Thursday, 20 August 2015


We all love a good wedding and I tend to like to give the bride and groom something different for their special day. Back in 2002 one of the popular crossing stitching magazines produced a wedding sampler. It was simple, but effective and I loved the colours. As a result, I've stitched it a total of 7 times.

The last one was for a wedding in July. Because all the squares are lined with each other, I did make an error, not that it can be seen. I think I went wrong on the count of the bells in the middle. This resulted in the gap between one set of squares being slightly smaller than the rest. I don't think it matters too much, though.

Over the seven times I've stitched these I've made some right blunders and as I was about to go into the framers with this one, I had to double check I'd not put Brain instead of Brian. How many times have you seen this mis-spelt? Luckily though, I did it correctly.

Which is more than I can say for this one I stitched for my son and his new wife, below. It is probably the most traumatic one I have done!
I took it to the framers and when I brought it home it was pointed out that I had spelt December wrong. I had actually put Decemember. How I didn't notice, I don't know. It was glaringly obvious. So I had to take the strip off the back and very carefully unpick the weaving and re-stitch it. It turned out to be a good job because you can't tell. However, that wasn't the only error. The centre bell on the right was elongated and this meant the squares at the side wouldn't line up and I had a gap in the centres ones. It was too much for me to unpick it. So I placed the name of the venue I think its very unique!
This was stitched for a girl in the office I worked in at the time. It was the week before her wedding and I had it framed and ready to be wrapped. It was only in a conversation I overheard she mentioned was marrying on the 4th. I had stitched 5th September. So again I had to carefully take the back off, unpick the weaving stitches and re-do the date. She never knew and I don't think you can even tell.

There weren't any errors on this one and it turned out as planned


I decided to write to a cross stitch magazine and had my letter published, which was fun.
This was the second one I did in 2004 and I believe it still sits in their conservatory.
In 2002, I heard that a couple of friends were getting married and knew that this pattern would be perfect, except I only had two weeks to stitch it in. It was a marathon, but I did, and I had it framed and ready to take with me, although I didn't actually attend the wedding. Unfortunately back then I wasn't taking photographs of my stitching.  Within 12 months, they separated and to this day I wonder what happened to it.
One other I did for a couple called Gemma and Paul, somewhere between 2005 and 2008, but I didn't get a photograph of that either, although if I remember correctly, it was error free! 

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

A Good Sort of Man!

My husband is a good sort and does his best to do the right thing.  We went away for the weekend and I stayed on an extra few days. I gave him a bag of washing to take home and hadn’t expected him to wash it.

Arriving home I noticed the radiators full of washing – even though it is summer and they are not on. I also noticed the white pillow-cases were blue. The clothes maiden was also full – of creased clothes. It looked like he had thrown them on and some were stacked on top of each other. My tea-towels were also a pale blue instead of white.

The bedroom curtains were closed, even though it was mid afternoon and the kitchen, well the kitchen was full of breadcrumbs. He’d obviously made his sandwiches for work and didn’t clear up. Unwashed cups lay in the sink and last nights tea has turned to a crust on the plate.

The bathroom had lines of toothpaste on the tap and blobs in the sink. The tops had streaks of white tide-marks and I won’t even mention the toilet.

Later he said, “I did the washing?” I just smiled and said, “So I saw!”

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Sons - I despair

In 2005 my son was 19 years old. He is still forgetful these day, but when he lived at home, well, this is just one example I found in my diary.

Has he got a hole at the side of his head where sense falls out of??

On Saturday morning I asked him to a put a small table up in the loft for me as there is no space for it and I didn't want to throw it out.

I reminded him Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and now Wednesday he showing me a hammer he'd bought at the pound shop.

"That's handy," I said, "Can you hammer down the nails that have risen on the door grip in the kitchen?"

"Sure," he said, still examining his new purchase.

"Oh and don't forget that table."

"I'll do it later."

Later that day, he was in the kitchen running the hot water for three dishes he'd taken to his room on consecutive days. The cereal in them had dried hard, so they were soaking before he washed them. As they did, he was making sandwiches for his dinner as he was on a late shift.

"I’m taking butties today, Mum, and some fruit. I was caught short yesterday with nothing to eat and no money."

