Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ring in the new

This time last year I wished for some quiet, even months to balance things out. No serious illnesses for anyone close to me. No deaths. No messy legal stuff. My house fixed.

Hmm. The serious illness in the family was still a problem (DH alone gave me grey hair with his penicillin reaction, let alone the other people I was worrying about – and in fact still am, because some of it’s ongoing), but the rest of it worked out fine.

Goals for this year:
  1. Work-life balance/stress management. Keep this going – the big key to this is having a routine and sticking to it. Sure, it can be flexible (i.e. nice day = possible time off), but building in time for emergencies is a good idea. I have to be realistic about Dad: his condition will get worse rather than better, and it’s a matter of building on the good days (and maybe ringing the home before I visit – he gets more out of the visit on a good day, too, whereas on a bad day he might not know I’ve visited, so it makes sense to try to get as many good days as I can so we both get the best of it).
  2. Exercise and weight management. Keep this going, too. The key to this is planning meals a week in advance (again, I can be flexible, but if it’s written down I’m more likely to be sensible) and keeping my online food diary (and I’m honest with it, so that’s a good thing). Keep going with the Wii (OK, so weighing myself every day isn’t ideal, but then again it also stops me sliding). The goal is to be back to my wedding weight – preferably by my wedding anniversary, but the end of the year will do. And then stay there!
  3. Writing. I want to lift my game a little – I want my books to really move people. As last year, I’ll track it through reader feedback, reviews, award shortlistings and bestseller lists. And as I’ve cut back a little on the local history (something had to give!), that should give me the space to sort another project I’ve wanted to do for a while. In theory.

    Do you have any resolutions or goals for this year? I’d love to hear them.I wish you all health, happiness and fulfilment for 2010. Happy New Year!

Ring out the old

Today’s a day for looking back. What kind of a year has 2009 been?

Not bad.

(That’s probably about 380,000 words. If this was anyone else, I’d be cheering them on. But it’s me, so the verdict is ‘could do better…’)

There were some really fabulous career highlights – I was shortlisted for the RNA Romance Prize 2009 with Sold to the Highest Bidder!; my book Hotly Bedded, Conveniently Wedded was chosen as the first Presents to be an enhanced e-book; and Romantic Times gave me my first ever Top Pick for Surrender to the Playboy Sheikh AND shortlisted the book as Best Presents 2009. The year ended on a nice note, too, as Temporary Boss, Permanent Mistress made the Waldies list - thank you to everyone who bought it and put me there.

Bit of a rough year again – health problems in the family, redundancies and bullying issues. I’d like to thank everyone who’s been so kind and supportive, either with blog comments or private emails/phone calls. It really was appreciated.

So how did I do with my goals?

  1. Work-life balance/stress management. Well, I’m still the family fixer and that’s fine. And I’m getting better at managing deadlines, by going back to the way I used to do things in my ratrace days, i.e. keeping a proper schedule/to do list.
  2. Exercise. Hmm. Well, I was a bit better with this, particularly from September onwards. (Probably helped because I have a list of the week’s meals pinned to the fridge and there’s a space for me to write in the number of steps. That’s one management tool I’ll continue to use next year: I need structure!)
  3. Weight management. Thanks to the Harcombe diet, I’m actually taking some positive steps here. I’ve lost almost stone so far – mid-November was a bit of a struggle (note to self, reaching for the chocolate when you’re worried sick doesn’t do anything except stop the weight coming off; and Christmas was overindulgence) but this works without making me obsessed with food.
  4. Writing. I said I wanted to lift my game. I’ve had some really lovely reader letters this year and some fantastic reviews. I was shortlisted in the 2009 RNA awards. I’ve done well in the bestseller lists (top quartile of the Waldies for Playboy Boss – behind two REALLY big-name authors, so I was delighted) AND I got a Top Pick from RT, so hopefully I’ve met my goal there. And I think my Norway book (written mostly this year) is one of my best to date. The project that fell through the cracks? I wrote an outline and a dirty draft of the first chapter. That’s something to build on.

I’m a notorious goalpost-mover where my own achievements are concerned, but I think I’ve done OK with my goals this year. I’m lighter than I was at the beginning of the year, I’m a little bit fitter, and I’m happy with the way my writing and work-life balance/stress management are going. It’s a matter of consolidating it all and using it as a base to move forward in 2010.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

new decade (and new appliances…)

Current work: French duo book 2 (deadline approaching, arrgh)
Listening to: Norah Jones
Reading: CJ Sansom, Revelation

I’m going to do the looking back/forward thing on the year tomorrow. But we have a new decade coming up, so I want to look back on the Noughties as a whole (we were talking about it last night over dinner, so this list includes what the kids said...)

Overall, the Noughties were pretty good to me. We became a four-person family with the birth of Madam; Byron joined us; I got my hearing back (which I hadn't thought possible) and went back to music lessons; and careerwise I had my two biggest dreams come true – becoming a Mills & Boon author in 2001 (first book out 2002) and winning a literary award (RNA Romance Prize 2008). We made some really good friends, through work and school. We also extended the house quite a bit, so now we have a living space that really suits us. Yes, there was some dark stuff (mainly close family deaths and serious illnesses – some of which is still ongoing – and losing our first two spaniels), but on the whole it was a good decade. I feel grounded and settled, and that’s a good place to be.

