Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Reunited... and a blast from the past

Yesterday, I met up with some friends from my schooldays, who I had not seen since I was eighteen.

That was thirty two years ago. Eeek!

We had a great time catching up with each others' lives and reminiscing about our time at Limehurst High School and Burleigh Community College. And we're going to have to do it all again soon, as one of our little group had to cancel at the last minute because of poorly offspring.

The best thing about meeting up after so long was that I was forced to look through my keepsake boxes for photos and momentos from that time; my mum always carefully clipped articles out of the local rag if we were in them, and saved programmes from school events, reports etc etc.

Here's a newspaper cutting of the Limehurst Award winners of 1981...

I'm the one on the front row with her head helpfully circled (!); Muninder is on the second row, directly over my right shoulder; Helen is on the far right of the second row, and Penny is on the third row back, fourth in from the left.

We sat trying to put names to faces on this picture - I can remember a lot of them, but not all...Reman, Sally, Adrienne, Elizabeth, Pauline, Stephanie, Michelle, Lyn, another Helen, Bridget...

Helen and I were both at primary school together too, as demonstrated in this rather wonderful pic from a school production, where we were beggars. (We worked out it wasn't the one where we sang Beatles' songs, but I cannot for the life of me remember what this one was about!)

Back row (L to R): Tracey, Deborah, Mark, Samantha, Anne
Front row (L to R): Helen, Helen, yours truly and Alex

Then there was this one. 

I can only assume it was a music group or choir-y photo, because some of the folks have recorders. Goodness only knows why I was pulling the face I am... third in from the right on the front row (again). Helen's third in from the left on the same row. This one also has lots of my neighbours and friends too - Marianne, Rebecca, Catharine, Steve, Elizabeth, Mark. Wonder where they all are now?

There's also a rather fetching pic of me in a wimple, singing. I seem to recall I had to sing Greensleeves in the local park. Heaven alone knows why.

Anyway... You know I mentioned Mum kept all our school reports? I found my Holywell junior ones (that's Y3-6 in modern terms) and had a laugh over what the teachers had written - especially about my creative writing. Take a look...


'Her creative writing is imaginative and carefully expressed with colourful descriptions and good vocabulary.'

'Katherine works hard but fairly slowly.' (in Maths)

'She works hard and responds well in PE and seems to enjoy herself.'


'Her spelling and vocabulary are extremely good. She puts these to good use in her creative writing, which is always lively and interesting, and sustained at length.' (Teacher speak for 'she doesn't half go on!?)

'Katherine has a very fine singing voice, and a good sense of rhythm, and thoroughly enjoys music.'


'Creative English has been outstanding...She is able to express feelings and details and shows a sympathy for her characters. She writes lengthy stories...and her work is most enjoyable to read.'

'PE is more difficult for her. She is slight and has no great strength, but she does well in gymnastics. Games lessons she does not enjoy.' (I hated PE with a vengeance!)

'She enjoys making dramatic statements which produce a howl of protest from the class and enjoys tantalising them with some of the roles she assumes!' (I honestly have no idea what on earth I used to do to deserve this!)


'Katherine has worked carefully and methodically, if a little slowly, at Mathematics...'

'In her creative English work, Katherine is highly imaginative...Her stories are lengthy and follow a well developed plot. The excitement generated by the dialogue and the action shows that Katherine derives much pleasure from writing her stories...Her extensive vocabulary reflects her love of words and the depth of her reading.'

'She sang and danced with energy and flair in the Christmas play.' (Wonder if that was the wizard and beggar one?)

'...always works to the best of her limited ability in PE and games.'

It made me laugh that, all the way through, maths is slow and methodical. Still is, if I'm honest.  Music and drama feature a fair bit - I loved performing. PE certainly went downhill over the four years, though - I remember taking part in the Five Star Awards, scraping a one star award in my third year and being so terrible in the fourth year, I didn't even get that. On Sports Day, I was always the egg-and-spooner or sack race candidate...

But in writing - my word. I would be extremely pleased to get this kind of feedback now! I hadn't realised that I was considered quite so good at writing back then. I remember enjoying it, and using my imagination, but good? It seems a shame that I lost all of that excitement and skill during my further studies and working life and only rediscovered - and to some extent, re-learned - the love of reading and writing when my own children came along.

But thank goodness I did. Belated thanks to Miss Cartlidge, Mrs Johnson, Mrs Bennett and Mrs Creasey for their kind words back then. I wonder if, when they read my 'lengthy stories' all thoses years ago, they had any idea that one day, I'd be a published author?

I'm off to look for some of my Limehurst and Burleigh reports now, see whether the trends in certain subjects continued!

Friday, 26 May 2017

A bit of unexpected promotion

It's always nice to know that there's some promotion of your books which you didn't expect...

I've had a couple of people in the last week tell me they've had emails from Amazon about the publication of Kingstone.

My dad was the first - he phoned me up specially, to tell me he'd had the email and he'd looked me up on Amazon's site. Sure enough, there was Kingstone. And the other evening, a friend asked whether I'd got a new book coming out, because she'd had an email too...

