Thursday, October 30, 2008

books, birthdays and the s-word

Current work: various fiction and nonfic
Listening to: Sheryl Crow
Reading: next on my TBR

Busy day yesterday. Went into town with son and Madam while DH visited his mother. Nipped into Borders and signed the most enormous pile of books – this little lot in front of me is a tiny fraction of them. Every time I thought I was making headway, the store manager appeared with another pile. Madam was in charge of adding the 'signed by author' stickers, and son was in charge of stacking them. Son also took photograph (urrgh, first one was a side-on view. A definite incentive to sort out weight control. I have been doing about 15,000 steps a day during the hols, though).

Then we went shopping for Madam’s birthday pressie. Unfortunately, the bracelet she wanted was unavailable (the one with the lobster clasp and a dangly bit), but we bought the charm she wanted. Persuaded the kids to let me go into a couple of churches (and what a LOVELY welcome we had at St George’s Tombland) for pics; then lunch; then home.

Unbeknown to Madam, I did a quick ring round the other three jewellers in Norfolk who stock Pandora. Managed to source her bracelet, and even better they’re posting it to me (cost is much less than the petrol would be, as said jeweller is in Burnham). Am looking forward to seeing her face on Saturday when she opens a small parcel, expecting it to be just the teddy bear charm, and discovers the bracelet attached to it. I love putting a bit of sunshine into people’s lives.

Apparently snow fell in London yesterday – the first time it’s snowed in London during October since 1934. This morning, we appear to have another sharp frost, but thankfully no white stuff. Hope it stays away.

Plans for today: lazy day in. Really, REALLY must tidy desk...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

a step into the past

Current work: various fiction and nonfic
Listening to: David Coverdale
Reading: next on my TBR (some of which is buried on my desk - I really MUST make time to tidy it, today)

Have been busy over the last couple of days doing location research. DH has been incredibly patient about this – because when he’s with us we go to the more obscure places on my list (I’m navigating - the kids aren’t quite up to map-reading, or at least not to the standard I need for the really out-of-the-way places). The kids have also been pretty patient, especially as they’ve realised that the ‘stop at a café every couple of hours’ rule applies only when they’re with me and not when they’re with both parents.

First stop yesterday was at Beachamwell.
Partly I wanted to see the famous graffiti, but mainly I thought we should all go because this is where son’s 5x-great-grandfather, who shares his name, married Frances Rudd in 1791. (I haven’t been able to trace DH’s paternal family tree any further back – yet – but am working on it.)

The tower is particularly unusual; the top bit (octagonal) is mid to late 14th century (Perpendicular), but the lower part of the tower is Saxon, as you can see by the balusters in the window just above the thatch. (The ones on the other side have triangular heads, making it even more obvious that they’re Saxon.)

And after that it was for pics for the book. So in our travels yesterday we looked at an ossuary (Madam was most disgusted when son explained it to her), a Peter’s Pence lectern, a gorgeous Easter Sepulchre carved in chalk, and a set of royal arms for James I (a little naïve in form, but utterly charming).

Something else that caught my eye yesterday was a detail from the memorial window to the poet William Cowper, in St Nicholas (East Dereham). These are Cowper’s three favourite things: his two hares and his dog. I adored the dog.

Plans for today: depends on the weather. If the s-word is involved, I’m going nowhere. Otherwise, I’ve promised to take Madam to get her birthday pressie. And as I had an unexpected royalty cheque yesterday, I think I can justify one teensy thing for me. (It involves Murano glass.)

Have treated DH to the new Peter Green anthology; he more than deserves it for his patience this week. Actually, he enjoys churchcrawling, and I think it amuses him when I get a bit squeakily excited about something. (And, hey, it’s not every day you get to see the keyboard removed from a church organ during restoration. So he does get to see… um… unusual things when he joins me on research trips.)

Am planning to take my best friend churchcrawling next weekend, as I’ve been promising to take her to see some wallpaintings for ages. If the weather’s good, we’ll go see some really early ones; but if the s-word cometh, we’re staying in with good coffee and home-made cake. Lots of.

Monday, October 27, 2008

half term

Current work: various fiction and nonfic
Listening to: probably Badfinger (if we go out in DH’s car)
Reading: Nicholas Orme, Medieval children (definitely recommended)

Saturday looked as if it was going to be the only decent day of the holiday, so that meant a trip over the border to deepest Suffolk and down the coast, then heading inland. DH is quite used to my ‘did you know…?’ habit and usually completely unfazed, but he raised an eyebrow at this one. ‘There’s a crocodile in a church window?’ Yup. They thought it was a dragon.

