Wednesday, March 31, 2010

lovely review - The Doctor's Lost-and-Found Bride

Current work: Revisions
Listening to: Muse, Radiohead and Josh Groban (aka playlist for current book)
Reading: Shirley Wells, Where Petals Fall (#3 in her fantastic Jill and Max series – she’s set up some fabulous red herrings and I haven’t worked out who’s the killer or why – plus Max gets more and more attractive with every book, and Jill’s the sort you’d want to be mates with and sit in her kitchen drinking coffee and eating cake)

Had a lovely review for The Doctor’s Lost and Found Bride from Cataromance. You can read the full review here, but this is how Julie sums it up:

Kate Hardy infuses her wonderful romances with so much heart, sensitivity and emotion that readers cannot help but be held in thrall from the very first page to the last and The Doctor’s Lost and Found Bride is certainly no exception! A poignant and heart-wrenching tear jerker that’s tender, profound and intense, The Doctor’s Lost and Found Bride is emotional storytelling at its finest and readers shall certainly not want to miss adding this first class tale of second chances and painful choices to their keeper shelf – next to Kate Hardy’s other irresistible and unforgettable stories!

Believable, passionate and wonderfully romantic, The Doctor’s Lost and Found Bride is the latest brilliant book from the simply outstanding pen of Kate Hardy!

Thank you, Julie Bonello, for making my day.

Yesterday – well, I was late for guitar and in bimbo mode because I forgot my book and my footstool. Duh! Jim just cracked up and gave me a gentle lesson rather than a hard time; he wrote stuff down and got me to sight-read. Actually, we had a Small Faces fest, and it was great fun. (I must confess, though, that I prefer Lou Gramm’s version of ‘Tin Soldier’.) And the afternoon was as I expected; let’s just say that the Maltesers bunny did its job, and that was 157 calories of very hard work. That, and thinking that in exactly a week's time I will be wandering round narrow calle, having a wonderful time.

Plan for today: focus very hard on cracking revisions. (Hopefully sans interruptions…)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

research day

Current work: Revisions
Listening to: various – Radiohead, Manic Street Preachers, and other indie/rock stuff to drive to (and no, I didn’t speed – not with cameras all down the A140 and A14)
Reading: Fiona Harper, Housekeeper’s Happy-Ever-After (enjoyed, though it made me cry and I had to go and hug my daughter because of the name of the heroine’s daughter – Fi’s dedication put a lump in my throat, too); Sarah Morgan, Sale Or Return Bride (again enjoyed)

Apologies for not posting yesterday. I was over the border in Suffolk, meeting a friend of a friend who works with stained glass. I had a WONDERFUL time – have answers to all my research questions, and can’t wait to get started. (But of course I have this book to revise and another to write before then… still, it’s pretty good as carrots go.) Oh, and he’d baked a cake for us (still warm – ohhh, I love being spoiled like this) AND made really nice, posh coffee. Lovely, lovely man, and he most definitely gets a public thanks in the book.

And then I met up with my friend for lunch – oh, all right, I’ll name-drop. Caroline Anderson, superstar Medicals author. Let’s just say that I wasn’t the one who scoffed tons of chocolate fudge cake. (Though I admit that I was the one who ate lots of ice cream – and very scrumptious it was, too.) And I had three different dogs making a fuss of me. I was interrogated when I got home. ‘Sniff, sniff… Oi, just WHO have you been cuddling when you should’ve been home sharing your chicken salad with me?’ Byron spent the rest of the evening giving me reproachful looks.

Apart from that, had a busy weekend – picked up tickets for Venice on Saturday (yay – it feels much more ‘real’ now) and had DH’s mum and her partner over on Sunday. Not much time to work, so need to make up for it this week.

Plans for today: guitar lesson (yet again, no proper practising because I simply haven’t had the time and I am dog tired) and then visit Dad. Having spoken to my stepmum last night, I have a fairly good idea of how it's going to be today, so I have a Maltesers bunny chilling nicely in the fridge. Small things make a difference.

Friday, March 26, 2010

time machine and crows

Current work: revisions to jousting book
Listening to: Bach
Reading: next on TBR

The third thing yesterday was the arrival of a book I’d been waiting for – Karen Maitland’s new paperback. Should be a great read.

However, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction – which means I’ve also been hit by three baddies this week. Rough visit to Dad; dentist visit meaning no needles yesterday BUT root canal work next month; and home from the dentist to find an email from my ed with revisions – rather bigger than I’d hoped for. We’ve negotiated a compromise, but this weekend is already quite busy. Guess I need to be clever about some of it – i.e. pick up the stuff we need for Venice while DH spends his customary hour in HMV, browsing through the same stuff he browses through every single time. (Drives me bananas. Why do men do it? Or am I the weird one, going shopping with a list organised by shop and working my way through it logically?) And I’d better be up early Sunday instead of lazing in bed with a book, so I can get some work done before DH picks up his mother just before lunch.

