Friday, November 28, 2008

unravelling clues

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 27, 2008

love and marriage

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Whirr, slurp, swoosh…

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

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

Three guesses what’s happening here today…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

following the dust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 24, 2008

The north wind doth blow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 21, 2008

a big sigh of relief

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 20, 2008

in threes

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

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

OK. Glass half full.

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

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 17, 2008

fossicking (and draw winners)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 14, 2008


Current work: Medical, chapter 2
Listening to: Kathryn Williams and Neill MacColl
Reading: next on TBR pile

Spent yesterday with Dad so didn’t get anywhere near as much work done as I’d intended. Had a text from my stepmum at lunchtime to tell me I was in the paper re opening the library at Wicklewood school. It’s also in the local weekly paper – there’s a link here.

Thanks to everyone who has either responded here or emailed me about cats. I have much food for thought!

Now, polarising? It was something that occurred to me yesterday, as I was driving through gorgeous autumnal scenes. I tend to wear dark glasses a lot of the time (on my optician’s advice) and I noticed how bright the colours of the leaves were. Deep gold, rich copper and ruby. But without the glasses, they were an anaemic yellow, dull brown and a nondescript reddish colour. Ditto the sky: the depth of blue changes, depending on whether or not you’re wearing polarising glasses.

And it struck me that this is akin to seeing life through the pages of a romantic novel. Everything’s more intense on the page, and just that little bit brighter than real life. Polarising glasses, rather than rose-tinted, perhaps.

Anyway. Here we have the copper beeches by the RC church down the road from me. I couldn’t resist taking a snap, yesterday morning. (But I plan to experiment – using my sunglasses as a lens filter – to see if I can get the same effect that I see. Because this pic really doesn't show off the glorious copper of the leaves.)

And here’s one of the trees at the bottom of the hill leading to school. The whole path is covered with leaves, and it’s like this all the way up the hill – crunching my way up is thoroughly enjoyable. I love this time in autumn, especially when there’s enough of a chill in the air to make me catch my breath.

Later, when most of the leaves have fallen, this particular tree always reminds me of my favourite Shakespeare sonnet (#73).

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou seest the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consumed with that which it was nourish'd by.
This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

Fabulous. I think Shakespeare definitely foreshadowed the Metaphysical Poets – and his sonnet #71 (‘No longer mourn for me when I am dead’) is almost as beautifully OTT as Donne. (It’s the ‘vilest worms’ bit. Delicious. But if you’re looking for really OTT on the same subject, try Donne’s ‘A Nocturnall Upon St Lucie’s Day’. Donne definitely out-Shakespeares Shakespeare.)

Donne is in a class of his own. My favourite poet. His use of language and metaphor leave me quivering. I have a CD of Richard Burton reading some of Donne’s poems: it’s a wonderful treat. I would also rather like to hear Alan Rickman reading Donne’s love poetry. Or Sam West (he has a beautiful voice – though I think if I heard him reading Wilfred Owen I’d be in floods of tears). Or Antonio Banderas reading Donne’s Elegy #20. (OK, OK. I need a cold shower, now.)

Which actor would you like to hear reading poetry – and which poem would you choose?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

help needed from cat-lovers!

Current work: Medical, chapter 2
Listening to: Eva Cassidy
Reading: Margaret McDonagh –Virgin Midwife, Playboy Doctor (excellent read – she really brings a special warmth to her characters)

Yesterday was a good day. The dehumidifier guy was in a good mood; had some nice books through the post (some unexpected – thanks to my mate Carol Twinch); and there were only four teensy corrections on my proofs.

Plan for today: visit Dad, then get on with the book. Especially as I’ve decided on the engagement ring. Might help if I get them meeting. (Am breaking lots of rules with this book. May be doing substantial rewrites later…)

Now, I need help. Bearing in mind that I’m somewhat wary of cats (those of you who know the reason can stop sniggering; the rest of you will just have to imagine the story), and I have no idea what it’s like to live with a cat, I have a slight problem. Thing is, my heroine has a cat. A female cat who’s nervous of men. (Or would a male cat be better? Hmm. I don’t want any spraying. I remember that from a friend’s rescue cat. This would not go down well with my immaculate heroine.)