Anyway. Wormington church is incredibly pretty. The wall leans outwards, as if it’s simply too tired to stand up straight any longer, and the way in is via some stone steps over said wall. And there in the window was the crocodile.

(You want the full story? We-e-ell – it’s out next summer, published by Halsgrove: the Suffolk follow-up to Norfolk Ghosts and Legends. I have plans for the year after, too, involving my birth county, though I have yet to do the outline.)

Then to Bures, where I happened to know there was a 13th-century wooden effigy (yup, another of my crusaders. This one was for the church book, Again, maximising use of travel). Apparently the shield is a rare survival. He also has a very cute lion at his feet.
Madam and son persuaded DH to let them go on the village playground while I was pottering round the church. Apparently, there was one tiny bit of mud on the whole playing field – and Madam just had to fall in it. I returned to find her wet and grubby and ever so slightly grumpy. (This meant going to nearby large town and feeding her cake. Yeah, yeah: like mother, like daughter. I did not have cake. I was keeping an eye on the light and working out when to start chivvying.)

Next, to St Stephen’s chapel. This is connected with the King Edmund story – and if the weather is kind I intend to go to Hoxne this week to take pics for another bit of it. But as this will involves walking across a field (on a permitted footpath, I should add), we definitely need a nice day. Not like Sunday, when the rain set in and the kids played games while DH read the paper and I sneaked off to my desk. (Did a big chunk on the church book, too; am currently researching weather vanes and clocks.)

Plans for today depend greatly on the weather. Oh, and on the Pandora front – not even the flicker of a grump. DH even admitted it was nice. (Uh-oh. This may well mean he has arranged something and has yet to break it to me...)

Friday, October 24, 2008

spooky night and lovely day

Current work: semi day off
Listening to: Manic Street Preachers
Reading: Nicholas Orme, Medieval children (am really enjoying this and I think I need my own copy for my research collection - it’s that good)

Last night saw me talking to about 100 people about ghosts and legends of Norfolk, with my National Year of Reading 2007 writer-in-residence hat on. I was fine until I walked in and saw just how big the room was and how many chairs there were. Sucked in a breath, calmed down - and then everyone came back from their ghost walk and the room filled up…

But the OHP and the screen worked (after a bit of propping up by us!), the people organising it were lovely, and once I started talking… I mean, I know my subject. I can ad-lib. I’m not a showman like Richard on the ghost walk is (I covet his top hat and his black velvet cape!), but I do tell stories for a living: so I pretended I was talking to the kids, and I was absolutely fine. What really thrilled me afterwards was the huge queue of people asking me to sign their copy of my book, and people coming up to me during the buffet to chat. Times like these are definitely precious.

Today was lovely, too – son had a teacher-training day, so we headed into town to pick up my new specs. The pressure in my eyes is still a little too high (hmm… maybe because I was wide awake from 2am to 4.30am last night) so I have to go back in a year for a recheck. Then we went to look at the bracelets to scope out Madam's birthday present.

Verdict: they’re utterly lovely. They look nice on a computer screen. In the flesh, they're better.

So... I was bad.

Or was I?

I had intended to buy a painting with my RNA prize money, but I haven’t found the right one yet. Now, as I – like many authors – tend to suffer from self-doubt (aka the crows), I could do with something tangible to keep said doubts at bay.

The Radley handbag is half of it. The other half is what I bought today. One Pandora bracelet and the first charm.

(OK, so there are two on the bracelet, but that’s because the one I eventually chose was cheaper than the one I’d originally intended to buy, and just one charm looked a bit plain. This is a zoomed-in pic: the main charm is about as wide as my little fingernail.)

There were three contenders for the charm that tells me I won the RNA prize, and son helped me choose. There’s a gold heart (shape = romance, colour = equivalent of sporting medal. i.e. winner), it has a ‘C’ on each side (the initial of my son and my daughter), and starbursts top and bottom (as in fireworks = celebration). So I think that fits the bill really nicely.

The plan is to add a new charm for each new M&B I sell; each charm will be appropriate to the book. (Yes, of course I have the next one planned.) And over the years it’s going to become a very precious keepsake.

