Wednesday, September 30, 2009

an award, a catch-up and a happy birthday

Current work: Modern Heat
Listening to: Def Leppard (still X - I think it's my fave of their albums. Very underrated. 'Scar' seems to be becoming this book's theme song)
Reading: next on TBR

Was delighted to discover that the Daily Reviewer has included me in their top 100 romance blogs. And here’s the lovely graphic – click on the link and it’ll take you to the Daily Reviewer. Many thanks for including me.

What else has been going on this week? Monday, took the car to the garage to get the rear wiper fixed. Turned out it was just the blade, so the cost wasn’t as bad as I thought. And there was a big upstide: while I was waiting, I browsed through the Vauxhall magazine and it netted me some extremely interesting info for the gelati book – OK, so that’s not going to be written until this time next year, but gather ye info while ye may).

Work’s flowing nicely (she says, touching wood to avoid jinxing it). Dad was very frail yesterday. Saying no more out of respect for his privacy, but I was a bit down last night.

Plan for today: work! Sainsbury’s shop has been delivered, so I’m staying off the net for the rest of the morning and focusing on the book. I think this one might be darker and a little more intense than I planned, but there you go. Emotion, emotion, emotion. Sometimes it helps to bleed on the page.

Righty - on to something more cheerful. It's the Pink Heart Society's third birthday today. Do hop over to the blog and make a comment, because there are books up for grabs - including Temporary Boss, Permanent Mistress.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

castle hunting part 2 (aka beautiful Essex)

Current work: Modern Heat
Listening to: Def Leppard and Satie
Reading: next on TBR

Actually, this is probably a mistitled post, because the second part of our trip on Sunday was all to do with churches.

First up, Waltham Abbey. This was the abbey set up by Harold Godwineson, and was the last abbey to be dissolved in England. It also has the distinction of having the only church tower built in England during the reign of Mary Tudor. (This was a church that went through a lot of changes - obviously this tower is 16th century, but you can also see Saxon herringbone work at the east end of the abbey.)

The church inside is gloriously Norman. We’re talking HUGE pillars. It’s imposing. (And that ceiling is amazing - the central line of lozenges each contains one of the signs of the zodiac.)
When I went in, I was the only one there… or so I thought. Until the organ started playing. Very atmospheric!
I also saw Harold’s grave – which ties in to our Sussex trip earlier this year, when we visited Battle and saw the spot where he was killed. So the legend goes, William refused to have him buried, and Edith Swan-neck sneaked him back to Waltham, where he was buried by the high altar. (The spot now is outside the east end of the church.) William later refounded the abbey, but apparently didn’t move Harold. (There are other stories which say Harold didn’t die at Battle at all… but that’s for another place.) Wording:
This stone marks the position
of the high altar
behind which King Harold
is said to have been buried

Then we went to Greensted church, which is allegedly the oldest standing wooden building in the world.
Inside, the church is terribly dark and I didn’t feel particularly comfortable there – probably because I’m used to the very light churches in Norfolk. But the outside is really interesting because you can see how the logs were joined and patched.

From there, to Chipping Ongar – which, as DH put it, ‘Not another one of your castles where there’s only a moat and a mound.’ (Actually, it’s called a motte. And when I pointed that out, he sighed. ‘You’re such a castle geek…’)

And finally to Blackmore, which Pevsner says has the best tower in Essex.
Have to say, I was impressed – it’s very pretty. Sadly, it was locked. Next to it is a building that was allegedly the site of one of Henry VIII’s pleasure-houses, known as Jericho. (The house has since been rebuilt.)

All in all, it was a lovely day out. My inner nerd was very happy; my editor will no doubt be pleased that I am indeed cracking on with the pics for the book; and the kids were still talking about it on Monday morning, which is always a good sign.
I have more Essex trips planned - one to where my dad's family comes from, where I will make the kids go in to the churches because of the family connection, and one to where I grew up before we moved to Norfolk. I would so love to have shared these with my parents, but it just wasn't to be: Mum is in a better place, and Dad is just not well enough to cope with a journey that long, even if I left him at his brother's house. But hey. I can still show him the pics. I'm planning to take my laptop over today in case he'd like to see the pics from this journey. It might perk him up a bit to talk about the distant past (the blip is, um, still a blip).

Monday, September 28, 2009

good news, and castle hunting part 1

Current work: Modern Heat
Listening to: Def Leppard and Satie
Reading: A Trip with the Tycoon, Nicola Marsh (enjoyed this one; loved the food and the local colour – and it really inspired me to cook a proper curry from scratch!)

Great weekend. Friday, had the very welcome news that (once I’d done the really tiny tweaks, which were my idea of tweaks instead of the usual ones that have a knock-on effect and mean I rewrite 25-30% of the book) the medical has been accepted. So that’s M&B #41. Whoo-hoo! Not sure of release date or title yet, but will share when I know. And now I can relax into the new book.

Saturday, took the kids for their photo at son’s school and I think we’ll get some lovely ones from the session. From the side, son looks so much like my mum that it put a bit of a lump in my throat.

Sunday, off exploring for the book. Three castles in one day, yay. Stansted Mountfitchet is a reconstruction of the original Norman castle.

