Wednesday, April 30, 2008

back from being MIA

Current work: new nonfiction (written 20k of it in the last week plus half my talk for the RNA conference in July)
Listening to: Whitesnake’s new album (waiting for it to grow on me and as they’re one of my favourite bands I feel quite bad about that)
Reading: Carol Townend, The Novice Bride (enjoying hugely as I’ve just finished researching/working on my local area’s history in Norman times– the setting’s perfect)

Thank you to everyone who emailed me while I was MIA. I have just about caught up with replies… and I’m pleased to report here that, no, it wasn’t anything lifethreatening to me/my immediate family or my dad being rushed back to hospital.

In fact, the problem was rather mundane.

My computer blew up last Thursday. (Well, it didn’t blow up exactly. Just refused to connect online and everything else was running like treacle.)

And I’ve learned how over-dependent I am on my computer.

I backed everything up – and because I was panicking about getting the PC into the tecchy shop early enough to maybe get it back the same today, I backed up a lot of things to SD cards and memory sticks instead of burning CD-roms. Which would’ve been fine had my laptop not been so ancient that it still uses floppy disks and only recognises my oldest memory stick – everything else came up with the ‘cannot find driver’ message.

So then I decided to be clever over the weekend (most of which was spent loafing with DH and the kids because I had no computer) and copy files from one memory stick to another. Except... very stupidly, I did it the wrong way round (because I was rushing to get it done – yep, there’s a moral there) and managed to overwrite my latest set of accounts with ones I did last July. I could resurrect things with invoices, but could I remember every phone call or research trip I've made in the last nine months? Er... no.

Cue two sleepless nights. Called lovely tecchies first thing on Monday to see if they’d started fixing the machine (I was envisioning loss of data here and a real mess to give to my new accountant). They hadn’t, and yes I could come and fish my data off the machine. Phew.

But still.

No computer back Monday.

No computer yesterday.

So it’s been practically a week without internet access or email. Had to pay my credit card bill via phone instead of online (and explained to the bank that no, now was not the right time to talk to me about house insurance – I needed industrial quantities of chocolate). Grocery shopping delivered this morning has lots of gaps because I couldn’t do what I normally do and review my order Monday morning (sigh, will have to take the kids shopping after school – think I need more chocolate). Lots of gaps in my new book (square brackets with CHECK THIS and RESEARCH THIS covered in yellow highlighter dotted all over the place). Couldn’t check if my Amazon order was on its way when DH started nagging me. Couldn’t look up stuff for my stepmum when she rang me needing some urgent info. Discovered half my friends’ contact info is on computer not hardcopy, so I couldn't get in touch.

No man is an island, according to Donne. Well, I was, last week. A big, fat island.

Anyway. It’s fixed now. DH is nagging me to buy a laptop as my ‘backup’ computer. I know what he has in mind: sitting on the sofa in the conservatory with his feet up and a cold beer by his side, looking up Deep Purple and Nick Drake on YouTube and looking up every so often at the garden… So far, so rosy. Kids are backing him up: ‘We need it for school…’ (Eldest, possibly in September – and we know he wants lots of animation software too. Youngest – er, no, she’s trying it on.)

But after a week of having to type on an uncomfortable keyboard (my ancient laptop is too old to install Dragon) and swearing because said keyboard was really unresponsive and missed out half of the letters I’d typed - not to mention how difficult it is to cut and paste things on a laptop (at least, it is on mine!) – I am very, very anti the idea of a laptop. Plus there’s the issue of laptops being easy to drop, sit on and squabble over and play tug of war over (certain people claim they wouldn’t, but that’s what happened to one of the DS-Lites and I don’t believe they learned their lesson: when in a strop, my kids lose all rationality).

So my vote is for another desktop. Though if we have net access on it then I want it in a very, very visible place so I can keep an eye on what the kids are looking up. Currently arguing that with DH.

