Author Archives: Sophie

Buckingham Palace Garden : trees, family, courage

Buckingham Palace, garden front

Garden front, photograph by Elizabeth Hawksley

This week I had a great treat. I visited Buckingham Palace Gardens. For the first time they are open for members of the  public to explore on a so-called “self-guided tour”.

The idea has been so successful that demand for tickets outstripped supply. So there are now additional ticket for dates throughout July to September.

Indeed, it looks as if even the newly released  tickets have already sold out. But they urge you to check back for possible cancellations. Given the uncertainty of British Weather – that great Cleopatra, as Charles Lamb called it – I should think there may be plenty

Two go to Buckingham Palace

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Punctuation and a New Challenge

owls, Little owlThe week before last I spent a blissful holiday in Dorset as a birdwatcher’s companion. We went on long walks in sea air and generally marvelled at the countryside. It was in full fig and glorious.

The Birdwatcher saw a couple of birds he didn’t expect, as well as one genuine rarity. And I spent a couple of hours communing with a Little Owl. It sat so still I worried that it was a stuffed toy. The Amiable Birdwatcher agreed that it might be a decoy to attract owls to that quarry as a des res, so took us back to check. And then, Sleepy Sam came out of his stupor to pursue a fly up one level on the rock face. So  after that, I stayed and watched him doze.

Punctuation – the Reckless Volunteer

writing energy magic, book, bluebell woodThe peace and quiet was very necessary. This last week I have been wrestling with new and exciting challenges. For I am to deliver an online course on punctuation next month and I have never done such a thing before. The online course, I mean.

Punctuation I had covered – or thought I did, anyway. Continue reading

Blinking into the Sunlight

Janus gateways to 2016I’ve been wondering all week who it was who first “emerged blinking into the sunlight.” It’s a lovely phrase but these days it’s turned into a cliché. Google it, and you find rather a lot of very dull examples but no source.

That is especially true now that Covid 19 restrictions may be coming to an end at last. For the time being. Perhaps.

So where did this lovely phrase originate? Shakespeare? The Bible? Milton? Doesn’t look like it.

Or could it be Mole, abandoning his whitewashing for the sheer delights of the spring, the river and friends?

London skyline with St Paul's dome and skyscrapers in fogOr poor devastated Orpheus, evicted from the Underworld, alone.

Maybe, though, it is more mundane. Maybe even collective. Prisoners, say. Or people who have gathered underground as a refuge. Maybe even an audience at some all-night movie show, leaving the cinema as day breaks.

A Mole Moment

So this morning, I woke up just after dawn. I’m a lark, not an owl, and this is normal for me. But it had rained like Niagara nearly all of yesterday and the light this morning was extraordinary. Piercing is the only word. It was my Mole moment. I wanted to be out there adventuring.

And pretty soon I was.

With a herd of elephants on the move.

I should explain that last night friends came to dinner. The first friends round my table for eighteen months! (I was like a labrador whose master has just come home from a year in Space.) And on the way to my house they had photographed this herd.

I  needed to see them. So out I went into the diamond-bright morning to look. And there they were, heading in determined convoy across a playing field. That’s the playing field outside the Saatchi Gallery at the Duke of York’s Headquarters on the King’s Road. Continue reading

Cosy Crime Novel, the Continuum

Lockdown seems to bring out the frustrated book clubber in loads of people. Over the last few weeks people keep asking me if I’ve read this cosy crime novel which is:

  • a murder mystery
  • a phenomenal success
  • in spite of being “only a cosy”.

Well, of course, say to a romantic novelist that a book is “only” anything and we’re onto our skate board and off to the nearest bookshop, out of sheer fellow feeling.

So, yes, I’ve read it. Now.

Of which more later*.

Cozy as a Term of Art

woman walking away, rose, cosy crimeBut that made me realise that I’ve always wondered about “Cozy Crime”. [US spelling because, at least in origin, it seems to be a US term.] I mean, what’s cosy [British spelling because this is me talking now] about crime?

By definition, crime is antisocial, the antithesis of cosy. Crime hurts people, sometimes terminally. It deprives them of something or someone they value and may well make them reassess their whole lives.

What’s more, crime can throw whole groups of family, friends and neighbours into turmoil. 

Maybe that’s why “crime” is often modified to  “mystery” when used in this sort of  label. Continue reading

Miss Pym and the Slough of Despond


I seem to have been circling round the novelist Barbara Pym most of my writing life. A friendly librarian steered me towards her books when I was still at school. By then I knew that, one way or another, I was going to write fiction as long as I lived.

“You will enjoy Miss Pym,” said the librarian. “All writers do.”

First Encounter With Miss Pym

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Flying Into the Mist

Autumn mist in LondonWhen I started writing stories, I always set off flying into the mist. Well, I was very young. Often – no make that always, at least to begin with – I ran out of steam. Can’t tell you how many snippets of unwritten novels I have in my filing system.

One of the things I have been doing during lockdown is reading my way through them. 

It was part of my general de-cluttering objective. And no, that hasn’t got very far at all, if you’re wondering. To be honest, I have binned very little yet.

Partly, this is because of how long it has taken me.

Stories Flying Into the Mist

I got back into the stories pretty quickly, to my surprise. Even more surprisingly, I remembered pretty nearly every one. Continue reading

Springing into Summer, Today, Tomorrow, One Day Soon?

Today the Libertà hive are in celebratory mood, springing towards summer by relaunching our collection of novellas, Beach Hut Surprise.

In spring, says the poet, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. (Actually it was Tennyson in Locksley Hall, written when he was twenty-five and presumably knew what he was talking about. At least in the Young Man Department anyway.)

This spring, after a grim year of Covid 19 and at least three lockdowns, most of us, even the least romantic, are starting to think of Getting Out A Bit. It gives us hope. Continue reading

Going to a Party – Virtually (RNA 2021 Awards)

Last Monday saw the Romantic Novel Award for each of nine different categories presented – online.

Normally I would be brushing the cobwebs off the posh frock, polishing the tiara and heading for an evening of fizz, friendship and books to add to the TBR pile in some Big Hall somewhere in central London.

Or I might start with lunch and/or tea with out-of-town friends and rock up to the awards with a good deal of the f and f already under the belt.

Not so this year, of course. Lockdown had turned the party virtual.

This year there were ten awards, nine for books in various categories and one Outstanding Achievement Award for a body of work, many supported by various bookish sponsors, including Libertà. So all of the hive, and friends, were sitting at our computers ready to party.

Getting Ready

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Recommendations and Finding Books To Read

Over the last year I’ve spent a lot of time on reading recommendations and other ways of finding books to read. For all sorts of reasons, I’ve had spurts of reading wa-a-a-ay out of my regular sunny uplands.

One of the few cheering things at the moment is how willing people are to share recommendations – new books, favourite books, books their children love….

Of course, recommendations aren’t the only route. I find a lot of my experiments by following some byway that takes my fancy. I must tell you how I found the wondrous  Goblin Emperor sometime. Continue reading

Reading the Shorter Romantic Novel Short List

A couple of weeks ago I splurged with glee over this. Libertà is sponsoring the award for the shorter romantic novel this year and the short list was out!

As it happened, I hadn’t read any of them, so added them all to my TBR list, in the full expectation of some cracking reads, when time allowed. And then life got complicated.

Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Shorter Romantic Novel

Well, make that disastrous.

There was a water leak in my road. Actually, more of a small fountain. It continued to flow for the best part of twenty-four hours. My basement flooded.

(Not for the first time. And yes, last time it was also down to the utility company which provides my water.) Continue reading