Tuesday, March 31, 2009

And hugs for those who need them

A few of my friends are having a rough time at the moment. Particularly if you're a cat-lover, go and give Michelle Styles and Shirley Wells a hug. And Nicola Marsh.

Wishing all three of them a bit of sunshine.

the best sort of day

Current work: fic and nonfic
Listening to: Kate Rusby, Little Lights ('Who Will Sing Me Lullabies' is currently my fave track on the album)
Reading: various research stuff

I’m busy sorting two deadlines at the moment. I needed to do some last-minute research on one of the books, yesterday, so I spent the morning in my second favourite place in Norwich. (The first, since you ask, is the cathedral, including its precincts. Contrary to popular opinion, it is not Hotel Chocolate, M&S or Sonkai – though I admit they are my three favourite shops.)

This is the Forum. I adore this building. It’s light and airy; it has a great coffee-shop (which does the best latte art in Norwich – as I discovered when I researched Breakfast at Giovanni’s); it contains my lovely local radio station, and also a branch of Jarrold’s that stocks every single one of my local history titles; and, best of all, the library is here, including the Heritage Centre (a place where I can be lost for hours). There’s also an exhibition space in the middle of the ground floor – incidentally, my mate Steve Denby will be exhibiting his photographs there next month, so if you like truly stunning monochrome artwork, go and seek him out.

Anyway, I had a really productive morning. The books I wanted were all there (well, obviously – I scoped that out beforehand on the library’s website); the librarians were their usual wonderfully helpful selves and found all the obscure stuff I was after; and it was so nice to be completely uncontactable for a couple of hours and do what I enjoy. DH knew where I was, in case there was a real emergency, but it was wonderful just to lose myself in the archives and forget real life for a while.

Nipped into M&S on the way home, so I also had a perfect lunch: crayfish and mango salad with coconut-chili dressing. Note, I was good and didn’t buy crème brulee. Thought about it… but behaved.

Afternoon spent sorting pics on the book, retrieving my post from the dog (nobody in the house believes me, because they’re never here when the post comes, but Byron waits by the letterbox, gently pulls the post through… and then takes it off to his bed, wagging his tail madly), and putting a few more words down before I had to do the school run. And then it was back to mermaids. (Last week was fairies. This week is mermaids. My mate and fellow author Maggie Kingsley has dared me to sneak mermaids into the Medical. Ha. If my ed is reading this: I have a very innocent smile on my face...)
Plan for today: have cancelled guitar, as am up to my eyes and have meetings etc this week, so I need to get some time back. So today is final push on the nonfic, and sorting out a tangle in the fic (that has to be done in the back of my head, while I'm sorting the nonfic and checking continuity etc).

Monday, March 30, 2009

officially spring

Current work: fic and nonfic
Listening to: John Martyn (on the insistence of the senior member of my research crew - who takes the line that the driver chooses the music...)
Reading: various research stuff

We’re on British Summer Time now; so although we’re due a sharp frost and it was pretty cold yesterday, it’s officially spring.

Busy weekend; worked all day Saturday, and Sunday was a research trip over the border to Suffolk. Definitely spring, as there were lots of tiny lambs wobbling about in the fields and daffodils on the verges.

Southwold is famed for its beach huts; many of them have names as well as a number, and I was hugely amused by ‘Very Expensive Shed No 3’ – yup. These babies go for tens of thousands of pounds. Pretty, though.

In high season, I imagine Southwold is a bit overcrowded. But on a blowy March day, with storm clouds boiling over the North Sea, it was just lovely. Nothing beats a walk on the east coast to blow the cobwebs out and the miseries away.
Southwold is very pretty, full of little greens – these are natural firebreaks, included as part of the plans when the town was rebuilt in the mid-17th century after a serious fire.

We wandered round the town, and I took quite a few pics before paying my research team (aka buying them lunch and an ice cream).

And then we wandered by the church. There aren’t many clock jacks left (they used to strike the hour, though were muffled during church services); the other I know of is just round the corner from Southwold at Blythburgh, and apparently there’s one at Wells (Somerset) which is still attached to the clock. The lady in the church was absolutely lovely and let Madam pull the string to ring the bell, which pleased her immensely.

I was also very taken by the angels in the roof.

From Southwold, we headed for Walberswick. DH, grumbling about potholes: ‘Are you SURE this is a proper road?’ Stops and demands the map. Looks at it. Looks at me. ‘No. We’ll go the long way round.’ (He desperately wants SatNav, and unfortunately that little incident gave him ammunition. Still, at least I know what he wants for his birthday now.) Walberswick is very interesting (for my book, at least) because this is where George Orwell thought he saw a ghost – even timed and dated the occurrence in a letter.

This stretch of the coast always spooks me, whereas my home coast (just to the north) never does. Why? Just go and read MR James’s ‘O Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad’. I’m a huge MRJ fan, but this story is probably best read on a sunny afternoon. Read it at twilight and, if you have a good imagination, you’ll lose sleep…

Friday, March 27, 2009


Current work: fic and nonfic; and proofs of Falling for the Playboy Millionaire (which used to be The Heart Surgeon’s Proposal - must update website)
Listening to: Alison Moyet, Voice
Reading: various research stuff

Real Life is a bit pants right now (British understatement). However, I am being very good and working on the ‘least said, soonest mended’ principle. Patience, Grasshopper.

My reward for dealing with the lemons?


AKA a very nice review from Romantic Times, no less. Thanks to my lovely author mates Lynne Marshall for telling me that I got four stars FOR A MEDICAL ROMANCE (aka a Presents Extra) and Heidi Rice for telling me what the review said.

And a special thank you to Sabrina Madan at RT for liking my book.

