Thursday, April 27, 2006

On the road again....

Life is one long social whirl of weekends away... this time it's meeting up with two very, very dear friends from University.

When we finished Uni, one of the friends moved to Japan, and one moved to Scotland, then Texas, Kuala Lumpur (sp?) and finally Australia.

I tried not to take it personally.

I haven't seen either of them for scary years. I was in their company when I took a pragmatic approach to outdoor toiletting (see below). Once we dressed up for halloween and haunted the churchyard very, very effectively. Fake blood was involved.

The window of opportunity to meet is short and specific, so it's early to work, a rapid descent down the M6 in the afternoon, and then on to crash at my parents' house in the evil hours of the morning, probably.

Do you keep in touch with your friends from school/college/university? When was the last time you saw them? And what did you get up to when you were together?


Kate H tagged me for this one...

Six Wierd Things About Me

1) I will happily eat salt.

2) I am qualifed to use a chainsaw to fell trees up to one and a half times the guide bar length.

3) I hate forks with short, or flat, tines. In the days before we owned a matching set of cutlery I had one fork, one spoon and one knife that were mine, and I hated to eat with any others.

4) I'm a huge fan of Lewis Collins in The Professionals *shiver*.

5) I'd rather go walking or gardening barefoot and in a skirt than in walking trousers and boots.

6) I once sat down in an overflowing gutter beside a village green and peed through the two skirts and one pair of harem pants I was wearing in a tumultuous thunderstorm.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


I don't often throw wobblies on here, but there are too many damn people at work I can't say this to, so I'm saying it here.

There are now five women at work who are pregnant. I found out about two of them yesterday, and another one today. This is from a staff of 31. Removing the male staff from the equation (we're innovative, but not that innovative) that means 20% of our female staff are currently expecting.

One of those is a close colleague who was expecting her first child when she started working with us. She's now expecting her third child. Come July, during the time Husband and I have been trying for a baby, she will have had three children.

I'm thinking either God is going for a really twisted sense of humour these days, or somehow I've stored up really, really bad karma.

Just so we're clear, I don't resent their luck, they have my honest congratulations and my sincere good wishes.

I just want what they have, too.

Years ago, it didn't really feel like too much to ask.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Duty calls

I'm just about to skip off to a two-day team residential thingumy. In a youth hostel in this valley.

It's a tough life, but somebody's gotta live it.

Saturday, April 22, 2006


I made the mistake of thinking I could take a couple of hours and tidy up a bookcase.

*shaking head sorrowfully*

Three days later, I'm nearly done. The problem was, of course, that this bookcase was one of six, and since the Karen Templetons were scattered between three of them, the early Kate Walkers were in one room, and the rest in a pile beside my bed, and the Barbara Hamblys were huddled together for safety in a big pile beside my dressing table, tidying just one bookcase was a bit futile.

There's a big box headed for the charity shop of those I've discarded. And it's been a real journey of discovery for me to observe how I made those selections. Authors who were once autobuys are heading for someone else's shelves. Others must be kept, despite my not reading anything of theirs in years. Interesting.

There's also a strong genre bias to romance(big surprise), with fantasy coming up second, and then I've lumped everything from crime to classics under 'other'

On the romance and fantasy Keepers shelf (or, rather, shelves), in alphabetical order:-

Anna Adams
Suzanne Brockman (but only a select few - others have gone)
Jaci Burton
Melani Blazer
Beth Ciotta
Julie Cohen
Nicola Cornick
Jennifer Cruisie
Janet Evanovich*
Christine Feehan (although these may yet go...)
Lori Foster
Deborah Hale
Georgette Heyer
Linda Howard
Holly Jacobs
Virginia Kantra
Kathy Love
Anne McAllister
Patricia McLinn
Suzanne McMinn
Betty Neels
Diana Palmer
Madalyn Reese
Michelle Reid
Lass Small
Shannon Stacey (a bit of a cheat, I don't have any print books of Shan's yet, but it's only a matter of time)
Mary Stewart
Michelle Styles (okay, so I only have two, but, dammit, they're keepers)
Karen Templeton
Kate Walker
Nancy Warren
Loreth Anne White

Sci Fi/Fantasy
C J Cherryh
Barbara Hambly
C S Lewis
Robin McKinley
Terry Pratchett (strictly speaking belonging to Husband. In the event of a Divorce, the book split might go to court... )
J K Rowling

I'll admit there's a couple of names up there that make me wince, but I like them, dammit. The other strange thing is that 21 of the 32 authors on the romance list are friends, people I've met, or have conversed with online and have a fondness for. I suppose I like my comfort zones.

