Thursday, January 31, 2008

win lots of stuff

Current work: website coding, book outlines
Listening to: Corelli
Reading: Sarah Morgan, The Sheikh’s Virgin Princess (I really enjoyed this and it isn’t just because she’s one of my mates – fast pace, good plot, gorgeous hero, and I thoroughly enjoyed the heroine)
Steps yesterday: 14,214 (and apparently I walk fast… so how how HOW is the flab not melting? oh, yeah, the biscuits that made me buy them in M&S yesterday)

Dog is very pleased that I’m home and life is back to normal (ish). He is currently lying on his back in my office, snoring, in a state of doggy bliss. He’s going to be disappointed at lunch, though, as I’m having ravioli and salad rather than chicken…

I have two books in my head at the moment – the one I’m supposed to be writing and the one I was originally going to write this month (given that the former should have been written by now). The latter is currently winning – especially as I’d like the heroine’s job and I like even more what she really wanted to do as a career but couldn’t due to circumstances… I might have to give in and scribble down the bits in my head (would be a shame to forget them and waste the time). However, I need to get back to my lovely Welsh doctor as I want Med Duo #2 (working title TCVB) in a state where I can work on it on the PDA on Sunday/Monday morning before the lunch.

Blimey. I’m sounding like me again. (And it’s so lovely not to wake up every day worried sick, going to hospital after the school run, and then being too drained to work in the evening and getting miserable about it.) (The worries are still there, but not quite the same, and I’m not blogging about it because it’s not fixable stuff and moaning about it will achieve nothing – I’d rather stick to making lemonade and being my usual Pollyanna self.)

Anyway. The point of this was to talk about all the exciting things coming up in February.

Apart from the RNA awards lunch on Monday (where, just in case you didn’t know, I’ve been shortlisted for the Romance Prize 2008 with Breakfast at Giovanni’s, which will be released as In Bed With Her Italian Boss in the US in April), there are some exciting competitions where you can win stuff – including books by me.

First off, there’s the Modern Heat Authors’ Treasure Hunt.

Follow the trail, answer ALL the questions, and send in your answer at the end of the month and you’ll be in with the chance of winning a stack of fabulous books! Mine include an advance copy of my March UK release, Sold To the Highest Bidder, and a copy of my US April release, In Bed With Her Italian Boss (though you’ll be getting the UK version, Breakfast at Giovanni’s – everything’s the same except the cover!). Want a sneak preview? Nip over here

Secondly, Nicola Marsh is running a ‘Be My Valentine’ competition from February 1 to February 14.

And again you have a chance to win books by lots of authors (including mine) as well as a grand prize on February 14. Go over to Nic's blog to find out more about the rules and how to enter.

I will be reminding you about these exciting events throughout February...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

half-full again

Today has been just lovely. (This is going to sound pathetic… but it felt like having my life back. And it was so, so lovely. I will never take it for granted again.)

Started with a teensy bit of research in the archives (didn’t get what I wanted, so I need to narrow things down in my notes and try a different source). Then it was the BBC Radio Norfolk interview. Had an absolute ball; the presenters – Graham Barnard and Karen Buchanan - were great fun and so nice to work with, and my fellow guest (Sarah Bower – author of historical romance Needle in the Blood) was absolutely lovely. I think we did M&B proud between us. And Graham is encouraging me to do my radio book, so I’ll be sweet-talking my editor. (Might be a radio doctor; might be a presenter. I have all sorts of ideas buzzing.)

DH was listening during his break at work and came home sighing. ‘I knew you’d start running on about Antonio Banderas.’ Who, me? Lucky he didn’t hear the rest of it… (Dad, on the other hand, said it’s the best interview he’s heard me do. Bless.)

Real blast from the past, too: one of my old classmates sent an email while I was on air saying that in the five years when we were in the same class at Wymondham College, my nose was ALWAYS in a book. No changes there, then. (Dave, if you happen to come across the blog, hello! Of course I remember you. And thanks for emailing.)

After that, had coffee with Sarah (her book is on my TBR pile and is going to be moved up) in one of the few places in Norwich that does proper latte art (which is why I, ahem, frequented it a bit while researching Breakfast at Giovanni’s).

And then it was my treat for the month: I went to see the PRB exhibition at Norwich Castle. There was a beautiful pencil drawing of Jane Morris by Rossetti, as well as his watercolour of Pandora; and some lovely Burne-Jones sketches, too. (Not, however, Merlin – which is still my favourite painting of all time.) Had a quick look at the other half of the exhibition – local drawings – and there were some lovely ones by Cotman and Sandys (both of whom I like – Cotman in particular as he’s one of my subjects in Norwich Heroes, Villains and Victims). Not so keen on the modern art; am possibly narrow-minded and set in my ways, but abstract doesn’t speak to me the way realism does. (Or medieval art. I have a big thing about wall paintings and I have a lovely, lovely publisher I know is very keen on art (as well as being hugely knowledgeable and a really nice bloke to boot), so… a lightbulb is flickering. Hello. I think my muse might be coming back.)

Did a bit of shopping and now possess some hair mousse. (Am hoping it is going to tame Dougal for Monday – when I will also be wearing the black pearls as they feel lucky.) Also bought another pillow (yeah, yeah. Princess Kate – and the v. expensive down pillow has been a huge disappointment). Went to the post office on way to school; parked early so tinkered a bit with my new outline.

And the big news for today: Dad is out of hospital, so things should hopefully start to settle. I’ll be doing phone support for a while; but I get most of my work time back.