I hope the next decade will be as happy, overall. I know we have some more dark stuff coming, this decade, with our remaining parents getting elderly, but we’re going to make some good memories to help counterbalance that (i.e. going to Italy in 2010, and I am SO looking forward to that). Our littlies will hit their teens, and be spreading their wings at uni towards the end of the decade (though they’ll always have a home with us, if they need it). And we should also be paying off the mortgage this decade (cough, cough, depending on endowment performance, but I lost trust in that a while back and switched a tranche of our mortgage over to repayment, which will hopefully cover the shortfall). I guess we’ll be heading for a new life stage. I hope the ride’s as nice as the last ten years have been.

Yesterday was an ‘interesting’ day. Had to queue for ages in the post office (kids were wonderful and didn't moan at all, despite our ticket saying that there were 54 people in the queue ahead of us – our first experience of the new queuing system). ‘You queued all this time just for passport forms?’ the cashier asked in seeming disbelief. Cue saccharine smile from me. Yup. You didn’t have any forms out in the rack, so the only way to get them was to queue up and ask you for them, was it not?

After all that, I was in the mood for spending money, and we have two domestic appliances that we bought in the millennium year and are on their last legs. First up was the tumble dryer – that’s arriving next week. Had a look at the cookers in John Lewis, but there isn’t much choice in the actual shop, and I’d like the up-to-date equivalent of my current cooker. Had a look online, and the one I’d like is substantially cheaper in House of Fraser (the difference will practically cover the costs of all four passports, so I do mean substantially), AND they do it in the colour I want. (Having seen the fingerprints on display models, no way are we having stainless steel; and this is a hard water area, so a quick wipe across a black cooker will leave noticeable streaks, whereas grey looks fine without having to be dried and buffed after wiping.) Just need to get a date from DH when his electrician friend can fit it, and then I can order it and arrange delivery.

As the kids had been so utterly brilliant during said tedious things, I caved in to daughter’s polite request and took them to lunch at Giraffe. (I was good and opted for chicken salad. Mainly because the scales on… when was Monday? What day is it, again?? Anyway, the weigh-in wasn’t good. And I’m so much fatter now than I was in 1994 that I look completely different and will need my passport renewal application and photographs countersigned. That’s a bit distressing. Actually, it's really upset me. So the diet is back on, as of now. Probably the kick up the backside that I needed for sliding back, the last six weeks.)

Plan for today: sort out passports, then son’s best friend is coming for a sleepover. Methinks they’re going to be messing about with models, and I will be baking with daughter. And in between… the deadline loometh.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Er… what day is it?

Current work: French duo book 2 (deadline approaching, arrgh)
Listening to: Norah Jones
Reading: CJ Sansom, Revelation (finished the O’Neal and it was fab)

What with bank holidays and school holidays, I have no idea what day it is – we’re completely out of routine. It’s a bit unsettling, and this week isn’t going to get better as there are more bank holidays plus an inset day on Monday. (And then my book is due in. Bwahahaha.)

We had a lovely Christmas – quiet, with just the four of us for most of the day, but nice. Santa was very good to me – perfume, books and music, as well as my fabby new phone. Kids were delighted with their haul, as was DH. Played games with the kids, ate too much (well, that was a given), and discovered that the giant spacehopper requested by daughter was enormous fun. Chilled out watching the Dr Who special: great ending, really loved the bit with Bernard Cribbins in the café (the acting there was phenomenal), but think the rest could’ve tightened up a lot more. DH reminded me that it was probably scene-setting for part 2, but I would have liked both parts to be good. (Fussy, moi?) Skipped Hamlet on Boxing Day as there were squeaks of ‘You’re really going to watch that for THREE HOURS?’ and mutters about when people were going to be fed (ah, the joys of having a son on the cusp of teenagerdom), so have ordered the DVD and am going to take a morning off and enjoy it in major geek mode, next term.

Sadly, the photos I was hoping to post don’t exist, as I didn’t manage to persuade DH to go for a walk on the beach on Boxing Day. It was a glorious day, but even daughter doing the big blue eyes thing didn’t budge him. (Rats. I wanted to see the seal pups. Maybe this weekend...) We did however go to the city and got the passport pics done. Also looked at large kitchen appliances, as the tumble dryer is on its last legs and the oven is heading that way. (Haven’t made a decision yet. Modern design is much clompier than my ancient oven. And then there's the reliability question. All the upheaval...)

Then, yesterday, the lack of sleep caught up with me (living with owls is hard work in holiday season – they want you to stay up late with them, and you’re still awake early, so you’re burning the candle at both ends: which I’m finding tougher as I get older) and I ended up having a rather long midday nap. Not so good for my wordcount, so I need to make up for that today.

Plan for today: er… what day is it, again? And am I the only one who’s like this, post-Christmas? Come and wake me up and tell me about your break!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

Current work: French duo book 2
Listening to: Christmas compilation
Reading: Barbara O’Neal, The Recipe for Lost Happiness (still enjoying)

Popping in briefly to wish everyone a merry Christmas (or, if you don’t celebrate Christmas, a happy holiday season). I hope you have a wonderful time with family and friends, laugh too much, and make some fantastic memories.

I’m taking a couple of days off.

