Friday, October 30, 2009
Instead, I will leave you with a link to a YouTube song that my children made me watch. Made me smile, too. The Llama Song.
Oh, and the Harry Potter song. Loved this. Very clever - YouTube at its best.
Enjoy. I'm off to make cookies.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Listening to: (kids still asleep so peace and quiet…)
Reading: next on TBR
London was fab but tiring! (I did 19k steps on Tuesday and 13k on Wednesday.)
We had dinner before the theatre at Adam's Rib; wish I’d had the camera out when Madam’s meal arrived because she was so pleased with it. The look on her face made the fact that I’m now behind on my deadline completely worthwhile.
And her little face when we emerged at Piccadilly Circus and all the lights were everywhere – normally, we’re on the train home by that time of night, so she was stunned by it all.
Grease was great - the choreography was fantastic, especially Cha-Cha’s dancing (the high kicks were unbelievably high). Travolta and Newton-John are a v hard act to follow, but Ray Quinn and Emma Stephens did a good job. I did feel though that the actors playing Doody and Rizzo had better voices – for me, Natalie Langston (Rizzo) was the standout in the show. The special effects were good (the car was great – banger one side and sparkly the other) and the staging transitions were very smooth.
The one thing that did surprise me was how quiet the audience was. Maybe it’s because I’m from the provinces rather than a sophisticated West End theatregoer, or maybe I’m just a groundling at heart, but at a musical I’m used to audiences clapping and singing along to their favourites, maybe dancing in their seats (especially to some of the numbers in this show - ‘We Go Together’ in particular). But the audience was so quiet, it felt a bit embarrassing to clap (even when you were being encouraged to do so). Madam said she sang along in her head, bless.
On Wednesday, we went to the Natural History Museum. There was an ENORMOUS queue to get in, so we stayed in the Earth Sciences side rather than join another huge queue to see the dinosaurs. Which of course meant going up this escalator to the volcanic section...
Some of the gem specimens were gorgeous. (This is zoisite.)
Then home to two surprises from my RLH. I really wasn’t expecting flowers when he met us from the train. Or that he’d have done the job I’ve been putting off for too long (cleaning the oven, since you ask). What a star. :o)
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Actually, from the squeaks I can hear even without sound in and the 'Oh, pleases' from her brother, I'd say littlest might be the more excited. :o)
Back tomorrow (or possibly Thursday) with a full report. Hope your day is as nice as mine's going to be.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Listening to: Beethoven piano sonatas
Reading: Trisha Ashley, Sowing Secrets (enjoyed this thoroughly – very witty, great characterisation, and an excellent feelgood read)
Busy week lined up – London tomorrow, bowling and friends round for dinner/birthday cake on Friday, family party on Sunday for the birthday girl, and in between I need to clean the oven, nag DH about either painting the living room and then putting the stuff back, or just putting the stuff back temporarily because I am tired of everything being out of order.
Not to mention finishing the book.
Both kids are in bouncy mode. At the end of half term, littlest got her swimming certificate, eldest got a certificate for his 12th kyu with a red belt (some martial arts thing he was doing at school), and littlest discovered that her two best friends are both able to come to tea on her birthday. (Well, late birthday. The family party’s on her actual birthday and we have an Inset (teacher training) day on Monday, so Tuesday is the first possible time.)
I have promised them a cinema trip today: ‘Up’, in 3D. And then it’s lunch out, running errands and a chilling-out afternoon (for them – j'écrirai mon roman).
Was nice to see Dad on Friday. Hopefully he’ll be well enough to come to littlest’s party, but if not I’ve promised a doggy bag. Also a nice view on the way to Dad’s – just by the village green in East Tuddenham. The second one I think looks particularly proud... (and what a glorious colour!)
Friday, October 23, 2009
Listening to: Def Leppard, Yeah!
