Thursday, December 05, 2019

TV Catch up

Some months back, I mentioned the fact that my husband was heading to Leeds to be involved with the making of a TV programme about a murder in his home city back in 1926. 
 This was after he wrote about the case of Louie Calvert in his book  Murder in  Mind. 

Although he filmed a couple of segments with the company - who were making the programme, Murder, Mystery and My Family- sadly, his contributions ended up on the floor of the cutting room. 

But he did alert the producers to the case, and introduced them to Louie Calvert's great-niece who is at the centre of the programme. So he was very much a consultant even if he never appeared on screen.
 I promised that I would let people know when the programme is actually going out - so for anyone interested - Murder Mystery and My Family, Episode 10 is on BBC One tomorrow morning at 9.15am


Monday, September 23, 2019

Furry birthday boy

Charlie is celebrating his birthday. He is now 9 years old ! 

So he feels his birthday portrait should be calm, handsome and dignified
 - unlike the first pictures we ever had of him when 
he was a little ginger bundle of mischief.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Writing Course details

I'm finalising the details of the Writing Romantic Fiction Course I'm running at the NAWG Festival at the end of the month. Can't believe how quickly this has come round.
Anyway the topics are:
 ESSENTIALS OF ROMANTIC FICTION
CREATING CHARACTERS, 
CONFLICT AND EMOTION
SEX AND PASSION

 - 4 workshops of 90 minutes each. There are still some places on the weekend if anyone wants to join us.
Contact NAWG.co.uk if you're interested.

(The web site might say you need to book before now - but I just dealt with a lady who thought she was too last and  NAWG organised it so that she can come on the course - so if you want to come, it's worth asking to book .)
After this, the next writing weekend will be with Relax and Write
4-6 October 2019 
at The Hayes Swanwick Derbyshire
https://www.relaxandwrite.co.uk/

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

RNA Conference Lancaster University

The RNA Conference weekend is always so much fun - and so full of interesting and enlightening events. I had a fabulous time in Lancaster, meeting up with so many friends and making lots of new ones. I went 
to some great workshops, talked with fabulous writers, drank a little wine (just a little!) and hardly slept at all. Now I'm home and have caught up on the Post Conference Lag - I'm happily recalling some extra, personal moments that made me smile just to think of them.
There was the joy of watching friends and ex-students come out of their one-to-ones smiling and full of delight at having been asked to send their full manuscripts to the editors or agents they had seen. Celebrating with another ex student on the publication of her very first novel Something Like Happy. And seeing Vasiliki Scurfield win the 'Love Story in a Tweet' competition with her great story. I also enjoyed her great workshop on getting t
he details right when writing about Greek culture - lots of room for inspiration there!
Also workshops by Fiona Harper, lovely Liz Fielding and so many others. There were the long talks deep into the night on writing, life, anything and everything. I got the chance to sit back and enjoy the Convincing Crime workshop run by my DH and his co-author Stuart Gibbon the authors of ‘THE CRIME WRITER’S CASEBOOK’ and ‘BEING A DETECTIVE’ (thanks to John Jackson for the photo taken at the Gala Dinner.)

Other unexpected delights were the bargain sale of old Mills and Boon titles where I discovered a 1968 title- Still Waters - by Marguerite Lees who was a friend of my mother's and the first professional novelist I ever met - and in whose footsteps I wanted to follow. Then there was a wonderful gift from another friend and student who made the special gesture of having a fabulous tote bag made for me - with my favourite covers on it front and back. I shall use that for any other conferences I go to in the future.



Thank you so much Andrea!


All in all - a fabulous, if exhausting weekend. I'm already looking forward to next year.

Monday, July 08, 2019

And more hedgehogs

I have seriously lost count of how many new members of the hedgehog family we now have living at the bottom of the garden - and needing food!

 Last night we were enchanted to spot this very small new visitor and I managed to snatch a photo without frightening him away. Then I heard crunching and chomping coming from another food bowl -  another tiny hedgie. 



Looking out a bit later, there were two mini hogs at bowl1, another two at bowl 2 - this little one . . .and then 2 large hogs who were facing off - huffing and snorting - over what was left in the bowl!

