Monday, November 29, 2010

intermittent service

Am going to be intermittent for a bit - Dad's very, very poorly and none of us (including the care home and GP) can see him pulling back from this one.

So apologies for the break in service - I should be promoting IHP shortly and I also want to offer a giveaway of a fabulous, fabulous book that anyone who writes romance will find extremely useful (i.e. Kate Walker's 12 Point Guide, 3rd Edition) - but at the moment Dad is at the top of my priorities and everything else just has to wait. I'm taking things day by day and making sure I'm right by the phone when I can't visit him.

And I'll leave you with something chirpy:

(There are about three inches of snow on the ground. More than enough to bring us to a standstill!)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The s-word

Current work: revisions on Capri medical
Listening to: Corelli (well, it’s snowing – I need something calming!)
Reading: Tamsyn Murray, My So-Called Afterlife (pinched from daughter – great fun and agree with daughter that ending was great); Sarah Morgan, The Twelve Nights of Christmas (Sarah’s Christmas books are always fab – I do not get why she likes the s-word as I loathe the stuff, but her books almost tempt me to like it)

Apparently, this is the earliest heavy snowfall for 17 years. We were warned about it. So did the council go and grit the roads last night? Especially the ones going DOWN the hill that lead to the roundabout? (Ignore Coward. He was talking from a position of snobbery and ignorance. There most definitely ARE hills around here!)

That was a rhetorical question. Nope, the road was a skidpan. Add in people who park selfishly (er, guys, does it occur to you that when the roads are icy, people need a little bit more room to pass you? And that the yellow lines outside a school are there so it’s clear and safe for the kids and THAT is why you're not supposed to park there?), and let’s just say I’m glad to be home.

Cancelled guitar lesson because the snow was falling heavily on the way home and the idea of having to negotiate the hill after two hours of solid snow… nope. (I’m wussy, with good reason – I’ve had problems on that hill before.) I really hope Dad keeps holding his own until all the snow’s gone, because the home is down a single-track, twisting back road. (No change. Home says to take it day by day.) DH has promised to pick the kids up tonight if it snows any more and drive me to my hospital appointment on Saturday, so I guess it’s a matter of ignoring the snow and just getting on with it.

And so to work. (Armed with coffee…)

Wait - almost forgot! (Because I'm English, so the day isn't celebrated here - so hopefully you can forgive the rudeness.) Happy Thanksgiving to my US friends :0)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Current work: revisions on Capri medical
Listening to: Chopin
Reading: Confessions of a Duchess (enjoying very, very much)

I haven’t talked much about this, but some people may have noticed that over the summer (and particularly in late Sept/early Oct) I really, really lost my mojo. There are various reasons for this (and I’m not quite ready to talk about it openly yet), but one thing I did promise myself was that I would get the joy of writing back. So. How to do this, when you have lots of deadlines and pressure and barely enough time to breathe?

I went back to basics. For the gelati book, I had a week where I couldn’t write at all, just think. (Sadly, I can’t afford to disappear off to Paris before every book. But Paris was wonderful, because I just enjoyed myself and took a few location notes for research purposes and let the book bubble in the back of my head.) And then I just went for it.

I knew I had revisions on the way, so I asked my editor (via my agent) to hold off for a couple of weeks so I could make serious inroads into the new book. And I ended up writing the whole thing very, very quickly BUT without the pressure I’ve been feeling all year. I’m probably going to pay for that with several rewrites and an ‘OMG, have you gone completely mad?’ from my editor, but the enjoyment in writing was back.

The biggest thing for me, though, was staying off the net until I’d done my daily quota. It’s amazing how much more productive I am when I don’t allow myself to get distracted.

