Thursday, April 30, 2009


Current work: outlines and plotting; and revisions for Med
Listening to: Madeleine Peyroux (lovely DH bought me the new album yesterday)
Reading: next on TBR pile

Thanks to everyone who responded yesterday, either here or through email. Lots of great ideas for names for my posh (am toying with making him titled…) and very English hero. I’m going to let them sift through my subconscious today and will come up with a result while I’m working on my revisions.

People in the romance-writing world really ARE the best. Your help has been much appreciated!

Was very nice to wake up this morning without my left eye being gummed together. Still red, but not as gritty and sore: the two-hourly doses of chloramphenicol and turning the brightness down on my monitor are really helping.

Not visiting Dad today because conjunctivitis is very infectious and I don’t want to spread it (or my cold/cough) to vulnerable elderly people. (It’s called being responsible, but he doesn’t see it that way…)

Plan for today: revisions, letting the new MH simmer, and scribbling down notes for the book that appeared in my head this morning - which might be a stretch too far for my editor, but it's delicious and... Dear ed, I know you're not reading this because you're off to the literary festival in Hexham. I have not gone mad. Honestly. Well, not completely...

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

stuck – help!

Current work: outlines and plotting
Listening to: Sheryl Crow
Reading: next on TBR pile

As an author who writes medicals, you’d think that I would know better. Yesterday I ignored the watery eyes, thinking it was just part of the cold. By yesterday evening, my left eye felt gritty. And then son stared at me. ‘Mum, your eye’s bright red!’ Uh-oh. Conjunctivitis alert. (On top of the cold.) Off to the pharmacy to get some eye drops, and hopefully things will improve by tomorrow evening.

In the meantime, I’m stuck. It’s all to do with the hero’s name. (Heroine is Daisy and that’s fine.) He’s tall, dark, handsome and posh. (Think Guy of Gisbourne but scrubbed up, with a posh accent and wearing a suit.) I had planned to call him Justin, as it’s a hero name I haven’t used yet. However, it seems that my hero doesn’t like it as he’s rebelled and gone off to sulk.

Problem is, I’m on book 40 and I’ve used up all my favourite names. (My Modern Heat mates were sympathetic… until I explained why I’m out of names. Cue much teasing, particularly over my original choice of name; I don't watch that much TV so I had no idea the current 'hot' Justin was gay! And I’m still stuck.)

I asked DH if I could use his name. ‘Absolutely not. Is it just a rotten cold and conjunctivitis you’ve got or have you gone mad as well?’ (Ha. Makes me think of the time I misheard the lyrics to Keane’s ‘Somewhere only we know’: oh sympathy, where have you gone?) (Yes, really. There is a proper name for mishearing lyrics but I can’t remember what it is right now.) (And he’s right. I can’t use his name. It would feel all shades of wrong.)

I’ve used Oliver and Sebastian before (in a Med), so I can’t really use those names in a Modern Heat… or can I? The hero would work as an Oliver or a Sebastian – note, however, he wouldn’t be a Seb like Seb Radley in Her Honourable Playboy. And actually, because of daughter’s obsession with musicals, Oliver might not work either.

So I have a question for you: do you mind if an author recycles a first name (or a surname, but obviously not together) in later books? How big a gap do you need between thee books to allow you to be able to suspend disbelief and enjoy the romance?

And any suggestions of names would be welcome…

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pirates and bleugh

I'm aching all over and full of a streaming cold, so I'm probably going to work longhand today on the sofa with the dog and a blanket.

As my head is too full of cotton wool to say anything sensible, I'll direct you to Liz Fielding, who has written a very eloquent blog about piracy.

Bottom line: if you don't want to pay for a book, please borrow it from a friend or go to the library rather than "share" someone's copyrighted work online. Becasue you're not being sweet: you're stealing.

Monday, April 27, 2009

another gorgeous weekend

Current work: outlines and plotting
Listening to: Beethoven piano sonatas
Reading: Milly Johnson, A Summer Affair (finished on Saturday - great ending!) and Jennifer Crusie, Anyone But You (this was utterly brilliant – perfect Sunday morning lie-in read while trying to stave off the lurgy… and I had a spaniel cuddled up in the crook of my knees, so I enjoyed Jenny’s Basset/beagle combo, Fred, even more)

Great weekend. More or less finalised one outline on Friday; did a bit more on Saturday morning, then DH’s best friend and his wife came over for a barbecue in the afternoon. Was lovely just to sit in the garden with a frothy coffee and natter. (OK, so the wine came in later…)

Spring has definitely sprung. The tree in our front garden is just full of blossom.

Sunday was a research day. Dragged DH and the kids to Bressingham Steam Museum. Reason being, they have Victorian gallopers. This one (a three-tier set of gallopers) was built in the late 19th century by Frederick Savage of King's Lynn.
Littlest thoroughly enjoyed these, and I was able to chat to the staff about exactly how a fairground organ works:

They also have narrow-gauge steam engines. The one through Alan Bloom’s flower gardens was particularly nice – bluebells, lots of butterflies, rhododendrons (have also earmarked Blickling as needing a visit ASAP as their rhododendrons are stunning) and acers.
The engine went round on a manual turntable. Think this brought back memories for son (who was a huge fan of steam engines when he was little).

There was also an exhibition of Dad’s Army (hmm, only UK readers will understand that; it was a long-running sitcom set in World War Two around the Home Guard, for readers outside the UK). And they mocked up shops and banks and offices… Unsurprisingly, the sweetie shop was a major hit with my two.

And there were static exhibitions of trains, including one that stunned me. Would you believe this was a train carriage?
Or this?
Actually, these are royal carriages from the early 20th century. Fabulous, aren’t they?

Popped in to see my stepmum on the way home; and then a chilling-out evening with DH while I wrestled in my head with the plot of the other book and found large box of tissues (note to self: on way home from school run this morning, pick up fresh lemons and another large box of tissues, and chicken soup).

The new book is definitely taking shape. I have a proposal scene to outdo anything I’ve written so far. Just need to do some research on paper tapes and pianolas. And I need two more research trips, preferably this weekend. (Poor DH. They did agree, however, that yesterday's trip was great fun and this book gets the thumbs-up.)

