Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Celebrating strawberries!

As you have probably already guessed from the stunning cover, A TASTE OF HOME features its fair share of that most delicious of summer fruits, the strawberry and as it's one of my absolute faves, I thought a little celebration in the run up to publication day was in order!


I've eaten and enjoyed strawberries for as long as I can remember, and if you've read the inspiration behind the book post, (Books and The City feature) I wrote for my wonderful publisher, then you'll know all about my Nanna and Grandad and how I spent my summer holidays picking fruit for my grandad, along with what I loved and loathed about it!


I kick-start almost every day with strawberry topped cereal, but please don't tell Fliss (the main character in the book) as she and her Grandad Bill, are advocates of seasonal eating and most likely wouldn't appreciate me eating fruit which has flown further than the Fens.


I love strawberries for dessert too. The simplicity of strawberries and cream, with perhaps a few meringue pieces added for good measure, is hard to beat. That said, these cookies made for a deliciously indulgent sweet treat!


As well as eating, I've always found immense pleasure to be gained from growing my own. A couple of years ago, to celebrate the publication of POPPY'S RECIPE FOR LIFE, I planted up an old tin bath with a mix of strawberry plants, herbs and salad leaves.


The fruit were small, but perfectly formed and so, so sweet. They really enjoyed sharing the soil with crisp salad and fragrant herbs and there was no slug damage on any of the berries or leaves. I put that down to the plants being off the ground and the kind of container they were planted in.


Just enough for breakfast!


As well as growing and eating strawberries, I've recently noticed that they feature around the house quite a lot too. I have mugs, fabrics and notebooks all featuring the fine fruit.


Obsessed... me? Okay, maybe a little!


Do you have a favourite fruit that features in your diet and decorating? Let me know in the comments box below and we can compare notes!


This quote from Sally sums up A TASTE OF HOME to a T and with just two weeks to go until publication day, I can't wait to share this latest strawberry filled, summer adventure in Wynbridge with you all!

With love,

H x


Wednesday, 14 April 2021

The joy of journaling

Earlier in the year, my darling daughter suggested that I should set up a journal. She'd been keeping one for a while and thought I might enjoy it too. Initially, I resisted. Intimidated by too many images of fabulously illustrated and organised layouts, my non-existent art skills were destined to flop, but then my wise one reminded me that this would be my project, for my eyes only and I could organise, embellish (or not) and add anything I wanted. 


So... I caved. Just in time for March, I ordered a black, squared notebook and I haven't looked back since!

Using DD's layout as a blueprint for my own, I spent a contented few hours drawing out grids, weekly diary pages and best of all, cutting out and pasting in inspirational and aesthetically beautiful images from all those old copies of Country Living I'd been hoarding. I always knew they would come in handy one day. It turned out, I didn't need to worry about artistic talents because I could embellish my journal without picking up a pencil!


DD kindly applauded my efforts - in spite of the fact that her stock of washi tape was much depleted.

So far I haven't missed a day and I've added to the initial layout too. I now have pages on which to make Nature Notes, record What I'm Reading, What I'm Watching and What I'm Listening To. At the end of March I was able to look back and remind myself that I had achieved far more than I would have acknowledged had I been carrying it all about in my head!

I also realised that I'd read some fabulous books, watched some great interviews and films and listened to some inspirational podcasts and music and so, I decided that at the end of every month, I would share some of my faves from the last, here on the blog, in the hope that you might seek them out and enjoy them too!

Here are a few highlights from March - 

What I'm reading


I was fortunate enough to be sent a proof copy of THE READING LIST, by Sara Nisha Adams. It's a stunning debut, publishing on July 22nd and I can't recommend it highly enough. Here's the blurb -

Widower Mukesh lives a quiet life after the loss of his wife Naina. He shops every Wednesday, goes to Temple, and worries about his disinterested granddaughter, Priya, who tucks herself away reading whilst he watches David Attenborough.

Aleisha is working at the local library on Harrow Road for the summer when she discovers a crumpled-up piece of paper in the back of To Kill A Mockingbird with a list of books that she’s never heard of before – let alone read. In turn, each story on the reading list gives up its magic, transporting Aleisha away from the painful realities she’s facing at home.