I did however allow myself to get wildly distracted yesterday. There’s been a lightbulb flashing at the back of my head ever since July. And yesterday I decided I’d do a little playing with this particular lightbulb. (The plan was to spend half an hour playing, i.e. giving myself a little creative wriggle room, then work on the revisions. Given that I, um, didn’t stick to that, I might have to do that the other way round in future, i.e. earn my playtime.) It’s like nothing I’ve written before. I usually write in third person (dual viewpoint) and in past tense. This isn't anything like that. As I’m taking a sabbatical from the nonfic, I need something to play with to keep me balanced. I’m not sure where I’m going with it, and it might end up being something purely to amuse me and stop my writing feeling stale. But, for now, my mojo’s back. And I’m very grateful for it.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Current work: revisions on Capri medical
Listening to: Dire Straits
Reading: The Tenderness of Wolves, Stef Penney (finished and enjoyed though I would’ve liked a different ending); Simon Baron-Cohen, The Essential Difference: Men, Women and the Extreme Male Brain (fascinating and would recommend to anyone with an Aspie in their life); Nicola Cornick, Confessions of a Duchess (Nicola NEVER disappoints – enjoying this hugely).

The picture below is the framed portrait of my daughter from Montmartre. Norwich Frame Workshop did a fantastic job (they always do, which is why I always go back to them – Lee’s utterly lovely and has a great eye for just the right frame and mount).

Other than that, the revisions are in (fairly big, but doable – very pleased that my ed has given me bullet points and headings, because that works SO well for me), so that’s what I’ll be working on this week. My ed also has big reservations about my next book (not the one I delivered last week – the one I’ll be starting next), but when I suggested it I did think I might be pushing it. Mainly as there’s a secondary character that had the potential to take over the entire book, and she knows me well enough to think ‘do NOT let her loose on that one’. (Remember the reindeer? This is definitely a reindeer-like situation.) So I’ve given her an alternative, which is rather blooming in my head at the moment (thank you, lovely Heidi Rice, for the initial lightbulb); and I have plans to do something with my not-a-reindeer.

I’ve also tidied my office (almost – only thing to be done now is my chair, and I need to get Christmas wrapping paper before I can do that).

And – well, there is some sticky stuff. Dad’s very poorly at the moment. It’s a matter of taking things day by day. He was as ill as this back in January, when he had pneumonia, but this time it’s not a specific illness or virus. The GP says ‘general deterioration’, so we’ll just have to take it day by day.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Current work: really should be tidying the bearpit (aka my office)
Listening to: Daughtry
Reading: The Tenderness of Wolves, Stef Penney (enjoying so far – good portrayal of Victorian society)

The gelati book went off to my editor and agent this morning. Fingers crossed they like it.

Normally I take a bit longer than this over a book, but this particular story really wanted to be told. And writing fast suits me better – it means I’m writing from my heart rather than from my head (aka trying to second-guess my ed and avoid enormous revisions, and it’s been an epic fail on that front this year).

The biggest thing about writing is to know your own process and be comfortable with it. One thing I’ve learned in 20+ years of being a published writer is not to compare my process to that of others, because what works for them might not work for me (and vice versa – which is why Kate Walker dubbed me ‘Scary Kate’, even though I maintain that I’m too short, too round and too good at making cookies to be scary). There’s no absolute right way in creativity: it’s a matter of trying different things and finding out what works best for you. Use that, and leave what doesn’t work without beating yourself up about it. If something doesn’t work for you, all it means is simply that it doesn’t suit your way of working, not that you’re rubbish. I'm much more of a plotter than a pantster (though I like to leave myself some wiggle room) and 'writing into the mist' freezes me solid; pantsters would be bored to tears by the way I do things. It doesn't mean either way is wrong: it just means they're different.

So, now the book’s done… what next? I could start thinking about my next book. However, I’m also expecting revisions on my Capri medical (lovely ed held off, at my request, so I could finish this one – it’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed my job this much, and I wanted to write this book without having to break off, tackle revisions, then lift myself off the ground again and get back to creating a book). And in the meantime my office definitely needs a tidy. I haven’t done it for months – I’ve been on deadline, or in the middle of revisions, or in a rush on something or other. I could do that today, but instead I’m skiving off. I’m going to meet my friend Kate for a celebratory lunch (she’s just sold her first novel) and do a bit of Christmas shopping :o)

First things first: update my todo/project list. And then I’ll take it from there.