No, really.

OK, definitely tomorrow; but I’m a lark so I can get away with doing a bit before everyone else gets up. Just hoping the snow melts so we get our traditional walk on the beach on Boxing Day. I have somewhere particular in mind this year, so I need to prime daughter to do the big eyes, ‘I love you Daddy’ look that turns him to mush so he’ll agree to it without moaning. (!) (He will enjoy it when we get there. And if we do, I will have some fab pics to post on Monday.)

I also want to watch Hamlet on Boxing Day. Will be interesting to see what David Tennant brings to the role. However, if there are squeaks of protest at Mummy being in boring English graduate mode, will be treating self to the DVD on Jan 4 and taking an indulgent morning off work next month instead. (183 minutes. Hmm. Either they all talk quickly, in which case please let there be subtitles, or there are cuts. Must fish out my Arden. Ha!)

Happy holidays.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Another wonderful review – and Do One Thing (aka a brilliant video)

Current work: French duo book 2
Listening to: Christmas compilation
Reading: Barbara O’Neal, The Recipe for Lost Happiness (still enjoying)
Big thanks to the Pink Heart Society for their review of Falling for the Playboy Millionaire, too:

Kate Hardy never fails to deliver poignant, dramatic, realistic and heartwarming romantic fiction and Falling for the Playboy Millionaire certainly does not disappoint. With its cast of wonderfully believable and fantastic characters and plenty of powerful emotion and dramatic intensity, Falling for the Playboy Millionaire is another dazzling keeper from one of the finest writers of high quality romantic fiction: Kate Hardy!

What a lovely end to the year.

As for the video – I pinched it from Lorraine. It’s the BBC ‘do one thing’ campaign and it’s just lovely. Go take a look here or here. (The squirrels. Oh, the squirrels. Haven't seen ours for a bit, so I hope he's OK. And I’ll be putting out some extra stuff for our wild birds during the bad weather.)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Wonderful review

Current work: French duo book 2
Listening to: Christmas compilation
Reading: Barbara O’Neal, The Recipe for Lost Happiness (enjoying)

Woke up to a really lovely review of Falling for the Playboy Millionaire – thank you, Julie Bonello of Cataromance, for making my day!

This is what she says:

Falling for the Playboy Millionaire is another slice of sheer romantic perfection from the dazzling pen of outstanding Mills and Boon author Kate Hardy! Written with plenty of sensitivity, warmth and heart, Falling for the Playboy Millionaire is a poignant, dramatic and wonderfully written and terrifically rendered tale of starting over and having the courage to take chances that made me cry buckets and had me reaching for the tissues.

In Falling for the Playboy Millionaire, Kate Hardy expertly combines wonderful characterization, tender romance and a heart wrenching conflict to create a mesmerizing contemporary romance which has winner stamped all over it!

And you can read the rest of the review here.

New office chair is lovely (no pic as office is a tip). Have a work thing with DH today, and then Madam’s best friend and her family are coming over for dinner – have a feeling the boys are all going to be on the x-box in the living room and the girls will be in the dining room with board games and chocolates. (Son has his best friend over for a sleepover next week, so am being fair about it!) And in between am going to squeeze in some work…

Monday, December 21, 2009

Snow, snow, snow

Current work: French duo book 2
Listening to: Christmas compilation
Reading: Barbara O’Neal, The Recipe for Lost Happiness (recommended to me by lovely Liz Fielding, and how right she was – food and romance is such a good combination)

Vile roads on Friday, but DH was home a little earlier than usual and came with me to put the wreath on my mum’s grave (so I didn’t have to drive in the ice).

Nice ‘early Christmas’ with my cousin and her husband this weekend,(and she has introduced me to the idea of chilled port (oh dear. I think I deserved more than a 1lb weight gain after the cheese and port consumed, ahem – and her lovely husband made us these gorgeous Christmas cakes). Cue much talking, much laughter, playing games etc. DH and I bought ‘Pass the Bomb’ last week – this is daughter’s current favourite, as she likes word games as much as I do. Daughter played guitar for everyone (and she’s going through a songwriting phase, bless her – I’ve caught it on video, so now it’s a matter of helping her put it in notation. She’s got the chords, so that helps!).

And it snowed. Kids both miffed that it was the wrong sort of snow (too powdery) – son because he wanted a snowball fight, and daughter because she wanted to build a snowman. But they enjoyed themselves clearing the snow off the cars and making a snow angel and bouncing around in the stuff. (They liked the hot chocolate afterwards even more, *g*)

And then the temperature dropped. I hate it when people I love are travelling in vile weather conditions, so I was a bit twitchy until I had the text saying that coz was home safely. Went DH’s best friend’s for Christmas nibbles and more games in the evening. Snowstorm on way home so it wasn’t a nice drive (v thankful that DH was driving, not me).

Looks pretty this morning (this is the view from the back garden) but treacherous roads, so I hope everyone who’s having to travel to work (especially on the back roads) has a very safe journey, and let’s hope this all melts for Christmas, leaving safe roads and just enough of a dusting on the trees/gardens to be pretty.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Perfume and the S-word

Current work: French duo book 2
Listening to: Def Leppard/Christmas compilation
Reading: (next on TBR)

The north wind doth blow…

And this is my front garden this morning.

