romance as it’s portrayed in the media gives people unrealistic expectations.

I had a lovely time chatting to Stephen Bumfrey on BBC Radio Norfolk’s breakfast show this morning (in the five minutes before my school run started!). As a romance author, what do I think of these findings?

My take: apart from the fact that those findings fit that particular group and you cannot say that it applies to people in a different age group or from a different background (because your sample doesn't contain anyone from the wider group and therefore doesn't represent them or their views), it’s pretty insulting to my readers, who DO know the difference between fantasy and reality.

People read my books for entertainment. They know that what they’re going to get from a Kate Hardy novel is a warm, realistic romance that will take them into another world for as long as they choose (whether it’s a snatched ten minutes at lunchtime or an hour’s read before bed – and there’s other research from a larger, broader sample showing that over 90% of keen readers will read in bed). My book will give them a hero they can fall in love with, a heroine they can identify with, and a happy ending. Something that’s possibly (probably) going to make them bawl their eyes out at one point (and actually that might be a good excuse to let out some tension), but in the end the characters will get their happy ending.

My characters have to work for their happy endings (just as you would in real life). They have to communicate and compromise and change (just as you do in real life). I won the RNA Romance Prize earlier this year, and I only twigged that the winning book might be mine when Trisha Ashley described it as ‘warm and realistic with a believable happy ending’ – because that’s how my agent and my editors describe my work. On the eHarlequin review section, the words that leap out at me from what my readers say are phrases such as ‘it really could happen’… ‘the most realistic discussion of trust I’ve ever read in a romance novel’ (and I’m so pleased that my readers are clearly enjoying what they read). So I'd say my work is realistic.

In a romance novel, the whole thing is about the relationship. Two people meet (character), there are reasons why they don’t get together (conflict), and at the end they overcome the obstacles (resolution). To reach that resolution, they have to communicate, compromise and change – just like real life. Unrealistic? I don’t think so. To make any relationship successful (whether it’s romantic or family or friends or business), you need to communicate and compromise. Otherwise it’s unequal and one person in the relationship is going to feel resentful, and it will damage the relationship.

Then there’s this idea about falling in love immediately. Now, I have 50,000 words or thereabouts to tell my story. My books cover a period of weeks or months (and I might sneak in an epilogue a year later). If I described every event in the relationship in minute detail, as if it happened in real life, I would run out of space – and it would also bore my readers stupid. The point of my books is to entertain. It’s drama. Conversations in books aren’t like real-life conversations: their purpose is to move the plot forward or shed light on characters. In real life, it takes time for people to fall in love. It’s exactly the same for my books: I just don’t show you every minute in between.

But the thing that will always stick in my mind is what a reader said to me a couple of years back: when she’s having a bad day, she reads one of my books and comes out the other side remembering that the world is a good place after all. To be able to put sunshine into someone’s life like that is a real privilege. And I know exactly where she’s coming from; when real life gets difficult for me, I head for my Liz Fielding shelf. Those few minutes to myself, lost in another world, are what help me cope. Romantic fiction doesn’t give me unrealistic expectations at all. It’s entertainment, it’s enjoyable, and it puts a smile on my face. Which, to my way of thinking, is a Very Good Thing.

Monday, December 15, 2008

for procrastinators

Current work: nonfic and Modern Heat
Listening to: Take That
Reading: Sara Craven, The Santangelis Marriage (enjoyed this one - and the evil grandmother is a stunner of a secondary!)

Fabulous tool here, nicked from the wonderful Kate Harrison, especially for procrastinators. (Like me, at the moment. Won’t work for my nonfic as I need to stop every so often and do a bit of research. But it’s very good for kickstarting fiction.)

As my soundcard isn’t working at the moment (which is probably good because it stops me going onto YouTube to look up stuff – ha, should’ve added that to my article on time management for the RNA magazine, Romance Matters), I can’t hear the evil sound. But it’s still a good tool. (Note to my friend and utter speed merchant Nicola Marsh – Nic, you DO NOT need this. You already write six million words a day.)

As for the weekend: had a fab time. Great dinner out (and I got the expected tearful call at 9.30, bless); spent Saturday writing Christmas cards (I’m horribly late) and wrapping the remainder of pressies; and Sunday was just wonderful, early Christmas with my favourite uncle and aunt (roast beef and trimmings, crackers, and much laughter and game playing) and then Dad and my stepmum coming round for tea (hot buttered crumpets).

Plan for today: probably builders. Definitely a trip to the post office. Book my train ticket for London. Change my heroine’s name (which is why the book doesn’t work – her name is a problem and I think her appearance, too). Get cracking…

Oh yes – and the longlist for the RNA award has been announced – go here to find out more. (I’m cheering on Judith Lennox. I enjoyed ‘After the Storm’ very much, and she’s an autobuy author for me.)

Friday, December 12, 2008

visitors and Christmas parties

Current work: nonfic and Modern Heat
Listening to: Take That
Reading: Next on TBR

We’ve had some different visitors to the bird table this week. A collared dove on Wednesday; and also a clever little fellow who’s probably going to spend ages working out a plan to climb the pole and scoff the peanuts!


Tonight, we're out for a Christmas meal with DH’s best friend and his wife at a certain fabulous foodie pub near here. Their daughter is babysitting, so we have lots of chocolates and babysitter munchies. Because it’s the weekend, we’re relaxing bedtime tonight (to save the kids driving their poor babysitter mad). I foresee the three of them having a lot of fun with the Wii, then watching a film (probably cuddled up with the dog). And about half-past nine there will be a phone call: ‘I want my mummy.’ Bless. So that’ll be a bedtime story. (Considering that she’s very much a daddy’s girl, this always surprises me: but whenever she’s tired and out of sorts, only mummy will do.)

Plans for the weekend: early Christmas with my bestest uncle and aunt on Sunday, and Dad and my stepmum are coming over. Other than that... I have school holidays and deadlines looming, so you can guess what I'm doing.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Harlequin's open house (and some anti-crow material)

Current work: nonfic and Modern Heat
Listening to: Take That
Reading: Next on TBR

There’s something today guaranteed to put a smile on my face: Harlequin’s open house! So do go over and visit. (There are lots of authors around, and lots of giveaways…)

The Presents party is here; Medicals is here; Romance is here; Historicals is here. Do come and say hello.

