Monday, November 25, 2013


Current work: revision to working on M&B #59 (like working through treacle) and two or three other projects
Listening to: 30 Seconds To Mars
Reading: Rachel Hore, The Silent Tide (loved it, though it made me really angry in places - the treatment of professional women in the 1950s was atrocious); Jill Shalvis, Simply Irresistible (also loved it)
Gym: 121 (smashed my PB on the deadlift – is now 75kg) and yoga

So this weekend saw the final part of my daughter’s birthday (aka her main present – a weekend in London to see 30 Seconds to Mars at the O2, and her BFF came with us).

So, after we'd checked in to our hotel and explored a little bit of Westfield (which was crammed full of people, because it was Saturday afternoon), off we went to the O2 in North Greenwich – and seeing the Dome all lit up was so exciting. (I’ve only been there in the daytime before – last time was the Tutankhamun exhibition.)

Look at our destination – Mars!

We had dinner at Frankie and Benny's (and for once I didn't have a crab salad - I had scampi. AND fries). Then we queued up. And then it was up a couple of escalators to our block. We were very high up (this is the stage set for the support band, You Me at Six - who were very good) and, as you can see, the top tier is very steeply banked, so it was a tiny bit scary.

And then YMAS came on. I enjoyed the music, though didn't really sing along as I didn't know the words.

Interval. Waiting a l-o-n-g time. And then the lights went up, and Jared Leto was on the top of the platform, and all was very well with the world. My daughter would like to point out that I scored 8 out of 10 on Embarrassing Parent of a Teen scale, because I sang, danced and - as she put it - 'raved' through the rest of the show. Well, hey. Singing along with a whole stadium to one of your favourite songs is just an amazing buzz. And when Jared Leto tells you to get up and dance because it's a rock concert, not the movies - well, hey. Despite the fact that we were in the scary seats, we did it, and it was fine because everyone around us did it too.

As well as fabulous music (and an acoustic section which I really, really loved), there were fabulous lights and acrobatics (backflips on a see-saw, and one of those rings where you spin round the entire stage).

And there was confetti. And balloons (some of them were GIANT ones, as big as a giant space hopper).

And streamers.

All in all, it was a fantastic show, and I'd love a time machine right now so I can see the whole thing all over again. Happy, happy teenage birthday to my littlest for earlier this month, and thank you for asking me to take you to such a fabulous show. 

Friday, November 08, 2013

Guest post: Donna Alward

I'm delighted to host Donna Alward today - she's been a friend for years and years, and has inspired me hugely on the Kate Unlardy project (ahem, with the exception of what she's posting here, LOL!). Anyway, over to Donna...

In Search of a Recipe  - Donna Alward

Every single time I write a book there’s food in it. New foods, favourite foods, comfort foods, foods with history that resonate with the characters (and me!).

Writing a Christmas book? Take that and triple it. At least. Because don’t we all have favourite recipes and foods that we make only at the holidays?

In A CADENCE CREEK CHRISTMAS, my heroine, Taylor Shepard, takes a morning to shop the stores of the small western town. She’s suddenly keen on having a big, traditional family Christmas. So it goes to follow that there will be turkey, and homemade cranberry sauce. Cranberry sauce, by the way, is dead easy. One bag of cranberries, one cup of water and one cup of sugar. Boil the crap out of it (but don’t let it burn!) and cool. That’s it.

Taylor’s last stop is the bakery, where she’s hoping to get a sweet treat and something for the family when they arrive for the holiday. She picks up a Christmas Stollen, and also a Steamed Pudding and sauce, with instructions for adding the brandy. And then she settles down for a cup of caramel hot chocolate and a piece of cherry strudel.

Hungry yet? Maybe if I tell you her friend Angela arrives and gets Carrot Cake topped with thick Cream Cheese icing?

Anyway, here’s the thing. I love Christmas Stollen (bread! Fruit! Marzipan! What’s not to love?) but I’ve never made one. Does anyone out there know of a good recipe for it? I’d love to try it on my own this year (since it’s freaking expensive to purchase it at the specialty shops or markets!). You can post the link in the comments if your recipe is somewhere online, or e-mail it to me

And just so I don’t leave you without any recipes to try – here’s one I love for entertaining.

Chocolate Chip Toffee Cheese Ball
8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened (no substitutes)
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 TB brown sugar
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup toffee bits (like Skor)
3/4 cup pecans, finely chopped
Cookies, like graham crackers or chocolate or vanilla wafers

Beat together cream cheese, butter, and vanilla. Add in sugars. Fold in chocolate chips and toffee bits.

Form into as much of a ball as possible, and put on a plate. Cut a piece of waxed paper and put it over top of the mound of yumminess. J With the waxed paper, use your hands to form it into a ball. Leave the waxed paper on it and put it in the fridge for a couple of hours.

When it’s fairly firm, roll it in the chopped pecans. Put in the center of a pretty plate and surround it with assorted cookies. It disappears in a HURRY and you’ll be very popular.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Santa's on tour! (And I'm going places, too…)

Survived half term and much partying (do NOT ask about the scales, sob). And now everything's all systems go! (Well, they will be when my revisions land. I need to learn how to wait productively.)

Today is Bonfire Night and I'm talking fireworks over at the Chocolate Box. I'm also talking firework food over at the Pink Heart Society (aka my recipe for fajitas).

And then I'm on a blog tour with Tis the Season to Kiss Santa (look at the lovely, lovely banner my publisher made for me!).

You can find out where I am on the tour over at Buy the Book (thank you to Florence). And there are three holiday books up for grabs, along with excerpts, so do go along and see Santa.

And thank you to everyone who's given me such nice reviews on Amazon. As an author, it's hard to judge your own books - I always try my best, but I also always worry that it's not good enough. So I'm very glad and relieved that people seem to like Santa :)

Have a nice day!

Friday, November 01, 2013

red letter day

Current work: working on M&B #60 (Medical – tropical medicine) and two or three other projects
Listening to: 30 Seconds To Mars/All Time Low
Reading: next on TBR
Gym: skiving off today as it’s my daughter’s birthday!

So today my daughter becomes a teen. Happy birthday, Chloe! I’m not going to embarrass her by saying how much I love her and how lucky I am to have such a great daughter, but… (Ha – see how I got round teenage squirmy embarrassment, there? But I’m not posting one of her baby pics this year because I don’t want to embarrass and upset her.)

It’s also an anniversary day for me – 12 years since I had The Call from M&B, and 11 years since my first M&B hit the shelves. We’ve just had a massive storm in the UK, and that’s exactly what happened at my launch party… :o)

Oh, and I have two books out today. The first is Her Real Family Christmas (aka my 56th M&B).

And the second is a novella that was originally part of a quartet last year, so it has a shiny new cover – ’Tis the Season to Kiss Santa. (And lookie, I have a cover quote from an NYT bestseller!!! Thank you, Shirley.)

HRFC is available from stores in the UK and Aus, and at the the Harlequin/M&B websites in the US, UK and Aus; both books are also available at Amazon. I hate pimping my books, but I guess it's expected nowadays. So. Should you wish to acquire a copy...

HRFC - Amazon UK print, Amazon UK ebook, Amazon US ebook

TSKS - Amazon UK ebook, Amazon US ebook