Not as bad as some parts of the county (at the time of writing this, more than 100 schools across the county are closed), but was sheet ice for DH en route to work. Son is covered in spots, and he couldn’t have picked a better day for it, bless him. (I don’t drive in snow because I had a nasty experience some years back – gave me grey hairs, then six months later at the car’s annual service there was a large bill to fix the damage, plus more grey hairs as I contemplated the fact I’d been blithely driving round in a dangerous car. Not worth it. And another reason why I am soooo glad I work from home.)

On a nicer note, I’ve been working on the perfume book (aka French book 2). My wonderful agent sent me a quick note yesterday asking if I’d caught the programme about Versailles on BBC4 as it was about perfume (and she knew it would appeal to me as it was about recreating historical perfumes). I hadn’t, but was delighted to discover it on on BBC iplayer: hence a morning of some seriously interesting research. (Not to mention a lightbulb. Dear ed. Guess what? Your nerd radar will need to come out again… or maybe not. Maybe this could be a different project. Hmm. Let’s get my attention back to reindeer, shall we?)

Have a nice weekend, and stay safe in the white stuff.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Some excellent news

Current work: French duo book 2 (Provence. Hot, sunny days. Ha. Is zero degrees here in England)
Listening to: Def Leppard/Christmas compilation
Reading: (next on TBR)

Wonderful news from my ed yesterday – she’s v pleased with the revisions to French duo book 1, so my 42nd M&B has just been accepted. That’s definitely the best sort of Christmas pressie for a writer… and I'm thrilled.

Also had huge pile of Christmas cards yesterday. I love getting the ‘round robin’ letters in Christmas cards. I know some people loathe them and think they’re an excuse for boasting, but maybe I’m fortunate in my friends because they really are updates on what everyone’s been doing and they usually include pics of the kids/pets. (That’s what goes in mine, too. Except for two lines of boasting last year when I said how thrilled I was to have won the RNA Romance Prize 2008. But I don’t usually boast!)

Cold again this morning, with the threat of snow. I hope it holds off, or at least isn't as bad as forecast. We're just not geared up for snow, so just a dusting (that melted quickly and didn't affect the roads) would be great. So do you have snow where you are? (Or are you at nearly 40 degrees, down under?)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Harlequin Open House (and (don’t) let it snow, (don’t) let it snow, (don’t) let it snow)

Current work: French duo book 2 (Provence. Hot, sunny days. Ha. Is zero degrees here in England)
Listening to: Def Leppard/Christmas compilation
Reading: (next on TBR)

Daughter is desperate for the s-word and, since seeing the weather forecast for the East of England, has been dancing round, singing a certain Dean Martin song.

I am desperate for it NOT to snow. I have too many things to sort out first! (Or let it snow next week when I don’t have to set foot outside the house. And please let it melt immediately so the roads are safe. Would also prefer it not to be quite so frosty and dangerous this morning…)

In the meantime, there’s Open House over at eHarlequin. I’m there with the Presents authors and Medical authors, so do come and say hello (just click the link). There are authors there from Romance, Historical, Mira/Luna, and Steeple Hill, so if you want to check out all the threads go here. Look forward to seeing you there!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Romantic Novel of the Year longlist announced

Current work: French duo book 2
Listening to: Def Leppard/Christmas compilation
Reading: (next on TBR)

The Romantic Novel of the Year longlist has been announced over at the RNA website:

The Very Thought of You, Rosie Alison
Passion, Louise Bagshawe

Beachcombing, Maggie Dana
Fairytale of New York, Miranda Dickinson
Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts, Lucy Dillon
A Single to Rome, Sarah Duncan
A Mother's Hope, Katie Flynn
A Glimpse at Happiness, Jean Fullerton
10 Reasons Not to Fall in Love, Linda Green
Marriage and Other Games, Veronica Henry
The Glass Painter's Daughter, Rachel Hore
It's the Little Things, Erica James
I Heart New York, Lindsey Kelk
The Heart of the Night, Judith Lennox
The Italian Matchmaker, Santa Montefiore
The Summer House, Mary Nichols
One Thing Led to Another, Katy Regan
The Last Song, Nicholas Sparks
Last Christmas, Julia Williams
The Hidden Dance, Susan Wooldridge
Congrats to everyone who made the longlist; and I’m especially delighted to see some of my mates on the list, so extra-special congrats to Jean Fullerton, Rachel Hore, Judith Lennox, Mary Nichols and Julia Williams :o)

Plan for today: go buy new office chair (with good lumbar support and, ohhhh, a soft seat), guitar lesson, then visit Dad. (This week am going with a more realistic mindset, i.e. not hoping for a good visit, and will make the best of it. If he chats to me this week, it'll be a hugely welcome bonus. Bloody dementia. It's been a bit tough, coming to terms with the fact that I've more or less lost him (except for the physical shell) in the same week of the year that I lost my mum, but hey. Character-building, and all that. Hence the planning of nice things. Though the new chair is a physical necessity!!)