And the anti-crow material?

I’m not usually a jewellery fiend, but there’s something about the Pandora range that really appeals to me. And my bracelet is looking very nice indeed, since I decided that I’m going to buy each bead as I work on the book instead of waitng until I’ve finished. (In my defence, I had an advance cheque… and I didn’t have a responsible adult with me… and… Well, DH has given up nagging. Will not be buying another one until February)

Next time I have an attack of the crows, this is what I’ll see.



Reading from right to left (the order in which they went on to the bracelet):

  • The bracelet itself and the two heart charms: for winning the RNA Romance Prize 2008
  • One charm which looks like an iris (yes, I know it’s really a poinsettia – am stretching it slightly) - this is for a reason I cannot divulge yet, but it’s a definite crow-scarer
  • One pretty Murano glass charm (simply because I happen to like this one and apparently it’s not easy to find - this was a carpe diem moment)
  • One 'roses' charm with gold accents: to celebrate my book Hotly Bedded, Conveniently Wedded being the first Presents enriched e-book (roses = romance, and the gold = enriched)
  • One spacer charm covered in kisses (because you need something between the larger beads to make them look nice – and kisses are appropriate for a romance author)
  • One shell with a starfish: to celebrate my Penhally book (aka my 27th Medical Romance/37th M&B; the working title is The Heart Surgeon’s Proposal – and, as the Penhally series is set in a Cornish fishing village, I thought this bead was appropriate)
  • One spacer charm covered in roses (see note above re spacer with kisses)
  • One charm that reminds me of a child’s drawing of a sun: to celebrate my Norway book (aka the one I’m working on now: my 11th Modern Heat/38th M&B – this bead makes me think of the midnight sun. And that's a cubic zircona, not a diamond)

OK. So I'm a bad puppy... but it works. And it's better for me than chocolate, right?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Jupiter and Venus

Current work: nonfic and Modern Heat
Listening to: Sibelius
Reading: Next on TBR

Son has been burbling about Jupiter and Venus getting closer (two degrees apart on 1 December – that’s actually 500 million miles in real space terms) and making a wonderful conjunction with the moon so the three of them looked like a smiley face. Wonder what kind of predictions the old soothsayers would’ve made on seeing this?

Son says he saw the smiley face, but didn’t tell me because I was working. (Er, this is actually a very good reason to interrupt me - as opposed to ‘she’s looking at me’ and sibling squabbling. Cue one grumpy mum.) Although I didn’t see the smiley face, I did see the two planets fairly close together later in the week and looking very bright. However, my pic was handheld and a too-short exposure, so it was too blurry. (Have temporarily mislaid my tripod – not sure whether son has borrowed it or whether it’s on the area formerly known as my desk and currently known as the bearpit.)

There is an interesting theory that the Star of Bethlehem was actually a conjunction of Jupiter and Venus, with the two planets right next to each other. (In terms of the naked eye, that is.) The next conjunction is 11 May 2011 (morning) and then March 2012 (evening). And the next partial solar eclipse (with more than 50% of the sun obscured) visible in the UK is on 4 Jan 2011 (starts at sunrise, max eclipse 08:11) or 20 March 2015 (max eclipse at 09:00).

Kate Nerdy in ramble mode? Er, no. I found a fabulous link. If anyone is doing background research into solar eclipses, there’s a fabulous tool here at NASA showing eclipse data from 1500 BC to AD 3000 (i.e. if you know the city and you know which year you want to look up, you can find out when the eclipse was/is predicted to be visible).

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

spilling a secret

Current work: nonfic and Modern Heat
Listening to: Rachmaninov, Piano Concerto #3 (one of my favourite bits of music - lovely to catch it on the radio)
Reading: Julia Williams, Strictly Love (enjoying this – very ‘now’)

Finally I can talk about my news! (At least, I can talk about Secret #1. Secret #2 is under wraps for a bit longer.)

The full story is over here at the Pink Heart Society.

But I’m absolutely thrilled and excited, because Harlequin chose my book Hotly Bedded, Conveniently Wedded as an enriched e-book. Their very first one was my friend Nicola Cornick’s ‘Unmasked’; and the first series book they’re doing is a Presents… mine.

It’s such an honour. And I’m a bit overexcited about it.

Working on the enrichment with Amy from Harlequin’s digital team was great fun. They’re using the ‘behind the book’ bit from my website, and the recipe (nearly all my books have a recipe, as visitors to my website will know). There are extra photographs, all taken by me – some of Bloomsbury (the area in London where the book is set), some of the Roman section of the British Museum, and one of the gorgeous atrium within the British Museum (one of my ‘arty’ pics, which I hope will show readers exactly why I love the place so much – Kate Nerdy off on her architecture thing again). There are also 130 hyperlinks in the text, giving more information behind bits in the book. I suggested a few, plus gave extra information from my research.

I haven’t had my copy to play with yet, but I can’t wait to see it!

It’s available from eHarlequin this month (they release things a bit early for those of us who just can’t wait), and through the normal ebook stores on its official release date next month.

The auction for Jo Leigh is still continuing – so do go and bid! (17 hours left on my books, at the time of writing this, but there are lots of other goodies remaining)

And do remember to go and visit eharlequin on Thursday – it’s the annual Open House, so lots of authors will be around, and there are goodies to be won. (I will be reminding you on the day!)

Yesterday was mianly a good day. Had another postcard from school praising son’s hard work (their reward scheme is really well thought out); feel happier after putting the wreath and freesias on my mum's grave; had a successful final Christmas shop; received a lovely email from my ed that's made me feel veyr chirpy... so that was all great.

