Friday, February 29, 2008

Happy leap day - and a very good book

Current work: ought to be revisions on my Greek doctor or working on TCVB… but I have the lurgy so I'm having a duvet day
Listening to: not (I have a headache)
Reading: Jessica Hart - Promoted: to wife and mother (this is one of the best books I've read in a long while, and I think it's going to join my all-time top 5 category romance reads - it's on the shelves in the next day or two so just go and buy it - lots of depth, made me laugh, made me cry, and she's right on the money where the emotions are concerned)

Happy leap day.

I had intended to write a really clever post about leap year traditions. However, when the alarm went off this morning, there was no way I could get out of bed. The lemsips haven't worked and I felt too rough to move, let alone sort the kids out for school. Luckily my husband is completely wonderful, listened to my pathetic croaking and told me to stay put. And I spent the entire morning in bed - mainly sleeping, but then reading Jessica Hart's new book in an attempt to forget how rough I felt.

It worked.

I'm not raving about it solely because I'm blogging at her 50th book blog party in the next couple of days - it's an utterly brilliant book, and touched a few personal buttons for me. This is the standard for which I'm aiming. And if I'm not polishing the Betty Neels rosebowl before it goes back to Jessica's care next February, I will be very surprised. You heard it here first.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

All change...

You may have noticed that I've switched from my rather Edwardian colour scheme (green and cream - OK, so it was probably more arsenic green than Edwardian green, but...) to something unashamedly P-I-N-K.

There's a very good reason for that.

Last year, at Kate Walker's 50th book blog party, I won a banner from the lovely and talented Heather Reed. Last year was a tad difficult, work-wise, so it took me ages to get round to talking to her about the banner. And then I had all this bright idea to learn CSS and do myself a website that will be a lot easier to update in future. Could she do me a banner?

Yep, and it's lovely.

But then real life got in the way. Big time. No way would I have the time to sit down and learn CSS properly and build the whole thing from scratch myself. So I asked Heather if she could do me the CSS shell so I'd be able to update it etc myself and fiddle with things as I get more time to read my CSS book.

So she did me proud. I have a new website. I've spent most of this week working on it (displacement activity while I'm waiting for my revisions). Heather has been wonderful about my 'I can see the code should work - so how come I'm seeing big blank areas and all my columns have vanished?' emails... in the end, we couldn't work out the answer to that - I think it might be my browser - but I worked out an alternative that I could see on the screen and check all the links.

There are bound to be glitches in there (it's a big site!) but I'll iron them out as I come across them (or as anyone tells me, hint, hint).

Do go and have a look and tell me what you think!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

so did it move for you?

Current work: TCVB /website coding
Listening to: Deep Purple, Purpendicular (OK, so ‘Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming’ is on loop)
Reading: Liz Fielding, The Bride’s Baby (another gem from Liz – fab characterisation, a plot that works, dialogue I wish I’d written, a hero to die for… and a couple of sucker-punches when you don’t expect them. And a fantasy wedding that would definitely suit me. Not forgetting the shoes... Just excellent.)

Apparently there was an earthquake last night at 1am. Quite a big one: 5.2 on the Richter scale. And as the epicentre was in Lincolnshire (aka our neighbouring county) it was felt in Norfolk. Everyone was talking about it in the playground this morning… and I was somewhat embarrassed to admit that I didn’t hear a thing. (I sleep through thunderstorms - which I suppose is to be expected from someone who can’t hear, vbg.) Hmmm. It’s given me a better idea for a scene in the book I wasn’t altogether happy about. (And yes, of course I grilled everyone about sounds, feeling, the lot. ) Am I the only person in England who slept through it?

I spent Monday evening and Tuesday morning banging my head against a brick wall – I couldn’t get the coding to work on probably the most important page on my new website. Sigh. I’ve managed to make an alternative work because I don’t want to spend hours and hours on one piece of code (hence the Deep Purple – really suited my mood).

Guitar yesterday was good. We’re going to raise my game… so Jim was flicking through grade 4 pieces and persuading me to give some of them a go. (Which was fine until I got to the one where the time signature changed with every bar. And the one with two time signatures… And then he cracked up and said they weren’t really sightreading pieces, but as I was doing OK I could have a grade 3 piece this week. So we’re doing a Bach sarabande from the Lute Suite.)

Today: one of my friends is celebrating her 50th book, and I’ve promised her a blog post so I need to get that sorted. Other things on my to-do list today:
  • book hotel for Lincoln (am involved in the Book Festival and DH and the kids have decided they want to come with me and make a weekend of it)
  • sort some more coding
  • work on the book (this one has the equivalent of a highlighter pen and six stars beside it)
  • return my library books and pick up the new ones
  • order some more library books
  • check diary to sort out a proper research day without getting sidetracked by thoughts of lunch out

Three weeks until half term. And I'm still nowhere near where I want to be, workwise. Righty. Work, and no distractions today.

Monday, February 25, 2008

spooky and organised

Current work: TCVB
Listening to: various cello
Reading: Finished Jennifer Crusie, Charlie All Night (took me a while to get into it but enjoyed it)

Busy weekend. Sadly, although David Dane was very, very nice, his work is out of my price range – by rather a lot. As the saying goes, ‘When I’m a rich and famous author…’ (Wry smile: there are very few of those – they tend to hit the headlines precisely because they’re news.) So in the Easter holidays we’ll go visiting local galleries and exhibitions.

