Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Quirky Stories, The Writing Life

After the Happily Ever-After

Romance is the only genre that guarantees a happily-ever-after. That warm fuzzy feeling that everything will be alright is baked in. If that premise isn’t met, then the book is not a romance, despite the multitude of lists that routinely tout non-happily ever afters as the “Greatest Romance.” Looking at you, Wuthering Heights and Great Gatsby!

What we never really get to see is the “after” story. Sure, we may get a brief epilogue a few months or a few years later. Usually, it’s a snapshot showing that the couple is still happy and often starting or growing their family. But then what?

The truth is that what happens next looks a lot less exciting to the outside world. It doesn’t have the tension of will they or won’t they to keep the story going. If I included it in my novels, I know my lovely editor would tell me that it might be better on the cutting room floor.

But it’s the simple bits after the grand declarations that make a great love story. On Tuesday, my husband and I will celebrate thirteen years of marriage. Our day to day life is routine now. We’re raising two girls, going to the office, making dinner, and binge-watching Netflix. He’s on his tablet as I type these words. It is not the stuff that lands between the covers of my books.

But it is what my books are based on. That feeling that love can last forever. That years into the future, two people can look past the gray hairs and smile lines and wonder how did I get so lucky?

My husband still gets up and shovels the snow off my car, even when he doesn’t have to be at work until much later than me. He always starts the electric kettle so I can pour hot water over my coffee grounds as soon as I come downstairs. Though that may be self-preservation – I am a nightmare before caffeine! And he’s shouldered more than his fair share of housework, homework, and carpooling when I am on a tight deadline.

These are the moments that make a real happily ever after. And I want my readers to believe my characters are still doing these things for their partner long after the epilogue has ended. Because no matter who you are or who you love, we are all worthy of someone who treasures us – years after the vows have been said.

Happy early anniversary to my hero. Thanks for the inspiration.

Juliette Hyland_Wedding

Reading, The Writing Life

Art inspring Art by Fiona Lowe

51r2tbr1TjL._SL500_When I was writing Just An Ordinary Family, I decided that Alice was going to be an artist. I can’t even tell you why I thought that as I can’t even draw stick figures, but perhaps I thought  by writing Alice I’d be able to pretend I had those skills. Anway, early in the book I wrote a line about a sculpture of a pelican. Why? Well I need a piece of artwork and a friend of mine has a glorious bronze pelican that I confess to covetting just a little bit.  As  so often happens in writing, an off-the-cuff comment went on to become significant. The pelican became a motif in the novel.  Here she is.

 

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To write about the sculpture, I had to learn about bronze casting  and I was fortunate to meet the artist of this wonderful sculpture. It turns out that Lucy McEachern doesn’t just limit herself to pelicans! A country woman, she grew up on a farm and her father was a keen bird watcher and Lucy has an amazing eye not just for the bird but for the personality. So here are some of her amazing pieces of work.

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Wedgetail Eagle
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Palm Cockatoo
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owl

 

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Lucy and me at her gallery

Isn’t she brilliantly talented?

The exciting news is that Just An Ordinary Family is now availabe as an audio book for people in the UK, USA and all around the world. So you can listen to the novel and spot the references to the pelican. You can buy Just An Ordinary Family, Birthright and Home Fires through Audible    Thanks for reading!

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, The Writing Life

Sharing the joy by Kate Hardy

Kate HardyFirstly – thank you from the bottom of my heart to our key workers, the ones who look after the sick and make sure we’re fed and keep us safe. We appreciate you.

Lockdown is a strange world. I’m super-lucky because (a) both kids are home with me (eldest finished uni, youngest just started so we had a 400-mile round trip to Manchester to get her because I had one of my ‘funny feelings’ – and then lockdown was announced that night). I live literally five minutes’ walk from open fields and woodlands, so I get to take my dog out at the crack of dawn and watch the sky become beautiful. I’ve been taking bits of birdsong on my phone and posting them on Facebook so people who can’t get out can hear/see it (sadly, I can’t post them here because WordPress seems to think that 6 seconds of birdsong means ‘file too big’!); and I’ve taken my proper camera out as well as my phone and caught some beautiful sunrises.