"Good idea. I'm just nipping out to the shop, now," I said, putting on my coat and grabbing a bag.

"Ok, I’m going to work in minute." He was licking the fork with the tuna and salad cream which he then tossed in the sink.

"Don't forget your washing up, oh and will you turn the washer off before you go?"

"Sure, " he said. again.

I went out the door and paused on the step, should I remind him about the washing machine? No, I've just this second told him.

I returned after half and an hour and he had gone. As I opened the door, I saw the little table at the bottom of the stairs and I heard the washing machine spinning. I walked towards the kitchen and tripped over the nails on the carpet grip and tore my trousers. As I catapulted myself in to kitchen sink, I saw all the washing up, he'd not done. Swearing, I turned round and there were his sandwiches, all packed and ready to go.

Remembering the First Time - Warning! This story is of a graphic nature.

I lay on the bed with my legs up in stirrups waiting for the doctor to come. 

“He won’t be long,” the nurse said.

“I don’t mind, I’m not in a rush.” She knew exactly what I meant and we exchanged a smile.

I thought back to what started all this, to my very first time.

His name was Billy Dukes, a fair haired boy with a perfectly placed mole on his cheek. A group of us had been ice skating and gradually they’d all gone leaving me and Billy alone in the park shelter.

It was dark and late and it’s always easy to talk in the dark. The conversation turned to sex and we both admitted to being virgins.

It suddenly seemed like the perfect opportunity to get rid of that awful tag. So I took off my underwear and he removed his.

We were balanced on the thin length of park bench and what followed was embarrassing and humiliating and to this day still makes me cringe.

There was an awful squelching sound as and I kept coughing to cover it up.

“Are you all right?” he asked.

“Just a tickle in my throat,” I told him. I saw the gleam of his teeth as he grinned.

“We can do that after if you want.”

“Just get on with, Billy,” I told him anxiously, and then I farted. Oh my God, ten years on and it still makes me blush.

I bled and he thought he had cut me because I’d screamed. At least he had the common sense to pull it out  when he came. It squirted like a fountain and I put my foot down and slipped falling off the bench with my skirt over my head and my legs splayed.

After that I never spoke to him again. I couldn’t bear to look at him I was so embarrassed.

Eventually I learned the difference between sex and love and then I met Dave. It happened when we were holiday in the mountains. We made love in front of a fire and it was slow and sensual. Dave was an expert, knowing what to do and the right spots to touch. I’d had my fair share of experiences, too, and  knew how to turn him on. I knew which bits to kiss that made him tremble and he knew I how  loved having the inside of my thighs stroked.

This was my last ante natal visit before the baby was due then Dave and I could get back to real sex again. God, I missed it!

“I’m sorry to have kept you waiting Mrs Lord,” the doctor said coming into the room in a rush.

“It’s okay,” I mumbled, bracing myself and closing my eyes.

“Put your feet together and let your knees flop,” he said, as I felt his gloved hand on my stomach and as his fingers were about to enter, he said, “Oh…”

I opened my eyes and saw a perfectly placed mole on his cheek. 

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Stitching Up Story - Anesa Miller

As you may know if you are a regular reader of my blog or of my Facebook page, I have championed a book called Our Orbit by Anesa Miller. Because of my love of stitching, Anesa has kindly written a piece that links in with the needlework her main character does in the book.

Stitching Up A Story

Thank you, Karen, for hosting me on your blog today. Since I happen to know that needlework is one of your interests, I'll share some "musings" on that topic and how it turns up in fiction. But wait, all you readers of the masculine persuasion—don't flee too soon! This is NOT just a sewing bee (nor a "stitch and b*tch" session, as one local group used to call such gatherings). I'll try to bring a bit of symbolism to bear and delve down to deeper meanings. So give us a chance!

When the sirens of fiction first began calling, infecting my mind with the addictive urge to spin yarns and weave words into story, I developed a few rituals for getting started, as many writers do. First, it seemed essential to sharpen half a dozen pencils to a needle-like point. (Yes, it was that long ago.) Then, yesterday's pages had to align neatly on the kitchen table—the same multi-purpose workspace where I sometimes set up my mother's old sewing machine. And finally, I would rest my eyes on the seam-straight lines of the yellow legal pad where the new day's work would appear.

