Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Mmmm fun.

I nicked this from Shan.

Your Name: Anna

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Neither. Egg based drink? Nooooo. And I like the look, smell and even the taste of hot chocolate, but always end up eating the cream off the top and only wanting a mouthful or two of the rest...

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? There is no Santa. But I spend freaking hours wrapping just about everything I can to the utmost of my ability. I use more bows and ribbon than wrapping and tape.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? White. Sorry, Shan! White or single coloured lights are so beautiful, mystical and classy. I want to achieve starlight and fairy dust, not Vegas and Blackpool.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? Nope. I don't like plastic imitations and it's too damn rare and slow growing to cut down.

5. When do you put your decorations up? I always wait for December, but I try to get them up asap after the first.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish? Okay, wierd one here, but I LOVE the stuffing. I make my own, and usually buy another couple of shop made ones. And that's for two of us! Other than that, dark chocolate orange and buttered brazils.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child: Christmas in the Lake District, not more than 30 miles from where I now live. Making paper chains (not too close) by the fire, and peeling the icy flannels off the basin in the freezign bathroom.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? We never perpetuated the big, big, deceive-your-children-till-you-tell-them-the-truth-and-scar-them-for-life lie. I didn't want gifts from some stranger, when I could get them from the people I loved, and give them in return. *shrug* I never felt deprived, but it's not a big deal to me, either.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? We've inherited Husband's family's tradition of two pre-Christmas gifts, one on the 22nd and one on the 24th. They started it to ease out the bust-a-gut excitement for the kids, and it became a tradition.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree? With dedication. And a system. And with very, very beautiful things. Oh, and occasionally with cats.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it? Oh please. Let it snow. Pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease please let it snow!!!!

12. Can you ice skate? Hmmmm. I can grow enormous blisters on my ankles in ice skates, does that count?

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?

14. What’s the most important thing about the Holidays for you? Time totally dedicated to togetherness, happy things, fun, play and being lovely to each other. Oh, and cooooooooooooooooooking.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? My own mince pies with squirty cream. I know, it's scuzzy stuff, but I love that squirty cream.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Going with Husband to buy the tree. It's silly, hilarious, and involves driving through the winter weather with the boot lid tied open, singing carols at the top of our voice.

17. What tops your tree? Well, I can never make a nice-looking star stick to the top of the tree, so I suspend a lovely, mesh, glittery star from the ceiling above. It hangs there, turning slowly, just touching the uppermost needles.

18. Which do you prefer giving or Receiving? Oh God, giving. I get so sneaky and put a lot of thought into the surprise pressies. Husband's getting a treasure hunt this year...

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song? It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.... "For lo! the days are hastening on/ By prophet bards foretold/ When, with the ever-circling years/ Shall come the Age of Gold;/ When peace shall over all the earth/ Its ancient splendors fling,/ And all the world give back the song/ Which now the angels sing.

I can't actually sing that verse without choking up....

20. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum? Pretty indifferent, really!

What's New?

So I'm slow.... you know this, *I* know this.

This blog's been around since June, but I'm only just beginning to cotton on to its significance. What's New in Women's Fiction.

It's over in the sidebar if you need the link again.

Christmas comes but once a year....

But takes months to prepare for.

Of course, I love it. I was shocked and delighted to find our main house lights - a string of white icicle lights - still work after a year of being up in all weathers. Putting them up to gutter height on our lofty house with a set of rickety ladders is so difficult and dangerous we leave them up there. They're white, so they're not too conspicious.

Those are the Carlisle City Christmas lights - I wish I could take a picture to do them justice. They are absolutely beautiful, themed around Christmas carols.

Are the lights near you good? Are you subtle with lighting your home, or wildly extravagant?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Wot I did on my weekend...

I have three jobs (counting writing) and one of them is with the Cumbria's Cooking project. Cumbria's Cooking is all about connecting local food and local people, and this weekend we were braving the cold weather in Victorian costume, offering tasters and recipes at the Ulverston Dickensian festival.

This festival attracts something like 30,000 visitors over the weekend, and it seemed like all of them wanted to take my picture... My colleagues costumes were rented. Mine... *coughs with embarassment* was self-assembled. Well, apart from the blouse. I don't go in for sleeves like that ordinarily. Honest.

The brooch at the neck belonged to my Grandma, the cap was bought from the ironbridge museum, and the skirts (there's a white, boderie anglaise trimmed summer skirt under the black one) are my very own. I added a lace hankie, and a chain pinned to my apron (which was made of a small lace tablecloth, folded in half) contained three old-fashioned keys and a small candle snuffer.