I was thinking of borrowing my cousin’s British Blue, because she would fit the bill. But is a posh cat the right sort? DH’s childhood cat (a black one) was a real character, but he wouldn’t work in this scenario, because my heroine’s cat wouldn’t miaou outside her bedroom window at 3am in the rain, then tap a paw against the window until he was let in and then proceed to hog the pillow and dry himself off on her. My heroine’s cat would also not sit and beg for chocolate. (Yes, really. He’d miaou really loudly for Cadbury’s Flake. Actually, I think DH’s cat might have thought he was a dog, and I was getting used to him. But he died before I left uni, so I didn’t actually live with him.)

Or do I need a rescue cat?

Said cat is mature and will be aloof but accepting of the new puppy, who will be introduced to the household in a couple of months’ time when the hero and heroine finally get together. The pup – and the rest of the litter – is a joint invention between Margaret McDonagh and me, as we’re working on the same group of books. Mags has a fabulous name ready for hers; I’m still thinking about mine. (Interestingly, there were dogs in the book I proofed yesterday… But farmers need dogs. Hmm. Reindeer... No. Bad Kate.)

Anyway. I need a cat, with a name. All suggestions are very welcome (as are links to pics of examples of said cat). To say thank you, the winner will also get a mention in the ‘behind the book’ section on my website and a copy of my shiny new Greek doctor; I’ll also draw a name at random on Sunday evening (UK time).

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Current work: Medical, chapter 1
Listening to: Bach, double violin concerto
Reading: Next on TBR pile

Settling into the book now – to my relief, the characters are talking to me. Working on a continuity is harder, in a way, because the characters aren’t initially mine (and I’m going to have to do some tweaking to make it fit; at the moment, I don't like the hero very much), plus I need to make sure my ducks are lined up with everyone else’s. But I think I’m getting there. I also have a Dear Reader letter to write for the July 09 release of my sheik in the US, and the proofs of book 2 of the duo to do.

Guitar yesterday was good – worked on the song for my daughter (son’s will come later – at the moment I have snatches, but am not going to push it because my deadline comes first: last week’s song came into my head on the way home, so am going to let the other one mull until it happens).

Today: drying people arrive with a new dehumidifier. Hope the guy’s in a good mood this week. Not going to hold my breath, though – am expecting him to moan about what the builders did last week. Frankly, I don’t care any more. My stance now is that they can bicker between themselves as much as they like, as long as they do the job and get my house dry.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Armistice Day

I normally steer clear of politics here (which is why I haven't said anything about the US elections - not because I'm ignoring it, but my politics are not relevant to my writing).

However, I do make an exception for Armistice Day.

I was very moved this morning to hear 110-year-old Henry Allingham - one of the last four surviving servicement from the 5 million troops in the Great War - talking on the radio about his memories of wartime Yarmouth. Daughter was a bit shocked when I pointed out that he was 102 years older than she was, and when he was born Queen Victoria was on the throne.

It's because of people like Henry Allingham - and his friends and colleagues who didn't make it back - that we have freedom in this country.

But I really do wish the world would learn its lesson. The result of war is loss and grief. End of. And I don't mean Iraq. I mean conflict the world over.

If the money spent on arms was spent on agriculture and engineering and education and medical research, the world would be a much better place. What would happen, say, if all the arms manufacturers in the world said 'enough' and refused to make them - and turned their factories to a different sort of manufacturing? What would happen if people stopped trying to take maximum profits and took responsibility for their actions?

I hope that one day we'll find out.

And for that reason I'll be interrupting my guitar lesson this morning at 11 for 2 minutes' silence. To honour those who died believing that they were trying to give future generations a better life and a better chance.

New books, new covers

Current work: Medical – tinkering with the outline and working on chapter 1
Listening to: Corelli
Reading: Next on TBR pile

Nice parcel this weekend – a big box of books containing the paperbacks of book 1 of my new duo, and the hardbacks of book 2.

