Friday, January 29, 2010

tackling revisions (craft post)

Current work: revisions on French Book 2
Listening to: Bach
Reading: next on TBR

I haven’t done a craft post for a while; and as I know people worry about revisions, I thought it might be useful to share how I do it. Not prescriptive: it's just how it works for me, as a confirmed planner. If you find it useful, great; if you find it scary or mad, ignore it.

Some people print out their manuscript and edit by hand, but I do mine completely on screen. I should admit that there’s a fair bit of what looks like messing about involved, but that’s actually thinking time and it's very useful.

Usually I get an email from my ed with a Word document attached, telling me what she likes and what doesn’t work. And then I go through what's turned out over the years to be a 12-step process:

  1. Read ed’s/agent’s thoughts, decide what I agree with and what I will argue (latter usually means the idea is good but I haven’t made it clear enough for my reader to get it, first time round - have forgotten that readers cannot know what is in my head and not on the page), then sleep on it
  2. Write self note about how I will restructure it (broad brush strokes) and email it to ed
  3. More thinking about it, while ed also thinks about it (this step is usually accompanied by endless games of Spider Solitaire or Sudoku. Really, this is not just playing. I am keeping part of my brain and my hands busy while a different part of my brain is fixing the book. I might even do things like scrub tile grouting or clean the oven, in this phase…)
  4. Hear back from ed – usually by this point we’ve come round to each other’s point of view and sorted a compromise
  5. Copy file and paste to “draft 2” folder (each book has its own folder, with sub-folders of notes, pictures, draft 1, draft 2 etc – and my ed might get what she thinks is draft 1 but is actually draft 4, if previous chapters didn’t work. I never delete a file because it might come in useful in the future)
  6. Open new file and set up a table. Left hand side is brief outline of book, chapter by chapter, as it is now (and that might not be the same as my original outline – although I’m a planner, I’m flexible with it). Right hand side is what I’m going to add/move/change. The level of detail varies here and sometimes includes whole conversations in note form (i.e. no punctuation, speech tags or anything, is all done in dashes as if it's a script); it really depends what the changes are.
  7. Open copy of book, go through chapter by chapter and paste in notes from right hand side of table in appropriate place, highlighted so I can see what I’m doing
  8. Switch on track changes, and do all the deletions (but leave them showing, just in case I change my mind about some of it)
  9. Work through from start to finish, taking into account notes. Highlight all new text as I go in garish yellow.
  10. Read through, checking for continuity and sense; tweak as necessary
  11. Make broad-brush notes of what I’ve changed, according to garish yellow bits, then save garish file as ‘colour coded’ file and take off the highlight in the original file
  12. Send revisions (non-highlighted!) to ed with a copy of the broad-brush notes; then keep fingers firmly crossed until ed says yes...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Library talk/Norfolk’s Big Read

Current work: revisions on French Book 2
Listening to: Bach
Reading: next on TBR

I’m running a workshop next month in the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library. If you’d like to come along, here are the details from the Norfolk libraries website:

Romance in the Library
A writing workshop with Kate Hardy
Wednesday 10 February 2010 1.15-2.00

As part of Norfolk’s Big Read leading romantic fiction author Kate Hardy will be running a crash course in how to write romantic fiction.

Places for this workshop are free but places are limited. To book your place, or for more information, please call Sarah on 01603 774707 or email

the delights of (ancient) Roman cookery

Current work: revisions on French Book 2
Listening to: Bach
Reading: next on TBR

Daughter has a ‘Roman’ day today at Norwich Castle, as part of the class's topic work. She’s looking forward to learning how to make a torc. And their packed lunch is meant to be as close to authentic Roman food as possible.

Daughter is in my office, scanning my bookshelves. ‘You’ve got a book on Roman cookery.’ Ye-es. ‘So we could make honey cakes, if there’s a recipe in there.’ OK, ma petite, we'll do that. (Thinks: uh-oh, deadline. Thinks: work late rather than disappoint my child.)

Now, does this request come on Monday or Tuesday, so I can have the necessary ingredients delivered with my weekly shop on Wednesday morning? No. It comes yesterday morning. (Rolls eyes. Must teach children about planning ahead.)

Luckily I was waiting for my ed’s comments on how I intended to fixed French Duo 2, so I had time to go through the book and pick out half a dozen possible recipes. (Some were - how shall I put it? - interesting. Did you know that placenta is actually a cheese and pastry pie? Similar to the Greek tyropitakia. But this is a case where I'd rather not know the name of what I was eating...)

Anyway, while we were waiting to pick up son, daughter went through the pages I’d marked with a post-it and decided to make Honey Cake (enkhytoi) and Poppy Seed Biscuits (laterculi). Was quite relieved that she decided not to do the one with spelt flour as Sainsbury’s didn’t have any, and as it was only 2 degrees and very wet I wasn’t in the mood to trek to Waitrose. Barley flour was a complete no-no (think I’d have to get that online from a specialist). And finding wheat flakes… not the processed stuff, the healthy stuff. You’d think the local health food shops would sell it, wouldn’t you? But then it meant six hours soaking in honey… and time wasn’t on my side. Much as I love my daughter, I am not going to be baking at 11pm. I am a lark. I stop talking sense after 10pm.