Ariadne's thread soon began leading me onward as plot events unfolded in my mind and characters' desires became tangled in knots of conflict and possible resolution…

I think you get my point: since the days of Homer (if not before), storytelling has enjoyed a special relationship with textiles and needlework. It seems to share intrinsic connections with spinning, weaving, quilting, patching, and, of course, embroidery. There's also a good deal of cutting. Nips, tucks, and expert tailoring are required to shape a final garment that readers are willing to try on for size.

Other writers may deem painting a better parallel, since we often speak of well-drawn characters. Or even theater, since we must set the scene. But for me, sewing-related metaphors are essential to the craft of fiction. Why should this be? It may be tied to my heritage. I'm descended from two generations of distinguished seamstresses. Mother and Gran carved out time for the handwork they loved from a routine of more basic household chores. Where they produced special items for loved ones to wear, I have fashioned a cloak of invisibility—the veil of story that lets me both express my inner life and hide behind artifice.

My grandmother was born in the wilds of an Arkansas forest in 1899. Her widowed mother supported the family as cook at a small college, an occupation that kept body and soul together but provided few luxuries. At age 18, when Gran posed for the photo here, she chose a blouse she'd made for herself, complete with hand-embroidered decoration.

Although mass-produced goods became widely available over my mother's lifetime, she, too, learned the skills of making and ornamenting her own clothing. After all, when she was a girl in the Great Depression, most people wore garments refashioned from flour and feed sacks! Mills packaged grain products in printed calico for this very purpose.

My mother's early death in the 1970s became my first encounter with the pains of grief. She had made many lovely outfits for me that I failed to appreciate as a teenager dealing with loss. But when I eventually sorted out her sewing cupboard, a remarkable find came to light —

These are a few of the quilt squares my mother embroidered as a young bride. Was the baby quilt meant for my brother and then, when it still wasn't finished, for me—baby of the family? Sadly, it was never assembled for either of us…but if I am blessed with a grandchild, which is beginning to look like a possibility, then the next generation will be the lucky recipient of a coverlet started by my mother some 50 years ago.

What other art, craft, hobby, or occupation could hold richer meaning for me than needlework?

As my writing progressed from stacks of legal pads into the Computer Age, my novel, Our Orbit, went through many drafts. But one motif remained constant throughout all the revisions. When I decided that Deanne Fletcher, the character of the foster mother, should run a home-based business, she immediately became a dressmaker. In principle, Deanne might have sold cosmetics, herbal remedies, jams, or other handicrafts, but those prospects never really entered my mind.

Because, for me, nothing says "Mom" like a woman making clothes by hand. I even managed to do a bit myself back in the day, before writing took up all my spare time! 

Many thanks, once again, for sharing your website with me, Karen. I would love to hear from your readers and hear what they think. My social media links are below, and of course, there's a contact page at my website as well as room for comments on my blog.

BIO:  Anesa Miller is a recipient of a Creative Writing Fellowship from the Ohio Arts Council. She studied writing at Kenyon College and the University of Idaho. Her work has been published in The Kenyon Review, The California Quarterly, the Southern Humanities Review, and others. Her debut novel, Our Orbit, releases from Booktrope of Seattle in June 2015. Anesa currently divides her time between Ohio and the Pacific Northwest.

OO Blurb:  Nine-year-old Miriam Winslow never wore new clothes, never had a haircut, and believes that sinners must repent with dramatic displays of remorse, or harm will come to their loved ones. Now thrust into foster care, Miriam must adapt to a secular lifestyle while struggling to keep in touch with her past. Foster parents Rick and Deanne Fletcher quickly come to love their “new little girl.” Soon they meet the rest of Miriam’s family. Uncle Dan believes he was abducted by aliens. Sister Rachelle, just out of juvenile detention, harbors painful secrets. Brother Josh is outraged that the Fletchers disrespect Christian teachings. He vows to take Miriam out of their home and put a stop to meddling in his family's way of life.

Now a finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards for Best Regional Fiction, Our Orbit captures the tension between modernity and tradition in the Appalachian corner of southern Ohio. "A literary novel that reads at the pace of a thriller."

