Friday, May 28, 2010

Free books from Harlequin

From now until Monday 31 May, Harlequin is having a 'buy one, get one free' offer on their print books - which means you can go and enjoy yourself in their online shop without the guilt!

Surf over to and use the code BOGO43D (capital O, not zero, btw).

Have a nice weekend :) I'll be back on Tuesday (when I will have a houseful of teenage boys - hmm, maybe I should get hold of that T-shirt that says 'Warning, anything you say or do may appear in my next novel'...)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

aren’t people lovely?

Current work: medical continuity
Listening to: Coldplay, X&Y (the kids are starting to complain, but tough – I am on deadlline)
Reading: Lindsey Davis, Alexandria (she’s definitely back on form with this one and I’m so pleased that the cynical tone of the last couple of books isn’t evident in this one so far. It’s joyous – and, with my best friend being a librarian, and the fact that I’ve been fascinated by the lost library of Alexandria since my teens, I’m even more pleased. Maybe I should’ve saved this one for Italy… Too late, now!)

So there I was, chained to my desk on a grey day and not getting very far with the book (mainly because I’m photocopying evidence for ABTA and writing legal letters – dear reader, I am so unimpressed with a certain company), when the postman arrived. One of my friends has had a clear-out and sent me a guidebook to Pompeii (which, strikes and volcano permitting, I will be visiting in July). Completely unexpected and very much appreciated – and, as I’ve just spent ten minutes flicking through it, my appetite has been thoroughly whetted and I really can’t wait to go.

Aren’t people lovely?

I will exclude my tour operator from that statement. Can’t say too much as I’m intending to take them to court and don’t want to prejudice matters, but how a company can bang on about its award-winning service and THEN refuse to deal with anything when customers have problems… It leaves a nasty taste in my mouth. It also reminds me of why I seriously considered a career in law in my mid-teens. (I could mention that, in both my professional qualifications, I got distinctions in the legal papers in my exams. I loved that aspect of both insurance and marketing. And I’ve thoroughly enjoyed talking to my legal adviser this week, putting the world to rights. Legal adviser comes under category of lovely people, too.)

I had a nice parcel yesterday as well. My lovely, wonderful agent bought me some gianduja while she was in Italy. As I said, aren’t people lovely?

Righty. Back to the salt mines. I have a screaming deadline. (But, thanks to very kind people sending me unexpected pleasures, I also have something to brighten my day.)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

music and a bit of relief

Current work: medical continuity
Listening to: Coldplay, X&Y (‘Fix You’ is probably going to be the song of the book)
Reading: Michelle Styles, Compromising Miss Milton (finished last night and enjoyed very much – especially the puzzle box)

Guitar lesson good yesterday; just a bit of tidying up to do on the Tarrega (which is tricky but very pretty – take a listen here at YouTube). Am doing the bourrĂ©e from the Lute Suite in E minor now (BWV 996) (have a listen here on YouTube). Could’ve sworn I had a CD of the Lute Suites. My classical section appears to have been jumbled by DH (sigh, does he not understand that if you have around 1,000 CDs, they MUST be in alpha order or you can never find anything? And the classical section is ordered by composer, not performer, with the exception of Jacqueline du Pre?) so I can’t find my copy to inspire me. No time this week to sort it all out because I’m up to my eyes in a screaming deadline.

The second lot of antibiotics appear to be working as Dad was out of bed and dressed yesterday, and breathing much better than he was on Sunday. He’s still very confused and not making much sense, but with dementia you can’t really expect anything else. I think he knew who I was – wouldn’t swear to it, but it was a nice visit, i.e. the best possible in this situation.

Righty – back to the salt mines! (And think of the fact that eight weeks today = Sorrento. BA strikes and volcano permitting, that is...)

Had a letter from Cresta over the weekend. Remarkably quick reply, this time, but still not good enough. Of you're going to fob it off on small print, the least you can do is quote it IN FULL or give me a proper reference so I can check it myself - yet another example of being customer UNfocused. So it's another chat with legal adviser and a formal complaint to ABTA, sigh.

Monday, May 24, 2010

the sea, the sea

Current work: medical continuity
Listening to: Coldplay, X&Y (had forgotten what a good album this was)
Reading: Michelle Styles, Compromising Miss Milton (enjoying very much – very feisty heroine, and the hero is intriguing)

When you’re writing a book set at the seaside, it’s always a good idea to remind yourself what the sea sounds and feels like. Even if it’s the wrong season (my book is set in winter, and this weekend has been most decidedly summer!). Strictly speaking, I should’ve been glued to my desk. But. Madam had a birthday party to go to (and if I’d dropped her off and come straight home, I would then have had to go back to find a parking space, so it wasn’t worth it – took DH shopping for his birthday pressies instead). And then DH announced we were having a family day at the beach.

