Birthday Resolutions

Everyone has their milestones through the year, I think. For me, apart from New Year’s Day, there’s the start of the Autumn term, and, especially now I’m getting older, my birthday, which was yesterday. It’s a time to reassess, I suppose, and to try to put some things in place for the following year. I can’t always say I stick to them, but the hope is always there! It’s been a full on week, as well, starting as it did with a funeral, then a book launch and ending with a birthday.

A couple of years ago on my birthday, I resolved to give up alcohol for a year. For four whole months I kept to it, and I felt hugely better, more alert and more healthy. Then, on Boxing Day of that year I fell off that particular wagon in a gloriously sozzled heap in front of a load of Christmas movies and a table load of snacks. For a moment I was disappointed that I hadn’t made the year (or even the end of the calendar year!), but then I figured that four months was pretty good for a girl who likes a drink, and felt a bit better. This year I’m determined to be more ‘one day at a time’ in my approach to this particular aim.

There’s always the perennial ‘I will lose X amount of weight before my next birthday’ resolution, which comes with being a curvaceous blonde who likes food and drink a little too much. This year, that feels more important with concerns about Covid-19 and excessive weight being linked. While I’m not in the obese category, I could stand to lose a few stone, so this may well end up being a resolution if only to try to keep myself safer from the virus.

And, linked to these, there’s the idea of self-care, not self-indulgence. I’m not great at the former, and a little too good at the latter – letting myself off the hook for things I should know better about, and compensating myself with things that are bad for me to make myself feel better – usually cake, biscuits, cheese and wine! I do have a self-sabotaging streak, but I’m determined to get that under control this year. Even if it’s tiny things, like remembering to slap on some moisturiser in the morning, I think this might have to be a goal. I’m indulgent of my own failures to the detriment of my own physical and mental health, and this needs to stop. No more making excuses for cracking open the wine, stressing out or eating the cake. I’m going to try to be more mindful and control my impulses when needed!

It’s not just my 43rd birthday that has made me think about all this this week, though. We lost someone very important recently, who we laid to rest on Tuesday in beautiful and moving service. She was one of the coolest, loveliest, most kick-the-ass-out-of-life people I’d ever known, and I, like everyone who knew her, felt blessed to have had her in my life. Fighting fit before the cancer came, she lived life on her terms, and made a huge success of it. I will miss her a great deal, and her passing has made me consider so much about the way I handle day to day life. Although I might still eat the cake, drink the wine and make excuses, I want to make this birthday year the one where I do, actually, see some differences in my physical and mental health, and stop worrying about the irrelevant things in life. Here’s hoping this time, that might be the case.

My new novel, ‘Snowflakes Over Bay Tree Terrace’ is out now! Click the pic to buy:

When teacher Florence Ashton receives a surprise inheritance, she decides to make the life-changing decision to up sticks to the charming town of Willowbury in Somerset. With a new house and a new job, she’s too busy putting down roots to think about love.

Air Ambulance pilot Sam Ellis is definitely not looking for romance either, especially not on his doorstep. When Florence, his new neighbour, complains about his noisy housemate, he feels more cross than star-crossed.

But as the nights draw in and both find themselves thrown together in Willowbury’s seasonal drama production, will they overcome their differences and allow a little bit of winter magic to fall along with the snow? And what secrets will be revealed by the box of memories Florence finds in the attic at Bay Tree Terrace?

Let Fay Keenan transport you to the perfect country winter wonderland, with roaring firesspectacular scenery, and unforgettable characters.  Perfect for all fans of Cathy Bramley, Fern Britton and Katie Fforde.

What authors and readers say about Fay Keenan’s novels:

 ‘A gorgeous rural romance full of warmth and charm.’ Victoria Connelly

‘Guaranteed to put a spring in your step. Feel-good, frisky and great fun with a hearty dash of romance and intrigue.’ Julie Houston

‘Moving, funny, thoughtful and romantic. Bring on the next one!’ Jenny Kane

Want to read the books in order? Try this one first!