Almost back to normal. Good.

of mice and men

Current work: meeja stuff
Listening to: Bach – double violin concerto in D minor
Reading: too tired, last night (which is a shame as I have some fab books lined up on my TBR pile)

Achievements yesterday:

  • indexed the local history book (satisfying albeit very time-consuming);
  • printed Med Duo #1 and parcelled it up plus various other things ready for the post office run;
  • booked blood test for next week (this is completely routine – a check on my underactive thyroid);
  • retrieved notes in preparation for interview;
  • looked at outline of Med Duo #2.

What I didn’t do:

  • go to post office (will do that today);
  • have my hair cut (my poor hairdresser has gone down with the lurgy and she sounded terrible – I really felt for her. But as I had to cancel my haircut when Dad went to hospital, I am going to look like Dougal from the Magic Roundabout at the awards do on Monday, sigh. So much for buying elegant clothes and shoes).

Today: radio interview (BBC Radio Norfolk at around 10.15); a visit to the PRB exhibition at the castle; and possibly some time in the archives as well. What I’d actually like to do today is go and sit on the beach and listen to the waves and the seagulls and stare out to sea. Will spare you the Old English poetry. But if you want to look up The Wanderer (here’s a good place for the original text – for a translated version, Richard Hamer’s good), I’m thinking about the moment around line 45 when he’s looking out to sea at the ‘fallow waves’ (i.e. they’re brown with churned-up sand) and the seabirds bathing.

OK, so I lied about sparing you. The poetry’s wonderful, and the North Norfolk coast in winter is the perfect thinking place. Just what I need to help me rethink my outline and improve the conflict. But it’s not going to happen (or even this weekend as we’re meant to have snow), so there’s no point in whining about it.

I also need to do the coding for my new website. It was meant to go live on 1 Feb, and the plan was that I’d code three pages a day. Except I’ve had to give up so much work time this month that it just hasn’t happened. I’m also behind in my parts for various Valentine giveaways on different blogs (come back tomorrow and it will be sorted and I will have links and icons etc).

Burns had it right. The best-laid plans of mice and men go oft agley.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

getting organised

Current work: indexing second edition of HTRLH
Listening to: Bach – double violin concerto in D minor
Reading: too tired, last night

It's about time I resurrected Scary Kate. So. Plan for today:
  • index How To Research Local History (did the proofs yesterday)
  • print book for lovely agent and parcel it up
  • sort everything else that needs to be posted
  • (if I manage all that) go to post office
  • have my hair cut ready for next Monday
  • do a temporary desk tidy (this involves putting everything in a big box to be sorted later... um, actually, said box is overflowing so that might be tough)
  • retrieve notes on M&B centenary so can prepare for tomorrow’s interview
  • look at my outline for Med Duo Book 2 so I can remember what I’m doing (going to be a Valentine’s weepie)

This weekend is meant to be artic. As in the s-word. Just what I need when the train journey to London is going to be a nightmare (engineering works, so part of the journey involves a bus trip, and I get VERY travel sick on buses – if it’s cold outside the heating will be on and that will make it worse. At least the late train home on Monday night will be bearable because it’s all train. I did consider driving but that’s even more stressy and at least I can work/read on the train. On the bus, I will be sipping water and looking out of the window). To add insult to injury, the news story about this had a pic of a train in snow… Reminder to self: ask pharmacist for advice on travel sickness stuff so don’t throw up over posh outfit. Also pack posh outfit inside plastic bag, just in case.

Monday, January 28, 2008

at last

Current work: just finished Med duo book 1
Listening to: Sheryl Crow
Reading: too tired, last night

The book is done and I sent it to my ed this morning. I’m printing it out this evening or tomorrow morning for my agent. Which means I’m going to the post office tomorrow. Which means… apologies for my slight hissy fit on Friday. Life has been mostly horrible this year and someone sent me an email that really rubbed me up the wrong way. I shouldn’t have let off steam here. Thank you to everyone who’s been patient with me.

Tonight/tomorrow I am also sorting proofs (which also need to go to the post office - am not braving the queues twice in two days, so I may go Wednesday after my radio interview if I haven't finished the stuff tomorrow).

Found this blogthing on Biddy’s blog - amused me highly so I had to try it. What’s yours?

The Recipe For Kate Hardy

3 parts Warmth
2 parts Panache
1 part Nonconformity
Splash of Cleverness
Finish off with an olive

Friday, January 25, 2008

Cinders goes to the ball… in Spain

Current work: Med duo
Listening to: Sheryl Crow
Reading: too tired, last night

Fab discovery this morning – lovely email from Harlequineras saying that they’ve added me to their site. (Waves to Liliana and Marina. Thank you!) And it seems that The Cinderella Project is out in Spain this month (Construyendo un sueƱo). Excellent. My first Spanish translation.

In other news – life is still sticky. If anyone is waiting for something from me, please cut me a little bit of slack. I’m not usually this inefficient. For the last three and a half weeks my schedule has been school run, snatch some work time (and as soon as I get into it, have to stop - which is highly frustrating), hospital visit, school run, homework supervision, cook dinner, try and snatch work time. Before that was Christmas and school holidays, and the week before that my daughter was ill, so the last six weeks have been peculiarly frantic. I’ve had to cancel my music lessons and governor meetings and PRESMA meetings and social dates (my birthday might be a casualty of that, too) – and I am behind on my work. Time is a very, VERY precious commodity around here.