I'm aware that I've been a bit frivolous and self-indulgent in the middle of a recession, which is a v bad thing. However, I don't go pubbing and clubbing, I don’t spend a fortune on clothes and shoes, and actually this is my third self-indulgent purchase this year: the pearls for being shortlisted for the RNA prize, the Radley bag (half my RNA prize money) and the bracelet. I don't buy designer clothes and shoes. Books... well, that's work so it doesn't count. I've actually been reasonably good with chocolate, lately. So, in the scheme of things, spread over the course of this year, it's not too bad :o)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

displacement (and a discovery)

Current work: new Medical/nonfic/tinkering with other projects
Listening to: Whitesnake
Reading: Nicholas Orme, Medieval children (interesting subject matter and I like his style - good read - it's research and am thoroughly enjoying it – NB this is a huge book so it’ll take me a while!)

This morning, daughter announced that she’d like a charm bracelet for her birthday. Tonight, I’m doing a talk to rather a lot of people, so I’m a tad fidgety today… hence the displacement activity of looking up charm bracelets this morning.

They seem to come either pre-loaded (with stuff that is not to my taste and probably won’t be to hers), or they’re eye-wateringly expensive (for a child her age… hmm…).

And then I discovered the ‘modern’ charm bracelets. Pandora. Utterly gorgeous. And I’d rather like one.

Which is odd, because I’m not really a jewellery person. I wear my wedding ring, my watch (also bought by DH) and if I’m dressing up I’ll wear a pendant or my posh pearls. But I’m not one for lots of rings or ankle-chains or bracelets or earrings (especially not earrings – do I look as if I’m mad enough to let someone stick a needle through my ear and cause me lots of pain?).

Though the charms that go with the Pandora bracelets are lovely. Murano glass and the kind of quirky stuff that I like. (Very like a medieval rosary, in fact... but I digress and I am not supposed to be working on medieval stuff today.) And something my friend Ray-Anne said a while back stuck in my mind: her DH bought her a charm bracelet to celebrate the sale of her first M&B, and she’s going to add a charm with each book. What a lovely, lovely idea.

If I did that (and backdated it) I’d have a Pandora bracelet AND necklace by now, especially if I added the nonfics. I can’t be that naughty. (Really, I can’t. Not unless Radley is involved.) But I do like the idea of a charm per book. Something special to keep.

So I read up about the company. They come from Denmark. Hmm. So does my mother’s side of the family (her grandmother was a Danish midwife). They’ve been going for 25 years, and I recently celebrated my 25th M&B (last year = recent in book terms, yes?).

You can see where this is going. Same way as I convinced myself about the Radley bag. This is meant to be, is it not?

And although I make a point of never, EVER dressing my daughter as a mini-me (and in any case she has a completely different style – she’s far more girly than I am), I could stretch a point for this, as we’d choose very different charms. Hers would be girly. Mine would be quirky. (Supposing they teamed up with Radley for a dog… or had a spaniel rather than Patch…)

I have to go into town tomorrow to pick up my new specs and see about Madam’s birthday pressie, depending on what she says tonight. Son has an inset day. Whether he’s a good or a bad influence remains to be seen :o)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Current work: new Medical/tinkering with other projects
Listening to: The Fray
Reading: Nicholas Orme, Medieval children (interesting subject matter and I like his style - good read - it's research and am thoroughly enjoying it)

It's harder to get up on these dark mornings. And I think we wished we hadn't bothered when we were divebombed by wasps! There appeared to be a stream of them heading just under the garage roof. Clearly a nest. Not good. Son was relatively calm, but Madam was starting to panic. I managed to be cool, calm Mummy, told them to walk slowly and stay very still if a wasp flew near, and get into the car.

OK, so wasps aren’t anywhere near as scary as what Jill Shalvis has been facing this week. Bu-u-ut… Last time I was stung, I reacted quite badly. I can laugh about the sting story now, but it hurt like mad at the time. But what do you do when a wasp flies down your cleavage, just as you walk into a lift with a complete stranger? You can’t exactly rip off your shirt and yell, ‘There’s a wasp in my bra!’ because… well, you don’t just rip off your clothes in front of a strange man, do you? So I was polite and British, and the wasp panicked at being trapped and stung me. So that’s why I’m a tad nervous around wasps. (No, I haven't told the kids why. I still regret telling them why I'm a tad nervous about cats. They think it's hilarious.)

