Thursday, February 25, 2010

The joys of stained glass

Current work: Medical and nonfic
Listening to: Kathryn Williams
Reading: Tess Gerritsen, The Bone Garden (enjoying very much)

On the way home on Sunday, I realised that we were going to be passing Saxlingham Nethergate. Where they just so happen to have some of the oldest figurative stained glass in Norfolk (dating from before 1250). Except, last time we went, it was being restored. Given that I was still really disappointed about not getting a pic of the Maldon battlefield site and the causeway head-on, DH was indulgent and made a quick diversion. And they were beautifully restored – definitely worth the visit.

And now, dear reader, I crave a teensy bit of indulgence from you, because I'm going to share. Here are the four roundels.

The first (top left in the window in situ) is St John and St James.

Beneath that is the martyrdom of St Edmund - tied to the tree and being shot by a Danish archer.

The third (top right in situ) is the beheading of an unknown saint

Beneath that is St Edmund offering up his arrows. (You can normally tell Edmund - who's generally an East Anglian saint - by the arrows or a wolf's head. The story of Edmund just so happens to be in 'Suffolk Ghosts and Legends', if you want the details.)

Oh, and I couldn’t resist this one – St Jerome in his red Cardinal’s hat. (This is 15th century glass. But it's the hat I like.)

Plan for today: crack on with book(s).

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A whoo-hoo moment

Interrupting my historical musings with a huge sigh of relief - my ed has just told me that the second revisions were fine, so Champagne with a Celebrity will indeed be out in October.

I can breathe again now and go back to work... :)

St Osyth and the dragon

Current work: Medical and nonfic
Listening to: Kathryn Williams, The Quickening
Reading: Tess Gerritsen, The Bone Garden (enjoying very much)

St Osyth is named after the saint who was allegedly beheaded here by the Danes (remember, this is the east coast and was badly hit by raiding parties) and who built a nunnery here in the 7th century. A window in the church commemorates this. But the church also has some seriously pretty glass in the windows

as well as the most unusual communion rail, in the shape of a horseshoe.

A second monastery was built not far from the church, and this became Chich Abbey. (St Osyth used to be called Chich - or Cicc - centuries ago.) The gatehouse has glorious flushwork; but what really attracted me were the dragon and St George in the spandrels. (There is a dragon story about the area... But that's nothing to do with the saint. It's in the book. Yeah, I know I'm a tease. This is what authors are meant to do when promoting their books, right?)

And the way this window was filled in. What beautiful work.

Plan for today: crack on with book(s).

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mersea and a mystery

Current work: Medical and nonfic
Listening to: Kathryn Williams, The Quickening (new album - is excellent)
Reading: Tess Gerritsen, The Bone Garden (enjoying very much and is highly appropriate, given what I was looking for at Mersea…)

Mersea Island is the most easterly inhabited island in Britain. It’s been colonised since at least Roman times (a Roman mosaic floor has been discovered here, and there are lots of Roman bricks in the church of St Peter in West Mersea). The Danes had an encampment here (probably near the church at East Mersea) and some interesting burials have been found here, such as the ‘wheel’ tomb in West Mersea and the Roman barrow. Not to mention the fact that under the present-day causeway are piles that have been dated to the 7th century – making it the earliest dated causeway in Britain. (It's also meant to be haunted by a centurion.)

What was I after? There are no remains of the priory at West Mersea. But in East Mersea churchyard there’s something unusual.

There’s a legend that because this grave is on the north side of the church, the poor 15-year-old buried here in the mid-19th century was a witch, and this is a cage to keep her in her grave. It’s actually far more likely that she had an illegitimate child (hence the burial site), and this is actually a mortsafe – this protects the grave from being dug up by ‘resurrection men’ (who procured corpses for anatomy practice at medical schools, at a time when you could only dissect corpses of convicted murderers. Mortsafes are found more in places such as Edinburgh (mainly becayse of Burke and Hare’s notorious actions) and they weren’t really necessary after the 1832 Anatomy Act was passed (meaning that other corpses could be dissected, with permission from the family or the workhouse). And it’s slightly odd that Sarah Wrench’s grave is the only one with a mortsafe. But… interesting.