So I’m sorry, I have to prioritise things. I apologise for letting people down. I will deliver what I promised, but it won’t be until next week. I hope that’s acceptable. If it’s not... well, I’m sorry. A little understanding would go a long way, right now. Just because I’m not blogging about how difficult things are, it doesn’t mean that all is sweetness and light on Planet Kate! (And thank you to the friends who’ve allowed me to let off steam over some pretty horrible stuff this week.)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Burne-Jones and frabjous

Current work: Med duo
Listening to: Take That, Beautiful World
Reading: too tired, last night

Good meeting yesterday with the consultant. Just a matter of waiting, now, for things to be put in place.

Discovered that there is an exhibition I really, REALLY want to see in Norwich Castle at the moment – Pre-Raphaelite drawings. The kids want to go during half term – and of course I will take them – but as I have an interview on BBC Radio Norfolk next week, I am going to sneak into the museum afterwards and snatch a few minutes delighting in the Burne-Jones sketches on my own. Utter bliss. Burne-Jones is my favourite artist, and one of these years I will get to the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Liverpool to see The Beguiling of Merlin - my favourite painting of all time. I’ve seen the sketches for it at the Tate in London and they were just glorious. (DH’s first Christmas pressie to me was a very expensive book about the PRB containing said picture. Best reproduction I’ve seen anywhere, and I still treasure it.)

I may have to see this exhibition several times.

Today: frabjous, calloo, callay – I have a day to work. No guilt, either. (Not blogging about this but let’s say I’ve finally learned a lesson, the hard way.) I might even spend ten minutes playing Bach on the guitar today. (I miss my music lessons terribly.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Radios and dogs

Current work: Med duo
Listening to: Genesis, Calling All Stations
Reading: Liz Fielding, Eloping with Emmy (another thoroughly enjoyable read)

Interview went well (even though we had the Jehovah’s Witnesses coming round and the dog barked his head off right at the start of the interview… we made a joke out of it and said it’s not how a romantic novelist’s life is supposed to be).

Got a bit more done on the book. Today, need to return BBC Radio Norfolk’s call re an interview next week, sort out proof queries on the second edition of How To Research Local History (also need to sort the index and go through the proofs myself), and do a bit more on the book; then midday have a meeting with the consultant – hopefully will get some answers and solutions.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Guess who’s on the Waldies again?

Current work: Med duo
Listening to: Genesis, Calling All Stations
Reading: Liz Fielding, Dating Her Boss (another thoroughly enjoyable read)

The Pregnancy Ultimatum is on the Waldies’ top 10 bestseller list this week :o) Thank you to everyone in the US who bought my book and put it there.

And I’m doing an interview on Future FM at about 10.30 (UK time) this morning.

Nice post yesterday: Italian edition of Seeing Stars (lovely title, too – La luce delle stelle), Greek edition of Seeing Stars, Greek edition of Where the Heart Is, Hungarian edition of The Baby Doctor’s Desire, and French edition of The Doctor’s Very Special Christmas. Clearly I’m up for world domination of Europe at the moment…

Monday, January 21, 2008

another week

Current work: Med duo
Listening to: not decided yet – probably Corelli as I need comfort music (superstar DH cleaned my car yesterday; I think he may have taken all the CDs out and put them back in the rack).
Reading: Bittersweet Deception by Liz Fielding. Another fabulous read, especially as it was set in my part of the world and I recognised bits in the book. Bits which, in fact, I’ve used in Sold to the Highest Bidder. (And yes, I am reading a lot of Liz Fielding’s books right now. I find that when life is rough, a seriously good short romance is just what I need to put a bit of sunshine in my day. I’ve had readers say that to me about my books… and all I can say is I’m very glad that my books have helped to lift someone, the way Liz’s are helping me right now.)

Um. Nothing much to report because I’m not blogging about the two big issues in real life. Nothing much to report on the work front (and my poor ed must be as frustrated as I am). I sincerely hope that this week is much better than last week on those three fronts!

Glass half full. Righty. I had to research Greek chocolate yesterday… and as it’s about 15 years since I last visited Greece and ate chocolate, it was a bit of a trip down memory lane. Oh, and the Tooth Fairy visited our house last night. Someone got a little impatient and wobbled her wiggly tooth until it came out… and then moaned that her mouth was sore! No doubt all will be well this morning when she finds the tooth gone and the pound beneath her pillow. In my day, it was 10 pence…

Oh, yes. And I had another ‘tough go shopping’ moment yesterday, albeit from my desk. And my goodies should arrive on Wednesday. (Certain friends and style queens have been a bad influence. I bought myself a string of black pearls… and a string of lavender ones. To celebrate the shortlisting.)

And finally… Winner of the signed copy of Breakfast at Giovanni’s is Lou Gagliardi. Lou, please email me with your snailmail addy (see the first comment below as I’m trying to avoid spam!).

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I lied…

… about not even considering buying a new outfit for the RNA do.

Woke up this morning and remembered the old mantra: when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.

The going right now is very tough and it’s not looking as if things will get better in the near future – if anything, quite the reverse. (Am not blogging about it from now on out of respect from my dad– but if I don’t say ‘good day at hospital’ you’ll know it’s been horrible.)

So although I should have been working, I went shopping.

The idea was just to pick up a new top to go with my black crochet shrug and velvet skirt. Except I’d been browsing on the net and discovered an outfit I liked – and the shop has an outlet in a certain department store in Norwich where I do book signings but don’t normally go clothes shopping. (We’re talking Ghost, Jacques Vert, Viyella and the like. The sort of stuff I would have worn in my rat race days but is a bit OTT for working at home and sharing lunch with the dog.)

And as they had it in my size… and in the sale… and it meant a saving of over £100 (we don’t mention how much I actually spent *g*)… I had to buy it, didn’t I?

