Stitching, Writing life

Kate’s ‘big stitching project’, 24/5/2020

Finished the next ‘line’ of the sampler, so I need to do a chunk of fiddly border before I start the next set of motifs.

The ballet dancer is a Lisa Reakes design (from a magazine), and represents my love of ballet and dance in general. I prefer dance aerobics and Zumba to any other cardio, and loved learning ballroom; Gerry and I were utterly hopeless at the waltz, but we enjoyed the quickstep, samba, rumba, jive and our absolute favourite was the cha-cha-cha. Sadly his arthritic hip meant we had to give up lessons. I desperately wanted ballet lessons as a child, but didn’t get them because I was too clumsy and round. However, I always loved the music of Swan Lake and the Nutcracker. I finally got to see Swan Lake a couple of years ago, and the theatre sent me an email asking if I’d like to try adult beginner ballet classes. I did – and it’s the best decision I ever made. Absolute joy. I love the music, I love the movement, and I come out of class feeling as if I’m floating. It’s been very good for my balance, and during lockdown zoom classes the dogs have joined in! I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed workshops, and the one where we danced to the Sugar Plum Fairy was utterly wonderful.

 

The teacup is a Lesley Teare design (from a magazine), and I chose this one because it’s very close to the Royal Albert ‘Old Country Roses’ design of my mum’s posh china. It’s also a nod to afternoon tea at the Assembly House in Norwich (aka a special treat). My tea of choice is either Passionfruit and Orange, or Cornucopia (mixed fruit, quite heavy on the blueberries). A book and tea in a pretty cup is such a good combination. The gold thread was meant to be the DMC ‘light effects’, but it wasn’t very nice to work with and refused to lie flat, so I unpicked it and used the same gold as the lighter one in the border. The outlining is a bit looser than I’m used to, so it was fun to try a slightly different approach. (I do like Lesley’s designs, and the one I’m doing next – in shades of teal, blue and orange – is also one of hers.)

Stitching, Writing life

Kate’s ‘big stitching project’, 17/05/2021

Slight hiatus while I did a wedding sampler 🙂

Back on the big project: continuing the side borders as I go, and doing the first line of motifs, shown underneath a ‘leaves and flowers’ border (in suffragette colours!).

 

The spaniel is a design from Fido Stitch Studio, a Christmas present from one of my best writer friends. I did a larger project which was the spitting image of Archie; this spaniel has a slightly wider blaze, but is still much more like Archie than like Dexter (I do intend to stitch Dexter!).

 

The typewriter is a nod to my childhood; I’d always written stories in notebooks or on lined paper, but what I really wanted was a typewriter so I could be a PROPER writer. So I badgered my parents. (No, I didn’t want a doll’s house. I wanted a typewriter. And more books. Lots more books. There is no such thing as too many books.)

Eventually, on my sixth birthday, I got a Lilliput typewriter. It came in a hard case, and I can still remember the thrill of opening the case and seeing a proper typewriter. Metal, not plastic; and it was turquoise and white (so when I saw this Diane Machin pattern, it was clearly the right one for my sampler – though the turquoise I remember was more on the teal side). It didn’t have a proper carriage return lever – you had to push it from the side instead – but I’m fairly sure it had little metal buttons you could press and slide to set the margins, and gave a warning ‘ding’ when you were five characters away from the margin.

Oh, and the wedding sampler? It’s on parchment-coloured Aida; the design is from the Historical Sampler Company, and the bees were great fun to stitch. I’ve ordered a second (different) sampler kit from them, for an event later in the year.

Stitching, Writing life

Kate’s ‘big stitching project’, 26/04/21

More progress this week, to the point where I’m about a quarter of the way through. (I’m taking it off the stand later today and sneaking in another project.)

The border is quite time-consuming and fiddly (it needs concentration as it’s very easy to go astray on the backstitch), so I’m doing the side borders as I go; plus it means I won’t have to keep scrolling through the sampler.

 

This week’s additions: finished the alphabet, added the quote, and two butterflies.

The quote is one of my favourites because it’s so uplifting. It was written by Julian of Norwich – from chapter xxvii of Revelations of Divine Love, the earliest surviving published book written in English by a woman, and the only known book written by an anchoress. In 1373, aged thirty and a half, Julian fell seriously ill. The night she thought she was on her deathbed, she received sixteen ’shewings’ (visions); she recovered, wrote her book and spent the rest of her life as an anchoress (i.e. she withdrew from secular life to concentrate on religious observance). I’ve modernised the spelling (though I was very tempted to keep to the original!). Stitched in Anchor 162 (surf med), and the attribution is in DMC 413 (pewter grey dk).

