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.

In Praise of Libraries

Today (February 6th) is National Libraries Day, and the internet has been full of articles about the importance of libraries, and information about events that are being held to celebrate this special day. Which got me thinking about my own experience of libraries, and also made me realise that my relationship with them has changed dramatically. And not in a good way.

My first experience of a library – that I can remember, anyway – was when I was around four or five years old. Having sat through an assembly at school and hearing the Nativity story for the first time in my life, I was so enamoured of this miraculous tale that I wanted to know more about it. My dad simply said, ‘Well, let’s go to the library and you can get a book about it.’

The library was above the Town Hall

The library was above the Town Hall

Now, I may or may not have visited the library before this, but I really don’t remember any previous visits. So off we went, me and my dad, to the local library, which was above the town hall. I well remember my dad pushing open that door at the side of the building, and the creaking of the stairs as we made our way up to the first floor. Opening the library door, I was faced with a large counter, where solemn looking librarians stamped books with silent authority. The stamping of books fascinated me. I wanted to be a librarian for years, just so I could stamp books.

The main room of the library was, unsurprisingly, given over to adult books, but

Ladybird Book of Baby Jesus

Ladybird Book of Baby Jesus

there was a small room that was purely for children, and, oh! What heaven lay behind that door. On that particular visit I found a Ladybird Book of Baby Jesus and fell upon it in delight. Later visits yielded treasures such as Paddington, the Wombles, Stig of the Dump, Babar and Milly-Molly-Mandy.

I was lucky. My mum and dad were avid readers, and my dad would often take me to the library where I was allowed to choose two or three books. As I got a bit older, I was allowed to go alone, and would spend hours in there, choosing books and sitting at the little table by the window, browsing through them and deciding which ones I would take home with me that day.

Milly-Molly-Mandy

Milly-Molly-Mandy

As I got even older and could venture into the city on my own on the bus, I would take my pocket money each week and head to WH Smith to choose a new pony book every Saturday. But before I reached that age, the library was essential to me. Our little town had only one bookshop, and it wasn’t a particularly large one. Often, books had to be ordered and there would be an agonising wait for weeks until the stock arrived. I remember having The Cat that Walked a Week, by Meindert Dejong, read to me at school, and deciding that there was nothing that I wanted in my life more than that book. I begged my mum to buy me a copy. She was reluctant. It was a hardback book and quite expensive, but eventually she agreed and placed an order. I had to wait for ages until we got a call from the shop to say it had arrived. It wasn’t that easy to get new books. They weren’t cheap. There were no Kindles, no Amazon. The

The Cat that Walked a Week

The Cat that Walked a Week

library kept me sane.

I only really got new books at Christmas. They were my favourite presents. Invariably, they were Enid Blyton books, all hardbacks, and usually I would get at least three from my parents, who recognised my addiction to reading and, thankfully, encouraged it.  But three books a year would never have been enough for me. Those visits to the library were essential.

School libraries were a wonderful discovery, too. Packed to the rafters with books I couldn’t wait to get my hands on. I could never have afforded to buy them all. With a library at school and a library round the corner from my home, I never had to worry about running out of reading material.

When my own children were little, I took them all to the local library and they soon had their own little tickets. After school, I would take them there and let them choose books, while I browsed for yet more myself.

With the advent of the IT age, spaces were cleared so that computers could be set up in the libraries. My childhood library closed and a new one opened, modern and spacious with lots of glass and no creaky stairs. I realised that librarians didn’t just specialise in stamping books – not that they ever had, of course. But now, it wasn’t just books they had to know about. They had to understand the world wide web and information technology. Reference books were less in demand. We had Google, after all. Paperbacks were on sale in supermarkets. I could download a book I wanted to read in seconds to my brand new Kindle.

Hello Mr Twiddle

Hello Mr Twiddle

To my shame, I haven’t been to a library for some years now. Thinking about them today, I realise how vital they were to me and to my own children. There must be many people who still rely on them. Not everyone has access to technology at home. Not everyone has money to spare for books. Libraries have changed and adapted, holding events to help and encourage youngsters to read, classes to teach information technology, “meet-the-author” evenings and talks…Libraries are having to fight back, because so many have closed. It’s easy to blame the authorities for the closure of the libraries, but we have to look to ourselves, too. How many of us use them regularly? How many of us use them at all?

I am so thankful that I had access to a good library, and that I was lucky enough to have parents who recognised the importance of reading, and were happy to take me there. I hope that libraries will be around for a long, long time, revealing new worlds to young children, opening doors for all those eager to learn and discover. It would be a sadder world without them.

