Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Pressure, Proofs and Partner

I've been pretty stressed recently. 

I try to stay away from stress as much as possible. I used to have a very stressful job which made me feel very busy and like one of those proper people with a career. After a while I realised there was no career, and that all I was doing was making myself unhappy. I found that in the stress, I hadn't written or really drawn anything for two years, and hadn't even realised. That was the deal-breaker.

Stress in work immediately puts a stopper on any creativity I have. It makes me a frantic shell, and there's no rest or peace. Although I'm a lot less stressed now, it still can't be avoided all the time, and I'm still no better at handling it.

However, more than two years after I wrote the last sentence of An Unnatural Daughter, the first draft proof landed in our post box. 

Out Jan 2015!
It came at a very opportune time - I'd just got in from a long work trip and was very tired and hadn't done anything creative for days. But there in my hands was tangible proof of the things I had done - like a trophy for the hours spent on it.

There's still lots of work to be done but my, what a boost.

In case you missed it, I did manage to find the time for another drawing, this time of OH. 

Isn't he lovely?
I need a better photo. I'm going to (eventually) get a gallery tab on the top and a separate page for all my drawings and paintings, so watch this space!

I'm going to go and do some editing of the new WiP now, and feel a lot better:)


Monday, 27 October 2014

My Sad Kat

Yup. I drew myself looking really sad. Obviously.
It's been about 10 years since I pencil shaded anything, which is probably why this picture seems to me to have the whiff of A-Level art about it.

And as always, I think it looks far better from an angle. 
That said, I really enjoyed it and am already itching to do more and improve. 

In many ways, I do feel like I wasted the past couple of years by not drawing or writing much. It's like my life is slowly starting up again, as I'm concentrating more on personal work in my free time rather than my actual job. It's slowly gathering momentum, and I'm finding more time as well as finding it's making me happier. I just wish I'd started it earlier.

More to follow. For the good of my head:)


PS, the title is in reference to @mysadcat, who you really ought to follow on Twitter. He's really got me into Morrissey.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Goodreads Giveaway!

If you fancy a free copy of His Wicked Shadow, I'm currently running a giveaway on Goodreads, where there are five paperback copies to be won.

All you need to do is go here! If you aren't a Goodreads member, you can also sign up with your Facebook account, for ease (int technology grand?).

Or you can click on the fancier link below!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

His Wicked Shadow by Katherine   Holt

His Wicked Shadow

by Katherine Holt

Giveaway ends November 30, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Good luck!

Friday, 3 October 2014

My Hero - James Elliot

When I was first planning His Wicked Shadow, I was going through a bit of a love affair with Kate & Leopold. By which I of course mean, I was more than a little bit enamoured by Hugh Jackman. As such, it was only natural that he was my casting for James Elliot, the troubled Earl of Lincoln.

"My dark and brooding nature cannot be contained within a mere caption."
James and the secret that rules his life are the reason I made the switch from third to first person narrators - a switch I've never gone back from. It's much easier to keep a secret when the narrator doesn't know!

Following shenanigans with his childhood friend, Elinor Montague, at a masked ball, James high-tails it to Europe for two years, returning a changed man. Here's where he and Ellie see one another again for the first time after he makes a surprise return...

Door number five was ajar, which was unusual, and I stopped abruptly, wondering if I had miscounted. Door number five was never open, and I never remembered it being used before. As I leaned nearer, something moved in the room and I froze as a figure leaned into view. All I could see was the back of a man in shirtsleeves; a slice of his shoulder and arm as he moved before the dresser mirror, tucking his shirt into his pantaloons. I stared at his reflection, a feeling of nausea circling my throat. There was only one man that it could be, but that was impossible, inconceivable, unbelievable.
He leaned over, reaching for something on the dresser, and my eye was caught by some strange marks on his wrist. Reflected in the mirror I could see two long, parallel lines – white, puckering scars, which stretched almost the length of his inner forearm. Just below the wrist were two more slashes, forming a shallow cross. I unconsciously moved forward to try and get a closer look. There was something strange about the marks, and I stared at them, trying to imprint the shape in my memory.
As I shuffled closer to the door I stepped from the carpet onto the wooden floor. At the tap of my boot against the bare board, he looked up into the mirror. Cool amber eyes held mine for a long moment.
I fled.


Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Ye Olde Planning - Then and Now

Back when I was a wee nipper of but... 23(?) I started work on His Wicked Shadow. It wasn't called that then, and it was a very different book.

