Today I’m over at the Romanchics talking about my eldest daughter starting school. Ellie at school. Mental.
Author Archives: Jessica Baker
This week, thanks to my mum, I’ve been indulging in a bit of quilting. I enjoy quilting but recently I’ve struggled to find the energy to get on with a quilt I started for my eldest daughter over a year ago. My mum came over this week and kindly made me a little box up of all the quilting essentials; reels of cotton, thimbles, pins and scissors. She dug through my quilting fabric stash and cut out little pieces so that I could just collapse in an evening and pick up a bit of sewing.
And I’d forgotton how much I enjoy quilting. I really do. It somehow feels so well… historical. Like each stitch ties me closer to all my quilting ancestors. I’m not putting it very well, but whenever I sit down to doing some handsewing I can’t help thinking of how long people have been doing the same thing.
Here are all the blocks I’ve done so far on Ellie’s quilt.
The row of snails are my favourite.
My mum taught me to quilt, although I tend to actually quilt in a more relaxed (read lazy or haphazard) way without the complications of freezer papers, rotary cutters and rulers, but most importantly she taught me to appreciate quilts and the effort that goes into them. I still have the first quilt she made me, a quilt that each day my children either make a den with, or pretend to go to sleep under, and I often curl up under in an evening.
This is one of my many quilts that my mum has sewn for me. This one is an album quilt and contains things that have been important to me along with quilting, from tailors dummies, planets (from when I worked in the space industry), shoes and teacups.
Writing wise, I am still scribbling away despite the bags under my eyes through lack of sleep. Here’s a snippet from Braving Madness, fabric orientated…
She unfastened the cord of the reticule Wilkins had given her; a bag left behind by some unknown woman, a whimsical concoction of pale blue silk, printed with blushing roses and edged in peach ribbon.
She should have kept her own sturdy bag, taupe never showed stains when travelling. This was also far too small; there had barely been enough room for her notebook. Obviously fashionable ladies thought nothing of function when they were selecting their frivolous trimmings, a fact that didn’t promise well for the spare clothes Wilkins had packed.
Today I’m over at the Romanchics trying to squeeze in a bit of romance…
My chauffeur driven days are coming to an end. The twins are now six weeks old (doesn’t time fly!) so I am now officially classed as safe to drive. I’m not entirely certain that any sleep-deprived-mother with four small children/babies strapped in the back is ever really safe to drive but I’m a willing to give it a shot. Any moaning from the rear seats and I just turn the music up, right? 🙂
But it is an end of an era. What with having these last six weeks and about 7 weeks before then when I was too damn big to fit behind the wheel, I’ve been chauffeured about by either my husband or my dad forever. And I must say, it’s been rather nice, quite like the lady of the manor. Admittedly the seats aren’t upholstered in velvet, are always forward facing, and no hot bricks have been placed under my feet but I have just climbed on board (at various points in time this has constituted a task of monumental proportions), pointed the way and snuggled down to watch the world go by.
But as of monday, I, yes little old me, am responsible for the nursery trips again. I am responsible for getting two six week olds, a two year old and a four year old, in and out of the car, into the pram, to the nursery and back home again, TWICE a day. Gosh. I’m not up to getting the big pram in and out of the car yet, so I’m stuck with a double buggy, which means I will be holding two little people’s hands while pushing said pram. Fun fun fun.
I’m sure it will be fine. What can go wrong after all? Anyway best get on with my day considering it is getting on and I am sat in my dressing gown eating cereal out of the box with only vague thoughts about getting a shower…
Here’s a snippet from this week. I’m still rewriting Braving Madness and this is from the first chapter…
Even at the edge of awakening, the nightmare refused to release its hold. All of Edward’s doubts and fears multiplied in the darkness of his mind until the terror grew beyond reason. Gaunt to the point of cadaverous, with skin like paper, his late father’s form swam before Edward’s eyes, only to be crowded by the familiar faces of the Carrington estate. From the defenceless newly born to their weary elders, each pair of eyes looked to him for security, confident he wouldn’t shirk his responsibility; that no gentleman would put aside every rule instilled into him from the cradle through his own fears for the future.
As you can imagine my life at the minute mainly consists of adjusting to having an extra couple of mouths to feed and bums to wipe. It feels rather odd to be responsible for quite so many little people especially when I ended up being incapable of very much at all (other than waddling) for the last two months of my pregnancy. Four, four years and under. What was I thinking????
(Yeah the school run is going to be a piece of piss...)
But I am enjoying it, and surprisingly, even with twins, the new additions are fitting well into our everyday routines. My older two love the babies and help out when they can. All of which means that I am actually getting on with other things. This morning I was even thinking about putting the second coat of paint on the dining room walls. Obviously this was just a fleeting thought though and I have no intention of actually hunting out a brush. But the thought is a good step in the right direction.
