A Cuppa and a Catch-Up

You can’t beat a cup of tea

It’s May! I can hardly believe it. Happy Bank Holiday to you all, and – as my good friend Rhiannon Bone would say – a very blessed Beltane, too.

Pull up a chair, grab yourselves a cuppa, and let’s have a good old catch-up, shall we?

I am very well aware that I haven’t been around much on here lately. I apologise – again. I have been incredibly busy, working on not just one, not just two, but three different writing projects.

The first of these is currently having a final proofread. I have had a gorgeous cover designed for me by the lovely, and very patient, Berni Stevens,  and I’m just waiting now to make any final corrections before things move on to the publishing stage.

New book coming soon!

There will be a cover reveal and a pre-order date coming very soon, but I can tell you that the book is due for publication around mid-June. It’s not a Kearton Bay book, nor a Skimmerdale book, but it’s very close to my heart. It’s set on the Yorkshire Moors, not far from Kearton Bay (!) and a scene takes place in Helmston, so readers of the KB series will feel on familiar territory. We have brand new characters, including a heroine I loved and a hero I fell completely in love with. I’m always nervous when I’m about to have a book published, but I really hope you’ll enjoy it.

I’ve also been working on the second Skimmerdale book, and it’s been great fun to be back in the Yorkshire Dales with my old friends. I’ve especially enjoyed renewing my acquaintance with hunky sheep farmer, Eliot, but that’s me. I’m shameless. I’m not sure when this book will be published but I will definitely keep you updated when I know more.

Thirdly, I’ve been writing a Christmas book, and that should be coming out in late October/early November. It’s set in and around Farthingdale and Moreton Cross – villages that also appear in the Kearton Bay series – but will feature completely different characters. I’ve been getting to know a very different sort of heroine in this one. She’s quite challenging, and she has a rather lovely fella whose life she’s about to turn upside down – or is she? Hmm…

Can’t believe my book’s in the libraries!

So, as you can imagine, it’s been all go lately, and that’s why I’ve neglected the blog and for that I can only apologise. Hopefully, you’ll all think it was worth it in the end. 🙂

What else have I been up to? Well, I sent off a story to the lovely folks at The People’s Friend, and it was accepted. It’s going to be published as a pocket novel on July 27th. It’s provisionally called The Doctor’s Daughter, although that may change. I’ll be publishing it on Kindle at some point in the near future, but it’s always lovely to see a copy of your work on the shelves of WH Smith or a supermarket – even if it’s only for a couple of weeks. My previous pocket novel, All Because of Baxter, has been published in large print format by Ulverscroft, and copies of that should be in various libraries right now. That’s made me very happy, as I spent practically my entire childhood in one library or another, and I never dreamt in a million years that one of my books would be on the shelves one day. It just shows you!

I’ve also been setting up a new website. You may notice that several pages of this blog have gone missing, and that’s because they’ve been incorporated into my new site instead. However, this blog will remain, as will the book reviews, and there will be a link to these pages on my new website. It’s been quite a faff for someone as technically challenged as me, I can tell you! Find me at http://www.sharonboothwriter.com

Me and Jessica in a very windy, cold Scarborough!

It hasn’t ALL been work, though. On Saturday I ventured out of my writing room into the real world. I caught the train to Scarborough to visit my lovely friend and fellow Write Romantic, Jessica Redland, who was giving a talk at the Seastrand Cafe on the seafront. We had a fabulous day, and even though the talk didn’t go quite as planned, we had a lot of fun. Mind you, the weather was a bit grim. My teeth were chattering! Of course, it WAS a British Bank Holiday weekend so I should have known. 🙂 You can read all about Jessica’s event here.

So, I think we’re all caught up for now. My cup of tea has actually gone cold, so I’m off to put the kettle on.

Have a great week.

My Turn On The Lovely Blog Hop

My lovely Write Romantic pal, Jo Bartlett, has invited me to take part in the Lovely Blog Hop, in which writers talk about some of the things that shaped their life and writing. Jo’s debut novella, The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come was published in November by Fabrian Books. Her first novel, Among A Thousand Stars, will be published by So Vain Books on June 17th, and she also has a People’s Friend pocket novel coming out in June, so she’s been very busy!

First Memory: The first thing I can remember is sitting on a chair looking out of the dining room window at pouring rain and thinking it wasn’t nice weather for my third birthday. I know a lot of people will1525765_10152818486411988_110797161_n think, you can’t have thought that at the age of three, but the memory is very clear. I also remember listening to the soundtrack album of The Sound of Music on my mum’s old Dansette record player in the dining room, and an EP (remember those!) of My Fair Lady. I learnt every word of Wouldn’t it Be Lovely? and On The Street Where You Live. I have a distinct memory of sitting on my little bike in the back garden, watching my mother hanging the washing out and my little sister on her tricycle, and thinking, really sadly, that in a few days I wouldn’t be with them. I had to start school and I felt really upset that they would be together and I would be in a classroom away from there. That memory is so clear, it must really have affected me. I would have been four then. This is me, my sister and brother. I would have been about ten, I think. My mother always insisted on dressing me and my sister in identical outfits which, given that I was two and a half years older than my sister, was pretty galling. When I complained about this a few years ago, my sister pointed out that she’d got the worst of it. She not only had to wear all those wretched crimplene dresses once, but then she got my cast-offs and had to wear them again! I couldn’t complain after that.

