Category Archives: a writer’s life

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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Christmas Reunion in Paris—a writer’s anxiety and joy

The beginning…

romantic novelist busy editingWriting Christmas Reunion in Paris was a curious mixture of fun and anxiety. Maybe it’s always like that. There are always tough moments when you can’t see an ending, when you sit and stare at the screen and the words won’t come. But, mostly, like childbirth, you forget the agonies when all is delivered safely.

It all started when my editor asked if I’d like to write the first book in a three book mini-series – Christmas at the Harrington Park Hotel. My fellow authors, Kandy Shepherd (in Australia) and Susan Meier (in the US) were old friends. I was delighted to team up with them to work on the books that were about three siblings, each with their own painful past.

The collaboration…

writer at laptop smilingEmails flew back and forth as we worked on settings. The boarding school that James (my character) and his twin Sally had attended. The Harrington Park Hotel. The backstory of their parents, a stepfather, the moments that fractured a once happy family.

That was the fun part!

Paris…we’ve done that…

Paris for Christmas reunion

My story takes place in Paris, in the run up to the holiday, so I grabbed the chance to go and do a little research which I wrote about a few months ago.

More fun.

It couldn’t last…

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What I Did On My Holiday : perils, pitfalls and Pratchett

Eton_Schoolboys,_in_ad_Montem_dress,_by_Francis_AlleyneThis is the time of year when school children up and down the land are required to produce an essay, project or even, God help us, art homework on the subject of What I Did On My Holiday.

They are supposed to have had some wonderful new experience to share with their grateful class mates. At least, I suppose that’s the idea.

Might be a bit of a damp squib this year, I’d say. For a lot of people, anyway. But for some of us it was always torture.

Not necessarily because you’d had a bad holiday, either. Just because of the impossibility of a) selection and b) giving enough context without boring the pants off your class mates. Ten-year-olds make a tough audience. I speak from experience.
Except once.

What I Did on My Holiday at Christmas

At my primary school one year we got the assignment when we went back in January as well. (My mother blamed the teacher’s Christmas-through-New Year hangover. Though she didn’t tell me that until after my 21st birthday.)

Me? I’d spent my holiday reading. Continue reading

Animals in books: cute, endearing. Risky?

When its eyes met mine…

cover Crazy For You by Jennifer Crusie“On a gloomy March afternoon, sitting in the same high school classroom she’d been sitting in for thirteen years, gritting her teeth as she told her significant other for the seventy-second time since they’d met that she’d be home at six because it was Wednesday and she was always home on six on Wednesdays, Quinn McKenzie lifted her eyes from the watercolour assignments on the desk in front of her and met her destiny.”

Jennifer Crusie is famous for putting wonderful dogs in her books and this is no exception. Quinn’s destiny is a small black dog with desperate eyes and he isn’t a prop, a cute accessory for her heroine. He gets the opening line in Crazy For You, because he’s about to change her life.

Animals in books? Dogs, more dogs and a duckling or two

Georgette Heyer put animals in books, shown here with her dogGeorgette Heyer, seen here with her dog, was another author who used dogs, kittens, even ducklings to delight us. In a long scene in The Grand Sophy the ducklings escape, are recaptured and generally cause chaos. 

ducklings

Image by Adina Voicu from Pixabay

Venetia‘s Flurry flew to her rescue when, shockingly, Damerel kissed her. Unfortunately Flurry desisted the moment he was commanded to “sit”, recognising a master when he heard one. But he was enough of a distraction for Venetia to extract herself. Once she’d done that, she was more than a match for the man!

And Ulysses, the disreputable mongrel Arabella foisted on Beaumaris, is a joy. 

But writers beware!

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Missing the Beach? Try Little Piddling’s Beach Hut Surprise

writers working together, with wineBack in 2019, the Libertà Hive met over supper and the odd glass 😉 to plot the future. We decided to write a Libertà Beach Reads anthology for summer 2020.

We didn’t know back then, of course, that beaches might be off-limits for a bit. But there’s no ban on beach reads. Writing them—and reading them, too—can be great fun.

As the evening wore on, amid much laughter and scraping of plates, we discovered the joys of Little Piddling, its history, its inhabitants… We also discovered some of the skeletons in our seaside town’s metaphorical cupboards (aka beach huts).

Beach Read challenge

We challenged each other to write the sort of stories we’d never attempted before. And we’ve all really enjoyed meeting those challenges. We even roped in two long-term friends of the hive, authors Louise Allen and Lesley Cookman.

The result?fanfare of trumpets

Fanfare of trumpets please for the Libertà Books anthology: Continue reading