This is what Sabrina said:

THE MILLIONAIRE BOSS'S RELUCTANT MISTRESS (4) by Kate Hardy: Sophie Harrison is prepared to dislike the new director of surgery on sight. After all, she's a dedicated surgeon, not a serf to Baron R.C. Radley, whose main talent appears to be providing filler for gossip rags. Charlie's first day on the job is delayed with fireworks, but it's the fireworks that go off in his heart when he meets Sophie that pose the real challenge. Sophie can't deny Charlie is mouthwateringly gorgeous, but she knows better than to let her painful history with the upper crust repeat itself. Can she see beyond Charlie's title to trust the man underneath? This riveting medical drama is the perfect backdrop for the tender romance between Sophie and Charlie.

Colour me happy. (Riveting. Oh-h-h. That particular r-word might just push me over the hump in this book. Which my wonderful ed has given me an extension on, as I’ve explained what’s happening around here.)

And yes, this is indeed the first in the ‘Posh Docs’ trilogy, which made my husband ask, ‘You named your hero after a handbag?’ The thing is, Radley handbags are not just any old handbags. They’re quirky, they’re brilliantly designed (i.e. they have enough pockets), and they feel lovely. Hmm. I could make a parallel with heroes, there. (No euphemisms intended. Stop sniggering at the back.)

DH is currently top of my ‘wonderful people’ list, as he’s been really supportive – I copied him in on a text on Wednesday and he came home for lunch to check that I was OK. And he bought us a curry last night so I didn’t have to cook and could catch up with my proofs. And he’s listened to me ranting (which is how come I can bite my tongue).

Wonder what he’d say if I told him he’s like a Radley handbag? (He’d probably think it was a plot to persuade him to buy me the new picture bag. The one with the little duckies on the back. And he might just be right…)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

RITA congrats

Current work: fic and nonfic
Listening to: Alison Moyet, Voice (lovely - it's a covers album and, after hearing her rendition of 'Almost Blue', I think I understand why people rate Elvis Costello)
Reading: various research stuff

Am drawing a veil over yesterday. It’s January 2008 redux, so juggling real life etc is a tad tricky, and I’m running as fast as I can to slide backwards slowly. Methinks I’m going to be asking for deadline extensions YET AGAIN and it’s so frustrating. Wish I was the selfish type: then I could just claim I can’t cope and leave other people to deal with things. Sadly, am not; though at least it means I have a clear conscience. (And I’ve probably said too much. Time to shut up. This isn’t a dirty-laundry-washing blog.)

On the glass half-full side I would like to say special congrats to Lilian Darcy, Barbara Hannay, Jessica Hart and Anne McAllister for finalling in the Short Contemporary section of the RITAs. Great stuff and I’m very proud of them. And I’m also delighted that Jill Shalvis has been shortlisted for Best Novella. Jill’s one of my favourite writers (oh, go on, stick my neck out – I think she and Nancy Warren were the best of the old Temptation writers, and in my view they’re the best Blaze writers, too) and she’s also a warm, very funny woman; her blog is a daily treat.

Congrats to all the shortlistees - full listing is over on the RWA site, here. Fabulous news.

Here’s to romance. Long may it put sparkle into people’s lives.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lovely review, puppies and congrats

Current work: fic and nonfic
Listening to: Bach
Reading: various research stuff

Am on screaming deadline and there’s some stressy real-life stuff going on (to do with Dad, so not blogging about it: just take it as read that he’s having a bad patch and it’s pretty upsetting), so forgive me for being slack on the blog front.

First up, lovely review from cataromance for The Children’s Doctor’s Special Proposal. See the full review here, but I’m going to share the trumpet-blowing stuff (hey, that’s what authors are supposed to do – it’s called PR, even though to this particular Brit it feels like showing off – and besides, I need a bit of anti-crow material today):

Kate Hardy never ceases to amaze me! She is amazingly prolific and consistently delivers enchanting and engrossing romantic novels that never fail to make me laugh and cry. In The Children Doctor’s Special Proposal, she has created two wonderful characters – strong, smart and adorable Katrina who is simply inspirational and gorgeous Rhys, a thoroughly believable and well-rounded hero every woman would just love to love. The Children Doctor’s Special Proposal is a sensitively written, intensely moving and wonderfully captivating Medical Romance from a writer who is simply superb: Kate Hardy!

Thank you, Julie Bonello, for putting a smile on my face on what’s been a bit of a tough week.

Secondly, I have puppy envy. Go and see my mate Pat’s new addition to her family here.

And thirdly, because I’m trying very hard to do the glass half-full bit, let me share with you the tale of a dopey author. I have caller ID on my phone. When I see ‘international’, I think ‘call centre being irritating’ or ‘ah... possible scam that will give me a big phone bill’. So last night, the phone rang. Caller ID said international. Only after I’d ignored it did it hit me: the RITA phone calls are going out at the moment. Had I just ignored a call that would’ve been a really, really nice call to take?

Well, here I am 12 hours later with no return phone call, so I’m guessing my original thoughts were correct. I probably got completely the wrong day for RITA calls (I can’t get my head around time differences, and it’s worse when I’m talking to my author mates in Aussie and the US at the same time and it’s a different day for both of them.) But it was nice to think, for just a few minutes, that I might be a star.

However, I do know someone who is a star and has just been shortlisted for the CRW Award of Excellence, so do go and congratulate lovely Liz Fielding.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Somewhere else to reminisce...

I'm back in my Eighties groove over at the Pink Heart Society today.

Come and share some memories!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Ancient glass

Current work: fic and nonfic
Listening to: John Martyn (DH insisted)
Reading: various research stuff

Busy weekend. Friday, stayed up late with DH watching a bio of John Martyn, followed by a concert.

Saturday involved taking the last pics for the new nonfic. Last time we were in Ipswich, I couldn’t take most of the pics, owing to the buildings in question being covered in scaffolding. This time, they were all free from scaffolding, the light was in the right direction (I’d sussed last time that we needed afternoon shots) and it was a glorious, glorious day. My camera battery was on the point of expiring, but there was just enough power left to take what I needed.

We also stopped off at one of my ‘obscure little churches’ on the way home – for the same book, but this was a 13th-century chapel which was used as a barn, but has been... not restored, exactly. But it’s how it would’ve been in the 13th century. (Except there would have been no benches. Seating hadn't quite come in.)

