Thursday, May 31, 2012

dog in the daisies

Current work: med
Listening to: Beethoven
Reading: next on TBR

Am deep, deep, deep in deadline (not helped by Word having an enormous hissy fit yesterday and opening 10 docs at once, then not letting me into any of them to close them – ouch, and I was VERY grateful for the excellent support team at Apple).

We learned the spin turn yesterday at dance class. We’re, um, just about doing a straight line now with the normal and reverse turns, so we struggled a bit. If DH could take smaller steps, it would help! But we’ll get there.

Am up to eyeballs so am posting a pic instead of wittering on. Dog looked very cute among the daisies, earlier this week.

But he wasn’t in the mood for having his photo taken. He either lay on his side with one paw up, demanding a tummy rub; or did this with his head so you can't see his cute little face properly. I tried saying ‘walkies’ to get him to sit up and look interested, but then he started bouncing around, so… this is the best we can do :o)

And I need to be gone!

Monday, May 28, 2012

deadline and fast track

Current work: med
Listening to: Beethoven
Reading: next on TBR

Deadline week. Book due. Any sense out of me? Noooo.

Quick update on last few days: hard cardio session at gym, new hair colour (is a bit more red this time), shopping to get DH’s birthday present, barbecue and watching blu-ray of Iron Man (enjoyed hugely), LOTS of work, another session in the gym this morning, a ton of admin, more work… Yeah, I know, I said to everyone I was going to be a tortoise this year. My head sees it differently. Lots of faffing around and thinking it over – and then write fast. It’s not the way I’d choose to do it, but hey.

Fast track? M and B are looking for new Medical romance authors. Details are over on the M and B site here. Good luck if you’re going for it!

Friday, May 25, 2012

it's official!

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

Today I have my official welcome as part of the Harlequin Romance authors (over here). And I am so, so thrilled to be one of them. Thank you, Donna Alward, for writing such nice things about me! :o)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

book 52 has a title...

Current work: med
Listening to: Del Amitri
Reading: next on TBR

I think it’s fairly well known that I really like the Pandora charms, and I buy a bead for each book I have accepted. This is the one I bought at the weekend for book #52 – which is now called BALLROOM TO BRIDE AND GROOM and is out in the US in Feb 2013; UK hardback is the same month but we’re waiting to hear about the UK paperback.

Why this bead? Because it’s my ballroom dancing book, and the swirls on the glass are a bit like the way the waltz would look from a bird’s eye view. DH and I are not quite (!) up to that standard, so I have a feeling we’ll get stuck in the middle of the reverse turn tonight at class and need to be reminded which way to go. (Trust me. You forget your left and right. My heroine has trouble with the waltz. Not sure if I’m channelling her or she was channelling me!)

Apart from that, this week I’ve had a personal training sessions, a guitar lesson (mainly Mozart, which was nice), and my first ever Zumba class (hmm, was a bit ambitious on my part to do that between two PT sessions, especially as it meant 13 hours between a hard class and a session with someone who always makes me work really hard – in future, might go for a swim after guitar, instead). And I’ve written a bit – not enough, so Must Try Harder :o)

Have a nice day!

Monday, May 21, 2012


Current work: med
Listening to: Beethoven
Reading: next on TBR

Busy weekend – went to see Avengers Assembled on Friday night (enjoyed very much – I’ve ordered both Iron Man films, because that kind of humour and wit REALLY works for me; and intend to sweet-talk DH into Thor, because… OK, shallow, but the actor who plays Loki would work rather nicely as the hero of one of my books!). Saturday, nipped into town with Chlo and bought the bead for book #52 (still untitled, but I bet I don’t get to keep my working title of ‘Putting on the Glitz’), then dinner out with DH and the kids for son’s birthday.

Sunday was son’s 15th birthday, so we had the family over for a barbecue (and I could open a florist’s – have run out of windowsill space).

Ran out of vases, too! (But both the kitchen and the living room smell gorgeous because of the stocks.)

Celebration of my new career move, too (thanks to bestest cousin for the pink champagne).

Lots of cake. (NOT scoffed by me, I might add. Some of us, i.e. not DH, were sensible about what they ate.) But notice the wonderful candles - these are the 'angel flame' ones they sell in Lakeland and Hawkins' Bazaar, which have different colour flames. (What I really wanted was one of those indoor Roman candles, but I'm working on finding a local supplier.)

The Kate Unlardy project is ticking along nicely. 1lb off this week. Am enjoying the gym sessions (especially as I’m having a real mix of personal trainers and they all do different things with me – I’m happy to try most things). Oh, and especially for Michelle Styles… I did my first planks, today :o) (I might not be smiling tomorrow…!)