The honey cake had very simple ingredients: eggs, honey, flour. But it took a long, long time to whisk eggs and honey by hand until it was very thick and fluffy! (And my arms really ache this morning, including muscles I may have forgotten I had.) This is the result. (And, despite son's assertations, this was not burned and it did not sink - it's meant to be flattish and there's a lot of dark runny honey in there, hence the colour.)

The poppy seed biscuits were an interesting concept – a pastry shell filled with ground almonds, poppy seeds, sesame seeds and honey. I was expecting the filling to be stickier, so deviated from the recipe a tad to make it slightly stickier (and therefore easier to put inside the pastry shells).

I thought they were a bit dry (owing to the wholemeal flour, perhaps), but I could imagine children soaking them in honey, or bored matrons dipping them in whatever the Roman equivalent of Madeira was. (There are at least two historical novelists I’m expecting to come here and comment, being Very Wise Women who know about such things.)

Dear, lovely ed: this is why I haven’t actually got any further than thinking about fixing the book, but it will be with you on Monday morning, because I have a photoshoot at lunchtime for my very exciting bit of PR. Please note that I have moved lunch with my friend today, so instead of skiving off and talking books and eating banned substances (whimpers at thought of garlic dough balls) I am chained to my desk and being a Very Good, Hardworking Author...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

exciting times

Current work: revisions on French Book 2
Listening to: Sandy Denny
Reading: next on TBR

Exciting times, in both a good and a bad sense. Let’s start with the bad and finish on a good note. There I am on Monday afternoon, working on my A&E book. Then I get a call from school. Can I pick up son and take him to A&E? He has a piece of wire stuck through his hand… (This wasn’t a school activity. This was son messing about with a spring, seeing if he could uncoil it - which he did. Through his thumb. With a curve on the end. Arrgh. Luckily the X-ray showed us it wasn’t too deeply embedded and it came out without too much pain.) I mean, I know I wanted some inspiration for my A&E book, last week, but that didn’t mean I actually wanted to go there and research it in situ…

Dad’s still very tired and confused, but it was a nicer visit than last time. So sad that the infection’s taken so much out of him. Every time he has a blip, we lose a little more of him, and it’s a long, slow, painful goodbye.

I also have my revisions. It's a restructure and rethink, but my ed likes the characters - just need to change the focus on the way I've handled the conflict. ('Just' = rewrite the book...) In some senses, ouch. In others, now I know what I'm doing (we thrashed out the changes between us), I can move on and I'm happy and focused and - most importantly - the waiting and nail-chewing stage is over. Am very relieved about that!

Now on to the glass half full stuff. I’ve had some really nice things happen this week, too. The florist turned up with an unexpected bouquet on Saturday, courtesy of bestest auntie and uncle (really pretty, with purple tulips and these beautiful star-shaped white flowers); I also had a wonderful parcel from Canada containing a signed book from one of my fave authors and some personal gifts that are just SO me; and I have a schedule and titles for the French Duo so I can breathe a bit more easily (despite revisions). Oh, and DH has said yes to what I want for my birthday (is a sculpture of a spaniel – and you can blame Sharon Kendrick for distracting me on to that, because her blog on sculpture made me think about those Frith hares that I took a fancy to in the National Trust shop at Standen, and then I wondered if spaniels might be available… and this one by David Geenty caught my eye).

At this point, I forgot that I’d already bought myself a birthday pressie (the handbag) and ordered myself a couple of David Russell CDs. Oops. (Well, hey. Bach is food for the soul.)

I also had an email from lovely Rowan at Archant about doing a Valentine’s piece for the local paper. I’m really excited because it’s about my two favourite things: cooking and writing romance. The pics are going to be shot in my kitchen, while I’m cooking something. This is a sterling excuse to nip in to Lakeland or John Lewis and buy nice kitchen things. But I guess, as I’m cooking and ought to be promoting hygiene, one of said nice kitchen things had better be an apron. Which needs to go with my kitchen (teal-painted walls, plain maple cabinets, and black worktops, and the splashbacks are cream tiles (10cm) with random-ish teal, raspberry and black tiles included to give some colour).

I was veering towards a Cath Kidston pink one with white spots. I did like the idea of having a book-related apron: this one amused me highly, because it’s true and it will torment DH… except it’s only available in white, khaki or lemon, and if I have a plain apron it would have to be a teal or raspberry one. Or the one that says ‘I am a writer. Anything you do or say may be used in a book.’ But these two – apart from being the wrong colour – are ruled out because they also take too long to deliver. I quite like the surreal Edward Monkton range – but sadly my faves don’t come in apron form (the Handbag of Glory, Rock Pig, Zen Dog and the Cow of Wisdom, since you ask).

But luckily I have a very, very, VERY stylish friend (and also a talented writer - you might know her: India Grey) who has given me lots of ideas. (We would be so BAD if we lived nearer each other. Lunch, shopping, handbags, perfume... We'd be bad. Sadly - and though probably just as well for the sake of our bank managers' blood pressure - we're a good 5 hours drive apart.) Daughter and I are going shopping on Saturday, armed with India's list :)

(But in the meantime, if anyone has suggestions regarding nice aprons, do tell…)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

calling all Medical Romance fans… (and grovelling!)