BUT then I had a scary call from my credit card provider's fraud dept. My account is safe, but they've put a stop on the card and are replacing it. (Apparently there are thousands of other cardholders affected, so I haven't done anything rash.) But that call really unnerved me. And then I thought... was it a phisher being clever? (Unlikely, as my phone number is ex-directory, but I checked anyway and it was genuine.) Bit inconvenient, having to wait for 10 days at this time of year - not to mention having another PIN number to remember - but it could have been much worse. Would be nice if phishers would develop a social conscience...

Today: the plasterer has been and gone; my guitar lesson has moved to tomorrow; and I am going to play with my new book. Speaking of which... I'm gone!

Monday, December 08, 2008

glitzy, researchy, Christmassy weekend

Current work: nonfic and Modern Heat
Listening to: Badfinger (Sweet Tuesday Morning – this is definitely going on a playlist. DH is stunned because I usually moan when he plays Badfinger, but this isn’t one of the dirgy ones and there’s a really lovely bit of guitar. Now, how to get him to hand over said CD…)
Reading: Fiona Harper: Christmas Wishes, Mistletoe Kisses (I really do love her style – and this I think is her best one yet. Couple of things in it that really struck a chord with me)

We were nearly late for school on Friday, because we were busy watching the visitors to our bird-feeding station. The kids absolutely loved identifying the birds (son has clearly been doing some reading up, as he told me about the colour differences between male and female blackbirds). We saw a woodpigeon, blackbirds, a robin, and there was a blue-tit enjoying the peanuts. (This is with 10x zoom lens through glass and the pic is highly cropped. I will get better at bird pics.)

There was also a magpie perched in the trees at the bottom of the garden.
But no further sign of my mysterious yellow-and-red bird. Honestly, I didn’t imagine it…

The kids are really excited about this and have asked me for a proper bird guide. They know I never, ever say no to buying them a book – so I’ve sorted that… and a family membership of the RSPB. Until our book arrives, I’m playing with the RSPB bird identifier (thanks, Diane, for the link). Although we live in an urban area, about four miles from the city centre, our garden backs onto fields, woodland and a lake; and, because Norfolk is a real birdwatcher’s paradise (it’s the top county for bird-watching, according to the RSPB), we may end up with some interesting visitors.

The library session at Poringland on Friday evening was great fun. I was a bit shocked when they had to bring in extra chairs. I was expecting maybe a dozen people – not nearer 50! But I enjoyed it, particularly the questions at the end. (And the hat belonging to a member of the Sluice Women book group – red, trimmed with ostrich feathers and purple flowers… I feel that’s going to make an appearance in a book somewhere.) And I was so chuffed when people came up to me in the mingling sessions and said they’d enjoyed my books. Writing’s a very solitary pursuit, so it’s good to know that I’m doing what I intend to do: entertaining people (and teaching them things, in the case of my nonfic).

I think I did say something stupid, though: that writing wasn’t my job. Umm. I should’ve clarified that writing is essential for me to be able to breathe. It’s who I am. So it’s more than a job. I have a nasty feeling I also lived up to my ‘scary Kate’ reputation. Look, I’m short and round and make wonderful cookies. How can I be scary? But then I was asked how many books I write a year, and I answered honestly. Three Medical romances, three Modern Heat romances, three local history books. Wordcount? Between them, that’d be about 600,000 words a year. Then there are the words I scrap (because it doesn’t all come out nice and polished). And writing isn’t just about putting words on paper (or, in my case, straight on screen). I need thinking time and planning time and research time, too. My research team got an acknowledgement, as did the wonderful Norfolk Heritage Centre, where I spend quite a lot of time (but not as much as I’d like to).

One of the things I love most about doing library talks is that I always end up talking with someone interesting, and/or learning something new, and/or getting seeds for the future. One especially pertinent one was from the lovely lady who told me that there would be reindeer outside John Lewis in Norwich on Saturday morning. Considering I’m about to start my reindeer book… (Whoops, wash my mouth out – dear ed, do you really think I would be so evil as to sneak in some reindeer after you nixed the reindeer farm?) (That was a rhetorical question. Ahem.) (And she did say I could have one…)

Anyway. This reindeer is 6½ months old and very cute.

And this one is 4½ years old.


On Sunday, we had ‘early Christmas’ with my sister – she lives 100 miles from me, so we don’t get the chance to see each other at Christmas. Pressies are kept for the day itself, but I cook a traditional Christmas lunch (well, almost traditional – not Christmas pudding), and we have crackers and tinsel and it’s all good fun. My stepmum made a gorgeous apple pie, and Dad was in a good frame of mind, so it was a really lovely day. Madam played guitar for us and sang the carols she's singing in church (school choir carol service); son stunned everyone with how tall he is, and I think he's a definite teenager in training!
I have another ‘early Christmas’ lined up next week with my bestest uncle and aunt, who also live near London; and one the weekend after with my best local friend (her family lives up North, so they tend to be away over Christmas).

Plan for today: am going to put a Christmas wreath on my mum’s grave. Then I’m going to pick up something from Santa for the kids; and then I’m going to come home and start my new book.

I love the beginning of a book, because there are so many possibilities – and this is despite the fact that I’m an über-planner and I know exactly where the book is going before I start.

Oh, yes – and I’m spilling the beans re secret #1 tomorrow…

Friday, December 05, 2008

the glitzy life of an author

Current work: Medical, polishing (still - because I loafed, yesterday: bad me)
Listening to: Take That (great to drive and sing to – catchy, poppy and fun; plus one of the tracks is going to work on a Black Moment playlist)
Reading: next on TBR pile

Madam and I had fun in town yesterday, despite the queues. The Christmas shopping is done (including the stocking and special chocolate Santas for the dog – yes, Santas made from special doggy chocolate do exist).

Now all I have to do is wrap the stuff.

At the moment, everyone (including the dog) is banned from my office until wrapping is done. (Though I know they’ve been peeking. They take after me. Can't wait for a surprise.) DH and the kids have trimmed the tree, and it all feels nicely festive round here. As I’m just about to start my new book – set in winter, in Norway – it’s the perfect background.