Friday, April 24, 2009

settling back in/talking elsewhere about heroes

Current work: outlines and plotting
Listening to: Beethoven piano sonatas
Reading: Milly Johnson, A Summer Affair (intend to curl up on the sofa this evening with DH, dog and a glass of chilled sauvignon blanc, and finish this - though at the moment am v tempted to sit in the garden with the dog, a cup of tea and said book...)

I did it. I tidied my desk. After school, littlest just stood and gaped. ‘You actually tidied your desk.’ Mmm-hmm. Didn’t do anything else yesterday, bar a trip to return my library books (and cancel the research books that didn’t arrive - the system sometimes has a bit of a glitch).

Went swimming last night and discovered just how unfit I am. My arms really ache this morning! But also had ten minutes in the spa pool, and that was lovely. Ironed out some of the kinks (did I mention that I walked 18,000 steps on my London trip?).

Plan for today: finalise outline of new book and the one after (so I can get it agreed with lovely ed; this one might be pushing the envelope slightly. Not a time traveller per se... but I worked out how to get my Regency doctor). Might potter about a bit with the dog (aka thinking time).

It's a pity our comfy outdoor chairs have been scoffed by the mice over the winter, or I could’ve been tempted to sit in the garden, listening to birdsong and curled up with a good book. However. I’ve had three days off already this week (sort of - Wedsnesday was work, and also a lot of travelling, which was v tiring) and a fourth might be a bit greedy.

EDIT: Duh, almost forgot. I am doing something writerly today. Lovely Kate Walker asked me to talk about the Modern Heat hero - my take on it, which admittedly is rather individual - so I'm also talking at Kate's blog today - do come over and chat to me as I'm very happy to answer questions!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A glamorous author trip in London

Current work: tidying bearpit (which I did not do on Tuesday: I had a faffing around day) and thinking about new ideas/outlines
Listening to: probably Haydn cello concerti
Reading: Milly Johnson, A Summer Affair (my mate Milly’s new paperback – excellent read: great characterisation, love the dog, want to punch the heroine’s husband)

Fabulous day in London, though am shattered now as it was a really long day. The journey was fine and I spent the time plotting – guilty admission here that it was not the one I was supposed to be plotting, i.e. the Venice book, but a different Modern Heat. However, my agent likes the idea so I think I can get away with it. Traditional… but with a Kate Hardy twist. DH has agreed to a research trip, too – I texted him yesterday and he ignored it, but the second thing he said to me last night when I arrived was, ‘WHY do you want to go there?’

Stopped off for a wander around Notting Hill, which crystallised my thoughts. Found some fabulous architecture and the physical setting of the Venice book (half of which will be in London) and thoughts crystallised further. This is Portobello Road - the house is where George Orwell lived.

Then I made my way to Brompton Road, where again I went for a wander.

This house (to one side of Hermitage Cottages) intrigued me: why does it have royal arms on the wall? (Must investigate. Another lightbulb is flickering.) Then walked up to Earl's Court to meet my lovely agent, Dot Lumley.

Didn't go in to the book fair (not really the place for an author - better to meet your publisher or agent in a less frantic environment). Went to Langham's for lunch (we sat in the conservatory, which was lovely and light) - and yes, crème brulee was involved... Really good chat and I'm confident in what I'm doing for the next year. Talked over lots of ideas, and now have more confidence in one I wasn't sure of. (That’s the book after next. Kate Uber-planner Hardy prefers to work knowing what she’s doing)

Then I headed for the Royal College of Surgeons, to visit the Hunterian Museum.

Photographs were not permitted inside the museum, but the exhibits were fascinating. Lots of things in jars (the squeamish need to look away now), including an armadillo foetus. There were also skeletons, including one of Caroline (? can't remember surname) who died at the age of 3 (though at the time it was said she was 9) and was only 70% of the size of a 2-year-old. Her shoes and her thimble were part of the exhibition and they were like a doll's, they were that tiny. And the skeleton of a 4-month-old foetus, dating from the 1820s: with the shape of the head and eyes, it looked like an alien (the sort usually described as a grey or silver alien).

From there, I had a stroll round Covent Garden,

just soaking up the atmosphere, where I was entertained by a quintet playing Vivaldi

and a street entertainer with an escapology act.

And then back to Liverpool Street for a strawberry frappuccino and a plotting session while waiting for my train home. And, bliss, read all the way home. (Am a fast reader so the two-hour journey meant just over half Milly's new book. It's a goodie.)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Off to London

Current work: outlines, on the train
Listening to: not, am going to be on train
Reading: Margaret McDonagh, The Emergency Doctor Claims His Wife (one of Margaret’s lovely warm trademark romances – thoroughly good read)

I’m away today – but I have three places to send you:
  • The Pink Heart Society - where I’m blogging about juggling different worlds
  • Love is the Best Medicine – where I’m blogging about mad ideas (and you could win a book…)
  • The Wellcome Collection’s Scramble game – fans of medical stuff or those who like word games will enjoy this (yup, it’s a new procrastination tool with a difference – there are also some food-for-thought visuals. It’s work: perfect for a wordsmith’s limbering up session – and they’re English words, not Latin terms - oh yes, and you need to do it with a timer to limit yourself *g*)

Back tomorrow with a report on London.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Yesssss! Finished!

Current work: tidying the bearpit; admin
Listening to: Dire Straits
Reading: Carol Townend, His Captive Lady (she's on my autobuy list for a good reason... her books are great. Enjoyed this one as there were fleeting visits from former heroes and heroines - and especially because it was set in East Anglia, including a real life character I 'know' from my studies of local history. She really got into the head of the hero, who was just gorgeous...)

Finally finished the book yesterday – a whole month after I’d planned to finish it. Fingers crossed that the next book will have a smoother run. No sick kids. No sick husband. No school holidays. No blips with Dad. (Shall I ask for the moon and stars, while I’m at it?) Normally, when I finish a book, I get a feeling very similar to the baby blues; this time, I just need a nap. I am expecting revisions (and you can bet your life it'll be over the conflict), but I'll deal with them when I get them.