It's the details, you know.

I'm so ashamed. I just like dressing up, okay?

Equally mad colleagues

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Secret of Happiness

Husband and I were playing word association games in the car on our way to see Casino Royale (brilliant and brutal).

Husband: Sadness
Me: Cake...
Husband: Happiness
Me: Cake!

Nuff said.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Well, that was an eclectic mix of fun things.

I went down to London by train on Wednesday morning (NB - if you ever get a chance to get a cheap first class upgrade, do. There is nothing so soothing to the soul as having someone say, "more tea, madam?" every half hour or so) and met up with scarily close friends Biddy Coady and Julie Cohen.

Then we headed off to the Romantic Novelists' Association Winter Party (here we are glammed up for it - please note that Julie is 8 months pregnant. Yes, she really is)

where we swapped gossip and compliments with other RNA members, drank wine and took notes on the spectacular canapes (asparagus spears served in little shot glasses of hollandaise, sausages served with a mustard mash dip....) It was a good night, my first RNA do since I sold.

The next day was the RNA Money Day and I can't recommend it enough. If you're an RNA member and you've ever said to yourself any of the following:-

1)I don't earn enough for the taxman to be interested in me
2)My accountant manages all that. She'd tell me if there was a problem.
3)My husband does the finances, I don't need to understand taxes
4)I can't claim any expenses as a writer because I'm not published
5)Even if I got in a mess, I've plenty of savings to bail me out

then you really, REALLY need to keep an eye out for the next one and book yourself on. Nuff said.

After that it was visiting with friends, shopping, coffee, cake, kink and carousels.

I mean, what more fun is there than good food, persuading a friend to splurge on a beautiful coat, and then bundling onto a fairground ride in the middle of London?

Tragically fabulous.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Gold Medal...

Well, the deed is done, and I feel I can now tell the world that I’ve just signed a contract with Medallion Press!

How excellent is that?!

I’ve had my eye on Medallion ever since a friend, Jewell Mason’s LADY DRAGON, was one of their launch books. CEO and Editor-in-Chief Helen Rosburg requested McWife after it was entered in the Romance Junkies contest, and you know how it went from there!

I love Medallion for their great stories (if you haven’t read Beth Ciotta, shame on you) attention to marketing, and covers like this, this and this.

On which news, I’m heading out of town (or rather, out of country, into London) to go the the Romantic Novelists Association Winter Party, and attend their Money Day 'accounting for writers' training. Back on or around the 21st!

All rather appropriate, no?

Sunday, November 12, 2006


It's been far too long since I posted about the cats, don't you think?

Here, Chrissy is modelling her new bed (which was meant for Pippi, but got annexed by the People's Republic of Chrissy). Pippi is deliberately looking elsewhere, sitting on the arm of the chair.

I beg of you, please ignore the atrocious curtains. *shudder* There's some bloke in the chair, but no one pays him much attention...

This one really demonstrates Chrissy's extreme cuteness:

And here she is being a true writer's cat. That's where she is right now, catching the heat at the top of my overhead stack of papers.

I'll try and remember to post some pictures of Cleo soon. First I have to catch her being still for more than a second.

And yes, then it's Minnie's turn. Four cats.

Now whose idea was that?

*looks innocent*

Reasons to be Cheerful

One:- The facial was lovely.

Two:- I had a good shopping session this afternoon.

Three:- While in the bank on Friday, having a review, I happened to mention my newly published status to the customer service officer. "Oooh," she said, clearly delighted. "Is it a children's book, or..." she hesitated, and then said with breathless excitment, ".. a romance?"

It's nice to find a fan of the genre, no?

She then quizzed me about my pen name and said she'd keep her eye out for it. I'll have to send her a bookmark or something when it comes out...

It's funny, but I've been incredibly lucky. I've only ever had negative reactions to my writing romance once or twice, in five years of being very upfront about it. And all the negative reactions have just been ignorant, jokey ones. Not openly dismissive ones.

Most people are surprised, intrigued, and slightly impressed.


Friday, November 10, 2006

Because I'm worth it...

This is where I booked a facial for Sunday.

Bummer, eh? It's only fifteen minutes drive from home...

Stress goes straight to my skin. Usually I take care of it myself, but if I don't devote time to it (and I'm impatient of personal grooming) things deteriorate fast.

I've never had a salon facial before - I phoned up, told them I had no idea what I needed, and they said no problem, come along on Sunday morning and we'll sort you out.