But, lord, it’s good to be back. I am never going to take this for granted again.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

an unusual visitor

Current work: messing about with a new outline (nonfic)
Listening to: Lifehouse
Reading: Louise Allen, The Dangerous Mr Ryder (loved this – great characterisation and Louise writes such sexy heroes! Good plot, too. And I learned stuff from it: I know Louise and she's meticulous about research)

Happy St George’s Day. And guess who’s on the Waldies this week, too? Happy bunny, here. Thank you to the readers who put me there - I do hope you enjoy Giovanni!

Yesterday, we had a rather unusual visitor at the bottom of the garden (this is by the shed and under the trees). Amazingly, dog didn’t notice him – or perhaps they were just ignoring each other. Isn’t he beautiful? (What a pheasant is doing in our back garden… probably came from the field over the back, but it’s still not that common. We had herons around, the summer before last, and they looked like pterodactyls when they were flying over. Or maybe that’s my novelist’s head again.)

Today: I really ought to do my accounts. However, I’m messing about with an outline or two. (Jan’s right, sadly. I do consider this a treat…)

And no, I haven’t tidied my office yet. Yesterday, my modem was playing up (or maybe my ISP was having some outages as, touch wood, seems OK today) so I spent much of my time fiddling with it and resetting and... (sigh). I was discussing with son what we’re going to do tomorrow when his school’s on strike. He was out of ideas, mainly because he knew his sister would be upset if we did a museum, cinema or seaside trip without her – and also I think I’d shocked him by saying I’d take the day off – so I came up with, ‘Well, you can tidy my office.’ Littlest one pipes up: ‘I LOVE tidying.’ (Ha. Doesn’t take after her mother, then.) ‘I’ll tidy your office for you.’


Now, she offered. She likes doing this sort of thing. So could I be Bad Mummy enough to accept?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Finished

Current work: printing out book for lovely editor
Listening to: Kathryn Williams
Reading: I really ought to tidy my bearpit of an office first…

Finished my castles/ruins book. Two days earlier than I hoped. (Is still late, but earlier than negotiated deadline, so I feel I’m on the way back to being myself… and I’m touching wood that real life stays on an even keel for a while.)

So, apart from printing out the book, plans for today include tidying my office, playing with my new book, guitar lesson, Madam’s swimming lesson, and chilling out a little.

Some excellent and well-deserved news to report – in the year of her 50th book, my dear friend Liz Fielding has been awarded the Romantic Times’ Love & Laughter award. Go and see her and say congrats!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Guess who’s in the Waldies top ten?

Current work: nonfiction (final readthrough and appendices)
Listening to: Bach
Reading: obscure stuff to do with the current book

Thank you very much to the readers who’ve put me in the Waldenbooks’ Top 10 list again. Much appreciated, and I do hope you’re enjoying Giovanni!



Spent the weekend working on the book, which included a couple of field trips (because even though I try to take most of the pics in advance, if I discover something during research that would make a good picture, then I need to go back). This is Thetford’s castle motte – claimed to be the tallest manmade medieval earthwork in England (is 89 feet tall - the two ditches in front of it were originally Iron Age earthworks but the ramparts were enhanced when the Norman motte was built).


Son, of course, heads straight up it. Followed by daughter. Followed by DH, after a piteous look from me asking him to keep an eye on them. (This was taken with a zoom lens, btw.) I don’t mind going up – it’s down that’s the problem. Remember, I’m clumsy. And I can see how far down I’ll fall and… Cough.





Besides, my thighs were already protesting from the previous day’s excursion up a church tower in Ranworth. Think 89 very steep spiral steps, plus two ladders and a trapdoor: I got to step 80 and thought about getting down again and wussed out… Instead I examined the gorgeous rood screen and the antiphoner (the latter was the reason for the visit, but the tower happened to be open and I was feeling impulsive. Someone really should save me from myself).

Anyway. DH was very patient. This is why he gets most of my nonfiction dedications and always gets a thank you in the acknowledgements. The kids loved it because we followed up with another castle (well, actually, that was just me because they protested it was too cold to get out of the car, plus the church next to it was shut) and then a walk in the forest.


