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Showing posts from 2011

A Christmas Walk

What we saw on a our early Christmas morning walk to the beach...


Sometimes it’s good to just follow your nose and see where the trail takes you. I’ve had a bit of time to do just that, letting the thoughts come and go and trying not to force the direction or pace. So here’s some of the ground, the freewheeling has covered.

Our nearest big supermarket is at Carmarthen, 45 mins away, but for a wider choice of large shops, we’ll go to Swansea, an hour and a half away. If you’re travelling that distance, you might as well make an occasion of it. Our first stop, for a really good cup of coffee, excellent cakes and jolly staff, is the cafĂ© in the unlikely setting of… Dunelm Mill, the home furnishing store! What my younger self would make of this, I dread to think, but during the whole nightmare of house renovations, it’s been enormously satisfying to eye up the curtain fabric from the mezzanine floor over a cappuccino and a bun. Not very rock and roll, but there we are.

Swansea market is always worth visiting for the food and the characters. T…

Choc Lit Christmas Special Day One

I know it's a frantic time of year, but do find time, if you can, to pop over to Choc Lit's Author's Corner .  For the next twelve days we'll be sharing our thoughts on the festive season, beginning today with a discussion on when Christmas really starts for each of us.

And, since it's Christmas, there are presents!  Every second day, you'll have a chance to win something from the Choc Lit selection by simply joining in the discussion.  The best comment left over the next two days will win you a copy of my book, Turning the Tide.  I look forwards to reading your thoughts at Author's Corner.  Merry Christmas and good luck!

A High and Eyes

Well, I did it! When I finally sent my revised manuscript on its way on Monday, it was with some relief and a certain amount of satisfaction. It’s been a challenging year. This time, last year, Ma was lying in the grimmest of hospital wards waiting for an operation. Her progress might have better if that same arm hadn’t been injured again in August when she was struck by a dustcart riding the pavement. Then, you may remember, at the beginning of November she broke her big toe. Ma’s fine, as feisty as ever, but I do hope for her sake that she’s a lot less accident-prone next year.

Moving and then renovating the entire house has been a massive upheaval too, but we’re nearly there. In fact, if B&Q would only send us the hinges that failed to arrive with our loo seat, we’d almost be sitting comfortably.

On the bright side, we’re very happy in our new home; waking up and seeing the sea beyond the bedroom window takes some beating, believe me. And there’s been plenty of good news f…

Choc Lit Goes to North America

I’ll be back with more Home Thoughts very soon, but this week brought the announcement of some exciting news that everyone at Choc Lit’s been eager to share.  We all had to be a bit patient until the news could be co-ordinated to suit both sides of the Atlantic, but here it is, the official press release...
Brand-led, commercial women’s fiction publisher, Choc Lit expand into North America with effect from 1st January 2012, represented by International Publishers Marketing (IPM). “North America is a key market for our expansion. We already have a loyal following in the USA and constantly receive great reviews. Finding the right partner, who believed in our brand and could offer the right support was critical. We believe we’ve found the perfect match with Jane Graf at IPM,’ states Lyn Vernham, Director, Choc Lit.
Since launch, Choc Lit has published a string of novels that regularly hit the Nielsen’s Top 20 Small Publishers Fiction List. In the last few months, they have picked up three a…

Choc Lit Short Story Competition

Choc Lit are looking for short stories of up to 1,500 words in which the central theme is chocolate - eating it, drinking it, cooking with it, or anything else. Let your imagination take flight!
PRIZES 1st prize £200, publication on the author’s corner blog and a box of organic chocolates from Plush A Runner Up will receive £50 and a box of organic chocolates from Plush
RULES 1.Your entry must be a maximum of 1,500 words. 2.All work must be your own and not previously published. 3.The entry fee is £3 per story 4.All entries must be received by 31st January, 2012.
JUDGES Your judges are Choc Lit authors Margaret James (The Silver Locket, The Golden Chain) and Sue Moorcroft (Starting Over, All That Mullarkey, Want To Know a Secret? and Love & Freedom). Both authors teach creative writing for the London School of Journalism and have published numerous short stories, including in the Romantic Novelists' Association's short story anthology. Both h…

What goes up ...