Books: Oh, what would my childhood have been without books! They were, without doubt, my best friend, and the thing that got me through some difficult times. No matter who I fell out with at school, no matter if I was in trouble for something at home, no matter if I felt the whole world was against me, I always had books to turn to. I remember very clearly being taught to read at school. I can remember looking at this jumble of letters, and suddenly it was as if they were rearranging themselves into words that made sense. It was fascinating. I was so lucky because I learnt to read really easily and loved it from the first. I feel so sad for people who struggle to read, especially when their difficulties aren’t recognised and they don’t get the help they need to overcome their problems. I just can’t imagine life without books. I remember being given a copy of Noddy by Enid Blyton. I think it was the first book I ever actually owned. Our lovely neighbours were moving house and I was heartbroken. I was swinging on the front gate, watching the removal van being loaded up, when the lady of the house came to say goodbye and gave me and my sister a present each. I can still remember the feeling I had when I tore off the wrapping paper and saw the bright, vibrant colours of Noddy, Big Ears and the little motor car on the cover. I hugged that book to me and cherished it for years. I had a huge collection of Ladybird books. My favourite was Beauty and the Beast. They were so beautifully illustrated and I really regret not keeping them. I was a massive Enid Blyton fan, and my favourite presents at Christmas 11169913_775145862602655_4989751607631754829_nwere always the three Blyton books that Mum and Dad bought me each year. I discovered pony books when I was about eight and from then on, all my pocket money went on them. I remember catching the bus into town every Saturday morning, and heading straight to W H Smith’s to scour the shelves for my next read. In those days, the bookcases were full of pony books. It was the golden age, when I could find Pullein-Thompson, Ruby Ferguson, Patricia Leitch, Judith M Berrisford and K M Peyton books galore. Or sometimes, I’d go the market, to the second hand book stall, and eagerly grab every Monica Edwards book for mere pennies. Happy times! The first “grown-up” books I read were by Catherine Cookson. I read The Dwelling Place and was hooked. Luckily for me, my mum had loads of Catherine Cookson novels so I could read them all quite quickly. I continued to read and collect them, long after I’d left home. I’m still a fan of her writing. It was my mum who introduced me to Jilly Cooper. She’d bought Polo from a book club but thought it “a bit much” and gave it to me because she knew I loved horses. I had never heard of Jilly Cooper. Don’t ask me how I’d missed her because I have no idea. I read it, loved it, and raved about it. My mum bought me Riders for my birthday and that was that. I read all her Rutshire novels and am anxiously waiting for the next one. I love Sue Townsend’s books and, like Jo, I still turn to Adrian Mole when I’m in need of cheering up. It’s so sad to think there will never be another one. I still have a lot of pony books and Enid Blyton books on my shelves and I dip into them now and then. I read lots of romantic fiction these days, of course, but I also love a good supernatural thriller. I love Phil Rickman’s books. I can’t wait to see the television adaptation of his Merrily Watkins books. I also like the Miss Marple books by Agatha Christie. I read a lot of non-fiction, too. Basically, I love books!

Libraries: I remember – I think – my first visit to the library. I’d just been at school and heard the Nativity for the very first time. I was absolutely awe-struck. My parents weren’t religious at all and I’d no download (15)idea what this story was about, but I rushed home and told them all about it, and how wonderful it was. My Dad – bless him – suggested we go to the library and find a book about it. He took me there. In those days it was a small place above the town hall – nothing like the purpose-built building that replaced it. I browsed the shelves in delight, and soon found a Ladybird Nativity book to take home. From then on, I went every fortnight or so. with either my mum or dad, or both. I remember finding The Wombles books there, and the Paddington Bear books. I read lots of pony books, of course, and I also went there to find things out. In those days, there was no internet, so most information came from books, and the library was hugely useful for homework, or when I was simply curious about something. Luckily, we didn’t live far from the library, so as I grew older I could just nip round there on my own and spend time sitting at one of the tables by the window, reading to my heart’s content. School libraries were my refuge, and if I had to stay there over the lunch period for any reason I would spend the whole hour after lunch browsing the shelves. My primary school library was where I discovered pony books for the very first time. The middle school library was stacked high with the Collins Pony Library, so I basically lived in that place every spare moment I had! It wasn’t unknown for me to stagger home under the weight of around eleven books. I’m serious! Libraries are so important. I used to take my own children there when they were young, and we’d spend a good hour or more looking for books I hoped they’d enjoy reading, or, more likely, enjoy me reading to them. It’s sad to see so many libraries closing.