Plan for today: guitar, visit Dad, crack on with book(s).

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Battle of Maldon

Current work: Medical and nonfic
Listening to: The Amazing
Reading: Shirley Wells, A Darker Side (another cracking story and I didn’t guess the murderer until the end – her characterisation really is stellar!)

On Sunday, according to the weather forecast, it was going to be dry all morning and very wet in the afternoon. Fine. I wanted to leave REALLY early so we’d reach Maldon as soon as possible after low tide.

Maldon’s a bit of a special place for me. I haven’t been there for years – but the last time (before Sunday) was the day DH and I got engaged. And the final decision was taken at Maldon. (He made the mistake of taking my bestest aunt, bestest uncle and cousins to the jeweller’s. Cousin picked out the most expensive ring… LOL. I actually wanted a cheaper and prettier ring, and he gave it to me over dinner out that night after pudding. The man has his priorities right.)

It’s also the place where we used to go a lot when I was a toddler. There’s cine film of my first unaided steps – and it’s at Maldon. There’s also cine film of me in the park on the roundabout. Apparently I drove my parents crazy, begging for just one more ride. Hmm. That one came home to roost as Madam is extremely fond of fairground rides…

Anyway. The reason we went was to take location pics for the Essex book, and the story I wanted to illustrate was the Battle of Maldon. As in the Anglo-Saxon poem (which I adored studying in my third year at uni); the earliest known battlefield site in Britain (10 August 991, if we’re being picky); and where the Saxons lost against the Danes and their leader had his head hacked off (and he was interred in Ely Cathedral with a ball of wax in place of his head). The battle outcome involved the east coast paying Danegeld for 25 years. Byrhtnoth had to fight; if he hadn’t, the Danes would’ve sailed off, raided the coast further down, and more lives would’ve been lost. Then again, the fact that he let them walk over the causeway to give them a sporting chance rather than just picking them off the landbridge, one by one… Not the best military strategy, perhaps. And why did he do it? ‘Ofermode’, according to the poet. This is the most hotly debated half-line in the poem: does it mean ‘confidence’ or ‘arrogance’? Was he too eager for battle, were the Vikings underhand, or…? Also worth noting that the word ‘ofermode’ appears in the OE poem ‘Genesis’ referring to Lucifer, the angel of pride. Pride was a sin – and yet pride in one’s ancestors and their behaviour wasn’t a sin. Interesting. (And I’m aware that I’ve just turned seriously nerdy, so will rein my enthusiasm in right now.)

It rained as soon as we reached Suffolk, but it got brighter as we neared Maldon. I was armed with a detailed map. We found Byrhtnoth’s statue and I did a bit of declaiming. (Well, you have to - right?)

Cue grumbles from research team about it being freezing and did we really have to walk all the way to the causeway? Yes, because it’s not that far. Except then it poured.

REALLY poured.

Research team staged a rebellion, so we ended up back at the car. (I’m planning another trip next weekend. And Maldon is sort of on the way to Rayleigh. Just hope the tide is in my favour.)

Maldon was the first stop of several – and I’ll tell you about some more tomorrow. (Be warned – church-crawling was involved. I am still dallying with the church book, even though it’s currently on ice. And there were specific things I wanted from this part of Essex. Pretty pics to follow…)

Plan for today: get cracking on my Medical. Lovely agent likes it, but has asked for tweaks on the first three chapters. However, she thinks it’s going to be a great story and (given that I spent last week doing second revisions instead of what I planned to do, i.e. loaf about with family) has rather more confidence in me than I do, right now!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Publication Day: Good Girl or Gold Digger

Current work: Just finished my revisions
Listening to: not today as everyone’s home and I’m working
Reading: Julia Quinn, It’s In His Kiss (I have Cher carolling in my head now – I remember really enjoying ‘Mermaids’ when it came out. Anyway, this is my first Julia Quinn and now I’m going to have to glom her backlist. Great pace, great dialogue and it made me laugh for the right reasons – I loved the hero’s grandmother)

Today is publication day for Good Girl or Gold Digger and I nearly forgot!