Monday, December 14, 2009

counting down to Christmas

Current work: French duo book 2
Listening to: Def Leppard
Reading: Shirley Wells, Into the Shadows (finished and thoroughly recommend – I didn’t guess who the killer was); Nicola Cornick, Kidnapped (rollicking adventure yarn – great fun, especially as the heroine was more than a match for the hero’s horrible family! Thoroughly recommend this one, too)

Weekend of Christmas festivities. Lovely meal out on Saturday night: roulade of local blue cheese served with a waldorf-type salad (except better) and a pickled walnut; roast turkey and trimmings; and finally egg-nog semifreddo with mincemeat shortbread (though it tasted more like marzipan to me and talk about melt-in-the-mouth). And with the starters there was home-made wholemeal bread… I was going to be good and stick to the diet, but the lure of warm home-made bread (especially as I knew it would be excellent) was a bit too much for me! Was worth this morning's disappointing scales.

Yesterday was daughter’s best friend’s birthday, so they went off to the cinema. We took son shopping and found him the thing he really wanted for Christmas but I hadn’t been able to source online. He was like a dog with two tails all afternoon, bless him.

Today – well, so far I’ve already walked more than 15,000 steps as my car had its first service and I decided to do the last little bits of shopping rather than sit and wait. Rang DH to explain that the car service bill was cheaper than last year’s, to the tune of one Radley signature handbag. Big sigh from DH. ‘I know you don't want the latest signature bag. You went into Sonkai, didn’t you?’

Ye-e-es, but (a) it was before I picked up the car and (b) not for me. Bought something nice for daughter to go in her stocking. Thought about getting a second bracelet, as mine is full; but DH would moan, so decided against it (for now). However, I did talk to Craig (lovely goldsmith and jewellery designer at Sonkai) about something else… DH and I have been together for 25 years, next August. I would dearly like an eternity ring to commemorate that. I’m not after anything flashy. What I’d like is a narrow platinum band (to match my wedding ring in metal and size), with channel-set baguette-cut amethysts. And if we time our excursion to Capri right, then he can give me the ring in one of the most romantic places on earth. (Ha. Does it show that I’m a romance author, then? But next year is going to be a sticky year, so I’m planning nice memories to balance it out a bit.)

Righty. Better get back to work, because I am behind. Have a nice day :o)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Samba, and blogging elsewhere

Current work: French duo book 2
Listening to: Christmas compilation
Reading: Shirley Wells, Into the Shadows (cracking book and am enjoying it hugely – the setting’s done beautifully, the main characters are really interesting (lots of baggage so this is a series that has legs for a very long time), and as for the murder bit… I haven’t worked out who he is, yet, but he’s scary, and Shirley really gets into his head. And the nicest bit is that I’ve learned a lot about forensic profiling, but her research is so well integrated that it doesn’t show at all – it’s like learning by osmosis!)

Wonderful start to the morning yesterday. In middle school, they don’t do nativity plays as they do in first school, and I have to admit I really miss them. But daughter’s class has been learning Samba music, and they put on a performance for the parents. It was absolutely stunning, especially as they’d only done a term of lessons – the performance was really polished (as well as really loud!), and I found myself welling up a bit (as did Chloe’s best friend’s mum, and I bet some of the others might admit it today).

It was also about time I did my last ‘big’ Christmas present shopping, aka buying DH’s. He’s had his eye on an iPod Touch, so we went to the Apple shop to sort it out. I could’ve gone on my own, but I thought he’d rather choose his own case and the docking thing. And then of course we had to do all the synching and putting iTunes on my PC (which has been running like treacle all week, sigh). I have a feeling this is going to be Boy with New Toy all weekend, and I’ll be kicked off my PC and have to work on the laptop. (‘But I need to look at the Apps shop…’)

While we were out, I took a couple of pics of the lights in Norwich – and, because we’re in the run-up to festive season (and I’m out for Christmas lunch today and Christmas dinner tomorrow night), I thought I’d post them here.

This is our City Hall, just behind the market place (the latter has been here for more than 900 years). The colour of the lights changes every few seconds, which we enjoy watching.

And this is the 60-foot tree outside the Forum. This view includes the tower of St Peter Mancroft, which is the biggest parish church in the city (obviously excludes the cathedral) – and this is where Sir Thomas Browne (he of Religio Medici fame) is buried.

This is the view from the other side of the tree - showing the Forum (where our library is housed, along with BBC Radio Norfolk, a rather nice shop where they just happen to sell my books, the place that I think sells the best coffee in Norwich (and definitely has the best latte art - I checked that out while writing Breakfast at Giovanni's), and a very nice pizza restaurant where I sometimes meet friends for lunch). It's one of my favourite buildings in the city: light, airy, and I think it makes a lovely contrast with the ancient buildings surrounding it.

I’m also blogging elsewhere today: about Christmas lights (and confessing something terrible) over at the eHarlequin Medical Authors’ blog (where there's a chance to win a book); and about Christmas traditions over at the medical authors’ blog, Love Is the Best Medicine (where there’s also a chance to win a book); and about one of the nicest films I’ve seen this year over at the Pink Heart Society. So please go over and say hello!

Have a lovely weekend. As I mentioned above, mine is going to involve, um, Christmas dinner. (Twice, if you include lunchtime today…) What are you up to?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I’m a dragon

Current work: French duo book 2 (and seeing my accountant)
Listening to: Christmas compilation
Reading: Shirley Wells, Into the Shadows (cracking book and am enjoying it hugely)

Yesterday, on the school run, the sky looked amazing with this enormous sun. Got to my favourite viewspot – and this is how it looked (smaller, for some reason, even though there was only ten minutes between spotting it and getting to a place where I could photograph it).
And this is the colour-saturated version – which I love, because it’s so dramatic. (It’s the ‘sunset’ setting on my Lumix, if you want to know how I did it.)