Reading: next on TBR
Celebrating today with a rather good covers album (the title of which is today’s post title, including the screamer). DH bought me this as – wait for it – the diet is actually working. He’s being brilliantly supportive and buying me a non-food treat for every 14lbs off. (Monday’s weigh-in was actually 13.5 lbs and he made me wait until the next 0.5lb came off before he ordered it. I can see it disappearing into his car, though, as there’s a Badfinger cover.)
Favourite track? Definitely Waterloo Sunset. Joe’s voice sounds just lovely. I have the original on vinyl, but this is a really excellent cover. (You can listen to it here on Youtube.)
Bit that surprised me? 10538 Overture. I never really listened to much ELO (apart from the obvious, ‘Mr Blue Sky’, which was played just about everywhere when I was 12), so this was a new song to me – and at first I was waiting for Joe to start singing Weller’s ‘Changing Man’. Absolutely identical opening. But where are the credits to Lynne and Wood on Stanley Road? Tut, tut, Monsieur Weller. And considering that Radiohead were sued for the chord progression in ‘Creep’ (which I still don’t think sounds like ‘The Air that I Breathe’)… Hmm.
Could go into a rant here about plagiarism but won’t, as I’m in a good mood because of said diet. (If anyone reading this suffers from similar difficulties in losing weight, it’s the Zoe Harcombe diet. Easy to stick to, no cravings or misery, and fits in with what the rest of the family eats – plus it’s ‘real food’ so it’s a cook’s dream. The five-day ‘phase one’ (which helps kick a few bad habits, e.g. caffeine) is here – this was the bit used in She magazine. I borrowed the books from the library – interesting reading but could’ve done with a wee bit more editing to take out the repetition and the muddle.)
And, as it’s a glorious autumn day, I’m leaving you with a pic from today’s school run – the last morning run of this half term (where does the time go?). This is Costessey Weir. The other side of the river (i.e. to the right of what you see here) contains a field of cows, who were grazing in the mist this morning; sadly, couldn’t take a pic of them as this was the only safe place to stop.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
On screaming deadline so I’ll leave you with a pic I took on the way home from school earlier this week (obviously NOT yesterday, which was rain, rain and more rain). Care to guess which Dire Straits track I’m listening to? (the clue is in the title AND the picture *g*)
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Listening to: Debussy
Reading: next on TBR
Watched a really interesting documentary yesterday about the sense of self by a mathematician/philosopher, Professor Marcus du Sautoy. (More about it here on the BBC news site, with link to iPlayer.) How do you know what is ‘I’ and what is consciousness? I’m fairly sure I’ve already read something about the experiment in Sweden to make you feel as if you’re sitting behind yourself, thereby separating body and consciousness – and it goes further by tricking the mind into thinking that you’re the other person – but it was still fascinating.
It’s stunning how far science has come already. The fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) scan is a case in point – not just showing the brain, but also the regions of activity. The thing that I really hope develops from of this? A way to help degenerative brain conditions (I’m thinking specifically Parkinson’s and the various forms of dementia – and yes, of course it’s personal, for the same reason I’d love to see a cure for cancer). I guess the first step is identifying areas of the brain and how they respond, and then scientists might be ale to find out how to stimulate that same response if those areas of the brain are no longer able to work effectively.
I think for writers, a sense of ‘I’ is an even greyer area than it is for most people. Given the nature of our job (and I’d say it’s a vocation, too), we voluntarily put ourselves inside the heads of other people. Otherwise how would we be able to write realistic emotions and dialogue? How would we get rounded characterisation? And then there’s the question of which ‘I’ are we talking about: public or private face? And is Kate the romantic novelist the same as Pamela the historian? Same corporal body – but same person? How much blurring is there between the two?
