Thursday, 1 June 2023

Books, writing and gardens - the importance of all three

One of the lovely bonuses of being an author is meeting readers, and other writers.

This morning I had a text from someone I met through our blogs. She lives in Penryn and is a very talented gardener, and wanted to buy a copy of The Rescue, so I said I'd drop one round as I sing in Penryn on a Thursday morning.

And what a fabulous time I had. Her oldest daughter is an avid reader and writer, and sat and scribbled with quiet determination while we had tea sitting in the garden. Having talked a lot about books and writing, we turned to gardens, something I've come to late in life, but I find it a really lovely antidote to sitting in front of a computer.

It's different from walking, which is about being in nature, but sometimes exploring, often with friends, always with Lainy. But growing stuff is almost meditative, I find, and I can see why my dad got so much pleasure from growing all our veg as well as loads of plants. At the moment The Fella and I are growing spuds, onions and carrots. The former two look good, the carrots haven't deigned to make an appearance. I've also planted broad beans which are, touch wood, looking quite healthy. The perpetual spinach isn't looking very perpetual at all, however, and the rhubarb disappeared without trace.

It was fascinating having a guided tour round Lou's garden - she knows so much - and I left with several Californian poppy seedlings. I then got home and Mel gave me some sunflower seedlings, so I've had a happy half hour potting them all up and feel content in the sunshine.

Now it's back to editing....but as I start again at Chapter 11, I am thinking how lucky us writers are to meet other readers, and writers in the making.

Wednesday, 3 May 2023

Great Expectations or Hope but Never Expect

(I can't take credit for this photo as it was taken by a friend, but it was taken in Falmouth, so I'm sure he won't mind me using it.)

The trouble with high expectations is that they are not always met. And, of course, the higher they are, the more unlikely they're met.

Take a successful first book/album/poem/photograph/tennis match* (*fill in with whatever you will). Having a huge success earlier on can be crippling, for how can anyone live up to phenomenal success like that? It's a huge pressure, and enough to kill any creative instinct.

Similarly, but looking at it from the recipient's point of view, if you've read a lot of brilliant reviews/seen trailers/read comments online, the chances are you will have formed an opinion or expectations of what you're about to see/read/whatever. This has happened to me several times recently, with books that I'd really been looking forward to. In several cases, I really enjoyed the writers' previous books and was looking forward to getting stuck in. Opened the book and after a few pages, I wondered if I was reading the one which had been the topic of so much hype and enthusiasm. I checked. I was. So it must be me. What was I not getting? Perhaps it would get better after a few chapters? And so on.

Last night we went to see the film of Harold Fry. I loved both Rachel Joyce's books in this series and will watch anything with Jim Broadbent and Penelope Wilton in, so I knew I would love it. Admittedly the seats were uncomfortable, and it was cold in the cinema, so rather than losing myself in the story, which I'd been looking forward to, weeping copiously as normal, I shifted from side to side. Put my coat back on. Wondered what the time was. Whether I should nip to the loo now or later? You get the picture (sorry, terrible pun). And while I enjoyed the film I wasn't knocked over sideways as I'd expected.

Now a lot of it might be one of those phases I'm going through where I struggle to really get lost in a book. Actually no, I've just finished "Lessons from Lucy" by Dave Barry which I think should be compulsory reading for anyone over 50. Brilliant and wise and so funny. But I digress. A friend told me, several years ago, "Hope but never expect" which is very wise but can also be difficult.

So maybe the motto of this post is - Don't believe everything you read online (of course). But also, maybe, look out the lesser known writers/films/artists. (I've recently bought a few prints from lesser known artists and love them.) They are often just as good if not better. And you can have the added satisfaction of being the one to bring their work to a wider audience.....

Tuesday, 11 April 2023

HUNGER - don't be fooled by this picture

A QUICK ASIDE - LULU I've emailed you about buying a copy of The Rescue but am not able to contact you via your blog for some strange reason. Please let me know how to get a copy to you! Best way is to email me - Over Easter, I read a brilliant interview in The Times magazine with @HadleyFreeman about her experiences with anorexia. Her book, Good Girls: A Story and Study of Anorexia - Perfectionist girls who starve, is out this week and she is doing a lot of work to publicise it. As you do. Regular readers of mine know that I had years of anorexia, thankfully many moons ago, but reading extracts from her book brought it all flooding back. And she does write incredibly well.