It seems a long time ago, and although it wasn't my first attempt at a novel (we aren't talking about that), it was the first one I wrote after I had realised that I knew nothing and it would probably be rubbish. That's a big thing to learn, and it was a turning point in both my career and my writing style. By admitting to myself that I couldn't write, and deciding to learn how, I was committing myself to future years of try, try, trying, and then trying again. I wanted to be a writer, and I wanted to do it properly.

I read articles and books on techniques, to do and not to do lists, I drafted, re-drafted, made new friends and dented my pride even more. And when I was looking on an old hard drive for something completely unrelated a few weeks ago, I found this:

James was being an absolute bastard.
A husky was also there.
I am overcome by nostalgia. This is one of my chapter plans from the very early days, when what is now the middle of the book was the beginning.

In the four intervening years I have discovered what many people have discovered before me. There isn't a definitive way to write a good novel, and it's a hard slog. But admitting my own hideous crapness was the first step along the road to where I am now. I'm currently working on what will hopefully be my third complete novel - and I still have no idea how to do it. There's a vote of confidence for you! It's one of the hardest things I've ever done, and it's mostly arse-on-chair, head-in-hands repetition. Whether that's paid off, I leave to your judgement. But it's also the best thing I've ever done, and as addictive as hummus.

And if you are intrigued by how this scene turned out in the end, here's a little preview...

‘I shouldn’t be here,’ I murmured, letting him pull me towards his chest, and push me gently back against the wall, imprisoned by his body and his touch.
‘Who would say anything?’ he whispered, his breath catching the sheen of moisture on my neck as he leaned towards me. ‘I’m a family friend. An old family friend.’
We both knew he was wrong, that I’d be ruined if anyone happened upon us, but neither of us cared. We hadn’t cared before, and it was the recollection of that which brought me back down to earth.
‘No. I can’t. You can’t.’ I put my hands between us on his chest and pushed him away. ‘Not again.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘It happened before. God, you really did forget.’
‘The kiss?’
‘It was more than a kiss.’ I burned crimson with shame as I said it. I couldn’t tell him how much it had meant to me, or how broken I had felt when he left me. I had some pride.
‘You’re right, it was more. It was… unexpected. Surprising. But above all, wonderful.’ He looked at me with an intensity that made me believe him, or at least want to believe him. He leaned towards me again, gently restraining me. If I’d wanted to escape I could have, but to my shame, I didn’t. I could hear his ragged breathing, and stared at his mouth, slowly coming closer to mine.
‘But then you left,’ I said.
I drew myself up to my full height in an effort to claw my dignity back. He moved his face away from mine and stared at me.
‘So I did.’
‘Without a word. Without anything. And you’d told me you’d call the next day. How am I supposed to trust you?’
James turned away from me then to lean on the rails that looked out over the gardens, a mottled navy in the cloudy night. He was quiet and his shoulders were hunched. I almost stepped forward to comfort him; his silhouette was that of a broken man.
His voice was quiet, so quiet I strained to hear him over the dull thrum of the music from the ball.
‘No,’ he repeated. ‘You were right. You shouldn’t be here.’


Monday, 29 September 2014

His Wicked Shadow - Chapter 1

To celebrate the release of His Wicked Shadow in paperback, here's Chapter One to whet your appetite...