This evening, the new library at Poringland has its official opening and it’s one of the National Year of Reading events. Authors attending include Sue Welfare, Sharon Griffith (local journo who writes a column I really enjoy in the EDP), and a certain Kate Hardy. (Actually, I’m going as both parts of me, as my talk is ‘A double writing life: romance and local history’.) Which means lots of make-up to hide the dark shadows under my eyes, and hope the light isn’t too bright!

Am still quite surprised at (and flattered by) the news that my blog is listed in Writing Magazine as a resource for writers. (Thanks, Nicolette, for letting me know – and also thanks to those of you who’ve emailed me.) I don’t tend to do that many craft posts. Maybe I should do more. If there’s a topic anyone wants me to cover, do tell me in the comments (or email me if you’re shy).

Still, I guess if you want to know what an author’s life is like, this blog gives a flavour.

And today (when I’ve finished the book, which has first priority), I’d better update my website, which is horrendously out of date. (Dear Santa. Please may I have a time machine for Christmas?)

Oh, yes – and those two secrets I’ve been teasing you about… One will be revealed on Tuesday over at the Pink Heart Society. I’m immensely excited about it (about both, actually, but I'm not allowed to talk about the other one yet).

Maybe I need a Pandora bead to celebrate. (Have bought one for Secret #2.)

I was going to buy the Northern Light bead yesterday, to inspire the new book, but sadly it wasn’t as nice in reality as it was on the website. Far from having turquoise waves on a black background, it had kind of twisted Vs in fawn, with the tiniest bit of turquoise. Very disappointing. So I’m sticking with Pandora, as I like the designs more.

Nice post yesterday: Greek copies of Breakfast at Giovanni’s (aka In Bed With Her Italian Boss - it’s out as a Desire). And M&B has sent its authors a book I was planning to buy – “The Art of Romance”, which is M&B’s cover art since 1919. Fabulous stuff. I do like the 1920s covers. Some of the old titles are gorgeous. “Where No Stars Shine” by Ivy Ferrari – really evocative. (Nowadays, there’s a 3-second buying decision, so that’s why we have “buzzword” or “hook” titles – it’s a kind of code for the reader.)

And I was so chuffed that the cover of the book that started my own journey into M&B is included: The Devil at Archangel by Sara Craven. This was the book that made me realise I wanted to write M&Bs. I was 13 at the time – I read it in 1979, the year after it came out. (And Sara's books are still wonderful. I tend to buy by author rather than line, and she’s still one of my autobuys. And the fact that the author who started this whole thing for me happens to be a friend of mine, now... Just pinch me. Sometimes this glitzy writing life is unbelievable.)

None of my covers are included in the book, but it’s still thrilling to see the names of people I know personally in there. Besides, I’m not a Really Big Name – I might be writing my 37th book for M&B right now, and I might be this year’s RNA Romance Prize winner, but my first M&B only came out in November 2002 – there’s still a long way for me to go! If one of mine had been included, I would have liked it to be The Cinderella Project – still one of my favourite covers – or The Spanish Doctor’s Love Child (that baby is soooo cute). Or...

Dear, lovely editor, please can I have Antonio Banderas as my cover model?

(You can hear her laughing, can’t you? One of these days…)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

girly

Current work: Medical, polishing (still)
Listening to: Take That (well, I will be after we’ve been shopping)
Reading: next on TBR pile

Madam has an inset day today, so we’re going to finish off the Christmas shopping. We’re going to have a really girly day, including having lunch out. And we had a girly band session last night – both of us on guitars, singing. (Free, the Beatles, some old hippy classic stuff.) Utterly cool. (Son was busy painting his models, DH was looking up stuff about Ritchie Blackmore on the Internet… so Madam and I seized the moment.)

There’s a reason that I’m so pleased about this. It’s the same kind of relationship I had with my mum. And I’m so glad I can do the same kind of thing with my daughter that I used to do with my mum. This is the month of the year when her loss hits me hardest – 22 years, this month, and I still miss her. Though my children really help. Son, because I can see my mum in his face (though he’s walking a VERY fine line right at the moment, as he’s had a growth spurt and claims he is the same height as I am – and he’s being a tad cheeky about it); and daughter, because it’s just lovely to do girly stuff again.

Thanks to everyone who responded here or emailed me about the bird. We have a bird-feeding station now (was a bit naughty in the garden centre on the way home yesterday) and we’re hoping that the goodies we put out will tempt the bird back again…

And PS - the auction for Jo Leigh is still ongoing - see here.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

name that bird?

Current work: Medical, polishing
Listening to: Corelli
Reading: Carol Marinelli, One Magical Christmas (the heroine is fabulous - reminds me a bit of Carol herself, who's warm and kind and bubbly and enormous fun)

Busy polishing book yesterday… and waiting in for plumbers. Am pleased that now we have a working sink in the utility room, plus the dehumidifiers are gone. Next: plasterers in. (Awaiting date.)

The roads were atrociously icy this morning, but the sky was very pretty – big pink fluffy clouds, streaked with grey, which Madam decreed looked like a polar bear breathing fire.

Got home – and we had a visitor in the garden. It was a bird, about the size of a blackbird, except it was bright yellow (canary yellow) and had a ruby-red forehead. I’ve Googled without success. Anyone have any idea what I saw? I was going to take a photograph, but just as I tiptoed back into the kitchen, he flew off...

Going to brave the icy roads in a minute and see Dad. And then back to the book.

Monday, December 01, 2008

A season for giving

Current work: Medical, polishing
Listening to: Joni Mitchell, Blue (superb album - one of my favourites)
Reading: Kelly Hunter, Playboy Boss, Live-in Mistress (excellent read and great secondaries)

It's coming up for Christmas - the season for giving.

Jo Leigh, a fellow Harlequin author, lost her husband to cancer back in June. Not only did she lose the love of her life but, because she’s in the US and is self-employed, she has huge medical bills to deal with on top of it. So the romance writing community is rallying round to help with a grand auction.

This is particularly poignant for me because, only 10 days ago, I was having fairly major worries about being in a similar position myself in a few months’ time. Luckily, DH had the all-clear, but there but for the grace of God. (And he’s not better yet, though he’s insisting on going back to work. Sigh. Men.)