In my defence, I have been head down in revisions (second revisions, which are definitely more painful than first) and it’s half term and I haven’t actually been out of the house since Monday (have I mentioned that I was doing second revisions?).

But I have finished the revisions (please, please let my ed like them and not hit me with third revisions) and now I can sit back and celebrate publication day.

Starting with the cover, which has my favourite flowers on it. (I would've liked purple gerberas because of how Felix makes a declaration to Daisy, but you can't have everything. Otherwise I'd have Antonio Banderas on almost every cover, right?)

I loved writing this book. Even more fun was doing the research, which meant dragging children and husband round various working steam museums so we could go on original rides and steam trains. And it’s set in East Anglia, my favourite place in the world...

Have a nice weekend. And (provided we don’t get the threatened snow) I will be back on Monday with pictures from a research trip.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

some excellent writing advice

Current work: Revisions, take two
Listening to: not today as everyone’s home and I’m working
Reading: Carol Townend, Runaway Lady, Conquering Lord (enjoyed very much – excellent period drama)

I am screamingly busy so I am going to direct you elsewhere today for some fabulous advice. It’s nominally about crime writing, but I think a lot of it would apply to other genres of commercial fiction. I haven’t read any of Stuart MacBride’s novels, but this interview really makes me want to go and read his books, because I like the way he comes across. (And anyone with a cat called Grendel – ha, I like the way his mind works.) There’s a great deal of sensible advice in there, plus some things that made me laugh for the right reasons. Go and take a look.

(And no, I’m not planning to write crime or murder my editor. Am being a well-behaved wordsmith and knuckling down to second revisions. Am not going to confess to how few chocolates remain from the weekend, inhaled by me while playing Spider, aka thinking about how I’m going to tackle the revisions.)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Maid Marian and walking into the past

Current work: Revisions, take two (weep)
Listening to: not today as everyone’s home and I’m working
Reading: Mary Nichols, The Summer House (enjoyed very much – good story, plus it was set in Norfolk and I could really hear the accents!)

Apologies for going AWOL yesterday (and thank you to those who sent me worried emails – I’m absolutely fine and - touch wood because I don’t want to tempt fate - no crises).

Had a lovely weekend which involved playing games, talking, laughing too much, eating way too much cake (scales yesterday were, ahem, a bit bad), baking, seeing my bestest family… and then yesterday was a research day in Essex, and by the time I got home the only thing I was capable of doing before flopping was downloading the photographs, labelling them and putting them in the right files.

Yesterday was very odd for me because it really was going back to the land of my forebears. As in four hundred years of Essex farmers (and yes, I can trace that back to the same three or four villages throughout). It was for the castles book, but it was strange to think that, every field we passed, my ancestors had probably ploughed it.

Anyway, here are some pictures. This is the church of St Mary in Little Dunmow.
My grandmother was christened here, just over a hundred years ago. Several hundred years before that, this building was the lady chapel of the local priory (which was the main reason for the trip, though I admit that I was delighted about this because of the genealogy connection). It’s locked, but the keyholder lives opposite, so we were able to go inside. This is where the original Dunmow Flitch chair and kneelers are kept.

This is the tomb of Matilda Fitzwalter. There are two stories about her – one involving King John and a poisoned bracelet, and one saying that she was Maid Marian. (I’ll be telling those in more detail in the book.)

And this is a clump of snowdrops in the churchyard. It was bitterly cold so we didn’t spend too long in the graveyard (and my grandmother is buried down the road in Great Dunmow in any case).

We also visited Stebbing, where a lot of my ancestors were christened, married and buried. It has the only stone screen in the country. Beautiful church, absolutely full of light. Again, it was strange to walk in the footsteps of my forebears.

And we visited Pleshey, where unfortunately the church was locked and the keyholder wasn’t listed, but I was able to take a shot of this lovely Norman carving in the porch.