I have always hated summer. England is supposed to be damp and grey, and I love it for that. In the height of summer when the heat hangs in a shimmering haze, I always feel a sense of foreboding. People aren’t themselves in extreme heat – inertia and insomnia lead to discontent and unrest. I spend any heat wave in a near constant state of nausea, waiting for the storms and the rain of autumn to make it all better.
The grounds of Rowston House are magnificent at the best of times, but in the dust of high summer the pale stones seem bleached and worn. Ivy peels away from the walls, the leaves wilting in the heat.
Everything looks decayed and ugly beneath the bright glare of a sun too close, be it a person or a house.
On one of those hot summer days, we met Mrs Demdike. The ground was parched and cracked, and the air was full of dust and that inescapable heat. Perhaps I hate it because of the unnatural stillness when trees and plants remain motionless, and all that moves is the air, sinking and oppressive. I remember on this particular day there was no breeze to stir the trees. Even the insects seemed to have hidden from the heat.
Juliet and I lay, flopped down on our fronts beneath a tree in the garden, playing with her Noah’s ark. It was a beautiful toy, almost as long as we were tall, made of carved wood and painted in bright colours. We had taken good care of it too, and every animal still had his partner. The varnish gleamed in the bright afternoon sun and the yellow and orange paint seemed to glow.
The Elliots’ Great Dane had trotted over to see what we were doing, but we shooed him away. The tiny carved mice had already passed through his system once and had never seemed quite as clean again, even though they had been thoroughly scrubbed once they were recovered. He lay at a distance from us, sprawled in the speckled shade, lazily watching the wooden procession form.
Lindsey also watched as we played. Juliet’s cousin was four years our senior, and he was a pale, weak boy with a head of lank yellow hair. Even though he always seemed to be there, he never joined in our games. We didn’t want him to and he never asked. Instead he watched, keeping one eye on the Great Dane, just in case he suddenly turned vicious and attacked.
A shout distracted me from my search for the second snake, almost invisible in the dry, brash green of the scorched grass. My father was laughing, jostling shoulders with Juliet’s father, the Viscount. They both ran for my father’s ball, sent into the shade of the trees where the grass was long.
My mother and Lady Lincoln were also watching from their table in the shade of the house, and they were both laughing and smiling. I remember marvelling at how happy everyone seemed. Juliet’s parents and mine seemed so fresh in their pale linen skirts and shirts, and so pleased with life, even on that, the hottest of days.
Father and the Viscount crashed out of the trees, still laughing. A cluck of disapproval came from behind me, deeper beneath the shade of the broad oak tree under which we lay. Juliet’s Aunt Olivia was sitting on a chair embroidering a long cotton scroll with the Magnificat, but raised her eyes from her work to shake her head in, if not disgust, then something close to it.
‘Acting like boys at their age, and in this heat too,’ she murmured to herself before raising her voice to make her displeasure known more politely. ‘Do take care running around in this heat, won’t you?’
My father turned and bowed his head in acknowledgement, but her advice went unheeded. The gathering was wild with fun. Heat had taken the older men back to boyhood.
While the rest of the party was revelling in the August sun, Juliet’s Aunt Olivia was a chill blot on the corner of my vision. She looked pale, despite the heavy temperatures, and was dressed in the clothes she had, to my knowledge, always worn. Her black dress was of heavy cotton with wide skirts that dragged across the floors, a neckline that rose to her chin, and narrow, tapering sleeves that fitted to her wrists.
There was little about her ensemble to catch the eye, apart from the dull shine of the tiny jet buttons and a narrow frill of a plain black lace. The details were small and subtle, but the vanity was there, and I had caught Aunt Olivia casting a proud eye over the tiny carved buttons on her wrists as they caught the light when she sewed more than once.
‘Don’t you be running around too, Lindsey.’ Aunt Olivia (who I could not be discouraged into calling Mrs Elliot, as was her proper name to me) contented herself with fussing over her son. Juliet and I exchanged speaking looks. We couldn’t think of a time when Lindsey had ever run anywhere.
‘Your hit, James.’ My father beckoned to Juliet’s brother, who was in the middle of what appeared to be a very satisfying stretch.
I turned to watch him, my nine-year-old eyes wide and shy over the tall boy who paused in the lawn, cocking his head to one side as he considered his shot.
‘That’s my boy!’ The Viscount shouted with barely suppressed laughter. ‘Knock him out into the trees!’
I felt, rather than saw Aunt Olivia roll her eyes. James squinted at the lawn, noting the lay of my father’s red ball against the grass. He paused and peered around it before going down on one knee to observe it from ground level.
‘Oh come on!’ Father spluttered in good humour. ‘Some time this year, if you please.’
James grinned and flashed a quick look over his shoulder. He winked at me, and I felt myself go pink all over. He had such nice hair. It was cut short to the back of his neck but fell in dark curls over his eyes. My stomach flipped and I just stared back, my hand clammily wrapped around the one wooden snake I had managed to locate.
Lifting his mallet, James gave a wild swing and, by sheer luck managed to punt his yellow ball through the two remaining hoops and hit the peg with a resounding thunk.
Juliet clapped her hands furiously and ran over to hug James, who picked her up and spun her round. I watched on and wished I could join in, but there was something unapproachable about him. I suppose I was in awe of him really, although he was just a normal boy. After the whooping and celebrations had passed, during which his father ruffled his hair and his mother gave him a kiss on the cheek, James walked over and stretched out on the grass beside Juliet and me.
I felt even warmer as he watched us. My fingers, already clammy with heat seemed to swell to fat, greasy sausages, and I clumsily pawed at the animals, wishing desperately that he would go away but also wanting him to stay. It made me quite cross, and I found myself frowning at a blade of grass for a long moment.
‘What are you thinking about?’ he asked, suddenly.
My head snapped back and I stared at him, mouth ajar. My mind was a blank.
