Friday, August 5, 2016

We've landed!

Another year, another move. Hopefully I won't be writing that again anytime soon! We've landed in Wales, unpacked most of our boxes, and are settling into small market town life, which definitely has its upsides--walking to town for coffee or a fresh baguette from the bakery--or even the cinema! Monmouth has a surprising amount of amenities :)

The River Wye is another draw, which is right on our doorstep. The other day I took our dog for an exploratory walk along the river path:

It's been fun exploring our new neighborhood although I am looking forward to starting school and things and getting to know people. Moving to a new place can feel a bit like being a ghost--you're walking around but no one is really quite seeing you.

In the meantime I am trying to keep writing! I have a giveaway on Amazon for Now and Then Friends which you can enter here:

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Downside of Village Life?

So a lot of my blog posts have been about the golden positives of village life--the sense of community, the quaintness, the pleasant feeling that you are living in an Agatha Christie adaptation--but hopefully not as the murder victim! I love all the villagey things--school and church fetes, neighbors who know you, allottment and post office shops (one per village only, of course!) and a milkman who chats to you on a regular basis.

However village life isn't one long rosy montage of those moments. There can be some downsides--and one of them is a tendency towards gossip. Gossip, or crack, as the Cumbrians call it, is an important issue in my new Hartley-by-the-Sea book, Now and Then Friends.

It's hard to avoid gossip when living in a small place. Much of it is harmless, a lot of it well meaning, but some... not so much. Even the well-meaning gossip can be a bit disconcerting. A few weeks into our village life in Cumbria a complete stranger stopped me in the street and asked me if my two-year-old daughter was sleeping better. Stunned, I stammered a reply, only to realize as we continued the conversation that the woman was the anonymous stranger who had left two gorgeous crocheted blankets on our doorstep without even a note--her way of welcoming us into the village. She called them her 'magic sleep' blankets.

But of course there is a nasty side to gossip, and while I haven't experienced it personally (at least not that I know of!!), I know it exists. The inevitable twitch of the net curtains, the meaningful look, the whispered word... It's hard not to get paranoid sometimes.

On the flip side, it can be hard not to be drawn into gossip. More than once I've been standing in the schoolyard happily chatting with other mums when suddenly someone who is not present is getting skewered, usually under the guise of false sympathy and a lot of sorrowful head-shaking. It takes some will power to stay silent or better yet, walk away.

Ultimately though, for me the positives win out, and they do in Now and Then Friends as well. You can learn more about the book or buy a copy here

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

It's been awhile...

So if you've followed this blog at all, you'll see it's been quite awhile since I've last written, and that's because life started avalanching, for want of a better word!

In November my father became very ill with leukemia (he'd been diagnosed in April and then gone into a wonderful but brief remission) and he died on December 23rd--something that still feels surreal to write. The six months after his death have been a bit of a blur of keeping life going with five children, writing deadlines, and helping my mother to sort out her life in the aftermath.

Things got even trickier in March, and a variety of difficult events led my husband to resigning his job, finding another one, and us upping sticks in a few weeks to move to Monmouth, Wales. So our village life will become our market town life, after only one year of experiencing the ritzy version of village life in the Cotswolds! For a year I exchanged the wild coast of Cumbria for the gentle, rolling hills of Oxfordshire--and charity shops and chintzy tea rooms for organic farm shops and lots of Barbour! In our short time here I've met loads of friendly people, and after 11 months have just reached the point of feeling settled--no matter what anyone says, it always seems to take a year. But now we're off again to the wilds of Wales (although only a mile from the English border!)

In the meantime, life soldiers on, as it must. The dog must be walked, dishes must be washed, and books must be written. Now and Then Friends, my second book in the Hartley-by-the-Sea series, is out next week. You can learn about it here 

And meanwhile I will try to update this blog more often, and let you know about our progress in Wales!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Misty Morning

Yesterday was one of those gorgeous, golden autumn days of warm weather and blue skies and leaves drifting lazily down. Today was the complete opposite: a melancholy mist obscuring just about everything, and the only sound on my walk the raucous cry of a rook or the mournful bleat of a sheep. Yet there is something beautiful about a day like today, and it suited my mood…

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Silence is Broken

Forgive me, readers, for the long silence on this blog. Life is starting to settle down just a little bit, after much turmoil, tumult, and tiredness! We moved from St Bees, Cumbria, on July 29, and then promptly went to Canada for three weeks to visit my family. Then back to our new house, new village, new life, all of us blinking in stunned surprise at where we'd landed. A few weeks on the boxes are mostly unpacked save for those pesky few that we'll probably cart, unpacked, to our next house. They're filled with a variety of odds and ends--spare batteries, paint brushes, an old scarf--that there seems to be no place or use for but I am reluctant to throw them out.

