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In two months, on June 21st, my second saga for Allison & Busby, A Respectable Woman, will be published. Recently I blogged about how my heroine, Nell Hibbert, came by her name. This week, I thought I'd show you the possible blurbs I wrote for the book.


It may surprise you to know that the author doesn't write the blurb that appears on the book. That is the job of the publishing elves. But the elves like to have a bit of guidance and so I was asked to produce a blurb for them to take as their starting point.


So I wrote three blurbs. Why? Well, to provide as much information as possible for the elves to choose from. The first blurb was almost all about Nell, the heroine; the second introduced other characters and story elements; and the third concentrated on Nell and Jim, the hero.


(Incidentally, the other thing about being asked to produce a blurb is that you are given a word count. Mine was to write a blurb of approximately 200 words. All three of mine are exactly 200. Result!)


I have published them all here. What do you think of them?


* * * *


A Respectable Woman - blurb 1


After losing her beloved family in the Great War, Nell is grateful to marry Stan Hibbert, believing that with him, she can recapture the loving family feeling she has lost. Five years on, she is just another back-street housewife, making every penny do the work of tuppence and performing miracles with scrag-end. When she discovers that Stan is leading a double-life, she runs away to make a fresh start elsewhere.


Two years later, in 1924, Nell has carved out a fulfilling new life for herself and her young children in Manchester, where her neighbours believe she is a respectable widow, as do her fellow-workers in the garment factory where she is a talented machinist. Even her children believe their father is dead. Nell lives for her children and tries hard not to fall in love with Jim Franks, the handsome window cleaner who does so much to help her. After all, she is really a married woman.


When a figure from the past turns up, Nell has to face a court case. Will the respectable life she has fought for be enough to allow her to keep her children or will her lies mean she will lose them forever?



* * * *


A Respectable Woman - blurb 2


Manchester, 1924. Nell Hibbert has a secret. Her back-street neighbours and her fellow-workers in the garment factory admire her as a hard-working, respectable young widow, but really she is the runaway wife of a duplicitous husband. Over the past two years, she has carved out a fulfilling new life for herself and her young children and believes her shameful past is behind her.


Nell's dear friend, Leonie Brent, has a secret. Her overbearing son-in-law is making her life a misery, but she can't speak out because she can't bear to upset her daughter. Besides, what would the neighbours think?


Leonie's young granddaughter Posy also has a secret. Her charming father is really a cruel bully and her mother pretends not to know.


Jim Franks has no secrets. Everyone knows he is a former solicitor who has worked as a window cleaner since the War while coming to terms with deep-rooted feelings of loss. He is in love with Nell, but what can he do to make her notice him?


When a figure emerges from Nell's past, she and her friends face fresh challenges as hidden truths emerge, relationships are strained and Nell is threatened with losing her beloved children.



* * * *


A Respectable Woman - blurb 3


1924, Chorlton, Manchester. Life is looking up for young widow Nell Hibbert. She and her two small children live with a loving elderly couple and Nell's skill with the sewing machine enables her to get a desirable job as a sewing machine demonstrator in a department store. Discovering a flair for teaching inspires her to think of working for herself. Could a lass from the back-streets really do that? Nell devotes her life to her children and her work, while trying not to fall in love with Jim Franks. He may be the perfect man for her, but Nell Hibbert has a secret. She isn't a widow; she is a runaway wife.


Jim Franks has no secrets. Everyone knows he was a well-to-do solicitor before the War. Now he works as a window cleaner while coming to terms with deep-rooted feelings of loss. He loves Nell but can't get her to notice him. His former fiancee, the elegant Roberta, on the other hand, is eager to get back together.


When a figure emerges from Nell's past, she must face a court case. Can Jim help her keep her beloved children? And can Nell and Jim find the happiness they deserve?



* * * *


So there they are, my three attempts at writing a blurb for A Respectable Woman. Which do you think is best? Do leave a comment and tell me. And if you like the sound of Nell's story, I hope you'll put in a library request for it.



After a break for Easter, it's time for Kirsten's monthly round-up of what has been going on in her writing life. Here is her look back at March.




