Woodspring Priory

Some birthdays are special and have to be celebrated in style which is why I booked The Landmark Trust’s Woodspring Priory in Somerset for a milestone birthday of Roy’s.

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Founded in 1210 by the grandson of one of the knights who murdered Thomas a Becket, and added to in the fifteenth and eighteenth-centuries, the priory stands on a rural peninsula on the Somerset coast and has lovely walled gardens full of arches and well-placed benches where a writer can sit with a notebook and pen.

04Hattie met her first stone spiral staircase and soon got the hang of going up and down, and up and down, and up and down…

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Now, a surprise party is a lot of fun to organise, but it’s not easy! I booked the priory a good six months ago, making sure that Roy’s artist friends kept the date free in their diaries. With emails flying back and forth and Facebook messages being exchanged, I had to make sure that nothing was left open on my computer and all my own personal notes were written in shorthand! Oh, how many times I nearly slipped up, desperate to share each stage of the planning with my husband!26

But it was so worth keeping the secret and how wonderful it was to share such a magical setting with our talented artist friends including John Dobbs, Karl Terry, Peter Brown (aka “Pete the Street”) and Liam O’Farrell. And I sneaked in a couple of writer pals too – Victoria Eveleigh and Ruth Saberton.

32There are so many fabulous moments to remember like drinking champagne and singing Happy Birthday under a fan vaulted ceiling, being the curators of our very own museum for the week and sitting in the sunny walled garden with gargoyles watching over us. It’s a holiday we’ll never ever forget!

Holloway

On our recent holiday to Devon and Dorset, I wanted to try and find a special, secret place I’d read about in Robert Macfarlane’s wonderful book Holloway. Macfarlane visited Dorset’s ancient sunken paths after hearing about a 1939 thriller by Geoffrey Household called Rogue Male in which the protagonist, who is being hunted down by the authorities, hides out in the wilds of the Dorset countryside.

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Household mentions Lyme Regis, Beaminster and the Marshwood Vale in his novel and Macfarlane first headed to North Chideock. We bought an OS map and studied the area, but we weren’t sure where this holloway was until a local told us about a track ominously called Hell Lane. “It’s always wet there,” he told us. “The sun never gets through.”

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Well, it certainly was wet and muddy and Hattie couldn’t wait to make a start.

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And what a magical place it was with its twisting, leaning trees, its bluebells, its prehistoric ammonite-like ferns just beginning to unfurl and, everywhere, the pungent smell of wild garlic.

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It occurred to me that I was a writer following a writer who had been following another writer. It’s curious how a landscape can inspire and link us together and I’m thankful that books encourage us to go out and explore the wonderful world we live in.

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Holiday!

We’ve just returned from our first holiday in two years and, even though it rained every single day, it was still pretty special because it was Hattie’s very first holiday. So we took her to a favourite place of ours – the Devon/Dorset border near Lyme Regis.

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We walked through ancient woods filled with prehistoric ferns, sat on isolated beaches and gazed out to sea, and caught up with good friends. The lovely Ruth Saberton joined us for a couple of days and we posed in our purple wellies whilst talking about our two new series ‘The Book Lovers‘ and ‘Polwenna Bay‘.

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There was also some exploring to do. I’ve recently read Robert Macfarlane’s Holloway and wanted to find one of Dorset’s secret sunken paths. The one we chose was called Hell Lane – an apt description for the copious mud there. Hattie revelled in it, of course, becoming the dirtiest dog in Dorset in record time! But what a magical place it was with its banks of wild garlic scenting the air and its trees curving across the path.

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We also revisited a favourite place of mine: River Cottage! This is the original cottage from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s TV series – a programme that kept me dreaming about my own escape to the country when I was living in the London suburbs.

P1040032Now it’s back to the desk and the big print out of Love in an English Garden. I can’t wait to dive back into this story before sending it to my publisher later this month.

Our Celeste

We had to say goodbye to our dear Celeste yesterday. Losing a hen never gets any easier even though we’ve been through it many times since starting to rehome ex-bats five years ago.

Celeste came to us via the wonderful British Hen Welfare Trust back in September with her flock sisters Gertie and Evie – all named after heroines from my novel The Rose Girls which had been published that summer.September 2015On her first day in the garden, she went up against the formidable Peggy and soon realised that, although she’d never be top hen, she’d make a pretty good deputy.