Today is a day for clearing my head and tidying my office. I know I have delights aplenty on my desk, in the shape of unopened Jiffy bags. (Another volume of Pevsner. Yummy.) But I do need to clear surfaces so I have space to think. And revise my to-do lists. And make a start on my taxes. And make sure my PLR/ACLS stuff is all up to date.

I’m in London tomorrow, so Thursday will be a chilling-out day, printing out manuscripts and parcelling things ready for the post/finishing up any admin not done today.

And Friday… Friday, I have the joy of starting the Venice book. (This will be my 40th Mills & Boon, would you believe?) I do know roughly where it’s going, but I prefer working from a longer outline, so I will enjoy plotting it on the train journey. As my new PC has a working soundcard, I can scribble longhand rather than peer myopically at the PDA (bright outdoor light is not the best place to work on it) and dictate via Dragon on Thursday.

It does help, having the house to myself and Kleptodog. He is in disgrace, as he absconded with one of my shoes yesterday morning. (I possess more handbags than I do pairs of shoes - and I don't have that many handbags. So actually, it was a bit of a problem.) I couldn’t find it in the garden or anywhere in the house; gave up, wore my boots for the school run, and enlisted help from the kids after school. Son found it behind the sofa in the music room (aka spare bedroom/my ex office). Duh. Should’ve thought. Where does dog sit and wait for me to come and fetch him when he's shut himself in, convinced that doggy thoughts will transfer themselves into my head? (Does he not have the wit to bark?)

It appears that Kleptodog is taking out his new haircut on me. Which is grossly unfair, as I’m not the person who gave him the doggy equivalent of a pudding bowl haircut: silly ears and even sillier, untapered, tail - take him for a walk, and you just can imagine the other dogs sniggering, 'Hair cu-ut.' (You need to do that in a Newman and Baddiel 'History Today' way. Which is still one of my fave comedy pieces ever.)

Enjoyed Ashes to Ashes last night - I think the writers have drawn Alex more sympathetically, this time round.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Fab weekend

Current work: last runthrough of book
Listening to: Vivaldi cello concerti
Reading: next on TBR pile

Brilliant things that happened over the weekend:

  • Author copies of Norfolk Miscellany arrived
  • saw a fab production of Joseph at the Theatre Royal in Norwich (Craig Chalmers was Joseph; the whole cast was excellent, and for the delectation of various romantic novelists, I must point out that the guy playing Pharaoh looked like Richard Armitage dressed as Elvis – just go and check out the pics on his website, here – have just noticed from the programme bio that he was involved in Grease. Oh dear. My daughter would definitely want to see that and she’d fall in love with him as Danny)
  • went out to dinner with DH and friends on Saturday night (sadly, crème brulee was not involved – but my starter was fabulously kooky as well as seriously scrummy. Take one pile of lovely steamed asparagus, take one soft-boiled egg, take top off egg and add butter from spoon and vinegar from pipette to make a kind of hollandaise, and use asparagus as soldiers. Ha. You know that’s going to end up in a book, don’t you?) (AND for the first time ever we didn’t get a tearful child on the phone – she’s a real daddy’s girl, but I’m the one she wants when she’s tired and tearful, bless)
  • saw my fave aunt and uncle on Sunday (wonderful - our first barbecue of the year, and their garden is fabulous - DH relived his childhood playing a fairly vicious game of swingball with my uncle; lovely to see my cousin, too, especially as she's heading towards a milestone birthday and I can tease her about being OLD - and her husband made a seriously gorgeous banoffee pie for pud, even caramelising the bananas himself with a blowtorch)

Hope everyone else had as nice a weekend as I did.

Today is deadline day and I am finishing the book. Am blogging over at Love is the Best Medicine today about mad ideas so please go over and say hello – you could influence the crazy ideas my mind is producing, and you’ll get the chance to win a signed copy of a book…

Friday, April 17, 2009

The glamorous side of being an author

Current work: fiction (the end is sort of in sight – I’m layering in extra emotion to the earlier bits of the book as the end becomes clearer)
Listening to: Bach
Reading: Liz Fielding, A Perfect Proposal (one of Liz’s trademark warm, witty books –and the ending was just beautiful. I had a lump in my throat. Brilliant stuff)

Most of the time, I’m this scruffy person holed up in a messy office who weaves happy endings on a computer screen. But sometimes I have moments of glamour. Awards ceremonies, lunch with my publisher, author parties… and interviews. Specifically, yesterday, it was Radio Four.

With my nonfic hat on, I used to be the interviewer rather than the interviewee, so I’m comfortable with journalists. And I love doing radio because it means no visuals and I don’t have to glam up: I’m just myself.

Live radio can be done in several ways – in the studio with the presenter (which is always good because it’s just like chatting to someone over coffee), in the NCA room (so it’s long-distance and you don’t get visual feedback, and I have to admit I find that harder because you often get an echo in the headphones), or on the phone (which is fine… unless the dog suddenly spots a sparrow).

This was pre-recorded, so it was again like having a chat, except there was a digital tape recorder and we could redo bits if we thought of a better way of getting the point across.

I was all prepared. DH and the kids helped tidy the house; and DH was a star and took the kids swimming so we could avoid squabbles being broadcast (we’re at the end of school holidays: mums of school-age children will know exactly what I mean). I thought it might be quite nice to do the interview in the (freshly tidied) conservatory among birdsong.

And then Chris arrived. I shut the door on the bear pit known as my office, opened the front door and ushered him towards the tidy part of the house while offering a cuppa. But where did he want to do the interview? Yup. In the bear pit. The one room of the house that’s hideously untidy and full of dust and will stay that way until after my deadline, when I will tidy it.

Other authors have posted pics of their lovely neat offices on their blogs/websites. (Or there’s… is it Will Self’s that has a wall full of post-it notes and looks scary?) Am not posting a pic of mine. But I will describe what it looks like when I’m on deadline and nearing the end of a book. Warning: it’s decidedly unglam. (And anyone out there who thinks, ‘Oooh, if I was a full time writer, I’d have a neat and tidy office’ – oh, no, you wouldn’t. Not for long. There’s this thing called a deadline that takes precedence over tidying, believe you me.)