I’ve gone retro – i.e. back to the kind of stuff I wore in my 20s. Which means an ankle-length floaty skirt (I have nice ankles), a vest-type top (not strappy) and a floaty shirt (georgette) used as a jacket. Strong colours. If I lose a stone or so this year it’s still going to look good. I have a special wedding coming up in March and needed an outfit for that, and this works for both.

AND - this is the bit people who know me personally are not going to believe - I also bought shoes.

I was browsing in the shoe-shop when one of my friends walked in (her husband had texted DH to say they were in the city and let's meet up for lunch, so DH told them where I was). Excellent, as it meant I had a second opinion on the outfit and help to find the right shoes. It took us all of two shops – and we both dived for a shoe on display. Different shelves, same shoe :o) And it was the perfect fit. Sorted. The man in the shoe shop said, ‘We sell lovely handbags to go with the shoes.’ I smiled and explained, ‘I’m a Radley girl.’ He laughed and said in that case he wouldn’t dare show me any bags.

Hmm. I need that new Radley bag, don’t I?

Anyway. Said shoes are really not what I would normally buy. They’re pretty. Very girly. And TASTEFUL. Slingbacks, high heels, pointy toes, very low sides, bow and diamante. (Tasteful diamante. Just a teensy accent, enough to look pretty but not enough to look tacky.) On the way back to the car, I saw a pair I liked in Hobbs… but I have big feet and Hobbs is for dainty people, and… Look, you just can’t do the school run or walk the dog in those sort of shoes. Not unless you want bunions and blisters.

So. In two weeks’ time I’m going to London with a really posh outfit and nice shoes. And I am going to enjoy it. Just for an afternoon, real life is going to be good.

PS – question for the style queens out there. Do I have to match my lipstick to my nail varnish, or can I have nail varnish to match my outfit and lipstick in a more subtle colour?

Friday, January 18, 2008

award shortlisting

Current work: Med duo
Listening to: Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon (very loudly)
Reading: Quick addendum to the one I raved about the other day – sorry, I got the title wrong due to sleep deprivation – it was Dangerous Flirtation by Liz Fielding. Fabulous, fabulous book and I hope M&B decide to reprint it.

OK, so I’m blowing my own trumpet about this awards shortlisting and it doesn’t sit well with myEnglish upbringing – feels too much like boasting.

But I discovered there’s a logo I can use here (edit: I was using an old one so I've revamped)

As it’s not often one gets the chance to use logos like these (and because real life is still horrible and I want to focus on something nice), I’d just like to reiterate that I’ve been shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists Association’s Romance Prize with Breakfast at Giovanni’s. Which will be out in the US in April as In Bed With Her Italian Boss.

I’m still doing the giveaway – one signed copy of said book – and the question is easy: tell me which instrument Giovanni plays. All names go into the hat and the winner will be picked Sunday evening UK time.

Hope everyone stays safe from the threatened floods. The river near us has burst its banks so the fields are just lakes and although the road was passable this morning it won’t be by this afternoon: so it’s back to the alternative route and add another 15 minutes each way on the school run journey. And as time is at a real premium at the moment… oh, pass the coffee.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

finally: my really exciting news

The official announcement has been made, so I am truly, truly thrilled to announce that Breakfast at Giovanni’s has been shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists Association’s Romance Prize 2008.

I’m absolutely delighted because this book – being my 25th published M&B – is special to me, and it’s also Mills & Boon’s centenary celebration year. So that’s a triple there: being on the RNA Romance Prize shortlist with my 25th M&B in the M&B centenary.

Thank you very much to the judges for choosing my book. And as I’ve had a particularly horrible year so far, this has helped to balance things out a bit.

Congratulations also to my friends on the shortlist. You can find it here at the RNA - some of my favourite authors (and real-life favourite people) are also nominated and I’m really pleased for them.

The winner is going to be announced at the RNA Awards lunch in Kensington on 4 February.

Bearing in mind that my birthday celebrations always begin a week before the actual day and carry on for a week afterwards, I’d say that’s rather fortuitous. What a start to my birthday celebrations: champagne and a posh lunch and a chance to chat to my agent and my editor and some very good friends I don’t see often enough.

Last time I was shortlisted, I was a bit overwhelmed and rabbit-in-headlights at the do. This time I know what to expect, so I’m going to go and have fun and enjoy it.

And in the meantime I’m giving away a signed copy of Breakfast at Giovanni’s, as part of my Pink Heart Society blog from yesterday. To be in the draw (which my daughter will do on Sunday evening, UK time), tell me which instrument Giovanni plays. (There’s a clue over here on my website - I only mention one instrument there. And the book is dedicated to the person who teaches me said instrument...)

soon to be announced

Current work: Med duo
Listening to: Ray Wilson
Reading: Liz Fielding, A Stranger’s Kiss (I loved this, absolutely loved it – vintage Liz with a gorgeous hero, a warm (and feisty!) heroine, fabulous dialogue and a plot that worked. And music. Fabulous stuff.)
Steps yesterday: 10,639

I need to wait until the official announcement has been made before I tell my exciting news. So imagine me hopping from foot to foot, willing time to pass really, really quickly… (Anyone would think I was five years old.)

Patience, Grasshopper.

All will be revealed as soon as possible. (Though I hear from another source it might not be this afternoon - might be tomorrow or even Monday! So keep checking because I have a book giveaway involved too.)

In real life: hospital was unpleasant; the other ongoing stuff is a waiting game (not something I’m good at); writing was fine but didn’t have anywhere near enough time to work - as soon as I was into it and the words were flowing, I had to stop to go to the hospital. (Must get my muse to play ball, here, and work in the time window I have free, not the tail end of it...)

