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Writing life

Planet Kate, 21 May 2018

What’s happening in my world, this week:

  • Work: writing M&B #83 (cardiac unit, marriage of convenience book); updating my website one backlist book per day; and faffing about with my Big Book
  • Reading: haven’t had time to read, this week!
  • Looking forward to: picking Archie up from kennels today; Jon Richardson at Norwich Theatre Royal (comedy)
  • Workouts: probably no time for gym this week, but I did walk 130,000 steps in Tuscany last week, including climbing the towers of the Palazzo Vecchio, the Campanile and the Duomo itself, and the leaning tower of Pisa…
  • Planet Kate last week: Florence. What a city. So much beautiful art and architecture. We had a wonderful time in the art galleries and museums, chilling out in cafes and having dinner in gorgeous little trattorias. And we had a bonus when we spent our last day in Pisa, because we managed to get tickets for the tower (which was a very strange experience – as you walk round, you can feel the ‘lean’ changing). And also it was our son’s 21st birthday at the weekend. Where did that time go? Great that we actually got to see him on the day and took him out for lunch.
  • Top tip from me for Florence: buy the Firenze card (72 museums, access for 72 hours – and most importantly you get priority queuing, so it saves time – it more than pays for itself in admission fees, too). Get to the Uffizi for about 8.30 to avoid the massive queues. And if you want to climb the Duomo, book your tickets on the first day (and if you’re going to be there at a weekend, probably pre book from England, because places are limited and tickets sell really fast – we booked on Tuesday morning and the first ticket available was Thursday lunchtime.)
  • My fave bits of Florence: the library at the San Lorenzo complex; climbing the Duomo  (and the crypt in the cathedral, which has the most gorgeous Roman mosaic pavement); seeing the Botticellis at the Uffizi; and the modern art gallery at the Pitti (only in Florence does ‘modern’ mean 1750 to about 1920! That’s the one with the Macchiaioi paintings, which is what the book I’m about to start writing features quite heavily).
  • Favourite church in Florence: torn between Santa Maria Novella (for the camera obscura meridian, and the frescoes in the cloisters) and Santa Croce (tombs of Michelangelo, Dante and Galileo).
  • Fave pic from the last week: Bearing in mind I took rather a lot…  The San Lorenzo library, the peacock in the crypt at Santa Mara, the inside of the Duomo, cathedral complex, the Botticelli that made me cry because it was so beautiful, the leaning tower of Pisa and a quick shot of the four of us on Chris’s 21st. (Large, because it came out upside down on a WordPress gallery and I couldn’t work out how to change it!)

 

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Writing life

Planet Kate, 14 May 2018

What’s happening in my world, this week:

  • Work: Research trip in Florence for M&B #84 (art world, opposites, needs a better conflict) while trying to finish off M&B #83 (cardiac unit, marriage of convenience book);
  • Reading: The Teashop on the Corner, Milly Johnson (made me cry); The Light at the Window, Lucinda Riley
  • Looking forward to: Florence!! – and also it’s Chris’s 21st birthday on Sunday so we’re going to see him in Nottingham
  • Workouts: didn’t make the gym last week – too much on – but walked Arch a lot
  • Planet Kate last week: blur of deadline!! The oven broke halfway through a barbecue  at the weekend (aka veggie kebabs and cooking the chicken so it finished off on the barbecue and was cooked properly without being charred); the repair man came out on Thursday and didn’t have the right part on his van, so that had to be ordered in; haircut Thursday and went a shade lighter for the summer (I don’t have grey hair and certainly wouldn’t be worried if I did, but I do have horrendously fine hair, and the dyeing process improves the texture enormously); signed the deal memo for my next M&B contract (which takes me up to #90 – scary!!); emergency dog visit to vet on Friday as Arch had a lump on his chest – two nasty ticks, so he’s on antibiotics and had some super-expensive flea and tick treatment that should mean he won’t suffer again. (Ticks are vile. I’d never seen one before. Nasty, bloated things.) Sunday was mad dash down to London to see The Taming of the Shrew at the Globe (Chloe’s A level text – and the only performance I could guarantee as it’s touring in the summer on a ‘voter’s choice’ basis – was very good), and then to the airport.
  • Fave pic from the last week: the Globe, which is a place I love very much.