Plan for today: talk to my editor, then grit teeth and tackle second lot of revisions. I was so sure I’d got it right last time. But if it doesn’t show on the page to my editor, it’s going to disappoint my reader, so it needs to come out of my head and on to the page. (#43. You’d think I’d know how to do it by now, wouldn’t you?) Looks as if the troops are going to have to be a bit patient with me during half term, and I will get the work-life balance back in order again shortly.

Friday, February 12, 2010

RNA shortlists

Congratulations to the shortlisted author for the RNA Romantic Novel of the Year and Love Story of the Year (latter used to be the RNA Romance Prize). I have friends on both lists and am thrilled to bits for them!

RNA Romantic Novel of the Year shortlist:

  • Passion, Louise Bagshawe, Headline Review
  • Fairytale of New York, Miranda Dickinson, Avon (Harper Collins)
  • Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts, Lucy Dillon, Hodder & Stoughton
  • A Glimpse at Happiness, Jean Fullerton, Orion
  • The Glass Painter’s Daughter, Rachel Hore, Pocket (Simon & Schuster)
  • The Italian Matchmaker, Santa Montefiore, Hodder & Stoughton

RNA Love Story of the Year shortlist:

  • The Notorious Mr Hurst, Louise Allen, Harlequin Mills & Boon
  • Animal Instincts, Nell Dixon, Little Black Dress
  • Always the Bridesmaid, Nina Harrington, Harlequin Mills & Boon
  • Fair Deception, Jan Jones, Robert Hale
  • The Wedding Party, Sophie King, Hodder
  • Claimed for the Italian’s Revenge, Natalie Rivers, Harlequin Mills & Boon

You can see more at the RNA website, including awards in which the public can vote – do go over and take a look!

spoiled even more

Current work: Medical and nonfic
Listening to: various
Reading: Freya North, Pillow Talk (still enjoying hugely)

Thank you to everyone who emailed, texted, phoned, left messages on various internet posts and sent cards and gifts – all much appreciated. I had a lovely day yesterday, pottering about and talking too much (and yay, the ice melted!). Dentist appointment did not hurt (though the bill is going to be ouch – we’re going for a crown, and my dentist has promised she will use loads of anaesthetic so I won’t feel a thing.

Had an evening of being spoiled, too – we went to the Greek taverna at Riverside in the city. I was going to be good and have just steak and salad, and a glass of rosé prosecco. But then DH decided we should have meze to start with. Fine, as there were some sensible choices. (The grilled halloumi cheese was lovely. As were the souvlakia.) But he ordered rosemary and garlic flatbread as well. Uh-oh. My resistance didn’t crumble – more like, it did an instant vanishing act! Then I had a plain steak, salad and Mediterranean veg, which tasted lovely (and was virtuous – especially as I had been eyeing up the kleftico with rosemary potatoes).

And then there was the dessert menu. I was really too full for dessert. ‘It’s your birthday. We’re having dessert,’ DH said. Followed by a musing, ‘We could have Greek pastries to share.’ Er, honey, you don’t like Greek pastries. But by then the damage was done. I’d spotted the semolina cake. And I had Cyprus rose ice cream with it. The waitress warned me that it was like eating perfumed soap, but I really wanted to give it a try. Verdict? It was more like a sorbet than an ice cream, and a little too highly perfumed for me – but I’m glad I tried it.

And then it was home for further spoiling: curling up on the sofa with DH and an Antonio Banderas film. (My Spy. Lucky, LUCKY Meg Ryan. The plot was fairly thin and the denouement was obvious, but the actors all did a good job and the characterisation made up for it. And Antonio was at his most charming. Happy sigh.)

Plan for today: work, while waiting for dining chairs to be delivered. And try not to mind how much damage the cake and bread did yesterday – we’ll be doing a fair bit of walking next week, in half term, as we have more Essex castles to visit.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Current work: Medical and nonfic and a bit of piano and guitar
Listening to: various
Reading: Freya North, Pillow Talk (still enjoying – still spooking me, too, as the heroine’s favourite gemstone happens to be one of mine – I think Freya might be one of my 'spiritual twins' (and I have a few of those in author-land).)

