Farmer by Day, Author by Night

Farmer by Day, Author by Night

My family farms 735 acres of arable land in North Essex. This isn’t the TOWIE incarnation of Essex that you see on the telly. It must be an hour’s journey to the nearest chic nightclub (farther if you measure in cultural miles). The pub is a goodly hike and you couldn’t throw a stone to strike the nearest retail outlet, not even if you had olympian capabilities and hurled in the direction the crow flies. This is rural Essex, agricultural Essex. It’s picturesque, and it’s home. In my part of the county, there are country lanes and ancient hamlets, Tudor farmhouses, feather-edged barns and land which unfurls with a lack of drama that is soft on the eye.North EssexI’m romanticising, of course, because that’s what I do when I’m not on a tractor or up to my elbows in nutrient-rich soil (read mud). I write rustic romance. I’m a rural authoress.

I’d like to call it a farm diversification but that wouldn’t be honest. A diversion from farming would be closer to the truth and I fear the husband and son might often have cause to wish I was less, er, diverted. But the writing has grown out of the land that raised me and a childhood which taught me to love the outdoors through the turning seasons and petulant weather. It’s inspired by friendships forged in drafty sheds; by harvest, family dogs, autumn bonfires and cider-fuelled, amorous escapades.bonfireI’m no longer youthful, but when my cheeks are wind-stung and the feet are numb, I’ve still got a romantic world to escape to. It might be winter in Draymere too, there may be mud or even snow, but the characters warm the story (and me) with a wealth of diverting antics. My mind can romp alongside them for hours. Be it out in the fields, on a dog walk or while I’m cooking the dinner, you’ll probably find me at Draymere. I’m seldom present in everyday life.

That’s escapism for you.

I blame Jilly Cooper. She introduced me to the possibilities of jodhpur-clad heroines’ who kicked off their wellies instead of slipping out of stilettoes. And that, my friends, was something of a hallelujah moment, back in the day when I lived in jodhpurs and rarely stepped out in anything other than waterproof boots.WelliesBe it town, village or farm, we all fall in love, and we’ve all experienced passion, heartbreak and unwise attraction. The emotions play out no matter where in the world you live.  But I write it rural, earthy and rustic.

The books are raunchy; I should warn you of that. But, hey, it’s nothing that nature isn’t doing outside my window as I type and, trust me, the countryside is as sexy as hell.

Not convinced? Just spend a weekend at Draymere…

draymerehall (1)  A Bed of Barley Straw Cover RADIANT MEDIUM WEB  A Bed of Brambles Cover MEDIUM WEB

The tail-end of summer?

The tail-end of summer?

What a shocker! Hot sunshine right through August and it’s still going now! It must be an Indian summer, because an English one doesn’t behave like this.

The quickest harvest I can remember, although the elders tell me that in ’76 it was so hot that they combined right through the night. I do remember something of ’76; the grass died in the pony’s field, and we made hay when the council mowed the meadow. Not just in the proverbial sense,  we actually made hay. But our DIY efforts over-heated in the hay-barn. We had to drag the grass-cuttings back out and spread them across the yard for fear of spontaneous combustion. There was camel racing at the village fete that year too. Those camels must have felt right at home on the desert which our village green had become.

This summer has its share of memorable moments too. Rebellious voters and gob-smacking Olympians spring to mind, although I also swum in the North Sea without freezing my extremities, and that was a memorable first too. Nick Skelton became a poster boy for the hip-replacement brigade (me); Theresa May became prime minister, and Jilly Cooper published her new book.  Ok, I get that you might not think that’s up there with Olympic gold medals or running the country, but come on guys! Six-hundred-and-forty pages of steamy English saga! And, right now, I can empathise with the effort that Jilly must have put into that, because I’m still slogging away editing my three-hundred pages of steamy.

I’m not wishing the summer away. Oh, no. I mean, no one in their right mind would be dreaming of cool weather, when the sun is blazing every day. It’s hot, hot, hot. Even in the middle of the bloody night.

I’m not missing that snuggle under the duvet, or winter stews for dinner. Salad is good, so are burnt barbecued sausages, and I love wearing shorts. Who could be nostalgic for comfy jeans, or baggy jumpers, and who would even think about slobbing on the sofa with the log burner going when it’s 30+ degrees outside?

The Farmer might want rain, instead of drought and the pestilence of beetles which this summer has visited on us, but not me. The drumbeat of rain on the lean-too, the gushing of water through ditches, our view from the farmhouse soft-focused  by the the mist of autumn drizzle. Nothing to enjoy there.

But what do we do for small-talk, if we can’t bemoan the disappointment of the English summer? I can answer that question myself, actually, because I’ve already been given pessimistic warnings of the savage winter that must surely follow. It’s nature’s payback, you see. The warnings are delivered with gloomy foreboding, and yet… some weird, English part of me is hoping that they just might come true.

Hi from South Wales

Hi from South Wales

A brief Monday blog from my holiday in South Wales. The sun is out! We’ve been to watch Polo – a new experience for me and I’m wondering why…as a Jilly Cooper fan I surely should have embraced the thrill that is polo sooner. Sweaty horses and sweaty riders battling it out in stunning surroundings (plus Pimms and a picnic – what’s not to like). Rain failed to dampen my total enjoyment, I am a convert!  I pricked my ears when the comentator invited us to ‘have a go’ at a nearby polo club (before I remembered that I am the wrong side of 50 and sporting a dodgy hip). Still maybe I could…

A morning’s hill hiking reminded me what I am capable of. The route we took was listed as ‘medium difficulty’. Suffice to say I am very glad we didn’t take on a black run. But ah, the beauty leaves you breathless (or that’s my excuse).

Despite having a wonderful time, my manuscript is calling. The story is forming, I’m chafing at the bit and frustrated to be away from my desk. I have used the downtime to research cover designers, editors and proofreaders. Lining up the cards in hopeful anticipation of the creation of a second book. Buzzing!

I have also fired off yet another round of pleading emails asking for reviews. So many great comments from readers, but getting reviews posted on Amazon or Goodreads is proving an ongoing battle. And why, oh why, don’t my reviews on Amazon.co.uk make it to the USA site (or any other sites for that matter). Surely Amazon international…A review is a review is a review?

Enough of my wingeing, no one said this would be a piece of cake.

Cake, now I’m distracted… and I am on holiday.

Please forgive typos. I am rubbish at typing on a touchscreen tablet and the pop up keyboard completely obscures the text so a lot of guesswork.