And with yesterday being Mother’s Day in the UK... obviously it meant a trip by DH to see his mum, a trip by me to see my stepmum and put flowers on my mum’s grave (and I’ll be calling the parish council this week, when I’m capable of sounding reasonable, to ask why the ‘push pot’ I use for fresh flowers has been removed, when I haven’t been notified that there is a problem using them and other people have them). And then, as it was sunny, the four of us went out after lunch. Given that it was Mother’s Day, it was my choice. I suggested Blickling, but on the way we stopped to see some wall paintings.

This is Doubting Thomas, from St Faith’s in Little Witchingham (the painting is from the middle of the 14th century).

And somehow it ended up being a churchcrawling afternoon. (It was DH’s suggestion, actually. Though obviously I didn’t protest.) This is a particularly special piece of glass with you from St Peter’s in Ringland: a 14th-century centaur, playing a viol and with a dog running by his feet. Utterly lovely.
The grille behind it is to protect it from vandalism: and the fact that it’s necessary is a very sad reflection on our times. Quite what goes through the head of someone who smashes windows in a church for fun – particularly when early glass is involved – is completely beyond me. Even if you disagree with the religion, why destroy something irreplaceable? (Sorry. Off my soapbox.)

Plan for today: I am on a screaming deadline. (Two of them, actually.) So guess what I’m doing today?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Remember the Eighties?

Current work: fic and nonfic
Listening to: Duran Duran
Reading: various research stuff

For various reasons, I’m having a bit of a reminisce. I’ve been talking to friends who are my age and remember going to see Grease at the cinema, and my neighbour opposite who’s about five years younger but remembers Live Aid. Possibly a bit embarrassing, but (mainly because of this musical thing with Madam) I’m having a bit of an Eighties fest at the moment.

So we were talking. Music: at the time, I listened mainly to rock. Radio One, every Friday night at ten sharp, trying to guess the Friday Night Connection on Tommy Vance’s show. I also remember Depeche Mode and OMD on the radio (didn't have any of their records, though), Alison Moyet (I used to look a lot like her on the cover of Alf, in those years) and Howard Jones. (His ‘Hide and Seek’ was my second favourite bit in Live Aid. Brilliant piano. Fave bit of Live Aid? Led Zeppelin, of course. I was desperate to tape it, but we didn’t have a video – DH did, but this was three weeks before he asked me out... and he didn’t record it.) And Wham – we used to do aerobics to ‘Wake me up before you go-go’ in sixth form. Peter Gabriel and Suzanne Vega. Kate Bush.

Some songs in particular: Sunday Bloody Sunday; Don’t You Forget About Me; Vienna; Oliver’s Army (my friend Sarah bought that on my 13th birthday so we could play it at my party); Blue Silver (acoustic version – it was a B side, and the only reason I bought that Duran Duran single. I wasn’t a Duranie... how ironic that I talked my poor best friend into buying me their greatest hits for Christmas, a couple of years back). And does anyone else remember The Headboys with ‘The Shape of Things to Come’? My mate wanted my Motorhead single, so I swapped it for her Headboys single: definitely got the best of the deal.

That got us onto the clothes. Legwarmers. (Shame, shame, shame on me. Mine were purple.) Coloured shoes with tights to match. Flat ankle boots (mine were bright red). Batwing jumpers (oh, dear). Grey Falmers jeans. And the oversized T-shirts ('Choose Life' or Mickey Mouse) – you tied a knot in one corner. And the fingerless lace mittens. (They disappeared after DH and I moved in together. He still claims innocence but I *know* he disposed of them.) Sloane Rangers. (Guilty on that one. I always had long skirts. On the rare occasions when I wear a skirt, even now, it’ll be ankle-length.) Lacoste T-shirts (DH tried to impress me by wearing one on our first date – fell very flat as I didn’t know what the brand was and the logo meant nothing to me). And I had white jacket (but I didn’t push the sleeves up).

Then there were the terrible asymmetric haircuts and big Bonnie Tyler hair. (Guilty of neither.) Poodle perms. (Um. A bit guilty. Mine was softer – more like Alison Moyet’s around the time she released ‘Love Letters’.)

And the make-up. I will confess to electric blue mascara, and electric blue and shocking pink eyeshadow worn together. And the electric blue nail varnish – oh, wait, that wasn’t trendy. That was me being a little eccentric.

And the Athena posters everyone had on their walls: the one with the guy and the baby. Wine glasses with coloured stems (and they looked like martini glasses – black stems were v trendy, but I think that was very late 80s/early 90s). Red coffee mugs. (Hmm. That might be the early 90s, too.)

Aqua Libra, though I preferred Sao Rico. Ranieri ice cream (the Fruits of the Forest one was my favourite, though the Tiramisu one wasn't bad).

DH and I were trying to remember what the car was that everyone wanted. A friend was allowed to drive her parents’ Scirocco and I remember thinking that was the height of cool. I’m pretty sure all the lads had that poster of the Renault Fuego. DH reckons that the Golf was the aspirational car. (He didn’t have one: his was a Cortina. Exactly like Gene Hunt’s in ‘Life on Mars’: same year, same colour, the lot. Though, when I met him, he was the only person I knew who actually had a car. Most of my mates were poor, starving students like me.)

And the films – I remember Another Country and Good Morning Vietnam – oh, and The Killing Fields. I was covering that one for the uni newspaper, and it was the only time I’ve ever been in a cinema which was absolutely full but everyone was utterly silent as the credits rolled. (In my uni years, our local cinema did a cheap night on Mondays, so I went every Monday night with my mates. Never did the discos: I’d always rather do the cinema or the theatre.) Back to the Future. Dirty Dancing. Flashdance. Dead Poets’ Society. (I was always a Robin Williams fan. LOVED Mork and Mindy.) Amadeus (one of my all-time top 5 faves). Indiana Jones. When Harry Met Sally (in my all-time top 2).