It's been hard to move this time, and we are, alas, Champion Movers. But we didn't want to move here; we didn't want to leave Cumbria. And so 'settling in' has taken on a whole new meaning.

The village we landed in is lovely, though, like something out of a Miss Marple adaptation. Roses round every cottage door, lovely footpaths through rolling fields, and we are living right next to the church (again!) so every Wednesday night we hear the peal of bells as the bell ringers practice their craft.

People, for the most part, have been friendly, although it can be tiring to have the same conversations over and over again. And while acquaintances are made in a day, friends take a little longer.  But we persevere. Every so often I pause, breathless with surprise that we are actually here. That we actually left Cumbria. And then I try to move on.

So prepare yourself for a new village life! I'm not the vicar's wife but merely an ordinary resident (as if I wasn't before!!) and I am still writing, still trying to mother five children and keep my head above water. Stay tuned for my further adventures in the Cotswolds…

Monday, August 31, 2015

News and a Guest Post from Author Cathy Lamb!

I apologise for the silence on this blog; we moved house in August, as many of you know, and it has been quite overwhelming. I will be posting photos of our new village life in the Cotswolds, but first I want to turn this post over to Cathy Lamb, who is a wonderful author and new friend--she read my book Rainy Day Sisters and provided a lovely excerpt. I've loved Cathy's books, but I never got to know her (in a cyber way, for now!) until recently. So please do welcome Cathy to my humble blog :)

I'm posting a bit about her, links to her social media, and a wonderful excerpt of her latest novel, My Very Best Friend, which is set in Scotland, not too far from where I used to live.

About Cathy: I live in Oregon. I'm married,with  three kids, and a cat that meows at me and I meow back.  I also have one parakeet that never stops talking. I write as much as I can on my back patio so I can look at my flowers.  I’m a terrible cook and also terrible at skiing. I have a wild imagination and spend hours daydreaming.  This is my ninth novel.

An intriguing snapshot of My Very Best Friend

An old stone cottage in Scotland
An overgrown garden. A man in a kilt.
Lingerie bike riding at midnight. Tea and Crumpets
Two best friends.
One is missing.

An Excerpt: 

