Friday, August 28, 2009

My life according to Led Zeppelin

Current work: revisions on Med book/plotting
Listening to: Led Zeppelin, Presence (very underrated: Tea For One does it for me every time)
Reading: Louise Allen, The Piratical Miss Ravenhurst (still wonderful.)

Righty. I am a bit hopeless when it comes to social media. Do I update Facebook and MySpace? Not as often as I should (so if you’re waiting for me to accept a friend request, prod me here). Do I Twitter? Not on your life! (Too 1984 for me. Apart from the fact that I’d rather be writing than telling people I’ve done six words in the last ten days… Nope. Looks like a major time stealer to me.)

However, this particular meme was irresistible – from my mate Jan Jones. I was a good girl and posted it on Facebook, but at this stage of the school hols I’m in lazy mare mode. And as today’s big task involves two children and the shoe shop (sob), and I’m probably emulsioning walls this weekend (also sob, because DH is unlikely to relinquish control of the stereo), I’m posting it here, too. Not tagging anyone in particular, but if you fancy doing it (or you're one of the people I tagged on Facebook because I thought you'd enjoy it, too), please stick a link in the comments so enquiring minds (aka Kate Nosy Hardy) can come and see. Or do it in a comment, if you like. I'm soooo chilled right now.

Here are the rules: Using only song NAMES from ONE ARTIST, cleverly answer these questions. Pass it on to 15 people you like and include me. You can't use the band I used. Try not to repeat a song title. It's a lot harder than you think! Repost as "My life according to (band name)".

  • Pick your Artist: Led Zeppelin
  • Are you a male or female?: Living Loving Maid
  • Describe yourself: Fool in the Rain
  • How do you feel: Dazed and Confused [hey, I’m doing revisions…]
  • Describe where you currently live: In The Light
  • If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Kashmir
  • Your favourite form of transportation: Night Flight
  • Your best friend is: Over the Hills and Far Away [all right, so Norfolk is “very flat”, but London is 2 hours from here!]
  • You and your best friends are: Out on the Tiles
  • What's the weather like: White Summer
  • Favourite time of day: In the Evening
  • If your life was a TV show, what would it be called: Stairway to Heaven
  • What is life to you: Celebration Day
  • Your last relationship: Communication Breakdown
  • Your current relationship: Whole Lotta Love
  • Your fear: No Quarter
  • What is the best advice you have to give: We’re Gonna Groove
  • Thought for the Day: Nobody’s Fault but Mine
  • How I would like to die: In My Time of Dying
  • Looking for: The Ocean
    If you could change your name, you would change it to: Tangerine
  • Wouldn’t mind: Tea for One [especially if there’s cake involved – remember, I’m doing revisions]
  • My soul's present condition: Ramble On
  • Most Faithful Companion: Hot Dog [I nearly chose ‘Black Dog’, but as he’s liver-and-white…]
  • My motto: The Song Remains the Same

Enjoy - and have a lovely bank hol.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

the importance of colour

Current work: revisions on Med book
Listening to: Kansas
Reading: Louise Allen, The Piratical Miss Ravenhurst (fantastic, so far – but then again, Louise never disappoints. Maybe should’ve saved this one as a carrot for doing revisions.)

Took the kids to see G-Force yesterday. Not bad, but we won’t be rushing out to get the DVD.

When DH came home, we went shopping for paint and I discovered to my dismay that Homebase no longer stocks Soft Jade. It’s still on the Dulux website; however, it’s not one of the ‘new’ colours, so I suppose that was why it wasn’t on the shelves. Too much of a faff to have the colour made up for us, so we picked another shade, which is a little darker (‘Blue Reflection’ – a pale teal) and came home to check it out: it’s also in the ‘calm blues’ section, so it should be fine (and, more importantly, work with my new duvet covers).

I could be a bit flaky here and talk about colour psychology. I did some quite interesting research on the subject for magazine articles, a few years back, and how colours can influence mood. I discovered a couple of articles yesterday which claim that yellow is not a good colour for walls. Apparently, babies cry more in yellow rooms, and people are more likely to argue in yellow rooms. There wasn’t any research in the article to back up the claims, though it’s probably linked to the idea of yellow being a mental stimulus. (Hmm. Had it been my article, I would’ve had an expert quote to back it up, and/or a reference to a research paper, because that statement needed qualifying. It’s also too sweeping, because the effect of the colour depends on the shade of yellow and the quality of the daylight in the room – whether it’s morning or afternoon light, plus the room’s orientation. Not to mention the fact that it looks different again at night, and that depends on the way the room’s lit – whether it’s harsh overhead light or muted by table lamps/use of uplighters. And it also depends on the colour of your furniture and flooring.)

We’ve chosen ‘Egyptian Sand’, which is pretty much what it says on the tin: a soft, sandy yellow. I think it makes the rooms feel large, warm and welcoming during the day, and cosy at night. (White ceiling, light oak flooring, terracotta soft furnishings with cushions to match the walls.)

Also arranged to swap the paint DH bought: the dreadful indigo is no more, and son chose a more sensible shade. (DH is trying to brazen it out, but he knows it was a mad decision and it will go down in family legend.) I guess I’m lucky son didn’t spot the metallic shades and ask for one of those. (Hmm. They were just starting to be trendy when I used to write for First Home, at the beginning of the decade. Am a bit surprised they’re still in.)