And I came back this morning to some nice news – can’t share yet, but I’m feeling more settled and happier now than I have in a very, very long time.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

some really, really, REALLY good news...

Current work: med/Vienna book tweaks
Listening to: Beethoven/Roberto Alagna
Reading: Kristan Higgins, Somebody to Love (fabulous – her books are always a treat)

I’m thrilled to say that my 52nd book – aka the Vienna book – has been accepted. Publication date is some time in early 2013; title to be confirmed.

And the big news is that it’s to a different line. Bit of a sea change, but as from now I write for Harlequin Romance (Cherish in the UK) rather than Presents. Extra/Riva. And obviously I’m still a medical author!

And yes, we went out to dinner last night to celebrate. Nothing fancy, just the local pub, but it was nice to go out and celebrate.

The last couple of years have been a real struggle for me, both personally and workwise. My post yesterday on Liz Fenwick’s blog, about resilience, was very heartfelt. And what got me through a fairly bumpy time was having some seriously good friends who listened, were my cheer squad, and most importantly didn’t let me wallow and get miserable. The Vienna book is dedicated to them, with much love and thanks.

The future is looking brighter than it has for a long, long time. The personal stuff is pretty much resolved (as in my dad is at peace now, and I'm staying well out of reach of the people in my life who gave me unnecessary grief - if they apologised for their unkind, spiteful behaviour, I'd be prepared to forgive, but I'm certainly not putting myself forward for more of the same treatment); I’ve also made a decision to look after myself a bit better than I have been (hence the Kate Unlardy Project); and workwise I’m feeling really enthusiastic because I think that the Romance line will fit my voice better. My ideas are flowing again, which is always a good sign. Obviously I still have a bit of a learning curve to come, but the really big worries I’ve been living with for the last few months are over for now. It will be lovely not to be wide awake and worrying at 3am.

Onwards and upwards - that's my mantra.

Have a nice day :)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

One thing I've learnt...

Am over at lovely Liz Fenwick’s blog today, as part of her blog party for her debut novel, A Cornish House (I am so looking forward to this one!). Do come over and say hello, and wish Liz happy publication. She’s worked incredibly hard and her success is richly deserved.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Bluebells, redux

Current work: med (expecting tweaks on Vienna book later this morning)
Listening to: Beethoven
Reading: Yesterday’s Sun, Amanda Brooks

Starting with Friday – went out to dinner pre-theatre, but it was also a celebration as I’ve sold my 52nd book. (However, it’s a bit complicated and I need a chat with my editor before I can make a proper hoppy-skippy-bouncy announcement.)

The Winter’s Tale was excellent – Tony Bell was fabulous as Autolycus, playing it almost in a Keith Richards way. The whole cast did a great job, but the star of the show for me was Paulina (always was my fave character in the play). I still cannot understand Leontes. Or why Hermione forgave him. And that set me thinking. I have another lightbulb flicking very, very brightly in the back of my head. It’s ambitious, but worth playing with. Oh yes – and the text adapter for this production was none other than one of my favourite Renaissance lecturers from my undergraduate days: Roger Warren. I texted the Godmothers, the next morning, to tell them, and they both came back with exactly the same quote. (And if you can remember a lecture 25 years after you graduated – I rest my case.)

Saturday was my usual stroll in town with daughter (and yes, did involve a bookshop as well as coffee).

Sunday was really sunny in the morning, so I begged to do some method research for a scene in the current med.

Where we went was very, very muddy. (My poor wellies, on their first outing.)

It's a beautiful part of the world. (I love the contrast of colours: the green hedgerow, the yellow oilseed rape and the wide blue skies.)

And yes, it’s the same place we went to a couple of weeks back, when the bluebells were just coming out - Foxley. On Sunday, the woods were in full glory.

I know it’s usually called a bluebell carpet, but to me it always feels more like drifts of bluebells. Just lovely. (The white flowers are stitchwort, I think. My mum used to call them 'daddy's shirt buttons' and made up stories when I was tiny about the animals in the countryside, and how they paid for their goods with flowers. Such a shame that she never wrote them down.)

And I'm a happy bunny - sunny, but not HOT, so I can walk for miles. (Oh - talking of bunnies, we saw a couple of hares dashing about.)

Plan for today: training session at the gym (aka the Kate Un-lardy Project), then cracking on with the med while awaiting last tweaks from ed re the Vienna book. (And a chat. But that might be tomorrow.)

