Proud, passionate and wilful, Hettie and Alexander are alike in so many ways. That has to be a good thing, doesn’t it? Or it could be a disaster…both carry scars, and old wounds have a habit of causing new hurt.
Physical attraction draws them together but hearts and minds can be thorny. One thing is certain, together or apart their lives will move on. Alexander and Hettie’s clashes of spirit will only be part of the story.
Second chances. New beginnings. The opportunity to make things right. Or to make the same mistakes all over again.
The kettle’s just boiled, so I’ll hand you over to Lorna, and she’ll tell you about the ‘hoppity dance’…
I think farmers and writers are quite similar really. People in both careers tend to like spending time alone, enjoying the peace and quiet, are resilient and often have a dog as their best friend. Therefore, being a farmer and a writer means that all of the above applies to me – doublefold!
Brian and I returned to dairy farming in Ireland in 2002 after spending 12 years in England, most of which was spent living and working in Salisbury: Brian as a scientist and I as a teacher. I’m not sure if it was the time spent away from farming that helps me to see the humour but it’s certainly the “if I don’t laugh, I’ll cry” moments that inspire stories for my books.
Just like how you, Sam, gain inspiration from your surroundings for your rustic romance books, I do the same but my books are nonfiction, with a tongue-in-cheek look at what life is like on the farm complete with tips on how to survive it. Wives will discover “how to wear an apron and wellies with flair” and men will find out how best to introduce a new girlfriend to the farm and how to ensure his mother will approve. They are best described, I suppose, as useful tips with plenty of tongue-in-cheek humour.
My first book was inspired by a session of sorting Friesian calves into two batches: males and females. I was standing in the gateway with the job of turning back any male calves and letting female calves through while Brian tried to send female calves my way. It was impossible for me to see between their legs to tell the sex so I was reliant on vague instructions like “The BLACK ONE – quick, the BLACK one”. Now, did that mean that I was to stop the black one or let it through? All three of the calves coming towards me were black and white. I couldn’t tell that the one he meant was slightly blacker on the other side, the side that my beloved could see. My limbs ended up doing an involuntary “hoppity dance”.My body didn’t know whether to stay in the gateway, run after the “wrong one” that had got through or try to skulk off.
That evening I wrote a blog post entitled “Advice to those considering marrying a farmer ” and within a relatively short time, it had 60,000 views which inspired the idea for a book. But would people read it? They were interested in my blog post but would they pay for a book? The only way to find out was to run a crowdfunding campaign asking people to pre-order. It was successful and within another three months Would You Marry A Farmer? was published. That was November 2013.
Two more books followed: In How to be a Perfect Farm Wife I give others the benefit of learning from my mistakes and also share tips on how to CHEAT and convince others you’re perfect. An Ideal Farm Husband shows him how to cope when he discovers his new wife isn’t telepathic, amongst many other things.
Farming is one of those occupations where things don’t always go to plan. Yes, we have the “if I don’t laugh, I’ll cry” moments more often than we care to admit. If I can help even one person to have a better day, it’s great news to me. One of the best compliments I’ve received was from a farmer saying my books were the best money he ever spent. His wife was city born and bred. Whenever he made any of the “mistakes” outlined in my book, she knew it was typical farmer behaviour. Rather than arguing, they both laughed!
This was never going to be a conventional love story. No bed of roses.
Proud, passionate and wilful, Hettie and Alexander are alike in so many ways. That has to be a good thing, doesn’t it?
Or it could be a disaster…both carry scars, and old wounds have a habit of causing new hurt. Physical attraction draws them together. Hearts and minds can be thorny.
Together, or apart, their lives will move on and Alexander and Hettie’s clashes of spirit will only be part of the story. Second chances. New beginnings. The opportunity to make things right. Or to make the same mistakes all over again.
What better place for my new book signing than down at the local, and how lucky are we to have such a gem on our doorstep?
‘The Local’ – a pub where locals meet for a catch-up and pint, a g&t and gossip, or a dinner of hearty pub grub (next to the roaring log burner). The heart of the village! All cliches because they’re true, be it the Fox and Hounds in Draymere, or the pub down the road from you. So I’m very grateful that our lovely hosts are letting little-old-me use their warm and welcoming bar for my book chat.
Grateful, but a tiny bit panicked. It doesn’t come natural, this speaking in pub(lic) lark, I’d far rather write it down. I’m talking to myself in the mirror again (the first sign of author madness?) and practising my signature, which should be easy, but I managed to sign Sam Reading the other day (it started so well).