Have a great week xx

October’s Swings and Roundabouts

I can’t believe how fast the year is moving on, and that it’s almost November already. I’ve had a bit of a mixed October, truth to tell. You just never know what’s in store for you, and maybe that’s a good thing.

Hull Fair (Wikipedia)

Hull Fair (Wikipedia)

The month started in its usual fashion. October isn’t my favourite month. I don’t look forward to the clocks going back an hour, and leaving work in the darkness isn’t my idea of fun. Even the prospect of Europe’s largest travelling fair arriving in Hull doesn’t cheer me up much, because I rarely go these days. Hull Fair was only something to look forward to with great excitement when I was a child. As a parent of young children it was something that had to be budgeted for – those rides did not come cheap, and nor did the food and toys that inevitably had to be purchased before we could leave, trailing five tired but happy children behind us. Now I’m older, I can’t stand the thought of shuffling down a jam-packed street, full of stalls and caravans, barely able to move forward for the crowds of people. Not to mention all the noise and bright lights blaring from  the rides. No thanks. The only thing I like about the fair is the brandysnap, and since my daughter was going she offered to buy me a bag of it, so no need to venture anywhere near, thank God.

I’d been cutting out sugar all October, so I asked her to hang on to the brandysnap until November. I was surprised how easy I was finding it to give up the sweet snacks. DH and I had decided to do our own version of Stoptober, giving up junk food instead of cigarettes (I don’t smoke and the chances of him quitting are zilch) and we were doing well, but the best laid plans and all that…

One morning last week, I woke up at 3am, and realised I was in pain. It was right in the middle of my tummy, and I wondered if it was something I’d eaten. I don’t like taking painkillers if I can possibly avoid it, so I struggled to get back to sleep for half an hour, but it wasn’t going away. Reluctantly, I headed downstairs, took two paracetamol and filled a hot water bottle and went back to bed. I eventually fell asleep, but within a couple of hours I was awake and in pain again. DH was awake by then, so we went downstairs and I topped up the hot water bottle and tried to pretend it wasn’t happening. By 7.45 I felt bad enough to ring work and tell them I wouldn’t be coming in. By lunch time, I was in enough pain to start panicking. The pain had moved to the lower right hand side of my abdomen, and I had a horrible feeling I knew what was happening. When I couldn’t get upstairs without crying out in agony at every step, I knew I couldn’t mess around any longer.

flowers from mum and sister

flowers from mum and sister

By some miracle, I managed to get an appointment with my GP that afternoon, and a quick examination later, I was on the way to A & E with a letter from my doctor clutched in my hand. I was in that department for five and a half hours, during which time I had bloods taken, a canula fitted, tubes carrying IV antibiotics and painkillers attached, and had been examined and prodded by three further doctors, who were all pretty certain it was appendicitis, but felt it necessary to jab me right on the site of the pain, just to make sure. Eventually, I was admitted to the ward. By this time it was midnight, and I was nil by mouth, as it was thought I would be having an operation the next day.

The following morning, after reluctantly donating what seemed like an armful of blood, and having been turned into a human pin cushion, I had a CT scan which confirmed the diagnosis, and I was told I’d be operated on that day. I waited and waited, signing a consent form and continuing to be nil by mouth while my “ward mates” drank tea and scoffed their meals, and finally, at half past eleven at night, the anaesthetist came to see me, to talk me through the procedure, and explain the risks. She’d just gone off to see the ward sister when the surgeon arrived to tell me that the operation was being cancelled. He said that, due to a shortage of staff after midnight, they didn’t like to carry out these procedures, unless it was life or death, at that time of night, but would schedule me for the next morning. I could have something to eat and drink, and then be nil by mouth again from 2am.

The nurse brought me a cup of tea and some cheese and crackers, and it was the finest meal I’d ever had. By then I was starving. Due to our attempts at Stoptober, I’d fasted the day before the pain started. On the day I went to the doctor’s, I’d only managed a few spoonfuls of cereal first thing that morning, as I felt sick, and then I’d been nil by mouth. All told, I’d not eaten or drunk anything for around forty-two hours, and believe me, the intravenous fluids were no match for a cream cracker and a chunk of Cheddar!

I was taken down to theatre at around three in the afternoon, and text DH to let him know. Unfortunately, an emergency came in, and I was told the operation was being postponed for a couple of hours, so I was left on the trolley waiting. I couldn’t let anyone know but I assumed someone would have told them back on the ward. They hadn’t. My “ward mates” were chewing their nails wondering what the hell was taking so long, and poor DH and my kids were having nervous breakdowns. I, meanwhile, was having a nice chat with a friendly little nurse and a rather lovely New Zealand ex-rugby player with a broken leg, who was lying on the trolley next to mine, while we flicked through the channels on the television remote, arguing about what to watch. He wanted to see some cookery programme, which personally I thought was just cruel, considering how long we’d been starved. We both agreed that Jeremy Kyle was the one thing we’d never want to see. We eventually settled on The Big Bang Theory, although he got carted off for his op and missed it, and the friendly little nurse talked all the way through it, but hey ho. I finally had my operation at half past five the following evening, and by eight o’clock the next morning I was having breakfast and, apart from a headache, I felt absolutely fine, if a bit sore.