TV: I was never really into Dallas or Dynasty. But Moonlighting... Oh, yes. (Had a huge crush on Bruce Willis. Ended up married to his double – well, as he is now. I do have proof – DH holding a magaazine cover with Bruce on it, looking very similar – but I have been warned that posting it here is a divorceable offence, so I will be Very Good Kate and resist temptation.)

Now, I know for a fact that quite a few of the people who lurk on here remember the Eighties. So tell me what you remember most, whether it’s clothes or music or films or food or whatever. (And settle the argument for me: was the Golf the aspirational car, or was it the Audi Quattro – or was it something else?)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A proud Mummy moment

Current work: fic and nonfic
Listening to: John Renbourne
Reading: various research stuff

Last night was the CASMA (Central Area Schools Music Association) spring concert. Daughter has been practising her songs for weeks and weeks and weeks.

And it was fabulous.
It was held at St Andrew’s and Blackfriars’ Hall in Norwich:

The cloisters and undercrofts are usually open (the cafe and antiques fairs), but I haven’t been in the hall itself for ages – last time was probably when I took my last set of professional exams, back in 1992. And the last time I was involved in the kind of thing my daughter was doing would be... ooh, about 1974/5 (recorder group). Scary how quickly time passes.

Anyway, this is inside the hall, with 200-odd kids from seven of the local junior schools in the choir (the blue things are raindrops used during ‘Singing in the Rain’).

They sang a huge range of music, from traditional (such as ‘Land of the Silver Birch’) through to jazz-blues (Blue Brother Jake – fantastic as they did it in four parts), through to musicals (and the lyrics of ‘We Go Together’ from Grease aren’t exactly easy). We were also treated to performances from the county’s Youth Orchestra, and they were fabulous. The double bass trio was particularly interesting, because you don’t often hear the double bass getting a solo. (I also didn’t realise quite how BIG the instruments are.) They played variations on an air (aka ‘Au clair de la lune, mon ami Pierrot’) and it was beautiful. The wind quintet were superb, too. And the brass soloists.

I think the music teachers should be very proud of themselves because their hard work paid off. And the kids, too, should be proud: playing in front of a crowd of around 750 people is pretty scary. Well done to all of them.

This morning, I don’t actually care that I’m behind with work. Because I wouldn’t have missed last night for the world.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

caption this...

Current work: fic and nonfic
Listening to: Travis, Ode to J Smith
Reading: various research stuff (I have read three novels since Saturday morning, but they weren’t my cup of tea. I know how much work goes into writing a book, however, and I think snarkiness is akin to bullying rather than being clever, so I am not going to write a bad review of any of them. They did give me food for thought, though, so it wasn’t a complete waste of time!)

Am up to eyes at the moment – well behind deadline, and there are things that need to be off my desk pronto. So today, here’s a caption competition. This is what I saw this morning when I made a cup of tea. What’s he saying?

I’ll start: ‘Bloody writers. She’s too busy to blog, too busy keep her website up to date and – more importantly – too busy to feed me. Must have a word with the dog.’

Monday, March 16, 2009

Lovely start to the week...

Current work: fic and nonfic
Listening to: Corelli
Reading: various research stuff

Had a wonderful review from Julie at Cataromance for Surrender to the Playboy Sheikh:

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Kate Hardy’s first Sheikh romance: Surrender to the Playboy Sheikh! A tender, poignant and moving tale that tugs at the heartstrings, Surrender to the Playboy Sheikh is an unmissable story of hope, redemption, second chances and destiny from a wonderful writer who never fails to write stories which keep you turning the pages late into the night!

See the rest of it here.

Thank you, Julie - you've made my week!

DH is back to work today, so I have a quiet house and - oh please, no interruptions - can concentrate on fiction today.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Kiss and make up for Comic Relief

If you're in the Warrington area, head for the train station because there's some exciting stuff going on.

Remember when Virgin were, ahem, unwise enough to ban kissing, last month?

Big U-turn. No-kissing sign removed. Hooray for common sense.

And they're even doing an event with my publisher for Comic Relief today: Kiss and Make Up.

There are readings, giveaways, and my mate Annie Burrows (historicals author) is local, so she's going to be there too. Oh, and you can kiss a Brad Pitt lookalike for charity...

And a statistic to amuse you. In the past 50 years, Mills & Boon characters have shared 10,325 weddings, 29,500 kisses and 35,250 embraces. (Hmm. I'm writing Book 39. Wonder how many...? No. Bad Kate. Distraction. Get back to work.)

People from Porlock – and a recipe for lemonade

Current work: nonfic (is impossible to write fiction with constant interruptions)
Listening to: Bach French Suites (Joanna MacGregor)
Reading: India Grey, At the Argentinean Billionaire’s Bidding – enjoyed it thoroughly. (Not only is she a great writer, she’s a lovely woman. And stunningly beautiful. She must have a flaw... ah yes, she told me that Krispy Kremes are wonderful and I find them oversweet and sickly. Yes. That is India’s flaw: a dodgy taste in doughnuts.)

Definitely not the best of weeks – and as it’s Friday 13th I think maybe I should go and hide. Apart from the other stuff this week with sick husband, exploding car and dad (uhhh - that's elderly and poorly dad, not exploding), I am suffering with people from Porlock. (What is Kate on about? Coleridge. Trying to be too clever/showing off. Just humour her: she has run out of chocolate and is desperate.)

First up was son and DH, who wanted to access their Xbox live account. Except... a) they forgot the password, and b) son input the wrong email addy during setup - so we can’t reset the password in the usual way, because the new password will go to an invalid email addy (which we can’t access). Guess who they expected to sort this out?

The obvious way round this is for the guys at Xbox to access the account for us and correct the email addy so we can reset the password. Except Microsoft doesn’t do things the simple way – and responsive, these guys ain’t. Took me half an hour on the phone just to get the email support contact address. And then I got a standard response telling me how to reset the password. Sigh. If they had bothered to read the email properly, they would have understood the situation. So I explained. Again. In very simple terms. And am still awaiting a response.