My special authograph pen (gifted by eldest daughter) is primed and ready to go. I’ve managed to find passages in the book which I can read out loud and (a) don’t give the plot away, (b) aren’t too steamy. But my mind is inventing first night fears – what if no one turns up? What if someone turns up? I pity the poor sods who wander down for a quiet pint and find themselves thrust into romance. Or maybe they’ll enjoy it.
As will I, when I get there. I always do.
Gentle reminder to self; don’t overdo the Dutch courage.
I’m chatting to Julie Stock in the farmhouse kitchen today and, given the theme of Julie’s post (and of her new novel The Vineyard in Alsace) we thought it only proper to forgo tea and biscuits in favour of a nice glass of vino.
Julie and I met through the Alliance of Independent Authors and we’ve been in touch throughout our self-publishing journey, with our paths following uncannily similar routes. I’m chuffed to have Julie with me today.
Can I tempt you to a glass…?
Vines, Wine and Romance
I have lived with my husband and family in Bedfordshire for nearly thirty years now, having moved out here from London shortly after finishing university. I grew up in a big new town (Slough, for my sins!) so I’d never really experienced rural life much before then. I remember finding it so difficult to get to sleep when we first moved because it was so quiet and I was used to lots of noise. Now, the peace and quiet (most of the time) is one of the things I love most about the countryside.
Once I was made redundant from my London job, I started work at The Wine Society in Stevenage and I started learning about wine and winemaking (There might have been a bit of wine tasting involved too!) I was also lucky enough to go on a trip around France with one of our wine buyers to see how he went about choosing wines to sell in the UK. I found the whole process of growing grapes magical and in my dreams, I wondered if I might one day buy my own vineyard and grow grapes too. Now I am older and a bit wiser, I know just how hard a job this is – a year-round job, in fact, like any agricultural industry, and something I’m not sure I’m cut out for.
Interestingly, Bedfordshire has its own vineyard near Old Warden. Warden Abbey has planted vines on its site since medieval times when Cistercian monks tended the fields. Today, the vineyard operates as a not-for-profit venture, offering a unique community and educational resource – and the tradition of making medal winning wines continues. Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity works with other local charities, organisations and local schools to offer social and therapeutic horticulture, learning and skills development, help for people into employment or voluntary work, a range of volunteering opportunities for local people and community groups, and a great chance to be involved from vine to wine, as well as wildlife and heritage projects. We have visited the vineyard on a number of occasions and it never ceases to amaze me just how tirelessly they work, against the elements most of the time, to produce wines in our very fickle climate.
My latest romance novel is set on a vineyard in Alsace in France and takes place against the backdrop of the harvest. I did lots of research of course to add to the knowledge I already have of what really happens during a harvest, and it convinced me that no matter how romantic it all sounds, it really is hard work. Most of us have no idea of the amount of back-breaking work that goes into making our delicious glass of wine, or any other product of course.
When we moved out here all those years ago, I had no idea of course that I would work in the wine industry, nor that one day, I would write a romance novel set on a vineyard, let alone have a vineyard on my doorstep. I now work part-time for a local charity myself and my daily drive through the countryside, passing those vineyards is one of my greatest pleasures.
Julie Stock is an independent author of romance novels, novellas and short stories. She has just published her second novel, ‘The Vineyard in Alsace’ which is available on Amazon.
She is a proud member of The Romantic Novelists’ Association. She blogs regularly about her self-publishing journey on her website, ‘My Writing Life.’ You can also connect with her on Twitter and via her Facebook Author page.
Is there really such a thing as a second chance at love?
Fran Schell has only just become engaged when she finds her fiancé in bed with another woman. She knows this is the push she needs to break free of him and to leave London. She applies for her dream job on a vineyard in Alsace, in France, not far from her family home, determined to concentrate on her work.
Didier Le Roy can hardly believe it when he sees that the only person to apply for the job on his vineyard is the same woman he once loved but let go because of his stupid pride. Now estranged from his wife, he longs for a second chance with Fran if only she will forgive him for not following her to London.
Working so closely together, Fran soon starts to fall in love with Didier all over again. Didier knows that it is now time for him to move on with his divorce if he and Fran are ever to have a future together. Can Fran and Didier make their second chance at love work despite all the obstacles in their way?
The Vineyard in Alsace is a contemporary romance set against the enticing backdrop of the vineyard harvest in Alsace in France.