 Today it's 30 years since we moved in to this house and inherited the hedgehog colony at the bottom of the garden so it feels great to know that we have kept the generations alive all that time - and there are new ones stoking up towards the winter to hopefully still be here next year. With a life span of probably 4-7 years, that means that we must have had around 5 or so generations living there.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Hedgehog update

Hedgehog update - there seems to have been plenty of - er Hedgehog hanky panky in the past year because when I went out to put the kitten crunchies and some meat for the newest recruit I found that there were 3 young hogs all around the bowl. And they were being supervised by much larger hog - possibly a parent?

 The Babe Magnet has spent some of  his latest payment for articles in the Dalesman on a brand new detached hedgehog house so there should be room for all - as the original Hedgehog Towers is decidedly run down.

 But I now have the perfect excuse for the 'running wild' part of the garden. It was meant as a haven for wildlife and seems to be eminently successful in that. The cost of kitten crunchies has increased hugely though!๐Ÿ™‚๐Ÿ™‚

Not that I mind at all.  I'd rather have the hedgehogs.

Monday, July 01, 2019

Bargain Books

Just checking through book details to make sure I'd completed the PLR form and I've discovered that some of my books are currently on sale on Amazon.co.uk at 0.99p 

- so if there are any past titles you don't have on kindle - you might like to grab these:
The Groom's Revenge
Flirting With Danger
A Throne for the Taking
Hers for a Night
The Sicilian's Red-hot Revenge
A Sicilian Husband
Cordero's Forced Bride
The Married Mistress
The Hostage Bride
A Proposal to Secure His Vengeance.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Hedgehogs 2

And he (she?) is back again.


 Obviously likes an early supper and doesn't wait until dusk. 

Charlie is quite happy to share some cat meat and crunchies with him/her and they spent a long time just sitting together on the lawn.

Friday, June 28, 2019


A fine sunny day - though not as warm as tomorrow is predicted to be! - meant that we had an early evening visitor to the garden in the form of a young hedgehog who came wandering across the lawn in search of food.


 Although he was really out and about in daylight and that's usually a warning sign for a hedgehog's health, we had a good look at him and could find no signs of injury or ill health, So we offered a plate of cat meat and crunchies which he attacked with a lot of obvious enjoyment - ditto the bowl of fresh water which he slurped enthusiastically - so he was probably just hungry/thirsty and determined to get to the food before the bigger hedgies w

ho have been wandering about in the dusk most evenings this week. He didn't leave much for them !

Charlie the Maine Coon followed him on his way from the hedgehog houses and sat watching with interest as the youngster chomped his way through the meat on off. Charlie obviously thought it wasn't suitable for him as he didn't even try to share it with him!
Hedgehogs

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Foreign Parts

Well, yet more foreign editions arrived in the mail today but  I think we've seen enough of them.  Instead, people have been asking about our trip away and where we've been  - so here's a brief travel
report   now that I've woken from the jet lag and unpacking/washing.

We flew to America-  to Montana to be exact. There we met up with and stayed with the wonderful Anne McAllister. Book discussions galore - I don;t think you've seen anyone really talk until you've seen a couple of writers get together and discuss books.

Anne and I of course talked romance and looked into the prospect of possibly working together - or working with another publisher  perhaps in the future. The Babe Magnet meanwhile did lots of research into the wild west and its history. (Did I ever mention that he has a second identity as a writer of Westerns - and he's embarking on a bigger, deeper story right now. )  So he thrilled to explore the town of Cody Wyoming.  The town is  named for its legendary founder, Buffalo Bill Cody, that  remains as full of Old West adventure as it was during the days when Bill himself roamed Wyoming.

The Fountain Paint Pot is a mud pot located in
 Lower Geyser basin in Yellowstone National Park.
We drove from Montana to Cody, going through Yellowstone Park on the way and it was a real thrill to come face to face (almost literally) with the huge buffaloes that roam through there.  Encountering one right in the middle of the road  mean we decided the wisest course was to stop and wait for him to move on – which he did, eventually.  A huge animal.