And that leads me on to asking whether there’s a difference between the way someone is at work and the way they are at home. Is it a physical change (measurable by neuron activity) or a social change – and, if the latter, how can we measure it and how far is it affected by the expectations of other people? ‘Freedom is a cage, the bars of which are other people’s freedoms’ (that’s a verrrrrry loose translation from Rousseau’s Social Contract – anyway, it’s France leading up to the Revolution) – wonder if that’s also true of the self? Does our behaviour shift, say, when we’re with our parents and siblings, so we take on our accepted ‘position’ in the family, even after we’ve grown up and that’s no longer who we are?
Sadly, deadline beckons, so no time to go into this in proper depth. But I wonder. Question for writers out there: when you’re working on a book (and assuming you’re not the omniscient narrator), do you have a sense of yourself still, or do you slip so far into the heads of your characters that you’re somebody else (even if only temporarily)? Do you have any views on the questions I’ve raised above? I’d love to hear them.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Listening to: Debussy
Reading: Anne McAllister: One-night mistress, convenient wife (enjoyed this one – especially the Brazilian grandmother. Anne writes wonderfully rounded heroes – very realistic characterisation)
Every so often, my nerdy streak appears here. Last week, it was prompted by seeing the crepuscular rays (scroll down to see the pic if you missed it – it really was that good).
This week, it’s the sundog I spied yesterday morning, at about 8.45. I’m back to taking my camera around with me, so – with a little help from my sunglasses as a temporary lens filter (and thank you, thank you, O traffic lights at a spectacularly busy junction, for turning red so I had time to take the pic) – here it is.
The official name of a sundog is a parhelion (Greek: beside the sun, which describes it perfectly). It’s formed by refraction of the sun’s rays through hexagonal plate ice crystals formed in cirrus clouds, and you’ll often see two of them (one either side of the sun), at the same distance above the horizon as the sun. Sometimes you’ll see it as a proper ice halo round the sun (and when it’s combined with a sun pillar, it’s spectacular – so far, I’ve only seen pictures, but I live in hope).
In 1461, just before the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross, apparently the parhelia were so bright that it looked as if there were three suns. Edward of York convinced his troops it was a sign – and they went on to victory. From then on, he adopted the ‘Sunne in Splendour’ as his emblem (and the novel of that name by Sharon Penman is utterly fantastic).
This is actually work-related, as there’s a scene in Temporary Boss, Permanent Mistress where Jake and Lydia talk about clouds and ice haloes. (Yup. Kate’s Northern Lights obsession does indeed extend to other atmospheric phenomena…)
Today's question: what's your favourite atmospheric phenomenon - and, if you've seen it in real life, do tell about the experience.
Righty... back to the Ardèche and the heat of the midday sun...
Monday, October 19, 2009
Fresh air was something desperately needed in our house over the weekend. All I’ll say in explanation is that daughter got son’s bug on Saturday, and we had to buy a new rug on Sunday. (Sadly, one is indeed a correlation of the other.)
Both kids are on the mend now. I am hoping that the dog doesn’t get it next...
As for my deadline…. My little girl was white-faced, tearful and asking for a cuddle to help make her feel better – no way was I going to tell her I was too busy. I’ll catch up later this week.
And I’ve worked out another reason why the book was stuck. My heroine needs a dog.
When is a Springer not a Springer? When it’s a Brittany. The puppy pics I found on the net look so much like my boy as a baby. Hmm. Is this enough of an excuse to post puppy pics? Yeah, I think so. This is Kleptodog at eight weeks. Enough to melt anyone’s heart.
(I should perhaps add that my heroine is after a rescue dog. Doesn’t happen. And it’s not fair to get a puppy before the busiest time on the vineyard, so… my hero is going to do something really nice. And said puppy is going to bounce through the second book in the duo, too. I have a name, too: Beau. Perfect for a French dog, non? )
Friday, October 16, 2009
Listening to: not (am listening out for sounds of throwing up, aka mopping of face needed)
Reading: Kate Walker, Kept for Her Baby (another of Kate’s trademark emotional reads – full of passion and depth)
It really is Lurgy Central around here. I’ve had DH off for two days with a gastric bug (stupid man has gone back to work today, even though he's not really well enough - which means he'll be sick all weekend, sigh); and then school rang this morning asking me to to collect son as he’s thrown up everywhere. Take washing up bowl with me just in case (luckily not needed), pick him up, send him upstairs to change into PJs while I cover sofa with sheet and then bring down pile of pillows and the fleecy blanket, install him in front of a film he likes with said bowl and a glass of cool water for sipping, and keep sound on so can hear if he needs me.