Anyway, there are six bookcases behind my desk, each with six shelves, all crammed – they’re extra wide to make the most of storage space, i.e. everything is double-shelved, but there are also books laid horizontally on top of the vertical ones. The new bookcase (which will house copies of my published books plus translations) is built, but it’s staying outside my office until next week, when this book will be with my editor and I can reorganise everything properly. There’s a pile of books on the comfy chair in front of the window (this is to stop certain people walking in, settling down with the paper and RATTLING IT LOUDLY when I’m trying to think – I’m not that mean and territorial off deadline, but rattling paper stuffs my concentration and it’s unacceptable in the run-up to deadline).

My desk is covered in papers and books and jiffy bags I dare not open yet, because they’re research books I’ve ordered ready for the new book(s) and I’m weak-willed (i.e. I will dive into them and be distracted from the current book – a Pevsner is singing a siren song even as I type), as well as receipts that need filing, sticky notes that may or may not need action, two memory sticks (back-ups are important), a kitchen timer, a set of headphones, several blunt pencils, an empty Pandora bag, a coaster with a mug of coffee on top of it, and assorted supermarket school voucher thingies that need to go in youngest’s school bag to hand in on Monday. Oh, and did I mention the piles of papers and books?

There are boxes of books behind my chair, along with my guitar, my ‘research trip bag’ (containing both volumes of Pevsner for Norfolk, street atlases for Norfolk and Suffolk, a UK atlas, a volume on church architecture in Norfolk and a folder containing guidebooks from recent churchcrawling/ruins/stately home visits), my lecturing bag (containing OHP films, copies of my books and props for lectures), my library book bag (hmm, some of them might be overdue – note to self, check tonight and renew if need be to avoid fines) and the dog’s bed (which needs vacuuming).

I know, I know, I need taking in hand. Next week. I’ll be domesticated next week.

Anyway, I enjoyed the experience thoroughly. It was so refreshing not to have to defend the corner of romantic fiction. As romance is currently the biggest-selling area of fiction, and is also one of the few boom areas in the global recession, it’s pretty silly to dismiss it: but certain elements of the media – I don’t need to name the Daily Mail or the Guardian, do I? – can’t be bothered to do their research properly and persist in trumpeting out-of-date stereotypes. Am absolutely delighted that this wasn’t the case yesterday and we could have an intelligent discussion about publishing. I’m one of several authors taking part in the piece, so it’ll be like the ‘Language of Love’ piece I did with Maggie Secker. I’ll be really interested to hear what everyone else had to say about the internet and how it affects a writer’s working life.

How it affects mine: it’s a way of connecting with my readers, promoting my work, and it’s also a way of talking to people who live nowhere near me but share my interests. And blogging limbers me up and gets my head into work mode – thinking about it (duh, why didn’t I say this yesterday?), blogging is probably the equivalent of the office water cooler. Bit of rambling, bit of work, discussing music and books and films and gorgeous men…

Welcome to my water-cooler :)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Radio 4 interview, new books, weddings and glass

Current work: fiction (deadline mode – am still at the ‘this book is pants and my editor will hate it’ stage)
Listening to: Corelli
Reading: Fiona Harper, Blind Date Baby (enjoyed this one a lot – her books are always a treat – and yes, this is yet another from my weekend reading-fest. Have been way too busy to read this week!)

Thanks to everyone who sent me sympathetic emails yesterday. It helped. I was pretty miserable and growly, but my bounce is back today. Amazing what a bit of sleep can do. (Have warned DH if he messes up my sleep again, I will go on strike.)

I have a Radio Four interview at lunchtime today. Chris, the journalist, is coming to see me. Should be fun – will post later when I know date/time of being aired. It’s about blogging and how authors use it to promote their books.

Actually, yesterday (after the horrible morning), things started to look up again. I had a lovely email from my editor re my next contract. I am so much happier when I have things planned out in advance: it’s the ADHD thing. If I don’t have a structure in place, I feel as if everything’s sliding out of control, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. She said some really sweet things that made me feel a lot better about my work. Apparently readers like my – as she put it – ‘very individual ideas mixed with classic themes’. I also have permission to be clever with an idea I’m toying with (and I fully accept why my original pitch can’t work – at least in M&B terms – but she may regret giving me said permission).

And I sorted out some backstory I needed to know: where my hero and heroine got married (here). It’s a reunion book, so it doesn’t take place on the page, but I needed to know for later plot purposes. I enjoyed exploring the house online, and it’s sparking off other ideas.

Oh, all right. I admit that I chose the house for the staircase, which is an architectural rarity – apparently there are only two of these suspended staircases in the world. How amazing must it feel to walk down a suspended staircase in a swishy dress?

It’s the kind of place I wouldn’t have minded getting married. Though my own wedding took place in a tiny country church (here – or if you want to see more info on Simon Knott’s fab website, here). The entrance (for bridal parties, anyway) is actually round the side of the building, not the door you can see in the pic. But I can remember family and friends lining that path and the photographer yelling ‘let them have it!’ and confetti going everywhere…

I also discovered something exciting, during a sort-of coffee break. Regular readers (or those who know me in real life) will already realise that I have a bit of an obsession with glass (particularly 14th-century stained glass and certain 19th-century art, aka Burne Jones). A few years back, we had this wonderful ecclesiastical museum in the redundant church of St Peter Hungate in Norwich. Then it closed. I was very sad about this (this was in the days before I admitted having the churchcrawling bug – I just used to do it and keep quiet about it). Bu-u-ut – last year I heard that it was becoming a heritage centre and the initial phase would be stained glass. I very, VERY nearly applied for a job there; however, as I don’t have time to breathe as it is, taking a second job and making life difficult with school runs etc would be a very bad move, so I was sensible and didn’t give in to the impulse. (I did get as far as printing off the application form, though… it was that serious.)

I knew the centre was due to open this month some time: and I’m delighted to say that the Hungate Centre is open RIGHT NOW, from Thursdays to Saturdays. Given that next week I’ll be starting my Venice book (which involves glass, and lovely Michelle Styles has taken lots of location pics for me and is willing to be grilled mercilessly), I really think I need to visit sooner rather than later. Especially as a conservator works there on Saturdays and I can see the work in action. I’m going to be tired on Thursday, post-London, so that might be a nice way to settle back in to work...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Conspiracy, anyone?