Next person from Porlock was the bank, saying I had a lot of money in my account and could they invest it for me. (What, in a stock-based account in a bear market? Do they think I’m completely bananas?) Every time I pay in an advance cheque, we go through this in the branch; and now they’ve decided to ring me at home as well. So that was another ‘simple’ explanation. People who get paid by an employer get regular payments net of tax. Authors do not. They get royalties from their publisher once or twice a year, advance cheques when they sign a contract, and advance cheques when the publisher accepts the book – ie irregular payments which are gross of tax. And because they’re few and far between rather than a monthly salary, they tend to be bigger chunks of money. (Not THAT big. The average author, according to the Society of Authors, earns less than £5,000 a year. Note that this is skewed by authors who hit the headlines because of their sales, e.g. J. K. Rowling. Note that being an author is NOT a route to getting rich quick. Or even getting rich *g*, for most of us.) Anyway, the point is that a sensible author will wait for said advance/royalty cheque to clear, then move a chunk of it to an account where it will sit untouched, waiting to pay the tax liability in January or July, and the rest will go into account where it will earn interest and act as said author’s salary.

The bank has a better idea. (A bank that has been propped up with taxpayers' money. Righty. And I'm going to trust their judgement?) ‘We could give you more interest if you put all your money together...’ So I asked how they proposed to explain to the tax people that I couldn’t pay the bill because they’d made me put all my money together and I’d forgotten that some of it was my tax liability - and I’d spent it all on Radley handbags, Pandora bracelets and my entire bodyweight in goods from Hotel Chocolat because I have no willpower. To his credit, the guy laughed. And hopefully now there is a note on my file now explaining that if I want to invest money, I will call them – please don’t call me!

The next person from Porlock was a home improvements company. Thank you for the offer to change my windows and door, but a) nothing needs changing; b) there’s a recession, which also means that I don’t want to take out a big loan for said unnecessary improvements in case my husband gets made redundant, and c) when we do get to the point of changing, we’ll go to previous suppliers because we were happy with their work. (And no, they couldn’t just give me a quote anyway, because I don’t want to be bombarded with junk mail and calls etc. Am not being nasty. Am saving them postage and mailshot costs - because I will not be taking up any of their offers, so it would be a waste of money sending me said mailshots.)

Sigh. Author on deadline, anyone?

So I gave in. I had a guitar jam session with my daughter. And then we cooked dinner together while we sang songs from various musicals REALLY LOUDLY. (Son and DH didn’t appreciate it. But we had a *fabulous* time. She's asked me to get some Gene Kelly musicals, next. Yesss. Dat's ma gal.)

Today is Friday 13th – and Red Nose Day – so I guess today’s not going to be a good work day either.

Am clearly stuck with lemons this week, so am going to slice them up, stick them in the fridge with sparkling water and a couple of limes, and pretend to party while I’m secretly working in my head. (Yes, I know 'proper' lemonade involves sugar. This is the low-cal, additive-free version... and thank you to Donna and Jenna for nominating me for the lemonade award thingy. I would pass it on but everyone I can think of has already been nominated. If anyone out there hasn't already been nominated and you put a smile on people's faces and are feeling a bit left out, consider yourself nominated by me...)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

deep in the middle...

Current work: nonfic (impossible to write fiction right now)
Listening to: Corelli
Reading: Nina Harrington, Always the Bridesmaid (lovely debut – I loved the busy-busy-busy heroine, and her job, and her warmth, and the hero was pretty gorgeous too)

The car is fixed (thank you, lovely Renault dealer), and even better it was under warranty so I avoided the huge unexpected bill.

Mr Strawberry is still... bright red. And driving me insane. He’s itchy and bored. Hence constant interruptions, or turning up the volume on the stereo so he can hear it outside in the garden... um, could he not just use the stereo in the kitchen, which is nearer to the garden and won’t disturb me? Not to mention the fact that he keeps waking in the night, and that means I get woken, too. I seem to be hissing the words ‘stop scratching’ constantly: all he needs now is to get the spots infected.

Meeting went OK this morning. But I am up to my eyes. Frustrated, wanting to get on with things, and... trying to be nice.

So instead of growling I’ll post a pic. Deep in the middle of Norfolk.

This is from the layby almost opposite the church next to Dad’s. I wasn’t joking about single-track road (at this point, you can see mainly layby). Just by the big tree on the right is the only other passing place between the layby and the ‘main’ (B) road; it’s a very, very soft verge, so I always have my fingers crossed as I turn onto the road and hope that there isn't another vehicle coming the other way...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

in praise of the RAC

Current work: nonfic and medical romance
Listening to: Corelli
Reading: (still no chance to read)

School run was fine today until the journey home, when a warning light on the dashboard began flashing. Car was feeling juddery and the rev counter wasn’t what it normally is. Uh-oh. Ill car. Made it home, and as soon as I opened the car door I could smell burning. Not good. Frantically looked up car manual. Toxic fume filter? Eh, what? ‘If the light flashes, reduce speed until it stops flashing.’ Hmm: I was stationary at traffic lights. How could I reduce speed? Not possible. Am not mechanically minded, so rang Renault dealer and squeaked. They told me to ring assistance company, who may be able to fix it – otherwise, bring car in.

The RAC were brilliant. Very helpful on the phone, told me when they’d be here, arrived dead on time. The RAC man was lovely; he diagnosed the problem (misfiring spark plug) but couldn’t fix it because of the way the engine is put together. So he took out the fuel injection from the problem spark plug and followed me in to the Renault dealer. Should be a warranty job: nothing to worry about.

Small problem: it’s 4 miles to daughter’s school, 4 miles from hers to son’s, and 4 miles home again. (Yes, I know. I am a bad person who should have sent my kids to the local school or moved house. Sorry. Am selfish and exercised parental choice over their education. I also happen to like my house and my neighbours and the view, and don’t want to move.) So either I have to borrow DH’s car (which is huge and I’ve never driven it before - and DH is not well enough to do the school run for me) or hope that Renault can fix my car before 2.30 so I have time to get to school. And it absolutely must be done before Thursday as I have an important meeting (concerning Dad) and there is no public transport.