However, Dad is having his cataracts done today and I have managed to get the day off (because he’s not going to be there when I will be there, and he’ll need a rest). In theory, this means I shouldn’t get any phone calls and if I stay off the net I could do a big chunk of the stuff in my head. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Somewhere different

Current work: Med duo
Listening to: Genesis, Calling All Stations
Reading: Liz Fielding, Old Desires (very enjoyable – very different plot, too)
Steps yesterday: 10,360

I’m blogging over at the Pink Heart Society today about one of my favourite topics – research. And there’s a chance to win a book. (Well, you have to come back here for that. Tomorrow. It’s connected with my good news so that’s why I’m not even telling you which book… just come back!)

Update on everything else: it’s just pants. Utter pants. Not a good day at hospital; more rubbish news when I got home (can’t blog about it, but those who know me in ‘real life’, think back to my big stressy thing last spring: here we go again). And what annoys me most is that I have no control over any of this.

Ah well. At least I can write happy endings in my books. And maybe a bit of the magic will rub off in real life.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

in threes

Current work: Med duo
Listening to: Josh Groban
Reading: Liz Fielding, A Stranger’s Kiss (bit of self-indulgence on my part as I enjoy her books so much!)

They say that good things happen in threes. On Friday evening I booked our holiday (we’re going to Derbyshire for a week in July/August –a lovely cottage in the middle of nowhere, and yes this does mean that I’m going to be writing a Peak District medical romance in the summer). Sunday evening I had some very, very nice news (am waiting for the go-ahead to talk about that – will be soon); and yesterday I met my new accountant, who is very nice and straightforward and efficient.

Other than that, I’ve paid my tax bill, visited my dad (who was very reasonable about my visiting hours – though we’re still waiting for this case conference and the care package MUST be in place before he comes out – and I must say, I feel much brighter for only doing two hours instead of four yesterday), made some arrangements to do with my nice news from Sunday (yeah, yeah, I’m such a tease), and even managed five minutes on the piano. (I could have my music lessons back next week, oh, bliss…)

Monday, January 14, 2008

still on the rollercoaster

Current work: Med duo
Listening to: Karl Jenkins
Reading: Caro Fraser, A Calculating Heart and Breath of Corruption. I do like her Caper Court series – her hero Leo is completely irresistible. He’s very flawed but completely irresistible: clever, articulate, oozing sensuality. Preferred the first of the two books; she’s changed her publisher and the proofing/editing weren’t quite up to scratch, plus there was a lot more headhopping and ‘name dropping’ than she usually does. Shame. Still enjoyed it, though, and will get the next.

Saturday – was so tired that I couldn’t drag myself out of bed, so settled back against the pillows and finished the Caro Fraser instead. Then had to take the kids into town to sort son’s shoes (the buckle broke so his teacher did a temporary fix with string – must say thanks and also tell him he’d be a perfect M&B hero :o) – and Clark’s were excellent and replaced the shoes without a fuss), buy this month’s birthday cards and run some errands for Dad. Called in to hospital for a while (Madam went all shy – though this was her first inpatient visit so it was probably a bit overwhelming); cooked dinner and then went to see DH’s brother in the evening. (Was nice to see them, but I need to explain to DH about need for sleep and time at the moment!)

Sunday – was a Very Bad Person and took a day off visiting. Justification:
a) my sister was visiting;
b) staying at the hospital for four hours every day (plus travelling time) is a pretty big chunk of my time (in fact, all my prime working time); although I’ve cancelled my guitar lessons and my piano lessons and governor meetings and PRESMA meetings so I can give Dad this time, I still need to keep my life ticking over and pay bills etc on time – especially as this has been going on since Weds 3 Jan and we have no idea yet when he’s going to be allowed home;
c) I’m tired and I needed a break – the hospital environment is noisy and because Dad speaks quietly and I can’t lip-read him, I have to concentrate very hard and it’s really, REALLY wearing for me. (This is why I’m sometimes a bit anti-social and why I don’t like parties/conferences: sustained concentration, and it wears me out. No way will I ever do the RWA conference because it’s too big and way, way, WAY too noisy.)

Dad was a bit upset when I said on Saturday that I was taking a day off visiting, and even though I know I need to recharge my batteries I still feel guilty. I feel even guiltier about the fact that I’m going to cut my visiting hours this week (and he is not going to like it), but another week like last one just isn’t sustainable. I’m too tired to function and I need time for me – and it needs to be the right time of day, too. My stepmum and uncle have given me a pep talk about it and said I have to be firm. Mmm.

Plan for today – meeting with accountant (the final one on my shopping list – I did offer to cancel but my stepmum was very firm about the fact I need to have this meeting and Dad would have to put up with the fact that I’m going to be in later than usual). We may have a meeting with the doctors and social services today to sort out the care package, but they will ring my stepmum with a time, and she’ll ring me so I can tie up things here if need be and get to the hospital on time.

And there’s also something I can’t talk about yet. Let’s just say 2008 so far has been a horrible year, so something good needed to happen. It did, last night. All will be revealed… later this week.

Friday, January 11, 2008

ups and downs

Current work: Med duo
Listening to: Del Amitri
Reading: Louise Allen, A Most Unconventional Courtship (finished it last night and it was excellent. Must get her new one)
Steps yesterday: 9,957

Hospital: much better all round – Dad’s back on his feet (albeit still with the frame), is much more his old self and I’ve had a long chat to the doctors so I have a better idea of the situation and his likely progress. And Wednesday’s upset is all sorted. (Again, apologies to those who had to put up with the whining.) Apparently I look stressed in the playground yesterday morning. (Well, I was.) And DH had a hissy fit when I was checking my blood pressure and he looked over my shoulder. (Well, c’mon, I was really upset and I slept badly on Wednesday night. Of course my BP was going to be sky-high. It’ll be better today.)