Anyway. Had a lovely meal out with friends on Saturday night (came home and Madam was in tears, missing her mummy – even though she adores our babysitter. This is one of the reasons we don’t go out without the kids very often). Spent the rest of the weekend working on nonfiction, including a field trip to find an ice age erratic. As DH put it, ‘So are we supposed to find a tiny piece of masonry or a few covered hillocks at the far side of a field?’ No, honey, today it’s a boulder. A large toad-shaped stone up a narrow track opposite said piece of masonry. (His face was a picture. Especially when he realised I was serious.) In the end, DH and son stayed in the car while Madam and I went in search of said stone. I didn’t tell her the tales behind it, but it was a very spooky footpath and I can see why the stories grew up. Then, completely unexpectedly, a deer broke cover, leapt across the track and bounded up the hill, about ten metres in front of us. And just ahead was said toad-shaped stone. You can definitely see one eye and the mouth, and it was covered in moss. And as I had my human ‘marker’ with me (ha… made a change from ‘stand next to the flood marker, honey’), I have a good pic for my book, putting the size of the stone into context.

Organised: I have a to-do list and I’m intending to whizz through that this morning, then hopefully put some serious work into the novel. Hopefully the list will keep me on track and stop me going off at research tangents…

Friday, February 22, 2008

treasure hunt reminder

Current work: research day at library
Listening to: Corelli’s concerti grossi
Reading: too tired to read last night (hmm – getting to be a bad habit, this)

Last clue in the Modern Heat authors’ Valentine’s treasure hunt went up yesterday. Just in case you missed any, nip over to Sensational Romance where you’ll find links to all the clues. Send ALL the answers to and you’ll be entered in the draw to win all the books, including two from me: Sold to the Highest Bidder and the award-winning In Bed With Her Italian Boss (aka Breakfast at Giovanni’s).

Plan for today: school run, library, meet David Dane to discuss painting, back to library, school run, pick up Madam after guitar lesson, write up library notes.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Current work: should be TCVB, local history book, coding website (but there’s another book setting the lightbulbs off… so I’m having a research day)
Listening to: Corelli’s concerti grossi
Reading: too tired to read last night

The weather forecast really wasn’t promising for the eclipse. I woke at 3am (even though I hadn’t set my alarm) and the sky was full of clouds. Not a single break. Sigh: the next total lunar eclipse visible from the UK will be in 2015. Seven years to wait. Grr.

So I did what any self-respecting bookaholic in a sulk would do: online antiquarian book-shopping. Actually, I was reasonably good (but that’s mainly because I’m waiting for three email enquiries to be answered). I’ve ordered one of the books I want from the US (on the basis that it’s a US press, and is more easily available there, and I will at least get a new copy).

So am I being profligate for the sake of it? No. It’s all to do with research. Another book-of-my-heart which decided its outline needed to be drafted last night and I lost track of time. Obviously I need to pitch this properly, but this is one that I think needs full colour print to do it justice. There’s a gap in the market (which won’t be filled by the expensive book I just preordered with my birthday Amazon vouchers – though it’ll be good research material). So I’m more or less a happy puppy. (Or I would’ve been, had I not checked if my cover photo for the April book was up yet – it’s not – and found some reviews. Some were very, very nice. Another – by one of the reviewers who seemed to love my stuff – wasn’t, so I guess the book didn’t suit her; other people have praised it for precisely the things this reviewer didn’t like. Ah well. Can’t please everyone all of the time, and reviews aren’t meant to be personal. The crows of doubt are cawing with glee, but I have a windowsill full of ‘congratulations on your award’ cards in view, so they can just flap off and find something more constructive to do. I’m busy.)

Actually, it’s worse than that. There are two books-of-my-heart yelling away in my head. So some of the things I’m after are first editions. Early 19th century. Hmm. Better get back to work and earn the money to buy them :o)

Am having a research day today. There are lots of other things I should be working on, but I need a little food for the soul. I also want to check some sources so I don’t waste library time tomorrow. Especially as I have only an hour, because then I’m meeting David Dane to talk about the painting - am very excited about that!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Return of the zombie

Current work: TCVB, local history book, coding website
Listening to: various
Reading: too tired

Fab guitar lesson yesterday - was hideously rusty, so Jim made me start at the beginning of the red book and work through selected pieces. As in the sort I would normally moan about playing, rather than nice Romantic (note cap R - I do indeed mean early 19th-century) pretty pieces I like playing. So there we were, with me muttering 'whoops, wrong note' every so often. But by the time we'd finished I was back on the Grade 2 pieces. Sor, this week. And although I had considered dropping my lessons down to once a fortnight, I've decided to keep them as they are because I work hard and deserve some headspace. (I may come to regret this bolshiness at some point in the future...)

Now, why is it that if a man wakes up in the middle of the night, he has to nudge his wife and ask her if she’s awake, too? (Women don’t do this sort of thing. Well, not unless they’ve dreamt there was a burglar and the dream woke them up, but that’s different.)

I am now officially in zombie mode. I’ve also had a busy morning talking to social services, so I need to get my head back into work mode – which means probably nonfiction to ease me back into it.

However – glass half full. Because DH woke me at 4 a.m. today, I have absolutely no compunctions about setting my alarm for 3 a.m. to watch the eclipse tonight - and he will also be taking dog to the vet’s tonight or tomorrow for me as part of his penance (!). Why? Well, my spaniel is an incredibly sweet-tempered, gentle, QUIET dog. But he’s also quite wussy and will hide behind my legs, barking at any other four-legged animals, which means the annual visit to the vet for vaccinations is a complete nightmare. (So are walks by the river, so his walks tend to be more urban - friends who've gone to the river with me and and the dog have been very surprised because he doesn't act at all in character whilst in walkies mode.)

I also need to get him a new bed for my study, as he’s decided he really likes my office chair - and as it’s our guest bed I don’t want it to smell doggy.

