Friday, December 30, 2011

my planned year as a tortoise

2011's been a bit of a turbulent year. There were high spots (Rome and Vienna), and very low spots (the family crisis – guess I'd better not blog about that, but I do still believe that people are nice until proven otherwise. Certain people have been, ahem, proven otherwise in 2011 and I'm staying clear of them until they decide to alter their behaviour).

Last year's goals: well, I'm still rubbish at saying no and I haven't found a form of exercise I like enough to stick to. I have made some progress on the 'working smarter' front. It meant making some painful decisions; however, I know I've made the right ones, so hopefully 2012 is the year I'll get back on track.

I think the way to do it is to make 2012 a tortoise year. Quiet, slow progress. No mad rushing. And keeping it organised so things don't fall between the cracks. It does mean that I'll have to be a bit selfish, and I do have a problem with that – I'm a fixer, so it feels wrong to say no when people ask for help. However, I had a lot of things dumped on me in 2011, and as a consequence I didn't get as much work done as I needed to. I don't intend to repeat that. So I guess that's going to boil down to very clear communication (do I mean "nagging"?), pacing myself better, and going back to using a diary/schedule/to-do list. As for the exercise – I don't enjoy exercise and probably never will, but I need to stop making excuses and just get on with it.

So my resolution this year is to be a tortoise. I know what I want to do workwise, and I know what I need to do for my health; it’s all doable, provided I just get on with it quietly and don't let myself get distracted.

Next step: find a picture of a tortoise and stick it above my desk to keep me focused :o)

What are you going to be this year? I’d love to hear your goals, resolutions and plans!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

new cover

Current work: on holiday (but might sneak in a little something today)

Listening to: various

Reading: next on TBR

I had planned to take the kids to the cinema this morning. But, in keeping with my natural hair colour (!!), I must've had a bit of a dizzy moment when I booked my grocery delivery this week. I rang the supermarket yesterday morning to ask very politely if they knew how late my delivery was going to be. They were very patient with me and explained that actually my delivery was for today…

So we're waiting in. There is a website that shows how many car park spaces are left in each car park, so I'll check that after my shopping arrives to see if it's worth going in. (Yes, we could take the bus. But I get really travel-sick on buses. In my version of "The Wheels on the Bus", the mummies don't go "chatter, chatter, chatter". They go "bleugh, bleugh, bleugh".

In the meantime, I'm distracted with the new cover for 'The Ex Who Hired Her'…

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Current work: on holiday (but might sneak in a little something today)
Listening to: various
Reading: Aimee Carson, How to Win the Dating War (enjoyed)

This time of year always becomes a blur to me. With so many bank holidays and no school, I don't have a clue what any given day is. I think it's Wednesday…

We were planning a walk on the beach on Boxing Day, to see the seals, but there were so many cars parked on the road that it was clearly a bit too crowded. We have plans to reschedule; but next time we're doing it my way and going first thing, not waiting until after lunch!

We've also hit the sales. Daughter has been saving up for a laptop for more than a year now– and there was a seriously good deal in John Lewis yesterday. Her new laptop has a hard disk 3x the size of my current desktop's, as well as a much faster processor and more RAM, and she's very pleased with it. I can't believe how light it is, too. Son got the game he really wanted, and DH is back at work today, so the house is going to be very quiet and I'm going to be superfluous so am going to sneak into my office. Might make a few notes, and then curl up on the sofa with the dog and one of my Christmas books.

Dog is back to his normal self, or he would've been at the vet's today for a check-up. He spent Christmas Day unable to settle anywhere for more than ten seconds, very clingy, and with a hot, dry nose. What worried me even more was that he left a bowl full of turkey. So either he'd eaten something that disagreed with him the day before (he is a typical Springer, totally greedy) or he'd got DH's man-flu. Anyway, he's back to normal now, bright-eyed and waggy-tailed and stockpiling shoes, and I am very, very relieved about it.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas

Current work: on holiday
Listening to: Christmassy stuff
Reading: next on TBR

Wishing everyone all the very best for the holiday season, whatever religion you are (or aren’t). May it be full of family, friends and laughter.

I have a photo shoot this morning for Norfolk Magazine (hence new hair last night); and am also sorting out the updates to my website, ready for the end of the month. I was very slack with it in 2011, so I will improve it for 2012.

Hmm. More questions to add to my list for the Apple team. Am going to need new FTP software, and is there a plain text editor so I can continue to do things the way I do now? Can feel self chickening out of Mac as it will mean a big change to the way I work, and I’m not sure I’m ready to leave my comfort zone...

Thursday, December 22, 2011

another lovely review

Current work: on holiday (out all day yesterday - am enjoying time off!)
Listening to: Christmassy stuff
Reading: Annie Claydon, All SheWants for Christmas – absolutely cracking debut. And yes, I know she’s my friend, but this isn’t biased – it’s a really lovely book. Very warm and sweet (more proof of my theory that authors are like their books, because Annie is just like that), with great characterisation, a good conflict, and it was great to read about a strong heroine who doesn’t let her deafness get in the way. (Speaking as a deaf person, the deafness stuff is absolutely spot on.) You’ll have a lump in your throat in places and you’ll be smiling in others for all the right reasons. Highly recommended.

Thanks to Lynne Connolly over at The Good, The Bad and The Unread for her lovely review of A Moment on the Lips.

Kate Hardy is a great writer. Her style is easy to read but deceptively clever, so you don’t notice it until you think, “Hey, that’s good.” She brings her characters to life, and they’re not cut out of cardboard. They have characteristics and traits that make them determinedly individual. I always know I’m in for a great read when I pick up a Kate Hardy book.

A Moment on the Lips is no different… Once the misunderstandings of the first part of the book are swiftly cleared up, and glory be, they actually sit down and talk about it – Dante agrees to mentor Carenza and they set out on the wild journey that will lead to their happy ending... Read this for a charming love story that hits the spots well.

Thank you, Lynne. You’ve made my day. (And if anyone would like to read the full review, it’s here.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

some exciting news

Current work: on holiday
Listening to: Christmassy stuff
Reading: next on TBR (been out socialising)

I knew from my royalty statements last year that I had a Manga edition (i.e. Japanese graphic novel) of Surrender to the Playboy Sheikh and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

It arrived yesterday, and I’ve been a bit overexcited ever since.

This is the cover – isn’t it gorgeous?

Inside, the book’s mono. It’s amazing to see your story shown in picture format. I was stunned by how much detail is there, including the scene when Karim gives Lily a desert rose. Many thanks to the artist, Fuyuki Rurika, who’s done a fantastic job.

Oh, and the socialising? We were invited to the house of one of daughter's best friends yesterday. Namdri to her parents for such a lovely lunch (and this is one of the reasons I love the internet - I was able to look up a couple of words in Tamil so I could say thank you properly). It was also great to have the chance to learn so much about another culture (and to get an impromptu lesson in Indian cookery - heaven for a foodie).

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

lovely review

Current work: on holiday
Listening to: Christmassy stuff
Reading: Lynn Raye Harris, Captive but Forbidden (enjoyed)

Julie Bonello at Cataromance has really made my day with her review of A Moment on the Lips:

Dante had initially written off Carenza as a self-obsessed party girl who cared more about shoes than her grandparents, but the more time he spends with her, the more he realizes that Carenza has got hidden depth. A steamy affair quickly ensues, however, Dante makes it perfectly clear that although he is deeply attracted to Carenza, a future together is out of the question.
But will Carenza manage to change his mind?

Kate Hardy couldn’t write a bad book if she tried! A Moment on the Lips is a fabulous tale of past secrets, searing emotions and red-hot passion, imbued with all the charm, warmth and sensitivity that readers have come to expect from this award-winning author.

I adored feisty, loyal and fun-loving Carenza and sexy Dante is sure to make readers’ pulses race!

As delicious as the finest Neapolitan ice cream, A Moment on the Lips is another unmissable treat from the talented Kate Hardy!

You can read the complete review here. Thank you, Julie.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas starts here...

Current work: on holiday
Listening to: Christmassy stuff
Reading: Rachel Hore, A Gathering Storm (enjoyed very much–good characterisation, and although I did guess the twist I was fascinated to see how it happened)

Christmas for me actually started on Friday, when the children broke up. The book is in; lovely ed says she’ll get back to me in the new year, so I have Christmas off. (I had last Christmas off, too, but it wasn’t for a nice reason. This Christmas is going to much calmer and happier.) Had ‘early Christmas’ yesterday with bestest family. Not sure any of us is going to eat for the next week (says she, planning to scoff the Wensleydale with cranberries as an omelette filling to go with a salad at lunchtime). Daughter was happy as we played Quelf with her (and we have come to the conclusion that the people who wrote the questions were either on something or asked random stuff to a bunch of very imaginative 10-year-olds). Amyway, it was fun.