Other than that, lovely ed came back to me with revisions. It’s nice to be getting back to work; however, I must ignore the fact that I know she’s on holiday next week, or it will tempt me to be a lazy mare and do absolutely nothing for a few more days. I know it would be far more sensible to ease myself back in to work (and start using Lotus Organizer again, working to schedules and timetables - otherwise, tasks expand to fill the space and you don't get as much done). Just as I’m tweaking bedtime to get the kids back to sensible school bedtimes by Sept 4...

Plan for today: think about how I’m going to restructure the book, and maybe take the kids bowling. And I’m going to try a slightly different way of plotting – the sticky notes on a blank wall thing. Except I lose bits of paper (dog brushes against board, wags his tail, and sticky notes go missing), so I’m going use text boxes in Word. If I use a highlight on the text, I'll be able to see what I’m doing in two-page view – i.e. the same effect as using different coloured notes – and be able to shuffle things round. Not sure if it’s going to work for me (my instinct tells me it's likely to make me structure things with my head rather than my heart), but it’ll be good for me to work outside the box and try something different. And if it doesn't work, that's fine: I'll go back to my usual way of plotting.

Question of the day: how do you tackle plotting?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Name that book?

Current work: still officially en vacances (i.e. awaiting verdicts – on new book, from lovely ed; and on outlines, sent to lovely agent)
Listening to: Chopin (am in French mode, now…)
Reading: Sarah Mayberry, Burning Up (enjoyed this one. Still think my fave of hers is Anything For You)

Over at the RNA blog yesterday, Leah commented about my office companion and then asked me if I knew which book she was talking about.

“The father of the heroine freezes to death (on purpose), she's see's him going out to do it and he tells her to go back inside/leave, it could have been a flashback and I'm sure it's a chick lit book!”

It doesn’t ring a bell with me (the only one I can remember with snow is lovely Katie Fforde’s “Highland Fling”, and it isn’t that one). Does anyone else recognise it? Please let me know in the comments if you do, because a) I promised I'd ask and b) I’m intrigued now…

Had a lazyish day, yesterday. Visited Dad and it was the nicest visit for ages – one of those I can store up as a good memory to set against the darker ones. Today may be cinema or bowling, depending on what time the shopping arrives.

Tonight, we have to go and buy paint. Specifically, we have to take back one tin (what on EARTH was DH thinking, buying indigo paint for son’s bedroom walls? It’s small enough as it is – it’ll feel like a matchbox, painted a colour that dark) and buy the rest of the paint for the hallway, living room and dining room. We need to get this sorted and the carpets up within the next three weeks, so you can guess what I’ll be doing, this weekend. (Not gloss, though. Am not allowed to do that because am too hopeless.)

We also need new bedlinen. It would be wonderful to have pure white linen, as we did on holiday, but a) this would mean ironing duvet covers (what a waste of good writing time – properly folded and with a decent pattern, you can get away with being a bit of a slattern) and b) it’s not a sensible choice when you have a dog who sneaks upstairs for a cuddle at weekends when you stay in bed to read (by this I mean after 6.30am but before 9am – am not that lazy). He usually rushes past daughter, as she’s a pushover and won’t check that his paws are dry first. I would have to spend so much time scrubbing out muddy pawprints... No. Cool, crisp elegance is out of the question. (This is why I write. My heroines can have the high-maintenance stuff.)

Given that our walls are soft jade and the new carpet will be a similar colour to the present one (mid blue-grey), I probably should be looking at duck-egg blue and the like. Given that I haven’t seen anything that’s grabbed me in ages, I decided to do an online browse before dragging the kids shopping. Sadly, my usual shortlist of shops – Laura Ashley, Marks, John Lewis, Debenhams and House of Fraser – let me down. Then it occurred to me to look up my favourite manufacturers to see if there were other stockists who might have a wider range. Thanks to this, I discovered something new: V&A bedlinens. (As in V&A museum.)

I found a particularly gorgeous design called ‘blossom’, which was inspired by a length of 19th-century Chinese blue velvet. It’s possibly not a conventional colour scheme, but I think heathery purple goes quite nicely with soft jade. (I could also argue a case for claret – there was a Dorma one in burgundy that really tempted me, but one of the reviews said it had an embossed pattern on the pillowcases. Shame: I’m a bit princessy about mattresses and pillows, and I’m a bit the same about bedlinen – smooth and with a high thread count, please.)

The stockist had a fabulous range, which you could explore by colour or by style, i.e. modern, floral, stripes, and the category I really liked – ‘elegant’. I’m sniggering even at the thought, because I’m the least elegant person I know. However. We have three nice sets, now (duck-egg/aqua, pistachio, and the heathery one) and it worked out at three for the price of one, so I'm pleased with my bargains.

Am having a bit of a piano-fest at the moment. Daughter has taught herself the Do-Re-Mi song and is driving us all potty with it. I’m playing Chopin and Satie – yup, French music. Because one of my heroines in the French duo plays. You have to have a baby grand in a chateau, don’t you? Even if it’s been under dust covers for 10 years...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

My office companion...

... has managed to get a part in quite a few of my books.

And he's starring in his own post over at the RNA blog today. Do go over and tell me about your office companion.

(As for real life: it's school holidays, it's sticky and humid, and apparently we have wind and storms to look forward to later today. So that's no barbecue tonight, then...)