Today, I’m happy to welcome my first rustic guest to the Farmhouse Kitchen.
Let me introduce you to Mac Logan, an author from Scotland, who not only writes gritty, edge-of-your-seat thrillers (a Scottish Stieg Larsson!) but who is also lucky enough to live in the stunning and dramatic East Neuk of Fife.
Mac and I met on Twitter, and he’s been a great virtual friend and supporter of my rustic writing efforts, so I’m delighted to share Mac’s thoughts on rural life with you here.
I’ll put the kettle on, you sit back and enjoy.
In every walk with nature one receives far more than one seeks. John Muir
What do you do if peace finds you? Can you help its search?
When I seek quotes about peace, mostly I find contrasting ideas, you know:
• the opposite of war – with countless homilies,
• an internal “good thing” that happens when you do “good” exercise, deeds, spiritual things, and so on,
• if you speak Scottish you’ll know sandwiches get a mention, (so what if the spelling’s wrong?)
Easy to Find?
What I seek is easy to find … but not in crowded places. It’s all around us, yet can lack the buzz and zip of a packed city. People miss it, yearn for it, yet seldom find it.
Strange thing, this “peace”.
Want an example?
Will a definition help our search?
peace [piːs] noun: freedom from disturbance; tranquillity.
Could this hint at both an inner and outer reality? It’s all over the place near where I live. You’ll find it too, anytime you drop by.
Bliss of peace
A hectic life with peaceful spaces may be as good as it gets these days, unless … Unless you live with and within the beauty of nature … like me, like Sam.
When Sam asked for a few words she rural headed her agenda. If you read her books, you’ll know why, even if there are city interludes and rolls in the hay. You know what they say up here: there’s nothing like the sleep of the just, but even better, the sleep of the just after. Talk about blissful peace.
I’m lucky enough to live in the country. North of the Border, true, and in the incomparable East Neuk of Fife.
Peace is all around
I made the Kilconquhar Loch video late May last year.
Rambling along a quiet lane I came to an incredibly green bank and sat on a dry stump. Warm air ruffled my hair like a lover’s caress. For a moment I slipped out of time.
Without really looking
Peace found me, I didn’t have to go looking. There, free from the noise and turmoil of modern life, stress oozed out of me as peace took its place.
Thinking back I smile and promise myself a wee dram when I finish this draft. I know peace will find me again in a soothing amber glow from a crystal glass.
Peace to you …
If you want to hear more from Mac, you’ll find him, his blog and more about his Angels’ Share series of books by clicking the image below. Mac also hangs out on Facebookand twitter, do follow him there.
So… you may not have heard? I’ve got a new book out REALLY SOON.
That question was ironic. If you haven’t heard I’d like to know why not, because I’ve been banging the same tune out for weeks already. Blowing my own trumpet, singing my own praises, whistling into the wind… ok, I’ll stop with the cliches now.
Are you sick of me yet? I know I am. So I’m giving myself a bit of shouty time off. I’ve been playing silly buggers with Movie Maker instead, and today I’m just going to leave you with a little light entertainment. This isn’t marketing, honest (but do let me know if it works!)
I hooked up with Bublish this week. I’m not sure why it took me so long, given that it’s free (for readers and for ‘Emerging Authors’), but maybe the sheer choice of digital book-sharing platforms addled me sufficiently that I ended up doing nothing, with any of them.
As an independent author, and *²rooky *¹authorpreneur, it’s down to me to tell readers about my novels. So, with the new book about to come out, I donned my marketing hat and doubled my efforts.
I know more about marketing from the customer point of view than I do from that of the marketeer. I know what annoys me (pop-ups, sign-ups, repetitive, shouty-ads, and don’t get me started on cold calls) so I was looking for more thoughtful ways of marketing my books.
Bublish achieves that:
Readers sign up because they want to hear about books
Author posts (or ‘bubbles’) have added value and insight (ie, they don’t just shout READ THIS)
If you’re not using Bublish already (as a reader or a writer) I would thoroughly recommend it. You get to choose which genres you’d like to hear about, and authors share extracts from their work, with accompanying thoughts and comments. It’s really easy to use and set up, plus (did I mention already?), it’s free!
¹*Authorpreneur (Urban dictionary definition)
An author who creates a written product, participates in creating their own brand, and actively promotes that brand through a variety of outlets.
²*I’ve done teaching, farming, horses and accounts, but I never had to market myself until I wrote a book, so whilst I may not qualify as a fully-fledged authorpreneur, I do qualify as a rookie.