DH did the afternoon school run for me so I could get some work done, which I really appreciated. However, he then undid all the good work, and then some. ‘Please go and fetch son from next door because dinner will be ready in five minutes’ does not mean ‘take daughter with you and go and play computer games for a good half an hour next door’. Result: one burned meal (I was caught on the phone – and I should add this is the first time I’ve burned anything for more years than I can remember. I think the halogen unit on our hob might have gone wrong because it was on its lowest setting and yet the new potatoes boiled dry), the veg went cold in the steamer, and I ended up having chocolate for dinner because I was so cross. (OK, OK, so I was bad. And it wasn't even decent chocolate.)

I can see the funny side this morning (I can even see where that kind of scene would fit in a book), but yesterday I was at max stress point and could’ve done without it. DH has offered to cook dinner tonight, but as his skills in that area are somewhat (actually, very) limited I think I’d rather do it myself and have something edible. But if he messes me about with mealtime tonight, his dinner will be in the dog. And meanwhile I will be taking advantage of the contrition to pin him down re booking a summer holiday. If the cottage is available when I check today... am booking it.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

on winning the lottery…

Current work: Med duo
Listening to: Del Amitri
Reading: Louise Allen, A Most Unconventional Courtship (sneaked in two chapters last night and it gets better and better)
Steps yesterday: 10,964

No, I haven’t. But Dad was convinced I had, the other day. Pity he can’t remember the numbers with which he thinks I won, just in case it was a premonition. Mind you, then he told me how much – a tad less than 50% of my mortgage. Nowhere near enough – if I win, I want enough to pay off my mortgage and those of my family and closest friends, plus treat certain people to a good holiday and do something nice for the kids’ schools and a couple of causes dear to my heart. And enough for me to be able to be a secret fairy godmother. Oh, I’d LOVE that. Being able to put some sparkle into people’s lives. Then again, that’s what I do for a living: I write happy endings that make people smile and feel good. (Actually, if I didn’t write for a living I’d have to write anyway because that’s who I am: I write.)

Hospital yesterday: Dad was actually up and about on a walking frame for a little while, which is good news. His moods are pretty up and down, and he got upset about something yesterday that isn’t actually an issue (and which really, really upset me and I did a lot of whining on email last night – apologies to those on the receiving end, will be more chipper today). He also gets upset when I leave, and I find that very hard. His brother is visiting this afternoon, so I’m keeping my visit a bit shorter today to give Dad a rest in between. It does make me feel as if I’m neglecting him, even though I know I’m not – if anything, I’m doing more than I should (but that’s Kate Scary for you).

However, before the SDP start leaping up and down, I realise that I need a break, too, so please spare me the lecture. I guess people have their place in a family and it’s set for life, but I’ve noticed that mine is ‘Kate who fixes everything and knows all the answers’ in every single area of my life. I’ve also noticed who gives me support when I need it – and who takes me for granted or doesn’t listen to what I’m saying. So maybe it’s time to start being just a little bit selfish, and learning a little two-letter word that doesn’t appear to be in my vocabulary. It goes against the grain – but then again, support needs to be mutual or someone falls down.

Work: well, I was going to, yesterday. But of course I had phone calls. ‘I just…’ Sigh. (The one from my stepmum isn't included here because I was expecting that and I would've phoned her if she hadn't called me.)

The only downside to writing for a living is that other people don’t consider it a ‘proper’ job (I’ve even been told ‘well, you don’t have a job’ – ha, tell that to the taxman) and believe that if you work from home you can be called at any time because you’re ‘free’. As for the idea of being in your book world when you’re working, and it takes a while to get back into it again after interruptions… nope, you really can’t explain it to the ‘I just…’ people because they think you’re a flake.

Actually, most writers probably are flakes. (That’s why I like the ones I know. They’re such interesting company.)

This afternoon, I should get two hours. Two hours for me. Two hours: that’s ten minutes on the piano and ten minutes on the guitar and one hour forty minutes to write (which, for me, is like breathing. At the moment I’m suffocating and I really, really need to breathe). I sincerely hope that people are going to be kind and let me have those two hours without interruptions. Otherwise I might not be Nice Dutiful Kate. I might be Kate Who Tells Uncomfortable Home Truths And Swears A Lot (Except in Front of the Kids).

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

not such a good day

Current work: Med duo
Listening to: Del Amitri
Reading: Louise Allen, A Most Unconventional Courtship (or I would be if I had time to read at the mo!)
Steps yesterday: 11,257 (yay for hospital corridors and the fact I left something Dad wanted in my car so had to go back for it; plus Madam’s swimming lesson)

Hospital yesterday: Dad didn’t have such a good day and was quite low. But I stayed with him for four hours so I hope it helped a bit. And hopefully this will go in cycles of a good day following a not so good day.