Monday, August 24, 2009

And elsewhere today

Nearly forgot (mainly because internet connection was playing up last night) - I'm blogging over at the Pink Heart Society today in their Male on Monday slot. Do go over and feast your eyes. :o)

Lovely, lovely Essex

Current work: back en vacances (and trying not to bite my nails awaiting revisions - and, yes, I know I should be working on my outlines or it'll cause me a crazy deadline)
Listening to: John Martyn
Reading: next on TBR

It's been a busy weekend. On Friday, I took the kids bowling, which was great fun. Also booked tickets for Grease in the October half term. Madam is hugely excited because we’re going with her godmother, we’re staying overnight in London (her first time) AND it’s her first ever West End evening performance. (Actually, I think it might be mine, too – the Theatre Royal in Norwich is excellent and we used to get shows before they went to London, so it made sense to see them locally. I did see The Cherry Orchard during my A levels – with wonderful Frank Finlay – but I’m pretty sure that was a matinee performance.) So I am currently the best mummy in the whole wide world. (Kate polishes halo.)

Saturday was spent on my nonfic, and Sunday was a research day on the same book. We had a fabulous time. First we went to Castle Hedingham.

It belonged to the de Vere family (Earl of Oxford) for many, many years. It’s seen lots of sieges and murders (which I’m busy researching for the spooks book).

It also has the largest Norman arch in England (28 feet across, seen here from the minstrels’ gallery. And no, I didn’t misbehave. There were other people there – otherwise, I admit, I might’ve started singing something medieval. It gave me that kind of feeling).

And look at this beautiful carving on one of the Norman fireplaces.

We really enjoyed looking round. And someone enjoyed the chance of trying on some knightly apparel.

(The mail was heavy. The mail at Cressing, later in the afternoon, was even heavier.) His sister has been reading the Narnia books and was desperate for a bow and arrow…

This book also involves a bit of churchcrawling. So that was the next stop: St Nicholas’s church in Castle Hedingham. It’s quite unusual as it has three original Norman doors, with original ironwork. The south door is the ‘skin door’ (so called because it was an Essex tradition to nail the skin of a robber to the church door, as a warning - and when this one was restored in the 19th century, they did indeed find traces of human skin...).

It also has a rare Norman wheel window.

We went to a couple more churches (involving priories that have been razed to the ground, and sadly the churches were locked – apparently there have been a spare of burglaries in the Colne area. Maybe someone should take them to Castle Hedingham and show them what used to happen to robbers…).

And then we went to Cressing Preceptory. The wheat and barley barns there are among the oldest Templar buildings in England and are also the oldest timber-framed barns in Europe. (This is the wheat barn.)

And finally we went to Little Horkesley. There’s nothing left of the priory now, and the church was bombed in the Blitz. But guess what survived?

Yup. Rare 13th-century wooden effigies. I loved these. I think they might be the oldest ones I’ve seen, and the carving was just beautiful. You can’t see it here, but the detail on the legs was stunning. (I rather liked the lion, too.)

Overall – more pics added to book, more atmosphere soaked up, and we had a lovely family day out. Nice to be in the pretty part of my birth county. I have more trips planned; one involves Maldon (I took my first steps there) and from there to where my family is on my mum’s side, so my research team is going to grow a little bit for that one (aka bestest aunty and uncle joining us for a wander round and a cafe visit). Am also planning to visit Little Dunmow, where my grandmother was christened – actually, the trips around that area will involve visiting other churches with family connections. Kind of like ‘Who do you think you are?’ – except I know who I am, on Dad's side. The eleventh generation of farming stock. (Am married to a farmer and spent my holidays at uni working for a local grain merchant, so I think that counts…) My mum's side is trickier, so am going to have to sit down with my aunts and uncles and see what I can piece together. (If I can get it back to 1911, I'm fine - I can use the census and parish records. It's the latest bit that's trickier.)

Friday, August 21, 2009

it’s Friday already?

Current work: still en vacances (except my characters are talking and words are starting to sneak on to the word processor - bad, because I haven't agreed outlines yet)
Listening to: Katie Melua
Reading: next on TBR

How? This is the tail end of school hols (two weeks to go) so it usually starts to slow down now. How come time is zooming?

Oh, duh. It's because I've spent two days doing nightmare proofs. That's why time's passed so quickly: am trying to blank out the last two days. (Just as well my dentist visit was earlier in the week or she would've told me off for grinding my teeth...)

The talk on Weds went fine, to my relief.; so did the carpet measuring.

Might take the kids bowling today; we have a haircut booked for this afternoon. I need to book tickets for daughter's birthday treat (I do hope they have tickets left - will do this one over the phone). Also planning a research trip this weekend for the Essex book. It's humid and horrible today, so I hope the bowling place has air-conditioning...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

theatres, talks and displacements

Current work: still en vacances (oh, all right, I’m doing the outline of the second book in the French duo – but I am also having the weekly shop delivered today, the entire upstairs measured for carpets, and panicking about my talk in Great Yarmouth tonight)
Listening to: Julian Lloyd Webber (I need calming cello music because of my talk)
Reading: next on TBR (home too late last night to start reading)

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was excellent. Beforehand, son and DH had been a tad grumpy about it. ‘Why do we have to get dragged along to musicals?’ Because it's a family evening out. Involves dinner, too. Stop moaning and enjoy it.