Today: I'm on the last bit of the book. Just need to read through, smooth things out and make sure certain usages are consistent throughout.


Actually, I think I need two appendices. A timeline and a 'daily life' one. Or maybe three, if I explain the differences between the religious orders. Hmm, hmm. See how it goes.

Friday, April 18, 2008

still busybusy

Current work: nonfiction
Listening to: Seahorses, Do It Yourself
Reading: visitation records (they're fascinating)

Busy day yesterday – library, working on the current book, quick field trip for photos. Deadline approaching at speed so I’m off. (Am also out to lunch with Jo and Sarah, but I think the Slowing Down Police might approve of that…)

And I really must learn Latin properly – I can wing it on my knowledge of English and with a dictionary, but it’s not an entirely satisfactory solution. Think I will make that a goal for 2009.

DH and the kids are muttering about a laptop. Sigh. How to persuade them to wait until the bugs have been ironed out of Vista… Have reminded DH of the poor after-sales service of certain big chains, so he’s not going to make that mistake, but Vista… please, not yet. I know too many people who’ve had problems with it (and as for the backward-compatibility issues… sigh. We live in a throwaway society).

Enough. Back to my little cave. (Today it’s pre-Conquest.)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

busybusy

Current work: nonfiction
Listening to: Lifehouse, Who We Are
Reading: lots of luvverly medieval tracts (work, but it’s pleasure, believe me)

Busy day yesterday – guitar, and working on the current book. Having a library day tomorrow. Am aware am being a bad blogger but hey, that’s deadlines for you. Apologies.

Am currently mulling over whether to include a timeline in the book as an appendix… part of me wants to, but am also aware it could run away with me. And one place I’d decided not to include (because there are no extant remains) turns out to have some good stories, so will need to include it now. Means no pics, as the village church isn’t the one used by the nunnery; but there are a couple of other shortish chapters sans pics, so I can get away with it.

Back to my little cave...

Monday, April 14, 2008

stormy weather

Current work: nonfiction
Listening to: Sheryl Crow
Reading: Kelly Hunter, Taken by the Bad Boy (great read – absolutely cracking dialogue, and I’m not just saying that because she’s my friend)

Had the most incredibly loud storm on Friday – well, it was only one bang of thunder, but it was enough to make the house shake and I could hear it very, very loudly WITHOUT having sound in. Dog is not normally that much of a wuss, but he shot across from his bed to my office chair and nosed mu knee, and when I moved round he put his paws round my neck and buried his head in my shoulder, shivering. Poor boy. After I’d calmed him down, he fetched a shoe from each member of the family and plonked it in his bed before curling himself round them. Dog clearly prefers security shoes to a security blanket…

Saturday, we didn’t have storms. I needed to do some pics for the current book, so I persuaded DH and the kids to traipse round with me on a field trip. (Next weekend, if it’s dry, I’m going to have another attempt at photographing certain remains – this weekend, on Saturday I was slightly nervous about whether this horse was going to mind me crossing his field… and when I checked on Google Earth at home I discovered I was two fields too far south. Grr.) En route, we had a quick stop at the seaside. (Sheringham.)

It was, um… Cold. So we had an ice cream. (Hey. Have to support local businesses, and it was locally made hazelnut ice cream.)

Sunday, more research. We got to Ingham, and talk about hail! My first thought at seeing these big white blobs landing on me was along the lines of, ‘OMG, I’ve just stepped into Daphne du Maurier’s The Birds and I’m in trouble…’ Anyway. Took shelter in the church (and also took the photographs I needed). Then to Happisburgh and, as you can see from the pic of the lighthouse below, the sky was a tad menacing.

Storm ahoy. On the way back to Norwich, we saw some enormous sheets and forks of lightning (sadly, I wasn’t fast enough to get pics), and when we reached Coltishall the hail was an inch deep on the road. Definitely stormy weather. Dog was very pleased to see us.

Saturday also brought me a Japanese edition of The Cinderella Project – if you’d like to see the cover, take a look over here.

