Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, The Writing Life

The dark days of December and the art of self-care by Kate Hardy

Kate HardyDecember’s a bit of a tough month for me. I know it’s the one where everyone’s looking forward to Christmas, and it’s all glitter and tinsel and lovely stuff… But it’s also the month where I lost both my parents. My dad’s anniversary is today (where have the last eight years gone?) and my mum’s is just before Christmas. So this is the month where I find it hard to be my usual disgustingly happy, exuberant self. I want to celebrate my lovely memories rather than brood (both my parents would be absolutely furious with me), but there’s this big dark cloud that just seems to hang over me.

I know I’m not the only one who struggles at this time of year. For me it’s about getting through the days between now and Christmas and making myself smile, even when I don’t feel like it. Which means taking care of myself properly (aka cramming every moment so I don’t have to think). My tips for self-care:

  • Move – it stimulates endorphins. It doesn’t matter if it’s a dog-walk, dancing yourself silly, hitting the gym, swimming – whatever you enjoy. Just move. You’ll feel better.
  • Get outside – again, it doesn’t matter if you’re sitting in a pretty spot having a coffee, or going for a walk: just get some sunlight. (Ironic, as it’s tipping down with rain here as I write this – but it’s one of the reasons why I go out with the dog just before dawn, so I get the pretty bits of the sky. This is our favourite spot at the beginning/end of the walk, where we catch the early sun reflected in the water. How lucky are we to have this on our doorstep?)
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  • Connect – tell someone you love them. Think about what you appreciate about the people in your life and tell them – in person, by text/email/a daft notecard. Arrange to meet up with a family member or friend for lunch/coffee/theatre.
  • Do something you enjoy – for me, that’s a trip to the theatre or a gig, watching a film, or playing the guitar or piano (not to a high standard, but I don’t do it for other people – I do it for me), or a museum or pottering around old churches. Or, at this time of year, Christmas lights. (This is Somerset House from last weekend – I didn’t go skating, but I’d gone to London to see an exhibition at the British Library and also Antony & Cleopatra with my best friend, and we took a walk round the South Bank after the performance.)
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  • Nourish – make sure you’re eating well. When you’re miserable, it’s tempting to stuff your face with something sugary, but it’s going to make you crash. (And this is why I’ve recently rejoined WeightWatchers – very impressed by their new attitude, and it’s making me rethink my choices so I enjoy what I eat and I don’t have to feel deprived.)
  • Create – if drawing or painting makes you feel happy, do it! (I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler, so my ‘create’ is pottering about in the kitchen, creating something nice.)

I think the key here is being as kind to yourself as you are to other people. May December be kind to you – and be kind to yourselves.

imageKate’s latest book, A Diamond in the Snow, is a True Love rather than a Medical – but if you like Christmas decorations and lights, you like stately homes and ballrooms and all things Regency – oh, and dogs, then this has your name on it…

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Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, The Writing Life, Travels Around the World

Taking the Waters by Kate Hardy

 

Kate HardyBack in the nineteenth century, people used to go to a spa town and ‘take the waters’ to cure themselves of anything from skin complaints to leprosy…

And this weekend I fulfilled a long-time wish to go and see the Roman spa and baths at Bath. (If you’ve read Unlocking the Italian Doc’s Heart, my last Medical, you might have noticed the reference to the Roman Baths in London  – this is a continuation!)

The hot springs in Bath bubble up into three springs at the rate of 1.17 million litres a day, at a temperature of 46 degrees C.

In Celtic times the goddess Sulis was worshipped there (hence the town’s Roman name, Aquae Sulis) and then in Roman times the bath complex was built in about 60AD and Minerva was worshipped. There are remnants of a temple here as well as the bath house, changing rooms and saunas; and a really stunning survival is the lead curse tablets. Citizens who were unhappy about something would write it down on a lead tablet, roll it up or fold it into an ‘envelope’, and throw it into the spring to let the goddess deal with it. One of the curse tablets is written in Celtic – it’s the ONLY known piece of Celtic writing. Anywhere. In the world. (It’s untranslatable, but I was very excited about it.)

Piccies: the Great Bath.

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The head of Minerva.

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Curse tablets (one Roman, one folded over, one Celtic – you might be able to make out the diagonal downstroke of the letter L). Plus Roman remains and a middle-aged medical author…

 

Originally people bathed in the waters for a cure (anything from skin ailments to leprosy), and from the 17th century people drank it. You can actually try the waters here in a little paper cone. As a Medical author, I knew my duty was clear. As an English graduate, I knew Dickens had mentioned the waters in The Pickwick Papers – Sam says, ‘I thought they’d a wery [sic] strong flavour of warm flat irons.’

