Thursday, 23 June 2016


I don't 'do' politics. By which, I mean I don't understand a lot of it. That makes it very difficult to know how to vote, especially when many politicians seem to be more self-serving than people-serving at the moment. And I'm not just talking about the UK here - you can see the same phenomenon in many places in the world.

Yet there ARE politicians of integrity, who serve their fellow humans in their constituencies as well as having a heart for those beyond our shores. Like Jo Cox, whose life was so brutally cut short last week because of an apparently political motive. I wish there were more like her...

Today's referendum day in the UK, where we vote to decide whether or not we remain a part of the European Union.

The campaign has been fought with much mud-slinging, many accusations, and lots of fear-mongering based on suspected untruths. It seems to have brought out the worst in some politicians, rather than their best. I had hoped to see a more adult approach taken towards campaigning, but it was not to be.

I have cast my vote.

Whatever the outcome of the referendum is, I will accept it and I will not hold against anyone who voted differently to me. I will continue to pour love and light into the world where I can, and try to make a difference to those who need help. I know that doesn't help with many of the issues that have become so important to the referendum, but I will not let that stop me from being a compassionate human.

And I will be praying that our politicians become kinder to one another and more truthful with the voters as they attempt to rebuild the confidence of the UK public in their representation of us.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

A teensy weensy announcement

This is going to be short (like me) and VERY sweet!

I am delighted to announce that my second children's novel - Kingstone - has been signed by Dragonfeather Books, an imprint of US Indie publisher Bedazzled Ink, who've recently published StarMark.

The ink's not wet on the contract yet so I don't have much else to tell you at the moment, other than I'm pleased as punch that Bink are willing to take on my second novel before StarMark's proved its worth.

I'm looking forward very much to introducing you to Katia and her story at some point in the future...

Saturday, 18 June 2016

A very special show

Today I visited the DeMontfort University Art and Design degree show in Leicester for two very special reasons.

One of those reasons was that Squidgeling T is getting a taste for product design, and we thought it would be a good idea to see what kind of things were being created by the class of 2016. We were very impressed with the portable camping pod, the motorbike leathers that lit up front and back with LED lights, and the entire interior design section.

The second - and most important reason - was that Laura, who illustrated Granny Rainbow for me, was exhibiting her work in the Graphic Design and Illustration section. Here she is...Laura, not Granny Rainbow!

Laura with her display

Laura's definitely developed a distinctive style, and she loves to draw animals. Here's one of her keepsake cards that you could take away; the bird's wing is latch-hooked with strips of plastic bags to 'Make Art not Litter'.

Laura had also written and illustrated a children's story, called What Do You Want To Do? It's a lovely story about not listening to others tell you what you can and can't do, but to live your dream. To go with the book was a story bag; a rucsac filled with activity sheets, question cards, an audio version (read by Jane, Laura's sister) and three handmade stuffed toys based on the animals in the book. Gorgeous!

Then there was her stationery range; eco-friendly and based again on animals.

And then there were more latch hooked cards; a squirrel with a bushy red-brown tail, a seagull with black and grey wing, and a turtle with a woven plastic strip shell. So clever!

I can't believe that Laura's degree is finished - it only feels like a few minutes since she started on the course. You can see more about her and her work HERE on her website. And if her degree exhibition is anything to go by, I'm sure she'll be heading for a bright future in illustration.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Stitching for Charity 2016

I am lucky enough to have, in my home town, a fabulous shop - Quorn Country Crafts - which, if you are into needlework, knitting or quilting, is a treasure trove. You might remember I recently attended a quilting course there? One result of that course is my rainbow quilt.

(Another result is a huge stash of fabric; a patchwork duvet cover made by J; a hexie quilt for the spare room; AND a patchwork duvet cover for my bed. Plus a few other projects... I'm led to believe that this is one of the downsides of quilting! Though a REAL quilter would not see a huge stash of fabric and unfinished projects as a downside, I bet!)

Anyhow, today, I attended my first ever quilting exhibition, a bi-annual fundraising event held by Quorn Country Crafts in All Saints Parish Church, Loughborough - about a five minute walk away from the shop - in the centre of town.

It was A-MAZE-ING.

Having made my own quilt recently, I was stunned at the hours of work that must have gone into the creations on display. The largest quilt was 100 inches square - twice the size of the one I'd made. Some were appliqued with stunning pictures. There was machine and hand stitching in evidence. There were colour combinations and designs to suit everyone's taste and as a result, the church was filled with colour and pattern.

