The Writing Life

Finding Happiness in New (or Revisited) Projects

This year has been hard in so many ways. But several months ago I decided I needed to draw my happiness from what I have rather than dwell on things I’m missing out on. So, I took on more writing projects than I normally would have (I’m actually working on revisions that are due on Monday morning). I’m also adding a twist to hobbies I already have.

  1. I’m still gardening, but I tried growing something different this year. Brussels Sprouts. Yes…really. Because, well, I love them. And they’re super cool to watch grow. I wasn’t sure how well they would do, but they’ve actually surprised me. I grew six plants and despite the recent freezes, they haven’t died off, and there are more sprouts still to harvest. Yum!
  2. I’m also a quilter and have always done my quilting by hand. But several months ago, I blogged about my foray into the world of machine quilting (free motion quilting). I’ve loved it. So much so that I bought a new sewing machine to use just for this purpose. I also bought a quilting frame to put it on. So now, rather than pushing my fabric around under my machine, I pull my machine over my fabric. It is a wonderful improvement, and I’m having fun just playing.
  3. I’m also trying to be a better chicken mom. Well, my chickens already have a pretty nice life, but I felt like they needed a new coop in which to shelter over the winter. It’s not quite done, but it’s shaping up, and I think my little egg-layers are going to love it!

What about you? Any new or revisited hobbies or projects you’ve been working on this year? I would love to hear about them!

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Reading, The Writing Life

Filling The Well

These are difficult times. Stuck in this pandemic, trying to get through this second wave and here in the UK, puzzling over the different rules for different tiers and for me in particular, trying to make my mother adhere to the rules especially as she is in Nottingham (an area of the country with some of the highest Covid infection rates) and who is starting down the terribly rocky road of Dementia.

Put simply, she lives alone, now that Dad has died and she forgets that there is a pandemic. We do what we can from 200 miles away. She has signs on the doors reminding her to put on her mask before she goes out (even though we tell her she shouldn’t be going out) and other reminders throughout her flat to wash her hands and to sanitise and to try not to touch her face.

It’s difficult. Especially when I receive calls from one of my brothers to say that he went to take her some groceries, found her flat empty and tracked her down in someone else’s flat, without a mask, laughing and joking!

Grr!

So, despite all of this, despite the fact that I am still trying to get over the death of my father, I have been trying to find things that make me happy. Trying to find things to occupy my mind, that fill the well, that gives me ideas, that allows me to learn new things, to always try and make my writing as good as it can be. So I thought I’d share a few things I’m doing, a few things I’m reading, to maybe give you all some ideas, or even to just spark a light in these weary times.

Books I’ve Read

What if you had a second chance with the one who got away?

Ben’s always loved December, but this year, with his relationship with Daphne on the rocks, it’s missing its usual magic. And then his old flame Alice gets back in touch. Ben’s always thought of Alice as the one that got away, and he can’t help but wonder: what if he’d done things differently all those years ago?

He never imagines he might get to find out… but when a stranger sells Ben a mysterious watch one freezing winter’s night, he’s astonished to wake up the next morning on 5th December 2005: the day he first kissed Daphne, leaving Alice behind.

Now Ben must make the biggest decision of his life, all over again. But this time around, will he finally find the courage to follow his heart?

I adored this book. A cross between One Fine Day and A Christmas Carol. Definitely high on my list of recommended reads and it’s perfect with Christmas coming up!

She must marry the knight .

By order of the king!

Widow Eleanor of Tallany Castle knows her people are broken by the taxes demanded by King John. So when she’s ordered to marry Hugh de Villiers, a knight loyal to the king, she’s furious—even if he is handsome! As gallant Hugh begins to heal the scars of Eleanor’s abusive first marriage, she’s even more determined to keep her secret: she is the outlaw the king wants to send to the gallows!

This book won the Joan Hessayon Award and rightly so! It’s a wonderful delve into the past with the Lady Eleanor who is passionate about protecting the people of Tallany from the severe taxes placed upon them by King John, being forced to marry Sir Hugh de Villiers who is the king’s man, determined to find the outlaw who is stealing all the taxes back! Very Robin Hood, I must say!

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved murders.

But when a brutal killing takes place on their very doorstep, the Thursday Murder Club find themselves in the middle of their first live case.

Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.

Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before it’s too late?

This was perfect! Wonderfully eccentric in that British way, with dabs of humour sprinkled throughout as Joyce and her friends try to solve a murder from their retirement home! I zoomed through this one and enjoyed every single page and shall definitely read more from this author.

Classes

Taking Risks As A Writer (with Julie Cohen, Novel nights)

Julie Cohen chats to Novel Nights about taking risks in a writing career, overcoming writer’s block and challenging the status quo. Her award-winning novels have sold over a million copies worldwide and she’s twice been selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club. Julie runs an oversubscribed literary consultancy which has helped many writers get published. She is a Vice President of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, founder of the RNA Rainbow Chapter, and a Patron of literacy charity ABC To Read. Her latest novel, Spirited was published in July 2020.  This author talk and Q&A is hosted by David Lloyd.