But interestingly enough, 90% of my substantial TBR pile are from authors NOT on that list. So maybe when I clear out my bookshelves in a couple of years time, there'll be some new keepers to add to the list. And maybe some to take off.

*Yes, I know. Not really romance. But I read 'em for the romance, so there.

Friday, April 21, 2006


I love having a brainstorming partner who knows nothing about writing.

Well, to be fair to Husband, he knows something about writing. He knows I love to do it, and agonise over it more than almost anything else in my life. He knows it's hard to do, hard to do well, and even harder to get published.

But he doesn't know about character arcs, conflicts, motivations, the Big Why, the Black Moment, the acceptable and unacceptable plot devices... which makes him my favourite person to brainstorm with. He tackles the problems I present head on, providing different scenarios to fit the need I describe, and never gets annoyed when I question his ideas.

Usually the solution to the problem is a joint solution - his ideas sparking my own until we forge something together.

Driving back from York on Wednesday, I ruthlessly used Husband to work out a plot problem in the opening chapters. A simple matter of moving characters and situations about in a believable and well-motivated manner. I knew we'd got to the right solution when the lines started playing in my head again. Always a good sign.

At the culmination of this intelligent and insightful discussion of ideas, I was reflecting on how wonderful it was to be married to someone who takes my thoughts seriously, and addresses his whole intelligence to solving problems with me.

Husband heaved a satisfied sigh and then asked anxiously if I was still using his idea for the death of the villain. It's a particularly gruesome idea, involving a bound man, a truck, a Land Rover, and a big bump in the road.

"Yes, dear."

"Cool," he said, gleefully.

One of the things I love about Husband is his ability to be Grown-Up and Small Boy in the same instant.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Spring has sprung

How can I tell?

Well, it might be the tightly furled buds just bursting on the hawthorn. It could be the host of golden bloody daffodils* nodding in the spring breeze. It could be the birdsong at 5am, or the lambs gambolling in the fields (or indeed, the butterflied lamb with rosemary pesto marinating in my fridge). It might be the perennials surfacing in the garden, or the blackbirds with their beakfulls of moss and lichen for lining their nests.

Perhaps the brighter sunshine and warmer days is the real signal, or the mad rush of seasonal gardeners to the plant centres.

The warming of the earth, the rising of the sap, the dancing of the dance.

All of the above are signals of spring I recognise. But the reason I really know it's spring... is because my well of creativity overfloweth.

Often my particular well is like the well at Beeston Castle, where one drops a stone down the shaft, enthusiastically counting the seconds. After ten seconds you get a bit bored, after twenty you convince yourself you must have missed the thunk of the stone hitting the bottom. You've just got time for a short theoretical discussion about wind resistence and maximum velocity before the speeding stone takes advantage of a gap in the conversation to go PLOP into the water.

Yes, there is water there, but it's a Looooooong way down.

At the moment, however, my creative well is doing an impression of a geyser. There are so many characters, stories, plots and daydreams running round my head it's hard to keep up. The long drive back from my parents was excellent - I think I wrapped up three daydreams in that trip alone. I keep going to bed early, the better to lie there in peace and explore the mental world. But then I fall asleep and dream vivid dreams all night instead.

Shakespeare called for a Muse of Fire. Could I possibly have a dictaphone** that records direct from brainwaves instead?

Who knew creativity could be seasonal?

* Remind me to tell you someday about the wholesale, ignorant, revolting vandalism of the countryside performed by individuals 'improving the environment' by planting bloody daffodil freaking cultivars because of some bloody romantic freaking poet. Go To A Happpy Place. Go To A Happy Place....

** "Can I use your dictaphone?" "No, use your finger like everyone else."

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Tit for Tat

Guess what?

It's birthday season. *VBG*

And today it's Julie's birthday. Julie is a beautiful, talented, funky friend who's having an incredible year with a fabulous book launch and four, read it, FOUR books out this year. And you should read all of them.

Go wish her a Happy Birthday.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

On the road again...

So it's nearly Easter, and I'm off to visit the parents in Shropshire from Thursday night until Tuesday sometime.

They DO have internet access, but I'm not sure how much I'll be around.

Have a fab Easter, folks.

A Matter of Contrasts

On Monday, when we were moving offices, it was bitterly cold, but brightly, brilliantly sunny. Thank God. This meant we could move furniture out into the courtyard while we decided what to do with it.

On Tuesday morning I lay in bed and listened to the rain rattle the windows and batter on the skylights. That same rain, heard on the Monday morning, would have filled me with dread. But somehow, the move accomplished, curled warm, indolent and be-catted in a soft bed covered with a bought duvet, inherited bedspread and wedding gift quilt, that tappety-rappety sound was infinitely soothing.

There were only five minutes until I had to get up, but those five minutes encompassed the world.