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I was expecting it to be vile (because the biggest component of the 43 minerals is sulphate), but I wasn’t expecting it to be warm (despite what I said about the temperature above!). And, actually, it wasn’t that bad. ‘Interesting’ is probably the right word. It didn’t restore me on a very hot day (that was the iced coffee I had later!). But it was interesting…

imageKate’s latest book, Carrying the Single Dad’s Baby, is out later in August. If you like Notting Hill, astronomy and cute children, this one’s for you 🙂

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, The Writing Life, Travels Around the World

The joy of research by Kate Hardy

Kate HardyI think my favourite part of writing a book is the research. The book I’m finishing writing right now is a cardiac book, and learning about the cutting edge treatment has been so interesting; my mum was a specialist cardiac nurse, so this one kind of feels special (and I brainstormed it in the British Library with lovely Annie O’Neil, so that was an extra bonus).

My next book is going to be set partly in Florence – so you can guess where we ended up 🙂 There were certain iconic places I wanted to visit (and I have to confess to becoming addicted to ‘Medici: Masters of Florence’ on Netflix since coming home – we’re dying for the next season to come out). And one of them was a certain art gallery. My research team balked at the idea of going to a modern art gallery; but this is Florence, so ‘modern’ actually means ‘1750 onwards’, which is his favourite sort of art. (I’ve tried to appreciate modern art, but…) So we enjoyed the Pitti Palace, the Uffizi and the Accademia; we also enjoyed visiting a number of palaces and churches, but my two big highlights of the trip were climbing inside the Duomo and visiting the library at San Lorenzo. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

 

And we had a bonus at the end – we were flying from Pisa airport. We were pretty sure that tickets to climb the leaning tower would be like the Duomo, i.e. you need to book days in advance, but I was in the queue to buy a ticket for the cathedral when I discovered we could visit the tower in 20 minutes’ time. That has to be one of the weirdest experiences of my life – you can really feel the ‘lean’ of the tower, and as you climb the spiral staircase you straighten up and then lean in the opposite direction. The steps are worn in a spiral rather than in a straight line! And I was very glad of the safety railing at the top 🙂

What’s been your strangest experience when visiting somewhere?

imageKate’s latest is Unlocking the Italian Doc’s Heart (set partly in Verona and written there last year!), out in UK/Aus shops now and online at the usual places 🙂 For more information, see her website.

 

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, The Writing Life

A year of culture…

kate hardy sept 2015 400pxTwo years ago, I turned 50 and designated it a Year of Having Fun. I had lots of little birthday celebrations with people, I ate way too much cake, and I burned the candle at both ends.

Last year, I thought that it should be the Year of Carpe Diem – so between those two years I managed to see all three of my favourite musicians (Robert Plant, Radiohead and David Gilmour), and it was our 25th wedding anniversary so we ended up in Verona, which was lovely.

This year is going to be the Year of Culture.

Let’s start with the medical authors’ special giveaway, because you’re reading this blog because you love medical romance 🙂  You can find the entry form here!

So, my Year of Culture. I’m overdoing things just a tad for my birthday fortnight. So I have Twelfth Night at Stratford-upon-Avon this weekend (and a visit to Shakespeare’s birthplace), Hamilton in London next week, and Jeremy Irons in ‘A Long Day’s Journey into Night’ the weekend after. Add in a visit to a stately home (that’s research), afternoon tea in Norwich’s Assembly House (aka super-historic) twice, and an evening at Phill Jupitus’ show (where he does his own support act and reads poetry) – yep, it’s going to be good.

Did I mention tickets for three different Shakespeare productions at the Globe? (Othello, Shrew (that’s my daughter’s A level text, which is why I’m squeezing it in the day before we go to Florence and I’ll have to drive both ways), and the Two Noble Kinsmen). Oh, and another Stratford trip to see Macbeth. And a lot more stand-up – Jon Richardson (twice, because he’s my daughter’s favourite comedian), Tim Vine, Bill Bailey and Danny Baker. Musically, I have tickets booked for Scott Matthew, Sheridan Smith, Joe Bonamassa and Def Leppard. And I’m waiting for the Tate Gallery to announce booking details for their Burne-Jones exhibition (my favourite artist – I’ve been waiting rather impatiently since last October, but it opens this October so surely they can’t keep us waiting much longer?). Plus of course Florence, where I finally get to see the Uffizi, the Duomo and the Accademia 🙂

It’s going to be a good year. Do you enjoy theatre and art exhibitions? What have you seen recently, or can’t wait to see?

 

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Quirky Stories

Moon madness by Kate Hardy

kate hardy sept 2015 1200pxSome of you may have noticed that I’m a bit obsessed with the moon. There’s usually a moonlight scene in my books (my favourite is one of my Modern Heats, taking place on a volcano – because, well, that’s two obsessions at once). Apparently my parents used to have to shine a torch outside my window when I was tiny so I could say goodnight to the moon, otherwise I wouldn’t go to sleep!