And the dragon? My littlest made me laugh out loud yesterday morning (which was pretty good, because I was on the verge of tears all day). We were walking up the hill to school, chatting, and suddenly she burst out with, ‘Hey, Mum, look, I’m a dragon!’ and then huffed out a huge warm breath into the cold, cold air. Just lovely. And another reason why I’m so thankful for my children. They’re wonderful. (And yeah, that’s going in a book at some point. In fact, it might well be the Sussex one with the castle, the knight and the emergency doctor, aka the one due after this one. And yes, my editor does know about the jousting scene. She hasn't yet said if she's going to make me take it out, so I'm going to make it so utterly compelling and sexy that she lets me keep it.)

The kids are complaining about my Christmas compilation in the car. The first half is the poppy stuff they like (Slade, Wizzard et al). The second half is… um… advent type music. And they say my choices are weird.

Excuse me. Weird?

The Mediaeval Baebes with ‘Gaudete’ ; Christian Forshaw’s version of ‘Mortal Flesh’ (this gives me goosebumps and it would work well with just about any medieval-set film – sadly, not on YouTube, but you can hear the first little bit of it on Amazon here – Aimee Green’s voice is stunning); the King’s College choir singing ‘Gabriel’s Message’; and Bert Jansch’s version of ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ (ha, that’s next week’s guitar lesson sorted, then – though a much more simplified version!).

So what out of that lot is weird? (At least it wasn't Sting singing Gabriel's Message. Though I have to admit to liking that. I foresee another CD arriving...)

Lovely morning planned today – mon petit dragon (hmmm… why are French dragons masculine, when in England a dragon tends to have female connotations?) is doing a Samba (music) display with her class this morning. Best of all, parents get to see this. Can’t wait.

Oh, and I do have some more good news. Seems I’m finally going to get to see Pompeii next year, after wanting to go there ever since I was really, really tiny. Am currently in discussion with DH and the kids about where we’ll stay; it’s summer, so my vote is for a two-centre stay – Naples and either Rome or Florence. Am a bit overexcited about this so will shut up...

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

congratulations in order

Current work: French duo book 2 (and seeing my accountant)
Listening to: Corelli (yup, stress puppy’s back)
Reading: Jan Jones, Fortunate Wager – read this in one sitting. I love Jan’s Newmarket books because she has the place spot on. I also love her characterisation (Caroline is a tad unconventional and utterly lovely – the kind you’d want to be your friend; and Alexander is just gorgeous), her dialogue, the way she writes the most horrible villains, and the rollicking good pace of her stories. (Jan, you’d better have the next one almost complete now. Impatient readers – i.e. me – want the next one…)

Guess I was a bit optimistic yesterday re Dad. Will gloss over the really upsetting stuff (which I have vented – am not bottling it up, and thanks to my best friend for ringing me last night to cheer me up) and instead focus on the good: the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Awards 2009 nominations have been announced. Some of my writing mates are on the list and I’m so pleased for them: Jessica Hart has a double nomination, firstly for the Career Achievement (Series) and secondly for the Best Romance; Sarah Morgan and Jennie Lucas for Best Presents Extra; Fiona Harper and Nicola Marsh for Best Romance; and Abby Green with a DOUBLE nom for Best Presents. Congrats to all of them.

(Oh, yeah. And I’m also listed for Best Presents with Surrender to the Playboy Sheikh. Special thanks to lovely Sarah Morgan for telling me yesterday evening when I was at a pretty low ebb.)

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

sunrise, sunrise

Current work: French duo book 2 (well, Tuesday isn’t an official working day any more as I’m visiting Dad and I have my guitar lesson, but… might get something done, even if it's only thinking while travelling)
Listening to: Seahorses, Do it Yourself (IMO one of the best albums of the 90s)
Reading: Finished Jane’s book – enjoyed it thoroughly!

Amazing sky this morning on the school run; the whole sky was pink. We get a fantastic view of the sunsets from our back garden, but our view east isn’t as good, so I had to wait until we were on School Road en route to littlest’s school after dropping off son. The sky had dulled a bit, but there were gold linings in the clouds, today. (I sincerely hope that’s a sign that Dad will be in a happier frame of mind and less aggressive with me today.) This is an unsaturated shot as I'd left the camera on normal setting, but gives you an idea of how pretty it was.

Just noticed the time; given that the traffic’s always heavy at this time of year, it’s time to go to my lesson. And five minutes of practising first (!).

Have a nice day – and nosey minds would love to know. What’s your favourite seasonal song (carol or pop)?

Monday, December 07, 2009

the best sort of weekend

Current work: French duo book 2 (finished revisions, yay! - well, muted yay until I hear my ed's reactions)
Listening to: Joe Bonamassa, The Ballad of John Henry (pinched from DH – like the first half very much as his voice is v like Paul Rodgers and guitar playing like Gary Moore at his best – good bit of blues)
Reading: Jane Jackson, Heart of Stone (another of her fantastic Cornish romances - see below).