 

 

Writing life

Planet Kate, 7 May 2018

What’s happening in my world, this week:

  • Work: writing M&B #83 (cardiac unit, marriage of convenience book); updating my website one backlist book per day (slipped a bit with that as am up to my eyes); faffing about with my Big Book; and doing the #RomanceAuthorChallenge over at Instagram
  • Reading: Juliet Bell, The Heights (utterly brilliant reworking of Wuthering Heights and I wish I’d written it); CL Taylor, The Escape (you owe me sleep, Cally Taylor!); Kate Field, The Magic of Ramblings (very sweet); Kerry Barrett, The Forgotten Girl (enjoyed – plot was quite close to an idea I had, some years back, so it was nice to see how it was handled)
  • Looking forward to: Taming of the Shrew on Sunday at the Globe (one of my daughter’s A level set texts and the only performance where it’s not chosen by the audience so I can guarantee it! Not my favourite play and it always sends me into a massive feminist rant; but I am looking forward to taking Chloe to her first production at the Globe); and I’m really, really, really looking forward to my research trip to Florence on Monday – our first ever visit.
  • Workouts: dogwalking, and one session at the gym
  • Planet Kate last week: Monday and Tuesday, new boiler installed; Tuesday night, Scott Matthews at Norwich Arts Centre (excellent – also one of my fave venues in the city because there’s no barrier, just the edge of the stage, so it’s really intimate); Weds-Fri, working like mad; Saturday, barbecue with the neighbours (and the oven decided to pack up, arrgh! Luckily the top oven still worked so I could finish cooking the chicken properly before putting it on the barbecue for flavour – but I need to sort out a repair next D week); Sunday, walk at the Great Wood in Blicking to see the bluebells, and they were utterly glorious (that was a research trip, but it was a nice one where husband, daughter and dog could join me).
  • Fave pic from the last week: three from Blickling because it was just glorious. Although the car park was really full, the woods are so large that you have space to enjoy them and the birdsong.

 

Writing life

Planet Kate, 30 April 2018

What’s happening in my world, this week:

  • Work: writing M&B #83 (cardiac unit, marriage of convenience book); updating my website one backlist book per day; and faffing about with my Big Book
  • Reading: Jill Mansell, You and Me Always (Jill never disappoints); Catherine Miller, All that is Left of Us (enjoyed); Stephen Westaby, Fragile Lives (really interesting – also research!)
  • Looking forward to: Scott Matthews at Norwich Arts Centre (music); new boiler being installed (though that is going to involve some chaos)
  • Workouts: Managed circuits at the gym twice last week plus dogwalking
  • Planet Kate last week: eye appointment on Wednesday – thankfully no need to redo the iridotomy, and the ophthalmologist is writing me a letter to take to future opticians, explaining that I have a thicker-than-average cornea and an odd-shaped iris, so the higher pressure behind my eyes is nothing to worry about (we both enjoyed the appointment and he thinks I should write an eye doctor book); dentist on Thursday (all healing well); saw Art at the Theatre Royal in Norwich on Saturday (fabulous); intended to go walking among bluebells on Sunday but the weather was utterly vile.
  • Fave pic from the last week: Just one, this week, as my proper bluebell walk didn’t happen! But here’s Archie pretending to be asleep in the bluebells just down the road…

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Writing life

Planet Kate, 23 April 2016

What’s happening in my world, this week:

  • Work: writing M&B #83 (cardiac unit, marriage of convenience book); updating my website one backlist book per day; and faffing about with my Big Book
  • Reading: Ian Rankin, A Question of Blood (fabulous); Karin Baine, From Fling to Wedding Ring (if you like medical romance and ballroom dancing, one for you);
  • Looking forward to: Art at Norwich Theatre Royal (Nigel Havers!!) and my best friend staying for the weekend
  • Workouts: mainly dogwalking (but I did nearly 20,000 steps in London!)
  • Planet Kate last week: Tuesday, writery day in London with Fiona Harper and Heidi Rice – really enjoyed plotting books, walking down by the Regent’s Canal and lunch at Ottolenghi’s. Wednesday, it was back to the dentist because I was still hurting: it was a dry socket that needed cleaning out and packing (painful!) and antibiotics. I did have a nice walk back through the cathedral grounds, though, and thoroughly enjoyed a sneaky visit to St George’s Tombland in the city. Thursday, catching up with work; Friday, dinner out and then Radio Days at Norwich Playhouse (absolutely hilarious and we’d forgotten how much we liked the Heebee Jeebees – a real treat to meet the cast afterwards and say how much we enjoyed it); Saturday, sorting out Chloe’s 18th birthday; Sunday, walk in the park with Archie (first bluebells!), dinner out and then Sheridan Smith at Norwich Theatre Royal.
  • Fave pic from the last week: Again, cheating with three – Regent Canal in London, sunrise over the lake near us, and the first bluebells this summer.