Yes, of course I chucked him off. But he did look cute. He looks quite alert here instead of snoring because, as I clicked the shutter, he heard the postman's van pulling up outside. More flowers, courtesy of my big sister :o) I could really get used to this award-winning author business...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Under a blood-red sky

Current work: TCVB and coding website
Listening to: various
Reading: Ian McEwan, On Chesil Beach (I still think he’s unsympathetic towards his characters – almost smug – didn’t enjoy this one as much as Saturday or Black Dogs); Jennifer Crusie, Charlie All Night (think maybe I was too tired to enjoy it last night)

Was working when I became aware that the light was rather odd. Went outside and discovered the sky was an amazing colour (this pic isn’t retouched or enhanced in any way):

Will be interesting to see whether this is the colour the moon turns during the eclipse tomorrow night.

Plan for today: guitar, work, Madam’s swimming lesson, work.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Back to work, a new cover and some nice publicity

Current work: TCVB and coding website
Listening to: various
Reading: Nicola Marsh, Purchased for Pleasure (enjoyed it); Ian McEwan, On Chesil Beach (I like his writing, but at the moment I can’t sympathise with either main character and there is a very odd tone to the book)

Lovely weekend with two of my oldest friends. Much consumption of food, bubbly and coffee. Even more talking. Lots of laughs. And a lovely walk down to the river on Sunday as the weather was glorious (unlike today, which is FREEZING).

I mentioned last Wednesday that son has been making films. He finalised the disk and showed us his films over the weekend, complete with sound effects. DH has an audio tape of himself and his brothers acting out ‘Star Trek’ from about 1975; there are many similarities between that and son’s films. My favourites are the ones where son introduces himself, and tells us with a cheeky grin what his mission is. ‘To eavesdrop on my mum and embarrass her with the film…’ Hilarious. Actually, he did me a huge favour because it made me realise how much of a blob I am. (I know that sounds weird, but I tend to be in my book world much of the time so I don’t notice reflections in shop windows etc.) The scales were not good this morning, though nowhere near as bad as I was expecting. Healthy eating and exercise routines need to go back in place right now.

Today, with term starting again, I should be getting back to my normal work routine. I’d like to curl up and go back to sleep, but that’s not going to help get my book back on track! Tomorrow I have my first music lesson for TWO WHOLE MONTHS – and I am so looking forward to it. Hopefully things will start to settle now.

My newest local history book is up on Amazon – and here’s the front cover (which shows Edith Cavell’s funeral):

It's out in June through Breedon.

Edit: and finally, my friend Michelle mentioned the Publishing Weekly blog to me - guess who's mentioned in today's post? Nip over here to see what Barbara Vey says... and do say hello... :o)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Your clue in the Modern Heat Treasure Hunt

Assuming you visited Anne Oliver before me (and if you didn’t, go back now!), I’m the next stop on the MH Authors’ Valentine’s Treasure Hunt.

I’m giving away a copy of In Bed with Her Italian Boss (my April US release - you can get an early copy from the eharlequin website next month – click on the link in the sidebar to the left). This book was known as Breakfast at Giovanni’s in the UK and Australia, and, um, caused a rather nice splash. (I should add, I haven’t had my US copies yet so I’ll be sending a UK cover – the contents are the same but the cover is a little different.)

What you do is have a look over here to find out about the book (and you can read the first bit too, if you like), make a note of the answer to the question below, then head over to the next author’s blog to collect their clue. At the end of the month, send ALL the answers to and you’ll be entered in the draw to win all the books.

My question is: which award did this book win on 4 February 2008?

Next stop from me is lovely Heidi Rice, who met me for coffee before the awards do and made sure I didn’t spill it over myself (trust me… I do that sort of thing) - and if you want to reminds yourself of the 12 fabulous books up for grabs, have a look at Sensational Romance. Happy hunting :o)

Friday, February 15, 2008


Current work: TCVB
Listening to: various
Reading: out of time

Early start to catch the train; very pretty journey, as it was minus 3 degrees C, with fog rising from the frost and the sun rising in a pale pink glow.

Met Fi at Liverpool Street and, as the weathermen’s promised drizzle turned out to be bright sunshine, we decided to go to Greenwich by boat rather than by tube. Fabulous trip - and faster than we expected. Even the wind couldn't wipe the smiles from the children’s faces.

The O2 centre was very impressive. From the river, it looked quite small, but the appearance was deceptive.

There was a huge statue of Anubis to greet us, along with fountains and steam (hot springs?). (And lots of little comments in the stones, such as the distance to the North Pole - and, my favourite, the fact that a sundial in Norwich shows noon 5 minutes before one in Greenwich but Plymouth shows it 16 minutes later.)

I was also very taken with this beautiful spire. In the evening, when we left, it was the palest, palest pink, reflecting the sky.

The inside was pretty impressive, too.

Had lunch at Frankie & Benny’s and then joined the enormous queue for the Tutankhamun exhibition. Sadly, no photography was allowed, so I can't share here, but the exhibition was fab - I particularly liked the cow goddess’ head and the shabti figures. The heartbreaking exhibit was the gilded deathmask for one of the foetuses. Beautiful: but so terribly sad. The two things that really struck me about art that’s 3,500 years old were the colours (much brighter than I expected) and the incredible attention to detail – even to the plaits in someone’s headdress.

One box had the statues missing - but there were footprints carved into the floor of the box, showing exactly where the statues were originally placed.) I was very taken with an ankh mirror and cover, too. And the chair that still had the original rush seating. (Obviously the preservation is because of the dry climate in Egypt, but a 3,500-year-old chair that was still usable... wow.)

Oh, and the figure in the poster below? Tiny – less than 30cm tall – but incredibly detailed.