So we had dinner at Tootsie’s (chicken breast with bacon, mushroom and blue cheese… ahhh – and a healthy rocket salad, and crushed Dijon potatoes – note that I managed to sneak in a French dish *g*). And then to the theatre. Great performances all round, and the car is just stunning. (Am still trying to work out how they did the flying bit. Hydraulics? Wires? Brilliant, anyway.) It got a standing ovation. Son and DH admitted they’d enjoyed it, but are adamant they don’t want to come to more musicals. Madam looked at me. ‘So we could go to London and see Grease, then, and they won’t insist on coming with us.’ LOL. I foresee girly evenings for musicals. Son, I think, might like more serious drama. He has been banging on about wanting to see Shakespeare, but it has to be the right play and the right production. (No more mistakes like the one I made taking DH to see a version of Coriolanus set in the 1930s. Verrrry self-conscious and it put him off Shakespeare for ever.)

Am doing a talk in Great Yarmouth tonight at Books Inside, on spooks and poisoners and anything else I’ve written about Yarmouth. Need to sort the Post-It notes on my pages in case I dry up and need to remind myself.

In the meantime, am distracted by carpet measuring, working on the outline for the second book in the French duo, and I think I promised to take the kids bowling today. That, or make more cookies (but this time we’re going back to MY recipe – the one in Madam’s book yesterday was not a success. Very bland and completely the wrong texture… I mean, since when do cookies contain eggs?).

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

dentists, theatres and diggers

Current work: still en vacances (but really working on outlines/a bit of nonfic)
Listening to: Take That
Reading: next on TBR (not really enjoying the one I’m reading now – too much reliance on coincidence, plus I tend to find novels about novelists a bit solipsistic. The writing’s good but the plot doesn’t work for me. And no, not naming it because I know how much hard work goes into writing a book and how I feel when I come across a negative review of mine: not going to do that to someone else.)

My new dentist is absolutely lovely, so I am out of twitchy mode. (And, yay, today is last day of antibios, so I can start my wine research tomorrow.) Madam has to have a filling (about which I feel guilty, but then again I can only nag so much) and son may need a brace, but otherwise all is OK.

Tonight, we’re off to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the theatre. Am really looking forward to it and so are the kids – apparently there’s a cast of more than 100, including 11 performing dogs. My favourite song from the show is ‘Hushabye Mountain’ – you can hear the Julian Lloyd Webber cello version on Youtube (click on the link - it’s fantastic).

In the field behind us today there’s an enormous digger, a huge trench and a lot of pipes. Think they’re doing something to the water mains. Would it be courteous to tell people that you’re going to dig 10 feet away from their property? Yes. Did the water company tell us? No. Sigh. I can deal with the noise (easy – switch off my hearing aid and I don’t hear it) but I sincerely hope our water supply won’t be affected...

Monday, August 17, 2009

stained glass and IHP

Current work: still en vacances (but really working on outlines/a bit of nonfic)
Listening to: Kathryn Williams
Reading: Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Ain’t She Sweet? (enjoyed this one, too)

The glass course on Saturday was really absorbing. First of all, we learned how to cut glass. Straight lines were sort of OK (I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler) – score, lift and pull up and it breaks along the score line. Curves… the teacher told us we needed to move like a skater and listen for the difference in tone. Ha. Can’t skate and can’t hear. Found that part a little tricky. (As she put it, I kept sliding off...)

Anyway, then we made our panels. We had lots of coloured glass to play with (I wussed out and used mine without cutting any of it) and make our picture. I found two half-moon shapes, and an idea bloomed in my head. (Sort of inspired by book research.) Then we had to solder the lead on our frames, glue the pieces in place, and then cement it in.

Doing the actual design and the soldering were thoroughly enjoyable. Kind of a glass collage. Getting the cement smooth, however, was a little trickier. Getting the cement off the back of the glass (smeary rather than lumps so it was easier to remove when dry) without pulling any of the cement away in between was even trickier (or just needed someone with a little more patience than I have).

But it was a good afternoon and I’d definitely do it again.

Oh, and the result? (Bear in mind that I am not artistic. Words I can do, sewing and photography I can bluff, but am too clumsy and untalented to do anything else.)

DH’s verdict: ‘I can see that’s a moon, but what’s the rest of it?’ Sigh. It’s meant to be lavender fields in moonlight with the sea beyond. (The pic hasn’t come out that well – the purple glass at the bottom is a bit brighter and that white one is streaked with pink.) The kids were nice about it, though. (Listening to them was like hearing myself praise them when they were really little - concentrating on what they did well.) Has given me much food for thought on the Venice book, and I’m very glad I did it.

Plan for today: dentist. New dentist, as mine has moved practices to be nearer home after maternity leave. I’m being brave and staying put because it’s more convenient for the kids. My old dentist was utterly wonderful and very kind, and more to the point she never once hurt me. I’m trying to convince myself that my new dentist will be just as nice. I have to be brave in front of the kids as I don’t want them to think that going to the dentist is torture. I’m very, very fidgety this morning, though, and trying not to look at the clock. Hence working on nonfic.

And IHP? I’m blogging at I Heart Presents today (US time, so that’ll be this evening in UK time and tomorrow in Aus) about Playboy Boss, Pregnancy of Passion, and where I get my ideas. Nice pics of a certain dog and some seals, so do go over and say hello…

Friday, August 14, 2009

blogging elsewhere today…

Current work: en vacances (but making notes about Provence)
Listening to: don’t ask – son has decided he likes 80s pop. It’s this Rickrolling thing. Arrgh!
Reading: Kimberley Cates, The Perfect Match (enjoying this, especially the dog)

I’m over at eHarlequin today, talking about decluttering on the Medical Authors’ eharl blog. There’s a chance to win a copy of Playboy Boss, Pregnancy of Passion, so do go over and leave a comment.