I could really do with a time machine. And something to smack the crows with (apart from the Maltesers bunnies I ate yesterday – got away with it on the scales this morning, but doing the same today would not be clever). Don't suppose HG Wells' time traveller is out there and would like to come for lunch? I can offer home-made soup, chicken salad and home-made ice cream in exchange for some time...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

the d-word

Current work: medical continuity
Listening to: Bach
Reading: Jessica Hart, Oh-So-Sensible Secretary (great fun – normally I’m not so keen on first person books, but this got plus points for being written in the past tense (! call me picky) and being great fun. Good dialogue, good characterisation, and it was really interesting to see a book written with single POV. Nice to see the heroine growing and changing, too, and realising that there was more to herself than she thought there was).

D-word? No, not deadline. The other one. The scary one. D*nt*st. Let’s just say I have a 45-minute appointment in the chair this morning and I am not looking forward to it… roll on this afternoon, when it will be over! (My dentist is actually very nice. But, since a couple of fairly nasty dental traumas, I’ve become a nervous patient. Hopefully today might go a fair way to restoring my equilibrium.)

In other stuff – have spoken to the memorial masons about fixing my mum’s stone, and have spoken to the town clerk's assistant about it; and the town clerk rang me back this morning for a chat about the issue, so I'm reassured now that the groundsmen are being sensitive. They think the weather caused the damage... maybe, but we've had bad weather between December 1986 and this winter. Anyway, my point was made politely and taken on board, and I'm a bit happier about it. It wasn't about getting other people to pay for the repair - it's my mum's stone so it's my responsibility. It was about whether the memorial vases were being handled sensitively or if, in today's target-driven culture where people have to shoehorn too many things into too little time, things that shouldn't be rushed had been rushed. Am reassured now.

But my agent likes the new book, so it’s not all a bad day today. And the tickets are in for Venice, so now it feels ‘real’. that's two good things - and a third will happen to complete the run, yes?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

lovely review

Current work: medical continuity
Listening to: Boris Bagger (cello)
Reading: next on TBR

Just realised that, in the excitement of the RNA lunch and my last Essex trip, I forgot to post the lovely review that Marilyn Shoemaker gave to Good Girl or Gold Digger? – and, given that yesterday wasn’t a particularly nice day (vide what I was saying yesterday about long, painful goodbyes – Dad’s had another big slide), forgive me for being a bit self-indulgent and posting it here today.

Like the old saying goes opposites attract. The chemistry between them is magical and they can’t seem to fight it any longer and they have a secret affair. Felix accepts Daisy for who she is, a woman with a passion for her work, a woman who absolutely is not girly, who doesn’t wear dresses or make-up and she in turn adores him fror the man he was as well. However, they both have painful secrets, especially Felix which hold them back. However, Daisy is sure she loves him and is hopeful he will love her in return.

Just when one hopes there is happiness in store for them, everything unravels, they quarrel and part. Time spent apart from Daisy is agony for Felix and then he sees a newspaper article that puts their argument into perspective and goes to her and tries to make it right. Good Girl or Gold Digger was a warm, funny and very sweet romantic read. How the author tied everything together from the heroine’s name to the sweet happy ending, was spectacular.

Thank you, Marilyn.

You can read the full review here.

And RT said it had ‘unique setting, quirky characters and a sweet romance’.

So, here we go. Back to the continuity, and try to put yesterday out of my head – because there’s absolutely nothing I can do to change things. (And that's one of the hardest things to come to terms with, for someone who's good at fixing things.)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

continuities and dirty drafting

Current work: medical continuity
Listening to: Kathryn Williams
Reading: next on TBR

Writing a continuity must be much harder for a pantster than it is for a planner. Friends who aren’t planners say that if they plan a book out, they get seriously bored and end up writing something different. To work on a continuity, where you’re given a basic outline and character backgrounds, must be nigh impossible for them. Except, I guess, you’re working with other people to create a world, and that can be enormous fun.

I’m just very relieved that I’m a planner. I’ve found that the key to working on a continuity is actually the same as it is with all my books: character. As soon as I’ve made the characters ‘mine’, I can work. And the way I do that is to write a mini dirty draft. This means expanding the outline – which is basically a page or so long, and gives me the main plot points of my story as well as the continuity. Mine’s the firefighter and the school nurse, and he’s been pushed into the position of being a single dad. (By coincidence, my July Med is a ‘single dad’ book, though the cover makes it look more as if the heroine’s the single parent.) The outline says things like ‘medical emergencies throw Tom and Flora together’ – but it’s up to me what said emergencies are. So this means delving into my characters’ past and making said emergencies reflect their deepest fears etc.