And when Mukesh arrives at the library, desperate to forge a connection with his bookworm of a granddaughter, Aleisha discovers that the reading list will be a lifeline for him too. And so begins a new chapter between two lonely souls, who’ll learn that fiction can teach them a whole lot about real life…

I predict this book is going to be a HUGE success!


I also loved


Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 - Cho Nam-Joo



What I'm Watching


I don't spend much time in front of the TV, however, the return of GARDENERS' WORLD has been a joy. For reasons I won't bore you with, I didn't watch it at all last year and so this new series has been a revelation.

I'm loving the mix of time in Monty's garden, the antics of the dogs (of course) and the many videos viewers have sent in from all over the world. Whereas before the featured gardens sometimes felt out of reach and way beyond what most of us can achieve, these insights into the passions of other green-fingered folk are inspiring.

I particularly enjoyed listening to someone waxing lyrical about their love of cacti and the concrete back yard transformation was a total triumph. I urge you to tune in for a weekly dose of green things growing. I watch on a Saturday morning with a cuppa and a blanket.


What I'm Listening To

I'm a huge fan of Dorothy Koomson and thanks to an online afternoon tea hosted by the Society of Authors, I discovered her podcast, The Happy Author.

I particularly enjoyed Dorothy sharing her words of wisdom about - 


Another great podcast came to me via Helen Redfern. I receive her newsletter which is an inspiration in itself. The most recent one discussed who you create your content for. Her wise words have encouraged me to kick-start my blogging again and I'm loving it!

Anyway, I digress! One of the podcasts recommended by Helen was from The Rebel Podcast Author - 


You know how sometimes things land in your life when you need them most? Well, for me, this was one of those occasions! Just the boost I needed, at exactly the right time!

So, that was March. I hope you enjoy at least a couple of my highlights and I hope I might be able to tempt you into journaling too. I'm very aware that I've over-used the word INSPIRED in this post, but I hope you'll forgive me because that's how I'm feeling. Take care my loves and stay safe.

Sending you all so much love

H xxx






Thursday, 8 April 2021

Another birthday post!

I know it's a rarity and I never post twice in one day, but as it's my birthday and I want to share pics of the BEST EVER present with you, I'm certain you'll indulge me! 

The fabulous A TASTE OF HOME paperbacks have landed!


Fresh out of the box, they are utterly gorgeous. I can't even begin to tell you how in love I am with them and I hope you'll be as blissed out by them as I am!

The colouring matches Fliss's story perfectly and the pretty strawberry border looks even better in book form than on the screen. The wonderful Pip Watkins and the Books and The City team have a real talent for capturing the essence of the story in the cover and this newest addition to the collection proves that yet again. Thank you Team! 


And then there were 12...

This rapidly rising book stack is the result of 6 years very hard work and intense output, but my goodness each and every title is worth it. Thank you for travelling the publishing path with me Swainettes.

Now I'm going to celebrate with another helping of crumble and settle down to admire these beautiful books!

Love and hugs,

H x





Wednesday, 7 April 2021

It's my birthday!

It's my birthday today - a sort of a milestone one - which means it's also just three more weeks until A TASTE OF HOME is published and combined together, the two things have put me in a rather reflective mood.

I know that turning 49 might not mean much to some, but I feel it's important to celebrate the last year of my 40's. It has certainly been one heck of a decade. The highs have been monumental, the lows have been crushing and there's been a lot of in-between stuff too, but today, I'm thinking more about what's happened in my life over the last 49 years to turn me into the writer I am today. 

Who and what has been responsible for shaping my writing?

A sense of place...

Until I started to take my writing ambitions seriously and settled down to properly write with intent, I had no idea how formative my early years had been. However, as you may already be aware, a sense of place is a key theme in all of my books. I love my settings every bit as much as my characters and that, I think, was something destined to become embedded from an early age.

The first setting I created was beloved Wynbridge. I made no conscious decision, when I started building that little market town in the Fens, to begin imagining the town nearest to where I grew up and yet that was exactly where my mind set off to. The memory of that place became the building blocks for an integral part of my writing journey and, in turn, my future publishing success.

And my imagination didn't stop there, because as well as places, people have played a major part in shaping me as a writer too. 

Family... 

The influence of my much-loved Nanna and Grandad are sprinkled throughout the pages of each and every book I've written. It might be a brief mention of the joy of the old-fashioned button tin or more detailed descriptions of the trials and tribulations of strawberry picking, but they are always there in some form or another. 