‘I wish we had a flood like Noah,’ I said eventually, the words tumbling out of my mouth in my haste to just say something, anything.
‘Elinor!’ Aunt Olivia dropped her work and covered Lindsey’s ears, where he sat at her feet. ‘Don’t be so wicked.’
‘She didn’t mean it like that, Aunt.’ Juliet looked up from her hippopotamus. ‘She just doesn’t like it when it’s so hot.’
I nodded eagerly.
‘Why is it wicked? It would get rid of all the bad people, like God did.’ James lay back in the grass and stared up through the motionless leaves.
Aunt Olivia didn’t answer and just looked pained, pushing her chin so far into her neck that it appeared to dissolve to nothing.
‘Why don’t you girls run along and play somewhere else? No, not you Lindsey.’ She smoothed the tendrils of his hair which lay, damp with perspiration on his forehead. ‘You can stay here with Mother. We can start your lessons once we’ve been to see Grandfather.’
The heat of the day was only marginally more suffocating than Aunt Olivia’s presence, and we gladly left her and Lindsey, who I couldn’t help but think of as poor Lindsey, to his education. James remained sprawled on the grass, absently running his fingertips over the neatly cropped blades.
Hand in hand and tailed by the dog, Juliet and I wandered into the relative cool of the trees that bordered the lawn. They thickened into a woodland that covered the western edge of the Elliot estate and dispersed, a mile or so distant at the village. Between the trees the air still shimmered, but with midges and flies rather than heat. Shafts of light gleamed between the trees, illuminating the rising dust that was disturbed by our tread. My palms were sticky with sweat and I felt it begin to pool between Juliet’s hand and mine.
‘Do you have your money?’ Juliet whispered.
I nodded. I had carried it carefully for the past month in the little pocket tied to my waist, ever since our resolve had been made. Now had been our first opportunity to sneak away. I held the coins tightly in my fist, where they quickly became warm and clammy. I wasn’t going to risk losing them, not now we were finally going to see Mrs Demdike.
We approached the clearing cautiously through the mesh of trees, crushing the dried, dead flowers that bordered her little plot beneath our feet. They crunched into dust. The Great Dane was glued between us, calmly waiting for us to move forward. His presence gave us courage and, hand in hand, Juliet and I stepped out of the trees.
Mrs Demdike lived in a small one-nighter hut, which had been on Elliot land for as long as anyone could remember. Certainly for longer than Juliet and I could remember, and for even longer than James could. At three years our senior, he seemed the fount of all knowledge, and liked to stress our youthful ignorance whenever possible. I loved him regardless.
The house, if it could be called by that name, was a small, tumbledown thing with buckled walls and a sloping, rickety roof. It looked as though it had dropped out of a fairytale, which I thought was apt considering its owner was, on James’ good authority, a witch. It was certainly true that Mrs Demdike (whose first name had been lost to time and spinsterhood) gave out herbal remedies to the local villagers, and regularly told fortunes in return for a few coins here and there, or gifts of food and ale. It was for a fortune telling that we had come.
Shaded by the surrounding trees, which grew tall and gangly overhead, the glade in which the little house sat was cool. I felt heat prickling on my neck and arms from the exertion of moving on such a hot day, yet I remember that as Juliet and I approached, we both suddenly shivered. We exchanged looks, and I was disheartened to see the flash of fear in her eyes. I gripped her hand tighter in the hope of reassuring us both, and raised a shaking fist to tap on the door.
Silence followed and I dared hope she wasn’t in. Then a voice creaked out, rough with disuse.
‘Come in, children.’
I pushed on the splintering wood, and we entered her presence.
The cottage was dark, lit only by the patchy light that trickled through the trees. Tattered rags hung over the glassless windows, adding to the gloom. Mrs Demdike was propped up in the corner of the room on an old wooden chair covered with blankets. Even in the intense heat of summer she was cocooned in layers of fabric; swathes of black linens and cottons wrapped her person, yet she looked pale and cool.
She gestured towards the low bench by her feet with a white, slender hand dotted with brown spots, and watched as we shuffled slowly forward to take our places. The dog sprawled on the dirt floor by the door and yawned.
I shuffled my feet uncomfortably in my shoes, feeling self-conscious as her eyes seemed to linger on me for slightly longer than they had on Juliet. In the dim light her black eyes seemed to twinkle through the swags of wrinkled skin that hemmed them. Juliet sat bolt upright on the bench beside me, her hands twitching at the hem of her gown. It was only the comforting presence of the dog that stopped me from running.
‘So,’ Mrs Demdike said, breaching the silence that hung heavy over the room. ‘What brings you here?’
As those sharp eyes scanned over us, Juliet swallowed and extended her palms with a whispered, ‘Please?’
Mrs Demdike chuckled before bending over the proffered hands, turning them this way and that to examine them thoroughly in the dim light.
‘Ah. You will do well, I think.’
Juliet let out the breath she had been holding.
‘Yes,’ Mrs Demdike continued, and I thought I noticed a tinge of regret in her voice. ‘The trouble will pass you by. A charmed life, I daresay.’ She ended with almost a sneer, and despite her good fortune, Juliet snatched her hands back almost as soon as the old lady loosened her grip.
‘And you?’ She turned to me with disinterest. ‘You want me to tell your fortune as well?’
I nodded and hesitantly put my hands forward. She took them in a limp grip to pass a cursory eye over them. Suddenly her grip tightened, and she leaned forward, poring over whatever she could read in my palms. She turned them this way and that, making my wrist crack in the process. I whimpered at her roughness, but she ignored me.
‘Well,’ she said by and bye, her voice rough and low. ‘It would seem that your fortune is far more exciting. You will live in what they call interesting times, child.’
There was a pause as she stared at my hands for a few moments longer. Then she whispered, almost to herself,
‘So it will end with you. I think that is for the best.’