Have a nice weekend!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

lovely review

Current work: gelati book
Listening to: Corelli (because it's gentle)
Reading: Mistletoe and the Lost Stiletto, Liz Fielding (this was meant to be my carrot for finishing the book, but I felt so rough last night that I needed a Liz Fielding book to make me feel better. Early night, one book, and a blissful hour or so’s read – thank you, Liz, for making me feel much better. Lovely hero, sparky heroine, and I especially loved the snow scene – highly recommended)

I have to admit that the lurgy really had me by the throat yesterday – literally. I’d almost completely lost my voice by the time I saw the GP. The good news is that it hasn’t moved to a chest infection (I get a bad one every year either about this time or in February, so I was half expecting it); the not so good news was that it's a virus making me feel so rough, so I just have to sit it out. However, she did give me codeine, which sorted the headache and knocked me out beautifully last night (after I’d read Liz’s lovely book) and I had a reasonable sleep… well, until we had a small power cut at 1am and our smoke alarm started beeping (i.e. a little beep every 30 seconds until the main power comes back on). Arrgh.

Anyway, I feel tons better than yesterday. Am not going to overdo it and will email ed/agent to explain that they can’t have the book until Friday – as they’ve both had the lurgy, I think they’ll understand.

I also had a lovely review from RT (thanks to my mate Heidi Rice for giving me the heads-up).

With his career in dire straits, perfumer Guy Lefevre has no desire to engage in a relationship, especially with party planner Amber Wynne, who reminds him of his shallow ex-wife. But with their smoldering attraction, it isn’t long before they surrender to an intimate relationship. But if Guy isn’t willing to trust Amber with his life-altering secret, can they have a future together? Sexy dialogue and a hero with a unique personal challenge make for an appealing read.

I’m pleased. And I must say, I’m smiling about the dialogue. Considering how outrageous I’ve been in this one, cough, it’s given me a little bit of confidence back.

Righty. Back to work for me – I have a heroine who needs rescuing. (I decided to go with the external conflict, because I’m going to tie it up VERY tightly with the internal conflict.)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Current work: gelati book
Listening to: Corelli (because it's gentle)
Reading: next on TBR

Really pretty school run this morning, with a sharp frost everywhere and the faintest traces of mist hanging in the air by the river. (No pics as the roads are too narrow to pull off, and I'm not selfish enough to block traffic.) Minus 2 degrees C, so the grass was really crunchy in the front garden and daughter spotted various spider webs frozen in time.

Cannot shift the headache (neither paracetamol nor ibuprofen will do it), cannot keep my temperature stable (am either too hot or too cold), and I'm getting tired of massive coughing fits at 3.30am (read: tired of the green stuff - this feels like a chest infection), so I'm off to see the doctor this afternoon. Pouts. This is what I get for planning big workathon to finish the book...

Monday, November 15, 2010

How to write a book very, very fast...

For the last two weeks, while I've been distracting you all with photos of my Paris research trip, I've been writing the Gelati book (which, um, is supposed to be an Italian book, but it just so happens to have a night in Paris). It's the first book that hasn't been a huge struggle to write for... well, way too long. So hopefully that's a good sign. (Thinks: shut up NOW, Kate, before you jinx yourself with mammoth revisions.) I had intended to finish the book by today and then write a really smug post about 'how to write a novel in two weeks'.


I caught daughter's lurgy last week.

Not sure which is more distracting, the cotton-wool-like head or the coughing. So I haven't finished the book. And I've not done much for the last couple of days except cough all night and nap all day. (Not productive. Well, the cough is, but that's TMI *g*) But I guess it has given me thinking time to work out how to get my hero and heroine past the Black Moment. The one I did have (internal conflict) wasn't strong enough and didn't convince me. My hero is SO stubborn that it's going to take something fairly drastic to make him wake up to himself. At the moment, it feels too much like a plot device. But if I don't do it, that leaves a loose end not tied up properly. Solution: time for more paracetamol and hot lemon, and then another nap, methinks...