I'm glad we went. It was very hot and very busy/packed with people, but it's still an experience I hope the children will remember when they're as ancient as I am now. (Today, 42 - as well as being the answer to the question - feels very old.) Seeing the exhibition has fuelled my longing to go to Egypt and see Luxor myself, but with the current political situation I think it's wise to wait a little longer.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Winning Romance Prize icing on the cake for Mills & Boon’s centenary celebration

This is a press release I just have to share...

In the week of celebrating 100 years of publishing romance, Mills & Boon also took the Romance Prize 2008, awarded to author Kate Hardy by the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

All six shortlisted books were published by Mills & Boon, to the delight of executives Randall Toye, Karin Stoecker and Linda Fildew, who attended the Awards Lunch on 4th February at the Royal Garden Hotel.

In the winning novel, Breakfast at Giovanni’s, recently-fired Fran takes on a new job, but also finds herself pretending to be her boss's adoring girlfriend in order to get his matchmaking family off his back. But when the kisses start happening in private, Fran discovers that breakfast at Giovanni’s has a whole new meaning.

Winner Kate Hardy was thrilled. “It's such a huge accolade - it's a real high point in my career. It's the only award for category romantic fiction in the UK, and I can’t believe my name is engraved on the Betty Neels Rosebowl along with authors such as Liz Fielding, a writer whose books I've enjoyed so much over the years. I haven't stopped smiling for a week!”

Breakfast at Giovanni’s is Kate’s 25th novel for Mills & Boon and she was ‘over the moon’ to win in the Centenary year. Kate lives in Norwich with her husband, two children, a very soppy spaniel and too many books to count. She's been writing for Mills & Boon since 2001, having known her career choice from a very early age - her first typewriter was a present for her sixth birthday. Following an English degree, Kate worked in marketing communications for ten years before going freelance. She also writes bestselling local history books.

Judge Trisha Ashley, who presented the award, said of the winning book: “Because myself and my fellow judges are all novelists, we tend to read other people's work with an inner critic pointing out weaknesses. But we were all in agreement that this book was so warm, believable and engaging, that not only did we entirely forget our inner critics, we couldn't put it down until we got to the very end.”

[Words like that, said about my book, put me straight back into dog-with-six-tails mode. Whoops, nearly forgot the important bit – if you want to interview me, contact Katrina Power at Midas Public Relations on 020 7590 0802 or]
[And especially for US readers: this book will be available in shops in April as 'In Bed with Her Italian Boss', and from eHarlequin in March.]

Johnny Depp and Pierce Brosnan make Romantic Novelists’ hearts throb

Members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association have voted Johnny Depp as the Number One Perfect Romantic Hero in a poll to mark Valentine’s Day. According to these authors, a romantic hero should be gorgeous, deliciously sexy, intensely masculine and have a commanding presence.
‘We should be qualified to judge,’ one writer commented. ‘After all, we create these heroes on paper every day.’

The top ten male celebrities voted the Perfect Romantic Hero were:

1. Johnny Depp
2. Daniel Craig
3. Sean Bean
4. Richard Armitage
5. Hugh Jackman
6. Colin Firth
7. Alan Rickman
8. Pierce Brosnan
9. George Clooney
10. David Tennant

A second poll, taken by members of the RNA bravely admitting to being ‘over a certain age’, voted for male celebrities over fifty who’ve ‘still got it’. Remarkable for his appearance on both polls, Pierce Brosnan took the crown for the over fifties by a huge margin.

The top ten Over-Fifty Perfect Romantic Heroes were:

1. Pierce Brosnan
2. Harrison Ford
3. Ranulph Fiennes
4. Bill Nighy
5. Liam Neeson
6. Sam Neill
7. Sean Connery
8. Peter O’Toole
9. Clint Eastwood
10. Omar Sharif

And who did I vote for?

(Think that's obvious!)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

be my valentine?

Still being thoroughly spoiled: my dear friend Michelle sent me a beautiful orchid yesterday (thank you again, Michelle), and my best local friend came over with, ahem, special chocolate and a treasure pot marked 'handbag fund' (and yes, it's pink... I'm just surprised she didn't customise it and write 'Radley' on it, too).

Today I’m off to London to see the Tutankhamun exhibition, but meanwhile nip over to Nicola Marsh’s blog to be my valentine, and you’ll get the chance to win a signed copy of my new book, Sold to the Highest Bidder.

And remember the Modern Heat Valentine’s Treasure Hunt is still going! I’m back again later in the month – with a chance to win ‘In Bed with Her Italian Boss’, aka Breakfast at Giovanni’s, my award-winning book. (And how fantastic it feels to be able to write that!)
Now for something a little less nice. UK authors: you may have read that the government is considering reducing PLR. This money is an important source of income for many authors (note that, as with the music biz, big advances and authors who need to become tax exiles are news precisely because they’re rare), so please go and sign the petition asking the government to keep the funding as it is.

Son has decided he can't wait for his birthday to get a Digiblue camera and is using the family DVD camera instead. Discovered he has recorded the same scene over and over and over again today. Why? ‘I had keep going until my sister got her lines right.’ Uh-huh. Actors of the future, start trembling now. If he switches from animation to movies, he’s going to be a very, very pernickety director...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

and, um, still being spoiled...

Current work: TCVB (am planning to do some work today)
Listening to: various

Gorgeous day yesterday. Shoehorned the kids out of bed and went into town - picked up Madam’s flower girl shoes and an Alice band; sorted son’s tie; osteopath; lunch in the castle (very nice tomato and basil soup) and a quick look at the PRB exhibition as well as a chat to Elizabeth I. (A curator dressed as Elizabeth I… still a really interesting chat, though. I didn’t realise hip rolls were stuffed with cotton wool. Or that the ‘boning’ in a farthingale was often made of horn. Which reminds me: when the archaeologist book comes out, I need to nip into the museum and give a certain curator a copy, because a cookery exhibition she did was the lightbulb for my heroine’s job.)