Hmm. If car is starting to have trouble, maybe I should change it this year before it has to have its first MOT. Ha. Can taunt DH with the prospect of a pink car. (Is my car. I pay for it. If I want pink...) (Yes, I know it will affect the resale value, so I will be sensible. We’ll have the other argument instead: does it have to be a Clio? To which my answer is, any car would have to be exceptional to get me to change from a Clio.)

Monday, March 09, 2009


Current work: nonfic and medical romance
Listening to: Travis
Reading: next on TBR pile (I have Nina Harrington's debut and am desperate for a chance to read it!)

Busy weekend: Friday, saw lovely Caroline Anderson for lunch and a chat about books and some plotting ideas and a good laugh. (The scientific experiment on M&S biscuit curls (wafers) was hilarious. Apparently you can get more slurps of coffee through a biscuit curl than you can through a TimTam before it collapses.)

Saturday, went over the border to Suffolk take some of the last pics for the current nonfic. This involved a little bit of churchcrawling, because I was after wallpaintings. Here are two I really liked from Troston: firstly the George and the Dragon (I particularly liked the dragon’s wings and the curly tail)

and secondly the St Christopher. (There is also a fabulous one of St Edmund, which I will use in the book.)

Sunday, Dad and my stepmum came over for the day as it’s her birthday today.

And this morning... that’s where the strawberries come in. Woke up, and DH was bright red – you could see the spots appearing. All over. Turns out it’s an allergic reaction to the antibios, so am back to being ministering angel this week. Will be keeping close eye on son, as he had the same antibios as DH (who hasn’t reacted to them before – but I’m allergic to -cillin antibios, so we’ll see if son also turns bright red). Poor guy: an author on deadline is not ever going to be the best of nurses, because her head will be elsewhere! I'll work mainly on nonfic today as that's easy to break from than fiction.

Friday, March 06, 2009

a triple celebration

Current work: nonfic and medical romance
Listening to: Sheryl Crow
Reading: next on TBR pile

Today is officially publication day, so that’s a double celebration. (Though I took these pics on the shelf at WH Smith’s in Norwich yesterday morning.)

First up is The Children’s Doctor’s Special Proposal, which is the second part of my London Victoria duo – for those who read The Greek Doctor’s New Year Baby, this is indeed Katrina’s story. It’s quite close to my heart for two reasons: firstly, I borrowed bits of the wedding from my cousins (who celebrate their first wedding anniversary this month – unsurprisingly, the book is dedicated to them), and secondly Katrina has my own disability. From the reader response I’ve had so far (it was out in the US last month), I’ve done the job right because she comes across as someone who doesn’t let her life be ruled by her disability: she works round it. (Just like I do. And I can guarantee that the deafness bits in it are absolutely genuine.)

Second is Surrender to the Playboy Sheikh, which is the first part of my To Tame a Playboy duo. I’d had a yen to write a sheikh for ages – and I’m thrilled that this is the very first Modern Heat sheikh. I’ve dedicated the book to lovely Liz Fielding, who writes wonderfully inspiring sheikhs (and who lent me a very good book as background – which I must return!! I know where it is on my shelf, though). Of course, being me, he’s not just a sheikh. His original job was really interesting. (Yup. He’s one of my nerdy scientists.) And I think that this cover might just be my favourite of all to date. It’s spot on for a scene in the book (you just have to imagine Vaughan Williams’ ‘Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis’ playing in the background).

And my third reason for celebrating? My ed loved the changes to my Norway book (even though I sneaked four live reindeer in right at the end - baaaad Kate). It’s out in the UK in October 09, and the title is Temporary Boss, Permanent Mistress. It’s part of the ‘Undressed by the Boss’ miniseries. I really enjoy writing office romances. (Though I admit that most of this one takes place outside the office.) This one is also dedicated to a fellow author friend: lovely Nicola Cornick, who let me grill her about her own Arctic adventure.

Plan for today: do some work this morning and tidy the house, as I have a research session with a fellow Medical author today.

Oh, all right. I’m having lunch with my mate Caroline Anderson. And we’ll eat chocolate and talk too much... which is pretty much par for the course where romance authors are concerned. We don’t get out very often. We spend our days chained to a desk, maybe with a canine or feline companion, and rarely talk to others – well, except maybe the characters in our heads.

This is my usual companion, in a bit of a grump (two seconds earlier, he’d been lying on his back, snoring. I tried to get a pic. He was not amused).

He has one shoe in front of him; usually there are more, one from each person in the house. He never chews them: he just likes to have them nearby. Readers of book 2 of the To Tame a Playboy duo (out in May) might spot that Byron is the original of Bramley, aka Imelda. My guitar case is to one side of his bed and my nice comfy reading chair on the other... and messy shelves behind him. However, my hot lunch date from yesterday – en route from his dental appointment – has agreed I can have another bookcase, so I will tidy my shelves when he delivers said bookcase. Oh, hang on, that makes it a quadruple celebration?

Let's make it five. Nell Dixon and Shirley Wells are both celebrating new books with competitions - and you could win books, so go over to their blogs (click on the links).

And as good things come in threes, let's have an additional one. Go over to Diane's blog and wish her happy birthday for this weekend.

So what are you celebrating today?

Thursday, March 05, 2009

minutiae, poems and time machines

Current work: nonfic and medical romance
Listening to: Brad Paisley
Reading: Penguin’s Poems for Life (dipping in and out – this is a wonderful anthology, a lovely indulgent birthday pressie from my best friend)

Most of the time, Sainsbury’s grocery delivery service is brilliant. The staff are lovely, the products are good quality, and I don’t get many substitutions. (And, oh bliss, I don’t have to waste the best part of two hours’ working time/drag grumpy children round the aisles.) But when it goes wrong... I think the number 9 must be quite near the number 1 on the keypad, because the checkout operator’s finger clearly slipped. Last year I was charged for 19 punnets of raspberries, when I had only one. Yesterday, I was charged for 19 bottles of detergent. I didn’t notice until I was unpacking, looked at the bill... and saw that it was about £75 higher than it should have been. Oops. Still, they were lovely and sorted it out as soon as I rang to explain what had happened.