Current work: Medical
Listening to: Crowded House
Reading: next on TBR

E-Harlequin is currently running several polls, one of which is for Best Group Blog on their site.

I’m thrilled that the Medical authors’ blog is one of the nominees. If you’d like to go and vote for us (and we’d be ever so grateful), please click here to go to the poll. No registration needed and it’s really easy – all you do is click on your choice and your vote is counted. So if you’d like to make a bunch of authors really, really happy… please go and vote for us!

Monday, January 25, 2010

the importance of character names (and a gorgeous painting)

Current work: Medical
Listening to: Crowded House
Reading: Mistress to the Merciless Millionaire, Abby Green (enjoyed – had this vision of the hero as Pierce Brosnan all the way through…)

Last week was not a nice week for my book. I was stuck (and grumpy, and I caved in to chocolate, and I'm even more grumpy about it this morning because it wiped out the diet - sigh, need to have a good week, this week, and make sensible choices on lunches out).

The first time I was really, really stuck on a Medical romance, my wonderful agent told me to change the hero’s name. Hmm, I thought, how’s that going to help? But she was right. Names make a big difference. They change the character completely. Think about it (with apologies to the Victorias I know) – slightly posh Victoria becomes fluffy Vicky or no-nonsense Vic or meeja girl Tory. Or the arty/amdram Vikki, or the very posh Pony Club stalwart Plum (think about it…), or difficult great-aunt Queenie.

I’ve used that trick a few times. Jack, in ‘Sold to the Highest Bidder’, was originally Hugh – and he just wasn’t a Hugh because he wasn’t posh. (Yes, I was thinking Grant, but it applies equally to Laurie and Dennis, both of whom I also find rather cute.) As soon as I changed his name to Jack, he sprang to life on the page. Allegra, in whatever the title will be for French Duo 1 (ha, twitchy about not knowing? Moi?) was originally Sally – again, it didn’t work, but ‘Allie’ (short for Allegra) did.

But I do like the name Sally, so I decided to recycle it for my nurse practitioner heroine.

Big mistake. She’s not a Sally. Turns out she’s Louisa. And her surname was wrong, too (though that took me a bit longer to work out). So was her brother’s name – and her nephew’s. (I know they’re secondaries, but they’re important. The nephew changed first.)

The hero, luckily, wasn’t such a problem. Possibly because he already has two names – Dominic, when he’s a doctor, and something else, when he’s – oh, wait, you already know he does jousting and dresses up as a knight as a fundraising thing. Anyway, in his knightly role, he’s Sir Hugo – named after one of his ancestors. And I had something very specific in mind for when the heroine first sees him.

Let me explain: there’s this painting by Waterhouse called Lamia. This is the 1905 version – the earlier one – where she’s with the knight rather than on her own by the pool. Apologies for the rubbish repro, but it’s the best available (and it’s under a multimedia commons licence, btw, because I’m fussy about copyright – I don’t like people abusing mine, so I use my own pics or those under a commons licence).

Even though the original (fictional) Sir Hugo is from the Tudor period, I’m very fond of the Victorian version of medieval England. (Which means I love the PRB – always have, even back in the early 80s before they became ‘trendy’ again. Oh, to be a billionaire. I’d have a decent PRB collection - especially Burne-Jones, my fave - and I’d have my own gallery, which would give everyone free access to such beautiful art. But I digress.) So this was what was in my head when I thought of Dominic (though obviously he was on his horse rather than seated on a rock with her on her knees – but there’s the same kind of perspective, with her looking up at the knight).

Obviously, since I don’t write paranormals (or haven’t done so for years, since the books I wrote for NEL in the early 1990s), my heroine isn’t actually a Lamia. Who, in the original myth, was a beautiful queen of Libya who became a child-eating monster – portrayed by Keats as being half-serpent, but ‘lamia’ in Greek is a shark. And since then ‘lamia’ has widened to include vampires and succubi. Though I’d love to write a Lamia book – I’ve always had a yen do to a quest book, and in some versions of the Lamia legend she has information crucial to the hero’s quest, and a daughter who falls in love with him and helps him. Dear, lovely ed… Oh, wait. She’s running away, screaming. Better put Kate Nerdy back in her box, then…

Are there any paintings you can’t get out of your head and/or have inspired stories? I’d love to hear about them.

Friday, January 22, 2010

chocolate and recalcitrant characters

Current work: Medical (writing out of sequence)
Listening to: Crowded House
Reading: Kate Walker, the Konstantos Marriage Demand (another of Kate’s trademark intense reads – enjoyed it)

Umm. Yesterday, I managed to pay my tax bill, do stuff on the Wii fit, and parcel up an enormous amount of stuff for the post office run.

Additions to wordcount: zero.

Yup, that's right. A big, fat zero.

Talking of big and fat, I cracked yesterday and bought a Ripple bar in the post office. (That’s not actually too bad, in the scheme of things. But I practically inhaled it; that’s not so good.)

This book is not working. Chapter 1 works. Chapter 4 will work, as will the chapters after that. It’s the ‘in between’ that’s the problem. So I think today I’m going to ignore the hole and work on chapter four. Once the gaping hole in the MS has defined edges, I will know what needs to go there. If I try tiptoeing round it, it seems to develop true black hole properties and sucks me in. So I need to get back in control.