I always write a synopsis, because I’m a planner and I like to know what’s going to happen – it’s a flexible synopsis because I can change it if the characters tell me something better, but the way I tackle any job is to break it down into smaller steps. This means breaking the synopsis down into chapters and expanding it slightly, so I know that the book is balanced and what I’m doing where. During this stage, I’m thinking about the characters’ backstory and emotional conflicts, and that tells me what I need to get into the chapters (i.e. where to introduce a layer of conflict, where to deepen it, and where to start the resolution). With this one, I’m sticking a highlighter over the bits I can’t change.

When I start breaking things down into chapters and expanding, sometimes conversations come into my head – and that’s where dirty drafting comes in.

Dirty drafting means just that. It’s a draft, and it’s dirty because it’s written in note form. That means no speechmarks (I write dialogue as a script, with a new line for each speech and usually the character’s initial and a colon at the beginning of the line, so I know who’s speaking). Actually, it means very little punctuation at all – all text that isn’t speech is punctuated by dashes. It’s also written in the present tense, which gives a sense of immediacy; and I guess it’s how I would describe the events if I were telling a friend what happens in the story.

It’s very liberating and also means I can write quickly, because I know it doesn’t matter if there are typos or holes, and I can also write out of sequence without it being a problem; at this stage, it’s easy to layer things. It’s not quite the same as giving myself permission to write absolutely anything (on the grounds that it’s easier to fix a page that doesn’t work than it is to fill a blank page). It’s getting down the bare bones of the story, and everything’s about what they say to each other, what they do, and how they feel.

Tidying up the dirty draft, though… now that’s what I really like. Because once the bare bones are down, I can see where the holes are and start asking why (and the answers, which fill the holes, all relate to character motivation and conflict). I can see exactly where I need to slow the pace down and where something might need more explanation. And it also means I don’t get down with too many speech tags. Not every speech needs to have a ‘he/she said’ to follow it. Sometimes an action works better to bring across a mood or a tone, and sometimes you don’t need one at all because it’s obvious who’s speaking – especially in a two-hander. (When it comes to speech tags, there’s nothing wrong with a simple ‘he/she said’. If you notice the speech tags, that means the writing’s pulling you out of the story, which rather misses the point.)

So, today – I still haven’t started chapter one properly, though I’ve written conversations for the first three chapters. I want everything else planned out first, so it’s all clear in my head, and then I’ll start. Which I guess won’t be today, as it’s guitar this morning and visiting Dad this afternoon. Hopefully he will be in a brighter frame of mind than he was at the last visit, and it would be lovely if we get a few minutes of lucidity. I will have Corelli in the car, though, because I’ll probably need that to chill me out on the way to school; I don’t want the kids to see how upset I am afterwards. Long goodbyes are definitely harder.

Monday, March 22, 2010

new week, new book – and a sugar rush!

Current work: starting medical continuity
Listening to: Julian Lloyd Webber
Reading: Finished Trisha Ashley's Chocolate Wishes (enjoyed thoroughly); Nina Harrington's Hired: Sassy Assistant (again enjoyed, and it was intriguing to see how someone else handled a deaf heroine); Barbara Samuel's Madame Mirabou’s School of Love (enjoyed very much – especially the elements of perfume, and thought the beginning of each chapter where there are perfume notes are very cleverly done)

Am going to start my new book today. As it’s a continuity, I need to make these characters ‘mine’, so it’s always more of a challenge at the beginning than the ones that walk out of my head. But challenge is good because it makes me think outside the box. And of course I have my new bead (cough) to inspire me - was going to buy it in person on Friday, but neither of the Pandora stockists in Norwich had the one I wanted, so I ended up buying it online (and lovely postie has just been to see me).

I finished the Essex book on Friday (and hence have a huge pile of stuff to take to the post office later today), so I did the unthinkable: took a couple of days off. (Ish.) Daughter was in the mood for baking, so she looked through her recipe books and chose what she felt like making. End result: sugar rush! Blueberry muffins (which were very tasty – see below) and cupcakes. Yum.

Apart from that, I’ve had a delicious reading binge (see above). Also watched a fairly weak comedy on Saturday night (I’m tired and in need of a holiday and didn’t have the energy to suggest turning it off. Matthew McConaughy is a wee bit typecast nowadays – and I still think the best romcom he did was ‘How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days’) plus the first half of Dorian Grey (very interesting to see Colin Firth as a baddie, playing something a little different from his normal typecast roles; though wasn’t altogether convinced of Dorian’s motivations – if you’re going to stick a backstory in the film that isn’t in the original, you could at least make sure it fits the character’s motivations).

The kids have had a growth spurt and needed more clothes before we go to Venice, so yesterday was the six-monthly ‘drag children out and make them try on new clothes’ day. We decided to take one child each – son’s so tall now that he’s wearing adult clothes, so he went off with DH while daughter and I hit the girly sections. Madam discovered a gorgeous pair of purple suede boots in the sale (if only they’d been in my size, too, sigh).