Sept with Peggy

Peggy and Celeste soon became the best of friends, often sharing a nest box together and dust-bathing in the garden cheek by jowl.

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Celeste was one of the most docile hens I’ve ever known and never protested when I asked for a cuddle.

12744097_10156511339365517_437726394174298405_nHer time with us was all too brief, but I sincerely hope she enjoyed it. We loved having her as part of the Mulberry Cottage flock and will miss her gentle presence.

Thank you 100,000 times!

I’ve just heard some really amazing news from my publisher – The Rose Girls has sold over 100,000 copies since being published last May. I’m thrilled to reach this very special milestone and I have you – dear readers – to thank!

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The Rose Girls at the London Book Fair

I’ve just had a really exciting experience – seeing the cover of my book, The Rose Girls, all lit up on the Amazon Publishing stand at the London Book Fair.

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My husband and I spotted the paperback first, proudly displayed on their counter here:

The Rose Girls on the Amazon standBut I definitely did a double-take when I saw it at the top of their amazing banner!

The book fair is a huge, noisy, exciting event at Olympia. Just a few years ago, it was a pretty daunting place for a writer to be but, these days, there’s an Author HQ and numerous talks and events such as this fabulous panel featuring Joanna Penn and Mark Dawson. Do check out their excellent podcasts for indie authors. I’ve learned so much from both of them.

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Olympia from upper floor

And it was a lot of fun to meet up with some of my Notting Hill Press pals at the Amazon Publishing party in the evening. Here I am with Talli Roland, Nick Spalding and Matt Dunn.

NHP at Amazon Pary April Talli, Nick and Matt

Now, it’s back to my desk and my deadline for Love in an English Garden. There’s an editor champing at the bit to read it!

 

Just 99p in the UK this month!

I’m delighted that the second novel in my Book Lovers series – Rules for a Successful Book Club – has been chosen by Amazon for its Spring Sale ebook promotion and is just 99p in the UK.

Rules for a Successful Book Club Cover MEDIUM WEBGrab a copy today and catch up with the Nightingale family and find out what happens when Polly meets a guitar-playing biker called Jago…

Tell me a story…

I’ve recently become addicted to audio books. I listen to them on my Kindle Fire which moves around the house with me as I’m doing chores, and time really seems to speed up. I actually find myself wondering if there are any more chores to do so I can justify listening to a few more minutes from Robyn Carr’s wonderfully addictive Virgin River or Debbie Macomber’s heart-warming Blossom Street series.

Rules audio coverSo I’m delighted to be bringing out a brand new audio book of my own – Rules for a Successful Book Club – the second in the Book Lovers series.  I hope listeners will enjoy it as much as I’m enjoying my fix of audio books and that it might help a few of you get through some of those pesky chores!

Available from: Amazon UK Amazon US Audible iTunes

Springtime!

I’m really thrilled that The Rose Girls is a part of this lovely spring promotion at Amazon in Germany. Isn’t this the prettiest banner?

German banner The Rose Girls spring promo March 2016

Happy Birthday, Hattie!

A year ago today, a beautiful Springer spaniel named Izzy, gave birth to a litter of six puppies.

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One of which was our little Hattie.

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We brought her home in May and it’s no exaggeration to say that she turned our lives upside down and inside out! She was our first puppy and we had no idea quite how much energy she would have, racing around the garden, leaping over furniture and eating everything in sight!

IMG_3137I’m glad to report that she’s stopped eating chair legs now, but she is still full of life and is keeping us very fit indeed!

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Happy Birthday, darling Hattie! And here’s to many more years of adventures with you!

German Top Ten

Just two days after the launch of Rules for a Successful Book Club, I had another launch – this time in Germany for The Rose Girls.German Rose Girls coverAnd no sooner was it out then it entered Amazon’s Top 100, reaching the lofty heights of the Top Ten within two days! So thank you to all my lovely German readers. I really hope you enjoy the book!

Brand new Book Lovers out today!

I’m a romantic so Valentine’s Day is a bit special and I wanted to give my lovely readers something extra special this year so that’s why we’ve chosen today to publish Rules for a Successful Book Club – the second in the Book Lovers series.

Rules for a Successful Book Club Cover MEDIUM WEBI had so much fun writing this novel and there are some very touching scenes between Polly and Jago which I am thrilled to share with you today. I really hope you enjoy the book.