Dear hero and heroine: you’re both too closed off. One of you has to crack first. Please can you do it today? Because my deadline is getting a bit squeaky, and I have a workshop to prepare, so I’m getting twitchy. (Why did I say yes to the workshop? Was I mad? I know I’ll enjoy it when it happens, but… it’s half term next month. I have no time to breathe. Gulp. Might have to go to the post office on the way home for another Ripple…)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

fairies rule :)

Current work: Medical (must kick self up backside and work hard today)
Listening to: Queen
Reading: next on TBR

Well, the fairy dust definitely worked. Cue one delighted husband.

And what was the fuss about? A Fender Stratocaster – the Ritchie Blackmore Signature edition. (Note to self: buy him headphones for his amp.)

Today, I have to really motivate myself to work. Partly it’s because I’m waiting to hear my ed’s verdict on the perfume book, and I can never really concentrate until I’ve got either a yes or revisions – but I have a tight deadline on the Med so I can’t afford to procrastinate. And partly I think there’s a problem with the current scene that's holding me up, so I’m going to skip that and do the next scene, and then when it's flowing again I’ll realise what needs to be in the hole.

Coffee first, though. Or maybe Wii Fit. Or pay tax bill. Or...

(Can someone smack me with a wet fish and tell me to get on with it, please?)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

44 and fairy dust

Current work: Medical
Listening to: Crowded House
Reading: Abby Green, The French Tycoon’s Pregnant Mistress (enjoyed this)

Pleased to say that Dad is brighter and eating/drinking more, so he’s definitely on the mend.
Good guitar lesson yesterday – actually got some praise out of Jim. (Possibly because I’d practised?) The Tarrega is quite tricky. There’s an evil bit on line three which has a glissando and then a pull-off, and can I get the hang of it? (Two-finger gliss and then lift off second finger. I can see how it works. But I can't do it.) I guess it’s like everything else: work at it until I get there.

Am doing some fairy dust stuff today – waiting in for a special delivery. Will explain more tomorrow but it’s something my RLH has been drooling over for months. As we’ve been together for 25 years, this year, I always intended to get it for him. But because life has been a bit sticky this month, and he’s been particularly wonderful and supportive, it’s arriving today. And I am so looking forward to seeing his face. From the shape of the box, he’ll guess immediately what it is, but it’s still going to be nice.

As for the 44 – I’ve just realised that the current book is my 44th M&B. Hmm. First one was out November 2002. Seven and a bit years ago. Hmm. Maybe Kate Walker was right and I am indeed Kate Scary… BTW, go over to Kate’s blog for a chance to win a book. And I’m with her on That Line from That Film. Utterly wrong!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Current work: Medical
Listening to: Def Leppard and Crowded House
Reading: The Millionaire’s Misbehaving Mistress, Kimberly Lang – fast, fun read

I haven’t done a meme for ages, but Nicola Marsh tagged me as a Kreativ Blogger (thanks for nominating me, Nic … even if the copyed in me is shrieking and desperately wanting to standardise the spelling!). This means I have to tell you seven things about me that you might not know.

Seven things. Um. Shallow as a puddle, me, so everyone already knows about my addiction to music, books, chocolate, ice cream, Radley handbags and Pandora jewellery… I used to write ghost stories – oh, you know about that. And the history stuff. And that I like dogs. And that I have a huge crush on Mr Banderas. And that I’m a bit of a gadget fiend, but not as bad as I was when I worked in electronic marketing and spent as much time as I could with the IT Futures team and the tecchies… Hmm.

OK. Seven things:

1. I’m a bit nervous of wasps (as I had a bad reaction, last time one stung me – when it flew down the neck of my shirt and into my bra. And I was in a lift with a strange man, so I couldn’t exactly shriek and rip my shirt open to let the wasp out…)

2. I wanted to be a fairy, when I was three. (Nowadays, I’d rather be a fairy godmother. I love making dreams come true and putting a bit of sparkle into people’s lives.)

3. I only possess one pair of shoes. (Actually, that’s not strictly true. I have four pairs. But two are evening shoes, one is OK if I’m out for the day but too high to drive in or take the dog for a walk in – which leaves the pair of low-heeled loafers I live in, wear to death, and then buy another pair from good old M&S. I also have a pair of boots and two pairs of trainers. So I guess I'm a scruff at heart.)

4. I considered a career as a lawyer. When I thought about changing careers in my ratrace job, the tests all said that I should be a lawyer or a writer. (Guess which I went with?)

5. I am utterly, utterly hopeless at sport.

6. I am equally hopeless at art. I can’t even draw a straight line with a ruler. Word-picture, yes; actual drawing, ask the nearest five-year-old and you’ll get something better than I can produce.

7. DH proposed to me when we’d been dating for all of two weeks. I think we knew from day one. And here we are, almost 25 years later… (I said yes, but not until (a) I was out of my teens (b) I’d graduated and (c) we’d bought a house – this was in the 1980s, when house prices were going up by £1,000 a week, so getting on the ladder was a teensy bit pressing.)