And then we went to see The Water Horse. I’d seen mixed reviews, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. When I looked at my watch I was really surprised that 80 minutes had gone by – the last couple they’ve asked to see, I’ve checked the time every five bored minutes. Anyway. The young lad who played the main character was very good. The CGI was excellent. The scenery was breathtaking. And Ben Chaplin… it’s just great to see him back on the big screen. (He was fabulous in ‘The Truth About Cats and Dogs’.) Good performance by Emily Watson, too. (She was excellent in an adaptation of my favourite novel – The Mill on the Floss.) It wasn’t a romance, but there was definitely a love story in there and it’s sparked off a couple of ideas for me (on the basis that if that part of the story isn’t told, then tell it yourself).

Back home to find some nice post – and my mate Sarah Morgan sent me some gorgeous chocs from Hotel Chocolat. They are on my desk; meanwhile, everyone else in the family will be concentrating on the ones I’ve left on the dining room table. And I will smile serenely…

I also have Amazon vouchers to spend (brilliant); and then DH sneaked my birthday present from the children onto the patio and called me to look at something – and watched my reaction. I’ve wanted a bay tree on the patio ever since we had the architect’s drawings of the extension, three years ago, so I’m delighted. (It's staying indoors at the moment, though, to avoid the frost.)

Then we went out for dinner to Frankie & Benny’s - was OK, though not quite up to their usual standard. As it’s the Chinese New Year, the restaurant opposite had a bit of a party - including a Chinese dragon leaping about. (Sadly, son doesn’t like Chinese food or we might’ve gone there for a change.)

Plan for today: post office to return my proofs, tidying up, playing with the kids, and then my cousin-to-be’s parents are coming over this afternoon to sort out flower girly stuff. This evening, my best local friend is popping over. And in between I will sneak in some work.

Monday, February 11, 2008

stillbeing thoroughly spoiled...

Current work: today is one of my few non-working days of the year…but I’m thinking (and I might do some this morning)
Listening to: various cello pieces
Reading: Louise Allen: Virgin Slave, Barbarian King (this was a huge treat – Wulfric definitely worked for me as a hero *g*. Great plot, great dialogue, great characterisation, lots of warmth - fabulous stuff)

So. Friday: new furniture arrived, and it’s a hit with small person.

Saturday: lovely flowers, courtesy of my best friend.

Did some shopping (son’s wedding suit and some of his stuff for this outbound course – and picked up several copies of the Evening News, because lovely Rowan Mantell had given me a stellar write-up); went out to dinner at the Parson Woodforde (anyone care to guess what I might have had for pudding? *g*); then went to see our friends Debbie and Tony.

Sunday: family party to celebrate the Romance Prize and my birthday. Champagne and cake. (OK. So it was very healthy chicken, jacket potatoes, salad and ratatouille for lunch… but then I was bad. And I cannot confess to my diet buddies about the puddings. Actually, I can, because this weekend wasn’t diet day, it was my (extended) birthday and therefore I had licence to be naughty. Said puddings involved crème brulee wrapped in Belgian chocolate, and strawberries and cream wrapped in Belgian chocolate. Scrummy, scrummy, scrummy. And full marks for the presentation, too. And they’re on an introductory offer in Sainsbury’s right now. See more here.)

Was very spoiled with champagne and pressies (chocolate and Radley were involved – oh, speaking of which: my local best friend customised one of the Edward Monckton cards, so my ‘handbag of glory’ card has a certain brand name and a certain Scottie dog on it – very funny) and some money towards my picture. I was half expecting everyone to say I was mad re the painting; on the contrary, they think it’s a brilliant idea.

Son is still deeply into animation; he disappeared mid-party and returned with a model of me. (You can’t see the detail of the feet here, but he’s even made black high-heeled shoes like the girly ones I wore to the RNA awards lunch.) Bless. Apparently he needs wire for armature so it will stand up - the reason it has short legs, btw, is because my skirts tend to be quite long. And that is indeed a computer in front of me.

Plan for today: shopping, son’s osteopath appointment, post office, lunch out, cinema (The Water Horse), back home to change and meet DH, and dinner out. I had intended to get the seaside in there at some point, but even I can’t squash all that into a day. There’s always tomorrow…

Friday, February 08, 2008

thoroughly spoiled (and enjoying every second of it)

Current work: proofs, day two (sigh)
Listening to: various cello pieces
Reading: Fiona Harper: English Lord, Ordinary Lady (just loved this – her books are getting better and better and she’s going to be a real superstar of the future)

Am going to be professional and not moan about my proofs. Suffice it to say that I’ve been forced to visit Hotel Chocolat to get me through them, and I’ve never put so much red ink on my own work before – and I’ll be asking for second proofs to make sure my (correct) grammar has been reinstated.

Righty. Back to nice stuff. Thanks to Jan and Amy for the suggestions yesterday – I have indeed talked to David Dane and we’re going to meet up for coffee and a proper discussion after half term to see if this is doable. He’s a lovely man and we both think we’re on the same wavelength. (This might also have some bearing on my nonfiction in the future. I am very hopeful here as my lovely ed at Halsgrove is into Fine Art…)

I’ve also been thoroughly spoiled on the floral front. Special thanks to my dear friend Kate Walker for these lovely, lovely roses.

I had them in a vase for 24 hours (with rose food) so they were at their best before transferring them - and this is where they are now. It feels horribly decadent to use the rose bowl; however, that’s what it’s for. I will just be very good with the silver polish. My flower-arranging skills will also improve *g*. (Quick question to those in the know: should I be using oasis in future or is water OK?)