Current work: fiction (deadline mode – am still at the ‘this book is pants and my editor will hate it’ stage)
Listening to: Corelli (yup, am stressed enough to bring out the really big guns)
Reading: Sarah Mayberry, Take On Me (recommended by my mate Amy Andrews, who said that Sarah is brilliant, and she was right – great pace, great dialogue, great hooks, and exactly what I’d expect from someone who’s been a TV story editor. I will definitely be buying the follow-up, next month)

Five weeks and one day ago, I had a bit of a nightmare with the car. Today… same nightmare.

Actually, it’s been a difficult day today, full stop.

Started when DH woke at 5.30 and couldn’t get back to sleep, so he decided to prod me until I growled. ‘Are you awake, honey?’ Grr. I was too tired to get up and start work, so I dozed. Ended up getting up late (feeling grumpy and overtired because a certain person had woken me an hour early); and then he started burbling on about can I buy some new leads for my old computer so he can connect it up. ‘You don’t need new leads. They’re in the white box.’ (A white box it appears he may have thrown out. Which also contains my software for Office 2007. How pleased am I? Yeah.) So that’s a good hour of work he owes me which I didn’t do because I was too tired to crawl out of bed when my alarm finally went off this morning, plus another hour for sorting out something HE was meant to organise for this weekend but has left it until the last minute and dumped it on me because I’m so good at sorting things out. (Meanwhile, I have a screaming deadline AND it’s school holidays, and I want to know what he’s done with my box. This is the man who keeps non-working stereos in the bottom of his wardrobe for ten years ‘because they might come in useful’, but he can throw out a box without looking in it or checking with me first?)

So then we have Dad ringing, wanting to know why I’m not there yet (er, because I was waiting for the Sainsbury’s delivery first and it’s school holidays, and I was also trying to sneak in an hour’s work before I turned up). Except he can’t do a normal phone call: no, he doesn’t say a single word (which freaks me. If I say hello several times and you don’t reply, then I assume that my hearing aid has gone wrong and I panic). I hang up, try redialling him, and he’s there with a list of errands to be run. Why didn’t he speak? ‘I couldn’t hear anything…’ (Clearly he’d pressed the mute button.) ‘How do I change the settings on the phone?’ Uh. Trying to instruct him over the phone is NOT a good idea; plus his phone is not the same as mine so I’d need to check his manual first. ‘Do not touch it. I’ll fix it in a minute when I come over.’

Call in to Sainsbury’s to buy his required goodies and tissues. Manage to join the slowest queue in history. And then, a little more than halfway to the home (which is in the middle of nowhere), a warning light on the dashboard starts flashing and the car feels juddery. I’m nearer Dad’s than mine, but I don’t have my insurance details on me (stupid Kate, something to fix immediately – write it in Filofax and put in PDA now – and yes, I do have both. Filofax (a Radley one, of course) is backup in case PDA goes wrong). Continue with visit, inwardly panicking about car (Dad is under the impression that you get free courtesy cars with everything and the government will pay you £2000 to change your car when you want to. Er, not on this planet).

Juddering gets worse on way home. Start to lose power as we go up the hill – I’m pushing down on the accelerator and the rev counter is dropping, and another light flashes on. Arrgh. Ask son to ring DH and see when he will be home, as I do not want to drive the car to the garage without an escort in case it goes bang. ‘As soon as I can.’ (That’s so precise and helpful. Not.) Get home, hands shaking. Ring garage and explain what’s happened. They advise asking breakdown people to bring car in. Ring lovely RAC and explain. ‘We’ll be with you in 45 minutes.’

Lovely RAC turn up exactly as promised, check it out – and this time the problem is cylinder #4 (last time it was #1 so it isn't exactly the same as last time). They tow the car in to the garage for me so I don’t have to worry about a) driving and losing power as I pull away from roundabout, and someone crashing into me, and b) the kids (it’s school holidays – they’re too young to leave here, RAC van can’t take all of us, neighbours have all gone out as is nice sunny day… and oh-h-h I would rather be at the seaside than stuck here with a screaming deadline).

End result: I will be carless for two days. Luckily it’s school holidays so I don’t have to worry about the school run.

Radio Four journo rings (nice guy – had a long chat last week) but bad timing: right when I’m ready to bawl my eyes out! I’ve agreed to do an interview here tomorrow and we’ll sort the details later today. (Any squabbling from kids during said interview, and the X-box/Wii/DS Lite will be confiscated for the rest of the year. ‘That’s a bit harsh, Mum.’ Uh-huh, but this is NOT the time to test my boundaries.)

Total amount of words done so far today: nowhere near enough to hit my (revised) deadline. (Weep.)

Total amount of stress today: lots. (I think DH owes me a visit to the Pandora shop.)

Total amount of chocolate eaten: none, because I stepped on the scales this morning and it’s monstrous (ah, that can be the third thing – nasty scales, irritating husband, kaput car. Yes. Can breathe out again).

Time for a cup of coffee, methinks. And a deep breath. The kids are watching Inkheart, and I’m going sound off until I’ve put a decent amount of words on paper.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

author on deadline and another great review

Current work: fiction (deadline mode – am at the ‘this book is pants and my editor will hate it’ stage)
Listening to: Bach
Reading: Louise Allen, The Disgraceful Mr Ravenhurst (Louise never disappoints, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the books so far in her Ravenhurst series. This is another good sensual read with an endearing, brave and funny heroine – a real bluestocking – and… You know they say never write a redhead hero? This one REALLY works!)

Right now I am on a seriously screaming deadline and trying to balance this with school holidays. (Inkheart is out on DVD and the children have money from one of their godmothers, so they’ve asked me to spend it on said film. So I’m spending the morning with them and this afternoon I have a guaranteed 90 minutes of working time. Bad parent? No. One who's trying to juggle and please everyone...)

And because I am on deadline and panicking just a little bit, am trying to flatten the crows. Here’s what lovely Debbie Wiley had to say about The Children’s Doctor’s Special Proposal over at Book Illuminations:

Katrina Gregory is determined never to get involved with a colleague again. Rhys Morgan doesn’t think he is capable of loving relationships. However, the attraction between the two of them is unmistakable, even as their very different perspectives clash. Can Katrina and Rhys find a happy medium for the love blossoming between them to flourish?