Thank you to everyone who’s spoiled me today with flowers, chocolates, book tokens, gorgeous pampery things (especially the Burt’s Bees – new to me – and the Philosophy Crème Brûlée), films, wine, and Pandora-related stuff. But especially for the cards (how well my friends and family know me) and the texts/emails with good wishes for being o-l-d. :o)

And especially to DH for looking out of the window this morning, sighing, and telling me he’d do the school run so I don’t have another horrible trip down the icy hill.

I had planned to skive off today, go into town and have a day wandering round the cathedral and the castle - but not when it’s icy like this. Not worth it. So instead I’m going to mess about on the guitar and piano and lick the new book into better shape. And I’ll get enough steps in (despite not doing school run) because I will be walking to the dentist this afternoon (and hoping that the snow and ice will please go away, as dog and I are really fed up with it).

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

oh what a great afternoon!

My day definitely got better.

Lovely delivery driver rang me to say she guessed I’d been caught in the traffic jam and she could come back at lunchtime if I hadn’t already rearranged delivery (Heather’s just brilliant – but sadly I was already booked for my talk).

So I did my face (first time I’ve used liquid foundation and maybe I should’ve had a trial run…), swapped everything over to my racing car Radley bag (on a whim), and looked anxiously out of the door, awaiting the taxi in the snow.

Got out of taxi, crossed road, fell flat on face and skinned my knee, concerned elderly lady hobbles over to enquire if I’m all right. (Very sweet of her. I was soooo glad there were no teenagers about to laugh at me.) Limped to M&S, picked up copy of Evening News (Rowan did me proud there, too), had coffee, and braved snow to library. Cold, wet, stinging knee, and all glamour had gone out of the window…

And then it was time for my talk. (That's me by the screen - thanks, Sarah, for taking the pic.) The library (as always) looked after me really well. I had lots of people round the table, ready to hear my talk. And it was indeed a crash course – a brief rundown on the UK-based M&B lines, the important parts of a romance novel (character and conflict), structure (beginnings, middles and ends), and the biggest reasons for rejection slips and how to avoid them (lack of emotional punch being the key one there). I was pleased with myself for sticking to my timetable and only overrunning by two mins, but because wonderful DH was sorting the school run for me I was also able to stay a bit longer… just as well, as there were lots of questions. Thank you VERY much to the attendees for making it such an enjoyable session, and to Sarah Salmon for being an excellent host.

So then I booked my taxi, picked up dinner from M&S, bumped into lovely local BBC presenter Karen Buchanan outside the Forum and had a quick chat with her (it’s such a boost when someone says, ‘When’s your next one out? I’m dying to read it’ and you know they mean it, not just being polite). Snowed like mad all the way home (very glad I decided to be wussy and take a taxi), and then DH and the kids arrived two minutes after I did. Littlest and I compared grazed knees from falling over (I won), and then she ate half my birthday chocolates to make herself feel better. (This was with my knowledge, I should add!) (And I know I wasn’t supposed to open them until tomorrow. I had a horrible morning and I needed them... And if there was a box on your desk that said 'Hotel Chocolat', could you resist? Really??)

And so back to work...

oh what an arrrrrrgh morning!

Current work: doing talk in library
Listening to: Corelli
Reading: Freya North, Pillow Talk (has been on my TBR for a shamefully long time – excellent and enjoying it hugely, though it’s spooking me a little. It won the RNA Romantic Novel of the Year in 2008 and is about a heroine who sleepwalks and a hero who plays guitar. The winner of the RNA Romance Prize 2008 is about a hero who plays guitar and who sleepwalks… How spooky! Must email Freya when I’ve finished because I think it will amuse her, too)

To be sung to the tune of the chorus of ‘Oh what a beautiful morning’ (you might have to mess with the scansion, but...)

Oh what a horrible morning
Roads were icy all the way
A ten minute drive took an hour
And I missed my shop’s deliver-ay.

Didn’t think my car would make it
Up the hill by-y my house
Coward said Norfolk was fla-at
Well, I say that man, he knew nowt.