As soon as I got home (after getting my slides done for Thursday’s talk and seeing the phlebo for routine blood tests – the joys of an underactive thyroid), I rang Environmental Health. The woman on the other end of the line was utterly lovely and very patient. She said that the wasps should die off in a few weeks when it gets colder, darker and wetter; and, because they don’t use the same nest twice, we should be fine next year. My choice: put up with it for a few weeks, or she could send some men round to sort out my wasps.

Had they been bees, I would’ve been very flattered to be chosen and then would’ve called a local beekeeper to collect them and keep them safely over the winter. I like bees. But wasps… I’m sorry. I know they’re good for biocontrol, and I know they make beautiful, beautiful nests, but I can’t live with them. So the environmental health people are coming out today. (I would’ve preferred yesterday, but…!)

And the floor... still waiting. I have made the point about mud and the fact that I am tired of waiting and the sheer lack of contact. I have a feeling I'll have to do a bit of chasing on this (sigh - as if I don't have anything better to do).

Righty. Glass half full: some nice news. My mate Amy Andrews has her first Presents Extra out - and it's hit #5 on the Waldies list. Go, Amy!

Plan for today: work, guitar, then wait for the wasp men.

Monday, October 20, 2008

If you go down to the woods today…

Current work: new Medical/tinkering with other projects
Listening to: Dowland
Reading: next on my TBR pile

Friday: very frustrating day in the library as I spent ages there and managed to track down precisely three bits of new information… Admittedly, I was able to corroborate a lot of my online notes with the original records, but I’d hoped to make a couple more connections. I think I really need to go to the records office again. (Always a treat... but I want some days at my desk, because I can be terribly distracted by research.) Nice interview on the radio, though – Karen and Graham are always great fun.

Nipped over the border to Suffolk on Saturday to do some location research on the Suffolk ruins book. Strictly speaking, the places we went to weren’t castle or abbey ruins. However, they both have stories I wanted to use, so I’m annexing them as honorary castles.

We would’ve gone via the A140, but when I checked the AA website it recommended the A12. That meant we’d pass within a mile or two of Wenhaston, so I begged for a stop en route to see the Wenhaston Doom (the one I was burbling about the other week). It really was stunning. I didn’t expect it to be the first thing I saw when I walked in (second, thing, actually – the first thing I spotted was a sanctuary ring: excellent, as that was one of the gaps in my churches book). Anyway, it was an utter delight. I particularly liked the sea-monster’s mouth, and the devil next to St Michael. I could definitely see the influence of the Mystery Plays there. (Yup, another throwback to my degree. I went for as many medieval and Old English options as I could.)

Christ on his rainbow definitely looks majestic - velvet robes, or silk maybe?

Then we went to Sutton Hoo, which we all enjoyed hugely. DH and daughter hadn’t been there before, though son could remember going with me several years ago. Firstly we viewed the burial mounds (this is Mound 2, which is at its original 7th-century height).

Then we had a wander through the woods (and spotted some of these).

And then we wandered through the exhibition (I remember more OE poetry, last time we were there, but never mind... was still nice to hear the lyre). Somebody couldn't resist the dressing-up box:

Then to Felixstowe Landguard Fort – the kids loved it, though I found a couple of the areas a bit… oppressive, I suppose. When I do the research, it will be interesting to see if those bits are supposedly haunted.

By then it was quite late, so the idea was to nip into Ipswich on the way back and take four photographs. Two of my chosen subjects were locked, one was covered in scaffolding (sigh – will have to source a pic elsewhere because it looks as if it’ll be in scaffolding for months), and one I couldn’t find because I’d stuffed up my directions. So we will have to return to Ipswich. I did however spot a very interesting Victorian letter box.

Perfect sunset on the way home, but we were still the Suffolk side of the border so I couldn't consider it for my 'Little Book of Norfolk' front cover. Not to mention the fact that, as our stepcount was over 20,000 that day, we were ravenous - and I'd put jacket potatoes and beef in red wine in the oven, on auto. Perfectly timed so all I had to do when I walked in was put some greens in the steamer, and some chicken fillets in the oven for the kids.

Plan for today: rattle a few cages about my floor (I will be nice, but I will explain politely but firmly that rainy season + dog = disgusting floor, and the longer it goes on the worse things will become and the grumpier I will become). And write fiction (hopefully I'll get the headspace).

Friday, October 17, 2008

The glamorous life of an author…

Current work: articles/new Medical/tinkering with other projects
Listening to: Lifehouse
Reading: next on my TBR pile

Yesterday was the very first East Anglian Book Awards and I was delighted to be on the shortlist. Around 50 people were in the Jarrolds restaurant last night for the award presentation, very nicely done by Keith Skipper (who always gives a great talk).