There were some really good dramas on TV yesterday (aka some much-needed well-filling). Caught the last half of ‘Lost Christmas’, which put a lump in my throat (and I thought was beautifully structured as well as beautifully acted – I didn’t realise how good Eddie Izzard is), and all of ‘Just Henry’ (again, nicely acted and a real slice of life in 1950; although we’d all pretty much worked out the truth well before it was revealed, it was enjoyable). We were going to watch ‘Young James Herriot’, but it started with animal cruelty (meaning I had to go and make a cup of tea) and after that it didn’t grab us. Joy of joys, DH switched over to a lovely nerdy science programme and stayed there instead of flicking channels. I love the way Brian Cox presents things and could watch him all night – not sure if it’s his enthusiasm or the effortless way he simplifies some very deep concepts that I like most. Although some of the quantum stuff lost me (mainly the more advanced maths notation), I really enjoyed it.

Today is a sad anniversary for me – I lost my mum 25 years ago today. I still miss her terribly and am sad about all the things we didn’t get to share. But I have wonderful memories of her – she was incredibly brave, she was patient and kind, she was great company and open to talk about anything in the universe. I was privileged to have her for nearly 21 years. God bless you, Mum.

I’m over at the PHS today doing what’ll probably be my last ever MOM slot (I get a foodie slot every month next year, yeehah). Have repeated my subject. Yeah, yeah, we all know who I picked. Enjoy, and merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Harlequin's open house

Current work: medical (very near the end now)
Listening to: Joe Bonamassa (mainly ‘Sloe Gin’)
Reading: next on TBR

Harlequin's annual open house is today - do drop in and chat to the authors, because there are a lot of prizes (signed books etc) up for grabs :) Link to the main page is here – I’m on the Presents and Medical parties if you want to come and say hello, and am of course giving away books…

Monday, December 12, 2011

slight overindulgence...

Current work: medical (very near the end now)
Listening to: Joe Bonamassa (mainly ‘Sloe Gin’)
Reading: next on TBR

Lovely weekend. Christmas lunch out on Friday; then my best friends from uni came up on Saturday for the weekend. That meant Christmas dinner with the trimmings and my strawberry tiramisu in lieu of Christmas pud (dog was NOT happy about the crackers and sulked on our bed); much talking, much laughing, DH in charge of the music (he made us listen to Ritchie Blackmore’s Christmas CD, but received many insults for this), much eating of chocolate (DH was by far the worst culprit – and yes, honey, I’m aware you’re reading this), much game-playing (Quelf is very bizarre but very funny), much reminiscing about student days and when the kids were tiny, playing guitar duet with daughter, and have I mentioned much talking and laughing?

Oh, and the cheese.

Note to self: next time, do not sit next to the Brie and the nice water biscuits with black pepper. (The word ‘slight’ in the title is indeed litotes.)

Today: back to real life, and I have a screaming deadline. I’m gone. Have a nice day!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

bit of news...

Current work: medical
Listening to: Joe Bonamassa (specifically ‘Sloe Gin’ – love this track)
Reading: next on TBR

Still on deadline. Trying quite hard not to distract myself with lusting over the iMac. So I asked my ed a slew of questions, and got the answer to one of them: the title for my 50th M&B. ‘The Hidden Heart of Rico Rossi’ will be out as a Modern in the UK in Aug; US and Aus dates still tbc.

Tomorrow is Christmas lunch with my mates (rather happier than last year, when I only made it there halfway through as we’d been talking to the vicar about my dad’s funeral in the morning, and then I got caught in a huge traffic jam).

We also have our ‘early Christmas’ weekend with two of the children’s godmothers, meaning proper Christmas dinner and trimmings and crackers (and strawberry tiramisu in lieu of Christmas pud). Wine, chocolate, reminiscing about our student days and when the kids were tiny, probably some guitar/piano playing, board games, and way too much talking. I have some presents to wrap plus two rooms that look an utter tip and need tidying printo (yup, my office doubles as a guest room – if I had an iMac, my desk would be tidy and there wouldn’t be a million wires looking scruffy, would there?) (and yes, I am talking myself into this).

And I have a deadline. So it’s back to the typeface for me. :o)

Monday, December 05, 2011

screaming deadline

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

… so blogging might be a bit erratic this week. Quiet weekend, as it was the first anniversary of Dad’s death on Saturday. Probably not the best of times to finish off the Christmas shopping (i.e. when I’m out of sorts, I’m a bit of a spendthrift), and especially not the best of times for DH to make me go into the Apple shop. Or to let me have a long conversation with the sales staff.

Royalties were not *quite* as bad as I expected; sadly, they’re not good enough for a research trip next year (about which I am not happy, because I really, really, REALLY want to go back to Paris). But, given that my PC is a bit elderly and reacted rather badly to a mini power cut last week (and would’ve given me grey hair, had I not already dyed it red), a new computer is a necessary business expense to keep me working through 2012. I’d rather make the change BEFORE the stress of this one giving up the ghost while I’m in the middle of a book; the last two times I've ended up with a panic.

I just have to decide whether to get another PC built, or whether to go for a Mac. I want something that’s reliable, robust, quiet and intuitive, and that lets me work with the process that suits me. (Apple will migrate all my data across, just as my lovely PC tecchies always have.) More thought required. (Not to mention emailing my writer mates who have made the switch, to find out if they regretted it or not. Most of them are glad they did it...)

Friday, December 02, 2011

thank you, cover fairies

Current work: medical

Listening to: Bach

Reading: next on TBR

I still don’t know what the UK cover of ‘The Ex Who Hired Her’ looks like, but I’ve see the US one on Amazon and I’m thrilled with it.

The mini-series title is ‘The Ex Files’. As I was a major X-Files fan back in the day (and own the entire box set), that has pleased me too.

My working title for the book was ‘One Night in Venice’. And lovely, lovely Venice is indeed on the cover. With a view of the Grand Canal. (I’ve been poring over my photos of our Venice research trip, trying to spot the view. Hmm. Is that our hotel on the right? Possibly not, because there was a lovely breakfast terrace.) And the hero and heroine are on a balcony, just as I’d written in the book. (OK, so my scene was at night, but…)

Thank you, cover fairies. I love, love, LOVE my cover.

Oh, and the second of my French duo is out in France today. How cool is that? :o)

Thursday, December 01, 2011

December already?

Current work: medical
Listening to: Kate Rusby (not the best idea, because ‘Who Will Sing Me Lullabies’ had me sobbing this morning – this weekend last year was a really, really sad one, and as it’s coming up to the first anniversary of my dad’s death and the twenty-fifth anniversary of my mum’s death, I’m a teensy bit out of sorts right now)
Reading: next on TBR

What is an author’s life really like? Well, this is my current to-do list:

  • Wordcount for today: not yet, but must NOT be slack this afternoon

  • Print out copy of slides as aide-memoir for talk: tick

  • Get coolest prop in the world (aka son’s gas mask) : tick

  • Put on a bit of make-up so won’t embarrass daughter by being in scruffy author mode for today's talk to Year 6 about growing up in the second world war: tick

  • Print out address labels for Christmas cards: tick (no, I’m not showing off - I’ve had this organised since the kids were tiny and it saves SO much time, not having to hand-write every address - is our household normal in that the male of the house never writes any cards and leaves it all to his wife?)

  • Think about wrapping Christmas presents: tick (note it says think about, not do – am trying to work out who I can co-opt into helping with my most hated chore of the festive season, i.e. someone who will help rather than hinder. In other words, not DH)

  • Think about tidying office: tick (note, think about, not actually do – but it has to be done by next Friday)

  • Think about book: tick (see item right above this one)

  • Wake dog because he’s whimpering in his sleep: tick (he’s giving me really reproachful looks)

Righty – that’s me off to school to go strut my funky stuff. And this afternoon I am really going to focus on the book. Even if I have to handwrite the thing and then dictate it on Dragon to get myself kick-started again.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

strike day

Current work: medical
Listening to: well, yesterday was playing - acoustic version of 'In the Bleak Midwinter')
Reading: Amy Silver, All I Want for Christmas (enjoyed and put me in a very Christmassy mood)

Today is strike day. Am keeping this apolitical, so let’s just say it means I have both children at home today instead of a normal working day. We’re going to put the wreaths on my parents’ graves and then go and spend some time with my stepmum. I also need to shoehorn in some work, the weekly shop (OK, so I get it delivered – but that saves me an hour of dragging round the supermarket and the misery of the queues on the roads/roundabouts by said supermarket), print out the labels for Christmas card addresses (no, that isn’t nerdy, that’s saving a LOT of time) and start the Christmas wrapping (hmm… can I co-opt littlest into this?).