In Cody we stayed in the historic Irma Hotel which was built by Buffalo Bill himself and named for his younger daughter Irma. The rooms are decorated in ‘historic’ style so you can imagine what it would have been like to stay there in the past. And there’s even a dramatized. ‘gun fight ‘ out in the street one evening.


  The Buffalo Bill Centre provides huge amounts of research information and displays so DH spent an age in there. I loved the Plains Indians displays
there - so many beautiful things. And as anyone who knows me knows that I’m partial to a pair of fancy shoes, there were several pairs of embroidered and beaded moccasins  I would have liked to bring home with me.


Montana is one of those places where the weather can change several times from sunrise to sunset. Driving through Yellowstone, in  68+degrees,  it was a shock to see snow still piled up by the roadside – in June. We ever stopped to have a game of snowballs at one point!


And there was a special delight in waking every morning to see the mountains away in the distance – that is, when the rain and the snow (yes there was a brief snowstorm!) had cleared away. So many memories - and I'm sure that so much of what we saw will end up in one book or another at some point.



Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Foreign Editions - all over the world.

It's a good week for foreign editions - the Norwegian and Danish ones yesterday, and I found myself in a 3 in 1 collection with none other than Nora Roberts!  That's quite something.


 There were some German editions before that - and now today these great Manga editions.

I love the Manga versions of my stories and there's a special delight in seeing one of the graphic editions translated into English so I can read the words as well as delight in the illustrations.


So there's the Manga version of The Devil and Miss Jones with the runaway bride and her biker hero. 




 Then this fabulous collection of different stories with Miranda Lee, Sharon
Josephine Kendrick, and Chantelle Shaw has The Sicilian's Wife included, and finally the English-translation of the Japanese-translation of the Manga The Antonakos Marriage. 



 The covers are just amazing and you can really get the atmosphere and emotions of the books through the graphic novels inside. I  love them.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Back home

I've been away - travelling, researching, discussing writing, books and heroes (it's a hard job but someone has to do it!) with the wonderful Anne McAllister but now I'm back.

Have slept away jet lag (I hope), done six tonnes of washing which is proving impossible to get dry in the torrential downpours we're experiencing. But today I went to one of my favourite events of the year.

I was at the local library, handing out the certificates to the successful students who have completed The Reading Agency's Reading Ahead 6 book challenge. It was wonderful to meet all the students who have struggled with their reading but have managed to complete the 6 books through the year and were celebrating getting their 'Completer' certificates. This is the third year I've done this and this time there was the largest numbers of successful students - 45 in total. It's always such a happy occasion as they show their enthusiasm and sense of achievement.

I was asked to give a short talk as well (not an easy thing when I'm still feeling as if my brain is left in America where I was till the beginning of the week . But I talked about my personal 6 books - books that meant a lot to me and everyone seems to have enjoyed it.

Thank you again to North Lincolnshire Libraries for inviting me to join them and present the certificates. I had a great afternoon and it was a fantastic way to encourage these students to read and enjoy books.

Now I have to go and add some extra feed to the run-down supplies for the hedgehogs who have been well looked after while we were away, but are snuffling about in the garden, demanding to know when supper will be served. I have a suspicion that there are more of them than when we went away!!

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Writing retreats

Writers' retreats are one of the best things in life

 Even if you don't actually write a lot the talk is always about writing/publishing/romance novels/heroines/ heroes - definitely heroes! We spent a wonderful weekend retreat in a fabulous old Rectory in Worcestershire and covered so much ground (writing-wise!) that we needed a little wine to keep us going. I didn't want to home - but I had  another writers' convention to look forward to.


 Now I'm planning and organising the trip to visit - and discuss writing plans - with the wonderful Anne McAllister - there will be yet more book talk, writing, publishing discussions etc . . can't wait!

Friday, May 24, 2019

Spring Birdwatching

This happens every year.

 I heard recently that there is supposed to be a shortage of starlings. with numbers very much reduced. Not in our garden. We have had regular visits from a gang of adult birds for months and this last week or so they have been joined by an equally large number of nestlings, newly emerged from the home nest. These youngsters are often as big as - if not bigger - than the poor mother bird and perfectly capable of getting their own food, specially when I put out seeds, fat cakes and mealworms for them all to enjoy. 