Last night was the supermoon. It was too cloudy to see it last night, but this morning it was just glorious. I had to take my daughter into college really early for a sixth form trip to London, and the first thing I noticed when I walked into the kitchen was the bright light streaming in…

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It lit our way into the city, and this beautiful enormous moon was in front of me all the way home. I usually take the dog out before sunrise anyway, but this time I took my proper camera rather than just the phone and hopped over a ditch or two (poor dog thought I’d gone barmy). And I got the shot I was hoping for, reflected in the trout lake.

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As the sun started to rise, the moon turned pink. Now, I’ve always wanted to do one of those massive moon shots but have never quite managed it before. Today I ended up with two shots I’m so, so pleased with. (That streak across the moon is a cloud, by the way.)

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The book I’m writing now is set in the summer, so I’m not quite going to be able to get away with using these in a scene. But watch out for future books 😉

Did you see the supermoon? Do you have a pic to share? I’d love to see it!

 

 

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, The Writing Life

A heartfelt thanks by Kate Hardy

The highlight of my calendar is the annual M&B authors’ lunch and party. It means I get to see my author friends in person – including, if I’m lucky, some of those visiting from other countries – and the editorial team. And at the party the editors present milestone awards to the authors – this year it was to Michelle Styles (Historical) for her 25th, me for my 75th, and Carol Marinelli for her amazing 100th!

I think the easiest way to show what it’s like is by photographs. So here I am with Sheila Hodgson, senior Medicals ed (she edits my Medicals)

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And in the M&B offices where Sheila said some very nice things indeed about my books and almost made me cry.

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Carol Marinelli making her speech

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Oh, and did I mention the amazing view from the top floor of the News International building?

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The party in full swing:

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Me with Carol (and it’s not going to be another 10 years before we meet up again!)

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With my other editor, Megan Haslam (who edits my Cherish/Romance books)

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And my milestone award for my 75th book – this gorgeous Tiffany keyring 🙂

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But one thing I said in my speech I’d like to share here: authors don’t write their books in a vacuum. I’m incredibly blessed to have the most wonderful friends (officially colleagues and editors, but definitely friends) – people you can talk to when you’ve painted yourself into a corner and they’ll brainstorm ideas of how to get you out again; people who understand what it’s like when you get ‘tiny tweaks’ revisions (which are nothing of the kind!!); people who celebrate the good times with you and are there for you in the tough times (and it definitely goes both ways). And I’m also privileged to have wonderful readers – without you, I wouldn’t be able to do the job I love. So I want to say a very big thank you to you all, from the bottom of my heart xxx

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Holiday Celebrations, The Writing Life, Travels Around the World

Two milestones – by Kate Hardy

So August 1 saw two milestones for me – my 25th wedding anniversary and the official publication day of my 75th book for Mills and Boon.

We decided to celebrate our anniversary in the Italian Lakes – and where could be more romantic on the day itself than Verona?

August 1 1992 was a baking hot day.

August 1 2017 was even hotter, because Southern Europe was having a heatwave – 39 degrees (but felt like 44).

And I guess the day was very much like any marriage, because there were bumpy bits in the day, starting with the tour bus not picking us up, an hour trying to find out where they were and discovering that our booking hadn’t gone through even though they’d taken the money, and then making the best of it and catching the local bus to Verona and doing the ‘tour’ ourselves. We saw the Arena, Dante’s statue, amazing churches, pretty courtyards and majestic towers.

We visited Juliet’s balcony – after putting our names on the wall (on a band-aid, no less – well, a Medical Romance author would be prepared…)

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And over the rest of the week we saw some amazing sights. We caught a cable car to the top of the Dolomites.

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We saw the most romantic sunsets.

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We ate lots of pizza, pasta, fresh fish and ice cream (I think my dish of the week just had to be pasta with zucchini and scallops, in this lovely cream and saffron and tomato sauce). We tried local wines. We discovered just how nice Aperol spritz is – the local aperitif, basically 1 part bitter orange liqueur, 2 parts prosecco and 3 parts sparkling water, all served over ice.

And with our eldest about to start his second year at uni and our youngest about to start sixth form, it was probably our last family holiday – and definitely one to remember.

Plus there’s my 75th book milestone with M&B – which, coincidentally enough, is set on a fictional Italian island. The title – The Runaway Bride and the Billionaire – pretty much tells you what the book is about, and it’s part of the Summer at the Villa Rosa quartet which I wrote with Liz Fielding, Scarlet Wilson and Jessica Gilmore.

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So all in all it’s been a pretty overwhelming week. But milestones like these aren’t reached alone – and the support of my family and friends has been really appreciated over the last quarter of a century, plus my M&B readers and writing friends for the last 16 years. So I’d like to raise a glass (of Aperol, of course!) to you all to say thank you – and cheers!

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