Here’s my gorgeous Greek – and you’ll be able to find him at the M&B website in just over a fortnight’s time. In January, the book will be available in the UK, the US and Australia/New Zealand.

Right now, in Australia and New Zealand, my sexy archaeologist is on the shelves:

And the book will be available on the shelves in the US in January (or from the eharlequin website next month).

Monday, November 10, 2008

cutting the ribbon…

Current work: Medical – filling in the outline and getting my ducks in a row (it's a continuity)
Listening to: Corelli
Reading: Next on TBR pile

Friday was the fireworks at school, and it was WONDERFUL to be able to go and enjoy them, without spending my entire time dispensing hot drinks and/or having all the worry of organising it beforehand. Great display; especially loved the blue airbursts.

Was also fab seeing Fi this weekend, catching up and playing with the kids and talking too much. (Did I mention eating chocolate? OK. Will admit it…)

Today has been fabulous and a personal dream come true – as part of being the National Year of Reading 2008 Writer-in-Residence for Norfolk (yup, long title), I did a talk at a local school, and they asked me to cut the ribbon to open their brand new library. I was absolutely thrilled to be asked. And it might be in the local paper later this week.

(Obviously the pic is just of me so as not to invade the privacy of the children at the school. They were beautifully behaved and it was fantastic to be a part of today.)

Lovely school and lovely children – they sat beautifully through my talk, oohed and aahed in all the right places when I told them a couple of gory tales, joined in and answered questions, and asked sensible questions at the end, too. It was a great experience and I felt really privileged to be there.

Days like today, I really, REALLY love what I do for a living.

Friday, November 07, 2008

(don’t) let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Current work: (having a thinking day)
Listening to: Joe Lynn Turner
Reading: Jan Jones, Fair Deception (finished it last night – excellent ending. Looking forward to the next!)

Last night, the plan was that we’d nip into town very quickly and spend Madam’s birthday money. Son had the option of going next door to the Games Workshop (used to be one of his favourite places). Nuh-uh. He wanted to help his little sister choose her charms. (I think he would like a Pandora charm, because he has been poring over the catalogue with her. May have to get him a leather thong: jewellery is banned from school, so he won't get teased by anyone, and it's not as if he's going to turn into Medallion Man.) So now she has her birth sign, her initial and a very cute little ghost. And I bought one as well, because… um, can’t talk about that yet, but I will when I can. It has a pointsettia on it (which looks like an iris - that's why I bought it).

After that I needed to go to M&S because I live in their lovely black trousers and one pair had worn out and needed replacing. While I was there I bought a skirt (Christmas party type thingy – is long, asymmetrical handkerchief hem, lots of lace, and very pretty – there was a top that matched but they were too much, together; goes better with a black camisole top and a black lacy shrug). DH rang me several times to find out where I was, as his best friend also happened to be in town so we were going to meet up for coffee. I suggested meeting in the M&S cafe, but was overruled in favour of Chapelfield. So I paid for my goodies...

... and then I walked out into snow.

Not real snow. There were two of those blowers that puffs up little squidgy bits of foam so it looks like snow. Oh-h-h. Lightbulb. (My current book is set at the seaside in the middle of summer. No snow. The one after, however, is set in Norway in the winter. Snow a-plenty. Who said ‘reindeer’?)

Why snow? Because Father Christmas was doing the official opening of the lights at Chapelfield last night. The kids loved it. And they were playing Dean Martin’s ‘Let it snow’, so it was really atmospheric. I could almost have wished for the s-word :o) Except I have plans for the w/e, as my best friend is coming up (the kids can’t wait to see her and have been counting the days all week). And it’s school fireworks tonight: so no rain or snow, please!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

carpe diem

Current work: (don’t ask)
Listening to: Neil Young, After the Goldrush
Reading: Jan Jones, Fair Deception (fab read, and I’m not just saying this because she’s one of my friends – great characterisation, fast pace, lots of wit, gorgeous hero, lovely heroine, and there’s a secondary who definitely needs her own story)

Cleaned my mum’s grave and put new flowers on this morning, so it looks much brighter. The florist next to the church just happened to have some fresh freesias, the same colour as some of the silk ones I’d used. Freesias were my mum’s favourite flowers, so I bought some for her. I know they won’t last overnight, but it makes me feel better to give her proper flowers for her birthday. Even though I would much rather have been able to give them to her in person.