But they still appear to think they are little babies and need mum's help to get the food. Every morning there is a loud ruckus of 'little' ones - who are standing on a lawn scattered with
mealworms - shrieking 'feed me ! Feed me!' They stand there with their beaks wide open while the poor mother bird picks the food up from round their feet and stuffs it into their gaping mouths


. This morning I watched one poor mother bird working so hard to feed 3 demanding youngsters - all bigger than her - while if the 'little ones' only looked down, they would have seen the feast that was scattered around their feet. The noise of their demands was deafening.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

More TV connections

Last week DH went 'back home' when he was filmed as a contribution to a TV programme about a crime 
set there. He enjoyed visiting his past home town as well, as being involved in the programme.

 This week it's my turn to be reminded of the place I grew up as the BBC shows Gentleman Jack - the story of the unconventional Anne Lister of Shibden Hall just outside Halifax. As girls, my sisters and I often went to Shibden Park in which the hall was set - for picnics or walks or rowing a boat on the lake. Later, a friend of mine from school became the curator of the Hall for a time.

 We thought we knew a lot about the history of the Hall - but back then the amazing diaries Anne Lister wrote in code telling the story of her life as well as her 
lesbian life and many affairs had not yet been published.

For the next few weeks I shall be able to go back to my childhood days and memories as I watch the TV drama and spot places I knew and often visited in my past. I always loved Shibden Hall and it's wonderful to see it again - even if only on TV

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Living with a TV star!

So today is a big day for the Babe Magnet. He set off at silly o'clock to go to Leeds where he is filming in his role of consultant on a TV investigation of a murder (maybe murders?) in Leeds early last century. Can't reveal details as yet but when it's all sorted I can share.

It's interesting though, the way that your 'birthplace/home town' can reach out and involve one even when you've moved away and haven't lived in the city for -eek! Half a century!!   

This has all come about following the publication of his book Murder in Mind in which - as the blurb says - "he looks at his favourite investigations in his home county of Yorkshire, rich with villainous acts, painstaking investigations and outright injustices." One particular case has always intrigued him and he's had a chance to investigate it further - and now contribute to this programme. Should be a fascinating day - and the sun's even shining!

Sunday, May 12, 2019

ME Awareness



As well as being Mother’s Day, May 12th is also the anniversary of the birth of a famous and admirable woman – Florence Nightingale.  I’m sure you know the story of the way that she went out to help with nursing the wounded injured in the Crimean War.  In 1860, Nightingale laid the foundation of professional nursing with the establishment of her nursing school at St Thomas' Hospital in London,  the world’s first School of Nursing.

Nightingale became chronically ill in her mid-thirties with a Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS)-like illness. She was often bedridden for the last 50 years of her life. Despite suffering from a debilitating illness, she managed to found the world’s first School of Nursing.   Because of this, May 12th has been designated as International Awareness Day for Chronic Immunological and Neurological Diseases (CIND) since 1992. The CIND illnesses include Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Fibromyalgia (FM), Gulf War Syndrome (GWS) and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS).

I don’t talk about this much – in fact, I’m not sure whether I’ve mentioned it before, but ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is something I’ve lived with for years. I can recall almost exactly the time it started to affect my life.  I had glandular fever and I was really struggling.  You need to rest, the doctor said – lots of rest.  Inset hollow laughter here. I had  a two and a half year old son – active, intelligent – demanding.  A husband who was dealing with a new job, often working teaching evening classes, we’d just moved house  so my chances of ‘rest’ were limited.  I didn’t know then that this sort of situation was the perfect seeding ground for ME/CFS.

There was no such diagnosis possible back then.  ‘ME’ was not recognised – and of course was known as ‘Yuppie Flu’.   Some doctors refused to recognise it as an illness at all. I remember one doctor who told me that I either admitted I  ‘just’ had depression  - or he would refuse to see me again. Guess what, I left that practice and turned my back on him. I was depressed because I was ill. Not ‘pretending’ to be ill because I was depressed. The hardest thing in those days was the  seemingly endless shuttling  from one doctor to another, the tests  for this, that and the other in the hope that someone could tell me what was wrong. And being told it was all in my mind.