We ended up at Cromer, where we went for a walk on the pier.
And then we went for a walk under the pier.
And we saw some sea-foam on the beach. (I assume it's a mix of salt and sand that makes it hold its shape, but if anyone would like to enlighten me - I'm intrigued.)

DH found a crab on its back, and rescued it.
And I chilled out and listened to the waves rumbling on to the shore.

On Sunday, we had our best family and my best friend up for a barbecue to celebrate son’s birthday. Too hot to drink wine so we were all on sparkling mineral water with a slice of lime and lots of ice. I made the usual cookies. And of course there was the important thing:
Plan for today: lots and lots and lots of work…

Thursday, May 20, 2010

proof that time is elastic

Current work: medical continuity
Listening to: Colin Blunstone
Reading: next on TBR

Thirteen years ago this evening, Son came into the world. It doesn’t seem five minutes ago that he was a toddler. (He was a year old, here.)

Now, he’s taller than I am, has a deep voice and could probably pass for sixteen (not to mention the fact that his blond curls are now a dark crop, and his once very blue eyes are now a stunning greeny-grey)… but today he becomes a teenager.
He’s good company, he’s bright and a bit quirky, and he’s brought us a lot of joy in those thirteen years.

Happy teenage birthday to son.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

bright-eyed and waggy-tailed

Current work: medical continuity
Listening to: Bach
Reading: next on TBR

Byron is back to being waggy-tailed and springy today. He was very sorry for himself last night but I think he enjoyed the TLC of being hand-fed small pieces of salmon (well, hey, he needed soft, light food – so of course I was going to spoil him). Getting him to take the antibiotics this morning was surprisingly easy; just wrapped some chicken round it, and it was gone. He needs to go back to the nurse for a check-up on Friday, but he’s definitely feeling better and I’m much happier. I’m surprised at how quickly his teeth went from being OK at the last booster/checkup to needing removal this time round; it’s not as if we sit there feeding him sugary stuff. He does get bits of cold meat, poultry or fish from my plate, I admit, but nothing with salt or what have you. The main thing is that he’s fine. All is definitely better with the world when you have a dog by your side.

I swapped yesterday round as I knew I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on anything, so it’s guitar today plus visiting Dad. Hopefully his confusion won’t be so bad today. And, if he knows who I am today, it’ll be a bonus.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

a waiting game

Current work: medical continuity
Listening to: Bach
Reading: Kristan Higgins, Catch of the Day (enjoyed this)

At the moment there’s a dog-shaped hole in the house. Byron is at the vet’s, having a couple of teeth out. Routine, I know, but he has a slight heart murmur, which is not a good combination with anaesthetic. So, until the vet calls to tell me all is well, I’m fretting. I don’t even feel like having lunch – he loves salmon, but isn’t here to share it with me, and it doesn’t feel right eating it on my own without a head on my knee, a hopeful wag of the tail and big sad brown eyes doing the ‘I’m a poor, starving dog’ act.

I also had a panicky moment this morning, when this hole appeared in my vision. Not a black hole: this one had sparkly edges (kind of prismatic, and moving – like a kaleidoscope) and I could see it even when I closed my eyes. Now, the sensible part of me thought, ‘Hmm, that sounds like a migraine.’ However, there’s no family history, I’ve never experienced it before, and I’ve been having hard-to-shift headaches for the last three days (I even spent Sunday afternoon asleep, which is completely unlike me). So I thought I’d better get it checked out.

My eye test was overdue because I’ve been busy and kept meaning to book it next week (except ‘next week’ turned into the week after, yada yada yada). Luckily the optician was able to fit me in this morning. He was lovely – very charming, very knowledgeable (we had a really interesting chat about eye pressure), and very reassuring. Apparently it was a migraine flash, and it’s common for people to experience them as a one-off or even every six months without getting a full-blown migraine.

The cause? Probably stress. Apart from the situation with Dad, I’m really worried about Byron, and in some respects reading the KH book was a bad move: there was a pup on the front cover and the heroine’s dog was elderly, so I knew right from the start what was coming and sobbed my way through it. DH sighed and reminded me that I am banned from reading any book in which the dog doesn’t make it. (Well, hey. I was committed by that point.) And then I told him how worried I am that Byron might not make it today. I can’t be without a dog. I just can’t. So he has agreed that if the worst does happen today, we can go back to Aldertree (who have springy pups due next month). But please, God, my dog will be just fine and will see his eighth birthday on June 7.