I’d like to share a couple of the pics here from three different mornings (the sun on the lefthand pic was actually a deep crimson, but the camera only picked that up behind the trees). I live on the outskirts of Norwich (roughly in the middle of the big bump above London if you look at a map of the UK), and it’s my favourite place in the world.

 

 

And then, of course, there is my BIG NEWS – those of you who follow me on Facebook know all about my beautiful Archie, and I’m thrilled to say that last weekend Archie’s half-brother was born (this was his dad’s last litter before retiring, so I went into nag mode the second our breeder told us, and Gerry finally agreed on the day after my birthday that we could have a pup – I’ve been excited about this ever since!). So meet Dexter – he’ll join our family at the beginning of June (or as soon as lockdown allows after then). Pre-lockdown, the plan was to go over and meet the pups and the pup would choose us, but in these strange days we had to do it by photographs. What settled me was seeing all the pups together – one all squished up in the middle just caught my eye and I thought, ‘he’s ours’. We know the mum’s dad as well, and our breeder tells us that the mum is an absolute sweetheart, so we know we’ll have a pup with a gorgeous temper like Archie. We can’t wait to meet him!

 

Stay safe, everyone, and keep looking for the joy – it’s still out there. And I hope that when this is all over the good bits will stay: keeping in closer touch with our family and friends, and being kinder and more considerate. Love to you all, Kate xxx

 

The Writing Life

Gratitude

The world is kind of a flaming, hot mess right now. And trust me, I’ve been strung out and anxious.

I’m a Mom to a kid who is one of the vulnerable ones. Not only does he have heart issues, but he has asthma.

And I’m caretaker for my Dad who has diabetes, is over 70 and is fighting cancer.

My nerves have been SHOT, but…if these last 2 years since my Mom passed have taught me anything, it’s to always look for that bright side (Yes. I’m singing the annoying Monty Python song right now). The glimmer of light might be hard to see in all this. People are dying, people are fight for their lives, people are working the front lines to make sure sick people have a fighting chance, that our supply chains don’t shut down and our essential services keep running.

THOSE people are also the reason why I’m staying at home, self isolating and it’s those people that make me want to find that bright spot in the darkness.

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Is there anything more Canadian than a beaver?

So I thought I would do this post on things I’m grateful for. On Facebook there was this post going around about the 10 things you love more than anything else (besides family & friends).

My top ten are:

1. Crocheting Amigurumi

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Macron the Macaron

2. Yarn (I swear I hoard it)

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My surprise yarn grab bag!!! I’m a yarn dragon.

3. Green Tea scent from The Body Shop
4. STRONG by Zumba (obsessive love/hate)
5. Egg Noodles
6. Oversized sweaters
7. The sound of the wind in the trees
8. The north
9. Car rides. The longer the better
10. A good pen

I’m also really thankful for my gym FitClub Bootcamps. For the first two weeks Coach Cory wanted to keep his tight knit community together and he started doing workouts, virtually through Zoom and connecting online. Now it’s expanding as the province continues to shut down, so I’m thankful for my FitClub community.

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Amy after an insane 1000 reps workout.

I’m grateful for my gym buddies who, on days we can’t attend a virtual class, we workout together and take turns being coach.

The workouts and connection is what’s keeping me from emotional eating and losing my mind. I swear.

I’m thankful for virtual Paint Nite’s with my daughter. That’s been fun and relaxing.

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I’m thankful for online video chatting with my friends. Actually, this self isolation has given me time to connect more with friends and my kids. It’s been nice.

I’m glad spring is here. I hear the birds every day and less traffic on the roads means I hear them more often.

I was thankful that after 30+ years I heard the voice of Casey and Finnegan again. They were puppets during my formative years on Mr. Dressup and the puppeteer came out of retirement to tell people in Canada and the world to stay home.

When I heard that voice, I cried. It made me so happy! xo

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These are just a few of the positives I’m finding during this time.

One thing not so positive, I wish my hairdresser was open because my hair is SO long. It hasn’t been this long in FOREVER, but I can live with that. No, don’t worry I won’t give myself bangs.

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What are some of the things you’re grateful for?