Had some good news yesterday: lovely ed likes my new outline, with a couple of caveats. So I know what I’m doing for the book after this one, meaning everything is planned now for the next two months. It’s possibly a bit odd that someone in a creative job needs structure and order… but hey. Works for me.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Grease is the word...

Current work: medical (if you remember Sebastian from ‘Her Honourable Playboy’ – this hero makes him look tame and calm. Help!)
Listening to: Joe Bonamassa (the key track is ‘Feeling Good’ – I think I like his version even better than Muse’s)
Reading: India Grey, In Bed with a Stranger (enjoyed the second part of Kit and Sophie’s story – worked really well as a duet)

Lovely weekend. Really nice to see Kate on Friday – lots of talking (and yes, it was Pizza Express in the Forum; and yes, I ordered the chicken salad with avocado instead of dough sticks – terribly predictable). Ordered the Christmas holly wreaths for both parents’ graves (picking them up on Tuesday and putting them on the graves on Wednesday, as both children have a strike day off school).

Daughter and I had a great time at Grease on Saturday night.

Shame that we couldn’t persuade the boys to come with us as the singing, choregraphy and acting were all great. (The staging was good, too.) *Loved* the fireworks!

Did some more Christmas shopping on Sunday (and yes, it involved breakfast out – for all four of us, for a change). Was a little naughty and bought myself some violet and rose creams from a local chocolatier. They were OK, but I’ve been terribly spoiled with the Fortnum & Mason chocs (thank you, lovely Anna Cleary) and nothing is going to live up to them! Also involved trying to keep daughter in books until Christmas. (I bought her four. I’ll be lucky if that lasts her a week and a half.) She asked for ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’, which son says is an excellent book but will make her cry.

Today: nose to grindstone. I have a book to write and a talk to knock into shape.

Friday, November 25, 2011

new hair (yep, again)

Current work: medical (still at “this is a pile of pants” stage)

Listening to: Joe Bonamassa (lovely DH bought the rest of Sloe Gin, so my playlist for the book is perfect. Bonamassa and Bublé. Ha)

Reading: next on TBR

So yesterday was haircut day. The sherry red had faded quite a lot, so Louise suggested adding more colour to give it some depth. (Hair is in very good condition, by the way – thank you to my mate Sarah for recommending L’Oreal Professionel.) We decided on Beaujolais. It looked very purple on the swatch, so daughter was having apoplexy and threatened to refuse to sit next to me in the car if I ended up with purple hair. (She hadn’t thought that one through properly, as that would mean giving me complete control of the stereo.)

Purple? It actually came out as a very rich auburn.

And in natural daylight…

I am thoroughly enjoying experimenting with hair colour. I didn’t do it as a teen because Dad was quite strict and would’ve gone ape if I’d done it then (he was most unimpressed when a friend put a temporary colour on her hair and it went pink). But at my age – well, I can please myself. One definite benefit to middle age. Forties rock :o)

Today: working like mad this morning to hit my wordcount, then a lovely writery lunch with my mate Kate (rescheduled from when I was ill).

Tomorrow: taking daughter to see Grease. We’re both really looking forward to it.

Rest of weekend: nose to grindstone. Deadline ahoy, plus Christmas, plus a talk next week to Y6 at daughter's school...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

happy Thanksgiving

Current work: medical (at “this is a pile of pants” stage, sigh)
Listening to: Joe Bonamassa
Reading: next on TBR

Wishing my US friends and readers a very happy Thanksgiving :o)

Apologies for the continued neglect of the blog. The book is at the difficult stage, so I’m switching to ‘dirty draft’ – and the hero has decided he wants to be a stuntman. He’s totally out of control and the heroine needs to start reforming him yesterday, please! (But on the plus side, I have the soundtrack to the book. Michael Bublé, Joe Bonamassa and Muse.)

Monday, November 21, 2011

the sea, the sea

Current work: outline
Listening to: The Amazing
Reading: next on TBR

Apologies for my absence on the blog. No real reason other than getting on with work and not having enough hours in the day.

Two bits of news from my ed on Friday: the Rome book (title still tbc) is out in the UK in August. And my outline for the next book (the one after this) has too much plot, so it needs a complete rethink (aka new idea because if I take out the plot there won’t be any conflict left).

So that left me whining to go somewhere on Sunday.

Wells-next-the-Sea is one of my favourite places. We grabbed a coffee from the cabin by the beach, then walked along the edge of the sea to the dunes (which you can see in the distance above, and up close below).

And there was a bit of balancing involved - you can see that it was still faintly misty.

The sea was like a millpond.

From there, it was back to the beach huts and through the dunes to the car park, where we caught a bit of the sunset in the boating lake.

We also saw three squirrels playing chase, but I wasn’t quick enough with the camera.

And then the fog came down – appropriately, one of the tracks on The Amazing’s album, which we were playing on the way home, is callled ‘The Fog’ – so it took a while to get home.

Plans for this week: sorting out the new outline, then cracking on with the Med. And I will try to be better with blogging!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Current work: new medical
Listening to: Noel Gallagher (good album)
Reading: Ian Beck, Pastworld (yes, I know it’s YA, and yes, I know it’s actually son’s book and it’s bad of me to read it before I give it to him; however, I do look after books properly, so there are no creases on the spine when I've finished reading. Enjoying this very much – good concept)

After a certain person ‘helpfully’ updated my apps at the weekend without asking me first (er, honey, there was a reason why I hadn’t updated them), I ended up migrating to the new OS on the iPad. iTunes said it might take an hour ‘or more’. Ha. Try five and a half. Very frustrating. At one point, none of my apps worked and all my music and data had gone. Instead of working on the iPad in the car, I had to leave it connected to the PC while I did the school run. And iTunes still took the rest of the afternoon to do the ‘restore’ bit (done automatically, not prompted by me). I can’t see that much difference in the OS, to be honest, apart from tabbed browsing in Safari. But the iPad is back to normal and the battery is behaving.

But the palaver is what puts me off the idea of changing to a Mac when this PC eventually wears out. If I have my PC built for me, I know the guys at MASS are brilliant and what I get will have all my data on it, everything set up for me, and no hassles. If I change to a Mac… well, I’ll pay the extra to have it all migrated over, but will it be how I want it? And is the “no Flash, no Java” applicable to desktops as well as to the iPad? Mac users (particularly authors) out there, is a Mac really that much better than a PC? If you’ve switched from one to the other, do you regret it or is it the best thing you ever did? (I love my iPad, but I prefer working at a desktop.)

Monday, November 14, 2011

exciting news - half a century!

Current work: new medical

Listening to: George Harrison

Reading: Julie Cohen, Nina Jones and the Temple of Gloom (enjoyed very much – good layering of character)

I had some fantastic news from my editor on Friday – she accepted my 50th book (the Rome one)!

Given that my first M&B was accepted on 1 November 2001… that’s not bad. 50 books in 10 years (plus my local history ones – there are 11 of them as well).

So it was a bit of a weekend of celebrating. I bought a new bead for my bracelet (not the one I originally had in mind, as I discovered it was a clip rather than a bead – pity, but the new bead is very pretty and I’ve already clocked the one for the current book).

DH also bought me a pendant to celebrate the achievement, bless him.

And we went out to dinner with friends on Saturday night. (Yeah, course I had pudding – blueberry and raspberry Eton mess. Am back on straight and narrow today, though.)

Release date and title tbc – but as soon as I know there’s going to be a bit of a party around here, and possibly at other people’s blogs as well. The Riva girls’ first reaction was ‘yay’, followed swiftly by ‘party!’ – who am I to argue? :o) More details to follow…

Friday, November 11, 2011

Remembrance Day

Current work: new medical
Listening to: Beethoven
Reading: next on TBR

Today I’m using someone else’s words – Wilfred Owen’s ‘Greater Love’ – because I think on this day they’re more appropriate. We will remember.

Red lips are not so red
As the stained stones kissed by the English dead.
Kindness of wooed and wooer
Seems shame to their love pure.
O Love, your eyes lose lure
When I behold eyes blinded in my stead!