Finished the revisions on Friday night so I had no guilt all weekend – just a lot of fun :o)

Fabulous weekend with my best uni friends. Lots of talking, lots of playing board games, lots of drinking wine, lots of laughing, bit of reminiscing… just the perfect sort of weekend. (And much needed after the recent family stuff.)

Oh, all right. Lots of eating, too. I made veggie soup for lunch on Saturday, followed by a bacon, avocado and mozzarella salad in a lime vinaigrette, served on a bed of rocket (this is ALL diet food, note – and we’ll gloss over the chocolate biscuits mid-afternoon). Dinner was ‘early Christmas dinner’, i.e. roast turkey with sausages wrapped in bacon, roast sweet and ordinary potatoes, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and swede, followed by strawberry cheesecake and home-made strawberry ice cream. Oh, and then a selection of crackers with Cornish cheddar, Brie and French goats’ cheese; followed by decaf French vanilla coffee. (We’ll gloss over the amaretti biscuits and the Belgian truffles dipped in flaked chocolate that accompanied the coffee and with which I have been tormenting my Medical author mates.) And Sunday was chicken Dijon with jacket potatoes and lots of veg, followed by lemon roulade and more nice vanilla coffee (note to self, buy more next Monday when in town for car service).

Almost forgot about the entertainment. Daughter did us proud with a guitar recital. And son just has this lovely dry humour and a great sense of comic timing, so he had us in stitches – is a v good double act with his dad. Dog just pattered about and couldn’t decide who he wanted to sit with, so flitted from one person to the next (carrying the inner tube from a large roll of wrapping paper – the things that make him happy). Oh, and the silly Santa pressies. Mrs Santa sorts them all except her own – and Best Friend Santa brought her some proper vanilla pods and saffron - wonderful :o)

Sunday evening, after everyone had gone home, I finished writing the Christmas cards and parcelling up things that need to be posted.

I had planned to have an early night, but then I went back to Jane's book (and I started again from the beginning, because I'd been distracted when I started reading it). DH moaned so I had to turn the light off before I wanted to (admittedly, this was pretty late) but the first half is fantastic and I know the second half is going to be even better. There's a really unusual set-up in that the heroine is a single parent AND the owner of a quarry – Jane gets the social difficulties of these factors in Victorian England off to a tee. The hero is scarred (both physically and in his past) and is such a lovely character – you really feel for him, and understand why he won’t let people close. Then there’s the community, and Jane does this so well: the sheer warmth of people juxtaposed with social snobbery and righteousness (i.e. very rounded, realistic secondaries), plus the pressures of being a parent in the Victorian age, the fear of sickness (scarlet fever - am so glad we live in the present age), and the heartbreak of being unable to produce an heir. Add in greedy entrepreneurs, the same kind of male attitude that had me steaming mad as a student while reading George Moore’s ‘Esther Waters’ (I really, REALLY want Philip to get his comeuppance in this book), and … it’s just great and I'm going to have another (cough) early night tonight so I can finish it.

I adore Jane’s books because they’re so well rounded. Sarah Govier is a really strong heroine and easy to warm to, and the same is true of James Crago, the hero. Sarah’s little boy, Jory, is a real scene-stealer. And I loved learning so much about granite and gunpowder – her research doesn’t show because she weaves it in so well, but I know she's meticulous about details (and they're fascinating) so I tend to look for them. Highly recommended (and you can go and read a bit for yourself over on Jane's website).

Plan for today is book car in for its first service, write lots of French book 2, and go to post office on way home from afternoon school run. And also write up the blogs that are due this week. Eep. Where is the time going?

Friday, December 04, 2009

Publication day (aka seven different books in fifteen different countries…)

Current work: revisions – French duo book 1;
Listening to: Boston and Kansas (guess which two songs, on loop? Ahh, the joys of classic rock)
Reading: (no time!!!)

Today’s the official publication day for Falling for the Playboy Millionaire in the UK. If you’ve enjoyed the Penhally series, you’ll be pleased to know that this is part of it – and I had a lot of fun with this book. In particular with the puppies (planned meticulously by Margaret McDonagh and me), the dancing (I’d just got into Strictly Come Dancing at this point - and I think the waltz is so romantic), and the proposal scene.
I should warn you that you WILL need tissues for this one, though. It made me bawl my eyes out, especially Kate’s part in the continuity. (That’s why the book is dedicated to my mum as well as to my friends and colleagues who made the series such fun to work with.) It's also out in Australia and New Zealand next month (or at the Aussie Mills and Boon website right now). There isn't a widget on the sidebar because M&B doesn't have one (it's part of the Penhally series), but if you want to read the first few pages it's on my website - just click on the book's title above to read more about the book.

Temporary Boss, Permanent Mistress is out on shelves in Australia and New Zealand this month, and you can get an early copy of the book from in the US (due on the shelves at the end of the month).

I’ve also had some translations come through my door, and was amazed to discover that how many different ones there are in Europe. You can get Surrender to the Playboy Sheikh in Germany and Holland, The Doctor’s Very Special Christmas in Italy, and Seeing Stars in France. Oh, and next month (so you can get hold of it this month on the Harlequin websites) there’s Their Christmas Dream Come True in Denmark (which means it’s about to be in Sweden, Norway and Finland as well – the Nordic editions tend to be released together). And somewhere about now there’s The Spanish Doctor’s Love-Child in Poland.
There are translations outside Europe, too – Surrender to the Playboy Sheikh is also newly released in Brazil, and Their Christmas Dream Come True in Japan.