Anesa Miller's new novel, OUR ORBIT, is available at:
Barnes and Noble:
and by order from most brick-and-mortar stores.

You can always find Anesa at:

Book Launch - Follow You Home by Mark Edwards

I was going to start this by staying that I have never been to a book launch, but realised I am wrong, I did go to one back in 1992. I belonged to a writer's group and one of the members had her first book published. I wrote about it in Writer's Lot.

We were invited to a hotel with food and dancing and everyone got a free signed book.  It was along way from the Book Launch party I recently attended.

This one was held on Facebook on June 30th 2015. I'm not sure how many people attended, but would imagine it was near 200.

The book was called Follow Me Home by Mark Edwards and was hosted by Mark and Louise Voss, the two have written several other books together, but this one was a solo one.

Belonging to an author and a book group on Facebook, Follow Me Home kept coming up. I saw the link to join the launch party and joined. I had no idea how it would work online. Although Follow Me Home sounded like a good read, I was already reading and couldn't start it straight away, although I really wanted too. I felt a bit of a fraud at the party because I hadn't read any of his other books either or any of Louise's at the time either.

As well as the online party, Mark was celebrating at his home in the Midlands with his wife and family. It was a pefect day to hold it as temperatures soared into the 30s.

We saw photos and mentions of Pimm's, Prosecco and Champagne and  we all had virtual drinks to cheer him on. People online began posting their best wishes and many had already read the book saying how wonderful they thought it was.

"It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime, a final adventure before settling down. But after a perfect start, an encounter with a young couple on a night train forces Daniel and Laura to cut their dream trip short and flee home.
Back in London, Daniel and Laura vow never to talk about what happened that night. But as they try to fit into their old lives again, they realise they are in terrible danger—and that their nightmare is just beginning… "

These days many books come with trailers, and this is no exception - Follow Your Home.

The posts were dropping into the page at an incredible speed.

Sarah Hodgson wrote: Just bought it and can't wait to start reading it.  
Linda Boa said: Fabulously Creepy.  
Sean Talbot posted: Congratulations Mark. What a wonderful book from such a gifted author. So excited. 
There was even this post from Janice Kelvin Leibowitz in South African: Checking in from Joburg! Honestly you'd think I can get the time difference right - it's only one bloody hour!! Mark, congrats on your big day!! Going to post my review on Amazon now. This is such a brilliant book and I know it's going to do well. I've told everyone just how very excellent it is!

Mark began answering the questions that were posted earlier and here are a few of them:

Tara Lyons asked: "Before writing Follow You Home, did you have the entire story mapped out or did you put it together as you went along?"

Mark - No, I had the beginning - the first part, set in Romania. And I knew some of the creepy things that would happen back home in London. But that was it. The rest of it, I had to figure out as I went along, and there was a lot of pain and re-writing. It was by far the most challenging book I've written.

Sofia Brito asked, "Have you ever thought about bringing the book to big screen? As a movie or a tv series?"
Mark: I would love one of my books to be made into a film or TV series. Unfortunately, so far I have been unable to interest any film/TV companies (sad face). But keeping everything crossed it happens one day.
Karen Vanderputt asked: What are you reading at the moment?
Mark: 'm reading In Plain Sight: The Life and Lies of Jimmy Savile. It's a brilliant, gripping and horrifying account of his life and how the BBC messed up. I'm interested in this topic partly because the next DI Lennon book, The Blissfully Dead, is about the dark side of celebrity and contains several references to Yewtree, Ian Watkins, etc.

Lesley Baker asked: "Where do you get the ideas for your characters? You build a pretty good picture on how they look..Do you people watch in various coffee shops?"
Mark Yes, I do! But most of them are based on amalgams of people I've met. My wife says all my main male characters are like me, and all the lead female characters are redheads like her. But really, most of the characters just come from my imagination.

Being a writer, this one interested me, as it is a long book, over six hours according to my kindle.

Neats Wilson asked: "How long does it take you to write a novel and do you have alternative endings and then have to decide which one is best?"
Mark: It usually takes 6 months but Follow You Home took 9. And the ending changes frequently as I go along. I very rarely know how the book is going to end when I start. That's what makes it interesting for me.

Mark asked for our pictures of his books and many people obliged.

