Category Archives: a writer’s life

It all began with a garden…

January sees the publication of my 70th book for Harlequin Mills and Boon and in the darkest days of winter, it offers the scents and colour of warm early summer days.

Redeemed by Her Midsummer Kiss

Click Cover to buy the book

The garden…

When a book is written and has been through the publication process, I often struggle to remember what inspired the original idea. How it got from a blank screen to the physical book that I’m holding in my hand.

Redeemed by Her Midsummer Kiss was like that.

blackberries

https://pixabay.com/users/pixel2013-2364555/

I do know that I was thinking about an earlier book in which the garden had featured heavily and which I’d loved writing.

That one had started with blackberries hanging over a garden wall. It was set in a world I had begun to create more than twenty-five years (and many books) ago.

My world

dandelions

https://pixabay.com/users/mabelamber-1377835/

Back in that world – Maybridge and the villages of Upper Haughton and Longbourne – I once again started with a garden.

Not a manicured, tidy garden with perfect herbaceous borders and an immaculate lawn. This was a garden where the “lawn” was a wildflower meadow, where nettles were allowed to grow undisturbed to nurture butterflies, and dandelions were not dug up, but the flowers were made into wine.

butterfly on nettlesMy first thought was to return to the village of Upper Haughton. But I needed a river in the story that was beginning to take shape in my imagination.  Lower Haughton had a mention way back in The Bachelor’s Baby, so I set it there.

Having settled on the location, I disappeared down the rabbit hole that is  Pinterest to find a garden, and cottage, that matched my imagination. You can see the result here.

So, who would live in a house like this?

blonde woman with rose

https://pixabay.com/users/nastya_gepp-3773230/

Setting sorted, I needed my heroine. Why was she living in this extraordinary garden? Was she happy or hurting?

Silly question. Happy people, bless their hearts, do not make great stories.

Trying out names for her gave me family history. The Rose family, gardeners, travellers, innovators for generations, who always named their baby girls after their birth month flower. And so Honeysuckle Rose – raised in the cottage by her recently deceased great-aunt from the age of six and who, until a few weeks ago, had been nursing in refugee camps with an international medical charity – stepped into my garden.

This was a much-loved place, but a responsibility, too. One she didn’t feel ready to take on.

And a title?

It’s always easier to write a book when you have a title and with Honey’s name came my title. Even though I knew that my editor would never agree to it, all the while that I was writing this book, in my head it was Honey’s Garden for the Broken-Hearted. In my heart, it always will be.

And who lives next door?

man in garden

Burned out and hurting from one loss too many, Honey has retired to lick her wounds in the peace of her aunt’s garden. But there is more than one person who needs the garden’s healing touch.

Step in Honey’s reclusive neighbour, Lucien Grey, to shatter her peace.

These two people have spent years working in some of the toughest places in the world. They have both seen tragedy on an epic scale. Scarred by the experience, they have retreated behind high emotional barriers.

Lucien is struggling with PTSD. Writing about any kind of disability is fraught with danger, but I’ve witnessed the kind of panic attack he experiences and was writing from personal experience.

He doesn’t want to see anyone. It’s Honey, driven by fury, who is hammering on his door.

This is how it goes…

‘MURDERER!’

door knocker

https://pixabay.com/users/dennisflarsen-2321124/

Lucien Grey’s first reaction to the furious pounding on his front door had been to ignore it. After a succession of village worthies, from the vicar to the chair of the parish council, had called to introduce themselves, invite him to open the summer fete, join the bridge, cricket and tennis clubs, all of which he’d politely declined, he’d found a screwdriver and removed the knocker.

And the village had finally got the message.

This, however, was not the polite knock of someone hoping to involve him in a local good cause.

The hammering was hard enough to rattle the letterbox.

Concerned that there might have been an accident in the lane, that there might be casualties, he curled his fingers into fists to stop his hands from shaking and forced himself away from his desk.

Confronted by a furious female thrusting a fistful of wilting vegetation in his face, it was too late to regret his decision, but he didn’t have to stand there and take abuse from some crazy woman.

Wearing dungarees that had seen better days, her white-blonde hair escaping from a knotted scarf and pink, overheated cheeks, she looked like someone out of a Dig for Victory poster circa 1942.

muddy boots

https://pixabay.com/users/eatonab12-21083734/

He took a step back, intending to close the door, but she had her boot on the sill faster than the thought could travel from his brain to his hand.