As is the family farming tradition, the joy of gardening and precious memories stored up from trips to the seaside. Mum, Dad, grandparents, great-grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins, they're all to be found in Wynbridge, Nightingale Square and more recently, Wynmouth.

Favourite fiction...

My love of fiction has also played its part. There are certain books I read every year, on a sort of seasonal loop - 

Spring - The Wind in The Willows, Kenneth Grahame

Summer - The Darling Buds of May, H E Bates

Autumn - Village School, Miss Read

Winter - A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

These four familiar titles herald the arrival of each new season and I can identify elements from them all in my own writing.

My love of family and home, the strong connection to nature and seasonal cycles, the importance of community and kindness can be tracked in all of these books and are prevalent themes in my own writing too.

Here's hoping that the influence of my formative years, family and my love of books will help me create even more magic and enable me to bring to you many more books for decades to come!

With love to all the fabulous Swainettes out there!

H xxx


Thursday, 1 April 2021

Welcoming Kathleen Whyman to the blog!

Today I have the very great pleasure of welcoming fellow author, and RNA chum, 

Kathleen Whyman to the blog! 

She's sharing the inspiration behind, and telling us all about, her fantastic debut -

 WIFE SUPPORT SYSTEM

'Stop talking about writing a book and just write one.'

It was these words, delivered by my seven-year-old daughter, that gave me the push I needed to write the novel – Wife Support System – that I’d been thinking about (and clearly talking about!) for a long time.

The inspiration for the book had come on a typically frantic day. I was trying to test spellings, get to an after-school club, cook dinner, book a plumber and meet a work deadline. Oh, and make a gas mask for a school project that was due in the next day! Many of my friends were struggling in the same way and it occurred to me that if we lived together, we could help each other out and life would be much easier. 

I’m not as brave as the three women in my book to do this (although I was often as desperate during lockdown!), but thought it’d make a great story, that many women could relate to.

Frustrated friends!

Wife Support System (published by Hera Books and available in paperback, ebook and audiobook) is humorous women's fiction featuring three friends who are frustrated by the lack of support they get in their family homes. They decide they’ve got the balance wrong. Instead of living with their partners and struggling with careers, childcare and housework by themselves, they should live together and help each other out, and date their partners. 

At first, life’s easier when the childcare and workload is shared, but over time resentment builds, as they judge each other’s parenting styles and bicker over cleaning, cooking and whose turn it is to buy toilet rolls.

Can Erica, Louise and Polly keep their friendships and relationships strong, as one has her head turned by a handsome colleague, one resorts to spying on her husband and one fights to keep a dark secret? Or will their perfect mumtopia fall apart?

As I don’t have my own wife support system, it took seven years to write, but, having dreamt of being a published author all my life, it was worth the wait!

Write here

My children are a bit older now (12 and 14 – I wasn’t exaggerating when I said Wife Support System took me seven years!), so I have more time to write and have finished my second novel, which was shortlisted for the Comedy Women in Print prize in the unpublished category. 

When we’re not in lockdown, I write at the library. It’s the best way of ensuring I don’t get distracted by jobs at home, although I do get distracted by all the books! It’s so important to support libraries. If we don’t use them, we’ll lose them. I’m very glad they’ll be reopening soon and thrilled that Wife Support System will be on their shelves!

How to buy…

Wife support System by Kathleen Whyman is available in paperback, ebook and audiobook.

Amazon https://amzn.to/2Nm50BM

Waterstones https://bit.ly/3rIrig2

Foyles https://bit.ly/3voW5kl

Wordery https://bit.ly/3tpUcC5

Kobo https://bit.ly/2ATmbEq

Apple https://apple.co/2zJTskY

Your local book shop can also order it in if it’s not in stock (in other words, if my mum got to the shop before you!).

About Kathleen Whyman

Kathleen Whyman is an author, freelance journalist and copywriter.

Kathleen’s debut novel, Wife Support System, was shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Joan Hessayon award. Kathleen’s novel Second Wife Syndrome was shortlisted for the Comedy Women in Print prize in the Unpublished Comic Novel category. Although very pleased to have been nominated, Kathleen’s still gutted that both awards evenings were cancelled due to Covid. There were going to be party bags and everything!

Kathleen writes a column for Writers’ Forum and contributes to the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s magazine Romance Matters. She also wrote short stories for Jackie magazine in her teens. These were, thankfully, never printed.