Plan for today: break my outline into chapters and start sketching them in, maybe play a bit of guitar, and ice my back, as I’m a wee bit creaky today.

Oh yes - and one more bit of foodie stuff (am going back on the diet properly this week) - on Thursday, crème brûlée was on the menu BUT apparently their sticky toffee pudding has won awards (and that's one of my other weaknesses). Very nice. Small portion so didn't feel guilty, and beautifully presented.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Current work: finishing off nonfic and thinking about new M&B
Listening to: Sandy Denny and Rachel Unthank
Reading: Trisha Ashley, Chocolate Wishes (and enjoying thoroughly)

Given that I have been working pretty hard in 2010 (have delivered two M&Bs - one of which was substantially rewritten to the point where I’d say that was almost another book, and am just about to deliver the nonfic), I think a day off might be in order. (Actually, it’s a day off I’ve been planning for ages and has been moved several times, as it’s a birthday lunch. A joint one, so it’s not quite as bad as being five weeks late for mine – it was meant to be midway but I had deadlines.)

And a birthday lunch out means dressing up. Which in turn means that today my fourth day of needed to dress up since Saturday – dinner out with DH and friends, the WI talk, the RNA lunch and now today. My usual scruffy self is a bit shell-shocked by it.

It’s not quite a whole day off. I’m carrying on tidying up the nonfic this morning, and will have an hour’s thinking time each way (we’re meeting at a nice restaurant, midway between us – an ancient coaching inn with a legend about Elizabeth I, so must remember camera – would be a good location for another idea bubbling in the back of my head).

So my head is going to be working on the book I’m about to start (getting to know my characters) and the one after (the stained glass/Venice one that has been in my head for the last year – am currently psyching self up to chat to stained glass restorers, but a friend of a friend may be able to help. Which of course means another lunch out…).

Visitors? I’m leaving you with a pic of one of this spring’s visitors to my garden. There’s actually a pair of them, and I adore the turquoise shimmer to their feathers. Sorry it’s a bit fuzzy – this is a crop from a full-zoom pic taken through glass, i.e. kitchen window to bottom of garden (about 25 metres).

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

RNA Awards Lunch 2010 (loooong post)

Had a wonderful day in London yesterday.

Thank you very, VERY much to the hardworking RNA committee who put on such a lovely lunch for us all and made it such a day to remember - and a huge congrats to all the winners and the shortlistees.

Started with an easy journey in to the city and I was there early, so I had a little wander round the church (built in 1872 and a nice example of Victorian Gothic).

Then I was moseying down Kensington High Street towards the hotel (in the centre of this pic, behind the back of the bus)

when I bumped into lovely Eileen Ramsey; so we went for a coffee, then on to the Royal Garden Hotel for the awards. Red carpet up to the doors - and this was what greeted us at the entrance.

Quite a lot of us changed our shoes (walking through London in heels is pretty daft), and here are Julie Cohen's fabulous shoes.

Had a glass of pink champagne, saw my lovely ed Sheila Hodgson from M&B and agent Dot Lumley:

(many thanks to my pal Roger Sanderson for taking this pic - that's me, Sheila and Dot ) and then chatted to lots of friends (just to name a few of them - Jane Jackson, Fiona Harper, Kate Thornton, Claire Hook, Sara Craven, Katie Fforde, Biddy Coady - oh yes, and I had a quick word with Freya North and she was highly amused to discover that the other prizewinning book in her year as award-winner also had a guitarist hero and sleepwalking as themes!).

In addition to above friends, caught up with some of the RNA Love Story of the Year shortlistees - here are Natalie Rivers and Nina Harrington.

(Now, I did see Louise Allen and Jan Jones before lunch, too - talked about a lunch date with Louise, admired Jan's gorgeous necklace and agreed a conf workshop - so where are my pics? Arrgh! Too much talking and not enough reportage, there. Apols for letting you down.)

And it was NOISY. Must have been 250 people there, at least. Writers spend most of their time, um, writing. So when they're let out, they talk a LOT. And it was lovely to catch up. Being an author is very a isolated profession, and normally my days are spent with my dog and the characters in my head. So it was lovely to be chat with others who share the same dreams and doubts - if you're a writer, right now you're nodding and know exactly what I'm talking about. It was especially lovely to meet friends I email often but only get to see three or four times a year.
Katie Fforde, our chair, gave a lovely welcoming speech.

Then it was time for lunch (well, of course I have pics of lunch. Remember whose blog this is!). Starter: trio of melon with a pineapple, chilli and coriander salsa.

Main: pot roasted guinea fowl with a port wine jus, confit cabbage cake and fondant potato

Pudding: the RNA 50th anniversary dessert (chocolate tart, stem ginger, and best of all crème brulee served in a tube of white chocolate - my two absolute favourites together, there - that's it on the left, sigh...).