Your slender attitude
Trembles not exquisite like limbs knife-skewed,
Rolling and rolling there
Where God seems not to care;
Till the fierce love they bear
Cramps them in death's extreme decrepitude.

Your voice sings not so soft,-
Though even as wind murmuring through raftered loft,-
Your dear voice is not dear,
Gentle, and evening clear,
As theirs whom none now hear,
Now earth has stopped their piteous mouths that coughed.

Heart, you were never hot
Nor large, nor full like hearts made great with shot;
And though your hand be pale,
Paler are all which trail
Your cross through flame and hail:
Weep, you may weep, for you may touch them not.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

somewhere different today

Current work: new medical
Listening to: Beethoven
Reading: Julie Kagawa, The Iron King (very good worldbuilding – and I loved Ash)

Thanks to everyone who sent me private messages or notes here to cheer me up. Am a bit less mopey today (though that might also be because one of my best writer mates is coming for lunch and there may be some plotting going on; and also lovely DH brought me flowers yesterday).

I’m over at I Heart Presents today (as I write this, it’s the middle of the night in the US, so try later this afternoon). I’m talking about Italy, ice cream and Paris. Oh, and a certain book that is currently on the shelves in the US…

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

noise, and elsewhere today

Current work: new medical
Listening to: various (much adjustment needed)
Reading: Kristan Higgins, Until There Was You (enjoyed very much)

I have binaurical hearing for the first time in seven years. I guess DH and the kids will be in for about a month of ‘what’s that sound?’ and general freaking out by me, because everything sounds different.

All the background noises are unbearably loud at the moment, so I guess I need to train myself to tune out the fridge/washing machine/tumble dryer, the computer keyboard, and road noise in the car. People reading the newspaper… that is going to drive me insane. And the supermarket was unbearable yesterday – I could hear every single conversation. On my old hearing aid, I had an off switch and could just go into my own little world. This one, you have to undo the battery compartment, so that’s going to take time to get used to. The old one had two programmes – one for ‘normal’ and one for ‘noisy environment’; that’s apparently automatic on this. I also have a new ‘telephone’ programme and a volume switch (so that might be the answer to the unbearable background noise – do it gradually).

I guess it’s going to take a little time to adjust. I just looked back on my old blog (which is no longer online) to see how I reacted last time. Ha. Seems I was freaked by the noisiness then, too. Exactly the same things that I’ve been finding hard since yesterday morning: the noise of paper, the sound of typing, people talking loudly in the supermarket, road noise in the car, and the fact that I could hear myself walking on hard floors.

But playing the guitar… oh, now that’s AWESOME.

My mum would’ve been 66 today. Strange to think it’s a quarter of a century today that I shared her last birthday with her – the last birthday where I could give her flowers in person instead of putting them on her grave. It’s hit me a bit harder this year, but I think maybe that’s because I’m coming up to the first anniversary of losing Dad.

Anyway. Trying to be my normal Pollyanna self and hopefully can fake it through today.

And I’m over at the PHS with a deadline recipe. Comfort food par excellence.

Monday, November 07, 2011

son et lumière

Current work: new medical
Listening to: Coldplay
Reading: Liz Fielding, Italian for Beginners (loved this – great heroine, lovely hero, and of course the most gorgeous setting…)

Son? (No, not my boy. French for sound. Am being pretentious. D'accord.) That’s my new hearing, which I get this morning. (Will report on that tomorrow.)

Lumière? That’s the fireworks from this weekend. We had a great time. My cousin is a total pyromaniac. Y’know how kids do the ‘are we there yet?’ – well, with her, it was, ‘Is it my turn to light one? Is it my turn? Is it?’ Son was allowed to light one (obviously under supervision) and was utterly thrilled. Daughter prefers to watch, but was thrilled to have sparklers. And she insisted on using her new oven glove while holding the sparkler, to make mega-sure she didn’t get burned (bless her).

They say that pictures paint a thousand words. These will explain what we did on Saturday...

Friday, November 04, 2011


Current work: new medical
Listening to: Coldplay
Reading: Susanna Kearsley, Every Secret Thing (really enjoying this)

Busy busy means partying as hard as I’m working (my characters went on strike during second revisions, so I’m having to coax them back). I’m out to lunch today (celebrating a friend’s milestone birthday – waves to Jo); then bestest cousin is coming up for the weekend tomorrow. Which means final birthday celebrations for littlest, fireworks, and eating too much. (Chicken with apple, jacket potatoes and lots of veg for dinner, followed by cheesecake or chocolate fudge pudding, then cheese and crackers with tawny port. And probably too much sauvignon blanc – which in my terms means one and a half glasses, as I’m a total lightweight nowadays when it comes to alcohol. Sunday lunch is roast beef and all the trimmings. And in between I need to make a birthday cake, as Little Miss Fussy has decided she doesn’t like shop-bought cake, even M&S.) Oh yes, and it’s school photographs tomorrow morning. Son’s school does school photos for alternate year groups; this year is a ‘no school photo’ year, but the wonderful PTA has organised a local photographic studio to come in at the weekend, so I’ll get a nice pic of son and daughter together.

And did I mention I have a book to write? LOL. Time to get off the net (I’ve just spent 20 minutes researching posh tea and have been a little bit naughty this morning – but then again, pomegranate is really good for blood pressure…). And absolutely no Sudoku until I’ve done my quota!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

win a book!

Current work: new medical
Listening to: Queen
Reading: Susanna Kearsley, Every Secret Thing (really enjoying this)

I’m being interviewed over at lovely Lucy Monroe’s blog today. And there’s a chance to win a signed book, so do come over and say hello!

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

publication day (US)

Current work: Rome book, second revisions (final push!)

Listening to: new Coldplay album

Reading: Susanna Kearsley, Every Secret Thing (really enjoying this – fabulous pace and characterisation, and she’s really good at dripfeeding clues. Had worked out one bit but then there was another twist…)

Actually, publication day of 'A Moment on the Lips' in the US was officially yesterday, but November 1 is a big day in my family… so I’m celebrating publication today instead :o)

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

11,10, 9 - and 50

Current work: Rome book, second revisions
Listening to: new Coldplay album
Reading: next on TBR

Eleven years ago today was a very, very special day – the arrival of my littlest. (This is her with her big brother when she was a couple of days old - we'd just arrived home from hospital.)

And on her christening day with me (at the party afterwards - I'd changed her into another dress). This was one of my dad's favourite pics.

She’s connected to the other numbers, as well – because if you fast forward a few weeks to her first Christmas, she was in hospital with bronchiolitis. I’d just been writing an article on the subject and I knew the worst-case scenario. Seeing my baby on oxygen was tough, especially as it was during my difficult time of year. (I hate the teen days of December.) The only way I could get through it was to start writing my first medical romance and pretend it was happening to someone else.

Ten years ago today I had ‘the call’ from M&B. DH was in the bath. I answered the phone, then walked in to tell him, sobbing. He sighed and said, ‘Look, you know you can make it. Just start writing another one and try again.’ I had to explain that that wasn’t why I was crying - they wree happy tears, and we were going out for dinner for two reasons that night!

Nine years ago saw my first M&B on the shelves and a launch party at Ottakar’s. (I was reminiscing about it with Jenny Haddon on Friday; she was the organiser of the M&B author lunch and I think vice-chair of the RNA, so she came to the launch to support me, and ended up having to stay at ours for the night because the weather was so bad that the trains stopped running.)

Fifty? Well, I’m just finishing off second revisions on my 50th M&B. Set in Rome, London and Vienna. And again that’s connected with littlest, because she’s part of my research team and never minds where I take her. Better still, she has the writing gene, so she understands how my head works and why I want to see certain places/do certain things.

Happy, happy birthday to Chloë.

And happy anniversary to M&B and me :o)

Monday, October 31, 2011

the glamorous life of an author...

Current work: Rome book, second revisions
Listening to: new Coldplay album
Reading: India Grey, Craving the Forbidden (loved it – her books are always a joy)

Most of the time, I am an oik who scruffs around in black trousers and a T-shirt, and I spend most of my time in my head with a spaniel snoring behind me.

But two or three times a year I get to dress up and go out and be Professional Author for the day. Friday was the annual M&B authors’ lunch in London, and I had a wonderful time.

DH dropped me off at the station; just before I got on the train, I noticed this sundog.

And then it was a matter of setting myself up with a temporary desk on the train to work on the revisions… (The essentials. Manuscript, revision notes, red pen, coffee, water.)

