Saturday, 22 April 2017

Home and Away

I've been away.
We've had a family holiday, together with our daughters and grandchildren. Here are a few clues to where we've been.

We had a wonderful time with fantastic weather.  Everyone enjoyed themselves but particularly 12 year old Matthew, who discovered a passion for white knuckle rides!  5 year old Lily lived the magic every single moment. She shed a few tears when it was time to come home.

A few days before we left for Florida I had some exciting news.

 My book, Resolution, was accepted by a publisher.

It will be published by, 
hopefully in early August.

I signed the contract before we left. On our return I have been busy supplying the details they needed for the front cover, dedications and acknowledgments.

It's a great feeling after all these years. It has been on the back burner for about four years until I looked at it again. I've been doing lot of hard work editing and re-writing it over the last twelve months in particular. So cross your fingers and I'll keep you informed about the process.

We are all looking forward to a sunny and warm summer - well, we live in hope!


Friday, 24 March 2017

I đź’—Cumbria (part 2) Maryport.

We enjoyed such lovely weather while staying in Keswick we decided to have a trip out to the west coast town of Maryport. It was only half an hour's journey, driving past Bassenthwaite and some beautiful scenery.

I knew nothing about the town. We decided to go very much on a whim. However we had a lovely day there and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Maryport has a long history and what appears to be an excellent Roman Museum. Maryport was a Roman port dating from the 5th century. Unfortunately the museum was shut when we were there.

I will be honest and say that the town centre, as are so many, was a little tired and care worn.
The town folk make up for this and are very friendly and chatty.

We were made to feel very welcome, where ever we stopped.
There are a dedicated group of locals who are working hard to regenerate the town and bring in visitors.

Maryport has a long promenade, wonderful for walking and cycling along. As you walk along the Solway Firth, you are gazing across to Dumfries and Galloway. We walked almost as far as the next town of Allonby before turning back.

Our tummies were rumbling as we walked back into the town, lunch called. We found a quirky cafe, Her Citi, with wonderful food and some beautiful items for sale.

We had such an enjoyable time, that we will certainly be returning.
I want to visit the Senhouse Roman Museum and maybe even finish that walk to Allonby.

During the year it holds heritage weekends and a Blues Festival in July.
There is a literary festival in November, for which I've already made a note in my diary.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

I đź’—Cumbria (part 1)

If you ever look at my facebook page you would know that I visit Keswick as often as possible. Unfortunately this is usually only for two weeks a year generally.  One of these weeks is always the first week in March when I can enjoy the Words by the Water Literary Festival. This takes place at the Theatre by the Lake.

I usually book tickets for a couple of speakers and then see if anything else takes my eye and is not fully booked.  This time my friend Lynda and I went to listen to David Owen speaking about his book, 'Cabinet's Finest Hour -The hidden agenda of 1940'.  I admit is sounds a bit dry but he spoke eloquently about his research and his admiration for the politicians involved. He also answered questions on current topics, from Corbyn to Brexit. His answers and opinions were clearly expressed, no shilly shallying here.
The other speaker was Richard Francis on his book 'Judge Sewell's Apology', about the Salem witch trials. Again another well researched book and a fascinating history.

We enjoyed some beautiful weather while we were there.  Long leisurely strolls taken every day while a certain dog, named Sam, enjoyed leaping about in Derwentwater, splashing happily until we dragged him out.

During our time we we visited some of Keswick's excellent pubs and coffee bars. Yes, cake was involved.
We decided, unusually, to take a ride out to the coast and visited Maryport, more of which later.  Normally once I've parked up the car is forgotten about until it's time to go home.
I'm already planning my next week away, which will probably be around September or October time. That is unless I can squeeze one in sooner!

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Reflecting on writing

While I was walking Sam, the dog, early this morning, my route took me past our local mill pond. As I rounded a corner my eye was caught by the stunning reflections on the calm water. Fortunately I had my phone, and therefore a camera, with me.  The golden clouds reflected against the dark trees were stunning. I hope my photo does it credit.

Walking a little way along, the reflections became a little more moody as the clouds darkened  and hid the sun slightly. It was still a beautiful scene and I couldn't prevent myself from snapping again. I have to say Sam was all very non-plussed by this. The local sniffs were much more interesting!

It made me think about the different way we use the term reflections. Recently I had been 'reflecting' on where I was up to with my writing.

I'm pleased to tell you that RESOLUTION was returned to the publisher a few weeks ago and hopefully I've fulfilled all the changes and edits they suggested. One change involved a crucial scene which then had a consequential effect on following chapters and conversations. It took some thinking about but I can see how the story has benefited from it.

So, it's back to the fingers crossed stage there. However, ever hopeful, I have prepared a short blurb and come up with some cover suggestions which I have filed away. You never know and I was a good Girl Guide - Be Prepared!

I have tided away all my scribbles and notes and most importantly backed up all my documents.

One day I may look back on these, either with fond memories or sheer horror!

Where have all these reflections led?  Where else but to the start of the next novel. It doesn't have a title yet.  This novel will touch on one of my other passions -history. Whilst it is a contemporary/relationship/romance novel, there is a slight historical bent to it. The story starts at Scarborough Castle and will move through other historical sites as my heroine moves around. She has an emotional journey to make and comes to realise that her journey is paralleled by someone in the Fifteenth century. I'll leave you to guess who for now! I know I'm cruel! But to make up for it here's a snippet from the first draft of a scene later in the book.