 

The blue butterfly is a Madeleine Floyd design (clipped from a magazine – I loved the feeling of movement). I’ve always been fascinated by blue butterflies, ever since I was a tiny child and saw the Margaret Fountaine collection at Norwich Castle museum; there are lots of chalk hill blues at Warham Camp, which I used as a research location for my book ‘A Will, a Wish and a Wedding’.

The swallowtail is from littlebeachhut.com; although we didn’t actually get to see any swallowtails during our research trip to Wheatfen Broad (same book!), we saw plenty of peacock butterflies. And I finally got to see a swallowtail at the Horniman Butterfly House in London (along with a blue morpho).

Stitching, Writing life

Kate’s ‘big stitching project’, 19/4/21

Started the ‘my favourite things’ sampler on 7 April 2021. Pleased with how it’s looking so far.


The top and side borders are based on a Textile Heritage design, though I’ve changed the colours of the jewels. Originally I wanted a border in green, white and violet (suffragette colours!) but couldn’t find one I really liked. This one is more of a medieval knot type, corresponding with one of my favourite literary periods, and the dog design at the corners (taken from a Celtic internet page) reminds me of the little dogs you see at the feet of a knight on an alabaster tomb (ticking another of my interests).

Close-up:

Notional details:

Borders and dogs, using DMC threads:

* dark gold 832 (golden olive)
* light gold 834 (golden olive vy lt)
* red 326 (rose vy dk)
* green 700 (green bright)
* purple 333 (blue violet vy dk)
* blue 3839 (lavender blue med)
* black 310 (black)
* white BS5200 (snow white)

The alphabet is from a DMC pattern – I really liked the font, and I also liked the idea of having flowers round them (similar idea to the lettering in medieval illustrated manuscripts, and the shape of the flowers is closely connected to the ‘jewels’ in the border).

The letters are stitched using Anchor – 168 (surf blue lt) for the main body and 169 (surf blue med) for the outlining. The flowers are stitched in DMC: petals 600 (cranberry vy dk) and centres 726 (topaz lt).

Archie and Dexter, Pipsqueak posts, Writing life

The Pipsqueak Posts, Episode 79: the one with the First Birthday

Dexter: Arch, Arch, it’s my birthday! I’m one today!

Archie: I know, Pipsqueak. Happy birthday.

Dexter: What did you get me? Huh? Huh?

Archie: It’s round and squeaks.

Dexter: A ball! Yay!

Archie: Mum’s going to make you a birthday cake. Except you got so excited that she has to mop the floor first.

Dexter: Mum, hurry up and make my cake. Pleeeeeeeeease.

A short while later…

Dexter: Is that my cake? Is it, is it?

(Much impatient waiting for it to be cooked and for the mashed potato ‘icing’ to be made.)

Meanwhile: birthday chews!

Dexter: Arch, you have to sing to me now.

Archie, sighing: Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday dear Pipsqueak – now shut up and let’s have cake! Yummy!

(They did save enough for the neighbours’ dogs to have a slice. But it went very quickly…)

Dexter: Arch, I’ve had a lovely birthday. Now I need a nap. Be my pillow?

Publication day, Writing life, Writing news

Publication day – Surprise Heir for the Princess

 Today’s publication day for Surprise Heir for the Princess.This started life in my head years ago, when I wrote the Penhally vet book. Readers asked me if I’d write the sister’s story, but because Penhally was a Medical Romance and the sister was a princess, my editor and I couldn’t make it work.

I still wanted to write the princess and the paparazzo. I asked. A lot. (My editor’s standard reply is ‘hahaha – no’.) So then I thought about tweaking it a bit.

Now, I love Audrey Hepburn. And I got to thinking about Roman Holiday. (I know, I know, Gregory Peck is a journalist… but bear with me.) Audrey’s princess takes a day to live an ordinary life and be a tourist in Rome. How could that work in today’s world, when everyone has a phone in their pocket and can instantly upload a pic that can zoom round the globe in seconds?

I thought about it a bit more. I wanted a photographer hero. My princess was going to be Italian(ish) – hence the fictional Mediterranean principality. (Sort of based on Capri, which I loved visiting.) And the setting? Partly in London – but they escape to the place of my heart. And the pics below show you a bit of the inspiration behind the book. Wells-next-the-sea, Hunstanton, and Blickling Great Wood.

Writing life, Writing news

Winning the RNA Shorter Romantic Fiction Award 2021

Still thrilled to bits this morning.

Yesterday morning, I was frantically finishing my latest book, had to do an emergency dash to buy mascara (having learned that not touching it for a year makes it dry out, cough), and was feeling a bit flat because on a normal RNA Awards day I’d be on the train to London, meeting up with my mates for a cup of tea, then lunch with editors and fellow shortlistees, and the group photographs with fellow shortlistees in our categories, and then talking way too much and drinking bubbly.