Kathleen lives in Hertfordshire with her husband and two daughters.

Contact Kathleen at

Twitter  – @kathleenwhyman1

Instagram – @kathleenwhymanauthor

Facebook – @kathleenwhymanauthor

www.kathleenwhyman.com

Photography ©Alexa Loy Photography


Sunday, 28 March 2021

One month countdown - Rhubarb Crumble Recipe

Welcome to the brand new week my loves and it's an exciting one, as today marks the one month countdown to A TASTE OF HOME being published! Woohoo! As April 29th is fast approaching, I thought it might be fun to share a few Wynbridge inspired posts in the run up to the BIG day, and as my rhubarb crumble pics caused quite a stir at the weekend, I thought I'd share the recipe.

Rhubarb is widely available now and my ever so easy crumble is the perfect dish to welcome you to Fliss and Bill's wonderful farm on the outskirts of Wynbridge. I bet Jemma from THE CHERRY TREE CAFE would have this one on the menu too!

What you need - 

For the filling -

4 - 6 sticks of rhubarb

4 - 5 apples

Honey

For the topping - 

200g plain flour

100g margarine - room temperature

75g sugar

A couple of handfuls of oats (optional)

What you do - 

Filling

Turn the oven to 180 

Wash and chop the rhubarb into chunks, about 5cm long. There's no need to be too precise

Wash and cut the apples into similar sized chunks

Add both to the cooking tin, stir in a couple of tablespoons of honey

Put on the bottom shelf of the warmed oven, while you make the crumble

Crumble

Tip the flour into a large bowl and add the margarine, in a few pieces on top

Rub the margarine into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. This will take a couple of minutes, so be patient

Add the sugar and optional oats to the mix and stir through with a knife

Take the tin out of the oven, sprinkle the crumble mix over the top of the fruit, which will now smell divine and return to the oven for 30 - 35 mins. I generally take it out when the liquid from the fruit starts to bubble around the side of the tin

Allow to cool, then devour - 

Preferably with cream, custard or ice cream!

See! I told you it was easy!

Simple bakes are the best in my opinion and the family will absolutely love this one. If you give it a go, I'd love to see your triumphs on social media so please upload your pics, tag me and #ATasteofHome and I'll comment and share.

As always, thank you all for your support. I hope you are as excited about heading back to Wynbridge as I am. See you there! 

With love

H xxx

Monday, 15 March 2021

Just checking in!

Hello my loves! How are you all? I hope this post finds you happy, healthy and ready to embrace spring which is finally teetering on the horizon? The sun is shining over my patch of Norfolk today, but the wind has a bit of a bite to it which was more than bracing on my 6am walk this morning!


Anyway, I thought I'd share a few words and let you know what I've been up to as I'm horribly aware that I've been neglecting the blog recently. 

In my defence, I've been working flat out. The first draft deadline for UNDERNEATH THE CHRISTMAS TREE is almost here so I've been writing non stop, while also making plans to celebrate the publication of A TASTE OF HOME which hits the shelves on April 29th. Watch this space for exciting event details, and while we're on the subject...


How absolutely delicious are these? These VIP limited edition proofs will be making their way out into the world very soon but don't ask me where to as I don't know where they will be landing. They're so rare I don't even think I'll be finding one on my doormat! None the more for that, I thought you might like to see them.

In other news, I've finally got new specs. They're a slightly stronger prescription vari-focal (have I spelt that right?) and they're making me a bit giddy. Fingers crossed I'll get used to them soon. I'll share a pic at some point. Not today though. No-one wants to see the state of me on a Monday! 

Mother's Day was so lovely yesterday and there were cake and blooms in abundance -



It was the first Mother's Day without my darling nanna and I know lots of you have lost loved ones recently too. I'm sending you all so much love. Today would have also been my grandads birthday so a particularly poignant time. There is so much of him in A TASTE OF HOME. I don't think I quite realised how big an influence he and my nanna had been in my life until I sat down to write it.

Finally and very importantly, huge and heartfelt thanks to everyone who requested an early copy of A TASTE OF HOME via Netgalley and then left a review. They've been AMAZING and certainly helped settled my pre-pub nerves. Thank you, thank you, thank you all! 

Right, I better sign off for now as the ironing pile beckons...

Take care my loves and we'll have another catch up soon!

H x