The minutiae of life. This week, I’m clearly measuring my life in Fairy nonbio bottles rather than in coffee spoons.

Hmm. I have an audio CD of T S Eliot reading some of his poems – sadly Prufrock isn’t included, as I bet that would be really illuminating. The first time I heard him reading ‘The Waste Land’, it was as part of a superb exhibition in the British Library (when it was still housed in the British Museum) about quests. Pity it was some years after my A levels, as his rendition of ‘What the thunder said’ made the poem very much clearer for me.

If I had a time machine, I would love to go back and hear John Donne reading some of his poems. Particularly the Nocturnall Upon St Lucie’s Day and (ahem) a certain elegy. (Yeah, yeah. We all know how many times I sneak references to that one into my books.) I’d also like to hear the Wulf and Eadwacer poet (especially as I have a theory that the poet might’ve been female – this is the first English love poem, btw); and James Fenton reading ‘Nothing’ (this is one of my favourite modern poems – I also rate Wendy Cope very highly); and R. S. Thomas reading ‘Here’; and... No, I’ll stop being greedy.

If you could hear a poet reading his/her own works – which poet, and which poem?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

nightmares and ghosts

Current work: Proofs of Norfolk Miscellany; nonfic; Medical
Listening to: Brad Paisley, Fifth Gear (again thanks to lovely Biddy for the recommendation)
Reading: various nonfic and church guides (is research)

For some reason, I’m having a week of nightmares. As DH isn’t well, it wouldn’t be fair of me to wake him and whimper and demand a cuddle, so I’ve been going down to my desk and playing Solitaire to calm me back into a state where I can go back to sleep. Sunday night’s was a chiller, but I know where that came from – talking to a fellow Med author about her plans for her next book, except my head warped it into a horror novel. (Ha. Caroline Anderson, that's no chocolate for you on Friday, then.) Monday wasn’t a dream, but a scratchy throat that woke me up because I couldn’t swallow. And last night was a full-on ghost story, complete with cold spots. I was freezing when I woke.

I live in a modern house. We were the first occupants. The land on which it’s built (I’m ashamed to say) was nothing but fields, according to the maps I have of the area from the late eighteenth century and the more up-to-date aerial surveys. So it’s not like the 200-year-old cottage in which I grew up, where there was a ghost story attached to the house and various unexplainable things happened. So there was no reason why I should feel absolutely freezing cold. (Actually, in the dream, the ghosts – two little boys – were scared by the person I was with. And it was our old house – only a room I’d never seen before. It involved carbon monoxide poisoning – now, I do know where that one comes from, as it’s a case in my current medical.)

Eventually I managed to get back to sleep – thankfully, not back to the dream, but it’s stayed with me. At the moment, I’m writing nonfic ghost stories; but if my dreams were based on what I was doing yesterday, I should have dreamed of Black Shuck or the angels in the roof of Blythburgh church rather than the story that spooked me so much.

I used to write fictional ghost stories. Must swank here: one was published by Virago, back in 1991. It was going to be read live on BBC Radio Edinburgh at Halloween, that year, but unfortunately the connection to BBC Norfolk didn’t work – but that in itself gave me an idea for another story... This morning, I was looking up some research material and discovered that the three Virago compilations were reissued in one volume last year. It isn’t clear whether all the stories are included; but if they are, it means mine has shelf-life again and I’ll be very chuffed. (Yeah, yeah. Excuse to buy books. Bad Kate. Take as read that I ordered it this morning...)

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

ah, nuts! (and the craft of revising)

Current work: Proofs of Norfolk Miscellany; nonfic; Medical
Listening to: Gary Allan, best of (like this a lot – thank you, lovely Biddy, for the recommendation)
Reading: next on TBR pile

I ran out of bird-food at the weekend. DH bought some more, but the squirrel doesn’t like it. In fact, the squirrel is immensely fed up because, in order to get to the fat balls (which he does like), he has to balance on the end of the water holder, do a bit of stretching, grab the fat-ball holder, and drag it to his little face.

Like this.

I called DH and son in to see this and it got a smile. Both are suffering from a lurgy and ear infection, so I am currently ministering with warm drinks, hot water bottles for painful ears, and nagging them to take their antibiotics on time. I had to nag them yesterday to go to the doctor – MEN! Scarily, son has all his father’s mannerisms, so when they were curled up on the sofa together yesterday it was a real mini-me moment.

Also had guitar today, so I’m back on the difficult Bach (and made a reasonable job of the Sor). I have a slightly scratchy throat (which had better NOT presage DH’s and son’s lurgy, because I Do Not Have Time For This), so I may give Dad’s visit a miss tomorrow. It’s completely unfair to visit people who are very vulnerable to infections – i.e. elderly residents of a nursing home – and risk spreading the lurgy. He’ll be disappointed, but am sure he would rather not get a sore throat. And I’m seeing him on Sunday, so hopefully the promise of roast beef and all the trimmings will cheer him up.

Oh, the revisions? Done. At least, this round. Last night, I had an epiphany about the last chapter of the book. It came to 17k of changes, in the end. So moving the bombshell to a later part of the book had rather a large knock-on effect. I think the book’s stronger for it, but I’m dreading second revisions.

Hmm. I suppose I ought to do a ‘craft’ post on revisions.

I hate them, because the crows of doubt go into overdrive.

However. They are necessary because, as an author, you’re often too close to the book to see that you’ve buried the diamonds under a layer of unnecessary grime (i.e. you’ve lost sight of the conflict). And sometimes there are diamonds you haven’t noticed, but your editor does – and points out that actually this would be a better diamond to polish than the one you did polish.