The kids loved it, especially as they had a chance to dress up.
And they got to make new friends.
I really liked the fact that the animals (there was a scary ram) and birds (including the white peacock, below, the kind of old-fashioned hens that have 'feathery trousers', ducks, geese, turkeys, quail and peacocks) were all roaming around the castle bailey, just as they would've done in the Norman period.

From there, we went to Clavering. Only the moat and a few earthworks are really visible, but it still counts, and the church was interesting, too. I particularly liked this 12th-century wooden effigy.
And thence to Saffron Walden – this was part of a planned town (like New Buckenham) so the castle is smack in the middle of town.

The church there was interesting, as it's not like your usual Essex church - it's much more like a Norfolk or Suffolk one. It's the largest one in Essex, and contains the tomb of Thomas Audeley (Henry VIII's chancellor) and has only one piece of pre-reformation glass: this medallion, which is thought to be based on Margaret D'Anjou.
And after that, we moseyed past Audley End... and I got a bit of a lump in my throat, because last time I went there was with my mum, many years back. (I was probably 18. So we're talking 25 years.)
Now, I thought this trip was going to take all day. But it didn't. And I had three more locations which weren't that far away... and, bearing in mind it takes us two hours to get to Essex, it made sense to add that trip to this one. DH was a sweetie and agreed - so if you want to know where we went next, come back tomorrow for more pics!

Friday, September 25, 2009


Current work: tiny tweaks to Med (aka line edit tweaks)
Listening to: Def Leppard and Satie
Reading: Invitation to the Boss's Ball, Fiona Harper (she just gets better and better. I enjoyed the vintage clothing aspect - brought back the memories of when I was working on Strictly Legal - and the hero's conflict... well, let's just say it pressed a few buttons here as I don't want to give a spoiler. It's a lovely read)

While we were moving things about on Wednesday night, daughter came running in. ‘Mum, you need your camera! The sunset’s amazing.’

She was right. So here it is.

Carpets all finished and they look fab. Really nice to walk on, too,

Changed my car insurance (and saved £150 in the process, on like-for-like cover, which rather shocked me). It’s the first time in more than 20 years that I haven’t been insured with my ex-employer. Feels strange, but so far the new company has been lovely to deal with, efficient and prompt.

Plan for today: the new Professor Layton DS game is out in the UK today, and I promised DH and daughter that I would pony up the goods… so, tweaks and then a teensy bit of shopping. Daughter needs new school trousers (after she fell over last week and ripped a dirty great hole in one of the pairs), so I might leave it until after school. But at least now I can relax into the new book. Weird how I can never settle properly until the previous one has been put to bed - and also this week with lots of disruption...

DH has promised that I can have my books back tonight. (He's going on about how tidy our bedroom looks. Excuse me. It's ONE bookcase. I could be worse.) We may also do a research trip on Sunday; and tomorrow is school photographs. (Son doesn't get a school photograph this year - for some reason, Y8 doesn't - but the PTA has arranged a local photographer to do family pics, so I'm getting some of them together as well as one of him on his own in lieu of the school photograph I always send to grandparents/godparents/aunts and uncles.) So it's going to be a busy weekend - but a good one.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

New cover

Current work: Modern Heat, but depends on the disruption re fitting of new carpets
Listening to: Def Leppard and Satie
Reading: next on TBR

Spotted this on Amazon, yesterday – the cover of my next Medical Romance. (UK release December, Aussie not sure, NA ... it'll be in the snazzy Penhally ebook continuity you can get from the M&B website).

So far, half the carpets are done and they look great. Our carpet-fitter has a Springer, so he made friends with Byron straight away. Note to dog: if you’re going to pretend to be an Alpha dog and do big butch barks, don’t wag your tail madly at the same time – because people can see straight away that you’re a soppy hound who likes being fussed over...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Oh, I do like to be…

Current work: Modern Heat, but depends on the disruption re fitting of new carpets
Listening to: Def Leppard and Satie
Reading: next on TBR

Yup, you can guess where I went at the weekend.

Saturday saw glorious sunshine, so we headed for the beach. You know I was running on about how the water is turquoise on the south coast but not around my part of the North Sea? I stand corrected. This was Cromer on Saturday. Note the colour of the water. (Actually, I should probably have done that as a saturated shot because through polarising glasses it was very turquoise.)

The tide was out and the wet sand was so inviting. Daughter and I looked at each other and the shoes were off in record time. The water in the rockpools was warm, but we were drawn to the sea: a-paddling we did go. (Actually, all of us did. Even my teenager-in-training had a smile on his face and admitted that he was glad we’d dragged him away from the X-box after all. ) The water was cool but not icy: just perfect for an early autumn day. And it was definitely autumn: it was hard to tell where the sea ended and the sky began.
By the time we finally strolled back to the car you could see mist hanging around the cliffs.
The beach is OK in summer, but I like it best in autumn. And in winter, when the sea is grey and roaring and the wind blows straight from Siberia to remove cobwebs from the brain, and there are only a few equally eccentric people and their dogs around.

Couldn’t resist one or two arty shots. This is next to one of the groynes, where clearly some seaweed had settled for just long enough to leave a sandprint before being washed away by the tide. Looks like some kind of prehistoric forest...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

London, part 2, aka research and walking it all off

Current work: (is Tuesday, so is guitar and Dad and possibly a bit of nonfic sneaked in)
Listening to: Def Leppard and Satie
Reading: next on TBR

Nice easy start to the day, then headed for Barking and the abbey ruins. This is the curfew tower (can’t tell you huge amounts about it as am still doing the research).