Also I just want to send another huge shout of for all the essential workers. All those in health care, emergency and first responders, cleaners at the hospital, orderlies, RTs, food service, supply chain, grocery store workers, truck drivers, infrastructure workers. You all are doing a damn fine job and I’m staying home to #flattenthecurve

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, The Writing Life, Travels Around the World

Refilling the well – aka Tut!

Kate HardyI’ve had the most wonderful weekend in London. The tickets had been booked for months and months – and on Saturday I went to the Tutankhamun exhibition with my best friend. I went with her (and my husband and kids) when it was at the O2 about 10 years ago, and I went to the British Museum one in 1972 (I was very small and don’t remember that much of it, but it’s definitely where my fascination with Egypt started).

This one was spectacular. And fascinating. And we got to see things that hadn’t been out of Egypt until this particular ‘world tour’.

Bits I loved most? (Apologies; this will be a bit pic-heavy!)

The reed stylus case, a linen glove (3500 years old and in wonderful condition), and a vessel used in the ‘opening of the Mouth’ ceremony that was apparently shaped like its hieroglyph.

Statues, large and small. (The middle one is the guardian statue and it had obsidian eyes.)

Details – the drawing and lion on a bow case, and look at the toes on this statue!

It was absolutely fascinating. I learned that the Egyptians used boomerangs for hunting (waves to my Aussie mates – I couldn’t believe it, either, but there were 3500-year-old boomerangs in front of me). I learned that the Egyptian week had 10 days instead of 7. I learned how canopic jars worked, and how mummies were put together – not just the wrapped mummy, but all the layers on top of that.

Obviously *the* mummy case wasn’t there (too fragile), but the rest of that layer was exhibited. The gold etc was impressive, but I found the art around it much more interesting. (I would’ve liked more on the medical stuff, but sadly…)

DB09A4C6-2824-4CA6-BB5F-AD2B02389951It’s also very topical for me, because my latest book features an archaeologist — and although it’s not a medical, it kind of is because it’s an amnesia book. (And because it’s my first amnesia story, and because I’m interested in the medicine behind it… you can guess where this is going! Anyway, One Night to Remember is out now. (If you’re interested in Egypt, Regency England, the Roman baths, or cello music, this is totally up your street.)

So my question for you is – what’s the most memorable exhibition you’ve ever seen?

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, The Writing Life

Getting organised by Kate Hardy

Kate HardyWhen I last posted, things were in a bit of a state of flux. We were waiting for exam results, and I’m thrilled to say our daughter got in to her first-choice uni (though I miss her horribly – she’s five hours away!). But now things are settling down, with our son back home from uni and our daughter moved away to uni, and I’m getting used to a whole new set of routines – and so is the dog!

The biggest change is to the mornings. Our son has a six-month chemistry job, which is wonderful (very good experience, plus time hopefully to get through his driving test, so applying for a permanent job next year will be easier) – but it means I need to drop him at the train station at 6.15. In turn, that means the dog is getting a rather earlier walk! We’ve been lucky to see some amazing sunrises. (And we won’t talk about the flooding this weekend, when we got two inches of rain on Sunday and a few major roads became impassable…)

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I’m back at the point of being able to organise myself again. So I have my diary and two small whiteboards – one on the fridge so I can organise meals for the week/see appointments and everyone’s work shifts at a glance (which also makes it easier to do the grocery shopping list), and one propped on the piano so I know what I’m doing each day re work projects and exercise routine. It’s all very nerdy, but if I don’t tick things off then things just get missed.

How do you organise yourself? What’s your top tip?

Kate Hardy has two new releases coming up: The Soldier Prince’s Secret Baby Gift in October (if you like snow, Father Christmas and royal romances, this will be up your street) and Mistletoe Proposal on the Children’s Ward (which you’ll enjoy if you like Christmassy things and ballet).

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, The Writing Life, Travels Around the World

Sometimes you just need butterflies by Kate Hardy

It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster summer in our house. The high points are our son graduating (definitely tears of joy, that day) and a ballet workshop where we did a bit of Swan Lake (adult ballet classes for beginners are utterly fabulous). The low point was my husband’s mum passing away (although it was a happy release, it’s still very sad and the funeral is later this week). And the weird bit in the middle is waiting for our daughter’s exam results, which will hopefully let her go off to her chosen university and spread her wings. There are also job applications, driving lessons, deadlines, and…

… Yeah. Sometimes you just need to take a few moments out to breathe.