Yesterday, took the kids ten-pin bowling – was fun, and I was immensely surprised to get two strikes with my first two balls. Needless to say, it went rapidly downhill from there (and I was very grateful that we had the bumper bars up). But, hey, it doesn’t matter who wins (or loses), as long as you all enjoy it.

Plan for today: into town as son has some things he wants, then possibly baking with daughter. And ice cream making.

Tomorrow, I have my glass course and I am SO looking forward to it. Have a nice weekend!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

meteors and wolves

Current work: en vacances (but thinking about outlines)
Listening to: Bach
Reading: Susan Mallery, Falling for Gracie (enjoying this hugely – thanks to Heidi Rice for recommending this)

Missed the meteor shower last night because when I looked it was cloudy, and my mental alarm didn’t go off (am still a bit woozy from lurgy and antibios). I remember watching this shower when son was a tiny baby: a bonus after the middle-of-the-night feed.

As for the wolves – I’m not feeling particularly profound today, so this is a bit of food for thought from an unknown source (but passed to me by Michelle – thank you).

One evening an old Cherokee Indian told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, "My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil - it is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is Good - it is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

perfume (again) and a question of wine…

Current work: en vacances (but thinking about outlines)
Listening to: too early for anyone else to be up yet
Reading: Victoria Connelly, Molly’s Millions (lovely, warm and gentle – great summer read, and very nice for someone who isn’t feeling very well at the moment)

Given that I overdid it on Monday, yesterday was a bit of a gentler pace in town. Dropped son at the Puppet Theatre for his workshop, then went to park the car at the other side of town (i.e. near the shops).

Lazy? Sort of. But there was a teensy problem: a bright red, sore (not ichy) rash on my inner ankle which felt holt and failed the glass test big time. Until I’d seen my GP and found out what it was and the cause, I thought it might be a good idea not to overdo things. (Yeah, yeah. All right. Kate Hardy and overdoing things go together like bread and butter.)

Anyway, Madam and I had another decadent breakfast in M&S, then continued our perfume hunt from the previous day. Thank you to everyone who suggested scents, last month – I did give them a try, but they weren’t quite for me. We did, however, discover something else: Givenchy’s Ange ou Démon. I liked both the original and the new one (which Madam and I thought had top notes of passionfruit but turned out to be cranberry). Madam is clearly shaping up to be a seriously bad influence, because she suggested I bought both... I went for the original in the end as it’s another floriental with vanilla base notes. Not that far out of my rut, but enough to make a difference.

Oh, and the rash? It’s a subcutaneous skin infection – similar to cellulitis but it’s at the early stages so antibiotics should zap it. No idea how or why I got it (probably low immune system due to lack of sleep, so that’s DH’s fault. Or mine, for marrying an owl when I’m a lark). The annoying things are that a) I feel under par and not up to doing much, and b) my planned research for the new book (involving French wine rather than my usual wine of choice, i.e. Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc or a good Pinot Grigio) is now on hold until the antibios are done.

French wine. Hmm. Now, which region? Part of me thinks I ought to stick with Provence (Grasse may or may not be important to the second book – am still working that out – and my hero/heroine can go to Nice and Cannes), or Hérault because I have at least visited the area. However, I love doing research so visiting isn’t really an issue. The Loire would work well as it has caves, chateaux and churches, and Sancerre.

Or maybe I should go for Alsace, which has a similar climate to East Anglia (and I’ve discovered there are several vineyards in Norfolk and Suffolk which do tours – oh, yessie. I love research). My hero would specialise in Pinot Gris, in that case. Possibly a rosé (because a glass of chilled dry rosé in a shady bit of the garden on a sunny summer afternoon, with Bach on the stereo and a good book, is blissful. Especially if my man is in charge of the barbecue).

So my question today is: which area seems more exotic and cosmopolitan to you, dear reader? Provence, the Loire or Alsace?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

catching up a bit

Current work: en vacances (but thinking about outlines)
Listening to: too early for anyone else to be up yet
Reading: next on TBR (am a tad lurgified so not up to reading)
First off, belated calendar pic for the month.

DH was off, last week, so we pottered around quite a bit. We did a lot of decluttering (kids have shot up and grown out of their clothes - the wardrobe declutter is always a big one; plus I moved all the books round in my office so they’re in a better order for me. That took an entire day); visited Dad (no comment here out of respect to him, other than that I so wish this was fixable or would be easier on him); and had a lovely day out at the seaside – OK, not so much the seaside as the funfair, as Madam was itching to go. She and DH did the roller coaster and the scary rides, while son and I watched and ate doughnuts. (And I lost weight last week. So no guilt whatsoever.)

And then we went on the big wheel. 70ft up.

The views were stunning but I have to admit to feeling a bit nervous, first time round.

We had four revolutions, and I think it was pretty good value for money. And then afterwards we went and sat on the sand and watched the clouds go by. (Below is said the sand. In the distance we could see Scroby Sands; you'll have to take my word for it, as this one's a bit blurry owing to the angle from which it was taken - 70 feet up through a concave window. But that pale streak below the horizon is indeed sand.)

Thursday was admin, shopping, printing out daughter’s poems (she has commandeered the lappie), going to post office to pick up new headset for computer (I tripped over mine and broke it – arrgh, how do you learn NOT to be clumsy?), and Victoria’s book launch (see yesterday).