The church itself – St Margaret's – was quite interesting. I loved this 17th-century monument, where the elderly knight has fallen asleep in his tent, guarded by his retainers. It’s to Sir Charles Montagu, who died aged 61 in 1625 and left £40 to the poor of Barking. (Just to put that in perspective: in modern terms that’s about £74,000 - that#s based on the earnings index rather than retail price index.)

And I was extremely impressed especially by the 14th-century inscribed stone slab to Martinus, first vicar of Barking (1315-28) – the stone was found in excavations in the nuns’ cemetery in 1912.

Next was All Saints at West Ham, where I saw a Saxon font plus the single remaining stone from the abbey of Stratford Langthorne. The vicar was getting ready for the heritage weekend and stopped to have a chat with me – a very nice man. The stone in the tower is ragstone, but every so often you can see these patches of orangey-brown – looks very like Roman brick to me. (Many churches reused materials. Roman brick is quite common and looks like tile.)

Next, to London Bridge. Was footsore by the time I *finally* found the loo! (It’s all very well telling someone ‘It’s upstairs’ or ‘it’s on platform six’, but a few more directions would be appreciated…)

Visited The Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garret at St Thomas'. There were some very narrow spiral steps up to the garret. (This is the view from the top. Definitely easier going up...)
And it really is a garrett. This is the outside of the building - you can see the roof of the garret to the right of the tower, just above the white triangle.
This is the oldest operating theatre in the world, dating from the early 19th century; there's a steep amphitheatre so people could view the op. (I walked down the steps. Very steep.) This was in the days before the NHS so people had to pay for the ops - if you were rich, you'd have the op at home on your dining room table. (It was also in the years before anaesthetic and antiseptic...)

Oh, and gore alert. One particular recipe was for ‘snail water’. Imagine. Six gallons of ‘cleaned and bruised’ garden snails, three gallons of ‘washed and bruised’ garden earthworms, various herbs, all steeped together (the recipe actually said ‘digested together’) for 24 hours, and then the liquid drawn off into an alembic. (See why I love the history of medicine? It’s fascinating. Rather disgusting, in this case, but still fascinating.)

And then back to Liverpool Street station to cool off and flop - by the time I boarded the train, I'd clocked up 19k steps (yes, as in nearly 8 miles), so I was flagging a bit. Had a fab time away, but I missed DH and the kids terribly. They met me at the station and we had dinner out. Gorgeous sunset on the way home. And it was lovely to be back.

Monday, September 21, 2009

London, part 1 – aka a tale of two puddings

Current work: MH duo, book 1
Listening to: Def Leppard and Satie
Reading: next on TBR

Thursday, had a good journey down, Although I'd asked for a forwards-facing seat, I'd been allocated a backwards-facing seat; but the ticket inspector was lovely and she found me a seat where I wouldn't turn green. Took my pics of the Boudicca statue at Westminster (this is the arty shot, not the one I'm using in the book - that one's from a different angle and using flash to get the detail, as the light was a bit awkward).

There's a rather more well-known landmark right opposite...

Then I headed for Tuttons in Covent Garden.

I'd forgotten that there was a film crew in attendance. Now, I love doing radio, but TV scares me. Being short and round as it is, I really don’t need the extra 10lbs TV cameras put on you, and when I'm self-conscious I talk too fast... Anyway, I was brave and did a vox pop, which may or may not appear on Channel Four next year. Though I really do hope they didn't film the very raucous conversation I was having beforehand with Michelle Styles, Fiona Harper (who was wearing a gorgeous Pandora necklace and cites me as the bad influence *g*), Caroline Anderson and Josie Metcalfe!

Then Nina Harrington and Josie Metcalfe had discovered that the Godiva chocolate shop needed an assistant. For some reason they thought that I might be a good choice…

Then it was time to chat in the bar. Here are some of the lovely lot I was talking to. This always feels horribly as if I’m name-dropping, but I do actually know these people and they’re friends and colleagues in real life. So apols in advance for doing a bit of luvviness… (And Michelle, how DID you manage to escape my camera?)
So. With the wonderful Liz Fielding on the right, and Fiona Harper in the background.

With Kate Walker.
With Nina Harrington (who is also writing a vineyard book right now, but set in a slightly different place, so we compared notes as well as talking about cake - and celebrating her first anniversary of The Call).
With Fiona Harper - we normal do a Radley Girls pose, but on Thursday we did a 'Pandora Girls' pose. Her necklace and my bracelet. (Fi, I told my husband about your necklace. He looked worried...)

Time for some glamour, now. Sharon Kendrick on the left (who's just tooooo glam for her own good - as well as the fact she was wearing this gorgeous Jo Malone perfume) and Heidi Rice, who just looks like a Fifties' film star and told me a big fat barefaced lie last week before the do, when she told me she'd put on tons of weight and I wouldn't recognise her.
The Modern Heat girls - Heidi Rice, left, and Lucy King (whose debut Modern Heat is out in a fortnight) on the right. And yes, they're both so damn tall, I stood on tiptoe and made them both stoop for this shot.
And now the Medical crew - left to right, Caroline Anderson, Josie Metcalfe, Anne Fraser and Kate Lardy (who has vowed to go on an exercise campaign).
Gorgeous lunch (gravad lax, chicken with nicoise salad, and my fave pudding in the world: crème brulee). Beautifully presented, too – here’s the chicken.