She released my hands and I stared at them, trying to see what had kept her so engrossed. They were just the same hands they had always been; small, damp and flushed, and any secrets they held were lost on me. Juliet fidgeted once more on the seat beside me, and I was stirred out of my fruitless contemplation. At a cough, we handed over our precious coins, and left the cottage with the dog in tow. As soon as the door closed behind us, we took one another’s hands and ran.
We didn’t get far before we had to slow down due to the heat, but despite the nausea and prickly heat that engulfed me, we still hurried back to the house. It truly felt as hot as hell that day. As we ran through the dry leaves and tripped over twigs and roots, we didn’t say a word and I felt unable to meet Juliet’s eye. My head felt like it was expanding – my brain was growing in the heat but my skull wasn’t growing to accommodate it. My eyes drooped as I ran, and although my chest felt tight and sick, I concentrated only on my now desperate wish to just go home.
When we finally made it to where the dusty road divided into two, Juliet and I parted with only a wave goodbye, and I returned to my parents’ house, and she headed off to Rowston.
Our cottage sat back from the lane, built low and squat with white walls supported by black beams. It was topped with a thick thatch that I thought looked as though it was so heavy it would fall off if a bird sat on it. It was nothing to Rowston, as my Mother often said. She thought we were poor, which I suppose we were, at least relative to the Elliots.
The haze of heat that hovered over the ground seemed to shimmer more than before, and I steadied myself on the fencepost that bordered our little garden as the grass swam dizzily before my eyes. My head felt so heavy, and I would have cried with the nausea that clawed at my throat, but my eyes were too hot and dry for tears.
I staggered into the house through the kitchen, feeling sicker than I’d ever felt before. The first person to see me was Jane, the wiry and highly capable lady who cooked for us. She took one look at me before sitting me down with a damp cloth on my forehead and a large glass of water. I can’t remember much that happened after that. Once Father came home he lifted me up to bed, where I remained for three sticky, confused days, tossing and turning in damp sheets.
The doctor said it was heatstroke, to which I have always been prone, but in my clouded mind I felt sure it was something Mrs Demdike had done. Her face scowled over mine every time I closed my eyes, and when I slept it was fitful and plagued by nightmares of shadows and, more than images, an intense feeling of foreboding.
I remained feverish and bedbound for three days until the heat wave broke. A storm hit us, and once the rain had died down all the windows in the house were thrown open. With moisture in the air and raindrops still clinging to the window frames, the hot spell seemed like it had been a dream. We were back in green and pleasant England, and all was well. As I regained my senses, it seemed obvious that Mrs Demdike wasn’t a witch. Since I was well again Mother was able to lecture me on how stupid I’d been to go running around in the heat. I didn’t tell her what Juliet and I had been doing. I was sure she would have disapproved and I swore vehemently that I would never do anything that she would disapprove of again. After all, she’d often told me that “Mother knows best”. It must be true.
Juliet came to visit once I was better, clutching a small wicker basket containing a big glass bottle of lemonade and a brown paper bag bursting with pear drops. We sat on the grass in the garden so as not to make a mess, and sipped the bitter drink from large, brimming glasses.
‘James made me tell him what we’d done,’ Juliet said suddenly.
I was appalled, and almost swallowed my pear drop.
‘But why?’
She had the good grace to look sheepish.
‘I was upset because you were poorly and I thought it was our fault because of the’- she paused and looked around shiftily before continuing in a whisper. ‘The fortune telling. James made me tell him what was wrong.’
‘Will he tell?’ I pictured him in my head, remembering the conspiratorial wink he had given me a few days earlier. My stomach tightened into a knot.
Juliet shook her head.
‘No, but he said we were silly for going. He said it wasn’t good to play with things we didn’t understand, and he said that was what Father would say if he knew about it. He made me promise not to go again.’
No problems there.
‘Never.’ We linked our little fingers together to seal the deal.
‘I’m so glad it isn’t hot anymore.’ I lay back in the cool grass and looked up at the cloud-speckled sky. The cold dampness prickled through my thin cotton gown, and I felt strangely at peace.  ‘Mother says it’ll be the last heat wave this year because it’s almost September.’
And almost time for James to go to school, I thought, although I didn’t say it. I told Juliet everything else, but it seemed impossible to explain the way I felt when I saw her brother. I remember that he made me feel very happy, and very scared at the same time.
‘Grandfather wasn’t very well in the heat either, Ellie.’ Juliet said, her amber eyes wide and her face solemn. ‘We had to be very quiet and tiptoe around the house. Aunt Olivia was frantic.’
I could easily imagine that. Aunt Olivia was frantic at the slightest excuse. She would hurry everywhere with her head down and talk in an agitated whisper. All her movements were jerky, like a caged animal, and she always seemed to be on the verge of tears. Nobody liked it when Aunt Olivia got frantic.
‘Do you think he’ll die?’ I asked in a blunt whisper.
‘He is terribly old. Father’s the Earl anyway, really. I heard him and Mother talking and she said it would probably be better for Grandfather if he did die because he can’t be very happy. Then she started crying and it was all very quiet for a long time.’
Juliet stared at her lemonade and looked very sad. In the nine years of my life so far I had barely spared the Earl a thought, but when I had, I had seen him as a sort of non-person – more like wallpaper than anything else. He never spoke and barely moved except for when he was wheeled from one room to another, and I hadn’t given any thought to how he must feel. I assumed he never felt anything. As we sat in the cool, crisp garden, drinking lemonade and crunching pear drops, I wondered, if I couldn’t do any of those things, would I still want to be alive? Then Jane called us in for lunch, and I promptly forgot all about it.
Juliet was sent home in the afternoon as the skies crowded with clouds and it began to look like rain. It was an afternoon like any other, and I played with my dolls and sewed dresses for them from one of Mother’s old skirts. I think I was happy that afternoon, and for once it was our little house, with my somewhat discontented mother and quiet father, that was happier than the wealthy, titled family at Rowston House.