I've spent some of the most calming, loving moments of my life listening to rain beating, if not on glass, then on canvas. In Cornwall, in Cumbria, in Essex and in Suffolk. Beaches, hillsides, woodlands and fields. In the old tent with the busted zip, done up for the night with ranks and rows of wooden clothes pegs, in the new frame tent you could stand up in, borrowing Dad's mountain tent, and inheriting his back packing one. So many variables, but one constant: Husband.

Our honeymoon was spent camping. Visiting castles and historic sites, shopping and eating out. Exploring Shropshire and each other, playing cricket in the sun, and Scrabble in the rain.

Now we have a new tent. We bought it cheap at the end of the season last year, and never had a chance to use it. It's light, easy, quick to pitch. It's a, "let's get away for a night," tent. It's an escape capsule.

And on Tuesday morning I lay in bed listening to the rain, and longed to take the new tent for a test drive.

Monday, April 10, 2006


UPDATE #2:- Thank you Tess, Mary Beth, Lori and Beth!

UPDATE:- More birthday wishes! Thank you Sharon, Biddy, Kathy, Michelle W, Gabriele, Loreth (waving madly), Anne and Dee!

Well, I am overwhelmed! I'm bringing this out of comments so everyone sees it.

I read all your birthday wishes in comments with a big, stupid, jaw-dropped grin on my face. If any flies had escaped our drastic fumigation, I'd have been catching them for sure.

Thank you Sela, Julie, Sue, Ray-Anne, Kate W, Rosie, Michelle, Mags, Donna, Sadhbh, Bronwyn (VBG), Kate H, Jewell (Squeal - where have you been? Lovely to see you!), Stephen, Raine, Sasha, Liz, Melani and Trish.

For those who wandered over from Julie's, I'm touched; for those who met me at Julie's fabulous book launch (you remembered me?!?), I'm honoured; for those who lurk, who visit less frequently, who have known me a long time, a while, a short time - thank you. You've made my day!

I'm so blessed.

As for today, well, moving offices was not as fraught as it might have been, but not as easy as I wish it had been. Husband lending a hand was a huge help, the meringues I baked to celebrate my birthday were widely appreciated, and the chocolates I took for everyone who was moving were definitely a good idea.

But if I had to start one more sentence with "Yes, but..." (as in, "yes, but if you put it round that way, you can't open the drawers") or, "No, because..." (as in "No, it can't go there, because no one can reach it") I was going to throw an almighty strop and go and swear at the drunkenly leaning cherry tree in the car park. Which is NOT about to fall down. Whatever they say.

But it's done. Or mostly done, and we're pretty comfortable in our new digs, all in all. Husband bought me a lovely lunch, and we had takeout tonight, and stunned ourselves with our answers to the University Challenge double edition.

And I had lovely pressies, and the opportunity to buy more lovely pressies of my own choosing, and no, Sadhbh, I can't tell you what the pressie was. ;-)

On which note, because my eyes are crossing from fatigue, I shall wish you all goodnight.

Goodnight, all.

All About Me

I've never been subtle about my birthdays. I've never been retiring, or depracating, or less excited as I got older. I'm more likely to tell complete strangers that it's my birthday soon, than try and hide the date from friends. I love birthday cake and flowers, cards and hugs. I like kiddy-style parties, with crisps and peanuts, and I will always love the little pineapple cubes and cheese on cocktail sticks. Oh, God yes.

It is in such a childish spirit of excitement that I tell you...



Of course, as usual, I'm working. In fact I'm moving offices *chews fingernails* so I've chosen to open pressies later this evening after all that's over with.

But it's still my birthday.


Sunday, April 09, 2006

Onwards and Upwards

I've had a good day. Spending time with my brother, who was visiting, taming the garden (which is tiny, but labour intensive). It felt WONDERFUL to cut back last year's deadness, empty out pots full of weeds, and get a head start on the war against dandelions and slugs. Brother even braved the horror that is my compost bin, turning out last year's compost and refilling it with today's trimmings and rakings.

I always love discovering which plants made it through the winter, finding their tiny, hopeful, furled shoots breaking through the earth, courageously fighting for another season. The alium that never does anything spectacular, and is desperately susceptible to slug damage, revealing six inches of growth behind the lamb's ears. Maybe this year it'll flower!

The aquilegias are going to put on the good show. The named, large varieties already have a good collection of fern-like leaves and delicate stems. Even the little common or garden varieties are getting their act together.

In fact, this was the first year I could approach some plants and simply pull out clumps to tame them. This is a new garden - this is only it's third season, I think - but some plants are already getting to the kind of maturity that makes them a joy to work with.