I don't think enough has been written about the horrors of anorexia, from a personal point of view. It is such a terrifing illness, for the sufferers as well as their nearest and dearest. I found some letters from a boyfriend when I was 18, writing to me when I was back in hospital for the umpteenth time, and it really got me thinking. Several years ago, before The Rescue story kicked off, I wrote a novel called HUNGER, as I wanted to write about my experiences from a mother's perspective (how my poor mum coped, I cannot think) but also from the daughter's.

I mentioned this book to my editor some time ago and she was very keen to have a look at it. I think it's time HUNGER makes its way out into the world soon....

Meanwhile, back to normal life... My Easter felt a bit like the above picture. I'd sent the rough-ish draft of Lainy's Tail to my editor to see what she thinks and as soon as I did it I felt a) exhausted and b) curiously adrift. Having four days of Bank Holidays made the whole sensation feel more otherworldly, compounded by the fact that The Fella was away with his rugger mates and one of my best friends was due back but didn't make it.

So I rested a lot, slept a lot, read a lot and walked a lot. No chocolate in my house, because chocolate makes me very hyper, makes my brain spin and I can't sleep. So frankly it's not worth it. Also of course, I have Lainy who is hyper enough without any chocolate and it's not good for dogs either.

So I'm glad to be back at my desk, though the break did me good. I'm waiting, with baited breath, to hear what changes my editor suggests, and itching to get on with them.

Wednesday, 29 March 2023

Paul O'Grady, friend to all dogs, especially rescues

Image courtesy of Battersea Dogs Home

I woke in the middle of the night and turned on the radio, as I do when I'm sleeping at home (ie not with the Fella) to hear of Paul O'Grady's death. I stirred sleepily, thinking, What? But yes, he died very suddenly, yesterday. I was listening to BBC Five Live overnight show and was struck by how the callers who rang in to pay tribute were of such different ages - an 80 year old who praised his humanity. Several young men, mostly Liverpudlians, who were so proud of him being a Liverpool Man. A young woman who said he reminded her of her nan and the precious times she spent watching him on telly with her. So many different age groups who all had something really wonderful to say about him.

I often listened to his Radio Two show on a Sunday afternoon when driving back from a walk somewhere, and feel that I've lost a personal friend. He spoke to his listeners without pretence, no ego, but snippets of his life, his dogs and his colleague Malcolm, who I'm sure will miss working with him so much.

But for all his work, he was such an ambassador (a much vaunted word, but true in this case) for rescue dogs and cats. I've had rescue cats all my life, and now, as many of you know, I have Lainy, my Romanian rescue. He apparently fell in love with all of the dogs at Battersea Dogs Home and ended up giving many of them a home over the years, to add to his menagerie. But apparently it was the work he did behind the scenes, not in front of the camera, that was so impressive. Battersea must be devastated, not just because he was such a high profile patron, but because he helped so many other people realise the importance of giving these animals a home, rather than buying a puppy or kitten.

The world has lost a truly special person and I'mn sure all the animals he has saved with hold him in their hearts forever more. I know us mere mortals will. So here's a thank you from Lainy, on behalf of all the other four legged friends.

Wednesday, 15 March 2023

Learning to Read

I have very few memories of my childhood, but one of them was standing in the road not far from our house, and refusing to move until I’d spelt out ‘Coombeinteignhead’ which is difficult enough to spell at the best of times, let alone when you’re learning to read. However, after that tricky start, anything else was easy, and once I discovered the delight of books, I could hardly contain myself.

I was always an active child, spending much time outside running and playing games, then as I grew older I learned to swim, did gym and ballet, both of which I adored and was good at. So I was by no means a solitary bookworm, but books held a huge fascination from me when I was forced indoors.

