I went to England in November to look at cottages to rent for our grand holiday, which is coming up this summer. I was going to show my girls the exquisite beauty of the English countryside, and we were going to stay in a quirky little eighteenth-century cottage with crooked stairs and bathrooms carved out of the rock (or something). And I did indeed have a wonderful time, staying in one of these cottages myself and visiting a few others.
Thing is, like any vacation you try and plan well in advance, things changed.
[Breathe releases in 9 days! In it a British expat living in Boston has to decide where her home really lies. Kind of like someone else I know. Welcome to Part Two of my musings from last November’s trip to the U.K., written while I was there.]
This trip had a main purpose, but it also scratched an itch I’ve been feeling for a long time. When one emigrates to the land of one’s love, especially if one does it when one is young, one leaps into that life with both feet. Oh, I might have insisted on my cups of tea in the morning and squeed with joy whenever I saw chocolate digestives at the store, but I had a reason for leaving the U.K. and a million reasons to love and commit to the U.S. I am also a linguist, so the U.S. kind of committed to me. My words changed and my accent followed. I noticed this but could do nothing about it. I think one of the turning points was when I came back “home” after about five years and couldn’t switch back to English the way I used to. It gave me pause, I can tell you.
[I recently got to spend a whole week back in Blighty all by myself (well, almost). I had a wonderful time in a beautiful town and did a lot of thinking and some writing, while I celebrated the imminent release of my first novel. Fair warning: my next couple of blog posts might be a little contemplative.]
When you think of the quintessential English village, what comes to mind? Quaint old crooked houses, leaning into narrow lanes? Hedgerows around fields dotted with sheep placidly chewing among medieval ruins? A church that’s existed since before America was born or thought of, surrounded by gravestones dating back to the 1600s? Rolling hills in the background, fringed with copses you could imagine walking up to for a picnic and a spectacular view?
Well, then, you could do no better than to visit Chipping Campden, a little spot in the northern reaches of the famously beautiful Cotswolds. Chipping Campden, like so many of its friends here, is just about perfect. I just came back from spending a week there and I miss it already—though that could also be because I didn't have to feed or do laundry for anyone but myself for once.
If you guys really want to know why I'm here, you could do worse than read The Velvet Series by Jude Deveraux. Or you could just read my review of them, which has just been published on that mecca of all things romance, SmartBitchesTrashyBooks. Yes, these four books were of their time and yes, that time also gave us mullets and mom jeans. But admit it, you loved them in the 80s, and thus it was with me and the Montgomery brothers. Go ahead, read the review. You'll laugh or cry or tell me off for being so nostalgic. I don't mind which.
Yes, I'm bringing you news of getting through to the second round of NYC Midnight's Short Story Challenge in a very timely manner, if by timely you mean two months later. I had to wait and see if I got through to the third round, you see, and since there's only one story here, you can guess the answer to that question.
Anyhoo, the challenge is to write stories that are progressively shorter, and in a progressively shorter amount of time. The first round was 2,500 words and had to be delivered in a week. The second was 2,000 and we had three days. The final round is 1,500 and you have 24 hours. They provide you with a genre, setting, and protagonist, and set you free. This story had to be a paranormal and include an entrepreneur and a graveyard. It was a real rush, I have to say, and I honestly am not sure where the story below came from. So enjoy, and don't be stingy with your magic.
If I had any doubts as to the importance of books—real, paper-and-glue, physical books—in my life, they were recently laid to rest when after ten years of living in this house, I finally got some decent bookshelves. I felt so guilty that I had to leave my beloved friends in boxes in the basement like redheaded stepchildren (I’ve never figured out why either of those things should be a bad thing), waiting for the day Mr. A. quit purchasing new surfboards and I could get a wall of bookcases handcrafted and lovingly planed. Or something.
Well, we still have more surfboards than Mr. A. has feet, and the shelves didn’t get made, but
It’s mince pie season. Apparently there are other celebrations of some sort going on as well, but mostly, it’s mince pie season. I’ve made eighty-four mince pies and eaten about forty-eight of them. They’re going in lunch boxes, being foisted on friends, and form part of my mother-in-law’s convalescent diet after being in hospital for several weeks. Such is the power of mince pies.
Okay, so we get it: I like mince pies. I like many other things about Christmas (parkin anyone? Anyone?) but there’s something about a well-made mince pie that says Crimble is a warm and happy place and we are loved.
Unfortunately, in the U.S., there’s been some kind of miscommunication.
Yes, I am taking time out from skipping around the room to report that I am now officially represented by the inimitable Veronica Park of the Corvisiero Agency! I can't wait to embark on this next stage of my journey with her (when I've climbed down from these giddy heights, that is).
Rate My Tea is my new home. Every time I go on Facebook I feel like I’m sitting down to a lovely cuppa with a few hundred of my friends from all over the world. We hold gentle debates about milk in first or last (it’s last, just to be clear.)
(Unless it’s made in a pot, then it’s first.)
(Just to be clear.)
Something to remember when considering adopting two dogs:
Twice the dog = twice the poop.
Twice the big dog = four times the poop.
I'm just sayin'.
I'm thrilled and humbled to report that I (well, my alter ego) have won first place in Wisconsin RWA's Fab Five Contest! My manuscript Breathe won in the Single-Title category. Bragging not being my strong suit I'll just say wheeeeeeee!