What’s Your Passion? Apart from books, writing and being with my family, I think my main passion is going to new places and discovering beautiful villages and buildings that I’ve never seen before. I don’t travel far. I’ve never been abroad. It wasn’t a conscious decision. My parents couldn’t afford to take us abroad when we were young, and then, when I was all grown up with five children of my own, the cost for seven of us to go abroad was way out of our price range, so I’ve never even had a passport. Now, I just think there are so many gorgeous places in the UK that I’m happy enough to visit those. I even love finding new routes to places we’ve been before, just so that we can see different things on the way. I’m well-known in our family for always nagging to take the scenic route wherever we go. I love visiting castles and abbeys and country houses. I’m also really interested in history and I watch lots of history programmes. I wish history had been as entertaining at school. Unfortunately, learning about the industrial revolution and the dates of the corn laws and the invention of the steam engine just didn’t do it for me, and I lost all will to learn. Which brings me onto…

Learning: I didn’t do as well as I could have, or should have, at school. I liked to have a giggle, and I didn’t really see the point of lessons. Nothing really grabbed my attention except for English and English Literature. I worked hard in those two subjects and was rewarded with good ‘O’ level results. Two ‘O’ levels and five average CSEs wasn’t a great result and I should have tried much harder. I had the ability, just not the inclination. I’ve done most of my learning since leaving school. I’ve taken various college courses and distance courses, and I studied for six years with the Open University and got an upper second class Honours degree in literature. I would love to do more studying, but the cost is prohibitive. I’d have liked to do my Masters in literature but the price is way out of my range now. I’d also liked to have done a second degree, perhaps in history. The main thing is to keep reading, keep watching documentaries, keep your mind open to learning. It’s not really about certificates and qualifications. Learning certainly doesn’t end with school, or even university. It’s a life long process and a very enjoyable one.

Writing: I love writing. I’ve written stories ever since I could form words on the page, and I’m always writing, even if it’s only in my head when I should be doing other things! Since knowing my books were going to be published, though, I’ve found that I’ve been distracted by social media. You have to promote your books and that takes up so much time. Long before my first book was even finished I was “building my author platform”, networking on Facebook and Twitter, setting up this blog… It all takes me away from actual writing time. Then there’s the pressure of Amazon sales ranks, not to mention reviews – whether it’s the problem of how to get them or worrying that the ones you do get will be bad ones. That kind of sucks the joy out of writing, to be honest, so I’m trying to just get back to writing stories I’d love to read. I’m trying to remember what it felt like just to write for myself, without worrying what other people would think of my stories or how well it would do with buyers and reviewers. I want to make friends with my heroines, fall in love with my heroes, and have fun creating some naughty villains, all without worrying about what anyone else will think.  I’m going to be concentrating a lot more on the actual writing and less on the social media and blogging. After doing the A to Z blogging challenge recently, I’m quite blogged out! It may be quiet on here for a few weeks…

This is the part where I’m supposed to hand over to another blogger, but with all the rush to finish the A to Z challenge and complete this post I completely forgot to ask anyone if they wanted to do it. So, if any of you want to do the Lovely Blog Tour just let me know and I’ll tag you in this post.

Have a good week xx

X is for X and I’m Not Even Joking!

Xis for X. Wow, that took some thinking about. When I signed up for the A to Z Challenge, I was very aware that two letters, in particular, would prove testing. X and Z are not the easiest letters and I have spent the last couple of weeks half-heartedly wondering what on earth I could blog about. It was quite a horrifying moment yesterday when I suddenly realised that I was almost out of time. The letter X was upon me. What could I write about?

I scoured the online dictionaries, frantically seizing on words and checking their meanings. I found a brilliant site here, which gave me lots of ideas. It’s 2822163801_858aecbcf6_oquite extraordinary the amount of words there are beginning with this letter. Did you know, for example, that xerosis is the abnormal dryness of body parts? Or that a xoanon is a primitive wooden statue overlaid with ivory and gold? Wouldn’t want one of those in my house, thank you very much (ivory!) but that’s another story…I discovered that a xylocarp is a hard and woody fruit, and that xebec is a small, three-masted pirate ship. Interesting. But could I really blog about any of these subjects? Not really, though I’m sure someone, somewhere, already has.