I’m going to bury myself in work. Except there happens to be a liver-and-white English Springer Spaniel, who’s an integral part of the book.


I need my dog home safely.

Friday, May 14, 2010

getting fit (eventually)

Current work: medical continuity
Listening to: Lady Antebellum, Need You Now
Reading: next on TBR

DH has been on a cycling kick for a while, and he’s persuaded me to join him. Sort of. The last time I rode a bike was about a week before I discovered we were expecting son (who is 13 next week, so that gives you an idea). DH, being a tad overprotective, instantly banned me from cycling and I just never went back to it. Anyway, he’s checked the bike over again, sorted out the tyres and adjusted the gears. Oh, and replaced the saddle (the mice ate the old one, but in any case something more comfortable was required).

We have a really nice cycle track near us, so there is no excuse. Other than the fact that I’m unfit, and I also don’t see the point in getting soaked and miserable. (How exactly is going out for a cycle ride in the rain and hating every second of it going to encourage me to stop being – not a couch potato, more like being a hardworking author who is glued to her computer?). So this means taking it at a steady pace and gradually building up. Best bit is that littlest goes with us, so we have to stick to her pace and the distance she can handle (i.e. suits me just nicely). Last week’s ride was really enjoyable and I didn’t hurt afterwards, so hopefully this will help me get a bit fitter. Next time, I will remember to take my camera because it's really pretty by the river.

Oh, and for certain people who are convinced that I bought an in-your-face bright pink cycle helmet – see, it’s subtle

Is anyone out there a cycling nut? Where are your favourite places to cycle?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

exciting stuff

Current work: medical continuity
Listening to: Bach
Reading: next on TBR

I’m not *quite* in a position to make an announcement, but I’m allowed to say a little bit. Next month, I’m doing a very special workshop for Mills & Boon in partnership with another organisation I’ve belonged to for years and years and years. As soon as the microsite is up, I’ll post a link. But if anyone would like to guess just where I’m doing this workshop (clue: it’s one of my favourite places in the world), do leave a comment!

That leads me nicely on to the second bit of excitement. I was buying some books yesterday (that’s what I get for talking about pets in books – people give me excellent recommendations) and thought I’d check to see if the cover was up for the first in my French duo. It wasn’t, but I discovered something else – I’m in an anthology with Robyn Donald and Melanie Milburne. I'm really thrilled, as I haven't had a By Request for ages and this is my very first Modern Heat By Request. And I LOVE the cover!

How does that link with the first bit of news? We-e-ell – the book in question is ‘Sold to the Highest Bidder’. Now, the house is my personal fantasy house (which occasionally comes on the market, costing £1 million or so more than we can afford), but the lake and the garden were based on one of my favourite places in Norfolk. Liz Fielding has used the same place for one of hers, too. And said place is where I am doing the workshop.

And, as things come in threes, yesterday the courier brought me a box of my latest paperback, ‘Neurosurgeon… and Mum!’. Here’s the blurb:

Her motherhood dream-come-true!
When Amy Rivers’ dreams of a family were shattered by her ex-fiancĂ©, she dedicated herself to neurosurgery, where she’s kept her head – and her heart – ever since.

Now, with her career in shreds, Amy needs a lifeline. She escapes to the one place she’s always called home – to find the new village doctor, Tom Ashby, and his motherless little daughter Perdy sharing her retreat. Amy tries to keep her longings locked up tight but, enchanted by the sad little girl… and captivated by Tom’s heart-melting smile… she finds her shattered dreams come flooding back. Life has been tough for all of them, but together can they make each other whole?
Yup, it’s one of my weepies :o) And it also happens to be set in Norfolk (though not the place where I’m doing the workshop).

Other than that, our squirrel is back and I’ve booked the notice in the paper for son’s birthday next week. I still can’t quite believe that I’m about to be the mum of a teenager. Seems like only a few weeks ago when he was tiny. Where has all the time gone?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

elsewhere again

Current work: medical continuity
Listening to: Bach
Reading: next on TBR

Good guitar lesson yesterday – still stumbling through the tricky bits of the Tarrega, but if I practise a bit more I should get it now.

Cooker arriving this afternoon (and just as well they rang me on the landline yesterday to tell me, because they also rang my mobile this morning and son answered. ‘That was someone about something.’ Uhhh. Men!)