So this weekend we went in search of butterflies. Apparently this summer is the summer of the Painted Lady butterfly in the UK (this happens about every 10 years), so we went to Wheatfen Nature Reserve on Saturday (home of the rare swallowtail butterfly, except we went between broods so missed the swallowtails completely!) and to the best-preserved Iron Age hillfort in my part of the world. Both places were gorgeous, and this is what we found: (LTR a peacock, a red admiral, a speckled wood and a chalk hill blue)

 

 

The hillfort itself? Actually it was really impressive – a little bit smaller than Maiden Castle in Dorset, but still amazing. It was full of wild flowers, and I’ve never seen so many butterflies. Walking round a place that has barely changed in centuries was wonderful.

 

So where’s your favourite place to escape? And do you have a favourite butterfly?

imageKate Hardy’s latest release, A Nurse and a Pup to Heal Him, is set in Norfolk and stars a gorgeous therapy dog 🙂

 

 

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, The Writing Life

Hobbies!

I am curious about what you all do for fun. You know…the times when you do something just for you. Writing used to be that for me, until my first book was published, then it became a job. Don’t get me wrong, I still love writing, but I don’t see it as a hobby anymore–as that thing I do just for the fun of it.

Most of you know that I have horses, so they are definitely one of my hobbies and those guys are members of my family. Well, I’ve also hand-quilted for many years. It’s something I don’t do as often as I used to, but I love it. It’s relaxing and something I can do while sitting in front of the television. But about six months ago, someone made me this beautiful horse-and-boots-themed quilt because…well horses! And that quilt, made by a very accomplished seamstress, was (gasp) machine quilted.quilt gift

I remember studying quilts to see how tiny and even the maker’s stitches were. I’d always been kind of a quilt snob. And yet, this machine-quilted beauty had all kinds of fun and intricate stitching. All somehow accomplished on my friend’s sewing machine. That’s when I decided I had to try my hand at that. And there were actually classes on that very thing: machine quilting. I felt like I’d been living under a rock. So I took a class and visited my friend to watch her work and to pick her brain. Then I stitched up my first machine-quilted project–on my fifteen-year-old sewing machine. A very simple table runner that I gave as a gift to someone. quilt front

Well, I’m hooked. I love the speed, and I love trying to coax my machine to give me what I want. It’s kind of like my horses–it’s a partnership that brings immense satisfaction. And now I’m envisioning a new sewing machine in my future. One that is made with quilting in mind. It’s new and exciting…and it’s just plain fun. quilt back

How about you? What do you do for fun? It can be a hobby or something else. I really do want to know!

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, New Releases, Pets, Quirky Stories, Reading, The Writing Life

Of Pit Bulls & Romance Novels

Hi Everybody!

I have a new dog named Lili. She was a stray looking for a home, and in a sense, I was a stray looking for a dog. When we met it was love at first sight and Lili came to live with me. No regrets because she is a smart, funny, affectionate girl who loves her humans as much as they love her. April MB blog 1

Sadly, some people have a preconceived notion about Lili. She’s mean. She’ll turn on you. Eat your face off. Kill your cat. Yep, she’s an American Pit Bull and her breed has been branded as a breed that should be killed. Why? Rumors. Innuendo. Bad press. Lili has gained a reputation for something she’s never done and never will. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome people see her for what she is—a sweet dog full of love. Others see her for what they expect her to be—mean and viscous. Much the way so many people expect romance novels to be boring or stupid.