Peter-rabbitI did consider a post about xenogenesis. This refers to a generation of offspring entirely unlike the parent. Ah, now that I can relate to! I have often mentioned that I’m convinced I’ve been beamed into the wrong family. My children are quite unlike me. They don’t read! It’s true. I remember when my eldest son was little, I paid, what seemed to me at the time, a small fortune for the complete collection of Peter Rabbit books. They were beautifully illustrated and I absolutely loved them. I made the mistake of thinking he would love them too. One night, DH and I were watching television when we suddenly noticed it was snowing. This was quite odd, given that it was summer. It took a moment to realise that the “snow” was actually pieces of torn paper fluttering into the front garden from my son’s bedroom window, and a few minutes later I made the heartbreaking discovery that the paper was the Peter Rabbit books, which were now reduced to empty covers. I have tried to coax them into reading, to no avail. I was stunned recently to discover my youngest had read There Must Be An Angel in one day! I almost forgave her for insisting that films were better than books. Almost…I’m not, however, convinced that this is the sort of thing that scientists are referring to when they discuss xenogenesis, so I won’t blog about it, after all.

I could blog about a xanthippe, which is an ill-tempered woman. I know a few of those. But then, I have to face them, and I’m pretty sure they’d recognise themselves from my description and, quite frankly, they’re so ill-tempered I wouldn’t want to risk it.

39d3ed7c-07f5-48a1-87d6-2a4f5a1399c7_image_jpegHmm, what else could I blog about? What about xenodocheionology? This, I kid you not, is the love of hotels. Yes, well, I possibly could blog about that, except I’ve never actually stayed in a hotel. No, not once. I have no idea what the term is for the love of luxury caravans with power showers, central heating and double glazing, but I doubt very much it begins with X.

I could discuss the election. That would be a real treat for you, wouldn’t it? I mean, you put the X in the box of your choice and help to shape the future of Britain, so it’s relevant. But, to be honest, whether you’re voting red, blue, yellow or sky blue pink with yellow dots on, it would still be an incredibly dull post and I’m already suffering from pre-election blues. The party of my choice will either win or it won’t. What else is there to say?

I could talk about the X-Files. I used to love that programme. Mulder and Scully and a whole lot of simmering passion – and aliens, of course. Can’t forget the aliens. Scully had nice hair and a big coat. Mulder talked without moving his mouth much. Okay, I’ve covered the X-Files.ms_09

What about the X Factor? Oh, God, no. I can’t even bring myself to try. I don’t watch it and have no interest in it, so let’s not even go there.

X marks the spot. I could talk about treasure maps. Or sex. Oh, that’s the G spot I’m thinking of there. Unless I mean X-rated. Should I talk about X-rated? Considering I blush and look guilty reading Jilly Cooper books I doubt I could manage to blog about such things. Although, to be fair, I do love a naughty novel. The sort of thing Jilly writes, or Fiona Walker, or Jo Carnegie. I think that’s as daring as I get. I couldn’t cope with erotica. Fifty Shades of Grey would turn me Fifty Shades of Scarlet.

Okay, what else is X? X stands for Xmas, which I always assumed was a very disrespectful way of saying Christmas, but which, I recently discovered, is actually quite all right, as X is the Greek letter chi which is the first letter of the Greek word for Christ – Christos. So that’s all right, then. They haven’t taken Christ out of Christmas after all. christmas-195704_640

People who couldn’t read or write used to sign their name by making their mark – an X. X is also how we denote kisses. We sign cards and texts and letters with xxx or x or xx, depending on the level of emotion we feel for the person. I’m never quite sure how many kisses you’re supposed to put. Sometimes I put the number of kisses that matches the person’s age if it’s their birthday. I drew the line at my mother’s birthday card. Once you get past sixty it just gets silly. Not to mention crowded.

Really, it’s terribly difficult to think what on earth to write about that begins with the letter X. I’ve racked my brains but I still can’t think of anything. Maybe I’ll just take today off instead…

Have a great day xxx…or xx…or x 🙂

T is for Themes and Titles

Tis for themes and titles. As I’ve said previously, when I started writing, I didn’t really have a clue that books were supposed to have themes. It had never occurred to me before – at least, consciously. Subconsciously, I realise I was constantly picking up on the themes of other people’s books. It just never hit me before that they were there deliberately, which sounds absurd now.

When I wrote There Must Be An Angel I hadn’t, as I’ve said before, thought of a theme for it. It was only after several rewrites that I realised there was an emerging theme – that of fathers and daughters. It had other themes, too. Friendship, being true to yourself instead of trying to live up to other’s standards, and having faith in someone so that, no matter what you heard about them, you would stand by them and believe in them.

With A Kiss From A Rose, it became clear fairly quickly that the main theme was mothers and daughters. Rose has huge issues with her own mother, and she’s struggling with her daughters, too.  Rose is also about believing in yourself and realising that you’re as good as anyone else. It’s about overcoming your own lack of self esteem and allowing yourself to be happy because you deserve to be. I find it quite fascinating that these themes developed without me even noticing.