Anyway, if you’re interested in getting a book bundle or a critique (agent/editor/author) or mentoring or additional items, please click on the button below to see what’s up for grabs:


I’m offering a bundle of five signed copies - One Night, One Baby; The Doctor's Royal Love Child; Hotly Bedded, Conveniently Wedded; The Greek Doctor's New-Year Baby; and The Spanish Doctor's Love Child. (Go here if you want to bid for the bundle.)

So if you want to do something to help Jo (and also help yourself by getting a critique or mentoring or some good reads – or even buy someone else a Christmas present), please go and join the bidding.

Thanks.

And thank you also to readers who put me at #3 yesterday on the e-Harlequin top 10 bestsellers with Hotly Bedded, Conveniently Wedded. Really made my evening. Especially as, at that point, the book was pre-order only!

Am polishing the last half of the Med at the moment. Have been watching ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ (very pleased that Tom got through – yep, that’s my vote for the final) for inspiration. Am still mulling over the wedding ‘first dance’ song. I need a proper waltz (i.e. something in 3/4 time – annoyingly, all the songs I’ve picked or looked through in my piano books are 4/4 – and rats, that includes Take That’s ‘Rule The World’, which is just fabulous – will earmark that for another one). Not ‘Moon River’, as I’ve used it before; and not ‘Time in a Bottle’ (ditto). I was thinking maybe my own wedding song, Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Need Your Love So Bad’ (hey, would you guess DH is a blues fan?). But I’m open to suggestions...

Friday, November 28, 2008

unravelling clues

Current work: Medical, chapter 12/13 (dirty draft - though I am at the stage where I'm tinkering with earlier chapters)
Listening to: Bach
Reading: started Kelly Hunter's new one yesterday and it's a real treat

Dad set me a task yesterday. “I’m looking for this record.” (Um. You don’t have a record player, I am on deadline, and I have floor people due round at any second… but obviously I don’t say that. I’m nice. I make the expected “interested” noises.) “You can find it for me on the internet, can’t you?” (Possibly, but I need to know some details to help me find it.) “Well, the singer’s Paul Carpenter.” (Google it while am on phone to him. Person who comes up has the phrase “feat.” in the credits – hmm, don’t think Dad is quite into rap. How about the song title, Dad?) “So do I.” (Google it. Three potentials – none of whom are Carpenter. Pull up the lyrics and read them out. Do they sound familiar?) “No. There’s a bit about a wise old owl scheming. And dreaming. And something about the stars.” (Righty. Google selected phrases. Nope, nuffink. OK, so Paul Carpenter is the singer – the record’s probably released under the band name rather than his. What was the band called?) “I can’t remember. But it’ll be on a ’78. It was released in 1953. He died quite young.” (OK, you’ll have to leave this one with me because I’m going to need a couple of hours on it – be warned, I don’t think I’m going to be able to find it.)

Now, I am on a screaming deadline. I should NOT be anywhere near the internet. I should be WORKING. But, as I said, I’m nice. So I do some digging before the floor guy turns up. (No pun intended. I do have a solid floor again. It just needs to, um, dry.) There’s a feature on IMDB: Paul Carpenter was an actor in the 50s. Hmm. Right era; if he did musicals, he might be our man. Check it out. “Discussion” beneath the feature says he was a crooner. Aha. Getting somewhere. It also says he sang with the Ted Heath Band. Aha. Now I have my band name. Do some more Googling. Turns out the song title was “So would I” – OK, he wasn’t far out, but when you’re trying to look up something on the net that includes incredibly common words, it’s a tad crucial to have three consecutive words correct :o)

The CD was available on Amazon, so I bought it for him. And maybe he is right. Maybe I am a genius… (Wry smile – no, not really. My IQ’s only about 140. Besides, there’s more than one sort of intelligence, and they’re not all quantifiable.) He does however know that I love researching stuff and solving puzzles. His timing’s a bit off, though: a week of disruption plus a screaming deadline is not the best time for me to do this sort of thing. (Dear ed. Sorry. Book will be in on Monday.)

And now I have a dilemma. Do I:
(a) give him the CD for Christmas as a surprise extra pressie (bearing in mind we all agreed a limit to Christmas pressies in our family this year so it’s back to the proper spirit of Christmas, and even if I tell a couple more fibs he’ll know I broke the limit and he’ll be upset);
(b) give him the CD next time I see him (assuming it arrives by then), because I normally take him a little something when I visit (though next time was meant to be the children’s school photos in a nice frame); or
(c) post it to him so he gets it between visits and it’s a nice surprise? (I can type him a letter in 18-point Arial so it’s easy for him to read and he'll know who sent it – he loathes having to decipher my handwriting. Though at least nowadays he doesn’t moan about it.)

I’m inclining towards (c), because I used to love it when my mum sent me unexpected parcels at uni. One went hilariously wrong, tough – I was in self-catering accommodation and Joyce, our cleaner, used to prop the post on the radiator. Which was fine - unless it was winter, and said post contained a large bar of chocolate. Let’s just say the entrance landing smelled lovely, that day. Like Norwich city centre used to smell on days when the wind was in the right direction (our late, much missed, chocolate factory – now redeveloped as Chapelfield).

Thursday, November 27, 2008

love and marriage

Current work: Medical, chapter 12/13 (dirty draft - though I am at the stage where I'm tinkering with earlier chapters)
Listening to: Bach
Reading: next on TBR pile

Am screamingly busy (deadline) so today am going to give you a link instead.

There’s a really lovely story here from my local paper about a marriage proposal – absolutely romance hero material. The amount of planning that must have gone into it… I reckon she’s got a definite keeper, there.

Good news on the house front: we have a solid floor in the utility room again. It just has to dry. *hollow cough at THAT word* And I have to chase up exactly when the carpenters are coming back to put my stuff in. Can’t use the washing machine for the next day or so, which means I will have to do about six loads at the weekend. But the floor man is coming to measure up and talk to us about the flooring, so we have progress...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Whirr, slurp, swoosh…

Inside my house, with the ex-wet floor removed:


Outside my house - or, to be more specific, outside my office window:



Three guesses what’s happening here today…

So I’m off to Cornwall. (In my head, that is. Book is also set in the summer. It’s grey and miserable, here. I’m writing sunshine. Ha.)