Birthday resolutions…

Snowflakes over Bay Tree Terrace Fay Keenan

Such a beautiful review of ‘Snowflakes…’ – I’m touched beyond belief. Thanks so much! x

Little Miss Book Lover 87

Thrilled to join this blog tour.

As the snowflakes fall, new love blossoms…

When teacher Florence Ashton receives a surprise inheritance, she decides to make the life-changing decision to up sticks to the charming town of Willowbury in Somerset. With a new house and a new job, she’s too busy putting down roots to think about love.

Air Ambulance pilot Sam Ellis is definitely not looking for romance either, especially not on his doorstep. When Florence, his new neighbour, complains about his noisy housemate, he feels more cross than star-crossed.

But as the nights draw in and both find themselves thrown together in Willowbury’s seasonal drama production, will they overcome their differences and allow a little bit of winter magic to fall along with the snow? And what secrets will be revealed by the box of memories Florence finds in the attic at Bay Tree Terrace?

Let Fay Keenan transport…

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Snowflakes Over Bay Tree Terrace by Fay Keenan Blog Tour – Review

And another lovely review from Julie – thank you so much !

Bookish Jottings

As the snowflakes fall, new love blossoms…

When teacher Florence Ashton receives a surprise inheritance, she decides to make the life-changing decision to up sticks to the charming town of Willowbury in Somerset. With a new house and a new job, she’s too busy putting down roots to think about love.

Air Ambulance pilot Sam Ellis is definitely not looking for romance either, especially not on his doorstep. When Florence, his new neighbour, complains about his noisy housemate, he feels more cross than star-crossed.

But as the nights draw in and both find themselves thrown together in Willowbury’s seasonal drama production, will they overcome their differences and allow a little bit of winter magic to fall along with the snow? And what secrets will be revealed by the box of memories Florence finds in the attic at Bay Tree Terrace?

REVIEW

I read Fay Keenan’s enchanting Snowflakes Over Bay Tree…

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Book Review: Snowflakes Over Bay Tree Terraces by Fay Keenan

This is such a beautiful review from Katie – thank you so much for being part of the ‘Snowflakes Over Bay Tree Terrace’ book tour!

From Under the Duvet

I know it is only August and the sun is shining but it is never too early to add Christmas books on to your TBR pile for the darker, colder nights. The first festive novel of the year is Snowflakes over Bay Tree Terrace by Fay Keenan.

Book Review: Snowflakes Over Bay Tree Terraces by Fay Keenan

Snowflakes Over Bay Tree Terrace HI RES Snowflakes over Bay Tree Terrace by Fay Keenan

Title: Snowflakes Over Bay Tree Terraces

Author: Fay Keenan

Publisher: Boldwood Books

Release Date: 20th August 2020

Genre: Festive Romance, Women’s Fiction

Blurb:

As the snowflakes fall, new love blossoms…

When teacher Florence Ashton receives a surprise inheritance, she decides to make the life-changing decision to up sticks to the charming town of Willowbury in Somerset. With a new house and a new job, she’s too busy putting down roots to think about love.

Air Ambulance pilot Sam Ellis is definitely not looking for romance…

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‘Borrowing’ the Bard for a Book – Fay Keenan

Ever since I read Alison May’s fabulous Much Ado About Sweet Nothing, I’ve been dying to have a go at incorporating Shakespeare’s original into a novel of my own. Also, in my other life as an English teacher, I love a bit of the Bard, and I’ve been lucky enough to have taught a fair few of his works over the years. Whether my students consider themselves so fortunate, I’m not sure, but you can guarantee that I, at least, am having a great time in the classroom whenever Will pops up on the syllabus! Not to mention my great love of Shakespeare adaptations, with 10 Things I Hate About You and Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson’s wonderful take on Much Ado being right up there in my affections.