It struck me recently that for all this blog's claims to be about living and writing in West Wales, I tend to be a bit secretive about the writing part!  This year hasn't been plain sailing for all kinds of reasons, but I can see light at the end of the tunnel with my revisions... at least I hope it's light and not the train coming towards me!

What's been strange and wonderful, is that whilst I've been working on my revisions, Turning the Tide has been making a life of its own away from me.  Okay what goes up, must come down but  its current Amazon rankings have really cheered me up... apologies for the trumpet tootle.

#6in Books > Fiction > Women Writers & Fiction#9in Kindle Store > Books > Fiction > Romance > Contemporary#16in Books > Fiction > Romance > Adult & Contemporary

Families and Fractures

 Friday 4 November Arrive at Ma’s early evening after a long journey and some pretty hazardous driving conditions on the M4.  Ma mentions that she feels lucky to have escaped with just a sore toe after tripping over her Henry vacuum cleaner earlier in the day.  Her injury is soon forgotten though as we catch up with each other’s news over dinner which includes a ‘fecking eppel teyrt’ that Ma has served up in honour of our recent trip to Ireland. Saturday 5 November The afternoon sees us at a family party to celebrate Stepson One and his new bride’s recent wedding in Grenada.  I’m always a little apprehensive about Tom’s family gatherings, since, despite nearly thirteen years of marriage, there are times when I still feel like a ‘blow in’.  The past is a strange country with shifting borders, strong defences and prone to outbreaks of brief territorial disputes. Today, though, a whole new side to the family has entered the equation. The new Mrs H, who is of Afro-Caribbean heritage, is a lo…

Before and After

Hotel H is bursting at the seams this week; the mice are still in residence - I'd like to think there are fewer of them, but Lord knows how many more are in search of a snug new home in a cosy loft - and we have visitors. The bathroom facilities here are currently,erm, basic, which is interesting, but we did manage to finish the kitchen just hours before this week's guests arrived. 
So from this...

Through this (when you think it's never going to be finished...)

We finally got to this. Hurray.

And now, I'm boarding up the study door and writing!

(But, before I do, another quick note about the font. Since the new improved Blogger interface thingy arrived, I can't make it work and I don't have the time to fiddle with it, so, dear Blogger, the restoration of my old template would please me no end. Thank you.)

Strangers in the Night

It’s three in the morning and I wake suddenly, disturbed by the sense of something wicked happening a few feet away from me.  Paranormal activity?  Every nerve fibre’s pricking and I hold my breath and keep very still under the covers.  And there it is again; the tiny, but blood –curdling sound of claws scratching at plaster. Tom’s snoring quietly beside me, but I can’t bear to listen to this on my own. ‘Tom?’ Muffled protest.  He carries on sleeping. ‘Tom!’ Loud protest.  ‘What?’ ‘Shhhhh!  Listen!’  ‘It’s outside,’ Tom says, snuggling down. It’s true that a party of magpies have taken to tap-dancing on the flat roof of the bedroom’s dormer window but they’re much clumpier.  The scratching becomes more insistent; now it sounds as if the horrid creature’s got a pick axe and is close to breaking through. ‘That’s not outside,’ I insist. Eventually, Tom agrees that we are not alone.  It seems that the two dead mice found curled up so forlornly in a socket by our electrician in July have live relat…

Return to Ireland: Beyond the Mist

Friday 30 September
It’s our last full day at the cottage so, naturally, the mist lifts.  We seize the chance to take a look at the rugged scenery of the Ring of Beara and the spectacular Healy Pass.  It’s a bit of a whirlwind tour, but it’s wonderful to finally see the breathtaking views that are such a feature of this lovely county.  The fuchsia hedges that Fennie remembered from a trip to County Cork, and which are so characteristic of the area, line many lanes.