Barry Norman made an excellent speech - very warm, appreciative of the writer's craft. (Well, he's one himself and is married to the author of my all-time favourite historical novel. I did think about trying to say hello and being a fangirl over his wife, but chickened out...) Lovely, charming man:

The awards themselves - I had several friends up in the categories and wanted them all to win. But a big congratulations to all the winners (and those on the shortlist - being shortlisted is the really big thing):

RNA People's Choice: Louise Douglas with Missing You

RNA Love Story of the Year: Nell Dixon with Animal Instincts

RNA Lifetime Achievement Award: Maeve Binchy (who couldn't be with us but made a lovely video speech)

RNA Romantic Comedy of the Year: Jane Costello with The Nearly-Weds

RNA Lifetime Achievement Award: Joanna Trollope (pictured here with RNA president Diane Pearson)

Harry Bowling Prize: Debbie Johnson (there was a runner-up, but he was too shy to make a speech)
RNA Romantic Film of the Year: An Education (Lynn Barber, the writer of the book on which it's based, accepted the award)

RNA Romantic Novel of the Year: Lucy Dillon with Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts (very pleased for her as I LOVED this book - and I was charmed that she mentioned her dogs in her speech)

At the end of the lunch, M&B gave us a lovely goodie bag with a hardcover copy of 'Loves Me, Loves Me Not' and some chocolate (perfect combination, I reckon).
And then finally I got to see my mate Nell and congratulate her properly on being the first person to win the RNA Love Story of the Year TWICE - yay, Nell!
Chatted with more friends for a bit (and Fi Harper and I enjoyed looking at each other's bracelets and comparing charms - Pandora are just soooo pretty), then went for a cup of tea with Carol Townend to talk history; then home to flop on the train (and enjoyed the first half of Trisha Ashley's "Chocolate Wishes" - good read and just what I needed after an enjoyable but tiring day).
Today: I'm pretty tired from travelling and I don't spring back quite as quickly as I did pre-kids. Guitar lesson was a gentle one (I bribed Jim with a Maltesers Bunny - if you haven't tried one yet, DO - or maybe I should say don't, because they're a bit moreish and I'm aware of my growing reputation as a bad influence when it comes to Radley and Pandora). This afternoon will be tidying up the Essex book. (But I did write the outline for the Venice book on the train, yesterday, so now I know exactly what I want to see in Venice and where the gaps are for research purposes.)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

London bound (aka Kate Hyper)

Current work: Awards lunch in London, yippee
Listening to: Not on the train, because I like sitting in the quiet carriage
Reading: might have to do eeny-meeny to help me choose

Off to the RNA awards lunch today and REALLY looking forward to it. It’s going to be so nice seeing my lovely editor with a clean conscience (OK, so she would’ve forgiven me for being late, but I wanted to be in super-shiny halo mode), and my wonderful agent, and meeting up with friends I haven’t seen for ages, and cheering on my mates for the awards (they’re all winners because it’s the shortlisting that counts). And pudding. I’m going to have pudding AND wine AND proper caffeinated coffee today. (I will be good for the rest of the w– actually, no, I won’t, as I’m out to lunch again on Thursday. OK. I’ll be good for some of the week.)

The taxi’s booked and my bag is packed (with shoes to change into that will not be good for walking round London; current outline I want to sort out on the train plus pen and notepad; and in about 30 seconds, a book to read on way home). I have my lunch invite, train ticket, camera, money and phone in my handbag – oh, and my lippie and spare batteries in case my hearing aid decides to conk out on me. M&B 25th pin in place on jacket (well, hey, I earned that – oh, I’m on #45 now, or I will be tomorrow) and Pandora bracelet on wrist, ready to be bad influence on Fiona Harper and Nina Harrington and Jan Jones...

Yep, that’s me ready.

Just need to kiss DH and the kids goodbye, wait for the taxi, and pick up a latte at the station.

Have a lovely day. I will be back tomorrow with pictures and a report.

Monday, March 15, 2010


Current work: Finished the Med :o)
Listening to: Muse and Radiohead
Reading: next on TBR

I have been working very, very hard and turned in my manuscript this morning at 5am. (Confession: I finished it last night, was too tired to read it through, but woke up at 4am because I’m a lark and decided to do the final readthrough – this was just picking up the odd typo and no material changes. I’m a fast reader.)

Which means I can flop, right?

Er… No.

Today I have the WI talk; tomorrow is the RNA lunch (which means early start and late finish); Wednesday I have a guitar lesson and need to print out the book for my agent (which means I will be going to the post office, so anyone who's been waiting for something from me - your time is now); Thursday I’m having lunch with a friend (which involves a bit of travelling). Ah, Friday. Friday I can flop. Except the Essex book is due this week, so maybe not.