I’ve already been to America this morning (written my Dear Reader letter for the US release of Surrender to the Playboy Sheikh, to celebrate Harlequin’s 60th birthday – is also a milestone for me as it’s my 35th Harlequin Mills & Boon!).

And there is glass half full stuff. I had a lovely, lovely email from a reader yesterday saying that she enjoyed The Greek Doctor’s New Year Baby. (Moments like these are ones to treasure.)

And, while I remember – here’s a reminder to save the day! December 11 is Open House at eHarlequin, and covers all time zones. Over 100 authors are taking part, and there are prizes galore! I’ll post the link and reminders nearer the time.

And finally - almost forgot, sorry, because am in the UK (and I should know better because my neighbour's from the US) - happy Thanksgiving to everyone arriving here from the US. Have a great day with lots of happiness.

Counting my own blessings: this time last week, I was worried sick about DH. He's still under par, but at least it's neither of the two things we were panicking about. So, in the scheme of things, a bit of dust and disruption [this is English understatement] doesn't matter.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

following the dust

Current work: Medical, chapter 10/11 (dirty draft)
Listening to: Corelli (soothing stuff needed)
Reading: next on TBR pile

Everything here is chaos. Conservatory: full of cabinets from utility room. Dining room: full of stuff from half of said cabinets, plus stools from kitchen breakfast bar. Kitchen: full of stuff from other half of utility cabinets. Breakfast bar: taken up by beer fridge, and dehumidifiers underneath. Kitchen bin: buried somewhere, so have temporary bin (aka recyclable carrier bag) on worktop next to sink.

And over everything is a fine layer of dust. You can clean it up with a damp cloth and, ten minutes later, it’s back just as thickly. So there’s no point in doing it, and even less point in getting stressed about it. Though I have to say it’s a tad beyond my mess tolerance limit (which is pretty broad to start with). The smell is horrible – it’s back to living in a building site. I’ve had to cancel plans for the weekend (‘early Christmas’ with the godmothers) because I cannot ask people (even if they are my closest friends) to stay in this mess, and I don’t want to cook a proper Christmas dinner (turkey and trimmings) in a kitchen that reeks of wet concrete/screed/plaster and has dust settling everywhere.

Amazingly, I’m still working. It might only be one chapter on from yesterday… but I tinkered with some earlier ones as well. And I hit the wordcount I need to be on track for finishing the book this week.

OK. Distraction time. Very interesting news here at NASA about a discovery through the Hubble telescope: a planet orbiting another star. (They’re 25 light years away, mind. 147,000,000,000,000 miles.) I particularly like the quote about “following the dust” – yeah, that’s what writing a book is like, for me. Something small that leads you to something bigger.

At the moment, I keep coming across references to glass. I’ve used fulgurites before (in One Night, One Baby); and my plan for the current contract’s books involved a storyline around glass. Murano glass, maybe. (This is possibly an excuse to write a Venetian book and therefore buy a glass bead for my Pandora bracelet – but note the original idea came to me about a year before I discovered Pandora.) Or dichroic glass, which was in my original notes for the storyline. And my mate Michelle Styles has recently fascinated me with this Claude glass business (see her recent book, An Impulsive Debutante, for more details). I’m also researching stained glass – this is for a commissioned nonfic book, but I have the distinct feeling that I’m going to be writing a novel involving glass in a couple of months’ time, because this seems to be the pattern right now.

Um. This seems to be turning into a craft post. So let me state here, yes, I know that this is not how a romance writer is supposed to work. A romance is about the hero, the heroine and their journey together. The characters always, but always, have to come first.

But this is my take on how it works for me. It’s the little things (aka following the dust) that lead me to the characters. My imagination clearly works in an oblique fashion, because I don’t always start with the characters. It’s more likely that something else leads me to them – usually something involving science or history. It might be the fact that I’m fascinated by clouds (One Night, One Baby); or the fact that my dream house came up for sale and was way beyond my means (Sold to the Highest Bidder!); or the fact I was organising a firework display and wanted to know how glow-sticks work (Seeing Stars); or it might be something I uncover during my research for my nonfiction books. (We’re back to glass, again…)

The lightbulb (also glass?) goes on. And then the characters come in and say, ‘Hey, that’s my story.’ When I wake up with the first (or last) scene in my head, I know I’m ready to work on the book.

I know this goes against what all the craft books say: I’m supposed to start with the character and the conflict and ignore everything else. I’ve told my head this, but it’s too busy following the dust – so I’ve learned to stop worrying about the way I’m supposed to work, and to work in the way that’s comfortable for me. (If anyone else out there finds craft books paralyse them: you’re really not alone. They give me a bad case of Impostor Syndrome. Should I be reading them to raise my game? Should I be worrying? Um… The lowest grade I’ve ever had in an exam is the one for which I worked hardest. So I think it’s maybe better to stop worrying and trust my instincts.)

Given that my next book is the Norway book (my lovely, lovely ed has OK’d the revised outline) and the one after that is a Med, this means that this glass business is two books away. Which gives it time to bubble nicely in the back of my mind – and also gives me time to persuade the kids that we need to go and see a glass-blowing display in the next school holidays. They won’t need much persuasion, provided the place I have in mind is near a café that sells chocolate cake – the younger members of my research crew are very predictable.

Glass. Tougher than it looks. (I think that’s my heroine.)

Wonder what my head’s going to find in the huge amount of dust in the building site formerly known as my house?

Monday, November 24, 2008

The north wind doth blow

Current work: Medical (dirty draft chapter 9)
Listening to: Bach
Reading: next on TBR pile

The east coast was promised snow, this weekend.
It duly arrived, and on Saturday morning the kids came up with a new twist on the ‘are we there, yet?’ torture. Standing by the front door, with wellies and gloves and scarves, coats ready to be put on and done up in two seconds flat: ‘Can we go out, yet?’