I have to nominate 7 people to do this. So: Jan Jones, Shirley Wells, Donna Alward, Michelle Styles, India Grey, Liz Fielding, Nina Harrington. Consider yourselves tagged :o)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Blue Monday

Current work: Medical (enjoying this hugely – it’s a bit different but I’m hoping it’s going to be fast-paced and perhaps not quite as tecchy as my meds usually are. This is kind of an experiment and I may or may not have to make swingeing changes…)
Listening to: Queen (and Def Leppard because I'm in a bad mood)

Reading: India Grey – Powerful Italian, Penniless Housekeeper (excellent read – great characterisation, and her hero and heroine were just gorgeous – lots of warmth and it left me smiling for the right reasons). Also reread a couple of my favourite Liz Fieldings (yeah, yeah, we know which ones – Gentlemen Prefer… Brunettes, The Marriage Miracle and The Sheikh’s Guarded Heart, because they’re brilliant and her writing always leaves me with a glow).

Today is apparently ‘Blue Monday’ – the most miserable day of the year.

Yup, I’d agree with that one. My left eyelid is twitching a lot at the moment. It’s a combo of stress and tiredness, because I haven’t caught up on the two nights of very little sleep from earlier this week.

I was feeling a bit low today so I went into town and bought myself a bright purple handbag.

That isn’t the real reason why I went into town. I had to give our passport and insurance details to the travel agent, and sort out the rest of this month’s birthday cards and presents. While I was there, I decided to buy myself an early birthday present, because I need a new handbag with a shoulder strap to make life easier while travelling. The Radley Enigma design has grab handles and a shoulder strap so it’s very flexible. And it’s not that bright a purple: it’s restrained and classy. It’s also the cheapest Radley bag I’ve ever bought (because it’s not a picture bag – so I was most restrained. OK, the new picture bag isn’t out yet. But it’s still very restrained, for me) and the first Radley bag I have bought for well over a year. No guilt whatsoever. (I work hard, I've had a miserable week, and I deserve it.)

So – the weekend. Friday, got paperbacks of new books (so I will be going to the post office later in the week) and booked the private dining room for my stepmum’s birthday (it’s a ‘big’ birthday and, although Dad won’t be well enough to be there, I still want to make a fuss of her). Various bits and pieces of the new book fell into place, though I must say that certain Medical authors are Very Bad Influences. :o) This book is going to be fun.

Saturday, booked my research trips (nominally ‘family holiday’, but that’s because I sold them on the idea of coming with me – and they might think they’re going to loll around on a beach all day, but I have plans to explore and walk their little legs off). Am hugely excited about it. In Venice, we’ve managed to get a good deal at a hotel overlooking the Grand Canal; we’ve also booked a private water taxi from the airport to the hotel (because there are four of us, this works out at the same price as a bus) AND booked a trip to Murano (this is the most crucial piece of research for the Venice book, which I’m scheduled to start writing in mid-April, i.e. after this Med and the Penhally book, and after I’ve soaked up all the lovely atmosphere in La Serenissima herself).

We’ve also booked a week in Sorrento; will have to book the research trips for that later, but again this is work because I need to go to Vesuvius, Pompeii, Herculaneum and especially Capri. (Dear ed, care to guess what I’m going to be pitching for next year’s books?)

We also met friends for lunch and ordered new dining room chairs (ours are literally on their last legs and the new ones were a sale bargain).

Then things went a bit downhill. We were at a junction where two lanes merge into one, and the man behind us decided that it was his right of way and drove into us. Luckily, nobody was hurt, but we could have done without the hassle.

Sunday, sorted out our travel insurance and the EHIC (European Health Insurance Card). Also visited Dad. He gave me a very hard time, so I’d say he’s definitely on the mend (though he’s still not quite out of the woods, so I’m trying not to feel so hurt about his behaviour). Years of experience have taught me that the rara avis approach usually sorts this out so, unless there’s an emergency, I’ll call the home daily but not visit this week. (He’s apparently brighter today, but I’m still keeping a little distance there until his temper improves.)

Plan for today: now I'm home, a spot of lunch (must NOT let this mood make me backslide on the diet) and then crack on with the new book. Lovely agent likes the new outline, but has also given me her verdict on the perfume book – mixed, so I’m expecting big revisions. Sigh. Have I mentioned that it’s Blue Monday today? Also need to spend 10 minutes or so practising the tricky bit of Tarrega we’re doing – lots of position changes, and it’s in the key of E so I have to think about it and remember the D sharp. Last week, I wanted something pretty and nineteenth-century; Jim interpreted that as giving me a Grade 4 piece to give me a challenge. (Mind you, he's right - it does make me up my game.) A line a week, and I’ll have cracked it by half term.

Friday, January 15, 2010

and… breathe

Current work: Medical (shredding and redoing outline)
Listening to: Queen
Reading: India Grey – Powerful Italian, Penniless Housekeeper (excellent so far – she gets better and better with each book)

Dad had a good night and is brighter this morning, so that’s a huge relief. I got some sleep, last night, and this morning my head is back to where it should be. I’ve realised what the problem is with my outline (completely wrong conflict for the hero – didn’t work with the heroine’s conflict to make both worse, as it should do in a decent romance) so have been shredding it and scribbling notes while simultaneously doing packed lunches and nagging about teeth-cleaning. (Well, hey. If you’re going to multi-task, might as well do it in style.)