With all that in mind, and having the additional challenge of writing a winter themed book, I needed to make sure that I could ‘tweak’ the source play to fit the winter world of Willowbury, instead of the sun drenched shores of Sicily, so I came up with a kind of panto-play hybrid that might fit the bill. The result, I hope, is a comic retelling of Much Ado within the Willowbury Dramatical Spectacular itself, and lots of allusions to the Beatrice and Benedick storyline in the rest of the novel. At times, I had to do some ‘creative accounting’ to make them fit, but I’m sure Shakespeare wouldn’t be offended; after all, a slightly zany Somerset town certainly isn’t the most bizarre setting for a Shakespeare play, if some of the versions I’ve seen over the years are anything to go by!

And of course, I couldn’t resist including some allusions to my own experiences of teaching Shakespeare to secondary school students in the novel, too, since Florence Ashton, the novel’s heroine, is an English teacher. Many of the lines that Florence and her students speak in the novel are allusions to things I’ve either heard or said over the years, including her attempts to get away from the ‘but I just don’t get Shakespeare, miss!’ plea that I’ve heard so often in the classroom. Much like Sam Ellis, the hero of Snowflakes Over Bay Tree Terrace’, students have to be able to relax into Shakespeare, to breathe into the language, and not get hung up on understanding every single word. Perhaps that’s a metaphor, in the end, for life and love, too…

Source: ‘Borrowing’ the Bard for a Book – Fay Keenan

‘Snowflakes Over Bay Tree Terrace’ – written by Fay Keenan #BookReview @faykeenan @rararesources @BoldwoodBooks

What a lovely review to kick off the blog tour for ‘Snowflakes…’ thank you, Tiziana! xx

Tizi’s Book Review

A good neighbour is worth more than a distant friend…

Synopsis

As the snowflakes fall, new love blossoms…

When teacher Florence Ashton receives a surprise inheritance, she decides to make the life-changing decision to up sticks to the charming town of Willowbury in Somerset. With a new house and a new job, she’s too busy putting down roots to think about love.

Air Ambulance pilot Sam Ellis is definitely not looking for romance either, especially not on his doorstep. When Florence, his new neighbour, complains about his noisy housemate, he feels more cross than star-crossed.

But as the nights draw in and both find themselves thrown together in Willowbury’s seasonal drama production, will they overcome their differences and allow a little bit of winter magic to fall along with the snow? And what secrets will be revealed by the box of memories Florence finds in the attic at Bay Tree…

View original post 543 more words

Throwback Texts: Drop Dead Fred

Every so often I like to write about texts that have inspired me, be they books, plays, films or TV shows. This week I’ve revisited a film that I adored as a teenager, and as an adult I watch from time to time, too. I showed it to my younger daughter yesterday, as I was reminded of it after Twitter told me that it has been six years this week since Rik Mayall died suddenly and the world lost one of its brightest talents.

As a romantic novelist, and a genuinely hopeless romantic, I’ve often joked that I can see the romance in anything, and, although DDF has its problems as a narrative (not least the conflict between Fred as childhood friend and Fred as part of a more adult relationship), it’s still an utterly charming film in so many ways. As a young teenager, I loved the anarchy behind Fred’s madcap takeover of Lizzie’s life; the friend who could take you out of your comfort zone, to help you break the rules was irresistible. And who wouldn’t admit to being that little bit misty eyed at the end, when they have to say goodbye for good?

As a forty something ‘grownup’, of course I see different things now. Lizzie’s whole life is problematic: the controlling mother, the philandering husband who, for god only knows what reasons, she’s desperate to win back, the appearance of a crazy entity who may be all in her head, or may be some stalkerish, anarchistic presence, but is, either way intent on ruining her life rather than improving it (with the coercive undertone that ‘I can’t leave until you’re happy’ being particularly uneasy). I mean, ‘Fred’ sinks Lizzie’s best friend Janie’s houseboat for Christ’s sake! Fred is a destructive manifestation of her subconscious, and may very well be the personification of Lizzie’s nervous breakdown. This film, on a psychological level, is DARK.