That sort of easy-going, soothing, we'll-take-care-of-you approach scores definite points with me.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A multitude of leaves

It’s autumn. The leaves are so many things at once - a swirling of copper confetti, cast down by the waning trees, a shattering of golden ice in the sky, raining down on soft moss and sleeping stone.

They are the dancing girls before Winter’s dramatic entrance, and the bright celebration of Summer’s past. They are at once soft and sharp, brittle and pliable. The contrast they show is the contrast they are. Gold and green. Joy and mourning.

Here are the birch leaves, little gold coins blown across the lawn like the cases of chocolate money. The sycamore leaves caught by the ditch and the hedgebank, brown hands gathering themselves in with pointy fingers. High on the fellside, the larches are joining in, holding their brassy mist so far. Soon, though, they’ll shed like a ginger cat shaking in the sun, and their fur will fast deteriorate into a muddy mulch.

A Japanese maple in a front garden, a beacon of scarlet.

Beech holding its copper close to its silver, a stately piece of artisan jewelry.

A tall fir, defiantly green.

All these sights heralding a beginning and an end. Life and death.

And beautiful in both.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Results are in.

Dad has bowel cancer.

It's spread to the liver, but nowhere else.

He has, at best guess, a year or two if the chemotherapy goes well. Less if it doesn't. We're thinking we get to keep him for another year, but we're setting interim goals in the mean time.

Christmas. Family spring holiday.

We sat around his hospital bed laughing and crying, trying to remember snippets from Captain Beakey and songs from Flanders and Swan. I think the other patiences enjoyed our rendition of bits of "Blanche the Owl" and "The Slow Train".

So many people lose a loved one suddenly, unable to tell them how much they love them, or to do special things with them to say goodbye. We're lucky - we're not going to suffer that way.

We intend to have so much fun in the next year or so.

Philippians 4:13

(PS - I don't intend to turn this blog into a medical progress report. Normal service will resume soon!)

Sunday, November 05, 2006


(Written 4th Nov)

I’m conflicted.

I’m sitting here in Husband’s friend’s house, watching them play some riveting war game with childlike absorption and enjoyment.

On the one hand, all this dice rolling, exclamation over, “you just shot her in the back!” etc is incredible pathetic and infantile.

On the other hand, hey, they’re socialising...

I think I’ll decide it’s a good thing. After all, anything that makes Husband grin this much is generally a good thing.

But there is copious eye-rollage and shaking of my amused head today.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


Since nothing’s ever relentlessly bad, I thought I’d share some GOOD news with you!

As some of you know, I had hyperthyroidism (over active thyroid gland) which flared up in spring 2003, and for which I had radio-iodine therapy in May 2004. By Sept 2004 blood tests revealed my thyroid was working normally, despite medical predications that it would go UNDER active, and I’d be on medication for the rest of my life. By 2005, I was downgraded to six monthly blood tests to keep an eye on it. Every one has turned up text book normal.

My experience of thyroid disease was pretty miserable, although since it dramatically sabotaged my memory, most of my experience of it is from looking back on that time, rather than being very aware of all the nuances then and there. I didn’t have a particularly serious condition, but it affected me pretty badly. I stayed in work, but only just, and only after I recovered did I learn how many people were expecting me to be on long term sick leave any day now…

I learned far more about what my thyroid condition was doing to me, AFTER I recovered. It has had impacts on my weight, fitness, memory, decision making, crisis management, fatigue, methods of dealing with anxiety, relationships and (least forgivably) fertility… there’s very little of importance in my life that it hasn’t touched.

I don’t need to tell you how much I don’t want my thyroid to start playing silly buggers again.

I don’t often worry about it, only when the six monthly blood tests come round again, I start to get a little anxious. And since anxiety feels a lot like how I used to feel when I wasn’t well, that’s a bit of a vicious circle!

Got my results today. “Please tell patient, “normal”.”

Never had normal been more appealing. Too, too good.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Well, it's like this. Although Dad is walking around the ward, and enjoying eating soup and jelly, they did find all sorts of nasties when they opened him up.

So we're waiting for tests to tell us what's next.

I'm reminded of that scene in Futurama, when they're waiting to go into battle and an old soldier goes, "The waiting's the worst part..."

"What, you mean the battle's not so bad?" says Fry.

"Oh, wait. I forgot about the battle," says the old soldier, clearly horrified.


I'm back home, since we won't get results till next week. Thanks so much for your good wishes, prayers, and hugs. I'm living on support via the 'net, and the phone, you know. :-)