Am doing a talk at the libr’y
It’s a crash course in romance
Am scared that the title will be
Too apt because the roads are pants!

We have friends coming over for dinner
And my fridge to my shame is empty
(That is because it’s a Wednesday
When my shopping comes from Sainsbury).

And the number they left doesn’t exist
According to dear old BT
Took ages to find the right number
To arrange the redelivery.

Shopping will arrive after dinner
And no way am I going to drive -
Not after the last time I damaged
My car sliding on the sheet ice.

So I’m getting a taxi to take me
To do my talk a-at lunch-time
Dinner will be from Marks & Spencer’s
And everything will be just fine…

You wouldn’t believe a centimetre of snow would cause such a nightmare, would you? Did the melt-and-freeze thing, half the main roads around Norwich were shut so the rest of them were gridlocked, and I was too wussy to risk my usual road home (back road) so went the ‘safe’ way (which, incidentally, was very slippery this morning on the way out). What should’ve taken me ten minutes took almost an HOUR. Getting up the hill near my house… Well, I really didn’t think I was going to make it. And no WAY am I driving on that road again until the white stuff is gone. (Probably just as well my blood pressure check was Monday – the reading just now was a teensy bit high, and I’ve had half an hour to calm down!)

I’d hoped that the Sainsbury van would also be stuck in the traffic, but no – and I was clearly the first delivery – so they missed me, and the printed form they left me with the number to ring to rearrange the delivery: ‘This number has not been recognised.’ Uhh??? Switch on PC to get number from internet. PC going like treacle – oh, wait, DH has left his iPod plugged in. Anyway, the very nice man at the call centre has rearranged the delivery, but it’s after our friends will be here. Solution: booked a taxi to take me to the talk, will go to M&S after the talk to get dinner, and DH has agreed to do the school run because I am just NOT driving.

Am v glad it was today rather than yesterday – going to see Dad would’ve been a real nightmare on these roads (especially as the main road to his was shut this morning). As it was, yesterday was bittersweet. My stepmum had brought my bday pressies over so Dad could give them to me and share my day too – which was lovely, but at the same time a bit heartbreaking because in a suddenly lucid moment yesterday he told me he thinks this will be the last birthday we share. And I think he’s probably right.

Oh, nuts. I’m going to have a cup of tea, calm down, stick some make-up on and try and get myself in a better frame of mind so I can give the best to the audience at my talk.

Have a nice day. I hope mine will improve!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

smiling despite the snow

Current work: Medical and nonfic
Listening to: Def Leppard
Reading: next on TBR

Firstly, happy 75th birthday to my dad. Almost a month ago, I didn’t think he was going to make it to today, so this is a big bonus. I’ll be going over to see him later today with a birthday cake.

And the other reason why I’m smiling is that the Valentine foodie piece is in the paper today – a really nice double-page spread, and Rowan’s done me proud with the words. (Bill’s pics are great, too – I especially love the one of my new book propped against my roses. Fabby.) Sorry, can't find a link online.

Lots of big fat fluffy flakes yesterday – relieved that it didn’t settle. More wintry showers today. And I really hope it doesn’t settle – driving on single-track roads in the ice and snow isn’t pleasant. Plus I have a lot on this week – my library talk tomorrow, birthday dinner out on Thursday and best friend coming to stay for the weekend plus family party on Sunday.

Plan for today: practice the Tarrega so I’m not totally hopeless at this morning’s lesson, last runthrough of my slides for my talk (ha, lunch at my desk again), and visit Dad.