By the time you read this blog, I will have taken this class. I love listening to other authors and hearing about what they’ve done, how they work and seeing if I can apply anything to my own writing.

I think it’s always worth continuing to learn, always striving to do better.

Building A Successful Partnership With Your Editor (Harlequin)

This will be a chat for Harlequin authors with Stephanie Doig (editor, Carina Press), Flo Nicoll (senior editor Harlequin presents), Johanna Raisanen (editor Harlequin Heartwarming) Ruby Barrett (author), Sasha Summers (author) and Maisey yates (author). The panel will discuss the ins and outs of editorial partnerships and share tips on building a successful author-editor relationship.

Now, I have a lovely relationship with my editor, don’t get me wrong! But, like I said, it’s always worth finding out more.

Sometimes when I take classes, I find that I know a lot of the information that is presented, but there are always one or two nuggets that I can add or incorporate to my own experience. It’s about being willing to be open to new ideas.

Hobbies

I’m currently into blackwork embroidery and I’m LOVING it! There’s something very peaceful and calming to the mind about it and it’s also an opportunity (when the pattern isn’t too complicated) to think about my story and characters and plot out scenes!

I’m currently working on a pattern called – Save The Stitches.

You can find this FREE PATTERN at Blackwork Journey if you want to take a look at it.

But I have plans to do so many more! The problem is seeing all the wonderful patterns I want to get started on, but know that if I do too many at once, some may get neglected, or they all will, if I get too overwhelmed with projects, so I’m trying to stick to this one, right now.

But, oh dearie me, it’s difficult!

So, what about you, dear reader? What have you been up to? What have you been reading? Doing? Learning? Have you taken up a new hobby? Have you tackled all those DIY projects that have been waiting in the wings? I’d love to hear from you!

Louisa xxx

Their passionate fling…
Has given them a gift to last a lifetime!

When pediatrician Merry Bell turns up at his hospital in Iceland, Dr. Kristjan Gunnarrson’s quiet Christmas is shaken up. After a hot fling together in Hawaii, they both agreed to walk away. But now Merry has brought him life-changing news – she’s pregnant! Commitment phobic Kristjan will not waver from his responsibility, but is his bruised heart ready for a family?

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, Quirky Stories, The Writing Life, Travels Around the World

Blast from the Past

Tina cantering around barrels for the first time in Brazil

Lately I’ve found myself reliving certain activities from my childhood. I have no idea why I feel compelled to take a trip down memory lane, but I do. Maybe because I’m growing older and figure if I don’t do some of these things now, my joints will reach the stage where they’ll no longer bend and cooperate, but will sit stubbornly on the sidelines refusing to move. Or maybe it’s just to prove I’m not as old as I sometimes feel. Whatever the reason, I’ve been enjoying this stage in my life.

So what kinds of things have I found myself doing? Well I’ve gone back to riding horses, which I’ve done on and off for most of my life, but it’s now become almost an obsession. So much so that I’ve been scouring ads on Craigslist and Equine Now in search of the perfect quarter horse (keep in mind that I live in Brazil at the moment). And instead of being happy with the trail riding I once used to do, I’m now getting involved with specific disciplines—I’ve even taken barrel racing and pole bending lessons…in Portuguese (not sure what those are? Check out YouTube, and you’ll see some examples of each). And I did some Western Pleasure and Showmanship when I was in the States a couple of years ago.

I’ve also taken up running again. I used to run three miles a day as a high school student (I had a friend who was in track and I ran with her). Anyway, back in December I decided to attempt the Couch-to-5K running program to see if I could even do it. And I completed it! And it feels fantastic, like I’ve been transported back to a younger, healthier me. And believe it or not, I actually ran over 4 miles for the first time in my life, a couple of weeks ago. My ultimate goal is to run 10K, if my knees and ankles keep cooperating.

Oh, and then there are Hula Hoops. That’s right. Hula Hoops. My middle daughter—at 16 years of age—had never had the opportunity to do the weird hip shuffle involved in keeping that hoop up where it should be. (Anyone remember the shoop-shoop sound those little beads made once you got the hoop going?) Ha! So, not wanting her to miss out on any of those unique rites of passage that I went through, I bought 2 Hula Hoops, and we went to town. Okay…so my daughter ended up laughing at my attempts more than actually learning how to get that hoop spinning. But I finally got it going. No way could I have done the two or three at a time that I used to be able to do, but the sense of accomplishment I felt from being able to twirl one was great!

So why the need to go back in time and relive those experiences? Maybe I’m feeling a little more mortal than I used to. Maybe I want to go back to simpler days when I could laugh at myself. All I know is I’m loving every minute of it (and being able to touch my toes again—at least for a second or two). Hopefully I’m wise enough to know that some things are better off left in the past. Doing a backbend at this stage of my life, for example, is out of the question—unless I want to snap my body in two. But the things I can do, I want to do…for as long as possible.

What about you? Have you thought about going back and trying things you did when you were in school (or if you’re older—like me—the things you did as a young adult)?  If you did, how was it? Is it something you’d keep doing, if given the opportunity? Or are you a daredevil who is always trying something new and exciting?