And yet…Fred. Sigh. Yes, Lizzie’s psychosis notwithstanding, Fred is completely and utterly irresistible. Indulge me for a moment…please. A lot of the appeal, obviously, comes from the late, great, force of nature that was Rik Mayall. He explodes into this role, and you kind of get the feeling that every take for every scene was never the same. The mad, manic, cosplayer’s dream that is Drop Dead Fred in Mayall’s hands makes the movie more palatable than it should be. And Phoebe Cates’ Lizzie is the perfect blend of vulnerable and utterly exasperated with Fred/Rik’s antics. I wonder how many of her reactions were spontaneous, too! They play off one another wonderfully.

But, for me, if the film had merely been a series of slapstick, gross out moments sewn together to make kids laugh and scream, it wouldn’t have stayed for so long in my heart. No. there’s more. There are two scenes that elevate it above just a slightly grim comedy. And because of those, I can forgive the upskirt gazing and the dog poo.

The first scene that begins to take Drop Dead Fred into gentler territory is the crisis of the movie, at the end of the second act. Lizzie is trapped in her childhood bedroom, under the highly dubious care of her mother and a psych nurse, and she’s crying. Fred appears and, far from trying to joke her out of the emotions she’s feeling, he’s gentle, tender. He reminds her of the letter she wrote to him when her mother banished Fred into the Jack in the Box, never to be seen again. There’s something about the way Fred notices the details – picks the fluff from Lizzie’s knee, and just silently understands, that makes this the beginning of the epiphany for Fred’s character, There’s no mania there, there’s the beginnings of calm.

Lizzie’s letter to Fred

And then, of course, we get to the film’s resolution. After Fred takes Lizzie back to the house in her mind, with that beautifully gentle flight through the clouds, after she’s climbed the tree, pulled the stopper out of her husband’s car and stood up to her mother, there’s…Fred. And Fred can’t come back to the real world. She has to go it alone. She has freed her younger self, both physically and metaphorically, and now she must leave. And this is the point at which all of the dark undertones, all of the poo and snot gags, and all of the shouting doesn’t matter any more. It’s just Lizzie and Fred. Alone. One final time. Don’t believe me? See for yourself:

Just kiss me and say ‘Drop Dead Fred.’

And this scene is one of the most perfect expressions of love I have ever seen on film. Maybe it’s the obvious contrast between the mania of most of the film up to this point, and this absolute stillness that does it. Rik Mayall’s eyes here say more than a thousand physical movements ever could. He’s totally still, eyes shining in the half light, gentle, serene, and so dreadfully sad. His voice is a far cry from the shouty, who cares expressions of Fred that have gone before. It’s gentle, understated and shot through with feeling. Phoebe Cates’ response to him, the eyes widening, the ‘I don’t want to’ line is the perfect response. And as the lights go out in the dreamlike world of her subconscious, and Fred approaches for one final goodbye, it’s just beautiful. Watch carefully and you see those little gestures – the foreheads coming together, the noses bumping, Rik Mayall’s exhalation after the kiss and into the hug that show the beauty of the acting and the chemistry here. It’s such a brief moment, but one that is absolutely loaded with emotion. And as an adult, I adore it.

So, although there’s a lot to be picked apart about the rights and wrongs of the themes of this film, I do have to admit that I’m happy to sit through the ickier moments, just to get the payoff of that one, final kiss. And although I’m tempted to write, and write, and write, my version of what happens to them next, a part of me just wants to love it for what it is. That moment, that beautiful, shining moment of connection, is worth all the bogey wiping in the world. If you want me, I’ll be making mud pies.

Welcome to my writing place!

For the first four novels of my career, I wrote in the living room. The computer was in the corner, and I’d type while keeping a vague eye on my young daughters, just to make sure no major mishaps occurred. When the first, and then the second, went to school, I stayed put because it seemed easier than sorting out a spare room that I didn’t really like, anyway.