So how do I deal with revisions?

Firstly, I read the revision letter. My ed is very motivational, which helps – she understands that for many authors (especially me), revisions leads to an “I’m crap and I can’t write any more” feeling, so she points out what she really likes about the book in addition to what needs fixing – that helps a lot. She also knows how I work best: that I like to know what the problem is, and be left to fix it myself. (I have had editors in the past who’ve gone into great detail what the characters should do or say: to me, that feels like writing by numbers, and it isn’t my book any more. Not the way to get the best out of me.) Last book, I dropped the bombshell too late. This time, I dropped it too early – and my research showed a bit too much. And I needed more of a build-up to the characters growing and changing. And the ending didn’t feel strong enough: the secondaries took over, and the main characters needed to be more proactive in sorting the resolution.

Yeah, yeah. After writing 37 M&Bs (this was #38 – or my 11th Modern Heat), I should know better. But hey.

Sometimes I agree with what she says; sometimes I disagree and there’s an email ping-pong between me and my editor while we negotiate a compromise that works for both of us. Often I sleep on it and do the ping-pong bit the next day. She might make a suggestion that she knows will make me say no – but will also make me think more and come up with a different solution.

I’m a planner, so I once I know what I’m doing, I sit down and tackle the revisions.

When I write a book, I have lots of separate files. I have a folder for notes and pictures, and a folder for the first draft (because, let’s face it, hardly ANY books go through just one draft). In the ‘first draft’ folder I have:

  • the outline (I list the conflict up front and then do a brief paragraph per chapter saying what happens);
  • a timeline file (giving very brief details of when the action takes place/what happens in each chapter);
  • a characters file (giving brief details of the characters – about three lines each for the hero and heroine, and half a line for everyone else: age, relationship to hero/heroine, and if it’s a Med I’ll also list their ailment)
  • a separate file for each chapter
  • a file for the whole manuscript (i.e. merged all the chapter files into one when I've finished, and added the front page and a dedication page before emailing it to my ed)

When I’m revising, I copy the ‘merged’ file into the ‘second draft’ folder and work with the whole manuscript rather than split it back into chapters.

I know from my revision letter what I need to fix, so I make notes to myself on the manuscript (e.g. ‘add xxx here’ or ‘rewrite from x’s point of view’).

Then I move anything that needs to be moved; and then I work through the manuscript from start to finish, taking account of my notes. I use the track changes facility on Word, so I can see what I put in and what I take out; and I highlight additions in bright yellow before I accept the changes. Swathes of yellow mean that I can summarise the changes quickly for my ed before taking the highlighter off and sending it to her.

And then it's a final readthrough to check for continuity - that the changes all match up.


Oh, all right. Perhaps I should mention the blood, sweat and tears that go with this process. Talking out loud to myself or my characters. And time spent playing Scrabble Blast online while I’m mulling over how to fix something – halfway through a game you’ll hear me say, ‘Oh, duh, that’s OBVIOUS’ and I’ll flick back into Word and sort out the bit that had been giving me problems.

So. Revisions. Over for a little while.

On the meantime I have a piece to do for Writing Magazine (waves to lovely Rachel); the proofs of Norfolk Miscellany (which look good, and I am so pleased with the pics); writing the other nonfic that’s due at the end of this month; and writing the new Medical (due in a fortnight, but methinks that means the end of the month because we have to be reasonable about it).

As my squirrel would say – ah, nuts. This is hard work and a bit of a balancing act!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Happy March

Current work: Revisions (sigh – still!)
Listening to: Genesis, And Then There Were Three
Reading: next on TBR pile

Happy March! Here’s this month’s calendar picture.

Been a busy weekend. Dad really wasn’t well on Friday (and I have to remind myself that he might see a day a week of my time as ‘not much’, but it’s quite a big chunk of my working week – are women just programmed to feel guilt?).

Nipped into town briefly on Saturday to sort my errands (and, despite seeing the Radley bag in the flesh, I was good). Big thumbs down to Clinton. If they can do a ‘happy mother’s day dear sister/auntie/from the dog’ card, why can they not do a ‘stepmum’ card? Especially given that so many families have stepfamilies, nowadays. And I was quite upset that the salesgirl (a) couldn’t care less (“We put out what we’re told to put out”) and (b) tried to fob me off with a ‘happy birthday to someone who’s like a mum to me’ card, which I could send to practically anyone. I did ask questions at the sales desk (NB I didn’t shout and I wasn’t rude. I made my point quietly), and I’m feeling bolshy enough to write to their head office to tell them how disappointed I am. In future I’ll be buying my cards from a retailer who shows a little more customer care.

And the men in my house are ill with a sore throat, headache, earache and a rattly cough. DH is being particularly stubborn, and I’ve informed him today that he is NOT going to work when he’s been up all night with earache and headache, and coughing up green stuff means it’s bacterial rather than viral and he needs to see the doctor.

I’ve been breaking from my revisions every half an hour to do the ministering angel bit with cold drinks, hot blackcurrant, hot water bottles and paracetamol. Just as well I’m good at multi-tasking. This morning, I will have a late school run (i.e. just Madam’s) and then will be back to being angelic. Despite the fact that I didn’t get the space I needed to finish my book (and I have a bit of a scratchy throat this morning – so fingers crossed I don’t end up with a cotton-wool-filled head to go with it).

Hmm. Is it possible to be angelic and exceedingly grumpy at the same time? (Perhaps I have PMT and need chocolate...)

Note to self: the sun is shining, the kitchen windowsill is filled with hyacinths and daffoils, and today IS going to be a good day.

Plan for today: finish revisions, write article I promised, and start on proofs of Norfolk Miscellany (fingers crossed that it’s an easy set – different editor, but as she has made several very sensible author questions, I’m hopeful that she’s as good as lovely Michelle Harrison). Oh, and I need to do a post office run at some point. Some sleep might be nice...