Monday, February 08, 2010

a weekend of Getting Things Done

Current work: Finished revisions, yay! Back to Medical
Listening to: Queen
Reading: next on TBR

Busy weekend, and I feel I achieved quite a lot:

  • finished revisions on Saturday and did final readthrough on Sunday before sending to my ed (that’s 35k of new material altogether, so I sincerely hope my ed likes it)
  • went shopping for Dad’s birthday pressie and a birthday cake (plus DH bought me a new Pandora bracelet for mine – all pretty and shiny and ready to be filled. What a sweetheart he is)
  • had a makeover (Georgia at the Clinique counter in Debenhams on Saturday morning was brilliant – very pleased as the foundation looks really natural and it hides the redness in my embarrassingly fair skin: exactly what I need for the talk on Wednesday. New lippie is lovely, too. Met DH and the kids in M&S afterwards; daughter noticed straight away and told me I looked very pretty, bless her; son looked confused, saying that I looked different – and nice – but he couldn’t work out why (should perhaps say here that I tend to go for the ‘barely there’ look – subtle, apart from the lippie); and DH just had a twinkle in his eye, so I guess that was the thumbs-up from all three)
  • answered interview questions for Writing Magazine
  • updated website (new excerpts and recipes up)
  • finished doing slides for talk
  • thought about tidying desk…

Today, it’s back to the medical romance. Must remember to get extra copies of the Evening News with the Valentine’s feature later today to send to my agent and editor. Must also practice some of the Tarrega for guitar lesson tomorrow. But, most importantly, bottom in chair and hands on keyboard...

Friday, February 05, 2010

blogging elsewhere

Current work: Revisions (this is 75% new book, now, so it had better work!)
Listening to: Bach
Reading: next on TBR

Screamingly busy with revisions, so am directing you to my Pink Heart Society post today instead. Gorgeous, sexy voice; clever man; great series. (And as soon as you see what my ‘Must Watch Friday’ is, you’ll know exactly why I chose it. Two months, one day, and counting to La Serenissima...)

Thursday, February 04, 2010

endings, endings, endings

Current work: Revisions
Listening to: Bach (my David Russell CDs arrived, yay)
Reading: next on TBR

The emergency dentist yesterday was really sweet – and, most importantly, didn’t hurt me. Seeing my dentist next week to discuss how we deal with it. (If it’s the e-word, which was mentioned scarily yesterday, then she’ll have to send me to the sedation clinic. Wussy, yup: after the nightmare dental trauma, I can’t do it any other way.)

Mega-foggy school run this morning. But useful because Bach helps me think, and hopefully if the revisions work properly today (no dental distractions and stressing), by the time I reach the last chapter I will have settled on which of the three alternate endings fits best. (Why do I get the feeling that this one’s going to second revs?)

Oh, and ending on a good note – my lovely agent likes the first three chapters of the new med. I’d quite like to get back to that one…

And so to work.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010


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

Yesterday was definitely a day for breakages. I was slightly in need of chocolate after visiting Dad (who is still in bed, sigh – he just doesn’t have the strength to get up), so I took some from the fridge. Bad move: ended in a call from me to the dentist for an emergency appointment to fix a broken tooth. (And my diet buddies are probably sitting there, shaking their heads, saying, Kate, what WERE you thinking? I know, I know. Serves me right for ingesting forbidden substances.) Thought about it en route to school. A Wednesday appointment. Hmm. Last emergency dental appointment I had on a Wednesday was a bit nightmarish. (Those of you who’ve known me a while – yes, THAT one.) Thought about it a bit more. Rang lovely receptionist when I got home, just to check I wasn’t slotted in with that particular dentist (otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to sleep last night) and phew, I have a female dentist. (OK, I’m being sexist. But the only bad experiences I’ve had involved male dentists. QED.)

And then, I’d just got settled into the revisions, when I heard this crash and sound of smashing glass, followed by squeaks from the children. Made them stand absolutely still and dashed into the living room. They’d been playing catch with the giant space-hopper (yes, what possessed them? Oh, yeah, they’re children), and it had hit one of the photographs and bounced it off the wall. Most importantly, there was no glass in children’s feet or dog’s paws – a broken frame can be replaced easily enough. (And then I had to calm them down because they were really upset. I didn’t shout that much – just enough to make them stay still and then move to a safe place to avoid getting glass in their feet.)

(And yes, I know things happen in threes. I made sure to break a stick after that!)

Righty – off to dentist for me, and then back to the revisions. Am definitely back down to earth after Monday, now...