I’m blogging over at eHarlequin today on the medical authors’ blog. Pets as secondaries: love them or loathe them? (As a reader and a writer, love them – it’s something I can rely on with Jenny Crusie and Barbara O’Neal. As a writer – put it this way, in the current continuity, my brief has an important dog. I think my ed knew if she didn’t give me a dog, I’d sidle over to Margaret McDonagh and suggest we gave Bramble another litter of puppies and I’d distract all the other authors…)

And the puppy here? That was Byron in August 2002, when he was eight weeks old. I’m a bit twitchy at the moment because he needs to have a couple of teeth out next week. Given that he has a slight heart murmur, I’m not entirely happy about him having an anaesthetic; but I don’t want him to be in pain, either, so we have to take the risk and the vet thinks all will be well. Needless to say, you will not get much sense out of me next Tuesday. I find having a dogless house really hard. The day before or after a holiday is always horrible.

So keep me distracted by answering a question: as a reader or a writer, do you like pets as secondaries or loathe them - and why?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

moles and holes

Current work: medical continuity and proofs of Christmas Knight
Listening to: Justin Currie, The Great War
Reading: Caroline Anderson, Mother of the Bride (enjoyed this very much)

Our garden has been invaded. It’s not one of these smooth, perfect lawns, but it would be rather nice to see grass, daisies and buttercups rather than big heaps of soil. It’s fascinating watching them appear. But if anyone has any tips about getting rid of moles humanely, I’m all ears. (And sadly my bestest uncle’s solution is actually a joke. How do you stop moles digging? You take their spades away…)

Holes – our tour operator is digging itself into one. Had a call from the travel agent yesterday, and apparently Cresta are not going to reimburse us for the costs incurred in our Venice-to-Milan trip last month. Now, as we bought the trip as a package deal, our contract is with Cresta, not the airline, so that makes them liable for the losses we suffered as a direct breach of contract (aka return flight cancellation). And there are a couple of EC regulations which affect this issue, as well as comments from the Air Transport Users’ Council and ABTA.

Stroppy? Moi? Maybe. It’s a matter of rights. I got distinctions in the legal papers in my professional exams – for both qualifications. And there were people at school who nicknamed me ‘Trade Union Leader’ because I believe in fairness and doing what’s right, and I guess I’m a bit dog-in-the-manger about it. If I had more time in my life, I’d be an advocate for parents of special needs children, because frankly the system’s against them and it’s grossly unfair. (I also get tempted every so often to stand as a local councillor or even for Parliament, but that would be a full-time job and I wouldn't be able to fit it round the kids.)

There’s no question of ‘I want damages because our trip was spoiled’ (I disapprove very strongly of the ‘victim culture’, so any of the representatives of these ‘compensation’ lawyers who accost me in the street get asked some very uncomfortable questions). All I want is reimbursement of the costs we incurred as a result of the breach of contract. This is a matter of contract law and European law (and also a matter of principle). I’m intending to take this through every step of the complaints procedure, including to court if I have to.

And I certainly won’t be booking another break through Cresta, which has proved itself as a company that doesn’t care about its clients once the money’s been taken and will try to wriggle out by invoking ‘special exclusions’. How very, very disappointing.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Current work: medical continuity
Listening to: Bach (David Russell – guitar pieces)
Reading: Kelly Hunter, Untameable Rogue (enjoyed this very much – good way to start a Saturday morning!)

Am blogging over at the Pink Heart Society today, so do go over and see if you agree with my choice of Male on Monday…

Here – well, I have to admit, even though I’m deliberately trying to keep politics off my blog (on the grounds that how I vote is nothing to do with my writing and I want to be judged on my stories, not my politics), I’ve been glued to the election. DH woke up at stupid o’clock on Thursday night, waking me, so I went downstairs and watched the unfolding election results. Some of the swings and results were so unexpected that I think people were probably voting on local issues rather than on party lines. As for the politicians not understanding what people voted for: it looks to me that people want them all to work together and put the country before anything else.

I think, for the sake of my book, that I need to unplug my modem because I’m letting myself be way too distracted by the BBC live coverage! Though I’m also going to be distracted today as son is home with a streaming cold, so cosseting is required. (No point in sending him in with a sore throat, headache and painful ears – apart from the fact that he won’t be able to concentrate at all, he’ll also spread the germs. Better to have today in bed and see how he is tomorrow.)