Only thing is, now I have to decipher my handwriting…

There was a big fat pheasant in our garden this morning, strutting round. Byron was having a nap; if he’d done his usual trick of looking out of the back door on his hind legs, he would’ve been desperate to be out there, stalking the pheasant and then making it squawk and fly up before trotting back to me, very pleased with himself. (He’s a pet rather than a working dog, but he has four generations of field trial champions on his pedigree so it’s in his genes. His dad was quite a star and apparently, when he’d done his job, he’d be back to his owner’s side, nudging her knee, as if to say, ‘I’ve done my job now. Can I walk with you again?’ Byron has that same sweet nature. )

Thursday, January 14, 2010

relieved, and humbled

Current work: Medical (later today)
Listening to: Queen
Reading: Julia Williams, Last Christmas (finished and enjoyed)

I’m very relieved to say that Dad’s turned the corner. He’s not completely out of the woods, but is so much better than he was. It’s been a tough few days, and on Tuesday we really did think we were going to lose him. (Talking officially about funeral arrangements is not something we normally do – and didn’t even do when he was in hospital. This really was a close-run thing. And I’m not ready to lose him yet. I want to celebrate his 75th birthday with him next month, and my own birthday two days later.) But the antibiotics have started to kick in; his breathing is better, he’s not so ‘rattly’, and he was quite happy for me to feed him slices of strawberry, pineapple and melon this morning

I’m also humbled by the kindness people have shown. I’ve always believed that people are nice until proven otherwise, and this week has really proved it.

So I’d like to say thank you.

To my husband, who picked up everything I dropped on Tuesday and kept things going until I’m able to take over the reins again, has kept my car topped up with petrol, been my rock to cry all over, and even offered to cook so I didn’t have to worry).

To family and friends who’ve been so supportive and generous with offers of practical help with school runs as well as sending lovely texts, emails and posting good wishes here.

To the carers at the home, who’ve been marvellous.

And to complete strangers who were nice enough to reverse back to the passing place on the single-track, iced-over road to the home when I explained that there was no way my little car was going to get on the verge and I really needed to be at my father’s bedside. And also to the man driving the white van too close behind me on said road today who, when I stopped my car and got out and explained that I’m really nervous about driving on ice and he was driving so close that it was freaking me, and I’m shaky as it is because my elderly father’s been dangerously ill and I’ve been too worried to sleep – you could see the anger melt away, replaced by an ‘oh, bless, I can see my missus being exactly the same’ expression on his face, and he promised to stay back. (And, most importantly, he actually did so.)

Thank you. Kindness really does make the world a better place, even when it's dark.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Going awol for a bit

Dad's very poorly. Please keep your fingers crossed that the new, stronger antibiotics do the trick. Will be back later in the week, depending on how things go. In the meantime, please bear with me if you're waiting on me for something.


New beginnings

Current work: Medical (‘Emergency Knight’ – still tinkering with outline)
Listening to: Queen
Reading: Julia Williams, Last Christmas (still enjoying)

I love the beginning of a book, where there are so many possibilities. Even though I’m a plotter and I know exactly where the book is going, I still love that crisp new feeling.

Though I might have to write some of this out of sequence, as the proposal scene is going to take place in snow and ours is thawing. (For those who are cracking up at the idea of Kate “I hate snow” Hardy writing a romance set in snow, let me remind you that this is fantasy snow. Actually, I don’t mind it when the roads and pavements are clear, as they almost are now. And because the heroine is not me, she isn’t going to fall flat on her face all the time, as I do…)

Lovely day yesterday, catching up with my medical author mate Amy Andrews. Oh, and talking of my writing mates – Natalie Anderson has some good news and a giveaway, so do go over to her blog and say congrats!

Righty. I am going to brave the snow that is still hanging round my guitar teacher’s house. New term so he can’t tell me off for not practising, right??

Monday, January 11, 2010

Finished! (and blogging elsewhere)

Current work: Medical (‘Emergency Knight’ – just starting – yes, this is the jousting book)
Listening to: Def Leppard, until I’ve decided on this book’s playlist
Reading: Lucy Dillon, Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts (finished and enjoyed very much, though I did want to know if Chester the Springer got a good home in the end); Julia Williams, Last Christmas (great – she gets better with every book – though again there’s a theme in there that I know is going to be a bit close to the nerve, i.e. parent with dementia)

Am pleased to say that I’ve finished ‘Scents and Sensibility’ (sadly, not a buzzwordy enough title for it to stay, but I enjoyed my terrible pun). I did have kittens yesterday when my internet connection went for six hours (Dear BT: do you think you could possibly admit to problems when they happen, instead of four hours later, to stop people fretting that their computer is the problem when it's actually the network?), but I suppose on a good note that meant I couldn’t obsessively check for snow (thinking of Monday morning school run) and therefore had to focus on rewriting the last two chapters. And then it returned, so I emailed the book post-haste.

Today I’m blogging over at the eHarlequin medical authors’ blog, and also on I Heart Presents (in US time, so that’ll be later today in UK time). Do go over and say hello.

Am also looking forward to seeing my Aussie mate and fellow Meds author Amy Andrews and her family later today, so work today will consist of (a) making cookies, (b) tidying office, and (c) thinking over the plot of my new medical and tweaking it until I’m happy to start work on the actual text tomorrow.

Have a nice day!