The garden has also been calling out for attention, with some rather cheeky buttercups deciding to take over the middle of my flower beds. Considering I haven’t gardened in about six months, I am surprising there hasn’t been a complete takeover by the dreaded weeds. So this weekend, weather permitting, I am hoping to get out there and show them who is boss. I also with an eye to the approaching summer holidays, I have plans of building a climbing frame for the girls. Alright, I have plans for supervising the building of a climbing frame for the girls. 😉 See, I’m trying to have realistic aims. I will need to move a few plants to make space and I think that is probably about my level. I shalln’t be digging out the power tools just yet…
Anyway, I have actually managed to get some writing done this week so here is a snippet to share. This is from Braving Madness and is in Edward’s POV. This is a new start to the story and forms part of Betty and Edward’s first meeting.
The dream shattered and he jerked awake into darkness.
His face lay shrouded and with fragments of the nightmare splintering his common sense, he clawed at the fabric with frantic fingers, the heat from his own breath reflecting back at him with a suffocating closeness. He flung the object to the side and he gulped in clear, fresh air like a drowning man.
He blinked his eyes open into a pearl grey sky, the view unfettered by glass or window frames. Recumbent as he was, on a surface hard enough to be a park bench, the whole hemisphere of the heavens were open to him, skeletal trees on the horizons grasping upwards with desperate gnarled branches while ink smudged clouds tore along the backdrop like breaking water, turbulent and heavy with the threat of rain, their undersides glowing a fiery red as if they had were escaping from the depths of hell itself.
Finally, the twins are here. They arrived two and half weeks ago, full term and each a healthy six and half pounds.
James William is on the left, and his sister Lily Ann is on the right. Colour coordinated by dummies but they do actually look quite different, so I’ve yet to have revert to checking nappies for who is who. (Although I did confuse the health visitor by putting James in pink and Lily in blue, she just gave me a look like I was mad. What can I say? I dressed them at night and to be honest fashion wasn’t rated anywhere nearly so high as trying to get some sleep.)
As you might have guessed my writing has somewhat fallen along the wayside these last couple of months. First through lack of sleep, my immense proportions and difficulty in balancing the laptop anywhere I could actually reach, and lately due to only getting a few hours of sleep each night. But happily things are starting to settle down and I am currently only up for a couple of hours each night so the creative juices have started to flow (makes a change from milk being everywhere. You would not believe how much milk I am having to produce to feed two hungry babies! I’ve had to dig out my over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder-bras.) So far I’ve managed to write about 700 words. Not a huge amount but it is a start. I’m working on a new beginning to Braving Madness as although I’m pleased with the second half of the book, the first half still needs a fair bit of work, so I’m giving myself license to play with it for the next few weeks.
Oh and just in case you fancy a laugh, this is how big I got just before going into the hospital…
Despite the radio silence I am still here and still pregnant. 8 months now. Not bad going with twins. I’ve not been posting as I’ve been in and out of hospital with preterm labour issues etc and to be honest I just haven’t had the puff. Literally. One baby has had his not so little bum tucked up in the depths of my ribcage for longer than I like to remember.
As a consequence my daily word count has trickled down to well… zilch. zero. nothing. Any way I spell it, I’ve just not been writing. I’m hoping it isn’t a permanent measure. I don’t think it will be. The other ladies of the dashing 100 will kick my butt otherwise….
Are any of you out there hoarders?
My husband is a hoarder. My in-laws are extreme hoarders. But I would have said that I wasn’t a hoarder, that I was good at making sure I only kept the minimum of what I needed.
Since finding out I am expecting twins, I, with a LOT of help from my family (thank you!) have been clearing the house to make enough room for everyone. And sure, there are boxes and boxes of
junk interesting belongings of my husband, from empty boxes of things we no longer have, to all manners of things he thinks he might use ONE day. But in a way I am just as bad. My actual belongings are fairly neat and I don’t tend to double up on things, but as I go through drawers and boxes etc, I seem to find things like a carefully stored, empty bag of wine gums. An empty sweetie bag. Right. So it appears that I hoard rubbish. Yesterday I went through the cupboards under the sink and generated a bag of rubbish and I mean that literally. Likewise with the medicine cabinet, after I threw away half the empty boxes, the cupboard was practically empty. It’s bizarre.
So it appears that I need to stand up, hang my head and admit I collect rubbish. That for some reason I’ve found it easier to find storage space for rubbish rather than just chucking it in the bin to start off with. I am a rubbish hoarder.
So I am turning over a new leaf. Rubbish goes straight in the bin. No messing. Out it goes. Even if I have to get in the bin and jump up and down to squash it all down to fit. (Probably won’t do that just yet due to immense size of stomach, see whale post…)
Now what I am supposed to do is find a link to my current work-in-progress. About rubbish. Hmmmm… Okay this passage has the word ‘waste’ in it. Is that good enough? In this snippet from Held in the Balance, Simon (Lord Curzon) is talking to his cousin Betty’s new husband.