Don't forget to send me a picture #hiswickedshadow!

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, 28 September 2014

His Wicked Shadow - Paperback!

After weeks and weeks of planning and editing and proofing and re-proofing and anxiously checking the postbox for delivery, IT'S FINALLY READY!!!

Squeeeeeee! :)
 The paperback is now available, here and aaaaaaaaaaaargh excitement!

So, to say thank you, here's an offer.

Tweet me a picture of yourself with your copy of His Wicked Shadow, (#hiswickedshadow) post it on my Facebook page or, if you're shy, email me, and I'll send you a signed and personalised book plate to stick in the front. I've a limited number of plates at the moment, so this is while stocks last! Pictures with His Wicked Shadow on Kindle are also accepted (encouraged!) if you want to stick the sticker... elsewhere?

Shockingly, I had just opened it on a rude bit.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Two Week Round-Up: Internetless

Our internet has been down for about two weeks. 

At first it didn't really bother me - I had work to be getting on with. Proofreading and editing, formatting etc on His Wicked Shadow. Writing my new WiP. Watching Diagnosis Murder. All really important stuff which I could now do, unhindered by Twitter and Facebook. 

But then it started getting in the way. No syncing of my Dropbox account, no Netflix! No iPlayer! Complete inability to Google research when writing! And then, one week into the internet drought, I used all the data on my phone. The horror!

I know, I know, It's easy to see the internet as a basic human right these days, and I've become used to having it, just *there* whenever I need it. But it's back now, albeit slightly intermittently, and without it, I got absolutely loads of work done. Swings and roundabouts I suppose. Seesaws and slides. I even finished my painting. More on that another time.

OH has *conveniently* been working overtime for most of the internetless weeks, but he finished on Wednesday. I took a day off work yesterday and it was absolutely lovely just having him around. And it was also nice to get some quality time together before his copy of Destiny arrives...

And as for getting up early? Well, 17 days since my last early morning post, here I am again.

Still no morning photos. Have Clumber Park instead.
In the interests of full disclosure, I've been unable to get up at 6am every morning. However, the latest has been 8am and that was on a Saturday, so I think I'm still doing pretty well. 