Write Romantic flowers

Write Romantic flowers

I was discharged that afternoon, and headed home feeling a bit shell-shocked at how quickly everything had happened, and how suddenly appendicitis had come on. I’d been fine all day, and gone to bed feeling perfectly well. It was astonishing how quickly it flared up – although, looking back, I had been a bit nauseous for a couple of days. On the plus side, I’d had a lot of fun playing with the electric bed and recreating the scene in The Simpsons – “Bed goes up, bed goes down” – and I was home in plenty of time for Doctor Who.

So, unexpectedly, I had a sick note for two weeks off work. I’m still sore, and don’t feel a hundred per cent, but it’s not been as bad I expected. I was lucky. I know two members of my family who really suffered badly when they had appendicitis, so I feel I got off lightly, all told. I also couldn’t have wished for kinder, calmer, lovelier nursing staff. They were absolutely delightful and I’m so grateful to them.

I was treated to a lovely bunch of flowers by my mum and sister when they came to see me the following day. As if that wasn’t enough, the next day, a gorgeous basket of flowers arrived, with love from my Write Romantic buddies. I was so touched and they really cheered me up. Then, just yesterday, another huge bouquet arrived, complete with a  box of chocolates, from all my mates at work. They’ve all been really lovely, considering how short staffed they are, and how much pressure they must be under with me adding to their burden.

flowers from colleagues

flowers from colleagues

With my wounds healing and my discomfort lessening – in spite of the rather fetching surgical stockings that I have to wear for six weeks – I thought October would settle down. But no. The next thing was that our daughter’s little Cavalier, Rosie, was taken seriously ill. At eleven years old, she’d done very well for a dog of that breed, having no weight issues and only starting to have health problems in the last year. She has heart failure and has been on medication for some months, but has always kept her inquisitive nature and been almost as lively as ever. I’d bought Rosie when she was just eleven weeks old, but when my daughter left home, she took her with her, as she couldn’t bear to be parted from her, and she took our other dog, Jake, with her, too, as Rosie couldn’t bear to be parted from him, leaving us with our German Shepherd. However, we still see Rosie and Jake whenever we visit our daughter, who doesn’t live far away, and she’s still very much part of our family. So when we heard that Rosie had been rushed to the vet’s we were very worried. The news wasn’t good. The vet explained that she had only days to live, and it would be kinder to put her to sleep. My daughter and daughter-in-law brought her round to say goodbye, and we all cried. It was hard to believe she could be so ill, as she was still wandering round the living room, sniffing every corner, wagging her tail at us. But the vet had found a very feeble pulse, and her gums had been white. He said that her heart couldn’t physically do the work it was supposed to do any more.

Rosie

Rosie

Rosie went back to the vet at 7pm and DH and I watched the clock with tears in our eyes, feeling sick. Imagine our amazement when, just twenty minutes later, Rosie was carried back into our living room, and we learned that she’d made a miraculous recovery. The vet thought she must have had a heart attack that morning, which had caused the problem, but she was now trotting round, with her pulse back to normal and her gums pink again. Unbelievable! This time we all cried for joy. Personally, I think it must have been the steak that they treated her to as her “last supper”.

Since then, Rosie has had a couple of days of feeling tired, and she’s wearing special doggy nappies due to the tablets she’s on making her incontinent, but she went to the vet again today, and he’s happy with her. She’s tucking into scrambled egg and enjoying all the fuss. We know she may not have long, but for now she’s had a reprieve, and we couldn’t be happier.

Finally, my last news for now is that, on Thursday 22nd October, my first pocket novel for People’s Friend appeared in the shops. All Because of Baxter is on sale right now, and it’s about how a dog can change your life for the better, in the most unexpected ways. That has never seemed more appropriate!