Had a good journey to London, but the Central line was absolutely heaving and I had to let two trains go past before I caught one on my way to Charing Cross. But I arrived at the Charing Cross Hotel on time, the sky was blue, and it was lovely to see everyone.

Humour me with a bit of namedropping – the people I was chatting to included Sara Craven, Liz Fielding, Sophie Weston, Sarah Morgan, Caroline Anderson, Fiona Harper, India Grey, Kate Walker, Heidi Rice, Lynn Raye Harris, Michelle Styles, Carol Townend and Joanna Maitland, as well as meeting up with new Med authors Annie Claydon and Scarlet Wilson.

Lunch: scrumptious. Duck parfait, chicken wrapped in parma ham,

and vanilla panna cotta.

Much talking, including to Fiona Harper and India Grey:

Fiona and (incredibly skinny - and very inspirational) Michelle Styles;

and Kate Walker (who I remember being very kind to me at my very first author lunch, 9 years ago).

From there, we were due to be at the Royal Horse Guards Hotel in Whitehall for the author toast. (Gorgeous architecture.) Went for a cup of tea there first with Caroline Anderson, Michelle Styles and Annie Claydon.

The tea was amazing – I would normally have chosen a latte (as Annie did – and it did look nice) but the words ‘Persian Pomegranate tea’ were on the menu. Neither Michelle nor I could resist. And it tasted just as good as it looks here. (Silver teapot and tea-strainer, too, note.)

And it was served with these lovely little cakes.

And then the head waiter (who’d chatted to us and was very sweet) came over with a plate of pecan tarts that had just come out of the oven…

Then it was time for the party. Beautiful, beautiful building (my pics are grainy so will not bore you with the architecture – ‘nuff said that the lamps were stunning, and they had the Sisi stars pic upstairs – saw that as I walked out of the lift, and squeaked to my lovely ed that THAT was the pic I was banging on about in the Rome book).

So what does an author party look like? Just like this...

And yes, it’s as much fun as it looks. (Here's a close-up of me with Fiona Harper and Scarlet Wilson - thanks to Scarlet for the pic. And, yes, I am indeed wearing blue nail varnish. Your forties are a time to have fun!)

Your first time at an author party will maybe feel a little daunting, but then you start to chat to others and discover that, actually, even the biggest best-sellers are just ordinary people who are lovely to talk to. And once you’ve been a few times and know absolutely everyone in the room, it means you usually have sore tummy muscles the next day from laughing so much, a croaky voice from talking too much, and a teensy headache because it’s hard to keep count of what you’re drinking when unobtrusive waiters keep filling up your glass as you’re talking...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

still half term…

Current work: Rome book, second revisions (sticks brave smile on face after large consumption of chocolate)
Listening to: Bach
Reading: Caroline Anderson, Tempted by Dr Daisy; Caroline Anderson, The Fiancée he couldn’t forget (loved both of them – definite warm and fuzzies)

Lovely day yesterday with my writer friend Lizzie Lamb – and I had enough of a voice to be able to talk books! Made an experimental chocolate cake from this month’s Sainsbury’s magazine – drain a tin of pears, mix the juice with sugar and cocoa and boil to "first plop" (!!!), cool the choc mixture in the bowl with pears, blend with walnut oil and vanilla, then beat in eggs, flour and bicarb soda - was a very interesting texture before it went in the oven. Very intense flavour, too, so only small pieces were consumed and DH is taking the rest of it into work today.

Off to London tomorrow for the M&B author lunch, aka glam event of the year. I have glam hair and a glam bracelet. And I’ll be taking the printed-out copy of my revisions with me so I can work on the train, unless I manage to make serious inroads on them today. (Am a bit gutted that my 50th book isn’t going to be accepted before the 10th anniversary of my ‘call’. Still. My fault for not doing a good enough job on the last set.)

Will be working today; but both children have had a growth spurt, so I need to drag them out to shop for clothes this morning. Both hate clothes-shopping (and so do I), but if they will insist on growing…

Monday, October 24, 2011

half term – and Kleptodog excels himself

Current work: new book
Listening to: Bach
Reading: Kelly Hunter, Flirting With Intent (Kel’s books are always a good, fast read, and I love her dialogue – enjoyed this one); Milly Johnson, Autumn Crush (full of warmth and it’ll put a lump in your throat as well as a smile on your face – this is definitely my fave of hers); Nicola Cornick, Mistress by Midnight (the third of her Scandalous Women of the Ton series, and I think just about my favourite of the three – loved her bluestocking heroine and her ex-rake hero).

Half term this week, but it’s going to be a gentle-ish one as I still have a croaky voice and a bit of a cough. (It had BETTER be back by Friday. Otherwise it’ll be a notebook job because I am going if it kills me – I’m not infectious and this is one of my big events of my professional calendar.)

We had the first of daughter’s birthday bashes last Friday, and am not sure if my ribs hurt more the next day from laughing or coughing. We enjoyed the bowling; daughter won the second game, and we didn’t let her win. so she can be proud that she did it all by herself. At dinner afterwards, Kleptodog excelled himself. DH was lounging on the beanbag after dinner while daughter dished out slices of birthday cake to everyone. DH made the mistake of taking his eyes off his plate for half a second; this was just enough for Kleptodog to pinch the cake and gulp it down. (Dog does have quite a bit of previous form on the cake-stealing front; that ‘Little Dog Laughed’ pic of a spaniel entitled ‘where there’s hope, there’s cake’ could’ve been modelled on him. It’s here if you want to take a look.) What happened next had better not be related; suffice it to say that disinfectant was involved!

Thanks to everyone who’s made such nice comments here, on FB or privately about my radical hair change. Really appreciated. And I am having a slight lightbulb moment…

Friday, October 21, 2011


Current work: gentle easing in to new book
Listening to: Def Leppard
Reading: Kristan Higgins, Just One of the Guys (I really was beginning to wonder if the HEA was what I expected it to be – the nearer it got to the end of the book, the more I kept turning the pages, panicking on the heroine’s behalf… very nicely done, and I loved the way she handled it. Can’t wait for her new one, later this month – she’s on my pre-order and autobuy list, and thank you so much Lynne Marshall for recommending her to me)

I’ve been telling the folks for the last six weeks that I’m changing my hair colour. Radically. Nobody quite believed me. I almost wussed out, because I’ve been blonde for 45 years and, although I’ve had highlights and red streaks before, I’ve never had a total colour change.

And I really have been blonde that long. Proof: me at age two, with my dad. (Yes, that is a real 1960s skirt, isn't it?)

And at age 20, with my mum. (Hmm. I was thin, then. Walking a mile or so each way to uni. Hmm. Note to self. Walk more. Oh, and my hair wasn't highlighted then. Is all natural.)

But I needed a lift yesterday (this coughing business isn’t good) and decided to Just Do It. Not with highlights, but the whole kit and caboodle. Complete colour change. (Louise has a very good eye and picked a colour that suited me.)

It’s going to take a while for the family to get used to it. Daughter hates it, son says it’s OK, DH is wary and says it’s ‘all right’ (which could mean anything from ‘it’s awful’ to ‘it’s gorgeous and I have THAT twinkle in my eye’ – DH is the most laid-back person ever. Which means I don’t actually know what he thinks). Dad would’ve had a hissy fit. Mum would’ve bolstered my confidence and told me I looked lovely and she loved me. (That’s my parenting style too, I hope. There are kind ways of saying ‘no, it doesn’t suit you’, without stamping on people’s confidence.)

Me? Well, I like it. My hair is actually shiny! :o)

But this photo is also a wake-up call, because I thought myself a bit too plump in the author photo I use now – and OMG I look so thin in that, in comparison with the one above that son took for me last night. The exercise routine has to be a priority, once I’ve stopped coughing and can breathe easily again. (Would be VERY stupid to exercise with stridor and a seal-like bark.)

Time to get the very bad case of Writers’ Blubber under control. And I have a good exercise routine, sent to me by a very good friend (who is now officially TINY and I probably won't recognise her at the M&B author lunch next week). No more excuses.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Officially barking

Current work: thinking about it but not driving self too hard
Listening to: Corelli
Reading: Kristan Higgins, Just One of the Guys (enjoying very much – I do love her dogs, too!)

Officially barking? Not mad (though quite a few of the writers I know are a bit on the eccentric side), but barking as in the precise sound of my cough. I have croup. (Yes, I know that’s a children’s illness. It’s becoming more prevalent in adults.) Same as just before Dad’s funeral (in other words, I’m also brewing a chest infection), so I’m on antibiotics, steamy bathrooms (well, sticking my face over a bowl of steaming water and having a towel draped over my head and the bowl to keep the steam in), and honey-and-lemon. GP was running late so the pharmacy had closed by the time I came out, but I was on my way to the car when the pharmacist was just locking the side door, saw me, and said he’d sort the scrip for me. What a WONDERFUL man, and I really appreciated his kindness.