It was only when I looked back at both of these novels that I noticed the themes, but for the third  book I’ve decided on the theme first and am building the book around it. Whether that will make a difference to the writing I don’t know. I know some writers choose the themes first and work this way, while others only discover the theme after their work is complete. I’ve tried one way so now I’m trying the other, and I guess I’ll discover what works best for me!

I think I’ve got a title for Book Three, but I won’t reveal it yet as it may change. There Must Be An Angel changed title several times. It started off as I Heard A Rumour, changed to There Must Be An Angel, then I decided on Angel In The Marble, then switched it to Can’t Fight the Moonlight before finally, after consulting Julie and Alex, my Write Romantic pals, over a slice of cake, it was changed back to the title it now carries for good.

The second book was initially called Moonlight and Roses, but from the first scene it became obvious that A Kiss From A Rose was exactly the right title. There was no swapping and changing after that. It was a done deal.

For Book Three it’s been a bit more tricky. A theme has emerged in my titles – they are song titles, and what’s more, they both have five words. It seemed appropriate that the final two books should follow the same pattern, so I’ve had to have a good old think. I’ve changed the title four times so far, but finally, I think I have one that suits the book exactly and fits the pattern. I’m very lucky because I can choose my own titles. Some writers don’t get that luxury, and some have the titles they’ve chosen changed to suit their publishers. That must take some getting used to!

It’s really interesting to take your favourite books and work out the themes within them. It can make you read the story in a completely different way and it’s fascinating to see how the writer has built the scenes around the theme to reinforce it. Or perhaps they only discovered it for themselves after the book was completed…It can happen that way, you know!

There Must Be An Angel is currently free for Kindle, but the offer ends today so hurry! Click on the image in the side bar to get your copy.

Have a great day xx

Why not visit some of the other blogs taking part in the A to Z Challenge?

D is for Dads and Daughters

Dis for dads and daughters. I’ll be discussing themes later in the blog (probably under T. Did you guess?) but when I started writing There Must Be An Angel I had no idea about the theme. In fact, if I’m being really honest, I didn’t even realise novels were supposed to have themes. Who knew?

When I finished the first draft it was very different to the story it is now. It had a different title and it wasn’t about Eliza’s search for her father at all. She went to Kearton Bay for an entirely different reason, in fact.  It was only gradually, as I began to work on that first draft, trying to turn it into something worth reading, that I began to think more deeply about who she really was, why she behaved as she did, and what she was truly searching for. Somehow, that progressed to her looking for her father – a mysterious, shadowy figure, only present in her imagination rather than her real life. The relationship between the hero, Gabriel, and his daughter was already present in the book. Add to that the tricky relationship between Eliza’s husband and their daughter and it soon became clear that fathers and daughters was the main theme in the book.

My own dad died back in 1994. He was only fifty-five years old – not much older than I am now, in fact. What kind of man was he? Hard-working is the first thing that springs to mind. He pretty much worked seven days a week for his entire adult life. He was a bricklayer and a very good one. I can point to several buildings in our area and think, quite proudly, my dad built that!

My dad, hard at work on the building site

My dad, hard at work on the building site

He was a gentle person. I remember my nanna telling me that when he was little, his brother, who was eleven months older than him, used to take his toys away from him, and she would tell him off and demand he give them back, and my dad would just smile at her and say, ‘It’s okay, Mam. If he wants them, he can have them.’ She said she’d never known such a patient, generous child.

Me, my dad and little brother, back in 1981

Me, my dad and little brother, back in 1981

I can believe that. He was generous to a fault. He would give me his last penny. When my own kids were little and I didn’t have two ha’pennies to rub together, I could always rely on my dad to bail me out. If I needed anything, if it was within his power to give me it, he would.

He was funny, too. He shared his mum’s dry sense of humour. He used to make me howl with laughter. He loved the sarcastic wit of Blackadder and the total insanity of the Monty Python gang. He would laugh himself silly at Dad’s Army and Porridge and Morecambe and Wise and Spike Milligan and Les Dawson. But real life situations made him laugh the most. I can remember many occasions when he’d come home from work and we’d be sitting at the table eating our tea and he’d start to tell us all about something that had happened at work, or something stupid that one of his colleagues had said, and he’d start laughing – and not be able to stop. It would take him absolutely ages to get the story out, by which time we’d all be helpless with laughter too. I loved to hear him laugh. His blue eyes would be bright with mischief and merriment and I’d feel all happy inside because I knew he was happy, and all was right with the world.

He loved reading and many nights we’d all be sitting in the living room – my mum, dad and myself – each with a book in our hands, completely absorbed in the pages, while my little brother and sister watched television. He loved reading about conspiracy theories and aliens and paranormal investigations. He was fascinated by ancient civilisations and convinced they were connected to the stars. He once told me believing in God was like believing in Cinderella, but he wasn’t averse to the idea that we’d all been dropped on Planet Earth by a race of beings from another planet.