THE CHILDREN’S DOCTOR’S SPECIAL PROPOSAL is a sweet story that shows love growing and maturing. Kate Hardy doesn’t pressure her characters into falling in love but instead allows it to develop naturally. THE CHILDREN’S DOCTOR’S SPECIAL PROPOSAL is a love story in its purest form. The relationship between Katrina and Rhys is the central focus of the story without any other distractions. This technique allows the reader to really focus on the emotional impact of the storyline as Katrina and Rhys have to do some very weighty soul searching.

Kate Hardy also tackles a very sensitive subject in THE CHILDREN’S DOCTOR’S SPECIAL PROPOSAL. Katrina has a hearing impairment but it doesn’t stop her from being one heck of a doctor! Her past relationship has left her with fears about her hearing, but Kate Hardy shows another perspective through the eyes of Rhys. One scene in particular involving a cello is especially romantic.

THE CHILDREN’S DOCTOR’S SPECIAL PROPOSAL is just as the title promises. Kate Hardy delivers a superb romance that resonates beautifully with the reader. Bravo, Ms. Hardy!

Thank you, Debbie, for making my day and reminding me that I could write at one point. (Hopefully I can do it again. Having a bit of a crow attack this morning…)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Happy Easter and an amazing review

Current work: fiction
Listening to: John Martyn (DH has control of the music…)
Reading: Anne McAllister, Savas’ Defiant Mistress (great characterisation, loved the setting, adored the dog – recommended read)

Hope everyone has had as nice a holiday weekend as we have. Includes much playing of board games, seeing Bolt (very, very funny), some lie-ins with good books (will be posting my thoughts on those later in the week), family time, baking (Madam desperately wanted to make the cookies from Cathy Cassidy’s “Ginger Snaps”, so we did it on Easter Sunday when the grandparents could also try them), oh, and watching the new episode of Dr Who (which I thought was a bit derivative – enjoyed it, but… Lara Croft, anyone?). (And I squeezed in some work. Yay.)

And I had an especially nice Easter pressie: a truly fabulous review from Coffee Time Romance. FIVE CUPS, no less. Which, as their website says, means ‘Ultra Rare Extraordinary Read. Not many books will be rated a 5. It is a superior work’.

Colour me delighted. It’s always nice to get a good review, but this book is particularly personal - there’s an awful lot of me in Kat, as people who know me well have pointed out, and the depiction of her deafness is 100% accurate as it’s my own disability (not that I consider myself disabled – it’s just a little thing I sometimes have to work round).

Anyway, this is what Lori had to say:

The characters in this story are as strong and sexy as they are sensitive and sweet. Kat is so loving and compassionate that no matter what life throws at her, she will always look for the rainbow. There is certainly nothing wrong with the strong silent type, and Rhys fits the mold perfectly. Their story just goes to show that you can have a wonderfully hot romance, with a plot that does include the darker moments, but without the need for nasty language and bitter feuds. This is a pleasure to read, not only for its romance, but also for its intelligence and honesty.

You can read the full review here.

Thank you, Lori, for making my day.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

some excellent news

Current work: fiction
Listening to: Sheryl Crow
Reading: Nicola Cornick, Unmasked (enjoying this one hugely)

Yesterday, I think I made the fastest sale of my life. Not even a proper outline. I sent a seriously brief suggestion to my ed, expecting him to remind me that there's a recession on and to say he'd think about it if I sent a proper outline in, but he emailed me straight back, saying, ‘Delivery when?’ April next year, to give me time to do the pics (this one is Essex). Result: ‘Contract on way to Dot.’

Blimey! Had to write a quick email to my lovely agent to apologise for inadvertently jumping the gun.

OK, so local history doesn’t pay: but this is food for the soul. It means that I have two new books to think about now, and most importantly this gives me my safety valve for the next year’s worth of sticky patches. (This is advance planning rather than paranoia, by the way: Dad’s illness isn’t predictable, so we have OK patches and bad patches. Research gets me through the bad bits. Think that’s why the last bad one hit me so hard – I didn’t have anything officially lined up at that point.)

Had a fantastic day out with the kids yesterday. The plan was to see Bolt, but it was an afternoon performance and I prefer morning ones (so we also get lunch out and a bit of pottering about, and then get home just before DH, so I can go back to work without feeling guilty). So we went to see Monsters vs Aliens… the 3D version.

I was blown away by the animation and the sheer detail. When something hit the ground, you actually saw the dust flying up. And the 3D effects… they’re not like when I was a kid (or even like it was when my two were a bit younger – one of the Spy Kids films came out as a 3D version). For a start, the glasses aren’t cardboard, with one eye covered in red and one in green or blue. These are like ordinary glasses, with grey/blue lenses. And if you take the glasses off during the film (of course I did – I wanted to see how it worked), the picture is faintly fuzzy but otherwise the same as the normal film – no garish pink and green haloes like you get in the old-fashioned ones.

There were also trailers in 3D. One was for Coralline (a possibility, though Madam might find it a bit too scary) and another for Ice Age 3 (that’s a definite – I enjoyed the first one a lot, though why has it taken me so long to twig that lovely Ray Romano does the voiceover?).

Verdict on the film? The storyline wasn’t gripping, but the animation was good enough to keep me going, and I think the experience was worth the premium ticket price.

Bolt will be tomorrow’s treat (plus a visit to my mate Steve's exhibition).

Plan for today: wait in for the weekly shop delivery, then run errands for Dad and take the kids to visit him.

The other event yesterday was that my new Pandora glass bead arrived. In the catalogue, it looks magenta. In the flesh, it was much paler, so I was quite disappointed. Princess Style Queen mentioned that it fits her colour scheme far more than mine, and she was absolutely right: I handed it over. While we were examining the difference between the catalogue and the bead itself, I showed her the new gold Murano glass beads - and the one I really like (I've seen it, and it's gorgeous). 'Oooh, yes! Now THAT would look really nice on your bracelet...' Yup, but the price is a tad over my guilt threshold, and it might push DH into an enormous hissy fit. As I want him to build me another bookcase (yes, I could build it myself - but he's the one with the estate car, so I need him to pick it up for me), I decided to play it safe...