It was lovely to see my editor, too, after the lunch. And yes, I did tease her about dangerous biscuits, and asked if I could do a historical med. The answer is still no, but I'm not giving up... I checked that I had indeed confessed about the jousting scene in the next Medical (it's important to the plot), and that's all fine.

At the author toast, we remembered absent friends - Sheila Danton and Diana Hamilton, who passed away this year. Then it was time to celebrate milestones: Josie Metcalfe's 50th book, Margaret Mayo's 75th, and Carole Mortimer’s amazing 150th! Then I had coffee and a natter with Caroline Anderson before she went to catch her train, and then toddled off to Strada to meet Fi and Liz for saffron and asparagus risotto and the nicest panna cotta in the world. (That's why this is christened 'The Day of Two Puddings' - as Fi put it to me, how often do I eat my two favourite puddings (despite the lardiness evident in the pic, the true answer is 'very rarely'), let alone both of them in one day?)

Come back tomorrow and I’ll tell you about my research day (where I most definitely walked off those puddings).

And the winner is...

Thank you all for your stories and your support last week. I’m pleased to say that school has dealt with the bullying very swiftly and son was fine for the rest of the week. (Yes, I did call home a lot…)

Winner of the draw for the signed copy of Temporary Boss, Permanent Mistress is Susan Wilson. Susan, please can you email me with your snailmail address? (Kate (dot) Hardy (at) btinternet (dot) com) I’ll get a copy in the post to you this week.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

London bound

Off to London today, for the annual Mills and Boon authors’ lunch. Can’t wait. Partly because I’ll be seeing friend of whom I’m very fond but don’t see that often, and partly because I’ve seen the menu and lovely, wonderful Michelle has been an utter star and included my favourite pudding. (OK. Kate Greedy.)

Am also planning a v quick trip to Westminster beforehand, as I need a pic of the Boudicca statue for the Essex ruins book (goes with Colchester, and it doesn’t matter that the statue is at Westminster. Might do King’s Cross Platform Ten as well.)

And then it’s eat too much, laugh too much, talk too much. (Drink? Maybe. I’m a lightweight, nowadays, and a hangover is a seriously bad idea if you’re travelling, so I’ll be pacing myself and drinking lots of water as well.) I’m staying over with my best friend, so this also involves dinner out at Strada. (Yeah. And we all know I read menus backwards, and we all know which pudding I’m going to choose there, don’t we?)

The current book is at my favourite stage; I LOVE the beginning of a new book. All the possibilities are spread out before you, and there’s the delightful process of getting to know exactly how your characters tick. I normally have a fair idea of the latter before I start work – my books are character-driven – but they can still surprise me. My heroine’s name is still fluid, but currently is Allegra (aka Allie – and I like that spelling of the diminutive, too. Ta, Jan). I’ve changed her surname twice and I’m veering between two very similar ones. Again, this will settle down as the book beds in. But it’s nice to be at that enthusiastic, bubbly stage at work.

Also did some admin, aka printing out directions to the three places I plan to visit tomorrow. Two are location pics for the Essex ruins book, and one is a museum trip – aka research for something that’s in my head and refuses to go away. Like the Hunterian, this is not a place where I’d take the kids because it’s just a teensy bit gory. Fascinating, though. My mum would’ve loved it. And then she would’ve told me some ghost stories from her student nurse days.)

Did a little of the research side of the French duo yesterday, i.e. sent an email to a local vineyard. Am keeping my fingers crossed that they’ll be happy for me to visit them and have a brief chat. (Guess I’m the writerly equivalent of a Method Actor. Ha, just as well I don’t write crime. Though everyone was very antsy when I wrote The Norfolk Poisoners. Er, arsenic isn’t easily available, guys…) I think I’m going to book the perfume course, too. (This all sounds a bit self-indulgent. However, it will give depth to the duo.)

Thank you to everyone who responded here and privately re the bullying issue. Your support is very much appreciated. And I’m pleased to report that although son did see the bully in the playground yesterday, school has obviously bully-boy aware that his behaviour is not acceptable he stayed away. Hopefully it’ll last for a few days, but if the ‘little chat’ has to be repeated (and if I have to really escalate it to stop him), so be it.

Remember, the draw to win the book is still open until Sunday night UK time, so keep telling me your stories. Puns (the badder, the better) and fascinating facts will do just as nicely. And I will be back on Monday with the winner’s name and a report on London. Have a nice weekend!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Stinking bullies (aka draw to win a book)

Current work: MH duo, book 1
Listening to: Def Leppard, Adrenalize (deluxe edition so I get the acoustic stuff and the Hendrix cover, which is lovely – probably my third fave Hendrix track (Little Wing), #1 being All Along the Watchtower and #2 being Voodoo Chile)
Reading: India Grey – Spanish Aristocrat, Forced Bride (enjoyed this one – very emotional read. Lovely warm heroine, and she told the hero exactly what I wanted to tell him, poor guy)

Finally, my author copies have arrived (yay!). So I am a happy bunny.

Temporary Boss, Permanent Mistress is my Northern Lights book, and I loved doing the research for this one. Sadly, I didn’t get to do the research on location, but I’m working on that. (Dear Ed, you know the reindeer? We-e-ell…)

Have also started the vineyard book. Still not settled on the heroine’s name (which is crazy, because I know everything else about her and she’s talking loud and clear, but she won’t give up her name). This will come, so I’m not too worried.