Lockdown? Nope. Nothing like it. We did have a zoom party for the finalists, and I’m very grateful to the RNA for organising that, but my wifi decided to be temperamental. Y’know where everyone’s pixelated and sounds like a robot? That. Add my hearing difficulty and… just no.

Posh swish lunch? Um, that would be scampi, shared with the dogs.

The flat feeling was back. Along with a large dose of guilt about feeling that way, because other people have had so much worse.

Scruff of neck time. I’d been shortlisted for an award with my 90th book for M&B, in my 20th year of being published by them. Lockdown or no lockdown, that deserved celebrating. Cue opening a bottle of rose Prosecco.

Then the awards do started. I so enjoyed the green room with my fellow shortlistees. We talked about books we’d loved, about how to deal with Lockdown Chins (yeah, OK, so when we were on the screen I forgot everything we’d all said about angles and clever use of hands), and we had a glass of wine ‘together’.

Technical difficulties were overcome — and I’m hugely grateful for the technology that allowed us to still have our awards do (including a ’green room’), and share it with friends and family.

I wasn’t expecting to win because all the books on our shortlist were fabulous.

So when Larry Lamb opened the envelope and said that the Liberta Books award for Shorter Romantic Fiction went to Kate Hardy…  This was my reaction!

 

A Will, a Wish and a Wedding – aka the butterfly book, set partly in my beloved Norfolk – won the award. And I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Thank you to the RNA – an organisation that’s been part of my life for a quarter of a century and introduced me to many good friends; to M&B, my publisher of two decades; to Liberta Books, for sponsoring the award; to my editor, Julia Williams, whose editing is very wise indeed; to my fellow shortlistees on the night (it’s the nomination that counts, and we are ALL winners); to my husband Gerard and children Chris and Chloe, who’ve always been my staunch supporters and to whom the book is dedicated; to my edit-paw-ial assistants, who make me leave my desk and also keep my feet warm; and to my readers, because without you I couldn’t do the job that makes my heart sing.

Thank you.

Archie and Dexter, Pipsqueak posts, Writing life, Writing news

The Pipsqueak Posts, Episode 78: the one with the RNA Awards

Dexter: Arch, Mum’s excited and she’s asking people on Facebook what she should wear. What’s happening?

 

Archie: It’s the RNA Awards today, Pipsqueak. Mum’s been shortlisted for the Liberta Book Shorter Romantic Fiction Award. It’s quite a big deal – it’s for her 90th book for Mills & Boon, and they first published her 20 years ago, when Chloe was the same age as you’ll be at the end of the month.

Dexter: So what’s that weird noise?

Archie: The hairdryer. She only uses it when she has to make her hair look really nice. Not like normal, when she just washes it and lets it dry while we’re out for a walk.

Dexter: And what’s that red stuff?

Archie: Lipstick. Oh, yeah, she hasn’t worn make-up since you were born and it’s all dried up so she had to go out and get more. That’s why we had scampi for lunch.

Dexter: Is lipstick as nice as biscuits?

Archie, laughing: Well, you can try licking it off her face. But not until after the awards do.

Dexter: It’s weird, seeing Mum dressed up. She’s normally as scruffy as you are.

Archie: Oi!

Dexter: Why do we have to sit quietly on the sofa with Dad?

Archie: Because it’s a Lockdown Awards Do – that means it’s on zoom, instead of her abandoning us to go to London.

Dexter: So we could go and leap on her and say hello to loads of people all over the world. After all, we are her Edit-paw-ial Assistants. She can’t write books without us at her feet.

Archie: No. Apparently there are technical problems. Let’s have a nap.

(later)

Dexter: Mum’s crying! Noooo! We need to be there and make her better!

Archie: She’s not crying because she’s upset. She’s happy! She won!

Dexter: And you were lying about lipstick tasting nice… Pah!

(Later)

Dexter: It’s all very nice, this rose Prosecco and that, but where are the biscuits?

Archie: All the excitement’s tired me out. Let’s go to sleep and dream of the biscuits I just know she’ll buy us tomorrow…

Archie and Dexter, Pipsqueak posts, Writing life

The Pipsqueak Posts, Episode 77: the one with the snow [video]

Dexter: Arch, Arch, what’s this white stuff?
Archie: It’s snow, Pipsqueak.
Dexter: It doesn’t smell. It doesn’t taste. But my paws are cold – and it’s skiddy!
Archie: The first time I saw snow, I was five months younger than you are now. And we had a trampoline. Snow’s fun.
Dexter: I’m cold. I’m going in for a biscuit and a cuddle.