Friday, April 11, 2008

and more good news

Current work: new outlines/nonfiction
Listening to: Sheryl Crow

I had some great news yesterday. Simply the best. From the school admissions body. Madam is indeed going to the school she wants to go to in September. I am relieved for lots of reasons. It’s sensible for her to go to the school where her brother is now (despite the fact we’re out of the catchment area) because she’ll be with her friends, she knows the school and teachers through her brother, and there’s this little thing called ‘continuity’. And, had she been forced to go to the local junior school, I would’ve had to be in two places, four miles apart, at the exactly the same time. Now, I know I behave as if I’m superwoman and I can do absolutely anything, but that one’s not physically possible... So major cheering from our house.

Also did a nice chunk of the book and had another nice email conversation with my editor. (I have something brewing nicely, so I need to do a proper outline today for the Modern Heat duo and the other four books on the contract are simply ‘books’…) It’s so good to be back on track and know what I’m doing.

And I had a lovely review for The Doctor’s Royal Love Child from Cataromance:

Melinda Fortesque’s life is coming up roses: she loves her job as a country vet in the picturesque Cornish seaside town of Penhally Bay, she has got some
great friends, and she has found the love of her life in the gorgeous Serbo-Croation doctor Dragan Lovak. But Melinda has got a secret. A devastating secret that could ruin her new found happiness: she’s Princess Melinda of Contarini!

Melinda knows that she should tell Dragan the truth. But, just when she’s about to let him know, Dragan drops a bombshell of his own: he wants her to marry him. Melinda accepts, even though she is well aware that when she tells him the truth about her identity, he will hit the roof!

Having escaped from his homeland after the war had killed all of his family, Dragan came to England and through his blood, sweat and tears, managed to carve out a career and a life for himself in Penhally Bay. Since the death of his family, he vowed that he would never let anyone get close to him ever again – but when Melinda showed up in the Bay, the doctor’s fragmented heart began to heal and he found himself falling passionately in love with the country vet.

When Melinda’s brother dies and she has to rush home, she vows to tell Dragan the truth about her life when she returns to Penhally. But the paparazzi have beaten her to it and Dragan is left to realize that the woman he loves has lied to him. Dragan cannot believe that Melinda kept something like this from him – and that a refugee like himself could possibly ever marry a princess!

On her return to Penhally, Dragan informs her that their relationship is over. But Melinda has got some news of her own: she’s pregnant with his baby!

You can always count on award-winning author Kate Hardy to write a heartwarming romance that will tug at your heartstrings and make you cry buckets and in The Doctor’s Royal Love Child, she has once again penned a moving romantic tale of secrets, second chances and new beginnings that you will want to read again and again.

If you’re in the mood for a page-turning romance with plenty of heart, then pick up The Doctor’s Royal Love Child and experience the magic of multi-talented storyteller Kate Hardy!


Thank you, Julie Bonello, for making my day. I loved writing this book, and it’s so nice to hear when people enjoy reading it.

Remember, I'm celebrating Liz Fielding's 50th book over at her blog. There's a chance to win books. Go over and join in the fun!

I'm also celebrating with another special friend who has a book out - Kate Walker, with her 12-point guide to writing romance. Another chance to win books...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

in celebration

Current work: new outlines/nonfiction
Listening to: Kathryn Williams and Neill MacColl

Today I’m celebrating a special milestone with someone who's even more special.



This is my dear friend Liz Fielding (with the Betty Neels rosebowl - she was the winner of the RNA Romance Prize in 2005 with A Family Of His Own).

She writes the most fabulous books. The kind that put a smile on your face and make the world bright and shiny. She might make you cry, she'll definitely make you laugh, and I guarantee you'll be feeling wonderful after reading a Liz Fielding novel.

Why am I celebrating with her right now? Because her 50th M&B title is on the shelves.

The Bride's Baby is vintage Liz Fielding. Fabulous heroine, fabulous hero, a plot that works really well, some absolute sucker-punch moments, and an ending I wish I'd thought of first because it's brilliant. (And watch out for the shoes!)