Despatches from the Querying Trenches




Well, that was March. Allegedly. I usually associate my birthday month with sap rising and woolly lambs and fat, oozing buds. I’m sure all that was going on behind the scenes as it should have been but, for us, March was all about rain and sticky mud every time we tried to go to the archaeological dig or out for a walk. At least we could make up for it with roaring fires and buttery hot cross buns at home …


But never mind all that. For me, March was mainly all about …




Yes, March was (finally) the culmination of the past six months’ editing. All that work, the hopes and dreams, the fun and excitement and creative endeavour. All that agonising, all those doubts, the slashing and burning, the venting over family and friends. And please don’t even get me started on the synopsis!!


At the end of the day, it really all comes down to a handful of emails, doesn’t it?


As the self-styled queen of procrastination, I set myself a deadline and decided that I would submit while I was on a retreat with the fantastic Place to Write. I’ve been on a couple of their retreats before, indeed I have become good friends with the wonderful Moira and Jane who run it, and as I mentioned last month, I knew there would be fantastic food and cake and tea and wine and support and encouragement.



I got all that in spades. It was set in fantastic half-timbered house in Weobley complete with secret Narnia cupboard and lots of lovely nooks and crannies in which to write. Not only that but there was the best yoga session ever, complete with chocolate buttons (I know!) and blankets. I didn’t drop off - honest. There were laughs galore devising covers for possible - but highly unlikely - future projects (and I’m looking at you very severely here Christine Manby!!) There was also this lovely birthday cake complete with fabulous candelabra candle! What more could an aspiring writer ask for?



I worked hard all retreat, polishing the manuscript and synopsis and getting rid of surplus that’s, justs and anyways. (There were lots of them. Nearly enough to fill a novella!) It all took longer than Id’ anticipated and I ended up working in bed until 4am on the last night and still not quite finishing but it was worth it ….




Two days later, I was ready to press ‘send’. Such a gentle, almost anticlimactic, culmination to all that work. And once my submission had gone, I noticed the typos ….


So, now the waiting starts, I am resisting the tempatation to press send/ receive all the time. OK, I am sending send/ receive all the time!! And also trying to get on with Book 2.


Wish me luck!


I’d like to say a big thank you to Jane Ayres, Julie Cordiner and Chris Manby who were kind enough to read the full and to give me their feedback and to all the LLs who helped so much with the synopsis.


I hope you all have a great April and may all your writing dreams come true.


A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog about the book that made my best friend at school ignore me. This was the book – On the Night of the Seventh Moon, one of Victoria Holt's wonderful gothic novels. My friend was so engrossed in it that she spent all break-time reading it instead of talking to me; and once I started reading it, I understood why and I asked for all Victoria Holt's books for my birthday.


In that blog, I wrote: "Oh, how I loved those books. All those creepy mansions in Cornwall! All those governesses in peril! Thanks to Victoria Holt, to this day I have a feeling that the heroine's being in fear for her life is a basic requirement of the climax of a novel. And when I read a book in which this doesn't feature – which, let's face it, is nearly every book – I always feel a faint sense of surprise that a book can be perfectly enjoyable without this “essential” ingredient!"




.... which is why I wrote the chase-through-the-fog scene in The Deserter's Daughter.


There isn't a scene of mortal peril for the heroine in my new novel, A Respectable Woman, but I have paid homage to Victoria Holt in another way. You may know that the real name of Jean Plaidy / Victoria Holt / Philippa Carr was Eleanor Burford, who when she married became Eleanor Hibbert.



In honour of Eleanor Burford Hibbert and the effect she had on my writing life, I have named my new heroine Nell Hibbert. Let me tell you about her.


Nell had a wonderful childhood in a loud, laughing, loving family; but adult life, in the shape of the Great War, has been unkind to her. Her marriage, far from being a duplicate of her happy early life, has taught her to stand firmly on her own two feet and she is a determined, capable person; but beneath the feisty spirit, she is a real softy, who adores her children and likes nothing better than to spend her time playing with them. As Leonie, her dear friend and landlady, says of her, "Nell is the biggest kid of all."



When Nell discovers that her husband is leading a double-life, she runs away to make a fresh start for herself and her young children in Manchester, where her neighbours and fellow-workers believe she is a respectable widow. Nell realises various things about herself in the course of her story; that she is imaginative, talented and ambitious; that love can sneak up on you; and, hardest of all, that the past is difficult to run from.