Am really looking forward to going to London tomorrow – seeing some of my fave fellow authors and my lovely ed, then staying overnight with my best friend - but at the same time I wish it wasn’t this week. I will be much less fidgety when I’ve picked up son this afternoon and found out whether the bullies have backed off.

Yup. It's back.

Interestingly, son, aged 12, has already worked out that the girls in the gang who are plastered in make-up tend to be stupid and spiteful, and those who don’t bother tend to be nicer to talk to (not to mention brighter). Seems things haven’t changed since I was at school, then. Tricky one. All I can do is be supportive to him, keep close tabs on the situation and make sure everything’s in writing at school so they can deal with it – and also try to stop being a bad person and wishing I could stake out this nasty boy next to a wasps’ nest, smeared in jam.

We all know that bullies allegedly become bullies because they’ve been bullied (er – there is such a thing as making a choice) and we’re supposed to feel sorry for bullies because they’re poor, innocent victims. But I’m afraid I don’t feel sorry in the SLIGHTEST for the lad who hassles my child. I just want him to leave my child alone.

It’s said that the best revenge is living well. There is some truth to that. When I was 8, there was a nasty girl who ruled the playground. If you dared talk to someone she decreed shouldn't be talked to, then you were ostracised as well. (The ones she said shouldn't be talked to were nice. So I'm afraid I ignored her and continued talking to them.) And again, when I was 12, one particular girl made my life a misery. She wasn’t plastered in make-up, like the nasty girls in the current bully’s gang – but neither was she thin or pretty. She was at the bottom of the class, though, so I guess the geeky girl at the top of the class was her natural target for her frustration. Understandable, but not pleasant when you’re on the receiving end. I wouldn’t mind betting that I have a happier life now than either of those two nasty girls. But when you’re 8 (or even 12), you really can’t see that far ahead.

Oh, for a magic wand.

But the best I can do on the magic wand front is to write stories with happy endings that make people smile (and maybe shed a tear or two on the way).

To cheer myself up, I’m giving away a signed copy of the Temporary Boss, Permanent Mistress. Tell me a revenge story, or a bully story, or a bad pun, or a fascinating fact, and I’ll add your name in to the draw. Will draw the name on Sunday evening UK time and announce it on Monday morning.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Yes! Yes! Finally!

Current work: finished revisions (deserves screamer)
Listening to: more from lovely Joe Elliott (soundtrack to next book is Satie and Def Leppard…)Reading: next on TBR (ooh, I can read tonight…)

Some books are more of a struggle than others. And although these were sort of minor revisions (only 8k new stuff – and yep, I’m sad enough to know how much I’ve cut out and how much I’ve added between drafts) they were subtle and that made them tricky.

It doesn’t help when you have another book in your head that really wants to be written, and whose characters are talking loudly and getting in the way of what you’re supposed to be doing, i.e. revisions. (Hopefully this means that this one will be a joy to write.)

Anyway. ‘Tis done, and I can relax into my French duo – meanwhile crossing my fingers that I did the job properly and won’t have to do second revs.

DH bought me flowers last night. Think he noticed that I was a tad stressed (I wanted these revisions done last week). For homework, daughter had to do a sheet about herself, and one of the questions she had to answer was ‘If you could do absolutely anything, you would…’ She’d written that she’d like to be able to bring people back from the dead, so she could meet people in her family tree that she hadn’t had the chance to meet. Yeah. She had someone particular in mind. My mum. I did the, ‘That’s lovely, darling, and she would’ve loved you,’ bit, and then I just fled, muttering, ‘Gotta work.’ (I think that’s the real reason for the flowers. And I’m still feeling all tearful today.)

I’m going to have some lunch now, play my guitar for a bit (to clear my head), and then set to work with Xavier and… I was thinking Sally, but she’s the child of two (very driven) classical musicians and that’s the wrong name. Allegra, perhaps? (Hmm. Too Byronesque.)

Righty. Carrot and coriander soup, here I come. And if you want soemthing more happier-sounding from me (am in post-book miserable stage, which is completely normal and completely temporary - will be chirpy again as soon as I get back to my notes), go over to the Pink Heart Society where I'm talking about travel...

Monday, September 14, 2009

publication day (ish), insecure dogs and new paint

Current work: last push on revisions
Listening to: Def Leppard (some of my CDs arrived this weekend…)
Reading: Julie Cohen, Girl From Mars – really enjoyed this. Great pace, good story, excellent characterisation; and Julie’s definitely a skilful writer, because in real life she’s glamorous and trendy and cool – yet she actually gets down on paper what it’s like to be one of the untrendy, unsporty types. Very nicely done and I recommend it highly.

The radio session on Friday was great fun. I did indeed talk about the dangerous biscuits story. Oh, and I discovered this on sale in WH Smith just before the show.

It’s not supposed to be out until Friday, so I was delighted to see it. Especially as I’m still waiting for my author copies (distribution glitch, sigh), so I bought the two they had left. (I think it’s a good sign they only had two left… that, or I’m going to be completely paranoid!)

Spent the evening with DH watching a romcom. Dog refused to settle, pattering upstairs to check that the kids were really home, and then down again to check that DH and I hadn’t disappeared. The new term has made him really insecure… and as a consequence the ‘you are NOT allowed on the sofa, dog’ rule has been bent a little bit. Cue one spaniel sprawled across both of us.