They’re definitely starting to work because I managed five consecutive hours of sleep last night before I woke up coughing. So I feel a bit brighter today – but, before this nets me several ‘don’t you DARE overdo things’ texts/emails, I *am* being sensible. Just doing a teensy bit of work and cleaning the oven. And then dog and I will hit the sofa for a bowl of chicken soup and an episode of New Tricks :o) (This is also refilling the well. I have several lightbulbs flickering.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

really feeling sorry for myself now

Current work: duvet day (and really fed up because I want to go back to work)
Listening to: Mozart
Reading: Andrew Taylor, The Anatomy of Ghosts (just finished - and I hadn't worked out what really happened, though maybe that was because my head was fuzzy - very interesting setting)

The cough just seems to be getting worse. And as it hasn’t let me get any sleep for the last three nights, I have an appointment with my GP. I would quite like to sleep in my own bed instead of sitting up downstairs, wrapped in a duvet, in a feeble attempt to let DH get some sleep. Am also really grumpy because I want to get on with my new book, and I just don’t feel up to it.

Back to the duvet, with yet more honey and lemon, sigh...

Monday, October 17, 2011

deafer, and even more lurgified…

Current work: duvet day
Listening to: Mozart
Reading: Andrew Taylor, The Anatomy of a Ghost (enjoying)

Luckily the lurgy stayed just as a sore throat and a headache on Friday, so I didn’t have to change my audiology appointment. Spookily, it was seven years to the day since my last audio test. As I suspected, I have lost more hearing since then (somewhere between 5 and 10 decibels), and the audiologist thinks that having two aids will make my life easier because it will help with the direction of sound. He says it’s the difference between using a monocle and spectacles, and that I will be able to hear music much better, so that sold it to me.

The dip in sound is probably age-related as the profile is exactly the same (just 5-10 decibels down), so it’s nothing to worry about.

I would like to say that I spent the weekend working, but I didn’t. The lurgy really kicked in on Friday night; at the moment I’m coughing for England and the only thing that shifts my headache briefly is codeine. I had planned lunch out with a good writer friend this week, so we’ll have to move it – I don’t want to spread this, and I can’t hold a conversation at the moment. (I sound as if I have a 40-a-day habit!)

And, much as I would like to start my new book today, I think I need a duvet day. A mug of hot lemon and honey, with the dog and a duvet on the sofa, and the first series of Everybody Loves Raymond will do just nicely, methinks.

Friday, October 14, 2011

New Voices – congratulations AND a pep talk

Current work: revamping outline and then going for it (lovely ed has let me bend some rules)
Listening to: Ed Sheeran and Bon Jovi (and wishing I could talk DH into queueing up for Coldplay tickets because I don’t feel well enough to do it – daughter’s comment of ‘Well, who would be mad enough to queue up all night for a ticket?’ was answered by a grin from her father and a nod of his head towards me, cough)
Reading: Marian Keyes, Rachel’s Holiday (spent the day on the sofa yeterday with a headache and the dog – first time I’ve read MK and I do like her voice – thanks to Julie Cohen for recommending this one)

Congrats to the 21 NV writers who made it through to the next round – given that there were over 1,000 entries, be proud of yourselves, and get cracking on the next bit!

To those of you who weren’t picked – don’t give up. This is only one competition. Not making it through doesn’t mean that you’re crap – it means that the odds were small and other people had more of what the eds were looking for, this time round.

This is the time when you regroup. Of course you’re upset. So cry on your best friend’s shoulder, punch a cushion, eat chocolate – whatever it takes to get you over the hump. But limit this to a day or two at most, because it’s not going to change anything. The only thing that can change is your writing and your attitude towards it.

So sit down and take a long, hard look at it. You need to believe in yourself (and, trust me, all writers are plagued with doubts about whether they’re good enough – that’s actually a good thing because it stops you being complacent and it keeps your writing sharp), but you also be willing to listen. What can you take on board from the comments? Yes, comments are subjective (and some people will love a book where others don’t enjoy it, and vice versa). But If several people are saying the same thing (whether it’s about pace, characterisation, dialogue, whatever), then it’s worth looking at that aspect of your writing again.

And remember that this is only the first chapter. It might even be that when you get to chapter three, you discover that actually THAT is the place to start the book. What that means isn’t that you’ve just wasted two chapters – it means that you needed to write yourself into the story, and you have lots of background detail in your head that will help with characterisation. (And you’re not going to use it as an infodump for your poor reader, either! Layer in the information, through action and dialogue. And any introspection needs to be used like dialogue – i.e. keep it short, to the point, and it has to move the book forward.)

It could be that you targeted the wrong line (go for the one you enjoy reading, as that’s the one you’ll enjoy writing); it could be that as you write the rest of the book you discover that you’re writing a completely different story, one that’s much stronger.

But one thing’s for sure. If you don’t sit down and write, you’re not going to get published. There isn’t a clairvoyant editor out there, scanning the ether for you. So ditch the excuses. Just sit down and do it. (500 words a day gets you a category romance written in 3 months.) Finish the book. Polish it. Send off the outline and first three chapters, and get started on the next. It doesn’t matter if you get a rejection – most published authors I know have a stack of rejection slips. Think of them as stepping stones. Each one will give you advice that you can apply to your next manuscript and that will get you a little bit closer to your goal.

Good luck!

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Current work: thinking about having a duvet day
Listening to: various
Reading: Kristan Higgins, All I Ever Wanted (loved the husky and, as always, she made me laugh for the right reasons and cry a bit, too - enjoyed)

Talking in a whisper today. Just as well it’s this week and not last week (M&B talk) or next week (meeting up with friends) or, worse still, the week after (half term, meeting up with friends, and the M&B author lunch). Am hoping that it stays just in my throat until after my audiology appointment tomorrow.

Yesterday was great – we absolutely covered Dad’s grave with spring bulbs, then went out to lunch. Interestingly, it rained all day EXCEPT when we did the planting. So we had nice soft ground to work with, but stayed dry.

Slightly scary experience on the way home from school – enormous lorry tore a branch off a tree, and it landed literally an inch in front of my car. Had to drive over it (didn’t have time to brake, plus I had a car on my tail so any braking would’ve meant a collision) and was very relieved when we got home to find no damage. If I’d been a second closer to that lorry, it would’ve gone straight through my windscreen. Eep.

Ed is coming back to me today on my outline (she “has thoughts” – well, hey, I knew I was bending a lot of rules, so I’m expecting lots of “no, no – OK to that – no, no, and absolutely no”). In the meantime, I guess I ought to tidy the bearpit, as the revisions were in and I did skive off yesterday.

A mug of honey and lemon first, though, I think.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

elsewhere today...

Current work: day off!
Listening to: various
Reading: Scarlet Wilson, It Started with a Pregnancy (lovely, sparkling debut by my pal Scarlet – lots of emotion, medical detail spot on but not too technical for the lay person, great conflict, lovely characterisation – I really enjoyed it)

I’m over at the Pink Heart Society today, talking about revisions – in other words, what I’ve been doing for the last week. They’re off my desk now and with my ed. I’m braving the rain to plant bulbs with my stepmum on Dad’s grave (miniature daffodils and irises), and trying to stave off the lurgy generously given to me by husband and daughter. In other words, I’m taking a day off :o)

Monday, October 10, 2011

thinking time - and a bit of vanity

Current work: Rome book revisions
Listening to: Def Leppard
Reading: next on TBR

I needed to think a bit about my revisions this weekend. Why? My ed wants me to make my hero a bit less emotionally available. And that needs careful consideration so he doesn’t turn into the kind of man I’d want to push into a puddle.

And that’s my excuse for skiving off on Saturday morning and going shopping with my daughter. I have to admit, I love girly shopping with my daughter. This week, it involved a trip to Boots, because I noticed last week (when wearing make-up to my library talk) that my foundation doesn’t suit me any more. (I think it looked caked on. And this was the expensive stuff, sigh.) Time for a change. I wanted something that didn’t feel as if I was wearing make-up. I also needed advice about colours and styles of foundation because – frankly – I’m clueless. Most of the time I don’t wear make-up, and I look an utter scruff (well, hey, I live in my head, and I don’t need to know what I look like). But sometimes I need to look like a professional author rather than a scruffy mum-of-two. Hence I had to be a little bit, um, vain.