I had dreamed about going to WH Smith and seeing my book on the shelves,

All Because of Baxter

All Because of Baxter

but, unfortunately, I wasn’t up to going into town. However, it was great to see it in our local supermarket, and I snapped up three copies. My mum went to WH Smith and bought the very last copy! She then went to Asda and bought another three copies, and to another shop where she got the last two copies. These have been duly distributed to her neighbours and some of our relatives. Bless her, she’s my biggest fan. She was pretty disgruntled to discover, however, that no matter how many copies she sold for me, I wouldn’t be paid any extra! I can’t explain the sense of achievement I felt, seeing my name on a People’s Friend pocket novel. I don’t know if it’s because People’s Friend is such a big and well-respected brand, or if it’s because I could finally see one of my books on an actual shelf in a physical shop, rather than on screen in Amazon’s virtual store. Maybe it was a combination of both. I know it delighted my mum that she could go into a shop and see a novel with her daughter’s name on it sitting there.

So that was my October, and there’s still a week to go! Stoptober went out of the window, as I’ve eaten loads since getting home from hospital, so I may have to do it all over again next month. I hardly dare think what may happen before I turn the page of the calendar and we head into November. Let’s hope the eleventh month will be a bit quieter all round! 🙂

Have a great week xxx

O is for Obsessive Stationery Purchasing Disorder

Ois for Obsessive Stationery Purchasing Disorder. I didn’t make that up. It’s a real condition. Well, I’m absolutely sure it must be, because several of my friends seem to be fellow sufferers.

It’s bad enough trying to pass a book shop or a book stall at a market when you’re trying to avoid buying more books, without the added pressure of avoiding stationery. I love book shops. I love the smell and the feel and the look of books. They don’t even have to be new, to be honest. If I see a market stall selling second hand books I’m straight in there. I got a bargain at the market in Chesterfield town centre during the switch-on of the Christmas lights. When everyone else was looking the other way, I noticed an immaculate copy of a biography of Matt Smith just sitting there, looking at me. It was a hardback with a clean and complete cover, and it was fifty pence. Fifty pence! It didn’t stay sitting on the market stall for long, I can tell you that much!

My children learnt many, many years ago, that when we are out and about and a book shop looms into view, I will be lost to them entirely unless they take drastic action. Hence, I can guarantee that when I’m a few feet away from Waterstones or WH Smith or any other book shop in the area, my arm will be firmly grabbed and I will be steered well away, with the words, ‘Oh no you don’t, Mother!’ ringing in my ears.

blog pic2

Some of my note books

The trouble is, it’s not just books I need to avoid. It’s stationery, too. I love it. Scrapbooks, journals, diaries, post-its, planners, and note books. Note books…Oh, I’m drifting away again. My sister once bought me an absolutely beautiful Nemesis Now note book. It had a slate cover with a fairy sitting on a crescent moon on the front and a gorgeous red rose on the back. There was even a matching pen. It’s the best present she’s ever bought me, and to be fair to her, she’s bought me some lovely things over the years. I still have it, because it’s far too precious to write in! You can see it in the bottom centre of the photograph.

Recently I discovered Paperchase. I know, I know, it’s been around forever and just about everybody seems to have heard of it but me. I was in Beverley, having met up with my pals Julie and Alex, and I was wandering down the street on my way to meet my husband to go home, when out of the corner of my eye, I glimpsed it…

Obviously, I was lost. It’s hard enough in Beverley, which in one small area has the most fantastic second hand book shop, an Oxfam book shop, two discount book shops, a WH Smith book shop and now Paperchase. And that’s just in the tiny area I was in. Goodness knows what else I’d discover if I ventured further afield. I’d been in all the other shops, but never Paperchase, but the display in the window was too much to resist, so in I went.

Oh my! Have you been in there? Have you seen the gorgeous hand-stitched journals? The magnetic closing diaries? The beautiful scrapbooks? I stood there, stroking the covers and sighing, and then I thought I must be getting some very odd looks. But when I looked round, everyone else seemed to be stroking covers and sighing, too. The assistants just smiled and nodded, as if we were fully expected to behave in such a fashion and I began to wonder if the air was drugged. But no – the simple truth is, a lot of people have Obsessive Stationery Purchasing Disorder. My fellow Write Romantics have it, too. They totally understand that, when I wander into a stationery store, I may as well have stepped into the wardrobe and found Narnia, because I sure won’t be coming out of there any time soon. Julie actually bought me a lovely hand-stitched note book with a typewriter on the front (bottom left of the picture) when I found out There Must Be An Angel was going to published. She also got me some lovely coloured gel pens. I love writing with them.

My next purchase will be a Paperchase scrapbook so that I can keep all my Write Romantic news and clips in there. We’ve featured in Romance Matters (the Romantic Novelists Association magazine) and Writing Magazine so far. I definitely want to keep all those cuttings and hopefully add to them.

I foresee a steady stream of stationery purchases ahead over the coming years. It’s inevitable when you have this disorder. I’m not sure if there’s any cure. But you know what? Even if there is, I think this is one condition I’d rather like to keep.

Have a great day xx

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