Simon gave his usual small smile. “Fortunately I wasn’t cursed with an extended family, but I was perfectly willing to marry Betty and she’s my only cousin.”
“I can’t say I’m unhappy matters didn’t work out for you in that regard.”
Surprisingly neither was he, although he cringed to think of that final scene between Betty and him where he had but laid his heart out on the sleeve for her. A waste of time considering the strength of feeling she had for the other man. He hadn’t stood a chance. They had danced together, Betty in a gown of the midnight blue, the fabric encrusted with gemstones so she might have dropped down from heaven for the night. He had almost been afraid to touch her.
Now muslin and silks swirled about the ballroom in front of them as another waltz took hold, some couples stiff and formal, bodies held at arms-length, others so close as to be scandalous, pushing the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. His own dance with Miss Taunton had definitely veered in that direction, no concern for her fragility held him back this evening. She was a world apart from his cousin.
Sorry I’ve been a bit quiet on here of late. I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed by the whole twin pregnancy, both in terms of my huge whale-like proportions and of the amount of preparation that’s needed doing. But finally things are starting to get better. I’ve obviously still whale like, and I can’t imagine how big I’m going to get but I’m definitely as big as I was when I was full term with my youngest and I still technically have just under three months left. Eek!
But on the up side, the nursery is decorated and ready, cots are ready, my husband just paid for a new-to-me big seven seater car to fit everyone in, I have both a buggy to fit twins and a fantastic big pram that will fit in my two year old as well, the housework is just about under control, and I am finally starting to feel more relaxed and happy to put my feet up and wait for these two little miracles to finish getting big enough to put in an appearance.
Which means that I finally have time to get on with some writing. Hurrah. So this last week I have written over 1000 words. Alright, 1000 words is small fry compared to some of the figures other writers manage to rack up, but it’s a hell of a lot better than I’ve managed of late and that makes me very happy.
So here’s a snippet from Held in the Balance with Lydia and Simon’s first kiss.
She traced her fingers along the pronounced line of his cheek bone, around the curve of his earlobe before grasping strands of hair into her fist and pulling his head closer. This time he did respond, deepening the kiss, pushing her back against the door, hard enough to send a fleeting worry through her mind about the strength of the door-catch.
Slow and steadily he possessed her mouth, as if there were all the time in the world, his dominating confidence sufficient to make her toes curl within the confines of her slippers. She would have expected such arrogance to make her want to push him away but instead she melted into him, relaxing against the firm plane of his chest, her free hand gripping his shoulder to prevent her knees from giving way beneath her. She surrendered herself to the kiss, to the sensations tumbling through her and blinked open eyes drugged with pleasure as Simon pulled away.
These last few weeks I’ve been reading a lot of regency romances, in the realms of one per day. Probably has something to do with the fact my expanding waistline means I need to take a break from chores about every ten minutes, even unloading the dishwasher has me out of breath. Although you would think I would pick a reading material which didn’t boast arms full of young and slender girls decked in empire line dresses. A fair proportion of my current wardrobe has empire line fitting but let me tell you, below my bustline I definitely don’t have the willowly column these girls have.
But that aside, reading so much in the era does remind me how difficult a young lady’s position could be when it came to finding a suitable partner, and with no employment for such ladies, marriage would be everything. A crooked nose, an excess of freckles, or an unfortunate hair colour, all would be enough to send the suitors scurrying and the season would turn into one long wait with the other wallflowers.
And even if you should be blessed with fashionable looks, the chase would be no less difficult. Family line, size of dowry, manner and voice, a lack of accomplishments, all could tip the scale between Rose and wallflower.
So how would I have faired? Well ignoring the fact that my family history seems to be farmers or labourers, I don’t think I would been a success, in fact a blue-stocking would have been an appropriate label.
I’ve studied hard, and I have no objection to supplying my opinion whether it is asked for or not. Now, romance books are teeming with blue-stockings but exactly like the feel-good romance movies we have these days, under every blue-stocking there is a pretty heroine waiting to emerge. You know the type, clad in ugly glasses, frumpy clothes and hairstyle, all it needs is a few hours with a stylist and viola, a beauty emerges that the hero could really fall in love with.
So what has all this reading taught me? That in the next story, my heroine Harriet is NOT going to be pretty. And I don’t mean that in the normal romance way, you know, where she just has slightly unfashionable looks, I mean a proper plain Jane with only her wit to recommend her. I want my hero to really have to look beneath the skin.
Here is the first description of Harriet from Held in the Balance as Lydia Taunton’s best friend.
“Harriet, I can’t do it.” The words burst from Lydia in a rush. If it had been anyone other than Harriet she would have been tempted to get a bit more drama in. “I’ve made a mistake.”
“A mistake?” Harriet’s eyebrows nearly disappeared into the flaming carrot orange hair the poor girl had been cursed with. The hair, along with a heavy enough case of freckles sufficient to look like a skin disease, was referred to them only as ‘the affliction’ and as far as Harriet was concerned was the reason for enduring her third season.