Jane on the Max Factor counter at Boots in Chapelfield was just brilliant. She talked me through the different sorts of foundation, and better still tried them all on me and told me which one looked most natural. Then she gave me a makeover. Best of all, she talked me through exactly what she was doing, why and how, so I understand how to get the same effect at home. So, I have new eye-shadow (ha, yes, the usual neutral shades – I wasn’t going that far); new foundation (which doesn’t feel as if I’m wearing it); new mascara (OMG, I actually have eyelashes! – no, don’t laugh. I really do have short, pathetic eyelashes, and luckily daughter inherited her father’s lovely long eyelashes rather than mine); and new lippy (it’s, um, sparkly. But grown-up sparkly, not teenage). With a bit of practice between now and the end of the month, I should look reasonably smart at the M&B author lunch. (I am SO counting the days to that. It’s one of the big highlights of my year. I get to see some of my fave people in person and talk writing. And drink champagne. Ha.

After that, it was time for breakfast (yeah, OK, so I’m decadent – cake and coffee, but we walked it off). While we were in M&S, I was talked into having a look at the nail polish section in case there were new shades. Oh, dear. I’m not actually sure who’s the worst out of the pair of us, but we ended up with three more bottles between us. It’s the cheapest nail varnish ever, but the coverage is brilliant and it doesn’t chip easily, which means I can type and play guitar almost with impunity. And how can you resist nail varnish called Kingfisher? (Yup, it’s green. I’ve worn weird nail varnish ever since I was a student. I wore blue nail varnish, the first time I met DH. Even though he claims innocence, I know he got rid of the fingerless lace gloves I used to wear, the very first week after we moved in together, but he hasn’t been able to do a thing about the nail varnish. Especially now I have back-up in lovely daughter.)

The book? Yeah. I worked it out (and changed the end completely). I just needed time for it to percolate through my subconscious. Makeover, breakfast out and shopping for fripperies worked a treat.

Hopefully today I’ll get the P&Q to finish it…

Friday, October 07, 2011

publication day

Current work: Rome book revisions
Listening to: Jon Lord, Pictured Within
Reading: next on TBR

It’s the first Friday in the month… so that means today is publication day!

A Moment on the Lips is on the shelves today in the UK.

And it's had a really nice 4-star review from Romantic Times:

With her youthful indiscretions behind her, Carenza Tonielli is determined to make a success of her family’s ice cream empire. After she refuses to sell the company to Dante Romano, Dante wants nothing more to do with the ‘spoiled princess.’ But his loyalty to her grandfather means he can’t refuse her unexpected request for mentorship. Dante wants to keep their relationship focused on business and his feelings under wraps, but Carenza has other ideas. Passion heats up quickly and readers don’t have an opportunity to savor the anticipation, but this is an otherwise refreshing and intelligently written story.

Thank you, RT :o)

Thursday, October 06, 2011

lovely review

Current work: Rome book revisions
Listening to: Sheryl Crow
Reading: Nicola Cornick, One Wicked Sin (enjoying)

Had a really lovely review for Italian Doctor, No Strings Attached from Cataromance:

“Her books are always full of warmth, pathos and heart and she never fails to create richly drawn characters that the reader cannot help but care about.

Italian Doctor, No Strings Attached, is a dramatic, at times heartbreaking, but ultimately uplifting story about taking a chance on love, devastating choices, redemption and triumphing against the odds that will make readers smile as well as shed a tear or two. Sydney is a wonderful heroine readers will relate to and admire whereas Marco is a gorgeous hero whose strength, sensitivity and magnetism will melt even the hardest of hearts!”

Thank you, Julie Bonello, for making my day. And you can read the rest of the review here.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

new voices talk

Current work: Rome book revisions
Listening to: Bach
Reading: Nicola Cornick, One Wicked Sin (enjoying)

The New Voices talk yesterday was great fun – I had a lovely bunch of people there, and I do hope I encouraged them to go for it. I was realistic – publishing isn’t a get-rich-quick industry – but there are other rewards to the job besides money. In fact, things that money can’t buy, such not having to worry about letting colleagues down/arranging cover if you or your children are ill (because the job is flexible); or having letters from readers telling you that your book has helped them get through a tough time in their lives. And there’s a lot to be said for living your dreams. Of course there are bad days (LOL, such as doing revisions!), as with any job, but I can’t think of anything I’d rather do.

Rather less nice was the behaviour churchyard groundsman just beforehand. “Excuse me, are you the person who scatters ash all over the graves?” is not an appropriate or sensitive thing to say to someone who’s clearly putting roses on the grave of someone they love. Particularly when it’s unprovoked. (“Have you seen anyone scattering ash?” is different – it’s asking for help rather than being accusatory.) I had a long chat with the town council this morning, so hopefully they’ll teach him some people skills for the future.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

interview at the RNA

Current work: M&B New Voices workshop this afternoon
Listening to: Def Leppard
Reading: Nicola Cornick, One Wicked Sin (Nicola’s books are always a treat and this one’s no exception – there was a character in her last book whom I could cheerfully have pushed in a puddle, but here Nicola makes her so sympathetic that I’m rooting for her)

I’m over at the RNA blog today, being interviewed – it was enormous fun. So if you want to know what my absolutely favourite thing is about writing (among other things), do go over to the blog and say hello!

Monday, October 03, 2011

Indian summer

Current work: revisions on Rome book
Listening to: Anna Nalick
Reading: Kristan Higgins, Too Good to be True (enjoyed very much, but especially Angus McFangus – inspired name for a Westie!)

Apologies for my absence last week. Got tempted away by a tall, dark and handsome man. (I’m not very good at resisting the suggestion of lunch out…) Anyway, he’s back to work this week and so am I; my ed has sent through the revisions, I’ve argued my case for a couple of points (ha, so my confidence is coming back, then), and I’ve also sorted out my accounts.

But what we really did a lot of was loafing, because it’s a real Indian summer here, with temperatures DOUBLE the average for this time of year. (Does this make up for August temps being half what they should’ve been? Perhaps.) I’m over at eHarlequin this morning, talking on the subject.

Anyway, DH decreed it was barbecue weather, and I decreed that we needed to be up early on Saturday to get a parking space at the seaside. Cue grumpy teen and grumpy teen-in-training protesting that they didn’t want to go. Overruled. Sulks on way.

And then they got out of the car and saw this. (Looks almost Mediterranean, with the sea that colour.)

We had a paddle and a stroll.

And I just love the patterns that light makes through the water. (Ha, you KNEW there was going to be an arty shot.)

Today, it’s back to normal. Nose to grindstone. I’ve printed off the book and my ed’s comments, my red pen is to hand, and I’m about to make another cup of proper coffee to wake me up (only downside to Indian summer = humid nights = not much sleep).

Tomorrow, it’s the M&B talk. You might still be able to squeeze in - call 01953 452319 or e-mail or to book a place.

Righty. The book beckons!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

free book from M&B

Current work: admin day
Listening to: (trying not to get distracted by the piano in the dining room)
Reading: next on TBR

Busybusy here – a week full of school meetings, DH being home on holiday (aka painting the windows, as we are indeed having the promised Indian Summer – and that means constant interruptions for me), a very nice day yesterday having lunch out with one of my RNA friends (lots of talking about books, good company and good food - waves to Lizzie Lamb), finally working out where the new idea is going (thank you, Maggie Kingsley, for letting me bounce ideas off you), and… oh, it’s just busy.

So instead let me give you a link to something brilliant for anyone who wants to write M&B – a free e-book, giving seriously excellent tips on writing (including some from my mates Liz Fielding and Fiona Harper). And you know what? I learned a ton from the book, too! (Doesn't matter if I am playing with my 51st book - there's always something new to learn, and I also believe that new writers can teach experienced writers things, too. Sharing experiences can spark off all kinds of things.)

The book’s here – though please note it’s in epub format, so you’ll need Adobe digital editions to open it. (Or, if you’re using an iPad, the Bluefire app will sort it for you.)

Very best of luck to those entering New Voices.