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

A new place, more website stuff, and a clone

Current work: fiction
Listening to: Alison Moyet
Reading: Nicola Cornick, Unmasked (this one’s a real treat)

Mills and Boon have set up a social website (aka the UK version of the eHarlequin boards). It’s here if you want to go and check it out. The site launched yesterday afternoon, and I’m so looking forward to it – I enjoy going to the eHarl boards (even though I don’t go there as often as I’d like – dear lovely ed, I am not playing on the internet: I am working, honest) and I’ve made some really good real-life friends as well as cyber-friends there. I’m hoping to do the same here.

Website: thanks, everyone, who took the trouble to answer my website dilemma yesterday. I’m working on a revamped books page which I’ll put up at the end of the month – after my deadline! The plan is to show thumbnail covers, plus clickable links in a list (newest title first – and linked books have been separated out from the standalone ones) with dates. I’m also planning to do three booklists rather than the single one I have at the moment – i.e. one for the UK, one for the US and one for Aus/NZ. (Do I need a fourth, for ebooks?) I'll split the ‘coming soon’ section into three, so it’s tidier and you don’t have to look through a whole column to find out when my books are coming out in your country. So hopefully it will make life easier for readers…

As for the clone: I’ve wanted a clone for ages, and now it seems I might have one… with a twist or two.

We spent yesterday playing board games. Madam beat me at Scrabble (though currently we play so that we can see each other’s letters; I’ll swap letters with her if she can see a good word but doesn’t have what she needs, and we try to open up the board rather than have a tedious defensive game – but we’re at the stage now where she can see the word on her own instead of needing hints from me). And then she suggested something that surprised me. ‘We could play in French. Look, I’ve got tête.’ Ye-e-es… and the circumflex? ‘That’s OK. We’ll just pretend it’s there. But I’ll tell you how it’s spelled properly. You could do German or Italian if you like.’ Honey, apart from numbers, you don’t know any German or Italian. ‘That’s OK. You can teach me.’

Uh. She’s EIGHT.

Mind you, at eight years old, if I’d had an adult at home who could speak another language then I too would’ve suggested playing in French. She announced to her teacher last week that she’s going to be a writer when she grows up (she’s done that with every teacher since she turned six – just like her mother); she’s writing scifi stuff (which I did at her age); and she makes me buy her lots of notebooks (hmm… I used to be very fond of those Challenge books with the carbon paper in the middle). She also has three reading books on the go – one by her bed, one in the car and one in her schoolbag. (I have one by my bed, one in the kitchen and a couple in my office.) And school has given up making her do the reading scheme and is letting her read whatever she likes because she moaned about being bored and got her mother to write a note… (This is getting very spooky. Snap.)

And she ran a stall at her school’s fundraiser last week. (OK, so I don’t do it right now – due to the difficult stuff in my life, I don’t have time to breathe, let alone anything else – but I’ve done fundraising since my student days.)

The big difference between us is that she’s inherited the style gene that bypassed me.

I have a feeling that my mini-me could really take over the world.

Plan for today: it’s going to pour all day, so we’re off to the cinema to see ‘Bolt’.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Website dilemma and ‘Best of Bosses’

Current work: fiction
Listening to: Bach
Reading: Animal Instincts, Nell Dixon (enjoyed this – made me laugh out loud for the right reasons, and I particularly liked Dave the Parrot); The Valtieri Marriage Deal, Caroline Anderson (enjoyed this one, too – and I’ll have to ring her and nag her to write Luca’s brothers’ stories).

Spend the weekend mainly working, though we did go out to see friends on Saturday. AND I updated my website (yeah yeah, not before time). I think my Books page needs revamping. I mean, it’s fine if you have a short backlist. You can do lots with covers and it looks pretty instead of going on and on and on… whereas if you have a backlist that’s more than 30 books long, it’s a pain for the reader to scroll down to find the one they want if they have to bypass a list of covers and ISBNs and publication date and... (yada, yada, yada).

So I think it’d be easier for readers if I gave a list with clickable links to the titles.

But said list also needs refining – because a list of 30-odd titles in a lump is just not user-friendly. So. Do I put them in order of publication? Reverse order of publication? Alphabetical order? Do I split the Modern Heats from the Medicals? Do I then split them into mini-series and standalone? Because Medical readers like themes, do I say whether it’s an A&E book or a children’s ward or a GP surgery? Do I mention which ones were shortlisted/won awards/were a Waldies bestseller?

In short, what do you look for when you look at an author’s books pages?

Was just checking my new cover on Amazon when I discovered that I have a new ebook bundle out. I’m with Cathy Williams and Barbara Hannay in the ‘Best of Bosses 2008’ bundle. The book is ‘In Bed with Her Italian Boss’, aka my RNA award-winning book Breakfast at Giovanni’s. And you can find it here at e-Harl or on Amazon in a Kindle edition.

Plan for today: looks as if today is the only day this week without heavy rain. Will ask the kids what they fancy doing…

PS Go and congratulate Jan Jones, as she has some great news!

Friday, April 03, 2009

All Greek to me…

Current work: proofs and fiction
Listening to: Bach
Reading: A Thousand Days in Venice, Marlene de Blasi – even though it was written in first-person present tense (which isn’t my favourite), I enjoyed this – particularly the recipes and the descriptions of Venice. One day…

Thanks to lovely Michelle Styles giving me the heads-up that the Harlequin Greek site is up and running, I discovered that Sold to the Highest Bidder is out in Greece. Here, for your delectation, is the blurb… (And yes, I know the title of this post is a bad pun. Humour me. Bad puns are one of my guilty pleasures. Do feel free to share more in the comments!)