I didn’t win (and, let’s face it, two awards in a year would be a bit greedy!), but I was very pleased that my friend Carol Twinch was a winner with her book ‘The Little Book of Suffolk’. Here’s Carol with Keith (and her winner's plaque!).

The overall winner was Carol Birch with ‘Scapegallows’; runner-up was Ronald Blythe with ‘Field Work’. Other category winners were Andrew Humphrey with ‘Other Voices’, Peter Haining with ‘Norfolk Broads: The Golden Years’ and Patrick Boswell with ‘Boswell’s Norwich’.

The ‘Classic’ book award was won by LP Hartley’s ‘The Go Between’ (a very good book, made into a beautiful film with lovely Julie Christie).

And here are all the winners with the judges and the awards sponsors.

I think everyone really enjoyed the evening, and I was chuffed to bits being able to bask in my friend’s reflected glory!

Plans for today: morning in the library, doing research; and then at lunchtime I’m 0n BBC Radio Norfolk, talking to lovely Graham Barnard and Karen Buchanan on their ‘Ladies at Lunch’ spot.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Current work: articles/new Medical/tinkering with other projects
Listening to: Corelli (because I'm twitchy and the concerti grossi are very calming)
Reading: Not Quite a Lady, Louise Allen (very enjoyable. A real-life event that sparked the idea – one that would’ve given me a lightbulb, too. All to do with a hoax – an ordinary address made notorious by someone ordering things to be sent to said house…)

Today, I don’t have blood in my veins. I have pure adrenaline.


Because of this.

And this.

I didn’t sleep well last night, I have enormous bags under my eyes, and… help. Even though I’m not expecting to win (it’s wonderful just to have been shortlisted: and the competition is of a very, very high standard, so I’m hugely pleased to be among them), and I know other people who will be there, I’m hideously nervous. More so, I think, than I was about the RNA awards do.
I have at least confessed to DH about the bag, so I can go with a clear conscience.

But I’m fidgety, so I think I’ll be working on nonfic and/or research for the Med this afternoon, after I’ve spent the morning with Dad.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blue skies

Current work: articles/new Medical/tinkering with other projects
Listening to: Sheryl Crow
Reading: next on TBR pile

Especially for Jan - this is Thurne drainage mill. (I could be fussy and want a slightly deeper blue sky, but this isn't bad - the light was good. You'd never think that on the way there I was fussing about it being too misty, but decided to give it a try anyway.)

I've sent my publisher quite a few pics, including one of Happisburgh lighthouse against a dramatically stormy sky; one of the first I took with the camera, involving lots of straight lines (sea and sand and sky and seaweed) at Wells-next-the-Sea; one of the Blakeney Point pics from the summer, with an incredibly cute seal pup; the bluebells at Foxley Wood; the stripy cliffs at Hunstanton; and various semi-arty (read: self-indulgent) pics of certain buildings that always say 'Norfolk' to me (though maybe they're too Norwich-based for me to get away with it), and churches and seagulls and a sunset (not the best I've ever seen, but still a nice one from my back garden).

I've no idea what the designer will come up with. The 'Little Book of' series so far has a single pic on the front, though I'd love a collage.

The problem is: how do you encapsulate a county in just ONE picture? Especially one as varied as Norfolk. We have an amazing coastline with some of the best birdwatching sites in the country; we have more medieval churches and more windmills than any other county; we have the Broads; we have ancient woodlands; we have some terribly grand country houses (Blickling being my favourite); and, most of all, we have amazing skies.

Hmm. Skies. In a recent local newspaper interview, I said that was what I miss most about Norfolk when I'm away (which isn't very often).


What I really need is a day when there's a fab sunset, and enough time to go and find something gorgeous as a silhouette to set against it (i.e. a church or a windmill - or maybe somewhere on the Broads where it's reflected).

But, at the moment, if it's a single pic rather than a collage, I think Thurne would be a front runner. (I have flagged the sunset potential, though. And as autumn is my favourite season...)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

When she was bad…

Current work: articles/new Medical/tinkering with other projects
Listening to: Sheryl Crow
Reading: Margaret McDonagh, An Italian Affair (enjoyed this very much – fabulous setting, and her trademark heart-warming characters)

Had a very nice email from one of my publishers yesterday, and we ended up agreeing what my next three books for them will be. So I’m a very happy bunny. It means I get to do stuff in my birth county (which will also make my family happy, as most of them still live there).

