The Lake District – rustic romance to inspire

The Lake District – rustic romance to inspire

DSC_0296DSC_0297I’m blown away by the rustic romance of Cumbria this week. Even the barns are enchanting, and then there are the hills, the rocks and the lakes; forests and waterfalls. There are lambs in the fields (and on the narrow lane to our cottage); calves with doe eyes grazing behind dry stone walls. The foxgloves in bloom, poking pink flowers through bright green fern…

border-collie-191776_1920Catch your breath in amazement stuff around every corner. And I’m inspired. Land Rovers and collie dogs working for their living. Farmhouses and cottages, keeping centuries of stories behind stone walls. And a countryside so rugged that just getting by must be a challenge for the people who live there after the tourists have gone home. When the rain pours off the mountains and the lakes overflow, or the roads are blocked by snow drift. When swift cloud engulfs the rocky hills and valleys to leave you isolated in a world of mist.

landrover cumbriaAcross the field from our holiday home stood our nearest neighbour; a white-washed stone cottage with a grey slate roof and a wooden gate to the front. The red Mini Cooper outside, with it’s personalised number plate, tells me that this must be Hayley’s house. There’s no sign of children, so I’ve decided that Hayley is in her mid twenties. And she lives alone, because the house is empty when Hayley has gone to work. No regular visitors either, but one irregular one: Late in the evening a Land Rover parks beside the red Mini. It’s gone before dawn. A proper working vehicle, this, with winches, and muddy tyres. Long wheel based and laden with gear. No personalised number plate to help me out here, but I’m going to say that this Landy is driven by a man who works on the land. A farmer or a gamekeeper, maybe even a vet. Occupations which might explain why he turns up so late and is gone so early. Or could it be that there’s an altogether different story unfolding in that cottage…

Hmmm. I think I can feel a Cumbrian rustic romance coming on.

Road Trip!

Road Trip!

A quick one this week, because we’re off on a mini UK tour, and I really ought to be packing, or editing, or cleaning the house. Because you have to leave the house extra-clean when you’re not going to be in it, don’t you?

I’ve just spoken to the mates who are coming with us, and we’ve sorted our packing lists: Wellies, waterproofs, sun-cream and sandals. So, pack for all weather, basically. I’m glad the car doesn’t have a baggage allowance.

A pre-harvest jolly to Yorkshire, Scotland and the Royal Highland Show (which I’m weirdly excited about). Home via the lake district, by boat if necessary, seeing as nature is filling those lakes up as I write. I’d quite like to bring a Highland cow back with me, but only one that can swim.

I’m taking the editing with me (who am I kidding?) because I’m about to bust my latest self-imposed deadline, (final re-writes back to the editor before I go away, oh dear).  And I’m stressing about the ancient terriers, or stressing about the poor souls who I’m leaving in charge of them, actually. They’re standing outside in the rain at the moment (the terriers, not the carers), looking ancient and mighty bedraggled (I won’t humiliate them by sharing a picture here). But, for some reason which I really can’t fathom, they do come back in to pee. I might lay a shavings bed in the boot room , then the carers can just muck them out.

Here’s wishing for some sunshine, (and an England win tonight). COME ON ENGLAND/SUMMER (delete as required) – let’s be having you!

A shaggy dog story to start your week

A shaggy dog story to start your week

So, we went to the coast this weekend, with two of our oldest friends (the Bridesmaid and the Best Man actually, although that was thirty-plus years ago). Bear with me, the story gets funnier. We girls (I reserve the right to calls us girls, despite having given away the fact that, if I married thirty-plus years ago, I’m actually anything but) went potter-shopping. You know,  the sort that men hate, when we wander in to every shop, not intending to purchase, and end up with quite a lot of shit which we didn’t really want. The Bridesmaid got a new handbag, and some decoupage paper. I bought two, very luxurious, beds for my ancient dogs, and a clingy top (which I made unclingy by buying two sizes too large). It’s nice, I’m wearing it now. And the dogs have managed to find their new beds, without too much confusion. So, all in all, a surprisingly good result for a potter-shopping trip. My apologies to the charity shop (although I doubt they’ll have to wait donkey’s years to get their hands on those pet beds…)


Anyway, let me back up a bit. We sent the boys (ditto, above) off to find their own fun, and they decided to hunt the coast for old military defences. (I’m not making this up, and you’ll get no comment from me, because at least their choice was less costly than potter-shopping was. Venus and Mars and all that…)

They had a successful trip; after a bit of a drive and a bit of a hike, they managed to track down a WWII Emergency Coastal Battery (I only know it’s called that because ‘we’ Googled it later.) Here’s some blurb that I’ve lifted from the Norfolk Heritage Explorer (link here, for those of you [men] who might be interested).