Do go over to her blog, where I'm celebrating with her and offering the chance to win a couple of books.

Congratulations, Liz. And may you write many, many more.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

a real red-letter day (and in praise of a truly excellent singer)

Current work: new outlines/nonfiction
Listening to: Kathryn Williams and Neill MacColl

Really fab day yesterday. Nice email from lovely ed. French edition of The Doctor’s Royal Love Child arrived in the post. Excellent guitar lesson – ignored the fact I didn’t do any of my homework over the holidays and we had a lesson deconstructing Neil Young (i.e. start off with the basic chord, add in the melody line, then work up the accompaniment – my homework is ‘Hey Hey My My’, which has such a lovely riff). Kids had a good day at school. Madam had a great swimming lesson. Had a lovely (and very long) chat with my ed about the next books, so I know what I’m doing now for the next year. Discovered that people are saying very nice things on eHarlequin about Where the Heart Is (which is a book very, very close to my heart).

And the really big highlight of the day? I saw Kathryn Williams and Neill MacColl at the Arts Centre in Norwich. Superb. Especially as this time the audience had chairs :o) (Clearly I am getting old… I used not to mind standing for 2 hours, but now I do. Probably because I spend too much time at my desk.) Anyway. I had a seat right at the front, in the middle. I was about six feet away from Neill and maybe eight from Kathryn (that’s tops – they really were that close).

Their support was Marit Bergman – a Swede who lives in New York, is very funny and plays the piano beautifully. If you like singer-songwriters (which I do – Joni Mitchell, Carol King, etc etc) then give her a listen. (I bought her album last night but haven’t played it yet. I Will Always Be Your Soldier is on Youtube (but bear in mind what I heard last night was this voice and a stripped-down piano accompaniment, so it was slightly different!).

And then it was Kathryn and Neill.

It was just fabulous.

They played most of the songs from the new album (and even the one track I’m not so keen on – the Tom Waits track – was better live). The guitar-playing was fabulous (and I was in the perfect place to watch how he did it – smooth, flawless, and the chromaharp was pretty good too). The banter between Kathryn and Neill had the audience in stitches. And the singing?

Just perfect. (Here's Come With Me Darling on YouTube - it's just lovely, and Neill's harmonies are gorgeous. Listen to it, then go and buy the album. It's seriously good.)

I first heard Kathryn Williams singing ‘Saturday Sun’ at the Barbican tribute to Nick Drake – just after she’d released her very first album. I loved her voice and went straight out to buy her album, the next day. Since then, I’ve bought every single one of her records on the day of release, and I’ve never been disappointed. Mojo once described her as ‘Melancholy you can lick like Haagen Dasz’. She has a very breathy, sweet voice – I’ve seen it described elsewhere as gossamer. Except her songs tell stories, and her words are very far from sugary, so there’ s this wonderful juxtaposition between her voice and what she’s actually singing. She also did one of my favourite from her backlist – ‘Little Black Numbers’ from the album ‘Old Low Light’. The sound system’s set-up means that she can sing one part of the harmony, then layer on two more, and the three are still going nicely while she sings over the top. Stunning.

It’s hard to pick a favourite track because they were all good, but I think last night had to be ‘Grey Goes’ (she did the same thing with the harmony – and there’s something hypnotic about the riff).

And then there was the encore. The song I so hoped she’d do (as she did last time I saw her and reduced me to tears because it was so hauntingly beautiful).

Now, if you like the Leonard Cohen track ‘Hallelejuah’… let me say now, just go and buy Kathryn’s cover album, ‘Relations’, immediately. Because her version is without doubt the best version I’ve ever heard. (And I speak as someone who’s heard probably a dozen singers’ versions. And I include Leonard Cohen’s original here, too.) Her voice will just blow you away. Singing with real heart. (It's also on Youtube - there's an interview first and then the song starts around the 3 minutes mark.)