At the weekend, DH went to Brands Hatch to see the Superbike grand prix. Not my cuppa tea at all so I was quite happy to pack him off with a pile of goodies and his best friend. The kids and I pottered about and had a chilled-out day.

Oh, and I also discovered that I was #3 on the Waldies chart for two weeks running with Playboy Boss, Pregnancy of Passion – was absolutely thrilled to learn that. Thank you VERY much to the readers who put me there, and I hope you enjoyed Luke and Sara’s story.

Yesterday was the first part of son’s animation course, which he enjoyed; meanwhile daughter and I had breakfast at M&S (yes, I know that's decadent, but sometimes you have to do these things) and tackled the dreaded shop for school uniform and winter clothes. Repeated it for son's bits after his course. So we overdid the walking a bit (21,353 steps).

Had a lovely email conversation yesterday with my agent, who really likes the latest book, and my wonderful ed. The Venice/glass book might move again - I did have a duo sorted out for that, but it might end up being a stand-alone as my ed asked me to make the connection through the heroes rather than the heroine. Plus I've recently worked out a different duo that hits more of the buttons (but needs research). And of course there's my med inspired by Arundel... Anyway, I need to sort outlines.

Plan for today: into town, as son has the final part of his animation course. And also move carpet measuring from tomorrow to next week as I have a scratchy throat; today is going to be a lemsip and latte day to keep me going. I also need to write various blog pieces for people and answer questions - anyone who's waiting, I promise I'm doing it today!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Victoria Connelly’s book launch

Current work: (still tidying, sigh)
Listening to: too early for anyone else to be up yet
Reading: next on TBR

Lovely evening on Thursday - it's not often I get to go to a friend's book launch, because often there are logistic problems (e.g. getting to London for the evening and actually being able to get a train home, the same day) but this one was local so I was delighted to be able to make it. Daughter was going to go with me... but then decided she couldn't bear to be parted from Daddy (!).
Anyway, this is the launch for my friend Victoria Connelly’s book Molly’s Millions. She gave a lovely talk about how she became a writer (ha, and how many of us also have unfinished novels from years back in the attic, then?) and it was great to see a big queue of people lining up to buy her book.

Here's the fab display that Jarrolds had for her:

And Victoria giving her talk just before she sat down and signed lots of books...

Congratulations, Victoria, and I hope you enjoyed it as much as your audience did!

Friday, August 07, 2009

Sussex, part 5

Current work: en vacances
Listening to: too early for anyone else to be up yet
Reading: next on TBR (!)

On the Thursday, went to Battle to see the battlefield (i.e. 1066 – Harold vs William the Conqueror). Here, it looks so peaceful. You'd never think that this field was running with blood, 943 years ago.

We also enjoyed looking round the remains of the abbey.

I particularly liked the vaulting in the monks' common room.

And here, where the altar of the church once stood (take the "Henry VIII was a despoiler" rant as read), King Harold died. The stone marks the spot.

We wandered round the parish church a bit later and looked at the roll of people involved in the fight, and I was quite surprised to see Dad’s family name there. (However, this does not mean I am related to an old, distinguished family: on that side of the family, I've traced back 400 years and we are talking sons of the soil all the way.)

Then we went to Bodiam Castle – on the way there, we had about the only big rainstorm on the whole holiday, and it was over in ten minutes. Had a great time wandering round and climbing narrow (and very steep) spiral stairs. This is the view from the car park:

And here's the view from the entrance. (I do have a lot more pics from within, but that's with my castle geek hat on... so I won't inflict them on everyone here.)

As usual, we ended up by the sea in the evening before dinner; walked along the seafront at Hastings, then ate at Pevensey.

Pedometer reading: 17817 steps.

Friday was our last day in Sussex. With a long journey home due the next day, we decided to explore locally and went to Brighton. Saw the Pavilion from the outside but there was a huge queue to go inside; none of us could face waiting (it was blazingly hot), so we nipped into the museum next door instead. But I really would like to go back and explore properly, one day.

Then we strolled on the pier, and the kids and DH had a paddle in the sea. I wussed out because shingle beaches are so painful to walk on and the one at Brighton is steeply shelving – so I sat in the sun and watched them, letting my mind wander and musing on the gorgeous colour of the sea. This pic's from the pier: to me, this looks more like the South of France or Spain than England.

I'd love to know why the water looks so amazing on the south coast. Is it because there's more of a tide in the North Sea, or the fact that the beaches are (in the main) sand, that the sea in my part of the world always looks sand-coloured rather than like this?

Madam fulfilled a long-held ambition to go on one of the bungee trampolines, and loved every second of it. On the way back, we missed a turning with the satnav ('in 200 yards...' - and, 40 yards later, the turning has passed - why can't it just say 'next road on the left'?) and ended up on a really pretty route back to the cottage via Devil’s Dyke.

Pedometer reading: 15687 steps.

And then it was back home on the Saturday. On the way, we heard traffic news that owing to a lorry fire the M25 was closed between junctions 28 and 27 (just where we wanted to go) so we came off at J29 and nipped in to scrounge a cup of coffee from our favourite family.

I amused myself by pointing out places that are on the list for my Essex book, all the way down the A12. Obviously on the way back from holiday is NOT the time to do location shots (apart from that, I didn't have Pevsner or my annotated map with me because I have specific things in mind) but... DH has been warned.

'Maldon. Have you ever been there?' he mused.

