Friday 25 February 2011

Christina Courtenay & The Scarlet Kimono

Hi Debs, thank you so much for letting me visit you in your lovely shed! It’s great to be here and I’ve been wanting to meet “Grumpy” for ages as I’m a huge dog fan.
I also like the sound of your garden and since you live in Jersey, I’m guessing that spring comes earlier to you than on the mainland? It can’t come fast enough for me! Don’t get me wrong, I love winter and especially the months before Christmas. I don’t mind it getting darker then as it gives that cozy feeling of wanting to curl up in front of the fire with a good book and some chocolates (although I get that all year round, come to think of it, apart from the fire bit). But then January arrives and all the festivities are over and suddenly every day seems dull, grey and cold. That’s when I start longing for spring.

Now I’m really here to talk about my new novel The Scarlet Kimono, which is coming out soon, but since it’s set in Japan, that made me think of spring as well. Nowhere in the world is this season more noticeable than in Tokyo, I think, as the cherry blossom begins to unfurl on the trees all across the city. Normally, it’s a teeming, mostly modern, metropolis with lots of high-rise buildings interspersed with more traditional ones. And like every other big city, it’s very busy with lots of traffic and enormous crowds. But come blossom time, it is totally transformed

Suddenly, you begin to notice how beautiful the streets are, lined with sakura – cherry-blossom – or ume – the slightly different flowers of the plum trees. Once the first blooms have erupted, they begin to fall (all too soon!), but that in itself creates an even prettier picture as they float slowly to the ground and are carried around by the breeze. Eventually they end up like little snow drifts of pale petals and even those are lovely to look at.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit twice in the last couple of years, and each time we managed to time our holiday there perfectly to coincide with the blossom season (which only lasts a week or two, three if you’re lucky). Now I’m longing to go back again, but I have to be content with writing about it for the moment. Which brings me back to The Scarlet Kimono. Let me give you the blurb:-

Abducted by a Samurai warlord in 17th-century Japan – what happens when fear turns to love?

England, 1611, and young Hannah Marston envies her brother’s adventurous life. But when she stows away on his merchant ship, her powers of endurance are stretched to their limit. Then they reach Japan and all her suffering seems worthwhile – until she is abducted by Taro Kumashiro’s warriors.

In the far north of the country, warlord Kumashiro is waiting to see the girl who he has been warned about by a seer. When at last they meet, it’s a clash of cultures and wills, but they’re also fighting an instant attraction to each other.

With her brother desperate to find her and the jealous Lady Reiko equally desperate to kill her, Hannah faces the greatest adventure of her life. And Kumashiro has to choose between love and honour …

The Scarlet Kimono is published by Choc Lit on 1st March, ISBN 978-1-906931-29-2

(For more details and an extract, please go to ) If you’d like to win a signed copy of the book, please leave a comment below and tell me what is your favourite season and why? (Debs: I'm half way through this fabulous book. You're immediately transported back to 17th century Japan and even though I've never visited Japan - although Rob tells me it's amazing and loves it - everything in this book is so beautifully depicted that I feel I know it and the characters well).

Thanks again for having me! (Debs: Thanks for visiting and bringing your adorable dog).

(If anyone would like to know more about me, my website and blog are at and I also regularly blog in the Choc Lit Authors’ Corner at )

Monday 21 February 2011

Guest Blogger (him, not me)

The Grumpy One is this weeks guest over at Dino's and Spike's Guest Page.

Dino is Anthony Molyneux's (@LordFerrister) gorgeous Rhodesian Ridgeback and each week he invites a guest over to his blog. This week Dino and his friend Spike have welcomed Grumps to their page. I'm not quite sure when he trotted over there, but I presume it must have been when I was rummaging around in the kitchen cupboard for yet another Alpen strawberry and yogurt bar.

Please go here to see what Grumps has to say.

Sunday 13 February 2011

Shed of the Year 2011 Competition

I've just finished uploading a couple of new pictures (with the help of Uncle Wilco, organizer of the competition). Some of you may remember I was a category winner in 2009, and was therefore automatically entered in to last year's competition, but being a little (okay, a lot) switched off, I didn't realize this until voting had almost ended and pretty much missed most of the fun involved in taking part.

This year I'm a little more on the ball (thanks to a reminder email...) and as The Plotting Shed aka Grumpy's Palace has had a bit of a makeover since 2009 and the inside of the shed has seen a few changes, notably the arrival of my tatty, but much beloved, pink Lloyd Loom chair, I thought I'd update the photos.

So, although the public voting doesn't start until 17th May (don't worry, I'll remind you closer to the time) I thought I'd add a link to the site where you can see a few more pictures.

The judges include Sarah Beeny, Simon Mayo, Gordon Thorburn, with the winner receiving £1,000 and various other prizes. If you have a shed you may also want to enter one of the categories for this competition. I've entered mine in the Garden Office Category, however there are others, including Eco Shed, Cabin/Summerhouse, Tardis, Pub Shed, Workshop/Studio, Normal Shed, etc. The link to enter is here. You can find out more by following or following @unclewilco on Twitter.

Sunday 6 February 2011

The Cake Tree

This was the Cake Tree a month ago when we had snow. The children called this tree, the Cake Tree, because when Rob put lights around it at Christmas time, or to help light the garden whenever we have a summer party, it looks a bit like a cake.

Unfortunately, the tree is very close to a neighbour's wall and over the years, the back has been trimmed repeatedly so that it didn't overhand her driveway. Subsequently, the tree was heavier at the front than the back and a nasty crack appeared in the wall. We came to the conclusion that the Cake Tree had to come down.

This was the Cake Tree on Thursday. Now, instead of all that green fir, we have a large gap where it used to stand and our tree has been replaced by a huge pile of logs for the fire and mulch for the garden, which I'm supposed to be helping distribute to the flowerbeds right now...

The youngsters are sad, as am I, but Rob and I have bought a new tree to replace the old one. Sadly, the new tree is not much more than a 10 foot stick with a few spindly branches. I'm told it'll grow quickly. Here's hoping...