Claire Croft posted one of her dog.

So I had to do the same with my dog.

Poor Leanne Jones, fractured her knee, but had her kindle to keep her company:

Janette Hall said: Bert the gnome had settled down to read a good book in the sun. But little did he know that the zombie gnome apocalypse had just begun....

There were lots of great photos and Janette won a signed copy of the book.

One of the main things people like to know is where writers get their ideas from and Mark obliged telling us with a fascinating blog post here.

There were several really great competitions. One of them was to have your name appear in his next book as was the case in Follow You Home. Two people would be chosen and he was after a short sharp quote about the book. Sadly, I couldn't really enter, because I hadn't read it at that point.

Tracey Walsh and Rebekah Venters won this one. Tracey's blurb for Because She Loves Me was "Mark Edwards - The master of making the mundane menacing.” 

Rebekah wrote "Frighteningly plausible, The Magpies will stay with you long after you turn the final page."

On my kindle I have a book called The Lie by CL Taylor. It's on my to read list and Cally gave a signed copy of her book for Mark to use in a competition. The Lie is about the dark side of friendship groups., so her question was - Which celebrity would you LEAST like to be friends with?  I put Gordon Ramsey and over 100 people entered giving various reasons. Francine Stacey won saying: Patrick Dempsey. He's so incredibly good looking, I'd never be able to speak to him, I'd be a blubbering mess! I'd have to agree with that!

Author Daniel Pembrey gave a signed copy of his international thriller, The Harbour Master, set in Holland, for another one of the competitions. To enter, we had to leave a comment about the best place we'd ever been on holiday. I put Anglesey, and over 70 other people put various other places all over the world. Many of them sounded idyllic. The winner of this was Susanne Smith who said: I love that the novel is set in my country. I like France, anywhere in France.

During this point Follow Me Home shot straight into Amazon's top ten best seller list.

The next competition was for something completely different. His friend Pete Sortwell, was giving away a signed copy of his romantic comedy, Dating in the Dark. To enter, we had to say what our favourite food is and Suzanne Smith won that saying: something normal again (I have a problem with food, there's not much I can eat), even a sandwich would be great.

Two winners were offered a signed copies of Follow You Home by leaving a comment telling him the name of our favourite drink - alcoholic or non-alcoholic. I missed that one, but over a 100 people didn't. Alison Muhl and Kate Bromwich won those with Whisky and ginger - hick!  and Kate - My favourite drink (excluding my morning cup of tea of course) 🍹🍹 xx - with a photo of a cocktail saying Sex on the Beach.

The big competition was to win a Kindle Paper White and for that we had to say which wash was the first book we read of his, including those he wrote with Louise Voss. Unfortunately i couldn't enter this one because I hadn't read any - soon to be rectified though!

Everything in this picture was up for grabs in the next competition: a signed paperback of Follow You Home, the CD audiobook, a signed postcard and a fancy business card - and - he was going to throw in a second signed book of the winner's choice from his other books. We had to guess how many copies will sell on the launch day. Over a 150 people entered and my guess was nowhere near the 4,021 copies that sold that day. For the week, sales world wide were an astonishing 25,000!
Mark gave us a sneak preview of his next book:

OK, some exclusive news about my next solo book. I've done neighbours, girlfriends and holidays... and now I'm writing about colleagues from hell!
When Sophie Greenwood returns to work in an office after several years looking after her young daughter, she is thrilled. It's her perfect job. But as soon as she starts she begins to wonder if there is something strange about her new company. One member of staff has vanished. There are rumours about weird goings-on. And one team member seems determined to make her life a living hell... Sophie must find out what's happening and save herself and her family - before her job kills her.
Imagine The Magpies crossed with the Devil Wears Prada; or Rosemary's Baby set in an office. I'm halfway through writing it and it will be published next summer.

It sounds exciting, doesn't it? I hope he has another launch party like this one because I will have to write about that, too.

By the time the party had finished, I read the book and in record time, too. I loved it. It's a great thriller, with interesting characters that you can identify with. I must say that having seeing a photo of Mark, his description of Daniel, the main character, seemed very much like him, I think that was mentioned somewhere.

I review all the books that I read and this is what I wrote for both Amazon and Goodreads.