Friday, May 11, 2012

the right decision

Current work: med (and getting nervous about verdict on second revs)
Listening to: Sheryl Crow
Reading: Yesterday’s Sun, Amanda Brooks

So today was my induction at the gym. It was hard work (I’m unfit, and I am going to feel it tomorrow). What I wasn’t expecting was to enjoy it. Or to feel great afterwards.

I saw a couple of people I’ve known since nursery, and I made a new friend (who came over to me in the changing room and asked how my first session went – that was SO kind – as well as reassuring me I’d made the right decision by sharing her weight/shape loss experience).

Definitely the right decision.

I also came home to a new Manga edition – this time, The Cinderella Project – and tonight I’m taking Son to see The Winter’s Tale at the Theatre Royal. So a nice day all round.

The sky was blue when we left for school this morning. Aha, I thought, I can finally get my shot of the oilseed rape against the sky. It’s not quite how I wanted it, as the clouds had already started to come in (and in the shot where the flowers look great and I did get a bit of blue sky, there’s a fuzzy bit of cow parsley in the way). But this will give you some idea of how pretty the fields are around here at the moment.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

making a big change

Current work: back to the med (awaiting verdict on second revs)
Listening to: Take That
Reading: Yesterday’s Sun, Amanda Brooks (really interesting concept)

We all know I’m a ‘method’ writer (cough, just as well I don’t write crime… yet). And for the last few weeks I’ve been seriously thinking about a personal trainer. Not just for book purposes (though it does have a lot to do with the Med), but for me.

The thing is, I hate exercise.

I eat really, really sensibly (when I go on about stuffing my face with chocolate, most of that’s teasing – I’m too aware of the calorie count). But my weight just isn’t shifting. So I can’t get away from it: to shift the weight (and make sure I don’t look a total blob at the M&B party pictures in September – when I’m due to get my pin for my 50th book, so I have to scrub up a bit instead of being my usual scruffy self) I will have to do some exercise.

Which is a big lifestyle change for me, and one that I should have done long before now.

So I went to have a chat at the gym I pass on the school run every morning. It’s convenient (which is a big part of helping me to do it). The monthly fee is reasonable. But then they told me something that had my ears pricking up: as part of my membership, I can have a personal training session three times a week. This is exactly what I need – someone to cajole me into doing that little bit more, bully me in a nice way, and get me fitter. Booking 1-2-1 appointments means I have to put them in my diary and turn up.

I liked the atmosphere – it’s a really friendly place. Not one full of muscle-men who’d sneer at a middle-aged, overweight and totally unfit woman. Not one full of lycra-wearing twiglets in full make-up. (Yes, I have been to a gym like that, years ago, and I never went back!) It’s a place where they listen to you, find out what you want to get out of your exercise (in my case, to lose 1lb a week, to be fitter and more toned, and to get my energy back), and they help you achieve it. I’ve met four of the trainers now, and they’re all really nice and made me feel very welcome. None of them made me feel fat, unfit or stupid. (I am definitely the first two, but not the third!)

So I've decided that it’s time to be selfish and look after myself a bit better. My life is way too sedentary and it needs to change. It means carving out an extra hour and a half a day. But I can fritter that very easily on the internet – online word puzzles – so that habit is going to be broken and the time switched over to exercise.

I could’ve waited until September, when littlest starts high school (next door to the gym) and I get an extra two hours in my working day. But now I’ve made the decision, what's the point of waiting?

This morning, I went for a swim when I'd dropped littlest at school. It was a joy. Quiet pool – only three others there, and two of them finished their swims partway through mine. So there was plenty of room to turn round at the end of a length; nobody splashing me; and I felt wonderful afterwards. (Scary thought. I might actually like exercise, if it's on my terms.)

Today’s probably not a normal day, because I haven’t done a stroke of work yet and it’s after lunch! But that’s because I went into town to buy exercise gear. I live in black trousers, but I don’t actually own jogging bottoms. I have some nice stuff now, thanks to M&S. Couldn’t find a top I liked – I wanted something baggy, and all the women’s stuff seems to be clingy, so I’m going to take up DH’s offer of letting me borrow one of his. Bought a swim bag, too, so can return lovely daughter’s to her. (Bless her - she lent it to me this morning so I didn't have to use a carrier bag!) Bought a nice new swim towel, too, to inspire me (think daughter might try and pinch that). So now I’m all organised. The plan from today is: mens sana in corpore sano. (Already had the first – cough, or as much as a novelist does – but the second… that’s my target.)

In other news: I’m supposed to be doing a Fast Draft with Fiona Harper and Jenna Burke. I’ve been a bit fidgety (awaiting verdict on second revs, and rather a lot hinges on that – more on that subject when I’m able to talk about it) so haven’t written as much as I should. But am getting down to it now.