There was a competition corner, a first quilt section (was proud to have been asked if they could display mine), a cushion raffle, books and magazines and knitted or sewn items to purchase, with all donations going to support Asthma & Allergy UK and Leicestershire Glenfield Hospitals HEARTLINK charities. And refreshments - the lemony shortbread was melt-in-the-mouth, and I overheard several people saying how good the chocolate gateau topped with red berries was.

So, with the permission of Sue, the organiser, I thought I'd share some of my favourite quilts from the prepared for a LOT of photos! I couldn't photograph them all, much as I'd have liked to, but every one was unique and beautiful and needed to be seen in the flesh, as it were, to fully appreciate them. Right - are you ready? Here we go...

Here's just one pew section - there are four in the church - draped in all kinds of quilts or supporting frames to display larger ones. Seeing the whole church decked out in the same way, with barely an inch of pew left 'unquilted', literally took my breath away.

I was reliably informed that circles are actually quite easy to stitch. I'll take their word for it. I loved the richness of the colours in this one.

 This next one used a more muted palette, but I liked the diamond panel features.

Beautiful Japanese inspired fabrics in this one.

You might have to look closely, but a lot of the fabrics in this one feature music notes. Again, another more muted palette, but a striking pattern.

And quilts aren't just for the bed...this next one would lovely slung over a settee during the festive season.

Can't remember what this pattern's called, but it's an octagonal wheel and used some very intriguing fabrics printed with road name signs. I imagine there was a lot of expertise in the cutting of this one, to make sure each triangle had exactly the same bit of pattern on it.

Competition time...last December, some of the customers were challenged to create anything at all out of two-and-a-half inch squares. Everyone received a pack of squares, identical in size and shape from the same design collection. They could add any fabric they liked, but they had to use all of the squares. It was amazing to see the range of items that people had created.

This photo does not do justice to this next quilt. It was huge. It was stunning. It had the most detailed flower and bead applique and it positively glowed against the dark background. This one, you have to see to believe.

Now this one's very clever. Joined strips are cut at an angle, and then the quilting looked to have been done in short sections following the line of the strips...I think!

The outer edges of ts optical illusion is created entirely from small squares of graduating shades joined into strips. And the block in the centre is another illusion, based on six triangular panels to form a hexagon.

Rainbow could've guessed this one would be a winner with me!

Beautiful blended purples and a few curves...

 My kind of colours; aqua, purple, blues and greens...

Children hadn't been forgotten either - these were just a few of the stunning applique quilts on display.

The peacock quilt.! And all the quilting of that central printed panel was done in gilt thread, to pick up the gilt lines printed onto the fabric.

Some really accurate machining needed for this...

The next two photos are from first quilt corner - made by beginners in the craft who have attended one of QCC's workshops. Spotted one you recognise? *wink, wink*

Back to optical illusions with this fab 'cube' quilt design. Every cube used three different fabrics, but didn't need a lot of any single fabric, so perhaps this could be made from scraps?

The optical illusion is lost as you get closer - but then you can see how clever placement of six triangles makes the cube and the box.

Quilts are sometimes made to tell a story; this one tells of the men who lost their lives in the Great War and whose names are on the memorial in church.

One of the largest quilts on display, at 99 inches square - and for sale. I have to admit to gasping when I saw the price tag, but it is so beautifully made and designed, it would be a small price to pay for such an heirloom.

A monochrome design, where the bold flower fabric was used to good effect. And that central twisted square is rather clever too...

I loved this one. A relatively simple design, being just strips and squares, but a lovely mix of colours.

I might have to try that design myself with my Bali Pops jelly roll. Here's my colour mix, though I will need to get a couple of contrasts to make sure I can make it big enough for a duvet cover, which is what I'd like to create with it.

But my absolute FAVOURITE, among all those quilts on display, has to be this one:

The richness of colour, the striking design, the clever curvy quilting...just...perfect. In fact, I like it SO much, here's another photo of it, just because I can!

Not sure that I will ever, in a million years, manage anything of this quality. For a start, I'd have no time to write if I became a serious quilter! But it was wonderful to be able to admire the work of others and dream a little dream...

