Archie, day 1: look, Mum, lockdown rules say you have to be two metres apart. I’m not sure that Pipsqueak is even supposed to be in our house. I could report you for lockdown-breaking and you’ll get a letter from the police (but then they might fine you and you won’t be able to afford to give me salmon). I am not letting him sleep in my bed or even on the same level as me. Two metres, that’s the rule, so I insist on socially distant napping.
A day later
Archie: OK. I’ll agree to nap on the same level as Pipsqueak.
A couple of days later:
Archie: I know Pipsqueak wriggled off your lap. I could get up and huff in dignified protest, as I’ve done every day since he arrived, but right now I can’t be bothered to move. That’s the only reason I’m letting him stay there. (Five minutes later…) He moved again! I give in. There’s enough room on the sofa between you for both of us. Pipsqueak can cuddle up with me. I need to teach him about napping duty, anyway.
Dexter: I’m glad he’s given in, because it’s hard work being eight weeks old…
Archie says: Pipsqueak, this is a barbecue. It means the parents cook dinner outside. Well, Dad does the outside bits after Mum preps them, and Mum does all the roasted veg in the oven and the salads. The potatoes are nice cold, but that’s for another day. Today is barbecue. The drill here is to sit by the table on the patio, stare hard and lick your lips until they give you chicken. You will like barbecued chicken.
There is also the possibility that Dad will drop something between the barbecue and the table, so keep an eye because you can swoop in and snaffle it. Now the vegetable patio garden is here, I think there’s a possibility that chicken might have fallen into the potato patch. We need to do a proper sniff-check.
Archie says: Pipsqueak, you need to learn your duties as Junior Edit-paw-ial assistant. A most important duty of being an author’s dog is to sit on her feet. Especially if she’s doing revisions and she’s stress-eating biscuits (not just because you can scrounge some, which is an EPA perk, but also because it’s nice to sit on her feet and let her know you love her and cheer her on). I’ll supervise this first one.
Dexter says: Senior Edit-paw-ial Assistant gave me a B- above in the appraisal for my ‘sit on my pet author’s feet’ assignment because I didn’t actually sit on Mum’s feet. I have resolved to Do Better and hope I get an A this time.
Archie: Pipsqueak, this is how we check what’s going on in the neighbourhood. Stand with your paws on the radiator, be as tall as you can and look out. Do it as if you’re crossing the road: look right, look left, look right again.
(It would be easier to see if it wasn’t for the laurel hedge. Mum is working out how we can help her dig it up so she can replace it with roses. Dad says we are not to encourage her.)
Archie says: And this, Pipsqueak, is how we sit nicely for cold poached salmon. Mum is on a diet, so she often has salmon and salad for lunch. Cucumber will probably be nice for you when your teeth hurt because it’s cool. But salmon’s what you really want. It’s scrummy.
Mum is not quite so much of a pushover as Chloe and she’ll tell you to sit if you’re pushy. Sometimes she doesn’t say ‘sit’ and does it in sign language, instead — we learned that at puppy class when I wasn’t much older than you. Because of lockdown, you might not be able to go to puppy class. So I promise to teach you all I know…
Archie says: Listen up, Pipsqueak. Not everyone in the house eats toast. Chloe does (probably because she’s a student, and students love toast) and she is a pushover. All you have to do is sit and look cute and wait for the click of the toaster, and she’ll give us a nice crunchy bit of toast. We’ll just go and remind her that we’re here, first.
Archie says: You know, Pipsqueak, Sundays are good days in this house. We go to the beach or the park a lot on Sundays (and that means a warm sausage roll for us in the cafe, as well as running around a lot without a lead on, and making friends with other dogs). Sadly you’re not old enough to go out yet, and also it’s lockdown so I haven’t been to the beach or the park for months…
(Archie has a little dream about the beach.)
But Sunday also means that Mum does a roast dinner. Chicken is good. We have to wait until everyone’s finished and she’ll leave us a little bit on her plate. But best of all is the carcass. There’s still meat left after she’s carved, and Dad takes it off and puts it in our bowls. We have to sit nicely. Watch and follow me!