It was a substantial leather boot, laced with green twine and as he stared at it, a lump of dried mud broke off, shattering into dust and clouding the polished surface of the hall floor.

‘Who are you?’ he demanded. ‘What do you want?’

The words were out of his mouth before he could stop them. He didn’t care who she was or what she wanted.

Too late.

She was going to tell him…

And, finally…

book with matching nailartI’ve had all kinds of fun with special occasion nails, but Covid has meant that I’ve been missing this treat.

Liz's nail art to match her new bookI did have red, glittery nails for Christmas. This week, when I went to see Charlotte, she had the UK cover of my book on her phone and was as excited as I was to make the nails match.

This is the result.

Nails to match the cover, and the wildflower meadow that appears in the book!

Liz

Liz

In the flesh! With hugs!

hugging a tree but hugs between writers are betterSome of the Libertà hive, plus friends and supporters, have been on writing retreat this past week. In the flesh! With hugs!

And it was utterly wonderful.

Yes, I know that the image here is someone hugging a tree. We did that too, but the real joy was hugs with each other. Wine bottles may also have been hugged. Usually while still partly full.

Why Zoom can’t compete with hugs

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October Day

This week has been generally frustrating and guilt-making – except for one glorious October day. Nothing went to plan. It was very exciting in one way but… Well, see what you think.

It started before dawn. I woke up to fog. Real Gothic fog.

Now, from my fourth floor window I normally look across a cityscape of roof and skylight and the odd church tower. The staircase of the nearest block of flats shows a searchlight beam all night. Fantasy-tall cranes in the distance carry a red warning light on skeletal antennae. In the pre-dawn, there are lights in a few attic windows.

But this morning early there was none of that. Just fog, swirling and eddying like sea fret.

I got up and went out. The lights were shifting and formless, like blobs of paint dropped in running water. I couldn’t find a lamppost I knew was there, until I was close enough to touch. It was cold; still and very quiet.

Gothic October Day

So, of course, I came home and wrote up a Gothic scene. A damn good scene, I may say. Good enough to  have had Wilkie Collins gnashing his teeth with envy. Continue reading

Finding appropriate images to use legally and fairly

glorious beach, north-west Scotland © Joanna Maitland

glorious beach, north-west Scotland © Joanna Maitland

How often, when you’re writing a blog or preparing something for social media, do you tell yourself you need to include an image? Most of the time, I’d guess. But finding appropriate images can be difficult.
Certainly time-consuming.

And even when you’ve found one, can you legally use it?

This one on the right, of a glorious beach in north-west Scotland, is fine because I took it myself. My copyright. No problem.

That’s my first tip.
Tip #1 Use your own pics whenever you can.
And if you’re worried about other people snaffling them, make sure you mark them as your copyright. (I don’t do that, normally, but in this instance, I have. Note to self: I probably should claim copyright routinely though I’m already partly covered by Tip #2 below.) Continue reading

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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Is your book dated? A writer’s cautionary tale

In the beginning…

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Many years ago, around about my fourth book, I created a town called Maybridge. It was an amalgam of the town I grew up in and a much larger town a few miles away.

Since then, it has provided the background for many stories. It may be no more than a brief visit by the hero or heroine. A shopping trip, a visit to the bank manager, a visit to A&E.

In a couple of books the heroine lives there, and we see her set off on an adventure that will change her life.

Image by Trang Dang from Pixabay

Sometimes I set a story in the town and, over the years, I have created a world with a river (the River May), a thriving foodie area with independent shops, a huge old coaching inn that has become a great craft centre (owned by one of my heroes, naturally), parks, major companies and history.

World Building

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Non-Holidays : What I Didn’t Do on My Holidays

man holding no entry sign in front of faceHolidays? Wot holidays?
Just non-holidays, actually.

Towards the end of last year, Sophie blogged on the perennial school essay topic of What I Did On My Holidays. With Easter coming up soon, I’ve been thinking about holidays too. And I’ve realised how much I’ve missed over the last year of more or less permanent lockdown.
You might be feeling equally stir-crazy?

I haven’t been away from home for a year. But I should have been. I had holidays and trips booked. They had to be postponed or cancelled. So I’m going to muse on might-have-beens. Non-holidays, if you like.

After all, we writers use our imaginations all the time.
So why not holiday that way?