Cough. Have I? I took my first steps there and we have cine film of it. And I walked there with DH and my bestest aunt, uncle and cousins, the afternoon DH decided to buy me an engagement ring...

Had a great time away but was lovely to be home again. Went out to dinner on the Saturday night, as it was our wedding anniversary, but am feeling rather restauranted-out. I was good and did NOT eat pud while I was away. We won’t mention the ice cream by the sea, though…

Sunday, picked up the dog and he was so pleased to be home. And I worked on the book as DH promised to do a BBQ and let me off kitchen duties. (I did, however, do the weekly shop, so the kitchen is stocked with healthy stuff rather than junk.)

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Sussex, part 4

Current work: en vacances
Listening to: too early for anyone else to be up yet
Reading: Ferney, James Long (utterly brilliant and I stayed in bed all morning yesterday to finish it. The history was good, the characterisation was fantastic, and I'm going to be buying copies as presents for friends because it's that good)

On the Wednesday, we went to Petworth House (once home to the Percy family).

I’ve never seen so many paintings in one place before, except maybe at the Tate. In every single room you’d find a couple of Turners, or Reynolds, or a Lely, or a Blake... amazing. (Definitely the kind of place where it would be better to go back and see half a room at a time, so you could appreciate them properly. However, we were only there for the day, so we made the most of it.) I was surprised and pleased to see a couple by John Opie there (aka husband of one of my personal heroines, novelist Amelia Opie... who is highly underrated and needs reestablishing in her proper place as one of the best early 19th-century novelists); he was a talented artist.

Was also very surprised to learn that Reynolds used bitumen in his paintings as the black colouring. This is why so many of his paintings are in such poor condition now – they're very dark, and nobody can do anything to fix them. How terribly sad. I mean, I know the PRB called him 'Sir Sloshua' (and Burne-Jones is my favourite painter of all time), but they do have their place.

I also learned that in the 17th century, it was really trendy to have lots of rooms leading off each other in a long time, and then you looked through all the doors from one end of the house to the other – this was known as an enfilade. The one at Petworth is pretty impressive.

My favourite room was the Marble Hall, which was used at one point as a study – I could imagine working there, with a view of the lake and the deer park, or curling up on one of the window seats and reading. (I would so love a window seat. That was the thing I really liked about Standen. A window seat and lots of Morris textiles. Yup. Ideal house. This is why my comfy chair (aka sofa bed) is against the window in my office.)

After Petworth, we headed for the coast and strolled along the esplanade at Bognor Regis. Very clean, with a lovely green sea. (But, oh, no sand...)

Pedometer reading: a mere 14263 steps (! and this perhaps gives you an idea why a beach holiday would drive me potty: we go exploring when we go on hols. The idea of being stuck on a beach for a week... horrid, horrid, horrid.)

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Sussex, part 3

Current work: en vacances
Listening to: too early for anyone else to be up yet
Reading: The Haunting, Hope Tarr - enjoyed this one - ending worked very well (and was the one I would've chosen, too *g*)

On the Tuesday, we went to Arundel: the castle was lovely, with a very Gothic interior (the library was particularly good). My favourite bits were the medieval parts of the castle; the views from the keep were stunning. (This is the new, Gothicky bit.)

There was a medieval encampment and we saw a jousting tournament – really exciting. It was boiling hot so the poor riders must’ve really felt it under 70lbs of armour. The horses were absolutely gorgeous.

This is mid-joust, with one horse visible along this side of the tilting rail. And it's done at full gallop. Not a canter or a trot. Lots of lances were broken...

(And I had a resurgence of a lightbulb moment I had a while back – still debating whether the best fit would be Modern Heat or a Medical. Am inclining towards the latter, which is good as I already have four MH ideas lined up.)

After the castle closed, we headed for the sea and went for a stroll along the promenade at Worthing. Again, fabulous sea and lots of shingle and seagulls.

Pedometer reading: 17273 steps.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

clearing the decks

So what should an author who’s just finished her book (the last one in her contract) do?

The obvious thing would be to sit down and write the outlines for the next contract so they’re filed rather than floating round my head. (Or do the accounts ready to hand them over to my accountant next week: another job that needs doing, sigh.)

Instead, I instigated a massive tidy-up. We need new carpets upstairs, so we called in to the local supplier and sorted out a date for them to come and measure up to give us a quote. This is next week. I am not the tidiest person in the world, so that meant some serious decluttering was needed.

Son spent his time lying on his bed, reading. (He will not get away with that tomorrow.)

Daughter loves tidying (ha – the only thing in which she isn’t a mini-me) so she was fine. All the toys she no longer plays with are either in the loft or handed over to neighbours for their grandchildren; and tomorrow we’ll sort out her wardrobe so I can do my list for school uniform shopping.

I started with my wardrobe. Out went anything I haven’t worn in the last year (including office clothes I should have recycled YEARS ago – yes, they were expensive; yes, they are nice; but I don’t wear them for work nowadays, so why keep them?) Result: my wardrobe is still full, but I can get things out easily now.

Next was my bedroom bookcase. Pre-tidy, this housed all the books I’ve read over the last year and some of my TBR pile. Post-tidy, the keeper books are in my office, awaiting reorganisation of my bookcases; the non-keepers have been divided into carrier bags ready to hand over to friends I think might enjoy them; and the TBR previously squirreled away in my office are now in place, ready to be devoured.