He loved rabbits and dogs. He could happily have spent all his spare time at the bottom of the garden among all his rabbit hutches, or out walking the dog, or at a show. He used to get Fur and Feather delivered to the house regularly, and would read books on the standard for dogs, always keen to learn. We had loads of rabbits, from tiny little Netherland Dwarfs to a huge, lolloping British Giant, affectionately named Tiny. He had various dogs – a Yorkshire terrier, a German shepherd, a Shetland sheepdog, and a Japanese Akita. He would walk them on the foreshore before and after work – in spite of his tiring day and hard physical labour.

I dedicated There Must Be An Angel to him – my first hero. Because he was. I still think of him, polishing his shoes as he’d been taught to do in the army when on National Service in Kenya, as he quoted Wordsworth’s Daffodils to me. It’s still my favourite poem because of him. I still miss him every day. It’s been a painful twenty-one years without him, and I’ve coped in my own – not very healthy – way, by pushing him out of my mind, putting the photos of him away, refusing to think of him when he popped into my head. Then I convinced myself for a short while that I hated him. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFar easier to hate him than to acknowledge how much I loved him and how much I still miss him and long for one more day with him, just to hear that laugh one more time, just to smell his aftershave – Old Spice or Brut – and just to have one more cuddle from those safe arms. Bit by bit, I’ve started to allow myself to feel the pain and the loss. It’s really hard to do and sometimes I shut him out again.  Writing Eliza’s story has somehow helped me with the grief. There’s a lot of my dad in Gabriel. I didn’t even realise it when I was writing him, but looking at it now, I see things differently.

Dads and daughters. I could go on with this subject for a long, long time. But I think I’ve rambled on long enough now. Tomorrow is another day and I have a day off, but I’ll be back on Monday with another post. See you then!

Have a great weekend xx

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

sister-hood-awardMy thanks to lovely Linda Huber for nominating me for this award. I love the idea of a sisterhood. Women should support and nourish each other, and I think we mostly do. I think the popular idea is that women are natural rivals, keen to outdo each other and put each other down, but, speaking from personal experience, I find most women are all too keen to help their ‘sisters’ along the way. I, for one, am very grateful for that, and keen to repay the favour. Linda was one of the lovely authors who contributed a short story to the Write Romantics’ charity anthology, Winter Tales, so I already knew that she was one of those helpful and supportive women. She has also taken an interest in the forthcoming release of my debut novel, There Must Be An Angel, so she really is part of the sisterhood! I’m, therefore, very happy and honoured to take part in this blogging award tour, and answer her questions. Thanks, Linda.

Do you have a ‘sister’? I have a real sister, Tracey, who is two and a half years younger than me and loves to remind me of the fact. I don’t see her as often as I’d like, but I love her to bits and she is one person guaranteed to make me laugh, as well as being the person who really ‘gets’ me. She has known me all her life, after all, and still speaks to me! I think, sometimes, she thinks I’m a bit weird, but she seems willing to put up with that. I’m very proud of her for all she’s achieved and for the person she is, and there’s a bond there that no one else can share, because we grew up together and have so many shared memories and experiences. She is very special to me and I’m so glad I have her. I also have nine honorary ‘sisters’ – the Write Romantics, who listen to my woes and worries and insecurities, laugh at my odd sense of humour and boost my flagging confidence just when I need it. They are a fabulous bunch of ladies and I’m very blessed to be part of their sisterhood.

What’s your favourite memory of primary school? I have loads! I loved primary school. It was a really fabulous school with lovely staff, and I have nothing but happy memories of it. I remember the big old boiler, with the massive fireguard around it, in the centre of the prefab classroom. We used to drape wet coats etc on it in really bad weather, and huddle round it to get warm when we were reading. I remember the school plays which were always such fun. I remember the library and the thrill of discovering a stack of pony books to read. I remember assemblies every morning, singing hymns, bowing our heads to recite the Lord’s Prayer. I remember the last hour of the day when the teacher would read to us – books such as The Cat That Walked a Week by Meindert Dejong, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, and Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kastner. I remember the sweet shop by the school where we’d all crowd in and buy two ounces of sour apples or kop kops, or the bakery which sold off yesterday’s cream buns for a penny. I remember collecting conkers and fallen leaves for the autumn classroom display, having orange armbands sewn onto my coat sleeves, and walking to school in fog so thick that it was impossible to see a thing in front of you. I remember my friends, and Christmas, and the class postbox where we’d put our cards and presents to be handed out on the last day of term, and singing carols, and the Christmas party, and skipping in the playground, and glueing shiny coloured paper onto card, and playing with plasticine, and having my own peg in the cloakroom, and spelling tests, and sports day, and school reports. Impossible to choose a favourite!

download (4) Who would you invite to dinner, and why? Ooh, good question. Just one person? Really? Well, if it was any person in history I would probably choose Henry VIII because I want to know if he really was as mad as a box of frogs or just a horrible, cruel tyrant, or if there was a lot more to him than we know. I want to know what was going on in what appears to be an incredibly twisted mind. Why did he make those choices? Did he really believe in the decisions he made? Has he any redeeming qualities at all? On the other hand, if it was just one person alive today, I’d choose Jilly Cooper, because I love her books, and I think she’d be fun and I’d love to know what she’s writing next and what we can expect from Rupert Campbell Black.