Lake District Non-Holidays (of the working variety)

Lake District in overcast weather. Non-holiday destination

Imagine walking down that beautiful hillside towards the water, smelling the freshness of the trees and feeling the breeze on your face. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to do that? Continue reading

Yikes, I’ve won the Libertà Award : Guest Blog by Kate Hardy

  1. The Writer’s Dog : Guest Blog by Anne Gracie
  2. Finding Your Hero: Guest Blog by Louise Allen
  3. The Reader Writer Connection: Guest Blog by Sue Moorcroft
  4. The Amateur Sleuth: Guest Blog by Lesley Cookman
  5. Confessions of a Country House Tour Guide: Guest Blog by Nicola Cornick
  6. Romantic Series: Guest Blog by Sarah Mallory
  7. Jane Austen: Emotion in the Shrubbery
  8. Do you speak Oz? Guest Post by Janet Gover
  9. YA Heroes: Deliciously Bad? Guest Post by Pia Fenton
  10. Romantic Comedy — Guest Post by Alison May
  11. New Heyer Stories? Guest Post by Jennifer Kloester
  12. Handcuffed? Research? Guest Post by Patricia McLinn
  13. Fantasy research: sweat the small vampires? Kate Johnson guests
  14. Katie Fforde & Research: Guest Blog
  15. Sugar tongs at dawn? Elizabeth Rolls guests
  16. Gritty Saga Research: Jean Fullerton guests
  17. Elizabethan York without Dung? Pamela Hartshorne guests
  18. Love among the Thrillers: Alison Morton guests
  19. My Hairy-Chested Hero : Guest Blog by Christina Hollis
  20. Veronica the crafty companion : Guest blog by Judy Astley
  21. Writer’s Pet? Sort of — Guest blog by Catherine Jones
  22. Puppy Love : Guest Blog by Jane Godman
  23. Am I surviving the writer’s survival kit?
  24. Jenni Fletcher guest blog : the writer in lockdown
  25. Before The Crown there was a love story
  26. Yikes, I’ve won the Libertà Award : Guest Blog by Kate Hardy

As a follow-up to last weekend’s blog on the virtual ceremony for the RNA Awards 2021, this week we’re delighted to be able to welcome Kate Hardy, the winner of the LIbertà Books Shorter Romantic Novel Award 2021 for A Will, A Wish and A Wedding.

Kate is an old mate of the Libertà hive. She was one of the very kind authors who welcomed the then unpublished newbie, Joanna Maitland, to her very first RNA meeting. That was well over 20 years ago and Kate says she doesn’t remember. But Joanna does and is still grateful.

Kate Hardy's spaniels, Archie and DexterKate comes—be warned—with hairy hangers-on. So this is partly a writer’s pet blog too. It’s about time we did another of those, don’t you think?

Kate’s hangers-on, Archie (the big one) and Dexter, rejoice in the title of Edit-paw-ial Assistants.
More from them later.

Keep reading, as Kate tells us about how she became a published author and how she came to write the lovely butterfly-filled book that won our award.

Kate Hardy writes…

I’m thrilled to be here, as the winner of the 2021 Libertà Books Shorter Romantic Novel Award. It’s a glorious collision of numbers: for my 90th M&B, in my 20th year of being a M&B author and my 25th year of being a member of the RNA. And it’s also the third time I’ve won the award. As the photo below shows, I really wasn’t expecting it — and I’m so delighted!

Kate Hardy is announced as the winner of the Libertà Books Award 2021

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Halloween and Other Dangerous Days

I am writing this on Halloween. The shops are full of pumpkins and strangely wrapped sweets to give to trick or treaters..

Some of my neighbours’ houses have spooky decorations and carved pumpkins on the doorstep. They look like macabre heads. (The pumpkins, that is. Not the neighbours. Obviously.) It’s all very jolly in a perverse way.

“Come in if you dare,” says one banner. Continue reading

Writing Settings out of Sequence

Writing energy, happy writerI love starting a new book

It is a lovely feeling, a clean sheet  with so many possibilities. New story, new characters, new settings. It’s the time I can let myself dream as I begin weaving the story.

That is the point I am at now.

I have an idea for the book and the settings will be Regency London and mainly (probably) at my hero’s country house. And it is summer.

I first began thinking about this idea in September, when my current work in progress was coming to an end. Now I wonder if I chose a summer setting because the seasons were changing? Maybe I was hoping to hang on to those hot days and balmy summer nights. But I shall be writing the story throughout the winter: bare landscapes, long nights, icy days.

 It shouldn’t be a problem, I am a writer, aren’t I?

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