A movement caught her eye and Lynn stopped to check. There was a figure there but in the dark it was difficult to make it out properly. She screwed her eyes to focus through the gloom. A man, she was sure it was him. He sat with his back huddled into the corner of the walls. His arms were wrapped tightly around his knees as though he was trying to pull them into his chest. She couldn’t see his face as was he was looking down but the unmistakable shaking of his shoulders told her he was weeping.
Stepping closer she tried not to make a sound. Would he have heard her? She didn’t know, but didn’t want to take that chance. The breeze caught some of his stifled sobs and carried them towards her. Lynn caught her breath and held it for a second. Never before had she experienced being in the presence of so much misery, such sadness and desolation. Not wanting to intrude she hesitated. Could you intrude on a ghost? Shaking her head in answer to her own question she stepped to within a few feet of him. She watched until she was sure that he showed no awareness of her. The quiet sobbing continued. Unsure what to do, she crouched down until she rested on her heels. Even if this was a spectre she couldn’t leave him alone, not like this.
She rocked gently on her heels, unsure what to do. Her heart ached with pain. If this had been a friend or a loved one she would have wrapped her arms around them, wanting only to console and help. She had no idea how long she crouched there. After a while her legs started to ache and leaning forward she knelt on the stony cold ground. This brought her slightly closer and she could make him out more clearly. His shoulder length dark hair was dishevelled and had fallen forward over his face. On his interlocked fingers she could make out a dark ring.
As she knelt there her heart contracted and a breath shuddered in her chest. Tears started to trickle down her cheeks. She put out her hand to touch him, to stroke his head. But she pulled it back immediately. Could you touch someone that had died over five hundred years ago? She wanted to tell him she understood, knew what he was going through. How could she let him know she was there, that she cared?
A whisper caught her attention. He was saying a name ‘Ann, Ann!’ His voice trembled and a long sigh blew away on the night air. As hard as she tried Lynn couldn’t stop the sob that broke loose from her own lips.
She closed her eyes. ‘Oh dear God.’

When she opened them he had lifted his head. His face was puffy and blotched, suffused with misery. Tears coursed down his cheeks, across his nose and over his lips. But, it was his eyes that caught her. Eyes that were brimmed with despair and unhappiness and which were staring straight into hers.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Burns Night

Strangely dressed people descended on my house recently.  The intention was to honour the Scottish poet Robbie Burns.  Burns Day is actually the 25th of January but we pre-empted it by a few days.
A varied selection of friends and neighbours settled down to what I believe was an enjoyable evening. The evening started with everyone being divided into Clans - McDonalds, Campbells, Stewarts etc. They then had to find the other members of their clan before settling down to complete a light hearted (but difficult!) quiz on Burns.

When everyone was relaxed it was time for the traditional supper.  First the haggis had to be addressed
'Great Chiefton o' the Puddin' Race' and ceremonially cut.  We didn't have any bagpipes in which to 'pipe in' the haggis, but no one seemed to notice!

The traditional supper is cock a' leekie soup, followed by haggis, neeps (mashed swedes) and tatties (mashed potatoes).  A wee dram (whisky) is used as the haggis' gravy.

Desserts for us were a choice of lemon mousse cake or apple crumble.
After everyone was well sated we sat down to a sing song.  We did sing a few of Burn's classic songs but soon went on to old favourites including 'Dirty Old Town', 'Leaving of Liverpool' and 'If I Could Walk 500 Miles' amongst them. We were lucky to have a friend who played his guitar to accompany the singing.
Surprisingly one of the highlights of the night was a box of Tunnock's teacakes.
Cries of 'I haven't had one of these since I was a child.' were heard constantly. As you can see the box was practically emptied.

I made the soup from scratch borrowing a friend's jelly/jam pan which was the only thing big enough for the quantities I needed (nearly 30 people).

The recipe I used was an old one and everyone commented on how good it was.  So, just in case you're thinking of having your supper on the actual date. Here is a good, traditional soup.  I just hope you're not making it for as many people. I can't tell you what my five year old granddaughter said it looked like (it was very green).

In metric and old money!
Cock-A- Leekie Soup  (serves 8)

1 1.5kg/3lb fresh chicken
2.25 ltrs/4 pints water (10 cups)
1 kg/2lb leeks (washed and sliced)
50g/2 oz pearl barley (rinsed) (1/4 cup)
salt and pepper to taste.

Put the chicken, water and 1/4 leeks in a pan and bring to boil, cover and simmer for 1 hour. Remove chicken and leave to cool. Add remaining leeks, barley and seasoning. Simmer for 30 minutes. Remove meat from chicken and chop into small pieces. Add chicken to soup.
This soup can be frozen,

Sunday, 1 January 2017

An Unusual Day

A few days before New Year, I went to a football match.  It is worth mentioning as this was my first match in nearly 43 years of married life.  My husband asked me to join him on a trip to Wolverhampton to watch his beloved Wolverhampton Wanderers play. (They won!)
As, over the years he has wandered around many castles and cathedrals with me, I could hardly refuse. Now I am the least sporty person you are likely to ever find.  Will I go again, to another football match?  Maybe in another 43 years!
However he did make the day special, by suggesting a trip to the National Memorial Arboretum near Derby. It is a stunning and moving place and well worth a visit. It's much larger than I imagined with over 300 memorials of all shapes and sizes.  There are also thousands of trees (obviously!) planted in memory of people and events. One particular moving plaque read 'To the unknown but kind lady who donated her liver'. The vast wall with blank stones brought it home as to how many more young men and women are we destined to lose in future wars?  A terrifying thought.

Amongst all these memorials was the Basra wall, which was taken down piece by piece when the army left and rebuilt here.  The Somme Memorial with thousands of coloured crosses, presumably painted by local children.The Falklands Memorial, The Shot at Dawn Memorial and...I could go on naming them for a long time. If you do get chance to visit it, you should.