Went to visit Dad this morning and took him his temporary birthday present. (Temporary, because he wants a bird table but isn’t yet well enough to choose it himself, so he has an IOU from me and a pile of CDs so he has something to unwrap.) His first comment to me this morning was, ‘So how does it feel to be famous?’ Bless. I’m not that sure I am. But I’m very happy. Nipped into town to get various bits for Sunday’s family party (OK, more champagne) from M&S. (Can also recommend their crayfish and mango salad. Utterly scrumptious and not that bad calorie-wise.)

Came back to discover a special delivery from – oh, OK, I’ll boast, because this isn’t an everyday occurrence – Harlequin’s global editorial series director, the UK editorial director, my editor and the team at M&B. Absolutely beautiful and my FAVOURITE colours. Very special thanks to them, too. Delphiniums are one of my favourite flowers ever, and the only reason I don't grow them is because every time I've tried, one of my spaniels has dug it up and brought the flowers in to me.

Life right now is just fabulous. All I need now is a magic wand so I can put sparkle into certain other people’s lives and fix some unfixable things… but failing that I’ll do what I know I can do. Write books that make people happy.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

still in dog-with-six-tails mode

Current work: TCVB (honestly, I really will do some writing today – I’ve nearly calmed down enough to work) and proofs of Norwich HVV
Listening to: various cello pieces
Reading: next on my TBR pile

… though life is getting back to normal. (Sort of.) We haven’t yet had the family celebratory dinner – Tuesday evening was parent-teacher consultation (and it seems my daughter is bright but lazy. How? How? HOW can she be lazy, when her mother is a workaholic?); last night I think my lack of sleep was finally catching up on me; and tonight we have a meeting about son’s residential trip (three days away at one of these activity centres that does abseiling and wet, muddy, tough-guy stuff) and need to move furniture ready for the new stuff that’s being delivered tomorrow. If it arrives early enough we’ll go out tomorrow night; and if not it’ll be Saturday.

I did, however, have lunch out yesterday with my lovely ex-PTA friends. (Waves to Jo – thank you for the champagne!) And I have major puppy envy as my friend Sarah has this gorgeous, gorgeous Westie puppy and I met him today…

Ahem. And I did some PR stuff. Here is the official photo, thanks to the RNA. And I love what they put as a trailer in the local paper: ‘Our heroine gets her fairytale ending’. That’s just so lovely!

And I had some GORGEOUS flowers from my agent – the same shade of pink as I was wearing on Monday! (Roses and gerberas and freesias and lilies. Just lovely.)

I’ve been thinking about buying myself something to keep to commemorate the RNA Romance Prize. Most of my friends are convinced that I’m going to buy yet another Radley signature handbag… Well, I thought about it. But actually, I’d like something a little more visual.

I’d like a painting.

A special one.

Something that reminds me of Breakfast at Giovanni’s: so it’ll be compact (as in a 50,000-word book is compact) - and warm and realistic. (I am still really, really pleased about that description.)

And it needs to be made in Norfolk. Just like my book was.

Which means I’ll be moseying round local galleries for a while. I think I know what I want, but the exact painting will choose me. It’s likely to be a seascape (aka North Norfolk, my favourite place in the world). 0r poppy fields, or maybe a windmill and/or sunrise/sunset over the Broads. Whatever: it definitely needs a proper Norfolk sky.

I like David Dane’s work but, apart from the fact his paintings are snapped up the second they go on exhibition, I have a feeling he’s out of my price range. I really like the one at the bottom of this page and lots on this page. I also REALLY like Gerard Stamp – check out the Marshscape exhibition, which has utterly fabulous use of the light - but he’s *definitely* out of my price range, and anyway those paintings are bigger than what I have in mind.

So. Something special. About ten inches by twelve. Quite traditional (my main love is Victorian art). And something that will make me smile every time I look up from my computer screen. Watch this space…

It’s also the M&B party in London tonight to celebrate the centenary. Unfortunately, I can’t make it (DH is busy at work and short-staffed so it’s not fair to ask for another two days, i.e. today and tomorrow because I wouldn’t be able to get a train home). So I’ll be raising a cup of coffee to them all at home, and look forward to a full report from my friends. Am sure they are going to have a BRILLIANT time.

And I'll reiterate that I am very proud to write for a publisher that's been going for 100 years and brought so much pleasure to so many people over those 100 years. Congratulations to Mills & Boon. Here’s to the next 100 years.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

humbling and very, very heartwarming

Am I down from cloud nine yet?

Er… no!

I’ve been stunned by the amount of texts, phone calls, blog messages and emails I’ve received from people wishing me well and congratulating me. Thank you. Thank you all SO much. And to hear from people that they liked my book – and detailing why, so even the crows accept people mean it and are not just being kind – I’m really humbled. And heartwarmed. (That isn’t a proper word, I know. I’m, um, still in ‘dog with six tails’ mode so my vocabulary has deserted me). And I’m so very, very happy right now.

I have to keep looking at the rosebowl and just checking that it IS my name engraved there and I’m not dreaming it all.

But it’s there. (And in such company, too. It doesn’t seem possible, but my name is on the same trophy as my all-time favourite romance author – the person who’s written four out of my five favourite M&Bs. The person whose books I read when life is horrible and I want some sunshine. And she’s one of the loveliest people I know, too. I don't have to spell out that her first initial is L, do I?)

On the top of the bowl is engraved the name of the most popular Medical Romance author ever, Betty Neels, after whom the award is named. (That’s my other line - Medical romance. And I’ve been privileged to be paired with Betty Neels in French editions. And the reflection of the sheet of paper on the rosebowl? Yup, unprofessional, but I discovered that a light background shows the engraving better than a dark one.)