And yes, I still have my evil cough (throat semi-sore but from coughing, not lurgy).
This lot has 11 days to be gone (and daughter absolutely can NOT pick up any of the lurgies in the meantime - we both need to be fit for London).
And I have 7 days until deadline.
Am so glad am female, so can multi-task...
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Listening to: X, Def Leppard (this album is SO underrated)
Reading: next on TBR
One of the wonderful things about living in this part of the world is the sky.
This morning, Madam and I spotted some spectacular crepuscular rays, just after we’d dropped Son at school. Luckily there wasn’t a huge queue at the usual nightmare junction, and the clouds weren’t moving that swiftly, so we were able to get a pic at the top of the road to her school.
So instead of babbling from me today, here’s a pic to paint my (usually less than a) thousand words:
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Listening to: Satie and the Lepps
Reading: next on TBR
And this is what the Pink Heart Society had to say about my Northern Lights fantasy. (Note, it scores very highly in their weepy factor, for a good reason…)
Two scarred souls find romance under the breathtaking Northern Lights in the latest romance by best-selling author Kate Hardy: Temporary Boss, Permanent Mistress.
Lydia Sheridan has finally decided to stop pleasing other people and to start pleasing herself. A passionate artist, she's always repressed her desire to be a painter because of her parents' insistence that she go to university and study economics before qualifying as a lawyer. But Lydia has finally had it. She cannot bear to spend another minute working in a stuffy office so she decides to quit her job at Andersen's. But her boss, Jake, is not going to let her slip through his fingers...
Jake has had his eye on Lydia for quite some time and he's determined to get to know the real person behind the capable professional. When he needs a lawyer to accompany him on a trip to Norway, Jake asks Lydia to go with him, and although her every instinct is telling her to quit her job once and for all, she cannot help but be drawn to her handsome Norwegian boss...
As fate throws them together, their attraction begins to simmer and Jake and Lydia soon give into temptation and begin a seven-day affair. But as the seventh day approaches, they soon begin to wish that their seven days could turn into a lifetime!
When you pick up a novel by Kate Hardy, you know that you're going to get an emotional and dramatic tale full of warmth, charm and heart and Temporary Boss, Permanent Mistress is no exception. Poignant, moving and wonderfully romantic, Temporary Boss, Permanent Mistress is just the thing to brighten up the cold autumn nights!
Thank you, PHS. I'm delighted. (And I might have to change my strapline. Here am I, kidding everyone that my books are all about drama, passion and danger. They're not. It's warmth, charm and heart, mixed up with a bit of heat...)
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Listening to: various French piano music
Reading: next on TBR
I have to admit to being slightly nervous about my Northern Lights book. According to my ed, Presents readers like, um, hot climates.
And there I was, planning to set my book in Norway. In the winter. Hot? Er...
Now, I happen to think that cold can be utterly glamorous. Ice hotel, Northern Lights, amazing whirlpools… so I persuaded her into letting me do it. Oh, and the reindeer. The deal was that I was allowed ONE. I was a bad girl and sneaked a few in to the ice hotel, where they couldn’t be chipped out. (Sculptures. Ha. Author being too clever for her own good.) And then, when I revised it and decided the wedding was going in, four more sneaked in. (If you’re going to get married in the snow, then surely you have to go by sleigh – drawn by reindeer…)
But as publication day drew near, I had a teensy panic. Supposing readers hated it? And supposing I went too far with the art stuff? And it was a bit dark in places (I made myself cry). Oh, yes, and there’s this thing I have about Scandinavian jewellery. (OK, so Pandora is Danish, but hey, my great-grandmother was Danish – she was a midwife – so that counts as heritage, yes? And maybe explains why I’ve always been so drawn to the north… as long as I don’t have to drive in snow.)