Saturday: DH painted our bedroom while I worked. My job was making coffee and bacon sandwiches (with crusty French bread). New paint is quite a bit darker than the old (cue whimpers from me – clearly hitting my 40s has suddenly made me resistant to change instead of being happy to widen my boundaries) but it does look nice. And then we had what I think will have to be the last barbecue of summer – got cold very quickly.

Sunday: DH glossed while I worked on revisions.

Plan for today: finish revisions, book taxi to train station for Thursday… and then, yeehah, I can work on the French duo. (Which is actually what I did on Friday, bad puppy that I am, but the opening scene was in my head really strongly so I had to note it down. Besides, I needed a break from revisions…)

Friday, September 11, 2009

dangerous biscuits

Current work: revisions – and also off to do a radio session this morning
Listening to: Def Leppard (have I mentioned that I love Joe Elliott's voice? And he can play guitar and piano, too. Sighhh)
Reading: Given that my TBR pile is out of access, I amused myself last night by annoying DH. Big sigh from him. ‘Can’t you just read for a bit instead of annoying me?’ Evil grin from me. Hey, you’re the one who moved my books… (They are going to be restored this weekend, after painting. If he has any sense. And, as lovely Jenny Haddon gave me a couple of Heyer recommendations, I do have a couple of new ones to sneak in...)

Caught a press release yesterday that really made me smile - about dangerous biscuits (that’s biscuits as in UK, i.e. cookies rather than the US scone-type things).

The most dangerous, apparently, is the custard cream.

Apparently, doctors have to treat lots of biscuit-related injuries each year. (Righty. I can just see my editor’s face if I suggest this as a plot point. Ohh, lightbulb – now I have something to torment her about at the M&B party, next week! Last year it was reindeer. This year it will be custard creams. She’s going to love this.)

What kind of injuries? According to the study conducted by Mindlab, these include: people poking themselves in the eye with a biscuit (3%), falling off a chair while reaching for the tin (no figures given), sustaining burns after dunking a biscuit in scalding tea (33%), and being hit by fragments flying through the air. Others choked on crumbs (28%), 7% were bitten by a pet or ‘other wild animal’ trying to get their biscuit (oh? What sort of wild animal? The journo in me sees a photo opportunity, here), and 10% damaged a tooth or filling on a particularly hard biscuit.

And the best one? A man who ended up stuck in wet concrete after wading in to pick up a stray biscuit. (How daft can you get? And wouldn’t said biscuit be inedible anyway because of the covering of concrete? Unless it was in a wrapper, but even so…)

If you want to read the full story, it’s here at the Telegraph. It’s the kind of story I would’ve loved working on, in my PR and journo days. Bit of an own goal, though, as it the survey was conducted on behalf of Rocky – and they’re #3 on the dangerous list. Unless it’s cool to be a dangerous biscuit?

Incidentally, I’m on the radio this morning – Tessa Shepperson, Sara Lock and I are taking over Graham and Karen’s breakfast show on BBC Radio Norfolk at 12. The idea is, instead of them interviewing us and asking our opinion on current news stories, we’re going to interview them. This is SO going to be one of my questions. (It’s utterly frivolous, but it really appeals to my sense of humour. Karen will love this, too. I'm going to have to nip into Marks and buy some biscuits before we start.)

So I’m asking you, too. Which is your favourite biscuit – and is it on the dangerous list, below?

The biscuits on the Biscuit Injury Threat Evaluation list with their rating:

Custard Cream 5.64
Cookie 4.34
Choc Biscuit Bar (eg: Rocky) 4.12
Wafer 3.74
Rich Tea 3.45
Bourbon 3.44
Oat Biscuit 3.31
Digestive 3.14
Ginger Nut 2.99
Shortbread 2.90
Caramel Shortcake 2.76
Nice Biscuit 2.27
Iced Biscuits/Party Rings 2.16
Chocolate Finger 1.38
Jaffa Cakes 1.16

Thursday, September 10, 2009

busybusy (aka I Hate Revisions)

Current work: revisions and accounts
Listening to: Def Leppard (am enjoying Sparkle Lounge)
Reading: (see yesterday, sigh)

Dog is not happy that the kids have gone back to school. Currently, we have no carpets upstairs, and he keeps running upstairs to see if they’re in their rooms. Patter, patter, patter – thud, as he lands on a bed. Then it’s another thud as he jumps off their beds, disgruntled. (That, or he’s pogoing...) And as for going on his bed in the kitchen when I’m doing the school run – ha. He rushes past and sits by the front door, all hopeful. By next week, with any luck, he’ll be used to the routine again; in the meantime, he’s driving me slightly bananas and I’ve asked DH to put the stair gate back on.

Plan for today – see accountant, then struggle on with revisions.

Sigh. I hate revisions. (I know it makes the book better. I know that I'm not perfect. I still hate revisions.)

I do however have an outlet for the frustration, in the form of the chords for ‘When Love and Hate Collide’ - which just so happens to be in my vocal range. (Not the studio version, which is a stretch and I have to do the chorus an octave lower – nah, I’m singing as per the excellent acoustic version here at YouTube. And if you need totty inspiration, Joe happens to look particularly gorgeous in the video.)