So thank you, Amazon. Let's hope that those who bought StarMark and enjoyed it will also take a punt on Kingstone...

One of the questions I've been asked quite a lot is whether Kingstone is a follow-on from StarMark? No, they are both stand-alone titles, ie complete stories in their own right. There may be potential in both to write more in these worlds, but I enjoy writing complete stories rather than series at the moment.

If you don't like to purchase via the Big A, there are other places stocking the book: Wordery, Barnes and Noble, Blackwells, and Waterstones will order if you ask. If you don't own a kindle, you can get the ebook via Kobo.

Let me know when your copy arrives...and even better, let me - and other people - know what you think of the story!

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

The day no-one came

Remember I said I was doing a talk about being an author for the Nanpantan Festival? It was today.

I was all set. Books to sell alongside other craft items; a display of publications; speaking podium, props, and presentation all lined up ready to go...

...and no-one came.

Well, actually there were five of us at church; two ladies to serve lunches, a welcomer, the festival organiser, and me. But no-one came to hear the talk.

Don't get me wrong, I wasn't expecting a massive audience.

But not a single person?

Perhaps it was the weather. It has been torrential rain all day here and I don't blame folks for not wanting to go out unless they absolutely had to.

Perhaps it was because it was lunchtime, rather than the evening. Folks do have to work. And eat.

Perhaps people simply weren't interested? Although five minutes before I left the house, I had a phone call asking for an author talk, so maybe they are.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed - of course I am.

But I'm not about to let a no-show audience knock my confidence. The years of critique and feedback and rejection have thickened my skin so that I don't take things like this personally any more. Instead, I'm philosophical. I now have an author talk - with slides and notes - all prepared and ready for when it's needed.

I'm stronger than this setback.

And I'm going to spend this evening writing.

So there.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Weather tight

The garden room is now weather tight!

Mr Squidge has been working his little socks off in recent weeks, and things are very different now to how they were back at the beginning of April. For once, we've not taken lots of photos during the process, so you'll just have to believe me when I say that Mr Squidge built the skeleton frame; fitted the damp proof membrane for the floor; stapled another breathable DPM to the frame; clad the walls in shiplap; lifted plywood panels up to make the roof; cut the hole for the ENORMOUS skylight; emptied the rainwater out of the groundsheet which he covered said skylight hole with, and then he climbed onto the roof with a friend to glue down the rubber roofing material and fit the skylight.

I've been helping where I can, though that's not a huge amount. My job seemed to be limited to unloading planks from the Moggy (our beloved Morris Traveller) every time Mr Squidge took a trip to the woodyard (and reloading again when he got one lot home and discovered he'd picked the wrong ones up!), making tea, and sticking/stapling the breathable membrane to the frame.

The only thing Mr Squidge hasn't done himself was fit the doors, for the simple reason that it didn't cost too much extra (or take very long on the day) to have the experts fit them. And, if there are any problems, the experts will come back and fix it. Huge thanks to Midland Bi-folds for doing such a brilliant job.

There is still lots to do before the room is finished - insulate the floor, walls, and ceiling; skin the walls; put flooring down; paint the walls; clad what's left either side of the doors; fit guttering; find furniture; fit electrics and a stove - but it is going to be a lovely place for Mr Squidge and I to retreat to ourselves, or to send the kids to if they want time with friends without us oldies gatecrashing.

I have to say, it looks amazing, even at this stage.

The walls either side of the glass panels will be clad in red cedar shiplap to finish them off, and the doors will appear black; the white on them is protective tape.

The view from inside the room, looking back to the house. Do excuse the pile of earth, rubble and offcuts for the moment, and focus on how beautifully the apple and pear trees frame the view...

In the next pic, you can see a bit of the gigantic 8 foot by 4 foot domed skylight - it was chucking it down when I took these next couple of pictures, yet inside is still beautifully light. And the best thing is that the skylight doesn't leak - we were a little worried after some of the torrential showers we've had recently...

When the doors arrived, we'd completely forgotten that the level of our lawn was higher than the bottom of the doors when the doors were fully opened. So a bit of hasty digging by Mr Squidge, and we have a depression with a curved edge for the door end, and a square end for when all three panels are open. The plan is to fill this depression with slabs similar to our patio and fill in any remaining gaps (and the walkways around the sides and back) with pea gravel to help drainage.

The doors fold right back, leaving the whole front open...

I have to say, I was initially reluctant to build a monstrous shed at the bottom of the garden, but now it's here, I'm quite liking the idea.

Not so keen on the idea of it being a party shed and band practise room (for the Squidgelings) or a miniature railway or snooker room (Mr Squidge.) I have visions of using it for early morning Pilates...and a writing den, which is what I was told the room could be used for originally.

I daresay we'll find more uses for it as time goes on, and we'll settle into it. Next update will probably be when it's furnished!