The big question was: had I written a turkey book?
Well, this is the first review, courtesy of lovely Julie at Cataromance. She gave it four and a half stars.
And this is some of what she said…
I love Kate Hardy’s books and Temporary Boss, Permanent Mistress is certainly one of this award-winning author’s best romances for Mills and Boon! Kate Hardy not only manages to recreate the beautiful Norwegian landscape in this book, but she has also created two wonderfully humane characters that just leap off the page and capture the reader’s imagination instantly. With a believable conflict, poignant drama, powerful emotional depth and enchanting romance, Temporary Boss, Permanent Mistress is yet another terrific romantic tale from the pen of this talented award-winning author! Don’t miss it!
You can read the rest here. I’m thrilled to bits. Thank you, Julie. You've made my week.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Listening to: Satie
Reading: Jessica Hart, Under the Boss’s Mistletoe (enjoyed this one: Jessica writes warm, vibrant heroines, and I loved her bad boy grown up)
Apols for absence on Friday. Busy running errands and being dutiful daughter-in-law. (Would’ve been dutiful daughter, too, but when I spoke to the home they told me to stay away until I was completely clear of lurgy. Which is absolutely right – don’t want to spread this among vulnerable people - but frustrating, and I feel terrible that I’ve missed a week's visit.)
Anyway. The little voice inside my head on Friday told me why I’d stalled on the book and what the problem was. Yup, it was the huge info dump known as chapter one. Which meant that the hero wasn’t on the page for a whole chapter and didn’t meet the heroine for half a chapter after that.
You’d think that as this is my 42nd M&B, I’d know better, right?
So I was pleased with the little voice on Friday. And I duly threw out the whole of chapter one.
Saturday, the little voice said, ‘You’re going clothes-shopping with the kids. You do not need your camera.’ So what happens? I discover it’s the French market in the middle of Norwich. Rats. I could’ve taken pics as an aide-memoire, because I think a market is going to come into this book or the second in the duo. Ah well. (I was so good. I stayed away from the boulangerie stall. And the coffee stall. And I resisted the crêperie. I was marched past the cheese, which is probably just as well.)
Sunday was a quietish day. Just got rid of one lurgy, and – bam, here’s another. So ‘little voice’ is quite appropriate for me today. Squeaky AND husky at the same time… Sadly, it’s more risible than sexy. So today is back on honey and lemon and Strepsils.
But I do have some good news to share, tomorrow...
Thursday, October 08, 2009
Yes! My temperature is almost normal! And I have some of my bounce back. (Have at thee, foul lurgy. I shall banish thee with peppermint tea.) Many thanks to everyone who's been sympathetic over the last few days.
Today’s one of these glorious autumn days, when the sun is shining and there’s a bit of a nip in the air. We saw an amazing contrail this morning on the way to school, almost in the shape of a question mark (with the moon sitting smack in the middle of the curved area): sadly, my camera was on my desk. Note to self: put it back in Radley’s care. Second note to self: time to change over bags as it’s autumn and time for Radley in his sports car.
Here are two autumnal pictures to make up for my remissness over the contrail. Firstly, the dogwood at the bottom of the garden, which always looks fabulous at this time of year. (I love the deep, rich ruby of the leaves.)
Secondly, my partner in crime (ha, actually caught him napping – normally, he wakes up when the camera switches on and gives me a look as if to say, no WAY are you putting an undignified pic of me on the net. Note to dog: too late, AND I've got one of you on the sofa, lying on your back). He thinks this is what people should do in autumn (preferably in a nice sunny spot). Yes, dog, great idea: sadly, I have a deadline and things to do...