When Nell was coming to life in my mind, I wanted her to be the sort of person I'd like to be friends with. I hope you'll want to be friends with her too.


A Respectable Woman will be published in June in hardback. I hope you'll put in a pre-publication request for it at your local library.


It's the beginning of March and that means it's time for Kirsten to share her monthly round-up of what has been happening in her writing world. Her blog this month is about a subject dear to my heart - the friendship of writers.



Despatches from the Querying Trenches




My, that month has rolled around quickly and what a busy one it’s been in the Hesketh household. Husband and son returned from a brilliant holiday in Patagonia. Son squeezed in a couple of university interviews and then set off interrailing. Daughter turned sweet sixteen complete with obligatory birthday ‘gathering’. Husband turned fifty-something and complete with a different type of birthday gathering! And as for me? I’ve been editing, editing, editing. And had an endoscopy!


Seriously, though, it’s been a great month writing wise and - drum roll - I’ve nearly finished my edits. I reckon I’ll be in a position to (re)submit when I go on a writing retreat in a couple of weeks’ time. I know there’ll be plenty of wine, cake, tissues and moral support on tap there to cover every eventuality.


But the highlight of my February writing life has been helping three - three! - lovely writerly friends celebrate the launch of their - very different - books. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - writers really are the most friendly, supportive and inclusive bunch and one of the best things about starting to write has been all the new friends I’ve made. On top of that, seeing my friends’ dreams coming true is incredibly motivating and inspiring as I navigate the querying trenches.


I met Moira Please on Twitter. Despite continually telling my children to be wary of people they meet online, Moira and I have become good friends. Moira writes romantic comedy as Maddie Please and her second book, A Year of New Adventures, is just out.


When Moira came to stay a couple of weeks ago, I got my clever friend Debbie to make this cake for her. Isn’t it fabulous? AYONA is billed as the perfect feel-good summer read but I’ve just devoured it in front of the fire over a couple of snowy days. At one point, my unladylike snorts of laughter made my husband come into the room to see what was going on. Fantastic stuff.


The lovely Claire Dyer critiqued the first three chapters of my WIP and then invited me to join Reading Writers and has now become a good friend. Claire’s third novel, The Last Day, was launched on February 15th complete with launch party at the fabulous Goldsboro books just off St Martin’s Lane.



Generally, I like to blend into the background at such events but I was running late after taking my son to one of the aforementioned university interviews and I arrived as just as Claire was mid-speech. (Sorry Claire!). I tried to sneak in unobserved but Claire interrupted her speech to say, ‘oh look, it’s Kirsten’, and all the people in this photo turned to look at me. I think my face went as red as the coat I was wearing!


It was a fantastic launch though - loads of drink, a fab venue and lots of interesting people. I can’t wait to get stuck into The Last Day: I love the way Claire writes - she’s also a poet and there’s always a real tenderness and elegance to her prose along with fantastic characterisation and a cracking story.

Amanda Berriman and I met at a writing retreat in Derbyshire and bonded over a game of literary consequences that involved Limoncello, Curly-Wurlies and ‘Moira’s-got-an-agent’. I think I remember laughing until I cried. Mandy’s debut novel, Home, has just been launched to great acclaim and has been reviewed in the Guardian and - so I’m told(!) - the Daily Mail. I was thrilled to be invited to the launch which took place at another lovely shop - Daunt Books on the Fulham Road. It was a blast - so many writers I knew in person and from Twitter, lots to drink and moving speeches from Mandy and her publisher. Home is right at the top of my TBR pile: it sounds an amazing and an important book - the story of a vulnerable family narrated by four-and-a-half-year-old Jesika, who tells us, in her language, what she understands - and doesn’t - of her world.


I’m so happy for and proud of Moira, Claire and Mandy and, all in all, February has been a fabulously inspiring month.


And remember, fellow aspiring writers, one day it could be us!


I hope you all have a wonderful March – spring must surely be just around the corner now!


Bye for now.



A Few Favourite Books

Posted on 15th February, 2018

Some tweet chains have been running on Twitter this past week or so, linking up people's favourite books. The idea is that you post a picture of the cover of a book you love - and that's it. No explanation as to why you love it, just a picture.


