Sunday, March 22, 2015

My bags are packed, I'm ready to go...

I just love the new direct flight between SFO and Dublin, Ireland. It leaves at such a civilized time. I'm sitting here in my pjs and fluffy pink dressing gown, tying up a few loose ends before I do the final clean up in the house and hit the road.

The last couple of weeks have been all about getting the garden in shape for summer and, of course, author events. It's been a lot of fun, and I was surprised by the buzz  I get reading extracts from my book - especially the funny bits. When writing there's always that time delay between writing and feed back. I love getting amazon reviews. (If you've read March to November and haven't left a review please do - here's the link ) It's just such a thrill when someone contacts me and tells me that they loved the book. But when you read a piece to an audience and get the immediate reaction to it, it's like writer's cocaine! Addictive!

So it's a bit early to be planting the summer garden, but with the drought and the way things have been temperature-wise here, I think I'll get away with it.

This post is merely a "before" and also a place where I can view pictures of my garden when I'm away from it. When I get back, I'll post photos of the growth (or not!) from over the 4 weeks.

These are orange lilies, that I bought last year blossoming and all, that have decided to come up again. I hope it's still blooming when I get back - if it blooms!

The pole beans are planted, the trellising is up, (my husband thought we might need a permit from the city for this!) and I'll add the strings when I see how many seedlings actually survive the birds, slugs and ground squirrels!

The tomatoes are in (I hear a collective wince from the Santa Clara Master Gardeners!) but its a kind of experiment, and I want tomatoes sooner rather than later this year.
I've rushed the photos and the plants can hardly been seen from this distance, but I'm hoping that the "after" pics will be great from this spot.

I didn't buy any new annuals this year - I'm relying on return customers...
and volunteers...
Poppies are out - in the garden and on the hillsides.
And then there's this plant. It was here when we moved in 6 years ago and has never blossomed. Now I'm going to to be away for 4 weeks and it does this!
I can't imagine what the blossom will look like but My Husband (who isn't coming with me due to his own work commitments) is under strict instructions to take lots of photos.  I don't even know what this plant is called.
It's nice to know that when I get back from my book tour in Ireland there is a seat waiting for me in the garden.

Byddi Lee

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Home - where the grass is greener, especially from March to November!

I didn't want to be one of those Irish immigrants who cried into my beer and sang sad songs about missing the ould country. Oh, no, not me...

And why would I, when I can see green fields from my garden?
Okay, they are only green for a a couple of months, during the rainy season, and given the drought we've been having in California, that's now down to a matter of weeks.

So, no lamenting from me about missing Ireland, or the rain, instead, I wrote an entire book, all 115 000 words of it set in Ireland!

As I wrote March to November, I realized how much I missed all the uniqueness about home that is so hard to find here - and I'm not talking about rain. There's the pubs, the banter, the chatty taxi drivers, the impromptu traditional music sessions, the potato bread, the scones, the Guinness, the bacon, the whiskey, the Tayto crisps, the Cadburys chocolate, Marks and Spencers Extra Chocolatey Chocolate biscuits, Barry tea, the whiskey, Hobnobs, the style (yes - that surprised me too!) and most of all the people...

Americans who have visited Ireland regale me with stories of how wonderful their time in Ireland was, and the thing they rave about the most is the people. I may be biased, but I do agree with them wholeheartedly, especially when it comes to humor.

The craic is ninety back home. That's a phrase that will trip up many a non-Irish person, and had my critiquing groups running for their red pens. I insisted that any book set in modern day Belfast had to have the word "craic" in it. Other words didn't make the cut, being either not as important or too confusing, such as "scundered" and "banjaxed" which sent the spell-checker crazy into the bargain. Such a rich and varied vocabulary makes writing in "Norn Iron" so much fun.

The other things that the US holiday-maker enjoyed was the bars. I used real bars in Belfast and Donegal as settings for some of my scenes, to the extent that I have readers here in the US asking me to organize a trip to Ireland for them that takes then to these locations. For now, they'll have to make do with the slide show I have on my website.

Here's a little taster.
This is Robinson's Bar, located across the road from the Europa Hotel, reportedly the most bombed hotel in Europe - what a fun reputation to have! If you go in through this door, like Tracy did in March to November, and go right to the back, you get to Fibber Magees, The back door of Robinsons is the door for Fibbers. There's a fun night out that ends in a dramatic twist in the book - I hope you have a less stressful evening here!
Donegal, where the characters go on a road trip, was our childhood holiday destination. I have many fond memories of shivering on beautiful sandy beaches that went on for miles,
 and heart-achingly beautiful but desolate landscapes,
 and every day round off by spectacular sunsets. 
This is the view from the cottage that inspired the one that Tommy's family owns in March to November.
I'm delighted that March to November is generating interest in tourism to Belfast and Donegal.

Special Offer During March 
March to November is available on  Kindle for - $0.99 in the USA or 99p in the UK to celebrate the month that kicks off all the shenanigans in the book.

At the end of March, I'm going home to promote the book, and I can't wait! The response from back home has been better than I ever hoped it would be. The Americans are right - the Irish have big hearts, and I'm lucky to be experiencing that for myself. April is a beautiful month to be home - nearly as beautiful as May, which is the month I always tell people to visit, but really any time between March and November is beautiful in Ireland - if you don't mind a bit of rain and can see the beauty in mist covered vistas and green fields. Because California may have it's own beauty from March to November, but it's not found in its grass!
Byddi Lee