The exhibition continues tomorrow and Saturday (17th and 18th June) between 10am and 4pm and admission is £2.50 for over 12's. Huge congratulations to everyone at Quorn Country Crafts for an amazing display, and here's hoping you raise lots of money for your chosen charities.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Paperback Writer...

The opening lines of the Beatles' song (click on the lyrics to hear the song!) could be applied to many authors, but it struck me afresh this morning because - after seven or eight years - I AM a paperback writer!

There'd been some delays with the printing side of things for StarMark here in the UK, and I confess to feeling more than a little disappointment as the original May 1st publication date went by and messages came in from Amazon saying 'can't get hold of it yet'...'delivery somewhere between the 1st and 11th July'...'Delivery definitely 15th or 16th July'...and then, last Thursday, out of the blue-

'We've dispatched your copies!'

Hooray!! I kept my fingers crossed that they'd arrive on the Friday, as I was going away for the weekend with friends from uni.

(It's almost 30 years to the day since we met at Wolverhampton Polytechnic in kitchen 2B; we spent the weekend reminiscing, talking over what's happened to us since and generally having a great time in a love1y cottage. Here we all are, eating chocolate cake in the garden with me looking very serious for some reason. Probably trying to work out if I'm in the selfie or not...)

Unfortunately they (the books) didn't arrive 'til after I'd gone, but in the meantime, I kept getting messages and photos over the weekend from people telling me that THEIR copies had arrived and they were really excited to get reading. My mum's text was the best; 'Guess what I'm holding? YOUR BOOK!' But the one that made me feel all warm and tingly inside was the late-night-on-Thursday messenger conversation I had with someone who'd just started to read StarMark. I kept getting updates about how good she thought it was and how many chapters in she was...She had to stop reading then until Sunday, but finished the rest in one sitting and loved it - high praise indeed from a self-confessed 'I don't usually read' person.

And when I got home from my weekend away - on my birthday, no less - what did I find waiting for me? Apart from cards, pressies and fishfinger sarnies for tea? A shiny, new, never-been-opened paperback copy OF MY BOOK!

So if you hear me humming a line or two of a certain Beatles' song over the next few days, you'll know I'm still pretty excited about being a 'Paperback Writer'...

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Stop the world, I want to get off!

The first week of June - gone! And not a blog post to show for it, all because I'm spectacularly busy at the moment with preparations for our church Flower Festival in August, a family holiday some time in July, Charnwood 2016 and a weekend with my old uni friends. Let's take 'em in turn...

The Flower Festival. I have still to create my final design plans for the three different hymns I'm representing. I'm trying to do something a bit modern for the entrance, which has meant poring over the internet for the mechanics I need to make it happen. Finally found them, but I'm still not sure I've got things clear in my head. I also take responsibility for producing the programme, so I've been typing up various hymns...

Family holiday. The Squidges are going sailing! Abroad! On a proper sail boat that we learn how to be crew for! Both Squidges Jnr and Most Jnr have been on a sailing course with Scouting, and Mr Squidge used to windsurf so they've all got a bit of an idea what's expected. Me? I've done nothing. Methinks my idea of lying about on deck, sunbathing, while the rest of the family make the boat go, is a bit of a dream...

Charnwood 2016. This is Leicestershire Guiding and Scouting's International camp, held once every five years. I've been to every one since the age of 12 (2001 was a brief visit rather than camping, as T was only two weeks old at the time; he'd arrived early!) I'm on the faith team this year, so I have been sourcing simple liturgies for morning and evening prayers, making special faith team neckers to identify us, preparing mountboards to be decorated during camp, and filling in endless forms...

Reunion. It's quite a few years since we all got together, and we're off to Banbury for a couple of days of prosecco, nibbles and catching up! So there are a few foody items to purchase before I go, clothes to pack (wouldn't you know that this glorious weather isn't going to last for us?), and the family to organise in my absence.

You will notice that there's nothing about writing here at all. I'm still in a bit of a dry spell and wordless when it comes to stories, and we're still waiting for the paperback of StarMark to hit the shelves in the UK. The good news is, the paperback's out in the US and it has been selling, so fingers crossed it will be a similar story on this side of the pond.

I also have a couple of knitting projects to finish for friends' babies...a hexie quilt to complete...the ironing pile to author page to set up for Amazon US...and everything 'normal' and 'routine' to do in the house.

Maybe things'll ease off around October?