And what would you cook for them? I wouldn’t. If it was Henry VIII I’d plonk a plate of salad in front of him, followed by fruit, because I think he had a meat overload and could do with a break. And, if it was Jilly Cooper, I like her far too much to inflict my cooking on her. Definitely time to call in outside catering!

Which fictional character would you like to be? Jill Crewe from Jill’s Gymkhana and the other Jill books by Ruby Ferguson. Or any girl in any pony book from that golden era really. They had such jolly, horsy lives, and the only thing they had to worry about was if they would win a rosette at the next gymkhana, or how to do a decent half pass, or if they would get new jodhpurs for Christmas. Happy days.download (5)

Can you remember your first glass of wine? Yes. It was at my aunt and uncle’s wedding. I was a bridesmaid so was allowed a glass for the toast, and I hated it. I still hate it. I just don’t like wine. I don’t like any alcohol really, unless it doesn’t taste much of alcohol.

What’s your favourite colour? Blue. Reminds me of the sea and a clear sky on a  hot summer’s day.

Tell us about your first teenage crush. Oh, this is embarrassing. Okay, it was on my English teacher at school. He was absolutely lovely and I adored him. He was really encouraging about my writing, and I idolised him. The whole school seemed to know I was mad about him. I even sent him a soppy poem. He was incredibly patient and kind, but I bet he breathed a sigh of relief when I left school!

Why do you blog? Initially, it was because I was told it was “the thing to do”, and that writers simply had to blog. I’m not so sure that’s true, actually, but I do enjoy having the blog now. It’s a great place to practice writing, share my news, connect with other bloggers and, hopefully, it will be a place where I can one day connect with readers of my novels.

What do you hope to achieve in 2015? Well, There Must Be An Angel is released in less than two weeks, and I’m hoping at least one person will read it and love it! I also have the second novel, A Kiss From a Rose coming out in September, and I want to have completed book three in the series by the end of the year, ready for publishing in 2016. Quite a lot to do, as you can imagine!

It now falls to me to nominate seven other female bloggers, so I choose Rachael Thomas, Jessica Redland, Alys West, Helen Phifer, Laura James, Julie Stock and Liz Berry. If you’ve already done it, my apologies, and you don’t have to take up the banner. It’s entirely up to you. 

My questions, should you accept the challenge, are as follows:

What is your earliest memory?

What was your favourite Christmas present?

Who would you like to go on a date with? (Excluding current partners/spouses)

Which film would you choose if you could only ever watch one again?

What are you most proud of?

Which woman in history do you most admire?

Which book do you wish you’d written?

What one thing do you think would surprise other people about you?

You’ve had an unexpected windfall of one thousand pounds. What would you spend it on?

Who is your secret crush?

Over to you! Have a great week xx

You Gotta Have Friends…

I’ve never been the sort of person to want a lot of close friends. Acquaintances, yes. Workmates, yes. But true friends not so much. My husband, my kids, my brother and sister and their spouses are great friends and I love them to bits. But friends who aren’t family members are different. You have to work that little bit harder because, if you lose them, they won’t still be in your circle and they could be gone forever…

It’s a question of trust, I suppose.  I was the type of child who liked to have one or two very dear friends, who would be the centre of my world. I could confide in them, console them, laugh uncontrollably with them, unburden myself to them, moan to them, share gossip with them…basically, they were there for me and I was there for them. It was important that I could trust them, and once that trust was broken…well, it took a lot to go there again.

My first friend was Shirley. I met her on the first day of school and we were both incredibly shy. In fact, we were so shy I don’t think we’d ever have spoken to each other if our mothers hadn’t chummed up at the school gates and it turned out we lived in the same street. We entered the classroom that first day wearing the same dress. Our mothers had the same catalogue! 🙂 So we soon became firm friends, and I was truly heartbroken when she and her family moved to the next village, which may as well have been Outer Mongolia as she went to a different school. I never saw her again.