Friday, January 08, 2010


So there I am, working hard, when daughter bursts in. ‘Mum, Mum, you have to come and see this! There are loads of birds on the tree in our front garden!’

And so there were – more than thirty, at a quick count!

I’m not entirely sure whether they were redwings or thrushes (they looked like thrushes, but some of them seemed to have red bits on their sides), but both species are on the red list, so I’m very glad our garden could help them, especially in this horrible weather.

In the back garden, we have our more usual visitors: blackbirds, chaffinches, tits (blue, great and long-tailed) plus the pigeons and doves - when dog isn’t galloping around out there, enjoying himself in the snow. It’s very powdery today (not good for snowmen, or we’d have one in the front garden) but dog loves it. I did try to get a pic, because he made me smile so much, but it's just a spaniel-shaped blur. Instead, here's the back garden, just after the sun came out following this morning's snow dump.

Snow day (and a stunning picture)

Current work: French duo book 2 (deadline moved to Monday, phew)
Listening to: not, as kids still curled up in bed
Reading: Lucy Dillon, Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts (enjoying, but very upset at the thought of a Springer being taken to a rescue kennel – they are such lovely dogs and they need a family. I admit, they are aptly named, and although mine is very quiet for a springie he can get quite bouncy. We had an unwary house guest last week who decided to get himself a drink at 5.30am and was almost knocked flat by a spaniel zooming past him, up the stairs. Result: one happy spaniel taking a flying leap from the doorway onto our bed, and then a second leap onto my head: not my favourite type of alarm call!)

Am relieved to say it’s another snow day for school today: even as I’m typing, the white stuff is coming down. The roads are vile and I asked DH to ring me this morning to let me know he got to work safely. Some people are complaining that the schools shut too readily. The way I see it, a lot of office workers can work from home at a pinch, and I’d much rather have my kids home safely than risk driving in bad conditions and having an accident. Better to leave the roads clear and the ambulance service free to go to non-preventable medical emergencies.

Apparently, this is the worst winter for 30 years, and last night there was a low in Scotland of minus 21.6C (that's minus 6.2F) – considering that the Met Office says “the UK average temperature for December to February for the period 1971–2000 is 3.7 °C”, that’s pretty extreme. (Apparently, it was only a degree above the temperature at the South Pole at the same time. Wow.)

There’s an amazing pic of snowy UK taken by the NASA satellite on the BBC right now – do go and have a look! (We’re in the middle of the swirly bit on the right-hand side. That swirly stuff is, um, falling snow.)

Have a nice weekend, and stay safe in the freeze.

Oh, and before I forget, I’m over at Kate Walker’s blog celebrating her 25 years in publishing. Do go over and help celebrate!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Weird? Am I really? (and blogging elsewhere)

Current work: French duo book 2 (deadline at banshee pitch)
Listening to: Corelli (essential for driving on bad roads)
Reading: Lucy Dillon, Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts (enjoying)

Snow overnight. Not anywhere near as much as they’ve had in other parts of the country, but enough that school is closed. I am SO relieved, because I looked out of the window this morning and thought, nope, don’t want to be driving in that. Yesterday morning was bad enough. (Also v glad shopping delivery was yesterday so we’re stocked up!) Hope everyone stays safe in these icy, nasty conditions.

I’m over at the Pink Heart Society this morning on the ‘What are you reading?’ Thursday slot – and confessing that I normally have more than one book on the go at a time. (Do go over and talk to me there.) Someone told me last week that I was weird. (Hmm. I think I prefer the term ‘eccentric’. Though I think I’m fairly normal, as writers go. Middle-aged mum of two who has a too-sedentary job.) So today’s question is: is it weird to have more than one book on the go at the same time? Daughter - who is, admittedly, a writer in training – usually has one in her room, one in the car, and one in her desk at school. But is that because she’s normal, or because she’s my daughter and therefore has the genetic propensity to do this, or because she sees me as ‘normal’ and is therefore following in my footsteps? (Nature vs nurture…)

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Busybusy and the s-word

Current work: French duo book 2
Listening to: Corelli (essential for driving on bad roads)
Reading: Lucy Dillon, Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts (enjoying though has put a lump in my throat)

New tumble dryer arrived this morning at the crack of dawn – well, actually, no, earlier than that. Our slot was 7-2 today. ‘They won’t come at 7,’ says DH. Phone rings at ten to (while I’m in the shower). DH eats humble pie...

Am immensely pleased with it. Helpfully, it beeps when it’s finished. And instead of sticking it on for a time and knowing you’re going to have to check and adjust, you tell it what kind of stuff you’re putting in (sheets and towels or clothes) and how dry you want it (very dry, cupboard dry, iron dry – ha, not the latter in this house because I have minimum iron off to a fine art), and it tells you how long it’ll be. V clever. Oh, and if you don't get the stuff out straight away, for the next hour it fluffs up the laundry every five minutes to avoid creasing. (Ha. Even better on the minimum iron front.)

School run was horrendous. It was minus three for the whole trip, according to car thermometer. The so-called main road was very slippery (and yet the back road through the village, which I’d expected to be a nightmare, was clear) – and this is despite the fact that we have it much better here than the rest of the country does. Hope everyone out there is staying warm and safe.