I thought I'd add a few more of my favourites here, but this time with a few words alongside.


This is the book cover I tweeted. Shattered Silk by Barbara Michaels (who also writes as Elizabeth Peters).


It is a suspense novel with a touch of humour, but don't let that fool you - it is genuinely tense and scary. The reason I love it in particular is that its background is to do with setting up a vintage clothing business - the history of costume being one of my interests.



But I could just as easily have tweeted any of these books....


The Religious Body by Catherine Aird, written in the 1960s, is a brilliant whodunnit - or rather, it is a howdunnit. This is quite simply the cleverest way ever of killing someone. Trust me: you will never guess what the murder weapon was.

For me, EF Benson's Miss Mapp is the best comic novel ever. With Mapp and Lucia, I know you are supposed to prefer Lucia, but I always much preferred Miss Mapp and this book (Lucia-free) is superb. The scene where Diva opens the cupboard made me laugh out loud the first time I read it back in the 1980s and it still makes me chuckle today.


(On the subject of laughing out loud at a book, I laughed so much at one bit of A Year of New Adventures by Maddie Please, my current bedtime reading, that the cat declined to remain on the bed. Sorry, Cassie.)

As a lover of sagas both as a reader and as a writer, I have to ask: is this the best saga ever? I rather think it is.
A Wartime Christmas by Carol Rivers kept me up reading long into the night several nights in a row. It is more than a family saga - it contains a clever mystery that is sustained right to the end and when the truth is revealed, it is as surprising as it is satisfying. Well worth those sleepless nights!


Minty by Christina Banach is a remarkable book. Written for the YA market, it tackles a difficult subject, possibly the most difficult subject of all - death and bereavement - head-on with confidence, honesty, compassion and even with humour.


I used to be a librarian specialising in work with children and schools. Reading Minty made me wish I still was, so I could take it into secondary schools and give it the promotion it deserves. I'd even provide the boxes of tissues needed for reading the ending.

Okay, it's time to stop, but before I do - I had to include this one. The first book I ever loved - Tippy Runs Away. How much did I love it? So much that I insisted upon being called Tippy for some time afterwards.


A very self-indulgent blog this week. Do you have a favourite book to share? How easy or hard is it to choose just one?



Despatches from the Querying Trenches


A Tale of Two Tweets

January 2018



A very happy New Year. I hope 2018 has started off splendidly for you all.

We’ve had an unusual January in the Hesketh household. Husband and son are off in Patagonia doing some father-son bonding. As you do. A serendipitous combination of son being on a gap year, hubbie getting extra holiday. Here’s a taste of what they’re up to. It looks wonderful. (I have made it clear that I’m very much looking forward to the Maldives when my daughter is on her gap year!)



You’ll be pleased to hear I’ve been writing diligently throughout January and am pleased with my progress. Two tweets sum up where I’m at (as most of you know, I love Twitter far too much!):


Editing is like making an omelette, isn’t it? You’ve just got to make a mess ….


I posted this a couple of weeks ago because, yes, I’m editing Book One again. I had a wonderful critique from Alison May in which she challenged me to describe, in one line, what my story is fundamentally about. Is it fundamentally a novel about a marriage under pressure, parenting a child with autism, a school gate drama or a woman coming to terms with a traumatic event in her past? It was a very good question! I know which it is – at least, which it’s supposed to be - but Alison is right. I need to draw out the key storyline and, while I’m at it, put a couple of darlings out of their misery. (That’s hard!)


So, that’s where I am at the moment. The messy stage. The eggs are broken into the bowl, the shells are scattered over the kitchen surfaces and the washing up is piling up in the sink. It’s chaos. And the end doesn’t seem to be in sight. But I expect that it will come together more quickly that I expect and that the end result will be a fluffy, silky delight with hidden depths of gruyere and porcini. (A girl can dream, can’t she?)


The other tweet was from Alison May herself. I’d posted a tweet about my book in one of those Twitter contest things and Alison very kindly posted the following on the back of it:


I did a crit read on this novel. It's rather good. Any agents or editors looking for emotionally deep commercial women's fiction - definitely worth a request...