A World War Two emergency coast defence battery survives largely intact together with two ancillary structures on the cliff top … It  is also visible on aerial photographs; the latter indicate that it was constructed between 30 July 1941 and 4 January 1943.  It consists of two gun emplacements which held ex-Naval 6-inch guns, projecting off an integral, semi-subterranean accommodation and storage block. Three ancillary buildings (two of which survive, one as a garden shed) 

Phew! (I do like the bit about the shed though) here’s a pic:

Mundesley bunker

Very…symmetrical, isn’t it. Alas, you can’t get inside. Our boys peered through the teeny-tiny gap in the structure (if you look at the picture closely, you can see the mini spy-hole by the corner on the left-hand wall). Too dark inside to see anything, though. Undaunted, The Farmer and the Best Man took a snap through the hole.

Now, I really enjoyed my potter-shop, but I’d have laughed until I peed if I’d witnessed their reactions when they looked at the picture they’d taken:

Scroll down and take a peek if you dare

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Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

Plain, simple and homely is what I hope for this year. Good food, good friends and an eggnog or two.

Here’s a picture of a pretty pony to lighten your day in the frantic countdown to Christmas. (Cute isn’t he!)

pony in snow


2015, the year I published my début novel, is rounding off nicely. A big thank you to all of you who have followed my efforts and stumbles on these pages. I’m super excited to be doing it all again with the sequel in 2016.

Now I’m off to supervise tree decoration. Ed has returned with a red velvet cake, Yd will be back from work any minute and Dil is currently winging her way from Durham. The gathering commences, bring it on! Time to whip up the snowballs and festive music.


Cheers all, have a good one!




A Very British Seaside Tradition – deck-chairs, ice-cream and sandy bottoms

A Very British Seaside Tradition – deck-chairs, ice-cream and sandy bottoms

There were seven of us on that first beach hut adventure. Six adults and one tiny-eight-week old baby. My nephew. We lounged in deck-chairs as we read our books, and brewed cups of tea. Strolled along the coast and swam in the sea. Twelve arms to share one precious bundle.

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Within ten years, the adults were outnumbered. Rumbustious kids, adventurous toddlers and sandy-bottomed babies. Buggys, pottys and sun-cream. We hauled a hand cart up and down the steep and winding path, heavy with picnics, towelling jackets, swimming suits. Buckets and spades. Saucepans, nappies and home-made cakes. Lounging became a dream of the past, forsaken to the glorious chaos of toddler pursuit, life-guard duties and feeding a hungry swarm. We cooked up fish fingers and baked beans on the gas stove in the hut, strung a mosquito net to fend off angry wasps. Embraced the weariness as we settled our gaggle of salty-haired offspring onto child-sized plastic chairs. As the beach cleared and the sun dropped, we sipped mugs of tea and smiled as they ate with an appetite born of a well lived day. Babies slept on impromptu beds spread on the beach hut floor. A weary-legged tramp took us back up to the top of the cliff. The sleep of the rosy-cheeked, sated child. Heads lolling in car seats, drunk on fresh air.


Tots grew into children. Bikinis and body boards, chips and arcades. Windy days brought waves to ride and kites to fly. Even when it rained the beach never failed to work its magic. Sandcastles became more adventurous. Shells gathered for bracelets, plaits beaded in hair. Granddad’s faithful frisbee, beach-boules and cricket. Suntan lotion glistened on youthful bodies which had evolved between our visits.

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The whistle on the kettle changed its tune and more mugs were needed. We spread, our chairs spilling across the promenade. We took more than our share. Behind dark glasses teenage eyes watched passing talent. Youth swooped from angsty adolescent to playful child and back again with dizzying speed. Fireworks, air shows and smart phones. They might not want to come next year. Can they bring their girlfriend/boyfriend? But go without them, and oh they are pissed off.

cliff view

We must buy our fish and chips from the very same place. Park at the cliff-top to take in the view of our beach. Ice cream cones, mugs of tea and rock cakes are compulsory. Change is good, but who can argue with those traditions. We number sixteen now, there is a new tot on the beach. My great nephew – sandy-bottomed, salty-haired and very precious.

I’m virtually in Scotland this week

I’m virtually in Scotland this week

I’ve popped over to Mac Logan’s blog this week. I met Mac on twitter, he writes poetry and thrillers (Angels’ Cut & Dark Art).

We struck up a cross-genre relationship, and being the generous bloke he is, Mac offered to host a guest post from me.