[I'd like to thank my copyediting certificate course and ACES for teaching me to include the apostrophes in that title.]
I’ve just taken P to her last basic training class (thanks also to St. Hubert's). Q was left at home with a nice bone stuffed with peanut butter. He was too busy gazing at us in semi-panic mode when we were leaving to have at it, but I figured he’d go back to it once he could concentrate on the smell.
We returned, and after they’d done their usual ‘haven’t seen you for years old fruit’ happy dance around each other, P homed right in on the bone. I figured there couldn’t be any peanut butter left in it, so sure, go ahead. Bit of time passes and suddenly she’s snapping at Q. I think he only now remembered it and was trying to get close enough to nab it from her. But pb is a precious commodity in this house and P was NOT sharing. Q acquiesced, lying pathetically in his grief just beyond growling reach.
So, feeding. And dog language.
Well, gosh, time for some suitably humble horn-tooting. I'm thrilled to report that I am a finalist in Wisconsin RWA's Fab Five contest! If you hear a scraping sound over the next few days, it's my head fitting through doors.
Some of you may have seen a recent article on NJ.com listing the 12 worst things about living in New Jersey. As a member of a country where self-deprecation is the law, I approve. But the article has prodded me to a defense of my adopted state, prodded me so successfully I even want to write it down and post it (and spell defense the American way even though it makes my teeth hurt). It’s like a letter to the newspaper, only I am the newspaper and there are about three readers. But still.
I feel I am uniquely qualified to defend the Garden State because:
Alert readers may have noticed that the photo of our beloved Great Pyrenees pooch Hannah has been removed from my cover page. When we lost her in June 2015, to acute leukemia, I couldn’t take her off the site for a long time. Everyone who met her knew what a special soul she was, and I couldn’t write about losing her without making it real. We should have had several more years of her mellow, calming presence. She trained us to be dog owners, and we will never forget her.
The kids and I wanted to adopt again right away, but Mr. A balked, and it was a good thing he did because otherwise P & Q would never have come into our lives. I’ll call them P & Q because we’ve given them slightly rhyming names and you’ll never keep them straight. They were part of a litter that was found starving in a field in Tennessee. Louie’s Legacy Rescue took them, fixed them up, and shipped them to New Jersey. They were taken in by their wonderful foster mother, who socialized them and taught them that they didn’t have to fight over food, that humans were safe to approach and accept love from, and that treats were the best thing in the world.
The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
I know what you’re going to say: euw. Kimberley, they’re nine and twelve, for God’s sake. Why are you trampling all over this lovely innocent book that brightened my youth and taught me the value of gardening?
I am not advocating anyone getting any ideas about the kids as portrayed in the book (which is arguably my all-time favourite, by the way). But I put it to you that you know that I know that you know that Dickon only needed a couple more years, and perhaps a job standing next to horses in the manor stables, to turn him from happy-go-lucky scamp to serious rustic hottie. And Mary is going to fall for him like a stone into a well just as soon as she grows some hormones.
I promised this series a while ago. Problem is, my English Lit side has trouble writing a review of a book I haven't researched the bejesus out of for a few months. So I'm finally getting to this on the understanding that I haven't done that, so if you don't like my opinions or I come up with some fact that isn't true, then you don't have to pay for next month's issue. Oh that's right...
Charming (Pax Arcana #1), by Elliott James
You have to understand: this is not my kind of book. I have no desire to read about vampires rending each other limb from limb, or new and exotic ways to torture people who can’t die. But I got this for free at BookExpo 2013, and I can’t ignore books that come to me like that. I love books that mess with fairy tales. Also the cover guy was pretty cute in a psychotic kind of way. Also, swords are wayyyyyy sexier than guns any day, as far as I’m concerned. But I certainly didn’t open the book expecting to find a rip-roaring romance therein (no, the title didn’t tip me off). I thought he’d just be waving his sword at damsels the whole time, not actually falling for someone.
I know, I know. Yesterday's rugby result was dismal. But despair not! There are still things the English are good at! Words, for one!
"Stonehenge, Condado de Wiltshire, Inglaterra, 2014-08-12, DD 09" by Diego Delso. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons -
Yeah, I thought that title would get your attention.
I’ve just spent two amazing weeks in France and England; two weeks that have taught me so much about being an ex-pat, and the concept of home, that I’m having a bit of an identity crisis. So while I deal with that, here are some other things I learned. This week, from our Gallic friends:
1. It is possible to eat every croissant a bistro has.
2. Pretty much every single street in Paris is gorgeous. Even the one with all the sex shops on it.
Well, goodness, I am finding it hard to tell you this, but if I don't, who else will? Going against all my proper English upbringing of not drawing attention to oneself or tooting one's own horn (mother would also not have approved of the word 'tooting'), I am forced to let you know that, well, that I placed third in a short story contest. Phew, there, I said it. Sorry to bring it up and all, but, you know, one is trying to make a living here. And the nice people over at Wordhaus and The Write Practice were kind enough to like one of my scribbles.
Okay, modesty over. You wanna read it? Well, be good enough to increase Wordhaus and the Write Practice's traffic by clicking over to them and having a look around, and then make yourself a quick cuppa and come back here.
Kimberley Ash is a British ex-pat who has lived in and loved New Jersey for twenty years. When not writing romance, she can usually be found cleaning up after her two big white furry dogs and slightly less furry children. Her first novel, Breathe, is now available from Crimson Romance.