Am also feeling distinctly middle-aged today, after realising that most of the men in my personal totty gallery are the wrong side of 40. (Antonio Banderas, David Duchovny, Charlie Sheen, Rufus Sewell. And that's not even starting on my musical heroes - Robert Plant, David Coverdale, Joe Elliott, David Gilmour - all of whom have voices that just MELT me.) Had to cheer myself up with a CD binge. (Not confessing to how many. All I will say is that four of them weren't actually for me. Oh, dear.)

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


Current work: revisions
Listening to: Def Leppard in the car and Vivaldi cello concerti at work
Reading: (well, I would, but someone has moved my TBR pile to the spare room - and there’s gloss paint everywhere so Clumsy Kate has to wait until it’s dry before venturing in, growl)

Guitar yesterday – well, I was pretty rusty. Need to do ten minutes a day, really. Dad was quite chirpy and it was a nice visit. And I think I know what I’m doing now with the book.

It was a really hot evening, so DH decreed that we had to have a barbecue for dinner. The evenings seem to be drawing in much more quickly, now the children are back. And the sunset last night was quite spectacular.

Plan for today: revisions. And today’s lunchtime treat is Nigel Slater’s column about berries in this month’s Sainsbury’s magazine. (Hmm. Maybe I should save that for tomorrow as a carrot for working hard…)

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

settling in again

Current work: revisions – in between guitar and visiting Dad
Listening to: Corelli
Reading: next on TBR pile…

It’s definitely heading for autumn; several of the trees are already turning, and there’s that scent in the air I always associate with the new school year. I was a bit twitchy all day yesterday (over-anxious clucky mother), but when I met the kids from school and they were both bubbling I was able to relax again. It’s good to know that they’re settling in, and they were both delighted to catch up with their friends. Daughter enjoyed showing off her spectacular bruise (from playing football on Sunday evening and falling flat on her face - banged herself really hard, bless her, and I had to use antiseptic on scraped knees and elbows).

Today is my first guitar lesson for – oh, about two months. I have not been a good girl on the practising front. So today’s plan is to mosey in, greet Jim with a big hug, and brazen it out. (I think he probably knows, because he probably asked DH at his last lesson…) This afternoon, am visiting Dad. Hopefully he’ll be out the other side of his blip; if not, at least the children won’t be with me.

And in between are revisions. I know I’m upping the emotional ante, but… I dunno. This is the usual ‘doubt’ stage. It’ll come together - but I do wish my time wasn’t quite so squeezed, this week.

Monday, September 07, 2009

coffee break and conundrum

Current work: yeehah, back to work! (that deserves a screamer)
Listening to: Bach (nice, calm, regular - ahhhh)
Reading: Louise Allen, The Piratical Miss Ravenhurst (finished and enjoyed. Now have to hunt down my TBR stash because lovely husband moved it. Wouldn’t be so bad, but no painting has been done in our bedroom, so his excuse for moving my books doesn’t actually hold water…)

Back to school today. Well, daughter goes first thing, and son goes mid-morning – so this means today’s schedule is going to switch round to minimise disruption. I am in major work mode until revisions are done, so I’m going to leave you with a little conundrum (courtesy of Michelle, who knows I love this sort of thing). Sit in a chair and move your right foot in clockwise circles. Now draw a number six with your right hand (NB start at the top of the six, not the middle) while still moving your right foot in a clockwise circle.

Some people can do it, with a bit of effort – but most people find their foot moving in an anticlockwise direction, i.e. the way their hand goes (this is why I said start at the top - if you start at the middle you're going clockwise). According to psychologist David Rosenbaum, this is because your brain is programmed to work best with isodirectional movements (i.e. both movements going the same way) rather than non-isodirectional movements; both the left and right hemispheres of the brain are needed for co-ordinated muscle movements.

And now a little something for your coffee break – test your reactions with the BBC sheep. (Thanks to Maggie Kingsley for that one.)

I was supposed to be working on Saturday, but it was so nice to have the house to myself and proper thinking space for the first time in weeks that... OK, I was a bad puppy. I did the BBC’s quiz re ‘what kind of thinker are you?’. I didn’t know what the categories were before I did the quiz (which is a good thing because it means my answers weren’t affected by what I thought the likely outcome would be), and I was slightly surprised to discover that I’m a musical thinker. Then again, I do use music as a soundtrack to my work, so maybe it’s not so odd. I’d be fascinated to know – what kind of thinker are you? Do come back and share.

Friday, September 04, 2009

last day of the school hols

Current work: uhhh
Listening to: probably Planet Rock
Reading: Louise Allen, The Piratical Miss Ravenhurst (or I will be, when my sleep quotient is topped up – right now head hits pillow and out like a light)

Yesterday was a bit of a pants day. Daughter had her first filling (was really brave – then wept all afternoon). Then I noticed that my back windscreen wiper wasn’t working properly, lifted it up to check if there was a problem with the blade… and it disintegrated. (Manufacturer fault, I hope – have a feeling this might be expensive).

Then, when I went to bed, I noticed that my TBR bookcase had disappeared. Cue hyperventilating. ‘Well, it has to move because we’re painting this room and the carpet had to come up. You knew this.’ Yes, but you’ve taken my books away. I need to know where they are. And if you’ve mixed them up.’ (He’s soothed my ruffled feathers, but I’m not going to look in case he’s flannelling me.)