Mac is a crafter of words and there is some great stuff on his site if you shoot over there and take a look. His most recent post ‘Cafe on the Edge‘ is a good place to start.

p.s. That isn’t Mac in the image, just a nice pic of a cow.

Me, I don’t follow rules. I’m an accidental rebel

Me, I don’t follow rules. I’m an accidental rebel

My rebellion is rarely deliberate. It has more to do with impatience and scatterbrainedness (I know that isn’t a word, I am exercising my right to express myself free of dictionary dictate).

Schedule my blog spot for regular release? Bloody good idea but I have yet to master the art of scheduling. Dinner arrives on the table when dinner turns up. On occasion I may have to shop first. Washing gets done when washing gets done. My life is a demonstration of ‘Just in Time’, which sadly too often becomes ‘Just too Late’.

The only deadlines I meet belong to HMRC. They instil the fear of God in me. I wish someone would fine me for failing to write for a week, or falling off a diet. Maybe then I would be able get my arse in gear.

The downside of writing is that when I am on flow ‘Just too Late’ is never. The poor dogs grow old waiting for their walk. Washing moulders in the basket and cobwebs form like triffids. Sometime during the evening I will remember all the farm calls I was going to make and the cheques that required banking. As my stomach rumbles I will recall the lack of food in the fridge. Finally the dogs will get their walk, and I will get a pat on the back for eating nothing all day. Rest assured my lack of calories will be addressed with interest when I start imbibing. Thus breaking the rule of late eating and adopting the sumo diet.

Nothing works first time because I simply can’t be bothered to follow instructions until I have thoroughly tested my powers of deduction. Excuse me as I butt in on your forum/digital platform, ignoring all decency and protocol.  It is likely that I was over-excited and multi-tasking. Our TV recorder lists a delectable array of ‘part recorded’ programmes that I will never watch. When I look at other people’s blogs I could cry with frustration. Where did they learn their get-it-togetherness?

“Impulse – cock-up – fire-fight” is this rebel’s mantra. To compensate for my inadequacies I frequently arrive at an important appointment hours ahead of time. “Boo sucks to scheduling” I cry triumphantly, as I shiver; twiddle my thumbs; candy-crush in the car.

Ah well. I am what I am, and what I am needs no excuses. Yet another indication of scatterbrainedness. There are few events which occur in my day that are not accompanied by song lyrics. I swear if I could reboot my brain and chuck out all the nonsense I would be born again as a together individual. I would miss those song lyrics sorely though.

I hope you enjoy my #MondayBlog (I may still use that hashtag even though it’s Wednesday). I am a rebel.

50 Bales of Hay (shameless, I know)

50 Bales of Hay (shameless, I know)

One million book sales in just one week. Woah.

That is a level of book sales that most of us haven’t imagined in our wildest, most optimistic day dreams. An unbelievable storyline (the figures, not the book). You couldn’t write it as the saying goes (and a million is not easy to write unless you are concentrating. That’s a lot of noughts).

I’m talking Grey of course. Isn’t everyone?

Another masterclass in selling from the stable of E.L.James, and the message is starkly simple: Write something that everyone wants to read. And market the living daylights out of it. Respect.

Or it would be simple but for two things. The first is a question – what the hell does everyone want to read? (Submission and lashings might be the answer, but I think that has been done). There are whips in my book, but only the riding sort (and we’re talking horse riding here I’m afraid) so I may have missed a trick.

If you think you know the answer, get on and write that book but my instinct tells me that none of us actually do. We might know what is working now but 50 Shades was new and different. I doubt that James wrote it because she knew it would be the next big thing. She probably wrote the story she carried in her head, as I suspect most authors do. I wonder if she dared to dream one million book sales, right back at the very beginning.

Marketing the living daylights out of a book must surely be easier when you already have one..two…three best sellers and a film under your belt. A supermarket, nay mega-market, full of eager buyers and a proven product to sell. So we have looped very neatly back to the first point. Get yourself a best seller. Write the book that everyone wants to read. Easy peasy lemon squeezy, thanks ELJ.

Or don’t of course. Write the book that you want to write. Write it the best you can. Tell people about it at every random opportunity you trip over. Cross your fingers, and don’t give up the day job. A masterclass in book sales from the stable of Sam Russell. Best week to date (excluding the giveaways which did make my sales chart very pretty) 32 books (thank you the WI) and I was delighted with that. But a hundred would be nice…or even a thousand. Nothing wrong with optimistic day dreams, they are what keeps us going.

As for Grey, have I bought it? You bet I have.

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 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.