There were some failures, of course. I'm on a hiding to nothing with the lavendars, and the lupins never make it. The former doesn't like the climate, the latter the snails. But I'll perservere. There are some plants I just have to have.

So. Very happy with gardening progress.

Very happy with writing progress, too. Another five pages.

Feels oh-so-good.

(See, Mighty Mentor! I was a good girl!)

Saturday, April 08, 2006


If you look over there in the sidebar, you'll see evidence of some progress on Dangerous Lies. (It used to read 1.3%) Okay, so it's pitiful and insignificant progress, but, hey, I'll take anything!

I'm actually very pleased with this, not because of the actual pages achieved, but because of the very evident potential for more.


Friday, April 07, 2006

Head Space

At work, we're moving offices on Monday. We're not moving buildings, just moving across the courtyard into another, larger, open plan space which we'll share with several other teams.

It's going to be stressful, and frenetic, and hard work, since I work for a charity and we do our own office moves. There will be frayed tempers, and it'll be hard to make sure everyone gets what they need out of their workspace, and what they want out of the available furniture etc. I'm one of those who hates confrontations, and although I'm fussy about my workspace, I rarely defend my preferences at work. Morale is low, and some who are moving offices don't want to.

I've also found it surprisingly emotional and difficult to organise my desk (aka The Twilight Zone) and my files (aka The Piles). I've worked at this desk for a month shy of five years now, and I've dug myself in like a hermit crab in a too-tight shell. And there are... reminders. Old foodstuffs, long past their best before. Old postcards, old notes. Photos of Piggy, who died September last year, and Merlin who died March last year. And of Geri, gone but never forgotten. I started out hating it, started to find it ennervating, and now I'm enjoying clearing the slate.

I found things in my in tray and filing tray dating from two years earlier (yes, that's how stupidly busy we are - if it's not urgent, there's no time to do it), and 95% of the contents of those trays were no longer relevant and could be recycled. I threw away papers from projects I don't work with anymore, partnerships that don't exist anymore, and reports that I know aren't relevant anymore. Then I realised I was throwing away redundant paperwork from projects that hadn't come off three years ago.... and in doing so was disposing of a load of guilt I was still carrying.

Of course, it's awful that I still felt bad about things that were not only three years old, but also beyond my control, but it did feel marvellous to ceremonially dispose of not just the papers, but the guilt, too. In clearing my space, I was clearing my head, too. I'm wondering if I ought to employ this approach in my home office and writing space... but it's a bit drastic!

So moving on Monday will be fraught, but it will be positive, too. A new start.

Wish us luck.

A Matter of Mess

I came home yesterday evening, stepped carefully over and around the milling kitties, and went into the bedroom.

Where I found a scene of chaos. There were clothes all over the floor*, jewelry, hair clips, toiletries and makeup had been swept from the dressing table onto the floor, bags were strewn about and a pile of books had been collapsed.

A burglary? No.

A cattery.

But I'm not sure which was worse - the fact that the cats had induced chaos in the bedroom.... or the fact that my first thought on seeing it was, "Sheesh I'm so untidy. I don't know how Husband puts up with me."

It took me a little while to realise that not ALL that mess was mine...

*Okay, I'll admit it. This one's me. The rest is the cats, I swear.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006



Husband rules! We're broadband enabled!

This is not so simple as you might think. We have two computers, formerly networked on a LAN. But the old cable network was slowing our computers down, so we decided to go wireless and convert to broadband at the same time.

I knew it wasn't going to be simple when the guy at the shop said, "do you have an old house?" "Yes." "Thick stone walls?" "Um, yes."


This of course meant we had to proceed with more-expensive-than-usual hardware, but it's done the job.

We keep clicking on things and going, "oooooooh".

Continuing the for every sun a little rain must drown us all theme, I'm home sick with some sort of stomach bug. If you read the systems report in my brain right now, there would be a big red flashing sign saying, "Sense of Humour Failure Imminent."

Monday, April 03, 2006

Back in Black

Well, I'm wearing some green, too, but I do need to keep reminding myself to buy the AC/DC CD for the car, when I feel like some Instant Road Rage.

Details of my weekend you'll find on Julie's blog. As you can see, much fun (and food) was had by all.

I could go on and on about how wonderful the weekend was, from standing in the sunshine in the backyard in my pajamas, to spending time with precious friends, to reflecting on the years of hard work Julie put into her fabulous achievement. But I think that all I'll say is that I found the whole experience incredibly moving, and I was priveleged to be a small part of it.

Julie, your career's going to go from strength to strength. And I hope you look back on your wonderful book launch regularly, and sit there in your orange chair grinning like a loon.

I returned home, full of hope, inspiration and a longing to see Husband..... to find the house was suffering from a fly infestation.

Way to come back down to earth. Yeesh.