So. Fabulous night. And today I feel ready to take on the world. Thank you, Kathryn and Neill.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

new day, new book (and an apology)

Current work: admin day
Listening to: Kathryn Williams (and I’m going to see her tonight!!)
Reading: Anne McAllister, One-Night Love Child (enjoyed this hugely – Flynn was an irresistible hero, and so was his son. Sara was an excellent heroine: strong enough to match Flynn. Good dialogue, and a dog my own children would have adored…)

Apologies. I’ve been a bad mum, a bad blogger (didn’t even warn you of the hiatus - sorry) and generally a difficult-to-live-with person. Mainly because my book was due in yesterday, and as of last Thursday I still had 30k to go (note to self – next time, do NOT blithely say you can write a book when you have school holidays, a family wedding and a few personal commitments). It was all in my head, I knew where it was going, I’d been frustrated in not being able to sit down and write without constant interruptions… and something had to give. So I let the kids watch film and play on the Wii all day Friday, so I could work, and left DH in charge all day on Saturday and Sunday. And yesterday, I was even worse: son was back to school, Madam’s school had a teacher training day, so I bought the DVD of Enchanted and did a deal with her – she could watch the film and eat popcorn, and I could write while she watched, and would play with her when the film ended provided I had no interruptions. (And it worked.)

So. The book went off to my editor last night with a warning that it’s a weepie and a half. And now I have some serious making-up to do to my poor, suffering family.

Actually, they thought it was brilliant when I was being Neglectful Mum. Now they’re getting Naggy Mum back: have you cleaned your teeth, why is your shirt inside-out, where is your lunchbox, sit at the table to eat because we have ants and I don’t want food all over the floor to attract them in, have you done your homework, have you done your homework, have you done your homework (that has to be repeated a lot for son), please tidy your room because I can’t vacuum if I can’t see the floor, five more minutes and you’ve had your quota on the Wii today… etc.)

I should add – I don’t normally write at quite that pace because it’s not sustainable (MUCH better to do 2k a day every day than, ahem, write a book in ten days when the kids are on holiday). But circumstances this year have severely crunched my time and emotional energy, and I had to be a bit tough and give my job absolute priority for a while.

Yes, I could’ve left it or begged yet another extension. But if I don’t work, I don’t get paid… And there’s my mental health to think of. I see myself as an underachiever, and missing deadlines make that a lot worse – and no, I don’t judge other people by my benchmark, just me. As far as I’m concerned, I’m a complete slacker who’s two books behind where she should be at the moment. So. It had to be done to stop me getting very, very stressed.

Anyway. The book is done. I have a chat due with my ed to finalise details of the books I had intended to start in January (cough). And I can switch back to nonfiction this week (I have another book due... also late, and also most of the material is in my head but I need two library days).

Today is going to be a reasonably quiet day:
  • print out book for lovely agent
  • meanwhile tidy office
  • parcel up everything I promised to post to people which I haven’t done yet (sorry, I had to prioritise, and I had a screaming deadline)
  • school run x2 and Madam’s swimming lesson
  • write blog to celebrate my dear friend Liz Fielding's wonderful achievement (50 books! ... and I'm her shelfmate this month)
  • write blog for PHS about a certain film (hmm, need to watch it first, will do that later this week)
  • think about doing accounts (actually no, that’s the end of this month – I have another deadline now and need to focus on that from tomorrow)
  • switch to dictation for nonfiction to give fingers a break after mammoth writing binge this weekend
  • guitar lesson (did not do homework but will do better from this week on)
  • ring piano teacher to set up lessons again
  • go to see Kathryn Williams at the Arts Centre tonight (yippee)
  • get some exercise (a weekend of not moving from my desk has put on 2lbs, sigh – but I did do nearly 17k steps yesterday...)