Blimey. I don’t think I’ve ever had so many different titles, in so many different languages, out in the same month before! Very exciting.

Off to the osteopath this morning. And then I have to tidy the house (including my office, which is our second spare bedroom) as we have ‘early Christmas’ with my best friends from uni, aka the children’s godmothers. Turkey defrosting? Check. Crackers ready? Check. Wine chilling in beer fridge? Check. Pressies from Santa wrapped? Um, almost – will be later today. Decent choccies in? That’ll be ‘check’ as I’ll drop in to Hotel Chocolat after the osteopath.

Hope you all have as nice a weekend as I’m planning. (Whatcha up to? Enquiring minds aka Kate Nosey would love to know…)

Thursday, December 03, 2009

codeine, ice packs, and appropriate songs

Current work: revisions – French duo book 1; plus proofs for Neurosurgeon… and Mum! (the screamer is in the title, not my addition)
Listening to: Def Leppard/various French piano music
Reading: (no time!!!) (and those screamers *are* mine)

Every so often, my lower back gives me a bit of gyp. (Probably because I spend way too much time chained to my desk.) It’s been three or four years since the last episode but, when it plays up, the only thing to do is see the osteopath; a session of manipulation usually sorts me out. Unfortunately, the earliest they can see me is tomorrow morning. Tuesday was a bit grim – I was unable to concentrate on work because my back hurt so much, paracetamol didn’t touch it, and the hot water bottle didn’t help much. Lovely DH went to get me some codeine in the evening – took the edge off the pain and meant I got a bit of sleep, but codeine makes my thinking too fuzzy to let me work effectively. Then my lovely Meds author mate Caroline Anderson reminded me that you’re supposed to use ice packs for sprains (it’s a muscular thing). And that helped enormously.

DH was off yesterday and dragged me into town with him, because my phone had to go back (and, as it’s my phone, he said it would be easier for me to explain the problem just once instead of to him and then on the phone to the shop). The battery went from full to dead in the space of about 18 hours, despite wifi/Bluetooth being switched off and the phone itself on standby for most of that time, and nothing running in the background. All I did was to send two very short text messages, receive ditto, then take a photograph and send that in a text message. Hardly enough to warrant such a huge drain on the battery. Checked online and seems it’s a known problem. (Hmm. Would’ve been nice to have a warning. Caveat emptor, eh?) Luckily the Carphone Warehouse were nice about it and swapped the phone. They’ve said if the replacement plays up they’ll change it for a different phone. So far the signs are good, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the last one had a duff battery/power management system which isn’t going to affect this one as I do like the phone – it has a nice weight and feel to it, and the touchscreen’s lovely to use.

I also worked out how to transfer music to the phone – and that I can use the full tracks as ringtones. (Thank you, lovely Julie Cohen.) Working out appropriate songs for the people on my phonebook will be huge fun. Currently, the kids and school are ‘Sweet Child of Mine’, DH is Badfinger’s ‘No Matter What’ (well, OK, the Lepps’ version of it), and I’m thinking about adding ‘Pictures of Home’ as the ringtone for home. (Everyone else is ‘Pour Some Sugar on Me’. But that will probably change daily, according to my mood.) This is what technology is for, in my view: making life easier and/or more fun.

Question of the day: which songs/ringtones would you find appropriate for your nearest and dearest?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


Current work: revisions – French duo book 1
Listening to: Def Leppard/various French piano music
Reading: (no time!!!)

Busy with revisions, so here’s a pic from Monday morning. There was a brighter rainbow on the actual school run, but I didn't have the camera on me - and I haven't yet installed the software to transfer files between my new phone and PC, so I can't post that pic yet. But, while the computer was booting up, I was making myself a cup of tea... and spotted this from the kitchen window.

What's caught your eye recently?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Happy December

Current work: revisions – French duo book 1
Listening to: Def Leppard/various French piano music/Nirvana
Reading: (no time!!!)

Can’t believe it’s December already. And I am way behind. Haven’t written cards, haven’t posted presents – arrgh. Need to get revisions finished. (And somebody has decided to take time off this week. Yes, I’d love to take time off with him, but why couldn’t he do it next week instead? Why are men incapable of synchronising diaries? And why can’t men play the X-box QUIETLY?)

Had son off sick yesterday, too, installed on sofa with Star Trek, blanket, dog, glass of iced water and bowl for throwing up. (I looked in on him frequently, but it also meant I didn’t do as much yesterday as I’d intended.)

Today is usually guitar, but lovely Jim has been très accommodating and moved my lesson to Thurs. (Also have a blood test on Thurs, so guitar will be good for relaxing me before needle goes in arm. Ah, the joys of an underactive thyroid.) Am not visiting Dad this week, as the last two visits have been pretty fraught. Anyone who has someone close with dementia will know exactly what I mean by needing time to regroup before the next onslaught.

Today… nose to grindstone, and probably working on the laptop to avoid the distraction of the internet. Here’s this month’s calendar pic – and may December be a kind one for you.