Oh, sorry, you wanted the secret of how to write a book very, very fast? This is how it works for me (but remember that I am a plotter).
  • once you've got the idea mapped out, go and do something else for a week and DO NOT WRITE - let the book brew in your head and get to know your characters and their motivations. Thinking time is really important.
  • when you're ready to start, work out how much you need to do per day to hit your (self-imposed) deadline. (Originally I was going to NaNo it - 1667 words a day. That's doable for me.)
  • most important bit: do NOT touch the internet or email until you've written your daily quota (you may well find you write more - I was shocked at how much I could write. Back to the good old days - i.e. before I had broadband and could let myself get badly distracted).
  • have one cup of proper coffee per day, 20 minutes before you start work (in my case, this is the minute I get home from the school run - next 20 minutes is spent tidying (ish) the house, putting the laundry in the washing machine, making a fuss of the dog)

That's how it works for me, anyway :o) On days, I should add, when I'm not coughing and haven't slept properly and just want to curl up on the sofa with my doggie and a fleecy blanket and either have a nap or read. (Jenny Crusie's "Fast Women" for me, over the weekend - which was great fun, and I particularly liked Marlene the dachshund. Still think Springers rule, though. Woof.)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Paris, day 4 - Lafayette and home

Last morning in Paris. Went for a stroll around the Galeries Lafayette – a huge shop with the most beautiful Art Deco glass dome in the middle (dating from 1912)
as well as the biggest Christmas tree we’d ever seen!
The other huge department store (next door) is Printemps - thought the building was very pretty.
As, of course, is the building for which the district is named: the Opéra.
Then Chloe and I begged to have a wander round the food department at Galeries Lafayette (just think Harrods' or Selfridges' food department).
After that, we took a leisurely stroll back to the hotel, past the very nice patisserie on the Champs Elysées
and stopped off at a café on the way.
We checked out, and headed for the Gare du Nord. We’re clearly getting used to the Metro as it didn’t take us as long as it did on the first day. Had lunch at a brasserie in the station, then went through border control.

Then back to London, dinner at the station, and a longish journey home (problems due to a failure by an earlier train).

Good to be home, of course – but I absolutely adored Paris. If I lived in London, I would do day trips over, I really would – it’s a beautiful city with lovely people.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Paris, day 3 - the Arc de Triomphe

27,107 steps today – and the last ones took us to what we all thought was one of the most special moments of the trip. We timed dinner so that we’d be finished when the lights of Paris were glowing… and then we went to visit the Arc de Triomphe. Took the subway under the roundabout, and stood under the arch itself and an enormous French flag.

There is a flame burning on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which I think is a lovely idea.

Then we went through a narrow passage and climbed 284 spiral steps to the top.

Just before the top, there’s a small exhibition room.

And then you come out and see Paris lit up by night from 50m up. Stunning. Gerry was fascinated by the traffic.

Here, roughly in the middle of the skyline, you can see the Sacre-Coeur.

The obvious sight is the Eiffel Tower.
I’d read up before we went and I knew to expect something special to happen on the hour. It was a bit chilly upstairs, but I said we really, really, REALLY had to stay up. And then suddenly 20,000 lights started going on and off, making the Eiffel Tower sparkle light a giant Roman candle. A still pic doesn’t even begin to do justice to it…

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Paris, day 3 - Montmartre

After a quick stop at the café at Les Invalides, we set off for Montmartre – the quarter of Paris where artists such as Picasso, Modigliani and Utrillo once lived. There were lots of steps up from the underground because Abbesses is Paris’s deepest Metro station, nearly 100 feet below ground.

Chloe and I couldn’t resist a crepe (the cinnamon one was lovely – and half the fun is watching them being made), while Chris chose a muffin and Gerry a baguette.

We took the funicular up to the Sacre-Coeur (which was built 1875-1914 in atonement for the 58,000 people killed in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 and the 20,000 Communards massacred by government troops).
The views from here are pretty spectacular.

Gorgeous mosaic inside (poor pic as no flash).
Not so keen on the stained glass (though feel a little guilty saying that, as it replaced glass that was shattered during the Second World War). I did like the dome, though,
and the angel.

Then we wandered through the streets to the Place du Tertre where Django Reinhardt used to play (via a gelaterie) – full of eateries and artists, and we spotted one man juggling while balancing a glass jar on his head!
Also bought a lovely watercolour of Paris from one of the artists. There were lots of artists doing pastels of people. Chris refused flatly to have his pic drawn, but Chloe was taken by the idea. We met a very nice artist called Natale, and we all loved the picture he did of Chloe.