Ma wants to visit the wool shop in Bantry to see if she can find some emerald green wool to mix in with the blue she bought in Dingle last year.  Inside the shop, where wool tumbles out of every cupboard and shelf like a wool avalanche, she tells the owner what she’s looking for.             ‘I have some baby blue,’ says the owner.             ‘I’m looking for emerald,’ says Ma.             ‘Beige?’ the owner offers, plunging into a woollen lucky dip.  ‘Brown?  Red?  Black?  Purple?’             After Ma has rejected what feels …

Return to Ireland: Part Two

Tuesday 27 September, contd.
‘Stop! This is me!’our new friend announces some four very smelly miles down the road as we reach the village of Goleen. Tom opens the door to see him out and they shake hands.
   ‘What?’ Tom asks, climbing back in to find me and Ma sending him accusing stares.
   ‘I could have been knifed!’ Ma says, with ghoulish relish, even though she’s laughing.
   ‘Oh, he was mostly harmless,’ says Tom.
   ‘But smelly,’ I add. ‘I was nearly sick.’
   ‘Well, I couldn’t smell anything,’ says Tom, winding down the window to allow the lingering miasma to escape.
   'I just hope he didn’t have fleas,’ says Ma, as if we’ve picked up a stray cat.

At Barley Cove, Tom and I take a walk along the swaying pontoon bridge that conserves the dunes. Ma’s poor brittle back and injured arm mean that she’s too fragile these days to risk joining us, but she’s happy to sit in the car and wait, albeit still clucking about the low standard of boyfriend material we’ve procured for h…

Return and Return to Ireland

Hello. I dropped off the radar for a while there, didn’t I? The trials and tribulations have continued at Hotel H, along with a dollop of heartache caused by a stone flying into the deep, dark Pool of the Past, creating quite a few ripples. We’ve also been hit by the great ‘BT Service Outage’, resolved after five days, not by technology, but by the application of a sharp object to the router. And we’ve also been back to Ireland with Ma, but this year’s experience has been, well, different...

Sunday 25 September
Wake up in Bantry, West Cork, to an abundance of soft rain. Somewhere outside is a view, although the mist is so thick it’s hard to tell what it might be. Never mind, the view inside is interesting too, with plenty of fierce ornaments to keep us entertained. The cottage is large and well-stocked, although the initial fridge-like temperature that comes from the place not having been occupied for a couple of weeks, means we have to burn a small peat bog to stop our teeth chatte…

First there is a mountain.

I once worked in a busy research department where I was very fortunate to be partnered with a lovely colleague, Maureen. Whereas I’m not blessed with huge reserves of patience and can get a bit ratty at times of stress, Maureen rarely lost her Zen-like state of calm.

‘First there is a mountain...’ she would say, when I was tearing my hair out, earning herself a look of sheer exasperation. What the heck did an old hippie song about a mountain that came and went have to do with my problems? Eventually, I grasped that the words weren’t about getting lost whilst hiking, but about the path to enlightenment. Or Path to Enlightenment if you’re that way inclined. I’ve heard Maureen’s voice many times this year which has felt like a constant uphill struggle and it’s reminded me to try to deal with the challenges as they really are, not as insurmountable peaks.

Renovating the house is driving me nuts; I hate the disruption and mess. But as we move from room to room using them in unaccustomed…

Who lives...

... in a house like this?

Just before we moved into our new home, and after we’d signed contracts, I was given the happy news that the previous owner’s late husband had been spotted about the property. Not quite what I wanted to hear, despite being something of a sceptic, so when we moved in I visited each room inviting all previous occupants to leave. The mice didn’t hear me, but I’ve never been troubled by any ghostly presence, just a sense of sadness about the house which is disappearing as we make the place our own. One of the ways we’ve made our mark is by taking out the rather solid stone features either side of the fireplace, only to find that someone else has already left their mark on the wall!

Porky Pig, apparently.

From a Corner of the Spare Room

I’m sure there must be some equation about how the rate of progress on a house renovation reduces the amount of space available to its inhabitants. Clearly, those folks who go off and live in a caravan in their garden know this, but it’s come as something as a surprise to me, but then maths was never my strong subject.
The fitting of new ceilings has turned the ground floor into a building site and our utility room has become a makeshift kitchen, soon to be kitchen/bathroom. It’s a bit like living on the boat again but with running water. Famous last words.

For now, I’ve gathered up my essentials, found a couple of wooden blocks my dad ingeniously made to raise his bed when he was terminally-ill (although a carpenter, he said he drew the line at making his own coffin) to make my keyboard vaguely ergonomically sound and retreated to a corner of the spare room. However, with downstairs lighting due to be fitted at any moment, I have a feeling that the house renovation equation is about…

A Hill of Beans

To misquote the world-weary Rick Blaine, in one of my favourite films, Casablanca, my small concerns about renovating the house or waiting for the verdict on Book 2, don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. In the main, this blog does what it says on the tin; it’s about living and writing in west Wales. Over the last few weeks, however, it’s almost impossible not to comment on the craziness in the wider world. Not to wonder about the wisdom of hounding experienced police officers from their posts over phone-hacking, or the constant criticism of police tactics as too forceful one minute, too weak the next.