Thursday, April 03, 2008

bluebells

Current work: Med duo 2/nonfiction
Listening to: Bryan Adams
Reading: being naughty – dipping into my academic book on early art in Norfolk (my wallpaintings book is apparently also on its way, so I am a tad overexcited about this)

School holidays + bright and warm outside = itchy feet… So yesterday I suggested to the kids that we went for a wander round Blickling in the afternoon. It’s a tad early for the bluebells but, given that spring seems to be appearing earlier (this year, bluebells have been recorded flowering in England during February for the first time ever), I wanted to go just in case.

And guess what we found?


Not a bluebell, admittedly. This was in the formal garden, not the woodlandy bit. But squill is my joint favourite spring flower (which is why it features in Dragan's garden in The Doctor's Royal Love Child), along with the bluebell and the grape hyacinth. My absolute favourite flower is the iris. And I also love delphiniums and white roses (ha, you thought I was going to say the ‘Blue Moon’ rose – actually, I do, but I can’t grow it) and Californian lilac.

Blickling Hall is a special place for me. I borrowed bits of the garden and the lake for Sold to the Highest Bidder, and I have wonderful memories from my teens of wandering round the rhododendrons and the library here, then having a cream tea with my mum. I also have wonderful memories of taking the children here with my dad, when they were small, and feeding the ducks; of walking hand-in-hand with my husband in the gardens in the days before we were married; and later of bringing son with us here as a toddler, on reins (because he was a terrible absconder – luckily, Madam never needed them and was happy to trot along holding your hand. Son just had to run full pelt).

We had a lovely time. Blickling has the most fabulous picture of Henrietta Hobart, which is my favourite pic in the house (hmm…lightbulb) and I’m delighted that the library is almost back to normal now following the mould problem and repairs. We were a bit self-indulgent and focused on our favourite bits. Madam decided she was going to read poetry in the library... except the book whose illustrations form the plaster ceiling was printed in the days of the long S, so the laminated copies of pages were not in the type of print she's used to. I explained about typographic changes between now and the Renaissance, and iambic pentameter, and she had a second go at reading - and she was really, really good. A few people smiled as they listened to her. (I really do have a future princess of theatre here.)

We also discovered the new sitooterie:

(! yes, that’s really what it’s called). You can’t see it properly on the pic, but in front of the children there's a mandala made from recycled copper, and behind the yew-and-copper canopy are lots and lots of hyacinths. Breathing in reminded me of wandering through the rose garden at Alnwick, where you really can taste the air.

And, as you can guess from the title of this post, this is what else we spotted:

A single bluebell among the primroses and daffodils. Means we’ll have to go back in about three weeks when the rest of them will be out… and then again in mid to late May for the rhododendrons. (This, by the way, is a hybrid bluebell rather than a native one.)

Given that I’m in Kate-the-encyclopaedia mode today (wobbly lip, I want to start my new book, but I have two to finish first), here are a few facts you may or may not know about bluebells:

  • they’re a protected species (i.e. do NOT pick them)
  • half the world’s bluebells grow in Britain
  • blue is rare in nature. This is because the colour is associated with organic molecules in alkaline conditions, which are rare - hence the morning glory flower starts off as bright blue, but as the flower becomes less alkaline during the day its colour fades to mauve
  • most bluebells in gardens are Spanish or hybrid rather than native bluebells – Spanish ones were introduced in the 17th century and have gradually formed hybrids with the native ones. (Native bluebells are darker blue and the flowers form only on one side of the stem so it droops to one side – the leaves are also narrower. Hybrid and Spanish bluebells stand upright or droop slightly, and may be white or pink; the flowers are open rather than being a narrow bell shape and rolling back on itself; and they don’t have much scent.)
  • in folklore, you can summon fairies by ringing a bluebell. (But if you hear a bluebell’s chime you don’t have long to live …)

If you go looking for bluebells in woodlands near you, you might want to help with a national survey – see www.nhm.ac.uk/bluebells for more details.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

some teasers

Current work: Med duo 2/nonfiction
Listening to: Karine Polwart
Reading: Liz Fielding, His Personal Agenda (loved it – great hero, and the ‘reckless, clever and cool’ description of him by the heroine’s mum… oh, yes. Works for me. He was really noble. And very, VERY sexy)