Then came Mandy. Mandy had red hair and green eyes and porcelain skin and absolutely fascinated me. I’d never seen such fabulous colouring and I wanted to be her best friend. And I was. Till another girl wanted to be her best friend, too. Rats. It’s funny how, at the age of eight, you simply cannot have two best best friends.  It was a power struggle and went on for over a year till I was completely drained. But then I got chummy with a girl called Katherine and left Mandy behind. Oddly enough, we were also very close to Janet and it never bothered us in the slightest that there were three of us. I suppose by nine we’d matured! Anyway, we were great friends and I adored them both. But then we left primary school and went to high school and lost touch as we were separated and drifted away into our different educational streams.

Carolyn was my next best friend. She was the opposite of me. Very sporty and athletic. She didn’t read much and I hated sports so I don’t know why we were such good friends, but we were. She had pet mice which I loved. My parents hated mice so when her mouse, Doris, had babies we came up with all sorts of elaborate charades to enable me to have one of them. We tried desperately to save up for a cage so that I could present it to my parents as a fait accompli. I  chose my mouse – a little black one – and called him Boris. But we never managed to get the cage and Carolyn’s parents got rid of the mice to a pet shop and that was that. We drifted apart. In fact, we had a major falling out, and I can’t for the life of me remember why, but we were never really friends again, which is sad.

By then, I was fourteen. In the year of 1978 a lot of things happened. Saturday Night Fever and Grease exploded onto the screens, the Bee Gees were playing on every radio, cassette player and record player in the country, and I chummed up with D. Now, if ever I had a best best friend it was D. We really, really connected. No one could make me laugh, infuriate me, make me think, stir my imagination and test my patience like she could. I suspect I did much the same for her. We would sit in her living room (a couple of times when we were supposed to be at school – sorry, Mum and D’s mum!) while her parents were at work and play Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush over and over again. Kate Bush was our heroine. She still is, actually. We’d ponder the meaning of life for hours, trying to work out what exactly was God? We explored different religions and spiritual paths, looked for hidden meanings in everything, discussed conspiracy theories, played our music and laughed. My God we laughed. No one could crack me up like D.

We stayed friends for a long time. In fact, she was godmother to my eldest daughter and we stayed very close until we were in our mid twenties. Then we drifted apart. I had a family and was a stay-at-home mum. She was single, working, at university, making lots of new friends and heading off on adventures such as backpacking around Ireland. It was all very different to my life. I missed her but I saw her occasionally. The last time I saw her she’d just become a mum herself. That child is now in her early twenties so you can see how long it’s been.

I don’t think I got close to anyone after that for a long time. I had friends, but not like her. It took a long time to get attached to someone else, but eventually I got closer to someone I’d known for years. In the end she was really dear to me and I think she probably knew more about me than my own husband. But things happened, we fell out (I think. I don’t remember it actually happening but it must have, I suppose?) Anyway, I haven’t seen her for around six or seven years. It makes me sad but I think it’s probably beyond repair, and I have no idea why. I would never have believed it because I honestly thought she was my best friend for life. You never can tell.

Facebook is a great invention in many ways. I had a great friend from America whom I met in the early eighties. He went back to the States and I never thought I’d hear from him again, but thanks to Facebook we’re back in touch and can message each other, share links and photos and updates and it’s brilliant to hear from him. And I got back in touch with D which was fabulous! It was nerve-wracking at first as so much had happened since we last met and I think we were both a bit nervous, but she still “gets” me, and sometimes I’ll smile when I read her posts or see a picture she’s put up because it resonates so much with me, and I’ll think, she’s still my friend, even though we haven’t seen each other for so long.  She’ll always be special to me. I hope that, one day, we’ll find the courage to actually meet up again. It would be lovely to have her back in my life properly.

And now I have a whole bunch of new friends – my writing pals. The Write Romantics are my first “gang”! 🙂 I’m lucky to live fairly close to two of them – Julie and Alex – and we meet up pretty regularly for tea and cake. I met them on Saturday. We went to a lovely little cafe in Beverley and had lunch and celebrated Julie’s book deal. We chatted about what we’d been up to since we last saw each other, caught up with our writing news and discussed our books and made plans for our anthology release. (It’s called Winter Tales – Stories to Warm Your Heart. Read about that here). It’s for two very good causes and will be launched in early November so it’s all quite exciting. I look forward to my catch-ups with Julie and Alex so much and I can’t wait to meet the other Write Romantics. I took the plunge and booked time off work for next July so that I can definitely attend the Romantic Novelists’ Association Conference in London, so I’ll be hopefully meeting at least some of them. They already feel like dear friends and have made me so welcome. I’m also hoping to meet up with lovely friends I’ve met online through writing. I feel like my life has completely changed and I’m so lucky and so blessed to have so many wonderful people in it.

Never underestimate how important friends are. I have had some dear friends that slipped through the net and I feel sad about that. If you have a close friend, let them know how much they mean to you, and be thankful that they’re in your life. I know I’m thankful for mine.

Have a great week xx