I did get some sleep last night, though. No nightmares, no irritating husband waking with a sneezing fit and making sure I wake, too. (Am sure this is a bloke thing.)

Today: I had planned to take the kids bowling and have an indoor picnic before finishing my accounts. (Note to self – don’t EVER do the shoebox method again. Do it as and when so it doesn’t become a huge chore.) However, DH has taken the day off and decreed that we’re going to be painting – after I’ve taken my car to the dealer’s to sort out the back windscreen. And my revisions? Cue hollow laugh. Still, I’m negotiating work time so I can avoid doing the gloss paint...

Thursday, September 03, 2009

The nicest thing about the middle of the night...

... is knowing that your friends on the opposite side of the world are awake. I've enjoyed having some "real time" conversations with my writer mates in Aussie and the US.

Why am I up in the middle of the night?

Put it this way: someone said to me yesterday that if I got up in the middle of the night and checked that the window was open, thereby waking him up, I'd be sleeping on the sofa.

So what did he do? Got up in the middle of the night. Switched on the ensuite light (with the door open, to make sure he woke me because it shines right into my eyes). Followed by an inability to get into bed quietly and turn over without bouncing - you know, the kind of whale manouvre that only a 6ft man can do. Followed by snoring - loudly.

In the end, I gave in and came downstairs to do logic problems and sudoku on the computer, and reply to emails.

I foresee someone making his own packed lunch this morning :o)

(Am not grumpy at the moment, though I might be later. It's going to be a coffee-and-paracetamol day. Especially as I'd like to finish off my accounts.)

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


Current work: revisions on Med book/plotting (well – that’s what I *should* be doing)
Listening to: nothing yet as they’re all asleep
Reading: Louise Allen, The Piratical Miss Ravenhurst (still enjoying, just been too wiped to read in the evenings! And last night was lovely James May on toys. DH and I curled up together on the sofa and reminisced; I admit, it was nice to spend time with him rather than working)

Right now, I could really do with a couple of nights of uninterrupted sleep. At the moment, I’m too much of a zombie to work in the evenings. Daytimes are a bit tricky as it’s the last week of school holidays (WHY is everyone else back this week except Norfolk?) and the children are both very ready to go back (that’s parentspeak for very ready to squabble with each other). Not to mention the fact that the weekends are taken up by decorating.

I think I might have to be a bit harsh and point out that I also have a job, and I’m locking myself in my study this weekend. I’m happy to do a bit of emulsioning, but no more stain or gloss or bathroom paint that smells funny. (This is what I think is the root cause of my nightmares and subsequent sleep deprivation.)

Plan for today: as son has a friend round and will therefore ignore his sister and/or be impatient with her, littlest and I will be making cookies and brownies and whatever else makes her happy.

Revisions, accounts and the like are in a continuing state of neglect. I am thinking about them, though.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Happy September

Current work: revisions on Med book/plotting
Listening to: Planet Rock
Reading: Louise Allen, The Piratical Miss Ravenhurst (still enjoying, just been too wiped to read in the evenings!)

Happy September – and here’s this month’s calendar pic. Quite appropriate for the book that's out later this month...

We spent the weekend (including the bank holiday) painting. The idea was, the kids were going to join us. Except Chloe couldn’t quite get the hang of using the roller, and son… Well. You need to get a kid with ADHD to repeat instructions back to you. DH failed to do this when he asked son to start at the bottom of the slope under the stairs and work his way backwards, going horizontally so he wouldn’t end up covered in paint. You can guess what happened next…

Anyway. The hall, landing and stairs are now done, including ceilings, gloss and stain on the stairs. The main bathroom is done (and, bah, DH made me do the gloss – plus the special paint for bathrooms smells utterly foul). Madam’s room is done (and she’s very pleased with the colour). So we’re halfway there. Three bedrooms and the ensuite to go. (Though this is taking longer than I expected. Whereas we used to be able to do the decorating from 7am to 10pm and still feel bright and chirpy, nowadays it’s 9am to 6pm and then I’ve definitely had enough: sort dinner, fall into bath, and then slide into zombie mode. I’m in my early forties. I shouldn’t have to start slowing down yet, surely?)

Woke at stupid o’clock with a bad dream (probably caused by paint fumes). Rather than lie there, fidgeting until DH was awake, I went downstairs and spent a while coding my website. So today it’s actually up to date. There’s a new recipe up plus an excerpt for the book that’s out in 17 days’ time – Temporary Boss, Permanent Mistress, aka the Northern Lights/reindeer book – and more information about Good Girl or Gold Digger?, aka the fairground book. There are also new reviews of various books (and thank you to the reviewers who made such positive comments).

I will be better in future about updates, because I am organised again: I’ve gone back to using Lotus Organiser, which is still far and away the best for me. This week is the last week of school hols; so next week I’m going back to a proper routine. I’ve scheduled in exercise, and I’ve scheduled in breaks. And I’ve scheduled in time for the net, which means I should be productive rather than wasting time. My to-do list is on track, and I know what I’m doing.

However, I want to get my revisions done this week, so I can start next week with a clean slate. I also want to finish my accounts. Chances of doing it? Hmm.

Plan for today: into town to pick up a blackout blind for son’s room and a new lampshade for Madam; visit Dad; run some errands. And then hopefully I can start my revisions tonight, after dinner…