The library was the next delight, especially when I found I could borrow 4 - or was it 6 - books at a time. However, I inherited my mother’s ability to speed read, so my books never lasted long, and I can remember protesting when the librarian couldn’t believe that I’d read my quota of books so quickly.

Later on, my parents left the little seaside town and moved inland, nearer Totnes in Devon, and there I discovered the wondrous worlds of independent and second hand bookshops, of which there were plenty. The delight of entering a bookshop with a Christmas book voucher, or with pocket money to spend in the second hand bookshop, where Mum worked. One of her regular visitors was Mary Wesley, and I couldn’t believe this great writer would actually enter the shop where my mum worked. Much less reply to a letter I sent her, saying how much I’d enjoyed Harnessing Peacocks…

All of these stepping stones make a reader, which in turn can make a writer. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t read, or grab the building blocks to turn me into a writer.

So here’s to our libraries, and all our independent bookshops, in particular #falmouthbookseller and #edgeoftheworldbookshop of who now stock The Rescue also available here -

Tuesday, 21 February 2023


I was talking to a friend the other day about Triggers. Not the kind on a gun, though I suppose metaphorically they do the same thing, but the ones that cause us to react in a certain way.

We all have them. Certain happenings or events can trigger something in our minds that make us want to run, or hide, or shut ourselves away. Or do all kinds of things - usually negative.

Lainy’s triggers are men in hoodies; certain noises (a car running over a plastic lid this morning); anyone getting too close to her face, to name a few. Obviously I can’t ask her what happened, but it’s clear that something very unpleasant is associated with these things.

Moll’s triggers were kites or anything with a sail in the sky; rubbish bin lorries; fireworks and me getting up in the night to go to the loo (how dare I disrupt her sleep?).

One of mine is Christmas. I have a gallery of things that happened at Christmas over the years - father dying; years of anorexia and horrendous mealtimes; husband dying, and a few others besides. The last two Christmases have been wonderful in their very ordinariness because we did purely what we wanted to do - take the dogs for a lovely long walk, watch a good film, have a nice meal and go to bed. But despite all that, I just have to think of Christmas and all my insecurities come rushing back like overexcited ghosts, shouting ‘Yah! Hate you! No one will ever love you!’

I wrote about these in The Rescue for it is something I’ve had to learn to deal with. They’re still there, of course, but having had two happy Christmases has helped a lot.

Some people I know are frightened of getting too involved with other people in case they get hurt. Some are the opposite, and can't bear to be on their own. We all have our insecurities and over the years we develop ways of dealing with them.

But talking about our fears, or in my case writing about them, can really help not only us but the people who love us. And of course if you read about someone who’s gone through something that you’ve been through too, there’s that moment of recognition. That Ah Hah! Moment. And you might be able to help someone else figure out what to do.

A few weeks ago I was asked why I remembered the scene in The Full Monty with the guy wrapped in cling film, trying to lose weight. I thought hard and said, ‘because it shows his vulnerability.’ And only by seeing others’ vulnerability can we learn about them.

So isn’t it worth taking a deep breath, opening your mouth and seeing what happens? You may be pleasantly surprised. The Rescue - out now -

Thursday, 9 February 2023

A Week in the Life of a Writer

Mostly, life as a writer consists of sitting on my backside, writing. Obviously. But sometimes other writerly things have to be done - like selling books. So I thought I'd share with you my life this week.

On Monday I had to drop off some books at a local Falmouth shop which we fitted in with a dog walk. I’d managed to write in the morning, so I’d got my fix and was happy that the sequel is making progress. By the way, as I've had several queries about why I wrote The Rescue under S L Rosewarne, I should explain.

My mum's maiden name is Rosewarne, and at her memorial service, my only Rosewarne cousin looked at me as I slid into the seat next to her and said, "my goodness, you can tell YOU'RE a Rosewarne!" Pause. "That's a compliment by the way." (The Rosewarnes are small, slim and dark whereas the Kittows are taller and stockier.) And as there are no young Rosewarnes left to carry on the name it seemed a good idea to use Rosewarne for my fiction, but also to differentiate my fiction from non-fiction books.