Went to see the Spiderwick Chronicles yesterday with the kids. Was OK but I could’ve done with more plot. Littlest one found it a tad scary. However, in the previews, we saw one about a young boy making films. Given son’s current obsession, we have to see Son of Rambow (rang DH from the cafĂ© and wheedled him into coming with us). Oh, and I bought my ticket for Kathryn Williams next week. And some more silver polish (trophy looks nice and shiny again now, and hopefully a good rub with the tarnish-remover cloth once a week will keep it nice. I am so paranoid that somehow am going to ruin it before next February).

Some teasers for you (taken from the puzzler.co.uk site – which I have to admit is one of my Very Bad vices. I like the ‘codewords’ and the crosswords. And yes, I have hit the top 10 in some of the league puzzles before now – not this week, though, as am having a dim week). If you want to check the answer, highlight the white space in the text between the square brackets. (I have to admit I did get all these apart from the last one. But they amused me. Good for limbering up the brain before writing.)

Is it legal for a man to marry his widow’s sister in church? [No, it is impossible. A man cannot have a widow.]


Is it correct to say, ‘The herd of sheep is eating the hay,’ or, ‘The herd of sheep are eating the hay’? [Neither – the collective noun for sheep is flock, not herd.]
There is one word in the English language that is always pronounced wrong. What is it? [Wrong.]

A man pushed his car. He stopped when he reached a hotel at which point he knew he was bankrupt. Why? [The man was playing monopoly and his game piece was a car.]

The word GHOTI can be pronounced FISH using just three words as evidence. What are they? [The GH of ROUGH makes an F sound. The O of WOMEN makes an I sound. The TI of ACTION makes a SH sound.]

Three switches outside a windowless room are connected to three light bulbs inside the room. How can you work out which switch connects to which bulb if you are only allowed to enter the room once? [Flick one switch on for a minute, then flick it off. Then flick on another switch and enter the room. The second switch will connect to the lit bulb, the first switch to the bulb that is warm, and the third to the bulb that is cold.]

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

puppy love (and something VERY flattering)

Current work: Med duo 2/nonfiction
Listening to: Karine Polwart
Reading: next on my TBR pile (though I did get an Amazon delivery yesterday - an academic book I’m dying to read, but I’d better not touch it until after I’ve finished writing Med duo 2…)

I had the pleasure of lunch with my best local friend yesterday and meeting her new puppy. This is Harry, a 10-week-old Border Terrier. Isn’t he gorgeous?


Son rather fell for him.

And DH groaned when he saw this pic because he knew what was coming next. Sadly, the answer was no. (Mean, mean DH.)



Then he had a story of his own to tell. Apparently a PR agency came to look round his workplace yesterday, and a recent local newspaper article about me happened to be pinned on the notice board. (The same article that’s earned him a new nickname, ‘Mr Blue Eyes’. Now, he makes out that he’s embarrassed but I think he secretly likes being known as the inspiration for a very prolific romance novelist’s heroes.) Anyway, the PR girl noticed the article, and apparently she’d heard of me and read quite a few of my books. She said some incredibly nice, flattering things about me (which I’m not repeating here because it’s trumpet-blowing - but I’m definitely feeling warm and fuzzy about it), and one of his colleagues introduced DH as Mr Kate Hardy.

If perchance DH’s visitor is reading this today… please email me. [kate (at) katehardy (dot) com – replace the bits between brackets with the symbols and close up the spaces – apologies for doing it this way but otherwise I get snowed under with spam!] The email you mentioned to my husband that you sent earlier obviously didn’t make it to my inbox, because I *always* answer emails. And unfortunately Mr Kate Hardy wasn’t on the ball enough to ask you for your card or email address so I could email you!

(Oh, and the gorgeous blue eyes? See pic below from the wedding last week. QED. (Actually, in the small version they don't show up so well. Trust me. Same colour as a spring sky. Gorgeous. Madam's eyes are the same colour.)