Still to be done: my office (arrgh), spare room (also arrgh), and son’s room – which is a complete state, so I am going to have to do some major maternal nagging.

And when that’s done, I’ve finished my accounts and the decks are all cleared, I think I might be rather desperate to get back to work…

Sussex, part 2

Current work: en vacances (because I HAVE FINISHED MY BOOK! Yay!)
Listening to: too early for anyone else to be up yet
Reading: Arianna Franklin

On the Monday, we went to Portsmouth. Felt a little bittersweet as we crossed the border to Hampshire , as this was my mother’s birth county. The Royal Naval Museum was utterly fantastic. We started off with a boat trip around the harbour. Son and I both loved the architecture of the Spinnaker Tower – apparently it has the fifth biggest glass floor in the world, but we didn’t get time to climb it and have a look.

We also saw Spice Island, where the very first potato was brought on to English soil.

We saw lots of ships, including the new Daring warship (due to come into service next year) and the Ark Royal. Then we explored Nelson’s Victory – stunning.

Saw Nelson’s quarters, the place where he was mortally wounded and fell (rather upset me as I live in Nelson's county)

and the hold and the gun decks. Oh, and the surgeon's instruments (they were fascinating - hey, great thought here: dear, lovely ed, how about I do you a historical medical set at Trafalgar?). Odd and fascinating facts: the stores were lined with copper to deter rats, and it took 100 acres of oak woodlands to produce enough wood to build the ship.

We also saw the fore topsail from the Victory – it’s the only early 19th century sail in the world to survive, and is also the largest textile to be conserved. You could still see the holes where cannon balls had ripped through it at Trafalgar. (Pics not allowed - or there would be one here. I took a LOT of pics while we were away.)

Then we went to see the Mary Rose, which is still being sprayed with wax (drying out starts at the end of August and it won’t be on display again until 2011). It was like seeing a ghost ship, esepcially because of the way the spray fell. It's amazing to think that after 437 years on the seabed so much of it was able to be lifted. Below is a view from the side with four of the five decks (the fifth deck, aka castle deck, is just about visible at top right), and then from the bow.

After that, we went round the Warrior, an ironclad warship from 1860. Ship design changed so much in 100 years. It felt much more roomy than the Victory (probably because of the higher ceilings). Weirdly, although the Victory is in dry dock, I felt as if the ship were moving; whereas the Warrior is in wet dock and it didn’t seem to move at all. (I think the camber on the decks might have been shallower.)

Then we indulged the kids with the activities centre. Son, despite claiming that he was much too old for it (cough), discovered that there was a climbing wall and computer flying simulations, and changed his mind. Dinner out in Gun Wharf... and then DH made the mistake of suggesting we looked round the shops. There was a Radley factory outlet shop. Oh, dear. And DH let me go in on my own. Oh, double dear. (Actually, I was v good and just bought a pair of sunglasses.)

Pedometer reading for the day: 17475 steps.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Sussex, part 1

Current work: very end of medical
Listening to: too early for anyone else to be up yet
Reading: Arianna Franklin, The Death Maze (enjoying this)

We had a wonderful week away, but it’s lovely to be home. (And very nice to come back to lots of emails telling me that I'd hit the top of the eharl charts with a book that's a year old... blimey!)

Travelling south, last weekend, took us a couple of hours longer than it should have done because the traffic on the M11 and M25 was atrocious. The weather was decent, though, so it wasn’t a horrible journey.

The cottage was absolutely gorgeous – a 16th century barn conversion.

Really tastefully done – everything was soft white paint or light oak, and the whole place was just full of light. (This is the view of the interior from our bedroom.)

We had our own bathroom (and our own staircase) and the kids had their own bathroom and staircase. Really loved the ceiling and the central light. And the water was incredibly soft, after the hard water in Norfolk!

This was our bedroom.

And the view from our bedroom over the paddock to the South Downs.

Given that I was sneaking in an hour of work most mornings (yeah, I know, divorceable offence, but necessary) and we did a LOT of walking (note the pedometer stats at the end of each post for the next week), I didn't have the time or energy to read much - in fact the only one I read was Katie Fforde's "Wedding Season", which was light and great fun and just what I needed as a holiday read.

On Sunday, went to Standen – a National Trust property that was built in the late 1800s and was completely furnished with Morris fabrics, wallpaper and tiles – absolutely gorgeous.

The house was the sort you could actually imagine living in; I especially liked the morning room, which was full of books and comfortable chairs.

After that we went to Newhaven Fort, where we experienced a simulated World War Two air raid. I was shocked by how loud the drone of the planes was, and the sound of the bombs dropping.

And then we went to Brighton. The Georgian bits are very pretty, and of course we had to stroll along the pier. The beach surprised me, though: all shingle. And a LOT of seagulls... (And this picture wasn't that late - about 6pm - but it was so dramatic that I couldn't resist it. That's the sun, btw, not the moon. And it didn't rain, either.)

We decided to eat on the way home. Except the local pubs didn’t serve food on Sundays. OK, we thought. We’ll use the SatNav to find a restaurant... except it wasn’t playing. It directed us to several restaurants which didn’t exist (including one in the middle of a housing estate, and one where it kept telling us to take the fourth exit off the roundabout – fine, but there wasn’t a roundabout anywhere near because we were in the middle of a car park...). Practically crawled out of the car when we got back to the cottage (pedometer reading: 16568 steps). And I lost my trust in the satnav: back to having a proper map in the car as backup.