Αργά ή γρήγορα, θα υπέκυπτε…Ο Τζακ Γκόνταρντ ήταν ένας άνθρωπος που ήξερε τι ήθελε –κι έπαιρνε πάντα αυτό που ήθελε. Τώρα, σκόπευε ν' αγοράσει το πατρικό της Αλίσια Μπέρεσφοντ, ένα πανέμορφο παλιό αρχοντικό στην αγγλική ύπαιθρο. Αλλά, εκτός από το σπίτι, τον ενδιέφερε πολύ και η ίδια. Είχε καιρό να νιώσει τόσο έντονο πόθο για μια γυναίκα. Έτσι, της πρότεινε να συνεχίσει να ζει εκεί και να φροντίζει τους κήπους.

Η Αλίσια διαφωνούσε με τις ριζοσπαστικές μετατροπές που σχεδίαζε να κάνει ο Τζακ, και δέχτηκε την προσφορά του για να μπορεί να επιβλέπει τις εργασίες. Ωστόσο, ήταν ο πιο συναρπαστικός άντρας που είχε γνωρίσει ποτέ της. Όσο περισσότερο χρόνο περνούσε μαζί του, τόσο πιο δύσκολο της ήταν ν' αντισταθεί στην πολιορκία του. Και η ιδέα μιας εφήμερης ερωτικής περιπέτειες μαζί του φαινόταν ολοένα και πιο δελεαστική…

Statement meeting was really positive yesterday and I was very pleased with the outcome. One less thing to worry about.

Posting late this morning as I was a bad puppy and nipped into town. I have a craving for mango and crayfish salad (note – healthier than chocolate…) and I also needed a couple of tops as my two favourites have practically fallen to bits. Could have gone next week (Easter hols) BUT the kids loathe clothes-shopping and I’m planning two weeks of having fun and relaxing. Style-queen daughter will be moaning at me, though – she says I live in black trousers and plain tops. Yep. And I have several pairs of the same trousers – one on, a couple off, and a couple in the wash. I did try on a different colour today, but it wasn't me; I'm happy in this particular rut.

Today is my last proper full day of work for a fortnight – it’s school hols. Plan is to get up at normal time, and work while they sleep in; then I can spend the days with them, doing things and having fun. We’re planning to go to the glass factory (and see glass being blown) and the cinema, and everything else will depend on the weather.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

One of *those* days…

Current work: proofs and fiction
Listening to: Bach
Reading: next on TBR pile

The plan yesterday was: go into town, run some errands and do some shopping, then meet Ali. The traffic was a bit heavy on the way in, but I managed to park, went into Hotel Chocolat and sorted out stuff for the kids (and Ali’s)… and discovered at the cash desk that my wallet was not in my handbag.

I knew exactly where it was. Sitting on my desk. I’d decided that, as life is a bit miserable right now, I’d put some sparkle into someone else’s life to cheer myself up, so I sent my favourite uncle and aunt some Easter goodies via Hotel Chocolat’s website before I left home – and forgot to put my wallet back in my handbag.

Luckily I had enough cash in the bottom of my handbag to get me out of the car park. Drove home. Noted how heavy the traffic had become in the other direction. Picked up wallet. Took a different route into town and parked in a different car park. Had twenty minutes instead of just over an hour to get everything sorted. Didn’t get to Waterstone’s, but managed to run to Hotel Chocolat and the bank, and made it back to meet Ali just in time. Lovely lunch (quite restrained, actually; crème brulee was not on the menu, or I would have been naughtier. And the latte was fabulous). Picked up another handwriting pen to replace the one that Madam lost, bought cartridges for son’s pen, nipped into Sonkai and was reasonably good (a spacer. Oh, all right, and a bead. Lovely black mother-of-pearl – which has all sorts of tones of green and gold and blue and purple in it). Back to car park. Machine would NOT accept my money. Pressed the help button. ‘Try another machine,’ said the security guy. I did – but, because I had to queue again, that delayed me and the machine said I had to pay for an extra hour’s parking… Uhh. The wonders of technology.

Then I decided to go to the M&B website and order some extra copies of my last Medical (competition entries etc). Thwarted there, too as M&B had sold out... (I know this is a good thing, really. But I wasn't expecting it!)

Today, I’d like a nice quiet morning so I can get my proofs done and a nice chunk of fiction before my meeting at school this afternoon. Pretty please with sugar on it?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

April Calendar – and finished

Current work: fiction
Listening to: Keith Urban
Reading: next on TBR pile

Here’s the calendar pic for April…

Yesterday, I cancelled guitar so I could make a last push to finish the Suffolk book and give me space to focus on the other book. Finished it; printed it out; copied the Word files and jpgs to a CD-rom… and couldn’t find the marker pen to label the disk (DH had borrowed the pen – typical man, never puts things back. My office might look like a tip but I know where things are). But it’s ready to go to the post office on the way home from school today.

I’m not exactly in a post-book slump, as I have another screaming deadline. But I do need a day to clear my head and get myself focused. Today is a matter of tidying my desk (it’s past my mess tolerance limits, plus there’s a royalty cheque in the ‘post inwards’ pile that needs to go in the bank today), having a thinking day to wrestle with a plot problem, plus taking my local best friend out for lunch as she’s having a milestone birthday. And I also need to sort out the stuff for the statement meeting tomorrow. This is one of those weeks where I just can’t fit everything in. I was asked yesterday if I’d give some talks to the local WI… and, regretfully, I had to say no. I would’ve really enjoyed that. But, with Dad taking a whole day of my work week, almost EVERY SINGLE WEEK, I simply don’t have the space to agree to any more commitments.

I would, however, like some more energy. And some patience. If anyone has any spare, do let me know…

Apologies – I’m feeling a bit ranty, today. The situation isn’t fixable, and as I’m the kind of person who’s good at fixing things (and usually successful), not being able to fix it is driving me crazy. I’m quite out of sorts and need a boost – and as I’m having lunch opposite Sonkai… Well. I might be good and stop at just a spacer. But I have a hankering for glass. (One particular bead. If it’s in stock.) It’s Easter hols next week, so methinks we’ll go and visit Langham Glass. Is sort of research for the book after next, but is also something that fascinates me: double win.

Glass half full. I’m out of contact for a couple of hours today, too. And nice lunch out. And seeing someone I’m very fond of. And I can pick up a couple of treats from the kids (have extracted their book wishlist, so this is going to be fun – have already ordered treats for DH, which arrived yesterday and he’s a happy bunny). So I can at least put a sparkle in their lives.