Fast forward to six months ago and a bedroom swap for my youngest, and suddenly there’s a vacancy in the room I’d always said would be my study, should I ever need one. But do I? Need one, that is. I’ve become a novelist by writing in the living room, and, since I’m still not making enough money to live on novels alone, do I even deserve a separate writing space? Can I justify it to myself? Can I justify it to my family?

If the truth be told, I’m also wary. I remember reading that Stephen King wrote in the hub of his family home for the early years of his career, then, on achieving success, decamped to an office at the top of his house. The fact of being away from everyone made his writing stop and the drinking start. Did I really want to emulate that? The drinking part, not the success part, obviously. I’d sell my soul for a tenth of King’s sales! However, there are issues. The spare room is a massive bomb site of all of the ‘not sure what to do with it but think we’ll keep it anyway’ stuff in the house. I don’t know if the computer will survive a move upstairs, or, indeed if there are enough power sockets to accommodate everything I need up there. We’ll still need a place to dry the washing in the winter so for several months of the year I’ll be surrounded by damp pants and soggy T-shirts. But, underwear aside, the room does have the best view in the house, straight out to the woods and hills of Somerset.

Click the image to go to Amazon to buy my latest novel!

Then, a couple of months ago, I poisoned my husband. Not intentionally, I hasten to add. It was the chicken that did it. He was off work for three weeks with campylobacter poisoning, but, barring a speedy need to be near a bathroom, he was still answering emails at his desk next to mine in the living room. Suddenly, having to work next to a man I’d been happily married to for sixteen years became the weirdest experience.

I felt self-conscious all the time, like I was I in his class and I wasn’t working hard enough. The decision was made; the spare room was mine! Four and a half books later, I moved into my own writing space.

Having an office for the first time is a bit like having your own bedroom as a teenager. I found myself planning out where the furniture would go, thinking about new curtains, a new carpet, the pictures on the walls, mentally stacking the shelves full of books I love…and filling the desk with stationery, of course! Now, apart from the carpet, which has had to wait because of a certain virus named corona, it’s pretty much how I want it to be.

Click the image to go to the Amazon page for the Little Somerby series!

So the question is, am I more productive? Was the move upstairs and away from the living room worth it? To be honest, I’m not sure yet. The view from the window is wonderful, and that distracts me quite a lot, and I do still get interrupted by the children, so it’s not quite the haven of peace and solitude I was anticipating (at least, not now we’re in lockdown). The dog still just about has enough space to flump down next to me, which is what he always used to do in my ‘writing in the living room’ days, and I have discovered I’m not actually as tidy as I thought I was in my own space! With book 6 beginning to bite, I do need to shift my focus away from the ‘idea’ of an office to actually working in one, but I think I’m getting there. All in all, it’s been a good move to help me separate out ‘work’ from ‘home’, as the boundaries were getting a little blurry, but, like everything, it’s going to take a bit of getting used to!

What are your experiences of home working? How have things changed for you during lockdown? Let me know in the comments!

Fay’s Top 10 workspace items!

Banker’s Lamp, circa 1989 – this is a family ‘antique’, snagged from my folks, and is perfect for those late night writing sessions!

‘Corvids of Britain’ print (Hazel Murray, artist) – I promised myself a lovely picture for the wall of my new workspace, and since I can ‘spot’ most of these from my window, it was a great choice!

Nightingale black net curtains – the room is south facing so I needed something to mitigate the light. These black nets from Amazon really fitted the bill (and continued the bird theme). My husband calls them my bordello curtains!

Bed in a Box – I might now have my office, but it’s also a guest room! This John Lewis bed in a box is a comfy place to sit as well as having a pull out bed inside for those occasions when someone stays over.

Crow pillow – something handy to keep my back supported during tricky drafts.

Top hat – bought on a whim, but a pretty adornment to the shelves. I was inspired to get one when I visited the Glastonbury Frost Fayre.

Vintage desk – another family heirloom, and a perfect spot for the computer!

A view – to me, the most important feature of this room, and the reason it finally became my office!

Sony headphones – to shut out the noise when a deadline’s looming or the children are driving me nuts.