 

churches, Local history, Norwich

Nerdy local history: St George’s, Tombland

Occasionally there will be nerdy posts here, and one of my great loves is church architecture. Given that there are nearly 1,000 medieval churches in Norfolk (not all of them in use, and some of them in ruins), I’m immensely privileged.

imageSo yesterday, on the way home from my dental appointment, I walked through the cathedral grounds and into Tombland (aka the original Anglo Saxon marketplace, which Bill the Bastard made us move just to underline that he was The Conqueror). After the cathedral was built, there were a few fights between the monks and the citizens, but the really big one was in 1272. It started right here in St George’s, ended up with the city being excommunicated by the Pope, and Henry III and then Edward I had to come and sort things out. (The citizens were fined, but the Prior – who I happen to think was very culpable and a total thug – was thrown in jail. The citizens had to build the Ethelbert gate as part of the reparations. But that’s for another day.)

There are a lot of things I like about the church, but the two things I want to talk about are Snap and Thomas Anguish’s memorial.

imageSnap the dragon, who’s used at the Mayor’s Procession every year, lives in this church (well, of course, St George’s – though we have more than one St George’s in Norwich). The original Snap is in the Castle Museum. It’s all linked with mummers and the Mystery Plays (the N-Town Play is the Norwich Grocers’ play); and the dragon was used as part of the ceremonial pomp and pageant around the mayor’s inauguration. Norwich being Norwich, there were also a couple of mock procession days, held from the 18th century onwards, which tended to get a bit riotous and also involved Snap – one was at Pockworth (the area where I had my dental appointment) and one was at Costessey (where I live). Over the years it turned into a fundraiser, and the dragon used to steal hats and demand a penny ransom. The local rhyme about it is: ‘Snap, Snap, steal a boy’s cap, give him a penny and he’ll give it back.’

And this is the monument of Alderman Thomas Anguish, d. 1617, who was a mayor of the city and a mercer (aka merchant). It’s very hard to photograph because it’s tucked beside the organ – moved from its original spot by the altar when the reredos was installed, albeit before the organ arrived.

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Thomas left money to establish a children’s hospital (aka school for poor children), and his bequest is still in use today – if you go to certain schools in Norwich and are in financial hardship, you can apply to it for help. I suspect a little bit of rivalry with his fellow mercer and mayor John Symons, d. 1609, who has a much smaller monument at the back of the church. Thomas has *all* his children on his monument, the girls lined up behind their mum and the boys lined up behind him. Those with skulls are the ones who died before their parents, and I was particularly moved by the chrisom children (still in their swaddling, died either at birth or in that first month).

Another echo: the monument was carved by the same mason who carved John Donne’s monument in St Paul’s, aka my favourite poet. Looking at that monument, and thinking of his wife and those babies, the words ‘Batter my heart, three-personed God’, were uppermost in my mind. (I’ll spare you the English graduate spiel about Donne’s religious poetry being full of love and his love poetry being full of religion because I can get very boring about this.) And the lady in the shield? The verger (utterly lovely) told me he wrote to the Guild of Mercers, and she’s apparently the Mercers’ Maiden, their heraldic emblem.

Writing life

Planet Kate, 16 April 2018

What’s happening in my world, this week:

  • Work: my editor liked the revisions, so M&B #82 was accepted on Thursday, and A Diamond in the Snow will be out later this year; writing M&B #83 (cardiac unit, marriage of convenience book); updating my website one backlist book per day (going to take three months at this rate, but at least it will be done); and faffing about with my Big Book (not settled on whether I’m going to write first person or third or a combination of the two, but my writery day on Tuesday will help me sort that)
  • Reading: Sarra Manning, House of Secrets (if you like Kate Morton and Rachel Hore, you’ll like this); Peter James, Love You Dead (he never disappoints); Kerry Barrett, The Girl in the Picture (loved the PRB background, aka my favourite art movement – note to self, haunt the Tate website *again* this week because I got fed up with the ‘booking shortly’ they’ve had up since last October and asked if they could tell me when the tickets for the Burne-Jones exhibition actually go on sale; apparently it’s this month. Can’t wait to see my favourite painting of all time in the flesh for the very first time – I’ve seen the cartoon (sketch) but not the real thing)
  • Looking forward to: Writery day in London with Heidi Rice and Fiona Harper; Radio Days (comedy) at the Norwich Playhouse; Sheridan Smith (music) at Norwich Theatre Royal and dinner out first with DH’s best friends
  • Workouts: Usual dog-walks, but planning to go back to the gym on Wednesday because by then last week’s dental work should be healed enough to cope
  • Planet Kate last week: London on Monday – tour of King’s College London, a quick trip to the National Gallery (focusing on the 19th century rooms because my daughter shares my tastes – it was such a joy to see her face, the very first time she saw one of her favourite paintings in real life, ie Van Gogh’s Sunflowers) and a fly-by visit to the office so they could meet the baby who started my writing career (!!); what I thought was my dental appointment on Tuesday, but it turned out I had the wrong day so I had to go through it all over again on Wednesday (difficult extraction so it was by the dental surgeon, and I am a nervous patient thanks to an extraction that went badly wrong some years ago – but my surgeon was fabulous, really kind); horrible reaction to the Diazepam, which was supposed to reduce the nervousness but instead reduced me to a snivelling wreck on Thurs/Fri; son back to uni in Nottingham on Saturday; North Sea on Sunday (Wells-next-the-Sea and then Cromer) because I needed the sea to rebalance me a bit.
  • Fave pic from the last week: I’m cheating and making that three. The first is from my back garden – it’s an iPhone snap so the colours aren’t quite right, but the sun was this beautiful orange orb in a peachy sky. The second is from Wells-next-the-Sea on Sunday; and the third is taken 20 minutes further round the coast at Cromer, where the sea fret had come in and made everything look like an MR James story (and there’s no filter – I didn’t take it in monochrome, but the fog leached the colour from everything and it made me itch to write something Gothic!).

 

Writing life, Writing news

Writing news, 12 April 2018

Absolutely thrilled to say that my editor liked my revisions – so my 82nd Mills & Boon, A Diamond in the Snow, will be out later this year. It’s for the True Love line (aka Cherish until the rebrand earlier this year) and is all about a heroine who runs her family’s stately home and plans a weekend including a Regency ball to help raise funds to restore the house, and a hero who’s undergoing a massive lifestyle change and discovers love where he wasn’t expecting it. Add a fake fiance plot (I love these), some seriously nerdy foodie stuff (as in historically accurate foodie stuff – one of my pet subjects), Regency dancing (yes, I miss my ballroom lessons) and a slightly naughty dog (Archie, disguised as a Labrador) – oh yes, and Christmas! So if you like any of these, I hope you’ll enjoy the book.

Writing life

Planet Kate, 9 April 2018

What’s happening in my world, this week:

  • Work:  writing M&B #83 (cardiac unit, marriage of convenience book), and working on updating my website.
  • Reading: Just finished Anthony Horowitz, The Magpie Murders – enjoyed it very much (especially the book within a book)
  • Looking forward to: first uni open day with my youngest in London (King’s College
  • Not looking forward to: dentist appointment on Tuesday (this is going to be a rough one) and son going back to uni on Saturday
  • Workouts: likely to be mainly dogwalking this week, as I just can’t cram in the time to get to the gym!
  • Planet Kate last week: Spent a lot of time on the website (cough). Saw Macbeth on Thursday at Stratford-upon-Avon – excellent performance by Christopher Eccleston and Niamh Cusack, and super-creepy witches! The staging was very good, too. Home on Friday via Leicester (the joys of satnavs – but it was nice to see where I lived as a student); seeing family Saturday; picked up new specs and caught up with work on Sunday (dog tired
  • Fave pic from the last week: sunset on Friday on our return home, taken from the back garden (the lilac is just starting to come into bud). image
Writing life

Welcome to my new blog, April 2018

So here it is – the new blog (currently with a very soft launch until I’ve got everything moved to where I want it). The idea is to update on Mondays 🙂

What’s happening in my world, this week:

  • Work: Revisions on M&B #82, writing the outline for M&B #83, and working on updating my website.
  • Reading: Anthony Horowitz, The Magpie Murders
  • Looking forward to:  Macbeth at Stratford-upon-Avon
  • Workouts: dogwalking, as I just can’t cram in the time to get to the gym – I’m out a bit too much!
  • Planet Kate last week: Super-busy. Tuesday, Chloe home from Berlin; Wednesday, picked up new car (a Golf – my dream car!) and went to Rachel Hore’s book launch; Thursday, collected Chris from uni in Nottingham; Saturday, eye test (uh-oh, re-referral to hospital because my iridotomy is closing up) and friends over for dinner; Sunday, cinema with Chloe (Lady Bird, and very good it was too).
  • Fave pic from the last week:  this is the lake near us, and the way the sunrise and sky panned out makes this feel like living in the middle of a Turner painting.