And before we point the finger at every young person and talk about the bad, we should also remember the good. My daughter, Rose, started volunteering at school and still donates an evening a week, working with a charity which provides emotional and practical support to families who have a child with a life-threatening or terminal illness. Stepson Two’s Gorgeous Girlfrie…

Let Them Eat Cake. And Onions.

The rewiring and replumbing works at Hotel H have had an expensive domino effect on the rest of the house. There’s a gaping wound in what was the kitchen where the old boiler was ripped out. New pipes and cables sit behind what have become free-standing kitchen units. Artex ceilings, in the style of a sludgy snow scene complete with swirls round the ceiling roses suggestive of sledge tracks, have had to be replaced for practical as well as aesthetic reasons. The bathroom – always an eyesore – started moulting tiles in its haste to be reborn, and the carpets – never the house’s strongest selling point – have been buried under Pompeii-alike layers of dust and plaster. ‘It will be lovely,’ we say, through gritted teeth, scouring the internet for bathroom and kitchen bargains. But, gosh, it’s quite scary punching in the pin code for yet another payment with cries of, ‘Well, we’ve gone this far...!’

Our workmen have been terrific; arriving at the Crack of Doom and working like demons on…

Blue Notes, Green Fuse

Tom created this epainting sitting in bed the other morning, looking down at the blue pool of hydrangeas beneath our window. In March, when we moved in, there were no clues about colour in the withered husks of last year’s flower-heads. Now, in a few short months, here they are in full bloom, purple from a distance but blue as you draw close.

Looking at these flowers, I’ve often been reminded of lines from D H Lawrence’s ‘Bavarian Gentians’ written when Lawrence was so aware of his own mortality. The ‘darker and darker stairs, where blue is darkened on blueness’. A poem suffused with beauty and sadness. There’s been too much sadness in the news this week, too many young lives curtailed. Locally too, the community is coming to terms with the death of a fifteen year old boy struck by a car when concerns about an unexploded WW2 shell diverted school children from their usual routes home and onto a main road. It’s all the lost potential that makes me despair.

This week, a hard-to-find …

Congratulations to Liz Fielding

I’ve dragged myself up at Crack of Doom for the electrician, my unwashed hair’s been piled up into a bun and the plug could be pulled on the power at any moment, but despite all this I’m at a party!

I’m over at my Welsh neighbour’s (well, we’re in next-door counties), award-winning romance writer, Liz Fielding. Liz and I are members of the Carmarthen Chapter of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and were also flatmates at the recent RNA Summer Conference. Not only has Liz been very generous in her support to me as a newly-published writer, but I can tell you that she’s very generous with yummy biscuits too!

Liz is celebrating the twentieth anniversary of signing her first contract for Mills and Boon for her novel, An Image of You and she’s just completed her – gulp! - sixtieth book for them, Flirting with Italian, which is out in December. How’s that for hard work and discipline?

I’ve just finished reading her latest book, Tempted by Trouble featuring the delectable Sean McElroy …

Of Mice, Romantic Novelists, Gok and a Cabbage

It’s 7a.m. on Day One of the home improvements at Hotel H and there is a cry of disbelief from upstairs. The electrician has opened the first of the old sockets – in our bedroom – to discover two dead mice curled up behind it. Downstairs, the heating engineer is flushing out the radiators and declares it to be his Filthiest Ever Flush. Nice.

Having only returned from the Romantic Novelists’ Association Summer Conference the previous evening, it’s all a bit of a rude awakening. Rather than doing something about all the writing ideas vying for attention after some very inspiring conference sessions, I’m dodging bits of ceiling – ‘You are replacing these, aren’t you?’ - choking on dust and supplying lashings of ginger beer, the workmen’s tipple of choice.

I have to admit that I wasn’t especially looking forwards to the RNA Conference, too afraid, I suppose, of being a Lonely Baloney*. In the event, I don’t know what I was worried about as I was met with warmth and kindness and some re…