Stopped off at Staples on the way home to sort out the last OHPs for my talk on Monday; then had to go lamp-shopping as my desk lamp collapsed yesterday. Was very pleased with the new lighting shop next to Staples as they actually had a choice of low-energy lamps.

Was still feeling a bit low when I came home - and then I had another unexpected phone call. (This week has really been good for them.) This time it was David Dane, a local artist whose work I really like (and he’s a lovely man, too). He had some great news for me; he doesn’t normally do prints, but Norfolk Wildlife Trust is running a campaign to buy an important piece of marshland, and David has painted a picture for them – meaning that he’s produced a limited edition of signed, numbered prints. All the money is going to the Trust’s campaign. He remembered how much I like his work, so he rang me in case I’d be interested.

Now, this is an opportunity that might not come my way again.

At the time, I wanted a picture with a sunrise and some dew and some birds flying and a windmill. So when I typed in the email he gave me... Hmm.

(You can see it here on the NWT website or here on David’s website, where you can enlarge it.)

It’s the perfect size for the space just above my desk; and, frankly, after the utter mess of this year, I could do with something calm and ethereal like this in my office.

As I said. Carpe diem. Because life is short.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

plus la change, plus la même chose

Current work: M&B Medical and admin
Listening to: Bach
Reading: (next on TBR pile)

I had plans for work, yesterday. So what did I end up writing? Music. The weird thing is that it works the same as my books do, in that I get the tune and the first few lines and possibly the ending, and the middle is saggy. Plus la change, yada yada yada.

Really good guitar lesson yesterday – I’m doing well on the Bach (‘well’ being a relative term – given that my practising time has vanished, I’m doing OK), and we messed about with an arrangement of Coventry Carol (as in ‘right, you’re going to transpose it from Gm to Em as it’s a more sensible key, and work out the bass’ – and I did OK with that, too).

Right at the end of the lesson I suddenly remembered the conversation I’d had with my daughter that morning. ‘Mummy, will you write me a song?’ And of course I said yes. And I always keep my promises. Whoops. So I scribbled a note in my manuscript book to write a song next week. Course, as soon as I started driving home and couldn’t write anything down, the lyrics and the tune came into my head. This is where a digital recorder is brilliant (aka my PDA) – sang it into the recorder, worked it out on the piano while I had lunch, and will straighten it out with Jim’s help next week. I sang her the first draft and she loved it.

Actually, that’s given me a lightbulb: about someone whose dream is to have a song written for them. Hmm. (Yeah, yeah. I know I already have the next three books worked out. But an ideas file is a Very Good Thing.)

Also had a nice conversation with Alex, M&B’s publicist, re my January UK release. Have given him a different hook (i.e. deaf author, deaf heroine) so hopefully it’ll interest some editors. What I’d really like is to be able to reach out to other people who have a hearing problem but don’t think anything can be done about it, to show them that times have moved on and modern (digital) hearing aids are very effective, and give them the courage to talk to their GP and see if they can get some help. It’s made a huge difference to my life (though I do admit to resorting to lipreading and subtitles when I’m tired).

Then, late yesterday afternoon, I had an unexpected phone call that left me smiling… about which I shall blog later. (That’s TWO exciting bits of news now that I’m dying to talk about and can’t. But as soon as I can, I will – sorry to be such a tease.) (Is good news. I suggested it meant a new Pandora bead. DH was unamused at the suggestion and asked why could he not have something, so have bought him a Badfinger CD to shut him up. Am going to Sonkai with my daughter this week, to spend her birthday money. Have made no promises to be Good Kate.)

