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.
Getting Out a Bit in Spring
Only… well, we’ve been confined to barracks a long time. I keep hearing people say they are nervous about launching out into the unknown. That’s lots of people – on Radio 4, in the park, in the queue for the butchers…
Actually queuing for the butchers, averaging an hour on high days and holidays, is quite a bonding experience, now I come to think of it.
“People keep talking about returning to normal,” said one woman. “But nothing’s going to be normal, is it?”
I feel for her. All the things I used to do spontaneously, without a thought, I have to plan. And – well – weigh up whether it’s worth it. Half the time I may decide it isn’t.
So I’ve been reminding myself of unique little seaside towns where a rich local life runs parallel with happy visitors holidaying, by re-reading the six stories about Little Piddling. And telling myself to get a grip. Springing towards summer, in thought and deed.
Little Piddling Over Time
Libertà hive member Sarah Mallory has been re-reading, too.
She writes: “Recently, I re-read the beautiful (and slightly batty) Beach Hut Surprise, reliving the sea, sun and surreal events that occurred in a sleepy little seaside town, all conjured from the fevered imaginations of six author friends. Stories we wouldn’t normally write.”
She’s mainly a Regency and Georgian novelist. But her story in the collection gambols gleefully through small council politics and big personality clashes in Little Piddling’s Edwardian expansion to full resort style. And there’s a palatial beach hut with literary connections, too. A hoot.
There was a lot happening in World War 2, with echoes that need to be sorted today, in Lesley Cookman’s mystery. Her much loved sleuth, Libby Sarjeant is away from home, for once, and not entirely happy about it.
She writes: “The idea was – get out and about a bit more. Off our own patch. Well, my friend Fran was driving, and to be honest, we could both do with a bit of a holiday – without stumbling over bodies. Lovely beach, pretty beach huts, and what do you know – a body. Can’t get away from them, can we?”
So the two friends are springing into summer with their customary verve. Classic!
Lesley’s story cuts between now and the 1940s, so sort of chronologically, my own story is next.
Set just after the Summer of Love, when the Internet was just a twinkle in a Californian geek’s eye, our narrator is a professional, visiting these shores for research. Frantically learning the ropes, she misses clues that the alert reader will pick up before she does.
A Little Piddling beach hut is her sanctuary. Only the guy next door is pure Neanderthal…
Little Piddling in the Nearly Now
There has been no pandemic, no lockdown in Little Piddling. The crises – and there are many – are all local.
Joanna Maitland eschews her habitual Regency for a supremely civilised hero (big swirly black cloak, top hat, fangs) with loads of old world charm and some unusual skills, with which he comes to the aid of a Little Piddling family. A twenty-first century schoolboy gives him a bit of a shake-up, though. And both of them are irresistible.
Rose finds a mysterious postcard when clearing out her late father’s study. Posted in Little Piddling, it sets her off on a journey of discovery – and has her springing into summer past and present with a whole lot more to deal with than she bargained for.
This story is more of a mystery than usual from Liz Fielding, but as utterly heartwarming as I expect from this beloved writer.
Perfick’, in fact.
Louise Allen is also on a mystery kick, though this time with more than a dash of the supernatural.
She writes: “There’s something about beach huts that lifts the spirits and there is also often something slightly mysterious about them, as though each hides its own little world inside.” The little world of the beach hut owned by failing brewer, Jac, is – er – multi dimensional. Which is just one more unwelcome problem to go with the historic rivalry between old brewery and new wine bar, now owned by dashing Henry Dumaine.
A cracking story, with a twist in the tail that I never expected and a thoroughly satisfying happy ending.
Beach Hut Surprise Effect
In the Before Time, I sat round a winter dinner table with dear writer friends and dreamed of summer and a small English seaside town with beach huts and a history. We laughed a lot. Well, we called it Little Piddling. “We should share it,” we said.
When we wrote it, going to an English seaside resort for a proper holiday was still normal. Re-reading Beach Hut Surprise has lifted my spirits, as Louise says. What’s more, it has made me feel that it can be normal again. Getting out the maps and my diary now.
For your own Beach Hut Surprise
only £2.99 / $3.99
Thanks – or should that be fangs – for the memory of a great evening creating Little Piddling, with its wonderful beach huts, around your dining table, Sophie. So many laughs planning stories that were a little out of our comfort zone.
It was very special, wasn’t it? Still laugh out loud when I remember some of it. Sarah Mallory was inspired! And all those crazy ideas we haven’t used…
It’s a fabulous collection. I loved it. Especially the fact everyone was writing something they usually wouldn’t. Refreshing, exciting and entertaining throughout.
Thank you, Liz! Happy Easter.
Thank you loads, Liz. Writing something new-to-each-of-us really did perk us up , I think. Made me feel as exactly the same excitement as when I was writing my very first Mills & Boon, like being on a fair ground ride for the first time.
The sun is shining here in Welsh border country and it does lift the spirits. Makes me want to get back to my current book which features Theo from the anthology (he of the swirly black cloak and fangs). Had such fun with the anthology that I’ve had to start another…
So want to read Theo’s next outing. Not to mention William’s…
Ah, memories! It was such fun collaborating with everyone to produce this anthology. I had never written “Edwardian” before, and I did enjoy it. We were all writing out of our comfort zone in some way, so it was an interesting experiment, too.