Dancing is also going well. We did the shoulder-to-shoulder movement on the rumba last week, and this week we added it in to the cha cha cha. DH and I can do this and it’s fun. But then Donna showed us what we’re going to do next week – getting the waltz to where it should be. Doing the reverse turn and alternating it with the natural turn (we can just about do the latter, but… let’s say it’s just as well I spent my birthday money on wellies rather than dance shoes).

Tomorrow, I have my induction training, and on Monday my programme starts for real.

Tomorrow, I also have a Shakespeare production to look forward to - The Winter's Tale, and it's an all-male cast (so will be interesting for son from a drama perspective as well as English Lit). Am also making plans with lovely best friend because my London trip in September coincides with an exhibition that includes my all-time favourite artist. Then we have to choose between a production at the Globe and King Lear with Jonathan Pryce. (We can't do both. Can we? No, we'd be zombies. Hmm. How bad can I be?)

And that’s me caught up for now.  Have a nice day!

Monday, May 07, 2012

pure nerdy bliss

Current work: back to the med (awaiting verdict on second revs)
Listening to: Nick Drake (been out with DH)
Reading: The Midwife of Venice, Roberta Rich

For quite a while, I’ve wanted to visit the church of St Mary’s at Houghton on the Hill.

The village itself no longer exists (the last ruins were demolished barely 20 years ago), but in the field opposite the church, where cattle were grazing, we could see the old ‘hollow way’ that went through the village. The church itself was abandoned before the second world war and gradually fell into ruins. Bob Davey rescued it when his wife Gloria discovered the church on a WI ramble, and has spent the last 20 years working to save the church and showing people round. (He’s a really amazing man – a real powerhouse, even though he’s in his eighties.)

The church is immensely interesting for lots of reasons. It’s built on the remains of what’s thought to be a Roman temple (and there’s certainly Roman brickwork and tile in the structure of the building – typical re-use of the materials). Peddar’s Way passes at the bottom of the hill. The church itself has some Saxon features and the nave dates from the late 11th century.

The reason I wanted to visit was to see the wall paintings. They’re some of the oldest wall paintings in the country (dating from around 1090) and include what’s thought to be the earliest pictorial representation of the Trinity as the Thone of Grace (i.e. God seated on a throne, supporting Jesus on the cross, and with the Holy Spirit as a dove by God’s halo), contained within a mandorla. (That's the shape that looks like a Baboushka doll in the middle of the picture below.)

Doom and Throne of Grace

This is actually part of a marvellous Doom (Last Judgement) painting on the east wall, with an angel blowing the Last Trump to wake the dead from their coffins – note his almond-shaped eyes, and he has three sets of wings. The people below him all have elongated hands, showing that they’re praying. Above them, there are figures with haloes who have already gone to heaven; on the right (i.e. God's left hand side) there are others falling down to hell.

detail of angel blowing the Last Trump

There are also roundels with Jesus and some saints or apostles, holding scrolls.

roundel of apostle holding scroll
On the north wall, there’s the Creation of Eve – God has a crossed halo and he’s holding Eve (having just created her from Adam’s rib). Adam is a smaller figure lying against the Tree of Knowledge, and you can also see the serpent in the branches. There’s also a fragment of Noah’s Ark.

Creation of Eve

On the south wall, there’s a fragment of what’s thought to be the Wheel of Fortune.

Oh, and did I mention the Saxon splay window on the north wall with its original wooden frame? (It’s bricked up, yes, but that woodwork is 1,000 years old. Forty generations. Imagine.)

Saxon splay window with original timber frame
The lovely man who showed us round told us that when they excavated the soakaway on the north side of the church, they found six burials (criminals or others who’d fallen foul of the church and were therefore buried in unconsecrated ground). One was a woman who’d been buried face-down and with a flint placed on her head. I went cold at that point!

He also told us about the stub of a tomb found on the south side during excavations, thought to be that of Sir Robert de Nevile (the lord of the manor there in 1270), who was executed in Yorkshire for having ‘criminal conversation’ (aka an affair with a married woman).

If you’d like more detailed information, take a look at the church’s website.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

elsewhere (with a recipe)

Current work: second revs on Vienna book
Listening to: Corelli
Reading: next on TBR

May already? Scary – my eldest hits his mid-teens later this month.

I’m over at the PHS today with my brownie recipe. Adapted to suit the aforementioned teenager.

Up to eyes in revisions and waiting for DH’s new shed to be delivered… so I’m gone :o) Almost – before I do, a good friend of mine has her first mainstream out today (written with her sister) so do go over to Facebook and wish Ali Ahearn and Ros Baxter happy publication day!