Spoke to Dad last night to check if today was still on; he wasn’t feeling too well, so Madam and I stayed in town today and did some café-hopping. Had my eyes tested; I needed new glasses but, as I’ve had this pair for 6 years and my previous pair had the same prescription, that’s not too bad. Madam found her birthday dress and is pleased with it. (She saw several more she liked in Monsoon, but they were eye-wateringly expensive for the amount of wear she’d get out of them. And funny how my friends recommend shops and they find lovely stuff, whereas we go in and it’s all a bit meh and she loathes it. That, or maybe my daughter just has expensive tastes.)

While we were dress-shopping, we discovered that Debenhams had a sale in a certain department, and a certain something was in the sale… Let’s just say I’m going to be in trouble when DH realises on Thursday that wifey’s outfit matches. Even though it was utterly obvious that I was going to crack eventually and buy said purchase. I feel horribly guilty. It wasn’t strictly necessary; and there’s a recession on; and thrift is the new flash and all that…

Then again, I work really hard. And I deserve the occasional treat. And…

Yeah. I guess I’m a bad puppy today.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Current work: articles/new Medical/tinkering with other projects
Listening to: Lindsey Buckingham
Reading: Carol Townend, An Honourable Rogue (loved this one – Carol’s settings are wonderfully evocative. Lovely characters, too – I would definitely have lost my heart to Ben)

I’m blogging today over at We Write Romance, so do go over and make a comment to be in with a chance of winning a book (NB it’s on US time and I’m on UK time, so ‘today’ means October 13.
So, what have I been up to?

Friday was a library day… except the bit where I planned to work was temporarily closed. Which meant I didn't have access to all the stuff I wanted, sigh, but managed to worked a bit downstairs in the morning. Until the woman opposite me started having a very loud conversation on her mobile phone. Clearly I’m middle-aged and grumpy, because I did ask her very politely if she’d mind being a little quieter, please, as I was trying to work. (I could hear her above the PA system in another part of the Forum – with my hearing aid switched off, and I can’t hear planes overhead in said circumstances, so I don’t think I was being that stuffy…) Met Ali for lunch; lovely to have a catch-up.

Saturday was a field trip – lots of church-crawling, followed by a visit to King’s Lynn museum (mainly to see Seahenge, but the collection there is fascinating). This is a detail from Barkham's tomb in South Acre - just glorious! (WWR has the pics of the brass which was the reason why we visited the church. Very inspiring for a romantic novelist.)

Sunday was my interview at BBC Radio Norfolk with lovely Maggie Secker, talking about ghosts and legends – and, because the sky was the right shade of blue, I persuaded DH that we needed to go to Thurne Mill. We were halfway there when the mist started rising, and he was convinced that I’d take the picture, say the sky still wasn’t the right colour, and insist on revisiting another day.

(I should explain: white windmill + white sails = need for a very blue or a very stormy sky – if it’s overcast and pale, there isn’t enough contrast between the background and the sails. Hence the 'right colour blue'.) However, the light was perfect, and I think I may have found my front cover for the Little Book of Norfolk. I’d really like a collage, but if we have to stick to one pic then this is definitely a front runner.

Today: articles to finish, then I’m writing again (and tinkering with some other projects). Madam has an Inset day tomorrow (i.e. it's a teacher training day and there are no classes), so we’re going into town to see if we can find her a dress for her birthday, and then taking Dad out for lunch. Other than that, this week sees an awards dinner on Thursday (I’m starting to get nervous now, even though I’m going with the attitude that it’s a very strong shortlist and I’m not expecting to win – I’m tipping George Plunkett, and actually I think it’d be lovely for him to get posthumous recognition of his work) and another radio interview on Friday.

Righty... to work.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

More simple pleasures

Current work: talking to Y6 children about being an author, with my NYR hat on
Listening to: not, too busy talking :o)
Reading: next on my TBR bookcase (too tired last night)

Pleasures from today:

  • Doing three talks to Y6 children (aged 10-11) – all of whom were really interested, really involved, and asked loads of questions. I thoroughly enjoyed my day. (And I’m not just biased because it’s my school – they were fabulous, fabulous kids and it’s lovely to be able to share the joy of books as part of the NYR)
  • Discovering that my daughter has joined the school choir – and being treated to a rendition of the songs she’s doing at a school concert next month, on the way home in the car (she really does have a lovely voice – and I do like the song ‘I can see clearly now’. She’s also doing ‘Consider yourself’ – it’s great fun) (and it was lovely hearing her sing it to her dad, and hearing him join in)
  • Walking up the hill through a pile of autumn leaves, hearing them scrunch under my feet
    Seeing the sweet, bright blue of an early autumn sky (this is my favourite season)
  • Receiving a book in the post that I’m really looking forward to reading (thank you VERY much to the friend who sent it: you know who you are)

Days like this are ones to be savoured and remembered when things are a little tough.