Just… wow.

(I’m not taking the pics to boast, by the way. The kids want to show their friends in class during ‘show and tell’ and they know they can’t take the actual rosebowl to school, so they’ve both asked for a pic. I took said pic today because a) it was quiet and b) I have the concentration span of a gnat right now and I’m too excited to write.)

And more pics from yesterday: me with lovely, lovely Jan Jones;

Me with Anna, Janet and Julie.

And (with thanks to my mate Fiona Harper, whose husband took this shot) the authors and eds on the stairs during the photoshoot before the do (the photographer was lovely and made us all laugh - superb at his job). Left to right: Fiona Harper, Lucy Gordon, Jo Carr, Maddie (oh rats, forgotten her surname, but she's lovely and one of her former authors will remind me, yes, Kate W or Michelle?); middle, Kim Young, Liz Fielding, Bryony Green, Julie Cohen (check out the glam silver shoes); me; Sheila Hodgson

Monday, February 04, 2008

The RNA Awards Lunch (long post!)

It's late, I'm not long home from London (the train was late) and I'm a bit wired, so I've made myself a cup of tea... and as I know a few people are dying to hear what happened...

What an amazing weekend.

The journey to London was fine (especially as I got to read Julia Williams’ lovely debut, Pastures New) and had a lovely meal out that evening with my best friend and another of our oldest friends from university.

Monday dawned bright and sunny, and I headed in to town. Met up with my fellow Modern Heat author Heidi Rice for coffee at St Pancras (waves to Heidi - thank you for the coffee), then off to Kensington to find the hotel. Met lovely Roger Sanderson on the high street and then Ray-Anne; and the second we walked in (on the red carpet)... Wow! As one of the shortlisted authors I was suddenly very busy doing photo calls and interviews. Met up with loads of people I knew - lovely in particular to see Jan again - and all the hugs and congrats on the shortlisting were so very much appreciated.

It was lovely to see my fellow shortlisters too - Liz Fielding, Fiona Harper and Julie Cohen (I'll post Julie's pic a little further down the page ... well, you'll see why when you get there). Lucy Gordon somehow managed to escape my camera lens!

Saw my lovely editor Sheila and my wonderful agent Dot. Then in for lunch - and all the shortlisted authors had the most beautiful deep red single rose with a very sweet message from Catherine Jones, the RNA chair. That was such a lovely, thoughtful touch.

The staff all had very smart uniforms and white gloves, and the way they came into the dining room was sheer pageantry.

Lunch was scrummy. Now, I thought either Lucy Gordon or Liz Fielding would win... But just in case there were more photos afterwards (and because I am very clumsy and prone to spilling things) I decided to pass on the tomato and cumin soup. The guinea fowl was lovely, as was the mulled wine soufflé with plum ice cream.

And then it was time for the winners of the Romance Prize to be announced. Trisha Ashley was the chair of judges and told us what they thought of the shortlisted books. They described Breakfast at Giovanni’s as ‘warm and engaging’, which pleased me hugely. The judges said their decision was unanimous and I was getting ready to applaud the winner... and then Trisha mentioned the word ‘warm’ again. Followed by ‘realistic ending’.

Now, this is what my editor and agent always say about my books. Warm with a 'real life' feel.

And even as I was thinking, ‘no, it can’t be,’ Trisha announced that the winner of the Romance Prize 2008 was...

Kate Hardy.

It took a few moments to sink in. (As you can see from the pic below… - me saying to my lovely ed Sheila, did they really say me? , Karin Stoecker and Liz Fielding)

I remember welling up. I don’t remember getting on the stage and Trisha handing me the Betty Neels rosebowl.

But then it was me and the microphone. Making a speech.

I did manage to thank my wonderful editor and agent and my husband and the judges. I wasn’t expecting to win so I hadn’t prepared a speech. I really should also have thanked the RNA, certain authors who took me under their wing when I was a newly published M&B author (Liz Fielding, Jenny Haddon and Kate Walker), my mum (who always said I’d make it and I wish I could share this with her in person as well as spirit), my fellow shortlisted authors and my readers (without whom I wouldn't be here). So I’m saying thank you now and apologising for my poor manners.

I was just so proud and so thrilled that the words wouldn’t come out properly - they did come straight from the heart, though. I remember people clapping, and people came up to me afterwards to say they had a lump in their throat or I’d reduced them to tears (ha, Kate Hardy’s trademark weepie strikes again).

Helen Lederer made a fabulous speech (she was witty and sweet and judged the length perfectly rather than rambling – judging by this standard, her book will be v enjoyable), and the Romantic Novel of the Year Award went to Freya North, who made a gorgeous speech.

And then it was more photographs and interviews, and when the journalists realised I hadn’t had a chance to tell Gerry and the kids, they persuaded me to ring him. Gerry was driving the kids home from school, so I spoke to son, who relayed the message and there were all these screams and cheers from husband and kids... Just fantastic.

I got a chance to share a hug with my wonderful, supportive agent. (Apparently my speech made her cry. But she deserves her share of the glory and I was jolly well going to make sure she got it.)

And with my fellow shortlisted author Julie Cohen (now you can see why I didn't post this one earlier - would've given the game away a bit).

Thank you to everyone who came up to me and congratulated me. And to the RNA. (And to all the nice people in the pub afterwards who bought me drinks, and the guy with the guitar who came up and shook my hand - very appropriate, given what my lovely Giovanni does for a living.)

Then I met Fi, had something to eat at Liverpool Street, then caught the train home. In London, people tend to avoid your eye on the tube. But I think they saw the rose and the helium balloons and the wide smile on my face and judged correctly that I was celebrating - and they all smiled back at me.

