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)