Like all the articles I've read over the years have said, it's definitely true that getting up early helps with productivity. Not just with blog posts and drinking coffee, but throughout the day. I get more time with OH this way, I'm sleeping better, and it's a great feeling to go to work having already achieved something in the morning. Although my younger self would never believe it, I would heartily recommend getting up earlier.

Thinking back to the person I was, say 10 years ago, when I was 17, it's hard to believe the things I do now. What's that Katherine, you aren't a famous artist? Instead, you write stuff, you get up early, you run and you're a vegan?! What the hell?!


Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Good Morning

I am not a morning person.
And as such have no morning pictures. Have an evening on Ilkley Moor instead.
In spite of having worked full time for about 6 years, my body is still on student time. I don't like going to bed early, it feels like giving up on the day - and I'm no quitter. But I'm an adult now, and as I inch ever closer to thirty (and finding grey hairs becomes a more regular occurrence), it seems to me that it's time for a change.

This thing of it is, I've got loads to do, and every article I read about productivity tells me to get up earlier. I've spent years telling myself that doesn't apply to me, but that fact is, it does. I am not a special night person. I'm just lazy.

September began on a Monday, and new months and Mondays are generally good times to start things, so I've overhauled my routine. The results are... mixed.

By getting up an hour earlier, I seem to spend an hour slowly drinking coffee, then go about my normal business, all the while being very tired.

Today I got up two hours earlier, spent an hour nursing a cup of coffee, then wrote this blog.

The results are definitely mixed.

In addition to this morning thing, I've also started writing again and am on a tightly controlled timetable, governed by a colour-changing spreadsheet that OH was kind enough to make me. And it's wonderful, and I'm addicted to it. (I'll screenshot it later, I'm sure, for the delight of spreadsheet junkies everywhere.) I forgot how fun writing could be, when I was too busy chastising myself for not doing it.

BOOK NEWS: His Wicked Shadow has now been proofed and needs tweaking. Hard copies should hopefully be available around the end of October.

PAINTING NEWS: I really, really need to finish that painting.

But I wrote a blog, so I can cross that one of the list. Let's just see how long this morning thing lasts.


Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Plotting and Procrastination

Do you remember when I used to title all my blog posts with Austen-style alliteration? No? Shame. Those were the days. More recently my blog-worthy activities haven't been so alliteration friendly, until now, for which you can thank my massive unwillingness to write.

I like writing, but have failed to write anything vaguely readable for the past 2 years. I was working on something very personal and frankly, a bit too close to home to write comfortably. As such, it was very difficult to write, and very easy to judge harshly. I canned it (although perhaps temporarily) a few months ago and have been coming up with a new idea since. Above is the plotting stage, which I was at last weekend. Since then, I've just been putting off actually starting the actual writing of actual draft 1. I'm scared of it - it's been so long since I last did it vaguely decently that I'm worried I can't do it any more. 

But enough was enough, and this evening I forced arse to chair and decided I'd write the first 1000 words if it killed me. 

It didn't start well. I managed 388 words and realised it wasn't working. How are you supposed to introduce characters?! How do you do that? How write books arrrrrghghghg!?

So I cut them and now have 43. Then I started sneezing and decided I might be allergic to words. So I tried writing a blog (this one here), which seems to have cleared that up and, hopefully got me back in the mindset of typing and thinking and typing again.

So now I'm going to try and get that last 957 words out. 

Wish me luck.


Monday, 4 August 2014


I spent some time trying to think of a really great "proof" pun to title this blog. Something to do with "The Proof of the Pudding", or perhaps "Proof, If Proof Were Needed", but then I realised that was stupid and would undermine the OMG-ness of the moment. Because in my hot little hand in the picture below is my first proof copy of His Wicked Shadow, soon to be available in paperback. 

Is it normal for thumbs to do that? I can't even tell any more.
I'm not one to get all that excited about things. I was excited about Paris, yes, but that was undermined by the certainty that something would go awfully wrong, and it would be a terrible mistake to have even considered leaving the country. As it happens, it was fine, and no catastrophe ensued. But my excitement was, and always is tempered by the knowledge that whatever I am excited about will almost certainly be in some way disappointing. Positivity, thy name is Katherine. 

But when HWS dropped into our letterbox, the sheer incandescent joy I felt was like nothing else. I held my book in my hand and couldn't stop moving about, shoving it into the face of OH and chanting "But have you seen what I did??" 

OH kindly humoured me. 