To do today: nap (in a minute), school run, book taxi, check notes for talk, work on Essex book while thinking about what I'm going to wear - girly skirt or posh black trousers?, do make-up, last run through talk, do talk and remember signed copies of book for raffle prizes as promised, school run (hmm, is late one, might be able to weasel out of that), work on Essex book.

Yeah, it’s a normal Monday…

Friday, March 12, 2010

Tilbury and Rayleigh

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

Next we went to Tilbury.

This fort dates from the time of Charles II (this is the water gate)

but Henry VIII built the first fort there in 1539 on the site of a former hermitage. Elizabeth I gave her rousing speech re the Armada a couple of miles away in West Tilbury. Rather more shamefully, it was used as a prison for Highlanders captured after the Battle of Culloden. And there was a rather riotous cricket match… but I’m still looking in to that because I think it might’ve been a kind of April Fool’s that was taken seriously.

Finally, Rayleigh. Just the mound is left now.

This was one of the earliest Norman castles in England (it’s mentioned in Domesday) and belonged to Robert FitzWymarc. Eventually it passed to his great-grandson, Henry d’Essex (there’s a big scandal there, but it’s too long to tell the tale here – it’ll be in the book) and it was confiscated by the crown. King John gave it to Hubert de Burgh – and he robbed the stone and used it to build Hadleigh. There’s a windmill next door which just happens to be the tallest windmill in Essex.

I liked Rayleigh very much, and I was particularly taken by these snowdrops: a real sign of spring.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Prittlewell and Hadleigh

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

Next was Prittlewell Priory - now a museum (and not open on Sundays - mind you, the traffic was such a nightmare that I don't think we would've got here on a weekday).

Not far from here, in 2003, archaeologists discovered one of the most important Anglo-Saxon burials since Sutton Hoo. The actual identity of the ‘Prince of Prittlewell’ is unknown, but a possibility is King Saebert of Essex (who died in 616). As with Sutton Hoo, the burial chamber eventually filled with sand, and the acidity of the sand dissolved the body. But exciting things that were found there include a lyre (well, OK, its outline and metal fastenings), a folding throne (the only one of its kind found in England) and some beautiful glass jars.

Unfortunately, DH’s satnav had a teensy accident (it fell off the window and the screen cracked, so now it’s an expensive repair job), and I had to navigate from there with a small-scale map. DH often ignores his satnav and lets it replan its route, but unfortunately if he ignores me that’s more of a problem, because at a scale of ten miles to the inch I can’t direct him through residential areas very easily. Cough. Let’s pass over that and go to our next stop: Hadleigh.

I loved Hadleigh. This was a breezy, freezing cold day and son asked me if my ears hurt, because his did (bless). Hadleigh Castle overlooks the Thames Estuary (that’s the water you can see behind it) and Pevsner says it’s the most important later medieval castle in the country. I could really see why they chose here as a defensive position because you can see for miles. It was built by Hubert de Burgh (justiciar of England and Henry III’s regent) and the mortar contains cockle shells from Canvey Island. Henry was a bit of a git to poor Hubert – he blamed Hubert for the failure of the war against France, and arrested him. Worse, Henry's soldiers actually broke sanctuary (though the Bishop of London was furious about that and allowed Hubert to go back to the chapel at Brentwood where he'd been dragged out). Eventually the soldiers starved him out. Hubert was thrown into the Tower of London and Henry seized all his castles. (Henry did relent a few months later, but eight months in the Tower would take its toll on anyone's constitution.)

The castle started to fall into disrepair after Hubert’s death; Edward III remodelled it, and eventually in the 16th century Edward VI sold it to Lord Rich, who promptly used the stone elsewhere.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


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

After Maldon, we went to Bicknacre. Not much left: just a single archway, kept behind a locked fence (what a sad, sad comment that is on the yobbish culture of today and the propensity for vandalism and spray paint - I did notice a lot of the latter spread across signs throughout this weekend's trip).

In the 1930s there were lots of little wooden huts here, used as holiday homes for the children who went to Sunday school at Bethnal Green. They closed at the beginning of World War Two and were subsequently used by servicemen.

From Maldon, we went to Ashingdon – one of the two places in Essex (the other being Ashdon, near Saffron Walden) that’s thought to be the probable location of the battle of Assandun in 1016. This was yet one against the Danes; Edmund Ironside’s camp was at Ashingdon and that of Canute (i.e. Cnut) was on the hill nearby at Canewdon. This time, the Danes won – and, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, nearly all the English nobility were killed. Edmund made a deal whereby he kept Wessex and Canute ruled the rest of England – and hence England came under Danish rule.

Canute built a minster at Ashingdon in 1020 to honour Edmund (who died six weeks after Assandun) and the dead soldiers, and this is allegedly his minster. It's a beautiful little church.