We headed down the stairs next to the funicular
and enjoyed the architecture
and a last look at the Sacre-Coeur before catching the Metro back to the Champs Elysées.
We stopped off at the Renault shop – this car was built in 1898.
We also learned that the shop has been there for 100 years – and that it was once the Renault pub, next door to the offices of Paris Match.

The shop opposite our hotel is La Maison du Chocolat – we bought some gianduja and Parisien macaroons (very rich – this shot of the macaroons is actually from La Durée, further down the Champs Elysées).

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Paris, day 3, Les Invalides

Ratatouille and charcuterie for breakfast – but there was some rhubarb jam on our table, so I couldn’t resist that and a croissant. And lots of lovely French coffee.

Took the Metro to Les Invalides – then we misread the map and ended up walking past the Assemblée Nationale (French parliament).

Quick reverse, and we turned the corner… and how could we have missed that golden dome when we came out of the Metro?

It was originally built by the Sun King (Louis XIV) in 1670 to house invalid soldiers and part of the building continues to do so today; much of it is now the military museum.

We were blown away by l’église du Dôme (i.e. the building crowned by the golden dome we’d noticed from so many high points in the city).

The roof of the cupola is beautiful.

In 1840, Louis-Philippe ordered Napoleon’s remains to be brought to Paris from St Helena and arranged for a tomb to be built; the tomb was finally completed in 1861.

There are 12 statues surrounding the tomb, each symbolising one of his campaigns. I was quite moved by the inscription: I wish my remains to lie near the bank of the Seine, in the middle of the French people whom I love very much (rough translation).

In one of the niches outside the circle of statues, there’s a statue of the emperor himself.

There’s also a memorial tablet to the last survivor of the French First World War troops, who died in 2008, and a lovely monument to Marshall Foch.

From there, we saw a film about Charles de Gaulle (and I was really shocked to discover that French women couldn’t vote until after the Second World War) and went through a superb multimedia area. We also saw Napoleon’s horse Vizir (complete with brand).

Monday, November 08, 2010

Paris, Day 2 – the Eiffel Tower

We took the RER to the Champs de Mars and were amazed to discover that they’re double decker trains! What a good idea to ease congestion.
And then we walked round the corner and saw the tower.

It was definitely bigger than we expected – despite having seen it from around the city. And seeing it from underneath was fascinating.
So then (despite our decision earlier not to do any more queuing!) joined the huge queue at the south pillar for the Eiffel Tower.
The tower was built for the 1889 Exposition and was intended to be temporary – but became officially permanent in 1910. It’s 324m tall and was the world’s tallest structure for 40 years, until the Chrysler Building was built in New York; it only sways 9cm in high winds (and although it was blowy, we didn’t feel any movement). The metal sections weigh 7,300 tonnes, and every seven years it has to be painted to protect it from rust (using more thaN 50,000 tonnes of paint each time).

There are stairs. Lots and lots of stairs. 300 to the first stage and the same again to the second. If you are an unfit person with a sedentary job, I can tell you that your thighs will REALLY know about it, the next day.
And we walked all the way up to the second stage. The views were amazing – across the Champs de Mars, which was originally a market garden area but became the grounds for the military school in 1765 (that huge tower in the background is the Montparnasse Tower – 56 storeys high).
Or looking up.

We couldn’t face another hour queuing to get to the top – especially as we had stunning views where we were.
We were surprised by how small both the Arc de Triomphe and the Notre Dame looked; but the golden tower of Les Invalides in the centre of the pic here was very obvious.
We were very grateful to take the lift to the bottom again.

And then we walked the longest 300m in the world to the Metro, to get back to the Champs Elysées. Flopped in the hotel for a bit, then went out for dinner. Had the most gorgeous Quatre Fromages pizza (walked 33,570 steps today = just over 10 miles, so I burned that off and the carbs can be forgiven, cough) and some Chablis. Then more window shopping and a trip to the Haagen Dazs café – where I was restrained and someone who shall remain nameless was an utter pig!