Thursday, May 06, 2010


Current work: medical continuity
Listening to: Bach (David Russell – guitar pieces)
Reading: next on TBR

It’s election day today. DH and I are off to the polling station when he gets home this evening. I’ve just discovered that you’re allowed to take kids with you as long as they don’t mark your paper or see you vote, and I know that my two would like to see for themselves how it happens, so we’ll be taking them (and reminding them – no political discussions until we’re away from the polling station).

And no discussion here, either. Instead, I’m going to leave you with a really interesting link to a clip from the BBC – the booming bittern. This is a rare bird from my part of the world with a really, really unusual mating call. Scientists have actually filmed the bittern ‘booming’ for the very first time. At 30 seconds, it’s a short clip. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

sometimes you just have to read the signs…

Current work: medical continuity
Listening to: Giuliani
Reading: next on TBR (note to self, probably was not a good idea to ask DH to download Peggle onto his iPod Touch)

My plan for today was to work. However, I’ve just spent the past forty minutes sorting out an embarrassing situation because the supermarket declined my credit card and the poor delivery man arrived with news that there was 'a problem' with my order. Sigh. I spoke to the supermarket and paid the bill with my debit card, but I was a bit surprised that there was a problem with my credit card; I pay my bill in full every month, so there was no reason for the credit card to be declined.

Rang card provider to find out what was going on; they put me through to the security department, where I spoke to someone who mumbled in a whisper. I asked them (politely and at normal volume) if they could please speak up or do something with the volume control at their end, because I couldn’t hear them at all; they promptly hung up.

Given that they’d kept me waiting and tortured me with the ‘Theme from the Avengers’ for 10 minutes, I wasn’t impressed. Rang back and, hooray, got someone who spoke at normal volumes and could answer my question. Apparently, they decided that my usual weekly shop was a fraudulent transaction, so they stopped my card. And, um, forgot to tell me. Sigh. Yes, I know it’s good that they’re keeping an eye out for fraudulent transactions (ironically, the fraudulent one last month wasn’t picked up!). But surely it would be procedure to check an account and note whether transactions are made with the same supplier at regular intervals? And is it not obvious that if said supplier is a supermarket and the transaction occurs every week, for a similar amount, the cardholder does her weekly grocery shop online and has it delivered? ‘Didn’t you get a call from us?’ Er, no. That’s why I’m ringing you, to find out what’s wrong and to sort it out… (Sigh.)

Still, at least they reset the card rather than cancelled it, and confirmed that the transactions I made yesterday for some books, a birthday present and a cooker have all gone through. (Am SO looking forward to new cooker. Old one has done v well – 10 years – and this is the replacement I’ve been planning since January. Reason for delay: husband was in charge of talking to electrician. Reason for it happening this week: hissy fit from wifey and ultimatum – sort it this week or I’ll ring a different electrician myself.)

However, I need to be sure that the card does still work properly (otherwise I’ll be worrying about it and not working), so I’m going shopping to check it out :o) And then I'm working...

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Happy May

Current work: medical continuity
Listening to: Def Leppard
Reading: next on TBR

Took the weekend off. (Yes, really.) The idea was to join DH on a cycle ride, so Saturday morning meant buying important things such as a gel seat (it’s so long since I’ve ridden said bike that the mice had, ahem, nibbled the seat, so that's my excuse), plus a cycle helmet and a bike computer (the idea being so I can track my progress from feeble first wobbles through to a longer ride - well, hey, that's Kate Nerdy for you).

However, I forgot one thing. Bank Holiday means rain. And rain did indeed stop play.

Too cold and windy to cycle yesterday, so we dodged the showers and went to Oxburgh Hall.

My favourite room is the King’s Bedroom, where you can see letters signed by Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots all together (as well as a letter with Henry III’s seal dating from 1249). Obviously I have to be peeled off the display case every single time we go. (No pics because photography isn’t allowed inside NT properties.) My other favourite room is the library, where they have this wonderful ‘hidden’ door. On said door, the titles of the fake books are pointed comments against people who gave the Bedingfield family a hard time…

And then, when we came home, Madam and I made cupcakes. They vanished within five minutes of being cool enough to eat, so I guess they were nice ;)

Now everyone’s back at school and work, we have nice weather again, and the tree in the front garden is just full of blossom.

Today: Tuesdays are days when I don’t do much work, but I’m drumming it into my head that this is scheduled time off and not getting stressed about it. So this morning I have my guitar lesson, aka my ‘me time’ for the week; it also sets me up for Tuesday afternoons, which are becoming more and more difficult as Dad’s dementia progresses. I know I’ve done my best by him, but how I wish I had a magic wand and could fix it.