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Listening to: Satie
Reading: Liz Fielding, Christmas Angel for the Billionaire (fantastic read – as Liz’s books always are – with beautifully rounded characters, a believable plot, wonderful secondaries and a well deserved happy ending. Made me well up in a couple of places – the way she describes the week before Christmas for her heroine is just how I feel about it – and made me laugh out loud in others because her humour is spot on: warm, witty and like having a big hug.)
Lurgy - picture me yesterday, freezing cold so I had a fleecy blanket wrapped round me at my desk… and my head was a furnace, despite paracetamol. Sigh. It will go, eventually.
But it also means I’m not writing a proper blog today. Instead, there’s one I wrote earlier (scheduled for today) over at the Pink Heart Society, about productivity. This week, it hasn’t worked out that way (because I have the lurgy), but otherwise… definite advice to writers. Find your timesuck and a way round it!
Oh, and still on the lurgy – thanks to mpe for an utterly brilliant pastiche of Keats (the one I was waffling about doing on Monday but didn’t have the energy to follow through). Made me smile through my sneezes!
Monday, October 05, 2009
Listening to: Satie (quite discordant and just perfect for a dusty chateau - oh, did I not mention that my heroine plays the piano? This is my excuse for loafing off in our dining room: Method writing)
Reading: next on TBR (I have a treat lined up for tonight – hot bath, early bedtime and a Christmas book by one of my very, very favourite authors – more on this tomorrow)
Am still sneezing/coughing. Actually needed a coat on the school run today (also useful as it had pockets for conkers – Madam is still obsessed with them).
I was going to do a skit on Keats’ Ode to Autumn (Season of coughs and soggy handkerchiefs...), but I really don’t have the energy. So take it as read, and instead I’m going to give you a recipe for a really comforting (and immensely virtuous) soup.
900g butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and chopped
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
Put the lot in a very large pan, bring to the boil, simmer for 25 mins (until squash is tender), cool, then puree in a blender. Reheat and serve with a swirl of sour cream. Enjoy.
Friday, October 02, 2009
Listening to: Satie
Reading: next on TBR (still feeling too rough to read)
Following the excitement of discovering the Anglo Saxon hoard in Shropshire is another wonderful archaeology story, this week – the discovery of Nero’s rotating dining room. According to Suetonius (in Lives of the Caesars), there was a revolving wooden floor (or maybe it was the ceiling – it’s not that clear); guests could look at a ceiling painted with stars, and there were panels in the ceiling which allowed flower petals and perfume to shower onto the tables below. It’s thought that the mechanism was driven by water, similar to a water mill. (Full story at the Telegraph here.)
This is giving me some grand ideas. But I guess another archaeology/architect book would be too much for my ed, right now…
Thursday, October 01, 2009
Listening to: Sheryl Crow
Reading: next on TBR (too dopey and full of cold to read)
Happy October; and may it be a lovely month for you.
I think the bowls in the pic might be chocolate mousse, which means my name is therefore in cream. Tres cool, though in real life I would politely refuse the pudding. A teensy bit too rich for me. And yes, I'm aware that it's weird that I love puddings and chocolate but loathe chocolate puddings. (Unless it's white chocolate - which isn't really chocolate at all, so QED.)
My dear children have given me their cold, so I feel dopey today and as if my head is full of cotton wool. A day for paracetamol and hot lemon, methinks. I also have mint and eucalyptus tea, which might help to clear my head - if I can face it. Mint tea, I like. Particularly the one with a bit of cinnamon in. But I'm having big doubts about the camomile, nettle and eucalyptus varieties. Perhaps I should've stuck to buying a box of plain or cimmamon and mint tea...
Righty. Now to convince my head that we're in France and I can smell lavender, instead of having a blocked nose...