Bookshelves – some inspiring reads, some authors to emulate, and some there just because they look SO pretty!

20 reflections on the ‘lockdown’…

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So. This lockdown thing. Now we’re in week 4 of social distancing, I wanted to sit back and take stock of how I’m feeling about it all. It’s had time to ‘bed in’, as it were, and this new normal is starting to feel, well, normal. Here, in no particular order, are my 20 Lockdown Life observations.

  1. One of my children is more of a social animal than I’d thought, whereas the other one is much more able to cope with lack of contact with friends. It could be their ages (the older one is 10, and is struggling a bit, the younger one is 6), and Skype chats with friends have helped the older one a lot, but it’s been interesting to see how they’ve reacted.
  2. Many of my day to day worries and anxieties have been locked down with the ‘lockdown’ – they simply don’t apply, or are now largely unimportant. This I like a lot, although I am now worrying about what happens when it ends and they come back!
  3. I’m drinking wine. Lots of wine. This probably needs to stop. This may be helping or hindering point 2.
  4. Food is a marker of time – I’m doing most of the cooking and it’s amazing how quickly lunch and dinner times roll around. The mental effort of thinking about what to feed the four of us three times a day is a culture shock! (My children generally have school dinners, which are a wonderful thing, and take the pressure off at least once a day!)
  5. I haven’t shaved my legs or armpits in weeks. This should probably be remedied before I turn into a Yeti.
  6. I’m running every other day. Well, I say running. I’m walking 2.5k and running 3.5k. This has helped A LOT with my physical health and my mental health. I’ve even been wearing shorts, despite the hairy leg thing.
  7. I’m eating a lot. Prodigious amounts, in fact. I may well be fitter by the summer, but I’m likely to be fatter!
  8. Routine is key for some members of the household, but less important for others. This is quite difficult to manage. I’m OK with a ‘see how it goes’ approach, but The Husband needs a timetable.
  9. We are lucky, at this time, to be able to work from home (we’re both teachers), which feels weird in some respects (teaching is the ultimate ‘how can you do it from home?’ profession, but it’s proved to be reasonably OK to do). That means, for the moment at least, finances aren’t being affected. I am grateful for this in so many ways.
  10. We’re also lucky to have a decent amount of outside space. This gorgeous weather has meant sitting and playing in the garden a lot, and I’m hugely thankful for that.
  11. In the same vein, being able to watch the soap opera of the wild birds who visit our garden has been fascinating – we have a pair of blackbirds, a pair of sparrows and, wonderfully, a visiting crow (a giant among the jackdaws) who has popped up in the past few days. I’m loving watching them!
  12. Inertia is definitely a worry, and I have found myself wasting a lot of time. I’m pretty self-motivated but I have caught myself drifting, and, mentally, that’s a problem for me.
  13. The dog’s knackered and can’t understand why we’re around all the time!
  14. I’m reading lots – and a variety of stuff. I’m commuting between commercial fiction and classics at the moment, which both fulfil a need for escape.
  15. I miss people – especially my parents, sister and brother and their families, and my friends. Although I’m a solitary animal, the face to face stuff is hard to live without. WhatsApp has been great for this, but I really miss the full blooded giggles that occur from being in the same room together.
  16. That said, I’m also missing the solitude of working from home, alone, three days a week! Why are all these people in my house all the time?!
  17. The garden’s never looked better.
  18. I think, by the time this is over, I’ll have forgotten how to drive.
  19. I never realised there was so much dust in my house. I’ve been trying to eradicate it since all this started, having before been a ‘dust, what dust?’ kind of gal.
  20. The weather is either a help or a hindrance, and I’m getting obsessed with the forecast.
  21. Oh, and one last one – BBC Radio 5 is a constant companion on my working from home days anyway, but now, more than ever, I feel part of the 5Live family – they’re an essential background to my days!

If you fancy an escape to Somerset without leaving your home, please feel free to dip into one of my novels – click the pics to be taken to my pages on Amazon (also available on iBooks, Google Books and Kobo).