Which pleasures would you store?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

small, simple pleasures

Current work: articles/nonfic/tinkering with new book outline
Listening to: various medieval stuff
Reading: next on my TBR bookcase (too tired last night)

Whenever Madam wakes up in the middle of the night, she always invades our bed – which means I get left with the teensiest bit of mattress. We had one of those nights, last night; once she was settled back in her own bed, I could NOT get back to sleep. Which means that today I’m sleep-deprived and grumpy.

Not helped by DH deciding to be helpful this morning – he took my phone from my bag to charge it up (it was beeping to signal that the battery was low), and apparently my keys were on top of the phone... and he didn’t put them back in the same place. Caused me a good five minutes of panic until I found them.

So today I’ve gone for a small, simple pleasure.


Specifically, ginger cake. Like the ones my mum and I used to make: autumn always makes me think of sticky ginger cake. I had a little time to kill between the school run and seeing my accountant, and the supermarket in the village sells cakes from a local cake-maker – practically as good as home made. Just as I’d hoped, there was a little ginger cake on the shelf. I don’t normally indulge, because I’m the only one in the house who likes it and I have no willpower whatsoever (so you know who’s going to eat the entire cake over the next few days. Kate Glutton). But today, after a broken night and that panicky, chaotic five minutes where I couldn’t find my keys… I really wanted cake. A tiny slice (two bites’-worth) along with a cup of Earl Grey.

It’s gone a long way to restoring my mood. I have no intention of feeling guilty about it, even though I know that cake is a Bad Thing. I have a feeling that, in this economic climate, small, simple pleasures are going to be very necessary.

What’s your small, simple pleasure?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Good news

Current work: articles/nonfic/tinkering with new book outline
Listening to: Bach (also playing it, hence sore left fingertips!)
Reading: next on my TBR bookcase
Am definitely running short on time, so visited Dad last night with the kids (I feel bad about not taking him out to lunch on Weds, but a whole day out of a working week is a tad difficult when I already have two other days booked out for talks etc). Also took him the fleecy blanket we bought him at the weekend as he’s really feeling the cold; as Parkinson’s means less mobility, he really does need something to take the chill off.

Head from my ed this morning – she loves the revisions. So Playboy Boss, Pregnancy of Passion will be out in May 2009 in the UK. (Have updated my website, so if you want to know all about Luke/see the new recipe… you know where to look.)

And my Norway book has the green light, so am a happy bunny right now.

I’ve also been invited back on the ‘Ladies at Lunch’ slot with lovely Graham Barnard and Karen Buchanan. If you want to tune in, it’s on BBC Radio Norfolk, 12 noon, 17 October.

Monday, October 06, 2008

awards, talks… and why blue?

Current work: articles/nonfic
Listening to: Bach
Reading: Robert Goddard, Name to a Face (not bad – my ears pricked up at the beginning when Sir Cloudesley Shovell was mentioned, as he’s local, but that was a red herring. Wasn’t bad (nice way of spending a Sunday morning, with sheeting rain outside) but my favourites of his are still Past Caring, In Pale Battalions, Painting the Darkness and Hand In Glove. If you’re new to Goddard, you’ll enjoy it; if you’re not… it’s not bad, but sadly not in the same league as my favourites.)

Busy weekend. Friday, visited Dad; Saturday was running errands (I was going shopping in town, but I think DH might’ve been reading my blog as he insisted on accompanying me). Jarrolds has a lovely display of the East Anglian Awards shortlisted books. (Mine’s top left.)

And Borders had a poster for my talk at the end of the month.

Spent the afternoon doing location shots for various books. There's a fabulous wall painting of St Christopher at Paston – this is a detail, but from top to toe it’s most of the height of the wall.

Came across something very interesting at Wroxham: a Norman doorway that had been stained blue in the 19th century.

Very interesting carving, too. (Apologies for the purple fringing.)