There wasn’t enough to make a snowman on Saturday, so Madam had to content herself with taking the snow off DH’s car (and then lobbing it at her brother, of course). Did tons of work on Saturday (had all been stuck in my head last week, behind the worry), then did some well-refilling by watching an excellent drama, Einstein and Eddington – beautifully acted by Andy Serkis and David Tennant in the title roles (and the rest of the cast were super, too). The bit where William went off to war was absolutely heartbreaking: the understatement there was superb, so all credit to the writers. (We knew what they both wanted to say, without them having to say it.) And the bit where the Germans were hounded out… Desperately sad, the more so because that kind of thing happened in real life. Have to admit to a quiet cheer when Eddington did the right thing and stood up for them against the bullies: and the quiet way he faced the people who called him a coward. Einstein was his polar opposite in many ways, but he also stood up for what was right. Quiet cheer for him, too, standing up against the industrialists. (And I loved the answer: “Thank you for the money. Goodbye.”)

The science behind the drama fascinated me, too – set a couple of lightbulbs going. (Yes, my poor editor. Astronomy, photography, and – although it wasn’t mentioned here – something I saw earlier this year in Derby: an orrery…)

Sunday, woke up to a world of white. (Yup, Kate trying to be arty - this is the snow on the back lawn, seen through the patio chair back. You can see why I liked the design: like Y-tracery in Early English church windows.)
Lovely to look at, lovely to play in. First job was the snowman. (Daughter moaned that son hadn't got the head right, but put his carrot nose in anyway.)
This is DH and the kids with our neighbour’s son; a quarter of an hour later, all the dads and the kids in the street were out and there was a MASSIVE snowball fight going on. (The mums, needless to say, were being sensible – inside with hot drinks. DH didn't stay out that long as I nagged a bit about him needing to be in the warm. But a little bit of fresh air - albeit cold - was good for him.)
Dog was sulking a bit at being stuck inside with me when everyone else was out, but he’s not allowed off the lead in the front garden – last time he trotted out, he spied Fang (our neighbour’s cat) and gave chase. (I should add that Fang lives up to his name, and was safely up a tree a couple of seconds later, doing the feline equivalent of thumbing his nose. Dog returned pronto, shame-faced.)

And the floor saga continues. After almost four months of dehumidifiers, the insurance company agrees that the floor is not going to dry. So this morning the carpenters are in to remove the units from the utility room, and then the floor will come up, and then it will be relaid with super-fast-drying concrete. So, fingers crossed, I might just have my house back to normal before Christmas. Excellent. (But it’s going to be a very disrupted week.)

Working in ‘dirty draft’ (i.e. note form, with dashes instead of proper punctuation and conversation written more like a drama script) is definitely helping this book to flow. Have written more in an hour and a half this morning than I wrote in two days, last week (fear really slows me down). For the first time this year, I’m working at what used to be my normal speed, and it feels wonderful. Might even make my deadline, at this rate...

Friday, November 21, 2008

a big sigh of relief

This week has definitely been a sticky one. Tuesday night, DH saw the GP last thing, and was sent for a chest x-ray first thing on Wednesday morning.

Going to do a PR event that evening and keeping a smile on my face for the public, while inside I was panicking like hell at the thought of something serious being wrong with the love of my life… that was pretty tough. And we’ve also had to be brave for the kids because we didn’t want them worrying as much as we’ve been fretting.

So I’ve cancelled everything this week and spent time with him. (I am sooooo crap at Wii Golf, he gave up trying to teach me. Good distraction technique, though. Same as me accidentally whacking him with the Wii remote… but hey, I beat him at bowling for the first time ever.) We were told the results would take three days. Needless to say, neither of us has been sleeping since Tuesday. He’s been panicking about cancer (not helped by the subplot of the book I’m working on right now – which is a continuity so I can’t wuss out of it) and I’ve been panicking about something even nastier (which I’ve given to patients with his occupation, in at least two books).

This morning, I rang the hospital. Results are with the GP now. OK. Rang GP to ask for callback. He just phoned and everything is clear. (DH is still ill, but hopefully he will listen to me and rest, now. I don’t mind waiting on him hand and foot. Just as long as it’s something we can cope with.)

I think we’re going to be celebrating tonight. Because life is short (and, in this year’s case, pretty nasty – 2008 is vying for being the worst year of my life, which I thought would be impossible after 1986-7) and it’s important to celebrate the good bits.

Thanks to those who’ve been in touch with me privately. It helped.

Oh, and the floor? Still no change. I’ve asked if they’ll consider a different management, i.e. dig it up and relay it. The three different people involved all share my point of view. Now I have to get them to talk to each other and agree it officially. (Am being sexist here, but I do wish that men had the same organisational/multi-tasking skills as women!)

And my deadline…well. I’ll get there, now. (This book is really going to make people cry.)
Anyone who’s waiting for things from me – Monday. Promise.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

in threes

Current work: Medical, chapter 3
Listening to: Bach
Reading: Sarah Morgan: Italian Doctor, Sleigh-bell Bride (fabulous read – warm, witty and the most gorgeous hero – she’s my favourite medical romance author and although I’d intended to save this one for a post-book treat, I needed it last night)

So much for thinking that this year’s crises are over. Can’t blog about it but suffice it to say I’m back on caffeine and I’m probably going to take it out on the book (which has dark themes anyway). The stuff with Dad - well, that's something we have to live with. And the floor. And I’m going to hope and pray very hard that the fear re the third thing remains fear rather than reality.

OK. Glass half full.