Sunday, 14 May 2017

My author path

This Wednesday, I'm giving a lunchtime talk as part of the Nanpantan Festival.

I've called it Wordy Wednesday, and it'll be a chance for me to tell something of the journey I've been on over the last ten years.

It's been interesting to look back over that time and see that in fact, 2013 was the turning point, when I broke with the agent. I think at that point, I had begun to find out who I was as a writer - to be (fairly) fearless in what I wrote and how I was writing it. To not listen to what others were telling me I should be doing, but to beat my own path to publication.

And then, in 2014, I had my validation through publication; only a few short stories in some very good anthologies - novels were a way off still - but my writing was at last of a standard to be chosen for others to read.

So if you fancy hearing about my author path, the ups and downs of writing and what I get up to as an author, do come up to St. Mary in Charnwood Church for midday if you'd like lunch beforehand (£5 for a Ploughman's, cake and tea, I believe) or at 1pm for the talk, which is FREE.

I'll have my books there - £1 from every copy sold will be donated to a church project I'm supporting, the extension and refurbishment of the Rainbow Home in Pudukottai where I visited last year.

There will also be some unique cards designed by Laura Buckland, Granny Rainbow's illustrator.

Rainbow coloured wings for the Rainbow Home

Squirrel! Which is what I was called before it was shortened to Squidge...

There's also a beautiful peacock - a nod to India's national bird - and a couple of huggy hedgehogs, with all designs available as cards printed on elephant poo recycled paper, or as prints. In addition, there will bracelets made by a partially sighted member of our congregation, Georgina, with profits from all sales given to the Rainbow Home fundraising.

I look forward to seeing a few folks and sharing my own personal story with them, as well as maybe raising a few quid for a good cause, too.

Friday, 12 May 2017

The TBR pile

I don't think I've ever had a TBR pile before. (To Be Read, in case you didn't know what I was on about!)

At the moment, I find I'm developing quite a stash, probably because I'm writing lots and I haven't got the time to do both.

So what's in it...?

Trainspotting. I've never seen the film, though Mr Squidge has. He raves about it, so I thought I'd give the book a go.

The Grey Bastards, by Jonathon French. (Kindle) Recently won a self-published fantasy blog off, and has been recommended by Mark Lawrence (of Broken Empire Trilogy and Red Sister fame)

The finalists...

Colonial Compromises by Stephen Terry. (Kindle) I've read chunks of this over the years on the cloud, and I like Stephen's style.

The Magician's Guild, Book 1 by Trudi Canavan, (Kindle) because a reader of StarMark said he thought my style was similar to hers.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (Paperback) a recommendation from my mum!

Introduction to the Old Testament and Introduction to the New Testament, both by John Drane. (Big, brick sized paperbacks!) Background reading for my course with church, and actually quite interesting. I've already dipped into earlier editions for what we've done so far, but I'm finding the historical stuff so fascinating, I bought myself copies to read at my leisure.

Anything else you think I should have on my expanding pile?

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Hacked off

I'd be the first to admit that I am not tec-savvy. When things go wrong with the computer, I get stressed and panicked pretty quickly, because half the time I simply don't know what to do to put things right.

So to discover yesterday morning that my facebook profile had been cloned threw me into a right spin.

I changed my password immediately, then posted on facebook to say what had happened. Then I tried to contact facebook admin to report it.

First stop - the security place in settings. Not a hint of what to do to report problems. I ended up following a link from a friend down-under to find out what I should be doing. It seemed really odd that you have to find the bogus profile before you can report it; I have, as a result, discovered that there are quite a few Katherine Hetzels in the world, but only one had nicked my identity.

Anyway, it's all sorted and the offending profile was taken down within minutes of being reported. Hooray!

But technology hadn't done with me...I have recently had to give up my old phone - a complete brick of a pay-as-you-go Nokia, whose numbers were worn out.

Mr Squidge wanted to add me to one of these packages where you get unlimited texts and calls for the whole family, so it made sense to get a new phone as well.

The replacement was an equal brick of a Samsung (used to be Squidgeling T's until he refused to use it because it wasn't cool enough) and I've had to relearn where all my options are for everything I was used to doing. Hate it. I've lost my 'budink' text alert, my sand dance ringtone, and I'm having to input all my contact numbers again because the transfer only took about a dozen over, in spite of us saving them all to the SIM...and don't get me started on the predictive text spelling options!

The 'new' phone!

To top it all off, Squidgeling T's on my back throughout, telling me I should've got a smartphone. I tell him it's pointless, because all I want to do is make calls and send texts. I can do without all the other gubbins that comes with apps and games and whatever other rubbish smartphones get filled with.

Third thing...I've been really excited writing Effie's story. For almost three weeks, it's been going really well. Then I downloaded a book that had been recommended to me by a reader of StarMark ("Your writing reminds me of said author.") I started to read and was gutted - GUTTED - to discover the premise of this other story is almost exactly the same as what I'm currently writing for Effie.


And it's only Thursday... Things've got to get better, right?