If you’re in Norfolk, there’s still time to book a place on my workshop on Tuesday 4 October - call 01953 452319 or e-mail or

Monday, September 26, 2011

the play’s the thing…

Current work: new book – beginnings and seeing where it takes me
Listening to: Del Amitri
Reading: next on TBR

The Madness of George III was absolutely excellent. Real roller-coaster stuff – you went from laughter (witty banter between George III and Pitt and some fairly pointed commentary on politics) through to shock (the bit where George was restrained and the entire cast was singing ‘Zadok the Priest’ – and the scene where the doctor prescribed ‘cupping’ – I had to cover my eyes) through to laughter again at the end. And there was some very sharp commentary in between – the equerry who double-dealt was promoted, and pointed out to the equerry who was kind during George’s illness (and wasn’t promoted at the end) that ‘a blind eye’ is the only thing that gets you forward in politics. (Deeply unjust, but it reflected the zeitgeist. We might think politics is corrupt, today, but it was much worse back in the 18th century.) And I loved the inclusion of a bit of King Lear.

Very, very well acted by the entire cast, but David Haig in particular was superb. If it’s touring near you, I’d really recommend getting tickets.

Dinner beforehand was also very nice; and the pudding was beautifully presented. The smartest ‘Eton Mess’ I’ve ever seen. (Foodie daughter thinks that the one at Delia’s has better meringue and a better proportion of strawberries. Bless.)

Today I’m a bit unfocused, mainly because I’m waiting to hear back from my editor – I know I should just get on with it, because it could be a while yet and I'm just wasting time being fidgety, but this is the bit I find really sticky. Big-time antsy. And I’ve realised that all the work I did yesterday has to be scrapped because the premise is completely wrong. So. Backup outline, because I think lovely ed will nix one or both outlines? Admin? Nerdy side projects 1 or 2? Sigh. Time to switch on the kitchen timer...

Friday, September 23, 2011

the best sort of weekend

Current work: experimenting with form (aka craft stuff)
Listening to: Bach
Reading: Kristan Higgins, The Next Best Thing (excellent – and was very shocked to realise that not only are her books written in first person (which usually puts me off as I like third person, dual viewpoint – lazy of me perhaps, as that’s what I tend to write), they’re written in present tense (which nearly always puts me off because I feel it makes the writing feel self-conscious). However, the characterisation is so strong and the storytelling’s so good that to me it reads like a third-person past tense - highly recommended).

Have some great news from lovely ed, yesterday: ‘The Ex Who Hired Her’ (aka the department store story) will be released in the US next April. Excellent.

She's planning to come back to me re the outlines next (aka I have a temporary reprieve from revisions, which was what I thought I might be doing this weekend). So today I really should be doing my backup outlines in case she hates them as much as I think she might. But the sun is shining and my head is saying, ‘Friday: day off, time to play’, so I’m experimenting with form. Writing outside my usual box will hopefully make my work a bit deeper.

I have an excellent weekend lined up (depending on what lovely ed says about outlines). Tonight, am going to the theatre with son. We're both really looking forward to it.

Tomorrow, am going shopping with daughter – mainly to pick up her new guitar book from the music shop, but I have a feeling I’m going to be strong-armed into a bookshop as well.

And then I think I need to sweet-talk DH as I have a real yearning for the sea...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

elsewhere today

Current work: outlines
Listening to: various
Reading: David Nicholls, One Day (enjoying – don’t like the hero at all and think he needs to grow up, but the book is very true to the times and I’m enjoying a trip down memory lane, plus I like the heroine)

I’m over at the PHS today, talking books.

Sorry for lack of content on the blog this week. I overdid it a bit (!) last week, and this week I am a total zombie. A twitchy zombie, actually, because I’m waiting for my ed’s reaction – and I’m not very good at waiting. In the meantime, I’m playing with ideas. The two outlines I’ve already sent in this week might both get a rejection – one because it’s bending the rules, and one because it’s... um, bending the rules as well. So I need backup. Dear Muse, if I make cake, would you please come and party?

Monday, September 19, 2011


Current work: outlines
Listening to: various
Reading: Kristan Higgins, My One and Only (fabulous – made me have a lump in my throat in places – great characterisation); Annie West, Girl in the Bedouin Tent (enjoyed); Lynn Raye Harris, Strangers in the Desert (superb – she’s an autobuy author for me. Love her voice; has warmth as well as passion)

Had a lovely girly Saturday morning with daughter. Started with perfume (as I was down to about two squirts in my current bottle). I nearly, nearly bought a different one, but I did it the sensible way: try perfume, do rest of shopping and have a coffee, then see if I like the perfume’s drydown. Daughter declared that Cool Water was just about OK, but CK1 Shock had gone soapy and the vanilla component was sickly. So it was a another bottle of Addict for me. (Slight panic as Dior has changed the packaging, but very relieved to say that the perfume is that that lovely, non-sickly vanilla bomb.) We also bought new bedlinen and a couple of girly cushions for Madam’s room, and had a lovely bookshop browse (DH, if you’re reading this, please note that I didn’t buy anything for me and I am working through my TBR piles. Really).

And then it was a baking session, mainly because some of my Aussie mates (particularly Amy Andrews and Anna Cleary) have been tempting me with tales of Hummingbird Cake. I looked up a few recipes, but the one that really caught my eye was a BBC recipe (as well as the banana and pineapple, it included mango and passionfruit) and daughter agreed. The icing was a total disaster (first time I’ve ever had icing go runny on me – hmm, perhaps there was a reason why it said full-fat rather than low-fat cream cheese) but the cake was beautiful, very moist.

I did tinker a bit with the recipe – used walnut oil rather than sunflower, added a teaspoon of ground coriander to the cake, and swapped the orange zest for lime in the icing – and we’d definitely consider making it again. It’s very rich and filling, though (and I speak as someone who can be very greedy when it comes to cake). Next time we’ll experiment with it in muffin format. It all goes with the ‘Method Writing’ stuff – unless my ed nixes it…

Plan for today: practise the Mozart piece for lesson tomorrow; finish outline for Vienna book; and work on some other new stuff. I do like this stage of a book – it’s full of delicious possibilities.

Friday, September 16, 2011

lovely review

Current work: outline for new book
Listening to: Def Leppard
Reading: Fiona Harper, Swept Off her Stilettos (great fun)

Nice lazy afternoon yesterday, refilling the well. And then I had a really nice email from the reviews team at Romantic Times, telling me they’d given me four stars for Italian Doctor, No Strings Attached – and even nicer is what they said: ‘Overall, this is a wonderfully poignant tale of second chances. Readers follow the two characters in their quest for family and everlasting love. This excellent romance will touch your heart and have you shedding tears.’ Many thanks to Nas Dean for the lovely review. It's really nice when someone gets what you were trying to do. And it's gone some way to restoring my rather fragile confidence.

Today: outline for new book. I was going to do it on paper in the dining room, but that’s too close to the piano. However, my guitar lives behind my desk. Hmm. Distractions. Might have to work on the iPad on my bed, probably with a spaniel sneaked up there too…

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Current work: just turned in a book :o)
Listening to: Def Leppard (ha)
Reading: next on TBR (choices, choices, choices…)

Delighted to say that I have finished #50 and sent it to my editor. Guitar lesson this morning; then did a last read-through and tinker on the Rome book before emailing it over.

And now what do I do?

Actually, I do have one of my infamous lists (and there are quite a few tasks on it), but I think I can give myself the rest of today off for a bit of well-refilling. Guitar this morning; so that’s the piano this afternoon before school run, and then a good book for the school run. Which to choose? I have a lot on my TBR pile (DH, if you’re reading this, just so you know I haven’t bought a book for myself for two whole weeks – and no, I’m not confessing what I bought before then!). Decisions, decisions…

I’ve been listening rather a lot to ‘Tonight’ and ‘Love’ (piano version), because they really fitted the book very well. Protests are emerging from the younger members of the family. So I think I might have to make myself a new playlist, too.

Have a nice day :o) It’s cloudy here, but it feels like the sun is shining, because I’m off deadline – whoo-hoo!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

New Voices is live!

And the first entries are already in! (You can read them here.)

Whether you're primarily a reader or a writer, there'll be something on the website for you to enjoy.

Good luck to all the entrants!

Monday, September 12, 2011

New Voices update

Change of date and time for my workshop For anyone who's booked the workshop on Sept 13 - or who saw it advertised in the local paper - unfortunately, the librarian is poorly, so we've had to change the date.

The good news is that there's still time to go to my workshop before you enter New Voices (or, if you really can't wait, New Voices opens tomorrow! And there'll be lots to see every day over at

Workshop revised details:
Date: Tuesday, October 4
Time: 2:30am - 4:00pm
Location: Attleborough Library, 31 Connaught Road, Attleborough, NR17 2BW

For more information or to book your FREE place, call 01953 452319 or e-mail or

If you're not local to me and you're wondering if one of the M&B authors is running a workshop in your area, there's a list here on the New Voices website. Go check it out!