  • Really lovely book-signing at Jarrolds on Tuesday night. When people come up and shake my hand and say how much they enjoyed my last book/ask me to sign my latest for their husband/brother/them, it puts a lump in my throat. Anyway, was a good evening.
    Nice interview yesterday about being deaf (should be in January’s edition of Able magazine).
  • Had my first ever email from my son yesterday. (Good. Now I can send emails to remind him to bring his PE kit home…)
  • Son announced that he needed to find bits of Chaucer and Shakespeare for his homework. He was delighted to discover complete works of both on my shelves – and I was amused at his reaction. ‘Mum, you’ve scribbled in these books! That’s really bad!’ No, they’re my working copies. Notes and underlining significant passages. You just have to decipher my abbreviations. Anyway, I quoted him a couple of pieces and he went for Macbeth’s soliloquy (one of my personal faves).
  • Nosed through son’s literacy book and discovered he was doing Gawain. Am so pleased that Middle English (the fun bits that will hook kids) is being taught in Y7. And it was fabulous to have a literary conversation with my eldest. (Youngest was all ears, soaking it up.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

visuals

Current work: Medical, chapter 2 (but I have been messing about with #3 as well)
Listening to: Led Zeppelin II (because it’s autumn and, as the leaves are falling all around, ‘Ramble On’ is just too appropriate to resist)
Reading: Margaret McDonagh, Dr Devereux's Proposal (another of her lovely warm books - very enjoyable)

Really excellent day yesterday – my signed print arrived! Am going to drop David Dane a note saying how lovely the print is, and thanking him for letting me know about the opportunity. Having spoken to him before, I know he’ll adore the coincidence that this has many elements of the picture I had in my head when we had our discussion earlier this year.

It looks gorgeous, both here on the NWT website and here on David’s website. But it looks even better in the flesh. I had to nip into town yesterday after school anyway, to sort out a couple of things, so I took it in to the framer’s and it should be back within a fortnight. It’s the oldest established framing shop in Norwich; he’s framed several Dane originals and I’ve chosen a very simple beech frame to go with the furniture in my office (though the framed print might be too big… in which case it’ll go in the living room, as DH shares my taste in art and was impressed with the print).

The shop also sells prints; didn’t get a chance to browse properly, but there was a picture that really grabbed my attention. Did some browsing at home and I’ve found the artist – Steve Denby. Just go and look at his website. The compositions are stunning. (Note to self: find out how this infra-red business works. Potential lightbulb here.)

Plan for today: skipping guitar as I have a busy week ahead (more stuff with the floor, and Dad's not well at the moment) and a looming deadline. Today is a head-down-writing day, and this evening I’m signing books at Jarrolds. At the moment, am dog tired, but a cup of coffee should kick in, in about 20 minutes. Hopefully.

Monday, November 17, 2008

fossicking (and draw winners)

Current work: Medical, chapter 2
Listening to: Peter Green
Reading: Maggie Kingsley, A Baby For Eve (phenomenal book – great characterisation, very emotional subject and handled with great sensitivity)

First, the important stuff: the book draw. Thanks so much to everyone who replied here or sent me private emails about cats – you’ve given me tons of ideas and it’s really appreciated. (Diane, I’m still grinning about your grandmother’s comment.)

My cat dilemma is now sorted: I’m using Jan’s backstory for my rescue cat (it reflects the heroine’s past rather well). The cat will be a Burmese like Biddy’s (I like the hot water bottle bit) but female (though am borrowing Dylan’s name for the puppy who appears later in the book). And am using a name suggested by Mags (Pandora – whose story will suit the cat, and it’s also the name of certain jewellery I like – yes, Mags, I know I should’ve thought of it myself *g*), And my random name-draw came up with Liz Fenwick.

So Jan, Biddy, Mags and Liz, please email me (kate dot hardy at btinternet dot com) with your snailmail addy, and I will post copies of The Greek Doctor’s New-Year Baby later this week.

Spent the weekend doing bits of the book (i.e. writing out of sequence – have come up with a solution to a problem, and just hope my editor sees it the same way); did most of my Christmas shopping; and also did a bit of location research. Sadly, some of the churches I wanted to visit were locked, and there was no hint of a keyholder (one was particularly galling as it’s to do with DH’s family history research; and another claims on its website that it’s open and stewarded every day. Not on a Sunday afternoon at 3pm, it’s not – so we have to go back another day). But I did get most of the pictures I wanted. And some that were en route. DH hates asking for keys so I can only really do this if I’m out with the kids. I so wanted to see the elephant bench-end at Thurgarton. (Mutter, mutter. But he’s good enough to join my research crew as chauffeur me so I can concentrate on mapreading… so I shouldn’t moan.)

Here’s the village green at Heydon, a village that always feels as if it belongs in a different time. (It's frequently used as a film/TV drama setting.)


The church has some fabulous wall paintings, including one that may be of the Magi as part of a nativity sequence.


It also has the most enormous marble slab, commemorating Erasmus Earle – he was an MP in the Long Parliament, and was responsible for sentencing to death the people involved in Norwich’s ‘Great Blowe’ of 1648. (Hmm. I’m with Norwich on that one, not Earle. Am usually a bit of a fence-sitter on the Civil War, as there were huge wrongs on both sides, but on this case am firmly with the Royalists.)

At Little Barningham, there’s an unusual box pew. The carving on the pew (dated 1640) reads:
For couples joynd in wedlock and my friends that stranger is, this seat did I intend, built at the cost and charge of Steven Crosbee.

All you that doe this place pass by
As you are nowe even so was I
Remember death for you must dye
And as I am so shall you be
Prepare therefore to follow me.

(The verse is pretty common, and there’s another fabulous example in Norwich Cathedral.)

But the really unusual thing is the skeleton on the corner (the spectre at the feast, perhaps?).
Sadly, this is a replacement, as the original carving was stolen in 1995. (It does make me wonder – what kind of scumbag saws off a carving in a church and steals it? And what kind of scumbag gives them money for it? It couldn't have been sold on the open market, so it has to be in a private collection. Wouldn’t it be nice if these people developed a conscience and returned it?)

But, to leave on a nicer note – rosy-tinted glass. All right, ruby glass. I’m pretty sure this is flashed glass as I noted chips of white (in other words, there is a layer of ruby glass blown over the white glass to make it slightly lighter) and I think this is just lovely. It’s from Roughton church (I went there to see the herringbone work on the tower, so this was a bonus).