My name is Charlotte Mackintosh. I am thirty-five. I love science. I have degrees in physics and biology. One would think I would work in a lab or teach at a university. I don’t. I write time travel romance novels. My ninth book was released four months ago.
My pen name is Georgia Chandler. My mother was from Georgia, a southern belle, and Chandler was her maiden name.
For me to be a romance writer is a perplexing joke. What romance? I don’t have any in my life, haven’t for years, since The Unfortunate Marriage. I have named my vibrator Dan The Vibrator. That should tell you about the sexual action I get. Which is, so we’re all clear, none.
My late father, Quinn, was Scottish, hence my last name, and his mother had the Scottish Second Sight. She saw the future, all mottled up, but she saw it. Sometimes she didn’t understand it herself. I remember her predictions, one in particular when I was seven and we were making an apple butterscotch pie with a dash of cinnamon.
“You will travel through many time periods, Charlotte,” my grandma said, rolling out the pie dough with a heavy rolling pin, her gray curls escaping her bun like springs. “All over the world.”
“What do you mean?” I rolled out my dough, too. We were bringing the pies to the Scottish games up in the highlands the next day, where my father was competing in the athletic contests and playing his bagpipes.
“I don’t know, luv. Damn this seeing into the future business. Cockamamie. It will drive me to an early grave.”
“I want to travel to other planets and inspect them for aliens.”
She placed her pie crust into the buttered glass baking dish. “You will live different lives, child. You will love deeply. And yet…” She paused, her brow furrowed. “It’s not you.”
“I don’t think so, Grandma. I love science. Specifically our cells. Mutations. Sick cells, healthy cells. Toran and I pricked our fingers yesterday so we could study our blood under my microscope.”
She eyed me through her glasses. “You are an odd child.”
“Yes,” I told her, gravely, “I am.”
My grandma was right about time travel. She simply dove into the fictional realm of my life without realizing it. McKenzie Rae Dean, my heroine, travels through time, lives different lives, and loves deeply. But McKenzie Rae is not me. See how my grandma got things jumbled up and yet dead right, too?
Many of her other second sight predictions have come true, too. A few haven’t yet. I’m a little worried about the few that haven’t. Several in particular, as they’re decidedly alarming.
I live on a quiet island, called Whale Island, off the coast of Washington. I have a long white house on five acres. I rarely ever have to leave my view of the ocean and various whales, my books, garden, and cats. I have had enough of the world and of people. Some people call me a recluse. I call them annoying.
My publisher wants me to travel to promote my books. I went on book tours with the first book, hated it, and have refused to go again. They whine. I ignore them. What do they know? I stay home.
I walk my four cats in a specially designed pink cat stroller twice every day. They each have their own compartment with their name on a label in front.
I read gardening books for entertainment, but they are only second to my love of all things physics and biology. I have a pile of exciting books and articles in my house on both subjects, including astrophysics, string theory, the human genome project, and cellular and molecular biology. Seeing them waiting for me, like friends filled with enthralling knowledge, flutters my heart.
I might drink a tad too much alcohol. Wine is my vice. I drink only the finest wine, but that is a poor excuse for the nights the wine makes me skinny-dip in a calm bay by my house and belt out the Scottish drinking songs my father taught me while cart wheeling
I am going to Scotland because I must. My mother asked me to go and check on my father’s house, fix it up, and sell it. “I can finally close the door to the past,” she told me. “Without cracking down the middle, but I need you to go and do this, because if I go, I’ll crack.”
I told her, “That doesn’t make sense, Ms. Feminist.”
She waved a hand, “I know. Go anyhow. My burning bra and I can’t do it.”
I have not been back to Scotland in twenty years, partly because I am petrified of flying and partly because it’s too painful, which is why my mother, usually a ball breaker, refuses to go.
I’m nervous to leave my cats, Teddy J, Daffodil, Dr. Jekyll, and Princess Marie. Teddy J, in particular, suffers from anxiety, and Dr. Jekyll has a mood disorder, I’m sure of it. Princess Marie is snippy.
But it must be done.
My best friend, Bridget Ramsay, is still living there. Or, she was living there. We write letters all the time to each other; we have for twenty years.
Until last year, that is. I haven’t heard from her in months.
I don’t know what’s going on.
I have an idea, but I don’t like the idea.
It scares me to death.
Truth often does that to us.

And her social media links, and list of her wonderful books:


My Very Best Friend
What I Remember Most
If You Could See What I See
A Different Kind Of Normal
The First Day Of The Rest Of My Life
Such A Pretty Face
Henry’s Sisters
The Last Time I Was Me
Julia’s Chocolates


Tall Poppy Writers:

I hope you enjoy Cathy's books, as I do! And I'll be back shortly to update you on my very different village life!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Beautiful Places

Today started with storms and rain and wind but by midday it had cleared to balmy gorgeousness, and so I decided to take a walk with the dog. Recently my daughter's boyfriend told us about a circular beach walk that we hadn't known about it in 4 years of living here. It's called:

 It starts by walking up the aptly named Rottington Road, which involves a very steep hill:

The views, however, were well worth it. When you finally emerge from between the high hedgerows, the world spreads out before you like a living map: sea on one side and rolling pasture on the other, the sky high and blue above.

Have you ever seen something so beautiful you feel frustrated because you don't know if you can appreciate it enough? You look and look but it's as if you can't take it in; your heart hurts. I felt that way today and I recalled one of the first time I felt that way, when I was twelve and my parents took me on a trip to the Cotswolds. The memory was poignant as we are sad to leave Cumbria, but in moving to the Cotswolds we are going to another beautiful, heart-hurting place--I mean that in a good way, of course.

From the Rottington Road I turned onto the footpath that led to the sea, down grassy slopes dotted with sheep, a scene that was perfectly pastoral.

With lovely summer flowers along the way:

And helpful gates across the stiles:

And finally the sea emerged in the distance, like a promise:

And I finished with a lovely walk across the beach at low tide!

I will miss this place so much when we leave, but I was encouraged that beautiful places can be found just about anywhere, if you have the heart to look for them. I'll leave you with a last photo of the beck I passed. Can you see the mother duck with her ducklings? Rebirth is always happening.