Sadly, it was locked, but we walked round it on a windswept day and the views from the churchyard are stunning.

It also had the largest scratch dial I've ever seen - this is an uncropped pic to show you just how big (usually they're palm-sized). In the hole in the centre would go a stick (called a gnomon) and it basically acted as a sundial to show the times for mass, in the days before clocks.

Edit: nearly forgot! Am blogging over at eHarlequin today on real life and books, so do drop in to say hello (or to see the pic of my office companion, who's currently snoring happily but will wake up and remind me it's lunchtime in half an hour or so...)

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Maldon, redux

Current work: Medical and nonfic
Listening to: Sheryl Crow
Reading: next on TBR

First stop on Sunday was at Maldon. Admittedly the ground levels have shifted during the last thousand years, but this is the view of Northey Island (where the Danes camped) from the mainland, showing the causeway across the River Blackwater at low tide. (Back then it was known as the River Panta.)

The channel was slightly narrower, too, so it was perfectly possible for the Viking leader to shout across that the English could give them money and they’d make a truce and keep the peace. And equally possible for Byrhtnoth to shout back:

Gehyrst þu, sælida hwæt þis folc segeð?
Hi willað eow to gafole garas syllan,
Ættryne ord and ealde swurd,
Þa heregeatu þe eow æt hilde ne deah.

(Apologies for being a bit indulgent there. My translation:
Do you hear, seafarer, what these people say?
They will give you spears for tribute,
Poisonous points and tried sword-edge,
Your war-tax will not help you in the fight.)

(If you're wondering about the space in the middle of the lines - that's a convention of Anglo-Saxon poetry.)

And then, instead of picking off the Danes one by one as they came across the causeway, Byrhtnoth let them all come over to fight. Was it a misguided sense of fair play? Or was it because he knew the Danes would continue raiding the coast if he didn’t try to stop them (and he thought maybe his warriors would be enough)? We'll never know.

More tomorrow :o)

Monday, March 08, 2010

Cake and blogging elsewhere

Current work: Medical and nonfic
Listening to: Joe Bonamassa
Reading: next on TBR

Had a wonderful weekend – Saturday evening went really well, and Sunday was very productive. Will be telling Essex tales with pics later this week but, in the meantime, a) I’m shattered (late night Saturday, early morning yesterday, and I walked 17,200 steps) and b) the deadline is screeching, so I’ll leave you with two things.

Firstly, the cake topper from my stepmum’s cake. My friend Nicky (who made the cake) is incredibly talented, because this is all done in sugar. Isn’t it lovely?

Secondly, I’m doing the Male on Monday slot at the Pink Heart Society today. Those of you who have met DH can start smiling now. (No, it’s not him - but my subject is his double.) Curious? Go and have a look! :o)

Friday, March 05, 2010

Publication Day: The Doctor's Lost-and-Found Bride

Current work: Medical and nonfic
Listening to: Sheryl Crow (Wildflower – had forgotten just how much I liked this album until I loaded it on to my phone)
Reading: next on TBR

Today is officially publication day for The Doctor’s Lost-and-Found Bride. I love reunion stories, and I thoroughly enjoyed writing this one. You know I like big, noisy, loving, Italian families? This time it’s the heroine’s family (the hero’s, needless to say, is the complete opposite). And the reason they split up in the first place… well, you’ll need tissues, because it’s one of my weepies.

But there are also some fun bits. Like when Max entices Marina into a boat on the Thames. Now, you know my propensity for being a Method writer, in that I occasionally try out some of my ideas in real life… You can indeed take a trip from Westminster to Greenwich by boat. And it gets a bit windy. And you know the ‘I’m flying, Jack’ scene from Titanic? Cough. All I will say is that in real life, there was a trip to Greenwich to see the Tutankhamun exhibition with DH, the kids and my best friend, and as it was my birthday treat and I was a bit excited about seeing Tut again for the first time in decades, I was behaving like a kid. And I had this lightbulb that just had to be tried out… All I’m saying is that we laughed a lot, that day. And I’m very lucky that my nearest and dearest are used to me being slightly eccentric. (Actually, they encourage me.)

Busy weekend lined up: my stepmum has a milestone birthday next week, so I have something nice planned for her for tomorrow (and, as I know she’s not on the net and won’t read this, I can say that I’m going to pick up her cake this morning). Sadly, Dad won’t be able to join us, but I have plans for a celebration with him on Tuesday next week. And on Sunday I’m doing the last of the Essex castles pics, with an expanded research team: yup, great excuse to meet up with bestest aunt and uncle at Hadleigh.

And, in the meantime, have a book to write. The deadline’s a bit tight on this one, but that’s my fault for not being able to settle to a new book until the previous one’s put to bed. As the previous one had two lots of revisions because I didn’t get it right, that’s had a knock-on effect. I’ve had the ‘so how’s it going’ email from my ed this week: which means BVFOCHOK (bottom very firmly on chair, hands on keyboard). I’m writing in dirty draft right now – which is enormous fun and I will do a craft post on dirty drafts when the book is done.