And then it was Madam’s concert at school. It was fantastic. Some of the little ones in the choir were only seven, and there they were, singing their hearts out. I knew some of the kids in the orchestra, too, and they played beautifully. I was especially impressed with the jazz improvs by the junior school: just excellent. The high school did a great version of ‘Live and Let Die’ – and all the kids were enjoying it as much as their parents and siblings were. I recorded the choir on my PDA, so fingers crossed I can transfer the wav files. (Grandparents and godparents might get a chance to hear it, then…)

I think the evening made son regret giving up his music lessons. DH suggested trying the drums (this is to do with our house band - I reckon Madam knows enough chords for it to work now) but son is currently leaning towards the piano. Might teach him a bit this week, while he’s still warm to the idea. He can read music, so it’s not going to be that hard for him – especially as his hands are larger than mine, so he’ll be able to do an octave span. (He’s had yet another growth spurt. Two and a half centimetres and he’ll be my height. Clearly I will have to master stilts...)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

bang, crash, bang, crash

Current work: please can any time-machine inventors get in touch?
Listening to: Corelli
Reading: Michelle Styles, A Question of Impropriety (enjoyed it, especially the bits about the travelling engine and learning new stuff about costume)

Workwise, yesterday was pretty much a wipeout. The builders had to go to an emergency job, so we weren’t sure what time they’d arrive here. They were lovely, cleared up all the mess and were very dog-friendly, but I find it hard to settle to work when I know I‘m going to be interrupted at any moment. Taking the top bit off a concrete floor isn’t a quiet job, by definition; and creating a new world when there are drills, hammers and chisels going on is nigh impossible. By the time it was over and I’d done the school run, cooked dinner and sorted out homework and reading and stuff, I was dog-tired and not in the right frame of mind to sit at the computer. I could have chugged a cup of coffee, and then I’d have been awake enough to work, 20 minutes later – but I’m trying to keep off the cycle of drinking too much coffee to stay awake, then needing more coffee to get me going in the morning and a paracetamol to deal with a headache from lack of sleep. (As a short-term measure to get through an emergency, it’s fine – but that was earlier this summer.)

Unfortunately, the carpenter couldn’t make it yesterday so is coming tomorrow instead – which means tomorrow’s going to be a wipeout, too. Think I’d better make tomorrow an admin day. I really don’t have enough days, right now, and I'm rearranging some of the things I'd planned to do. But it would’ve been my mum’s birthday this Saturday, and I want to clean her grave and put new silk flowers on to keep it nice for the winter (this is important for me to do, otherwise I’ll be really upset and fret about it); I also need to spend time with Dad (I can’t let him down because it’s not fair on him); and somehow I need to find some P&Q to work. Ha. Maybe I should sit in the car with the PDA…

Still, glass half full: rang up to find out my blood test results and they were clear (routine stuff – thyroid and blood sugar). The fact I'm permanently tired at the moment is probably a hangover from the stresses of this summer, and I also need to do more exercise and lose weight. [MUCH easier said than done.] I had a decent amount of sleep last night, though I had a very odd dream about finding a Roman villa in my garden. As in one with still-standing walls and some gorgeous sculpture. As my garden isn’t actually big enough to contain a Roman villa, that’s very strange. My subconscious is clearly limbering up with ideas, so it’ll be interesting to see what it comes out with, later this week. And I had a very nice email back from the MD of the restaurant chain – I wanted our waitress to have some official thanks for her excellent service on Saturday, so I emailed to say how much we appreciated what she did. I really do believe that kindness and courtesy makes the world a better place. And I had a lovely email from one of our local journos saying that she’d spotted my cover on Consuming Passions, on Sunday night. I was so touched that she’d taken the time to tell me.

Plan for today: guitar this morning (am being stubborn about this because this is the only real me-time I get and I do not want to give it up or cut it back – even though two hours a week, as in lesson + travel time, is possibly a bit much); shoehorn in as much work as I can; and then Madam’s concert tonight, at son’s school – am really looking forward to that.