An aside, here, but a relevant one: my sleep pattern is all to pot at the moment. I’ve been worried about several things, but as someone who usually gets about 7-8 hours kip, surviving on 4-5 hours isn’t great. However, a lot of friends have similar problems so we compared notes on how to get a few more hours. Rescue Remedy Night drops? Read? Listen to BBC4 Extra? Read? Get up and have a warm drink? I am becoming expert on BBC Radio 4 Extra schedule from 2-5am...

Anyway, after about 5 hours sleep I wasn’t at my best, but on Tuesday I had to pick up my friend Jac from the garage at 9am, go and see some kennels at 9.30 on the way to Penzance, then meet Pip’s cousins there at 11 for coffee. After that, at 12, we went to the Edge of the World bookshop to meet James, the manager, for he wanted to buy some copies of The Rescue. After that we explored a few charity shops, had a coffee sitting outside in the sun at Penlee Gallery - one of my favourite places in Penzance - then had a fabulous new walk over the fields from near Marazion to Perranuthnoe, where the tide was out enough for us to have a good run on the beach. I dropped Jac back in Penryn and drove home where I collapsed on the bed. No way was I able to write that day.

Yesterday I was booked to give a talk to Kerrier U3A at Heartlands at 10.30. Plenty of time to get up, eat, shower, walk Lainy etc and get to the destination. Again on not much sleep. I’ve sung at Heartlands, but it was a few years ago, so I was a bit hazy about the last bit of the journey so thought I’d ask Google maps. Unfortunately it decided to send me round in circles so instead of arriving in plenty of time, I arrived flustered and shaking. I then found the venue, opened the door to find a room packed full of people - for my first solo talk in 3 years. Oh my god, I thought, but accepted a decaff coffee and took some deep breaths.

And what a lovely audience - warm and attentive (apart from the odd man nodding off) and enthusiastic. I got very emotional at times reading out parts of The Rescue (I blame low blood sugar, low sleep and over-adrenaline). But a lot of them came up afterwards for a chat and to buy books, which made it all worthwhile. I drove home, utterly drained...

And today I am back at my desk which is lovely. I’ve written 1500 words and wondering what’s going to happen next, as the synopsis I’d painstakingly drafted bears little resemblance to what I’ve actually written. And I’ve got about 15,000 words to wrap it up in.

Below is a glimpse of the most glorious weather on Tuesday for our walk - we were so lucky.

Wednesday, 11 January 2023

The Rescue finally on Amazon

I'm glad to say that The Rescue will be available from Amazon as Kindle and paperback as from today - or rather, it takes 72 hours for it all to be processed. So by the end of this week - 13th or 14th January - it will be available.

January is usually a dreary month, most of us find. The weather's usually wet and windy in Cornwall, so it means getting muddy at least once a day on our dog walks. There's not usually much to look forward to, once Christmas is over, and the days are still short.

BUT - now you can settle down with The Rescue, and if you order it from me, you'll get your own The Rescue coaster so you can enjoy your favourite beverage with it. I have to say this was The Fella's idea, not mine, to give credit where it's due.

I'm pleased to say that all the reviews I've had so far have been lovely. More than lovely - really heartwarming. So if you do order it from Amazon, and you like it, I'd be very grateful if you could leave me a review. I'm writing the sequel now and have to think of a title for the series - any ideas?

Yesterday we went to Poldhu Cafe as the owner is keen to sell my books, but he wasn't there, so we had a rather windswept coffee (we were; the coffee became windswept), then walked along the beach and over to Church Cove which was equally blustery. However, I love this wild weather. I love the wind tearing at my face and hair, hearing the boom and bash of the sea on the rocks. The suck and hiss as the waves claw their way up the beach. Nature is at her most dramatic, and while I'm glad I'm not at sea in it, it's wonderful to watch.

I leave you with a picture from one of the gravestones at Gunwalloe church, on the beach, where I was struck, as I always am, by the beauty and longevity of the cursive script on some of the gravestones. You'd never think it had been carved 150 years ago...