These days there is a blood test that shows problems that create ME/CFS   which is a great help. The condition can also  often lead to the added complication of fibromyalgia. Another illness that some people refuse to admit exists. I have acute fibromyalgia as well as the ME  and at times it can be very unpleasant indeed.

The main symptom of CFS/ME is feeling overwhelmingly tired and generally unwell. Symptoms vary from person to person, and the severity of symptoms can vary from day to day, or even within a day.  This fatigue  doesn't go away with rest or sleep. This can make it difficult to carry out everyday tasks and activities.

Other symptoms of CFS/ME include: sleep problems, such as insomnia, muscle or joint pain, headache, a sore throat or sore glands that aren't swollen , problems thinking, remembering or concentrating , flu-like symptoms, feeling dizzy or sick , fast or irregular heartbeats (heart palpitations)

But  - people say when I  tell them I have ME  - you write books, you teach, you travel. Yes I do, because I refuse to give in to this thing. I do things that matter to me – even though sometimes after a journey I’ve made, a course I’ve taught or  a book I’ve written, I need time out to recover.

Why mention this now? Well, really because I’ve seen the posters and the messages, how people are talking about International  ME Awareness Day and  I think it’s important to ‘come out’ – and acknowledge this problem. Because ME is an invisible disease. You can’t tell from someone’s appearance whether they have it. You can’t see if it’s a ‘good’ day or a day when the symptoms have spiked and someone is feeling very ill indeed.

 Personally, this last year has not been a good one.  So writing has not been good either. People have started to ask questions about the lack of new books from me – so I thought International Awareness Day seemed like a good day to talk about one of the reasons for that.

I know there are so many others who are dealing with this illness. They have good days and bad days.  Some end up in wheelchairs.  Some are housebound. I know I couldn’t do as much as I do without the loving support of my husband.

So I just thought I’d do my bit to raise awareness of this problem. It’s one that so many people live with as ‘normal’ but because  it’s an invisible disease so you might never be aware that someone has it.











Mother's Day


I've never been quite sure why the UK's Mother's Day is on a different date to - well, the rest of the world, it seems. But I want to wish a Happy Mothers' Day to everyone who is celebrating it today. (Well - to any mother anywhere!)


A  couple of years ago, Mother’s Day weekend had a special impact for me as it fell on the date when we would have celebrated my mother’s 100th birthday. We still celebrated it actually. My sisters and I met up to share a dinner and to raise a toast to her memory.  That way we could follow the advice she left us in her final message to us – a note she wrote to all of us in what she knew were her last days. ‘You have been my joy all your lives,’ she wrote.  ‘I love you. Love one another.’ 


My greatest delight and my greatest sadness came together on the day that I received the letter (there wasn’t ‘the call’ back then!) to say that Mills & Boon were accepting my first novel, The Chalk Line, which was the same day as she was given a diagnosis of terminal cancer.   We had hoped that she would live long enough to read my first novel in print – she refused to read the typescript because she was holding on in order to be able to  hold the book in her hands. Sadly, she didn’t quite manage it, but the doctors said that she lived much longer than they had ever anticipated. I like to think the thought of seeing my book was one of the things that kept her going.



My mother taught me to read. She instilled in me a love of books and reading. Because of her there were always books available at home to feed the reading hunger she created. She also dreamed of being a writer herself and had several poems published in her early twenties. I have one hazy memory of her sitting at a writing desk we had in our Yorkshire home, writing away on what I thought were letters, but later, discovered that in fact she was working on some children’s stories. I don’t know what happened to those tales – which is such a pity as I think she would have been a magical story teller herself.

She also read aloud to us – often by a real coal fire so that we could curl up beside her,  close our eyes, and see the pictures in the story inside our heads… Listening to those stories, concentrating solely  on what I was  hearing, focusing on the way characters behaved, the dialogue they spoke was the best possible training ground for learning how a novel worked on an instinctive and gut level. 


I have no doubt that listening to those stories and then drifting off to sleep with them in my head, I took the first steps on the road to becoming the writer I am today, with a storytelling skill learned, literally, at my mother’s knee! I made up stories to myself, finished off the tales she hadn’t yet  brought to an end, imagined how the characters she had created or read about would have behaved. And I learned the basics of simple, straightforward story-telling , building up excitement, using dialogue as a result.