Dexter says: this is my bed, and Mum said I was to let Archie sleep in his bed and stick to mine. When Archie stops giving me the cold shoulder, we will see about that. I cuddled up to all my baby brothers and my sister, so I reckon I can cuddle up to my big brother, too.
In the meantime, I be(e) teething… (Archie says: Mum cannot resist cheesy puns. Dad says it’s her age but I think she’s always been like it. Mum is also not allowed in the pet shop without adult supervision. Apparently she buys too many toys. I don’t get it because you can never have too many tennis balls.)
Their pet romance author adds: my hands are very full right now, so I’m working currently on the same basis that I did when the children were small – work when the baby naps!
Thrilled to say that my latest M&B Medical Romance (my 91st book for them) has just been accepted. It was VERY tough to write during lockdown – given the events in the world, it felt as if my work was completely irrelevant and frivolous, and writing the book was like wading through treacle. I had no connection with my hero or heroine, but I talked to my editors and they reminded me that it’s better to edit a bad page than a blank page, so I sent in a book I was really not happy with. My editors said I wasn’t alone in feeling this way and that not only were other writers finding it hard, the editors were also struggling to read. Even though I work from home in normal s circumstances, it isn’t the same at all during lockdown.
While my editors were ploughing through it, I had a shift in mindset. Short romance novels like mine serve a very specific purpose: they entertain people, they have a definite happy ending so they help to lift moods, and maybe this is what the world needs right now. Love and happiness. And I needed to stop feeling miserable and bring the joy back. (I’d been doing that with Facebook posts including birdsong and my daily walk with the beastie and catching the sunrise – oh, wait, pictures!! Look at this!! More on my Instagram account.)
So my editors came back to me with comments, and I scribbled all over my manuscript (actually – maybe it’d be nice for you to see my writing in progress. One set of revisions, scribbled all over (it’s in track changes so I can see my editors’ comments, and I use a pink Pilot v-ball pen for my changes as it has a very fine nib and suits my tiny, scruffy handwriting). I usually have an Edit-paw-ial assistant sitting at my feet, but occasionally Senior EPA decides to sit on the dining room chair next to me. Pipsqueak obviously won’t be big enough to do that, yet, and I think he’d climb on the table and chew my pens at the moment!
Anyway, I’m delighted to say that Forever Family for the Midwife (the midwife, by the way, is a male midwife…) will be published in November 2020. You can find it on Amazon UK here (for transparency’s sake, that’s an affiliate link) and Amazon US here (not affiliate link). And I will do the proper page for it on my website soon 🙂
Hello! We’re Archie and Dexter, English springer spaniels, also known as Senior and Junior Edit-paw-ial Assistants to Kate Hardy, our pet author (henceforth referred to as Mum). We’re half-brothers because we have the same father, and we’re exactly three and a half years apart in age. [Pet Author note: at the time of writing, May 2020, Archie is 3 and 3/4 and Dexter is 8 weeks.]
Archie says: so this is the moment I first met Pipsqueak, in our back garden.
I wasn’t very impressed with him. Apparently he’s 1/15th of my size. Mum had told us about social distancing because of something called Covid 19, so I took the rules very seriously and insisted on putting some distance between me and Pipsqueak. (Mum said it doesn’t apply to people who live in the same house, and he was my baby half-brother. I was no longer an only dog. It seemed that Pipsqueak wasn’t just a visitor: he was staying.)
I soon discovered that puppies are exhausting. They run around *all* the time, they yip when they want something because they don’t have any manners, and then there are the needle-sharp teeth! The only way for a dog to deal with the situation is to hop up onto the sofa (where the puppy can’t reach you, even if he does a bit of bouncing and yaps at you to come down and PLAY WITH ME NOW) and to maintain a dignified silence. Thankfully, puppies eventually crash out and sleep for ages, giving a Senior Edit-paw-ial Assistant a chance to catch up with Mum and check out the new toys in the house. (I’m not allowed to have squeaky teddies because apparently I shred them – hmm, isn’t that the point of teddies? But there are new squeaky tennis balls, which is a Very Good Thing. Pipsqueak has a tiny one that I’ve got my eye on. He likes my oversized one. We can possibly arrange a swap.)
Once Pipsqueak had crashed out, I had peace and quiet to think. I decided I ought to take charge and teach him a few things… And thus began the Pipsqueak Posts.