Very amusing incident on the way there. I was buying my lunch and a paper for Dad when this woman smiled at me and asked how the exercise was going. I couldn’t place her, and clearly I looked confused because she said, ‘It was you in the paper, wasn’t it?’ (Whoops – missed that cutting. But I remember what I said – the subject was new year’s resolutions. Kate Lardy is counting calories and trying to do a bit more exercise.) So I gestured to my lunch (a low-fat chicken salad wrap and a bowl of mixed fresh fruit – mango, pineapple, melon and strawberries, since you ask) and said I was doing very well on the eating front, but exercise was a tad trickier at the mo as Dad’s in hospital, though I’m working on it…

The poor dog’s the one who’s missing out. And no, I haven’t tried him on the treadmill. The dog, I mean. (Or Dad, bless him. I know he managed some steps yesterday in physio after I’d left, but will get full details this morning.) Dog has a new form of exercise: pacing round the dining room table, hoping that the ‘big sad spaniel eyes’ routine will work on one of us so he’ll get scraps at the table. DH lost patience and sent him back on his bed. Cue more ‘big sad spaniel eyes’ and one hard-hearted man of the house not falling for it.

Work: didn’t manage any. But hopefully everyone’s reassured at the moment and I can have a couple of hours tonight (for my sanity's sake - not pressure from my lovely editor or agent).

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

a more even keel

Thanks to everyone who’s left comments or emailed me privately (and a special thank you to Katie B for sending me an email about one of my books that really put a bright spot in my week, just when I needed one).

Things are on a more even keel now the antibiotics are kicking in, and Dad sounds much more like his old self again. But it’s definitely been a weekend to give me grey hairs. Thursday was rough, Friday was worse, and I really wasn’t sure he’d pull through on Saturday.

Everyone’s been marvellous. My husband is a true superstar, holding the fort without complaint and even cooking Sunday lunch for us all (and yes, those of you who know me in real life – even though he can’t cook and loathes doing it, he followed my list of what to put in the oven and when, and the kids voted his roast potatoes as good as mine); my editor and agent have been brilliant and very accommodating; the nursing staff at the hospital are excellent; and my stepmum and I have worked out a rota which will hopefully mean Dad isn’t on his own too much. He loathes being in hospital, and when he asked the consultant yesterday if he could go home that evening, he was very unhappy with the answer – yes, if you’re up and walking as normal. (Which he isn’t… and it’s going to be a while before he’s on his feet again. Though the physio did get him out of bed yesterday, there is a very long way to go.)

Life can’t go on hold, however, and I need to keep things ticking over at school and work – though I am ducking out of governor meetings and have cancelled my music lessons for the time being so I can spend the time between school runs at the hospital and then work in the evening. Work is not pressured AT ALL because my ed is very understanding about the situation - but I will go bananas if I can’t write. I need to work for my sanity’s sake! However, I may be a bit quiet online for a while – and I’m actually saying no to people. (I think that deserves a gold star as I find it very, very hard to say no instead of just adding it to my list and whizzing through what one of my oldest friends calls ‘doing six impossible things before breakfast, and that’s at half-past six’.)

Oh, and I lost 1.5 lbs this week. Good thing about the hospital is that it does low-fat, low-cal sandwiches (and they’re edible). And one latte a day is well within my calorie count. Between school and the hospital corridors, I’m hitting 10k steps a day (poor dog is missing out a bit). So. Even keel. And fingers crossed that my dad continues to improve.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

going awol for a bit

My dad's pretty ill at the moment - in hospital as of the early hours of yesterday, so my time's being spent with him at the moment. So if anyone emails me and is waiting for an answer, sorry, will get to it when I can, but my priority is Dad and helping my stepmum, while my absolutely wonderful husband holds the fort here. Anyone I'm letting down, sorry. Will fix things when life is on more of an even keel here.

Friday, January 04, 2008


Current work: Med duo
Listening to: Bach
Reading: Louise Allen, A Most Unconventional Courtship (this is a cracking read – excellent characterisation, hero and heroine both very likeable and there are a couple of secondaries that I think deserve a book of their own)
Steps yesterday: 4,777 - another biting east wind. Will be braver today. Dog needs a walk, whether he likes it or not.

Busy with book. Busy sorting out a couple of things on my new website design (this book needs to be finished before I even start thinking about coding, and it’s going to take a few days as I’m switching a lot of things round. My web designer is brilliant, though, and has given me a quick CSS lesson as well as doing me a gorgeous design and a shell template).

Very relieved that we have no snow. Still doing an anti-snow dance here; am very wussy about driving in the stuff, after my nasty experience the other year. OK, so I got the first scene of a book out of it – because novelists never waste life experience –but it was still very scary.

Back to book now so I can make progress before the children wake up. (Back to proper routine on Monday…)

Thursday, January 03, 2008

This month’s new releases

Current work: Med duo
Listening to: Diana Krall
Reading: Louise Allen, A Most Unconventional Courtship (this is a cracking read – excellent characterisation, hero and heroine both very likeable and there are a couple of secondaries that I think deserve a book of their own)
Steps yesterday: 5,426 - not so good due to biting east wind, and I don’t expect it to be much better today… unless I move my boxes and guitar from the area of the treadmill. Must be brave about this…

This year’s a very special year for M&B because it’s the company’s centenary. I feel very, very proud to be published by the world’s largest publisher of women’s fiction, especially in such a special year.

My first two releases in 2008 are both in the US. (Though I still have a couple available from last month’s releases in the US, Australia and the UK, as well as a new one in February from Australia – check out the links on the side bar if you want to get hold of them.)

The first is The Pregnancy Ultimatum, which is a Presents Collection in the ‘Pregnant Mistresses’ miniseries. You can buy it in shops across the US – although for obvious reasons I won’t get to see it myself, I’d be really happy to see pics of it. If any readers would like to send me pics of themselves reading it or in the bookshop with it (telling me where you are), I’ll post the pics here (and also send you something to say thank you!).