It's been such a very special day. Up there with my wedding and the days my children were born and the day my first M&B was accepted. And it's my proudest career achievement to date.

Thank you.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Your clue in the Modern Heat authors’ Valentine’s Treasure Hunt

Current work: TCVB
Listening to: various cello pieces
Reading: will decide my train book when I've packed…

Assuming you visited Nat yesterday (and if you didn’t, go back now!), I’m the next stop on the MH Authors’ Valentine’s Treasure Hunt.

I’m giving away a copy of Sold to the Highest Bidder (my March UK release, but you can get an early copy from the M&B website right now – click on the link in the sidebar to the left).

What you do is have a look over here to find out about the book (and you can read the first bit too, if you like), make a note of the answer to the question below, then head over to the next author’s blog to collect their clue. At the end of the month, send ALL the answers to and you’ll be entered in the draw to win all the books.

My question: in which part of England is Sold to the Highest Bidder set? (I’ll accept either the county or the city as the answer.)

Next stop from me is the lovely Ally Blake - and if you want to reminds yourself of the 12 fabulous books up for grabs, have a look at Sensational Romance. Happy hunting :o)

I will be back from London on Tuesday with a full report of the RNA awards lunch and LOTS of pics.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Cat talk

Current work: TCVB
Listening to: Masters of the Bow/Jon Lord (the Durham Concerto)
Reading: Sara Craven, The Virgin’s Wedding Night (she always delivers excellent romances. Her books were the ones that started me reading and writing M&Bs, back in my early teens. Oh, and she’s a really lovely person in real life. More proof of my theory that authors tend to be like their books)

Now, I am very much a dog person (OK, so I’m a little nervous of cats and no, I’m not going to go through the embarrassing story why – suffice it to say that my kids think it’s utterly hysterical)… but this, I loved.

Thanks to Diane, who got it from Bailey. Very, very clever editing. And it amused me enough to take my mind off the fact that my anti-snow stuff didn’t work and I had to drive my daughter to the school disco in the s-word yesterday.

Come back tomorrow because it’s the next clue in the Modern Heat authors’ Valentine’s Treasure Hunt! And meanwhile I’m off to sort out what I need to take to London tomorrow.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Joys of impending spring (aka anti snow charms)

I am completely paranoid about snow. I hear the s-word is meant to hit us. At the moment it’s blowy but beautiful outside – bright sunshine. And I hope it stays that way. (Not blowy, obviously. But I love cold end-of-winter days where breathing in the air really wakes you up.) I really do not want to face travelling to London in snow. Particularly as there are engineering works and I have to take a bus for part of the journey.

So here are my anti-snow charms. (OK, so they’re sitting on a vase on my kitchen windowsill rather than growing in my garden, but they’re still anti-snow charms. I’m particularly pleased with these ones as they have those pretty, narrow leaves that make them look like golden stars.)

new month, and it will DEFINITELY be better than January…

Current work: TCVB
Listening to: Mischa Maisky, Cellissimo
Reading: errr… got caught up with the outline of the book
Steps yesterday: about 9k (must try harder but not today)

New month: and as January was dreadful, I know that February will be a lot better. (And not just because I have lots of lovely things lined up for the next two and a bit weeks - London on Monday, lunch out with Jo and Sarah on Tuesday, family up on Sunday, out to dinner on Monday, Tutankhamun on Weds, Madam's godmothers up for the weekend... oh, and have I mentioned my new furniture is due and I have some wonderful books on my TBR pile, including a signed copy of my friend Jane Jackson's new book Devil's Prize?)

Ahem. Getting ahead of myself.

Played with both books yesterday. Drove me crackers in the morning - because the Modern Heat was the one in my head, and the Medical is the one with the first deadline. However, managed to switch books in the evening after a small epiphany: my gorgeous Welsh doctor plays the cello. And he plays my favourite piano music to the heroine… on the cello. (I switch between piano and classical guitar all the time, so I’m very comfortable with having my hero write his own arrangements on the cello.)

Obviously I’m having a ball making my soundtrack for the book. However, I can’t find a version of my favourite Beethoven piano sonata played on the cello (it’s the Pathetique, so if anyone knows a source, particularly for the second movement, please let me know). I did find a lovely cello version of my favourite Chopin piano nocturne on YouTube; this is one that my mum used to play when she was pregnant with me and I still have the actual vinyl. (I sometimes wonder if she learned to play it on the piano herself, as I know we had one when I was very small. However, everyone I could ask is too young to remember, has an unreliable memory, or is no longer with us.) While I was messing about on YouTube, discovered a new-to-me cellist – Maurice Gendron. Really emotive stuff (I think even more so than Casals) so I, ahem, went shopping.

And why am I making an issue about music in a Med? My heroine shares my… disability isn’t the right word, because I refuse to be treated like a second-class citizen. I can do just about anything a 'normal' person does. But she has moderate-to-severe hearing loss. Same cause as mine. So in some respects this is going to be one of the most personal books I’ve ever written. Unlike me, she isn’t a music junkie. But my hero introduces her to the sheer joy of music… and the scene I have in mind is utterly sizzling. (It’s probably going to make me cry. Music – especially when it’s given back to you after you thought you’d have to live without it – is… Words fail me. Just a wonderful, wonderful feeling.)

All righty. Go and win some books before I get soppy. The Modern Heat Authors’ Valentine's treasure hunt starts today. Because I’m nice, I’ll tell you where to start – with Natalie Anderson. (And after Nat, it’s me. I will actually be posting on Sunday this week.) There’s also a chance to win books over at Nicola Marsh’s blog in her ‘Be My Valentine’ competition (first up is by one of my absolute favourite authors). Enjoy!

As for me... I'm off to write. Joy, joy, joy. I love the beginning of a book.