Happy  Mother's Day to all mothers  today.  I hope it is a lovely day for you.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Spring Hedgehogs 2

So when you have put out the right food for any wandering hedgehogs who might visit your garden - how do you know that they have called in during the night and eaten the cat biscuits you left for them?

They politely turn the bowl over to show they've had enough! Or at least that's what our family of hedgehogs do - it's their way of saying thank you.


I'm taking a small break - so I just wanted to wish everyone who celebrates it a very happy Easter - and if Easter's not your thing- then happy Spring Weekend to you all. (Though it's more like summer here right now.) I hope you can relax and enjoy.

Spring's arrival means the hedgehogs come out of hibernation.

I've been encouraging hedgehogs into my garden ever since we moved here 30 years ago!! Luckily they keep coming. It's important to feed them the right diet to keep them healthy and strong as well as appeasing their hunger. so I wanted to share this with you
NB - that second bowl should read 'Mealworms' not mealwoms!!
Image may contain: food
New Milton Hedgehog Rescue

IMPORTANT REMINDER about MEALWORMS
Please spread the word to everyone you know who feeds their visiting hedgehogs not to put out large amounts of dried MEALWORMS for them.
There are increasing reports and findings, not just in our area but all over the country of the crippling effects that giving a hedgehog a bad diet is having on them.
Mealworms especially but also sunflower hearts & peanuts are very high in Phosphorous and very low in Calcium and this is being linked to be the possible cause of Bone Disease in hedgehogs.
All of us feed them because we care so let's at least give them a good diet.
For more information regarding this issue please read this great article published by Lynda Britchford of Oxton Hedgehog Rescue.
https://www.facebook.com/notes/oxton-wild-hedgehog-rehab/what-can-i-feed-visiting-wild-hedgehogs-that-is-good-for-them/769239736585477/

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Busy days

It's been a busy time here lately - specially for the Babe Magnet.

He was at Huddersfield Lit Festival ten days ago  - today he's giving a talk at Doncaster Library . . .

and at the same time he's in discussion about another TV appearance on a programme about one of the cases that has most fascinated him over his crime writing career. 

This one focusses on a Leeds murder from the past. More when I can reveal details.



At least maybe today I'll get a chance to be at my own desk.

Friday, March 01, 2019

Happy St David's Day

Happy St David's Day to everyone but specially to so many wonderful friends from Wales who have been part of my life for years.

 Way back when, childhood family holidays were spent in Trearddur Bay in Anglesey where my Irish aunt came across on the ferry to Holyhead to join us.

 Then I spent five years in Aberystwyth at the University of Wales. Most importantly, I met my husband there. And although we moved away to live in Lincolnshire, our connections with Wales have stayed strong. We have friends and writing connections with this beautiful country that have grown and developed over years of attending and teaching at  Writers Holidays. (I've just finished teaching at the latest Fishguard Weekend and can't wait to go back for the next one.) 

And today, appropriately, one of my first ever Fishguard students who has moved on to being a multi-published author, Rachael Thomas is celebrating the publication of her latest book today. (She also has a special spring giveaway so why not check out her Facebook page for a chance to win.)
So it's no wonder that Wales and the Welsh have a very special place in my heart.
Dydd Gลตyl Dewi Hapus to you all.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Writing Courses

Did you decide that as your new year resolution, that this is the year you are determined to write your
romantic novel?

 Would you like some help with that - a weekend learning about writing, discussing writing, making friends - in a welcoming atmosphere with lots of laughter - and perhaps a little wine?

 I've just finalised my teaching timetable for 2019 and the weekend courses start in February - at Fishguard Bay Hotel. Friday 15th February – Sunday 17th February 2019
For the first time in a long time - well, since I set up this special Advance Romance Writing Course - I still have places on the February course so if you're interested, contact me - or Gerald Hobbs at   Writers'  Holiday.net  who organises the whole Writing Weekend for details. I'm so looking forward to seeing so many familiar faces - and I'd be happy to make new friends this year.
Other courses are coming up but I'll post the details of them later.   They will  be with Relax  and Write if you want to check out their web site.
 

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