You can also buy The Pregnancy Ultimatum at E-harlequin, and it’s available as an e-book.

I loved writing it, because I really enjoy writing books about complete opposites who fall in love. And you can’t get much more opposite than Will (my very clever, posh garden designer who turned down a place at Oxford University and is a fantastic cook) and Amanda (a city girl who’s driven because she doesn’t want to turn into her mother). It’s set partly in Cambridge (yes, of course they go punting) and partly in London (which Will loathes). Various friends have asked me if the house really exists, because they want to buy it; sadly, it was my imagination. I’d love that house, too.

My other release in the US is in e-book format and is part of the Best of Makeovers Bundle. My book (and I am sooo pleased that it’s been chosen as the lead title) is The Cinderella Project – where Cyn, my nerdy computer programmer, gets to go to the ball with Max Taylor, a gorgeous architect. This one caused a bit of a fuss in the UK and Australia because of a certain scene set beside the Thames involving the lamp standards. (In fact, that scene caused the book to be retitled in France – ‘Un Printemps sur la Tamise’.) This was my first Modern Extra (aka Modern Heat as from this month), written in response to my editor telling me that the line was starting in the UK and she thought I’d be perfect as a launch author and asking, would I like to write her a book…? You bet! I wasn’t sure whether to be more thrilled, flattered, or just plain excited. Anyway, I had a lot of fun with this one, and I think it shows. If you’ve ever gone to a reunion or some kind of party where you know people are going to be judging you fairly critically, and you’ve wished that the quiet, plain girl could come out ahead of the nasty but pretty and ‘popular’ girl… then Cinders is for you.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


Current work: Med duo
Listening to: Michael Buble
Reading: next on my TBR pile... possibly Caro Fraser
Steps yesterday: 8523 (not bad; will try harder today but not beat myself up about it)

Went for a walk on the beach yesterday, despite the fact that it was drizzly and cold. Bit mournful with the seagulls screaming. (Am sparing you the Old English poetry, but the beach in winter always makes me think of 'The Wanderer' ... which was my nickname for my hero in the archaeologist book, but I had to lose it as it wasn't alpha enough and I'd already stuck my neck out with my previous editor over the hero's occupation.) Also worked a bit on the book and planned out my menus for the rest of the week.

Plan for today: library to pick up some research books (there will be protests, but we’re walking there), finish proof collation of my last project management job, go to post office (proofs and birthday presents), and a do bit more on my book.

I was pretty disappointed with the ending of the last episode of Robin Hood. No spoilers here if you missed it/taped it for later, but if you change a character’s behaviour, particularly if it’s in opposition to the expectations you’ve set up all series, then you need to make the motivation behind those changes very clear to the audience – otherwise it doesn’t ring true. Sure, you get the ‘shock’ value and can say it’s an ‘unexpected twist’ – but then the audience starts asking ‘Why?’, and if the motivation isn’t apparent then said twist to the plot doesn’t work properly. Even my 7-y-o picked up on it: ‘I didn’t like that. It was all wrong. He wouldn’t have done that.’

This is why I tend to write dual POV rather than just the heroine’s – I feel it’s important to see inside the hero’s head and understand his motivation as well as hers. And right now I'm hiding my current hero's motivations too much. Need to go do some layering, methinks.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Lovely start to the year

Current work: Med duo
Listening to: Michael Buble

Happy new year!

Yesterday I had the most marvellous boost, when one of my best writing buddies pointed me to a post on a forum where someone had really praised one of my books. So I had a mosey round – and what I read made me feel very humble and on cloud nine at the same time.

People actually like my books.

Intellectually, I know I can write or my editor wouldn’t accept my books. Publishers aren’t charities. But in this business, when it’s just you and a blank screen and a spaniel snoring softly behind you, real life has been a little bumpy and you have a screaming deadline which you’ve already moved, you sometimes wonder if you can still do it. (It’s called authorial paranoia, and I’m far from alone in suffering from it!) And when you see phrases such as ‘love the stories’ and ‘I wish she were on the book shelf all the time’ and ‘puts a lot of sensitivity into her characters’ and (as an English person I find it hard to write this word as an adjective describing me, but remember I’m reporting someone else’s view) ‘phenomenal writer’…

It’s just really nice to know that my words can have that effect on people. I really needed to hear that, yesterday. Thank you very, very much to the readers who posted such lovely compliments.

Took the kids to see ‘Bee Movie’ at the cinema yesterday morning. The animation was good (I particularly enjoyed the animation of Sting) but the plot was almost non-existent and I think I must have blinked and missed most of the jokes. (I think DH was glad he missed that one.) However, the kids enjoyed it, to the point where they didn’t complain when I suggested going into Waterstones to spend my Christmas book tokens. Bought Roy Strong’s ‘A little history of the English Country Church’ (one of my pet subjects) plus a biography of the 19th-century medic James Barry, which is interesting in itself but will also be excellent background research for a certain book of my heart. Lunch at M&S; then home to discover my journal and calorie book have arrived. (As well as a few, ahem, CDs. All right. So I’m profligate. ) Now I’m all set for the new healthy me.

Also heard that we’re due to have snow and ice this week. Uh-oh. However, have also checked dates with a friend and it seems that my diary is wrong: term starts on Monday next week, not Thursday this week. OK, so I lose two more working days than I’d planned… but if the road is covered in compacted snow with a layer of ice on top, I wouldn’t want to drive. I can always be Bad Mummy and let the kids watch a film while I do some very focused work.

Today: not sure what we’re doing (depends on the weather), but with any luck we’ll get a walk somewhere. And in between I have a deadline, so I’m gone.