Monday, November 03, 2008

and another moment to treasure

Last night, BBC4 screened two programmes about M&B. Watched both of them and enjoyed them. But there was a really special moment for me in the second one, Consuming Passions. Emilia Fox (as an English lecturer) was showing covers and explaining how they and the heroes changed over the years. DH and I were cuddled up on the sofa. ‘Hmm,’ he says. ‘I wonder if they’ll show one of y–?’

He didn’t get to finish his question. Because, at that precise moment, there on the screen was…

Which made me one very happy bunny indeed. (Especially as today is the day I get my utility room door back. I also lose part of my floor so it’s going to be messy and dusty and decidedly ick around here, but… things are finally moving again after the site meeting.)

Edit: Whoops, almost forgot. As well as being my baby's eighth birthday on Saturday, it was my M&B anniversary. Seventh anniversary of The Call, and sixth anniversary of my first M&B on the shelves. Funny, it still seems like yesterday; yet, at the same time, it feels like such a long time ago.

fireworks, fireworks and… fireworks

Current work: various fiction and nonfic
Listening to: Sheryl Crow
Reading: Joanna Maitland, His Cavalry Lady (enjoyed it very much)

We had a wonderful time on Saturday. Madam loved her birthday present (and the one we had to get delivered from halfway round the world, from her brother – how amazing the Internet is). We had dinner at Tootsie’s, where our waitress was fabulous: when we’d ordered dessert, suddenly all the lights went out and she appeared with this fantastic indoor firework (as in a Roman candle) stuck in some ice cream, and the whole restaurant sang happy birthday to Madam. The look on her face is going to stay with me for a long time, bless her. (I overheard her telling the story to her cousin, and she was so thrilled that everyone in the restaurant, even though they didn't know her, sang to her.)

And then it was Beauty and the Beast. The tickets were expensive, but they were worth every single penny. It’s the first time I’ve ever been to a musical at the theatre, and I definitely want to go again. The acting was great (the guy who played Lumiere stole the show), the singing was good (the woman who played Mrs Potts was my favourite: lovely voice), and the set/lighting was stunning. (So were the indoor fireworks!) The costumes were very good, too. It took me three-quarters of the show to work out how they’d done Chip. His head was in a tea-cup on top of what looked like an open-sided tea trolley with two completely empty shelves – but there was nowhere for someone to hide a body, and the cast walked round the tea trolley, right next to the edge, so he couldn’t have been kneeling behind it on a ledge. It was actually a Pepper’s ghost type thing – i.e. mirrors at an angle – extremely effective.

But the really stunning bit was the transformation of the Beast. I still haven’t worked that out. Obviously part of his costume was a wig and the furry feet and arms. But his face looked as if it was stage make-up, not a mask. They had him spinning on a trapeze (which looked amazing), and then there was about five seconds of strobe lighting (where I can imagine the costume change was done by Velcro) – but there’s no WAY you can remove stage make-up in that short a space of time. There weren't any lines on his face from a close-fitting mask. So how??? Everyone clapped like crazy at that bit. Just stunning. The cast clearly enjoyed their roles, and the atmosphere was great. They deserved the huge applause at the end. (My hands hurt from clapping.) And it didn’t matter that it was pouring with rain outside and we got a bit damp between the car park, the restaurant and the theatre. I think this is a birthday my daughter will really remember.

Sunday was the family party; I was up early, baking, so when everyone turned up there were plenty of the infamous cheese stars and cookies, as well as the stuff in the oven for lunch. Madam wanted to sing to everyone (practising for Tuesday’s concert). OK, she knew everyone in the room and they’d all made a fuss of her, but it’s still pretty daunting, singing two songs a capella in front of 15 people. She made a really good job of it – kept the beat really well, did the quiet refrain followed by the louder (and slower) last line of ‘I can see clearly now’, and… Oh, I was so proud of her.

Madam’s cake was very chocolately indeed. And then, once it was dark (and we’d managed to drag the men away from watching the motor racing)… well, the pics say it all. DH (aided by son) did a great job.