Until then, have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

oh, wow

Current work: Medical and nonfic
Listening to: Sheryl Crow
Reading: next on TBR

Lovely Julie Bonello has really made my day with her review of Good Girl or Gold Digger? over at Cataromance – and I’m utterly thrilled that it merited 5 stars! (The exclamation point there is most definitely deserved…)

This is what she had to say:

I adored Kate Hardy’s latest novel, Good Girl or Gold-Digger! Her heroine, Daisy, was fantastic. She was strong, feisty, resourceful and had a heart of gold, whilst Felix was a charming, sexy and well-defined hero I doubt any romance reader will be able to resist! I also found the fairground background to this story immensely fascinating. Kate Hardy always set her stories against such fascinating backgrounds, but she never lets them overwhelm the story or overshadow the romance.

Refreshing, captivating and feel-good, Good Girl or Gold Digger? is another winner from a fabulous writer whose name alone is sure-fire guarantee of high quality romantic fiction: Kate Hardy!

You can read the full review here. Thank you, Julie, for making my day.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

nice for swans

Current work: Medical and nonfic
Listening to: Sheryl Crow
Reading: next on TBR

Water is deeper today – road closed in Taverham, didn’t dare risk Costessey Weir, and the fields through Hellesdon are still an extension of the river (but thankfully the road is passable). The swans were having a fine time. (No pics because I was driving. Just imagine the scene. Trees growing from the middle of a river that stretches across the whole field… and which I know is usually dry land. Ducks bobbing about, looking pleased. Swans being regal, drifting across the water. Oh, and you to listen mentally to a certain cello piece by Saint-Saëns. All relaxing and pretty.)

Plan for today: polish a letter (let’s just leave it that it’s one where all the letters are after my name, which I only do when I’m being firm; I don’t enjoy being strident, but sometimes you just have to when the person you’re dealing with is being woolly, to stop things slipping any further), work, dentist (is a check-up, but I have scarier dental visits booked for this month) and… work.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Deep water

Current work: Medical and nonfic
Listening to: Giuliani guitar concerti
Reading: next on TBR

Nasty school run this morning. The road was flooded by the bridge at Taverham. Decided to come home the usual way, on the grounds that the flood might not be as deep as the outward bound road… and then balked when I saw it. (Not helped by the silly young lad on a motorcycle – with L plates – who decided to tailgate me and then, when I was clearly turning in the road (AND had indicated) decided to nip behind me… Luckily the guy behind him in the 4WD was a bit more sensible!) Came home the slightly longer way round and all the fields in Hellesdon had turned into an extension of the river.

Methinks we need a few dry days now. Don’t mind if it’s not as bright and sunny as it is today – just no rain for a bit, please, so the earth can deal with it. (And that includes the snow showers forecast for Friday night on the Met Office website…)

Plan for today: guitar, visit Dad, crack on with book. (The characters are talking. I just need TIME.)

Monday, March 01, 2010

Research day – and happy St David’s Day

Current work: Medical and nonfic
Listening to: Lou Gramm (specifically, Midnight Blue – I loved that. I have a copy of the single on blue vinyl. Kids today, with MP3s, don’t know what they’re missing out on…)
Reading: next on TBR

I took a research day on Friday (hence no post), which I spent in the local heritage library poring over two oversized books. The best bit? The books were printed in 1768. Back then, the paper used is nothing like the pulp stuff used today. It’s such a thrill to be allowed to touch it. And the smell of old books… Some people dislike it, but it’s something I adore. And slightly dusty edges (hmm – wonder when that particular copy was last read, and by whom, and why?).

So I had a lovely nerdy morning – didn’t get quite what I was hoping before because Morant wasn’t interested in the same things that I am (and Blomefield was in Norfolk). But hey. It was a real pleasure just being in the archives. Plus I discovered a couple of other things over the weekend that will be useful for the book, and that’s ticking over nicely. My head’s back to where it should be for the new fiction, so hopefully things will keep going nicely this week.

Have also finalised things for my stepmum’s birthday, including Dad’s present to her; sorted out daughter’s things for her residential trip next week (DH did some of it on Saturday and I took her on Sunday to get a hat – in which she looks exceptionally cute – and some waterproofs); oh, and spent some of my birthday money in Sonkai (have changed my mind about the ‘bead per book’ thing being post-acceptance: am doing it at the start, now).

Plan for today: work, then am skiving off for lunch with a friend. Where I shall be good because the scales were nice this morning. I’m back on track, and the sun is shining; all feels right with my world.

Oh, and as it’s March 1 - happy St David’s Day to those of you in Wales or with Welsh ancestry.