Sure, there are a lot of things wrong with it - it is the first proof, after all, but it is also the first time I've ever held a book of my own creation in my hand. So there's plenty more work ahead as I get it ready for sale, and I'll announce the release date once that becomes clearer (thinking mid September?). There's also An Unnatural Daughter, which will likely be coming out towards the end of the year. But I'll never get that moment again. As I start dissecting its faults, and polishing, polishing, polishing, that joy will fade, but it will still be the first paperback copy of my book. The thing I've dreamed of for years.

So lots to be getting on with. I started a new job last week after an emotional farewell from my old one, and have been working on a new painting. Still at the scary zombie phase, where I'm not sure if it'll be awful or not...

Here's to productivity!


Saturday, 19 July 2014

As You Know, I Love a Good Cemetery

I have been pretty good with staying on top of the blogging recently, so please excuse obligatory boring holiday post, as I feel bound to explain where I've been for the past week. HOLIDAY IN PARIS. But fear not, no Eiffel Tower pictures here. Instead, feast your eyes on this, the most beautiful place in Paris.

In the hustle and bustle of Paris, where most of our time was spent hemmed in on all sides by thick layers of people, in tightly controlled queues, the cemetery was a quiet idyll. It was only at the end of our first visit that we realised it was also home to the graves of several very famous people, which was excuse enough for us to return.

Oscar Wilde, fenced to limit damage, but still dotted with kisses, above the edge of the glass.

Sarah Bernhardt. Quieter, more hidden, but we found her! She's been a staple background character in many of the Regency novels I've read - the perfect name to drop to add historical depth - but perhaps little known I think, nowadays. Her wikipedia entry here.

Georges Melies. Looking strikingly similar to Ben Kingsley in Hugo.

And because it's my blog, and I can, tiny Eiffel Tower pictures!


Monday, 7 July 2014

I Think I've Finished My Painting.

By which I mean, of course, that I have looked at it and looked at it, and furrowed my brow, and there is one bit that I just absolutely do not like, but I can't figure out how to fix it. So before I ruin it some more with my botched attempts, here is a not especially amazing photo of it.
I hear they prop stuff up on blankets in the Louvre.
 So there you go. I'm not going to tell you which bit I don't like, just in case you haven't noticed it.

One of my favourite things about painting, and a thing I like to look at in galleries, is how the paint looks so different close up than it does from far away. Like the principles of pointillism, I suppose, but... not the same.

This is my favourite picture of it. Looks better wonky!
I've started planning what to paint next, and am trying to decide what I need to write next too. Slowly but surely, working on my own stuff in my own time is becoming normal again. I've missed it a lot.


Sunday, 29 June 2014


About, what, eight months ago, I posted about this drawing I had been working on - the first drawing I'd really done from life for a long time. And it was great fun, and a real re-learning experience from all the life drawing I'd done before uni. I had it tacked to the wall of the old flat, all pencilled up and nowhere to go, mocking me for not feeling like I could paint it. The problem was that I was so proud and pleased that I'd started again, that I didn't want to ruin it, and, truth be told, I'm really not that good at water colour. When I look back at what I did with it at school, I cringe.

But on Tuesday, I was suddenly seized with the idea that not painting it - indeed, leaving it unfinished for ever, was even worse than potentially ruining it. So, for the first time in ages, I unrolled my bag of brushes, and took out the sketch watercolour set I've had for over ten years. And it felt like coming home.

Innit lovely? But look how much white I used to use! Nowadays my feeling is "white is cheatin'" so I've completely avoided it in this one. And now it's Sunday, and I've painted nearly every evening after work and both days of this weekend, and it's nearly... done? 

Early shot after the first hour of work - and yes, that is a high contrast b/w picture of me for shading purposes. I've really noticed how much better things look when I use references. I'm just not good at painting from imagination. Which isn't so good when you're painting a tower of hair full of trinkets you made up. 

And here it is... kinda finished? I don't want to show it properly because I only "finished" it tonight. I need to leave it a day or two to know if anything needs changing. But while I know there are things (particularly non-referenced things!) which could be so much better, I am enormously proud of what I have done. Getting back into this sort of thing has had a massive impact on my day-to-day happiness this week, and my mind just feels better for doing it. There's probably only 3 hours, maybe 3.5 hours of painting here, and it's not the most amazing thing in the world, but I can feel it coming back, and I want to do so much more. 

I've struggled to do any creative work over the past year or so, and now I'm getting back into it, it's like I can feel my brain healing. Overwork had left me tired and grouchy, with no energy, and my brain constantly felt too drained to take anything else on. Over June I have made the conscious effort to drink less, worry less, and try and do the sort of things that will nourish my almost drained mind, but even I'm surprised by how much this little bit of painting has worked. Definitely more to follow.