What I can’t find out is who added the blue stain and why. It’s not mentioned in the church guidebook, or Pevsner, or Mortlock (or even by Simon Knott, who is INCREDIBLY knowledgeable, as well as having a writing style I enjoy thoroughly). So if anyone can satisfy my curiosity, please do!

Friday, October 03, 2008


Current work: articles/nonfic
Listening to: Kathryn Williams
Reading: Donna Alward, Falling for Mr Dark and Dangerous (enjoyed this very much – and I really loved learning about the Chinook wind. What makes a book extra-special for me is if I learn something new. This ticked the boxes. Oh, and I want some of that cake. Note to self: ask Donna for recipe)

Finished the revisions last night. Quite late. Here’s hoping my ed likes them. Interestingly, she asked me to take something out of the original outline. Her revision notes said to me that my original plan was the way to go. Have nicked a location from my mate Fiona Harper, also inspired by a blog post from my mate Jan Jones. (Will admit to this properly if it stays in the book – I might end up with another set of revisions on this one.) My beloved spaniel has a walk-on part in it. (Not that you’d know it. He’s snoring gently on his bed, next to my desk.)

Spent the morning with Dad; came home to a French copy of One Night, One Baby (and a superb title – La promesse d’un inconnu).

This is a view of London I know quite well, as we normally end up on the river if it’s dry and not over-cold. And of course, where the picture would have been photographed, there are, ahem, lamp posts. (My mate Amy Andrews hasn’t quite yet recovered from that scene in The Cinderella Project!)

Plan for the rest of today: lunch with dog (very brief), articles, and a bit of work on my nonfic…

Thursday, October 02, 2008

what women want…

Current work: revisions
Listening to: Bach
Reading: not – am writing

Specifically, what this woman wants.

DH says I don’t need it. I beg to differ. A handbag covered in handbags, to me, says ‘romance author’. I have not yet found my painting. So I think this bag says ‘award-winning romance author’. (Actually, it says, “The familiar is made beautiful through love.” QED. It is MADE for me.) And I have an awards do to go to - OMG, two weeks today - and this bag will match my award-winning romance author outfit perfectly. They also do it in pink, but I've seen this one in the flesh and this is the one that speaks to me. (Yeah, yeah. I know handbags don't talk, per se. You know what I mean.)

The talk went well yesterday, after a scary start. No hands up at my first question. My heart sank a little: and some of the kids had a real ‘I don’t want to be here’ expression on their faces. But I had a little something up my sleeve – rather, on the table. (The Norfolk Almanac of Disasters. Want to know what happened on your birthday?) Every so often, I told them another little story. By the end of the session, they were all putting their hands up and contributing (and lots of them asked me where they could get my book – bless). So I hope I achieved my aim of showing them that books can be fun – it’s a pleasure that can be shared, and it doesn’t have to cost anything if you use your library.

Have been asked to open a new library in another school, and I’m delighted - I’ve always wanted to cut a ribbon. (I’d also love to switch on some Christmas lights…) And am looking forward to next week’s talk at Madam’s school.

But for now... I need ways of convincing DH that this handbag is mine, mine, mine. (I could sneak out and buy it, though will have to be sans kids as Madam is a complete and utter grass and she would tell him.)


Wednesday, October 01, 2008


Current work: revisions
Listening to: Kathryn Williams
Reading: not – am writing

Busy today – hopefully finalising my revisions (or at least filling in a decent chunk of the gaps – was sidetracked yesterday because my publisher wanted me to do something), then this afternoon am doing a talk on ‘how to write non-fiction’ for a local middle school, as part of the National Year of Reading.

Actually, I’m a bit nervous about it; I’m more used to an adult audience. What I hope is that I’ll entertain the kids enough to make them want to go off and read books and write something of their own. So it’s Kipling’s ‘six honest serving men’, explaining how you can make things more interesting for your reader (sub-headings, pictures, captions and quotes – and how to make a picture more exciting), and then an overview of how a book is produced (from idea to outline to writing it – where you get the facts, how you present it – then proofs, the jacket, the finished book… and what the local paper does to publicise it, including locking you in a dungeon – well, that’s what mine did to me, to get a ‘spooky’ photograph!).

Have agreed with Dad that I’ll visit on Friday rather than tomorrow, so I can definitely have this book off my desk tomorrow. And then it’s articles, a bit more nonfic, and then hopefully my ed will give me the green light for the Norway book (sans reindeer… but I’m planning a teensy cameo).