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

A day in the life of a glamorous author: the photo shoot

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

Had a WONDERFUL time yesterday – simply the nicest sort of PR. Bill, the photographer, had worked with me before and is a sweetheart, really easy to work with (he’s the one who suggested my current camera and where to get it, so he was way up my ‘ace people’ list even before yesterday); and Rowan, the journalist, was utterly lovely. (Very civilised interview, over lunch.)

And I had the fun of being Nigella/Delia for a day. (OK, so I’m shorter and rounder, but I do share their eye colour and love of cooking. Indulge me for a moment.)

Obviously time was at a premium, so I cooked the meal in an odd order so things could be shot at varying stages and Bill wouldn’t have to wait too long. I’d nipped in to Sainsbury’s on the way home from school to buy some bright pink roses for my windowsill, and was quite pleased that these were used as a prop (and as for the heart-shaped chocolates… well, I guess the cook has to be paid *g*. Y’know that apron that caught my eye? ‘Will write for chocolate.’ I reckon I earned them this weekend!).

First were the choc-chip cookies.

While they were cooking, I made the ice cream – and when that was ready to go in the sorbetiere, the cookies were ready to come out.

Next in was the starter (asparagus with parma ham and blue cheese) and then starting the chicken provencal – and while that was cooking, I was able to put the ice cream in a pretty heart-shaped dish.

(Well, hey. I’m a romantic novelist. What else am I going to do with ice cream? … and if you answer that, just remember that I’m planning a gelateria book for next year. 'I am a writer and anything you say may be taken down and used in a book...' Hmm. There's another lightbulb. Apron philosophy. Excuse me while I just go and make a note in my ideas file.)

Then it was plating the starter with rocket and tomato.

And then finally plating the chicken provencal with couscous and green beans.

And while all this was going on, Bill was taking millions of photographs.

Although I was a bit nervous just beforehand (oh, all right, I didn't sleep properly on Sunday night and needed half a ton of concealer under my eyes yesterday), once we started it was enormous fun. Like it is when I cook with friends and family around, but instead of me sitting them down at the breakfast bar with a coffee/glass of wine (depending what time of day it is – am not that much of a lush) and chatting to them as I work, I was working round a camera and chatting to the photographer. If this is what it’s like, doing the shoot after you’ve written a cookery book – yes, please. (I’d love to write a cookery book. Poor Dot is going to get little bleats from me about this for a while…) Bill and Rowan both thought I’d do OK as a presenter, too. I’m calm, I’m smiley and have a passion for what I do.

If I wasn’t a writer or a historian, I’d want to own a bookshop café. I mooted this with my best friend from school, but he said it wouldn’t work because I would refuse to part with a single book. Well, yeah, there is that to it… But this is why I loved writing Breakfast at Giovanni’s, and why I can’t wait to write my gelateria book. Food and romance. Unbeatable combo!

Thank you to India Grey for the tip about Emma Bridgewater – the apron was just fab, as were the matching oven gloves (and I missed a trick – rats, could’ve got nice new ceramics for the kitchen).

And a really special thank you to my RLH, who did more than his fair share of the housework this weekend and gave me a spotless kitchen and a clean oven. (Yeah, I shared the chocolates. He deserved them, too.)

And I guess maybe a picture of the cook might be in order…

Monday, February 01, 2010

Hot Heroes and a Giveaway

Current work: working on PR today – interviews, photo shoot, and sorting out my presentation slides for my talk next week (and then back to revisions)
Listening to: Bach
Reading: next on TBR

In a major rush today with PR stuff (will tell about about my ‘Kate Does a Delia’ spot tomorrow – and also kneel and bow to wonderful husband who was just brilliant this weekend and did more than his fair share of the housework, not to mention cleaning my oven – and I wrote 18k words this weekend, just in case you think I was slacking).

Am blogging over at Nicola Marsh’s today – she’s doing her usual Valentine spectacular and I just so happen to be the first guest blogger. There a chance to win a book, and a chance to look at a gorgeous hero (yeah, we all know who I’ve chosen, don’t we?). So do go over and leave a comment to be in with the chance to win - and keep going back between now and Valentine's Day as she has some fabulous guests!