DH and I were reminiscing about bad winters. The worst I can remember was in early 1987, when BT were on strike and I had to walk two miles in the snow to find a phone box that worked. (Kids were stunned to think there was a time when mobile phones were nonexistent. I remember that winter extremely well as I was a student, it was just after my mum died, Dad was in pieces and the snow made everything worse.)

I also remember being snowed in during 1978 (which I think went on for longer). And there was one in the mid-90s where the snow was so bad that we couldn’t find our exit off the bypass in Norwich. I’d had to go to Sheffield for work, and went by train because I refused flatly to drive in those conditions; DH was a hero and met me from the station.

Probably the worst during the children’s lifetime was Jan 2003, when the M11 was blocked for two days. This was the day before bestest coz’s wedding, so she was very nearly without a pageboy and bridesmaid…

I’m not old enough to remember the winters of the 1960s, though we do have some cine film of me and the dogs in the snow in 1970, when I would’ve been just about four.

What’s the worst snow you can remember?

Tuesday, January 05, 2010


Current work: French duo book 2 (deadline is today. Crash and burn, baby. New deadline now Friday. Have I mentioned that I love my ed and my agent?)
Listening to: Corelli
Reading: Nicola Slade, Scuba Dancing (enjoyed)

I spent yesterday obsessively checking the weather forecast. Kids, at dinner: ‘Dad, it’s going to snow tomorrow. Are you taking us to school?’ DH: ‘No, your mother is.’ He waited until they looked utterly shocked, then added, ‘It was meant to snow for six hours today. It was sunny all day. The roads are NOT that bad. I salted the road from our house to the junction. She will be fine.’

I might’ve whimpered at that point, because he relented enough to say that if it got any worse, he’d do the afternoon school run. Oh, boy. Going to be Corelli in the car, and absolute silence from the kids while I negotiate the hill.

Daughter spent yesterday morning looking through her recipe books. I bought her the Aussie Women’s Weekly cookbook for kids as an extra Christmas pressie; she’s been a bit grumpy about losing a recipe for gingerbread (from a novel she read last year), so was very pleased to discover a nice gingerbread recipe in her new book. So then she nagged until I agreed to do it with her. We made gingerbread reindeer. (Thought of my ed. When we were, ahem, discussing the reindeer in Temporary Boss, Permanent Mistress, she promised I could have reindeer in my next Christmas med. Guess what I’m due to start writing on Saturday?)

This is the end result. (Baking, I mean. Haven't started writing the Med, yet.)

And I can confirm that the reindeer tastes as nice as it looks. Not beating self up about scoffing forbidden food, though, as the scales yesterday morning said that all the Christmas weight gain has gone. (That’s ‘actual Christmas’ weight gain. The ‘early Christmas’ weight gain has yet to go, but I will be good for the rest of the week. And all the calories in said reindeer are probably being burned off in nervous energy as my fingers fly across the keyboard, checking the weather forecast.)

Not visiting Dad today because (a) I have the sniffles, and it’d be unfair to spread it to elderly people with a low immune system (meaning they’d have a far worse version of it than I have – I can cope with judicious use of lemsips and tissues) and (b) the road to the nursing home is single track and there are no hedgerows, so it’s going to be horribly icy and not worth the risk. Not sure about guitar, either: depends on the weather. Excuse me while I just go and check the BBC and Met Office websites…

Monday, January 04, 2010

Official publication day

Current work: French duo book 2 (deadline now at screaming point)
Listening to: Bach
Reading: CJ Sansom, Revelation (finished and enjoyed – and no, I didn’t guess the murderer. Clever twists); Nicola Slade, Scuba Dancing (enjoying so far, though one of the themes is a bit close to home)

Bit of a cheat, here, as it was on the Waldies bestseller list last week (whoo-hoo!) – but the official publication date of Temporary Boss, Permanent Mistress in the US is January… so I’m delighted to say that it's on the shelves right now.

It’s one that’s close to my heart, and I think it’s touched a nerve with others, too, as RT gave it 4.5 stars and Cataromance says it’s one of my best.

You will definitely need tissues – yes, it’s a happy ending, but you’re going to weep on the way!

The kids have an inset day today, so methinks not a lot of work is going to be done (dear ed, yeah, late again, sigh). Also snow is forecast, and I’m all sniffly, so it’s on with the lemsips.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year

Current work: French duo book 2 (deadline approaching, arrgh)
Listening to: am the only one awake right now, so nothing
Reading: CJ Sansom, Revelation (enjoying so far)And so begins the new year (and new decade, in my view – even though I know it’s debateable, when I hit 20 I believed myself to be in my twenties, not still in my teens, so I’m going with the man on the Clapham omnibus for this one).

Woke up ridiculously early this morning (scary and realistic dream involving burglars, so I woke up and had to check the dog was OK) to discover (a) snow had fallen overnight and (b) the moon had this HUGE ring around it, as well as being extremely bright. Spent a while fiddling with camera (and getting very cold) and I could NOT work out how to get the ring to show up. (Especially given that son has pinched my mini-tripod so it had to be a hand-held shot.) This is the best I could come up with, though it doesn’t show the fact that the radius of the halo was about three times the size of the moon and was this incredible amber colour, fringed with ruby.

Anyway. Here’s hoping the new year shines as brightly on you. Happy new year.