I show antiques at the state fair every year, and the lady in charge of the antiques division is a well-educated biology teacher. When she asked me what I write, and I told her, she couldn’t contain the sour expression on her face. “I’ve never figured out why anybody would write that garbage let alone read it,” she said to me. I wanted to ask her why anyone would be so critical of another person’s career, or even their reading choices, but I didn’t because people like her don’t listen. They fix on a notion and will not wander away from it. She also went on to tell me that if I have any writing talent at all I should put it to good use and write something that will make a difference. When I told her romance novels do make a difference, she laughed at me. That’s right—she laughed out loud then walked away, smug in her knowledge that she was right.April MB blog 3

Certainly, Mary, as I’m calling her, is entitled to her opinion. But when opinion crosses the line and turns into insult, that’s when someone needs to make an assessment of what they’re saying, and to whom. At a flea market recently, I encountered a woman who was making frilly seat covers for various model cars. They weren’t to my taste, but I’d never dream of approaching her and saying anything negative about what she has chosen to sell. Quite honestly, my mother taught me better. And, I’d never be the one to tell a pit bull owner all the bad things that have been reported about that breed. Yet, that has happened to me. “Do you really let that dog go around people?” one person asked. The answer is yes. She’s allowed to be around people, to sit on their laps if they want her, to lick their faces if that’s acceptable. And no, she would never eat the face she licks.

We have become so judgmental that simple, decent kindness is slipping away. My grandmother had a hat she wore to church. It was red, big and basically hideous. But no April MB blog 4one ever said that to her. Instead, they were kind—told her she looked glowing or radiant, told her she brightened the room. Those were the kind things to say and they were so simple. They also made an old lady quite happy. Now, when I smile at strangers, which I do all the time, some are suspicious but more often than not my smile is returned with a smile. It’s a small thing, but I hope that someone, somewhere needs a simple smile to make then feel better. Maybe my smile will be the one they need.April MB blog 5

So now, I get quizzical looks when I tell people I write romance novels, but my response is always much kinder than their intent. Same goes for my pittie. Insult my dog either directly or in a round-about way and I pop out my phone and show them all the cute pictures of her. In either case, kindness is free, and it’s a gift so few people remember to give these days. Those opportunities come to us in so many ways and it’s up to us how we use them. Personally, I believe life is too short to go around criticizing pit bulls and romance novels, but that’s just me. I’d much rather spend my life looking at the bright side. It’s a nice place to be.

My next book, HER SECRET MIRACLE, will be out in June. You’ll be able to find it in all the usual places. 

As always, wishing you health and happiness (and puppies and romance novels.)

DD

3.285183.512.9781335641632[1]
Available June, 2019

 

 

 

 

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, New Releases, The Writing Life

Running and techy stuff by Kate Hardy

Kate HardyIn my last post, I talked about the challenge I’ve set myself this year: running the 10k Race for Life on May 12th to raise money for cancer research. Race day is only six weeks away – and it’s definitely a challenge still! I’m come to terms with the fact I won’t be able to run the whole thing from start to finish. But what I can do is intervals: so that’s a couple of minutes running and a minute fast walking. I’m going for endurance now and adding 5 minutes to each session until I hit 10k.

This is me, this morning, at the gym: red-faced and sweaty after clocking up an hour on the treadmill. And here are my Fitbit stats – because, being me, I have techy stuff to support me.

 

 

The first thing the Fitbit – I love it because I can see how I perform during a workout and where I need to tweak things (in my normal training, to make it harder, but here it’s to see where I’m flagging and what I can do to get myself over the humps and keep going). I know money is tight, but if you’d like to sponsor me 50p or even the price of a cup of coffee, all donations are really welcome and the link is here. (But some rah-rah cheering would be equally appreciated!)

imageThe other thing is something called a Compilot – it basically streams my phone to my hearing aids (because my hearing is so poor that I can’t use headphones like normal people do). You have to wear it round your neck for it to stream the signal, so I needed to find a way of attaching it to my running shirt. I was going to make a little padded bag and use safety pins, but I thought I’d check the running shops first to see if anyone had something that proper runners use to keep their keys in etc. What I found is a ‘running buddy’ which works with magnets. Utterly brilliant. You can get bigger ones which would fit a phone as well, but this is just the right size to clip onto my neckline. It’s wonderful to be able to hear music again. I’m putting my playlist together and basically what works for me is short songs with a strong beat (about 125 beats per minute) that I can ‘sing’ along to. What works for me is a mix of Wham’s Freedom, Def Leppard’s ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ and Bryan Adams’ ‘Summer of 69’ – all suggestions welcome!

imageKate’s latest book is Finding Mr Right in Florence – if you like art, you’ve ever enjoyed the TV programme ‘Fake or Fortune’ or you just love Florence, this book has your name on it…!