Isn’t that lovely? Totally unsolicited and the most wonderful validation of my writing. It really felt like someone had given me a huge, unexpected present. And the icing on the cake - or the big glossy bow on the present - is that a couple of agents have got in touch and requested the first three chapters of my book.




Which brings me full circle round back to the need to carry on editing, editing, editing. Hopefully that omelette will be worth it!


Have a wonderful February everyone. See you on Twitter!



Looking Ahead to 2018

Posted on 19th January, 2018

You may remember from previous years that each January, I select a guiding word to see me through the year. It’s an idea I pinched from my Canadian friend, Jen Gilroy, whose word this year is COURAGE.


This is my fourth year of choosing a guiding word. My first was APPRECIATION, which was tied in with having moved to North Wales, the place I had dreamed of living in ever since I was a child, and also in memory of a friend who died young, but whom I was able to write to while she was ill to share memories of our long friendship and tell her how much I valued her. The following year, I chose ANTICIPATION, as that was when I worked hard to get the fourth draft of The Deserter’s Daughter completed so that I could start approaching literary agents. Then, last year, my word was APPLICATION, which was very much on my mind at the start of the year as I faced a six-month deadline to get my next novel, A Respectable Woman, finished.


I’ll be honest. This year, I’ve dithered over whether to share my word publicly. My word is ACCOMPLISHMENT and I’m concerned you’re going to think it sounds big-headed, but here is how it came about. I know I’ve got to work hard this year and to begin with, I was going to use ACHIEVEMENT, but I feel that ACCOMPLISHMENT not only covers achievement, but also suggests a sense of quality. I had the importance of quality drummed into me by a former boss, the late Mrs Wendy Drewett, who used to run the Children’s and Schools Library Services in the county where I worked.


So what work aims do I have for 2018?


Well, writing – obviously. I have been asked several times recently about what I am currently working on. I can’t say much at the moment – only that I hope to have news to share with you before too long.


But I can share my new dedication to word count targets(!). After watching my word count graph rise throughout November when I, along with a number of writer chums did NaNoWriMo, I am determined to set a word count target every week this year. So far, I have hit my target in weeks 1 and 2; and at the time of writing this, I look set to meet week 3’s target. 3 weeks down, 49 to go!


On the subject of work, my day job is going to vanish from under my feet at some point in the next few weeks. Gulp. More about that when the time comes.


Not all my ambitions are fixed on writing. This year, I want to get the garden up to scratch. We have a gorgeous house, but the people who lived here before us didn’t like gardening and were heavily into reducing the work-load, which they did by putting down weed-suppressing membrane over the flowerbeds and covering it with several tons of grey pebbles.


For me, one of the joys of life is turning over the soil, so I have been gradually getting rid of  the stones. Some of it I’ve done myself, some I’ve paid others to do; but it feels like a never-ending job.


This is part of what used to be a back yard and is now a back garden. Where the lawn is used to be nothing but several inches deep of grey pebbles. Rolls of turf is one of the more unusual birthday presents I have received. (Thank you, Auntie Barbara.)


The roses are no longer in the tubs. After this picture was taken, they were planted in what I turned into a flowerbed and I’m pleased to tell you they are thriving.



Meanwhile in the front garden, having removed some enormous shrubs and bushes whose main purpose in life seemed to be to drape lovingly around the postman every morning, this is what is left.

Those grey stones are up to six inches deep.


Later this year, I will take another picture of this corner – minus stones and with new shrubs (hydrangeas, possibly) growing in lots of lovely soil.


So there we are - a look at the year that lies ahead for me. What plans do you have? Or do you avoid making resolutions?



A Wonderful Start to 2018: My First Shelfie!

Posted on 5th January, 2018

Happy New Year. Thank you for your support last year. I look forward to another year of your company on my blog.


I'm starting the new year with a very short post. I've had my first shelfie! If you aren't sure what that is, it's a photo of your book on the shelf at the library or in a shop. Simple as that. It may not sound like much, but I have to tell you it is a hugely exciting moment.


The Deserter's Daughter has been in stock in Conwy Libraries ever since it was published last summer, but this is the first time I have seen it on the shelf in Llyfrgell Llandudno Library. Is that because it's been out on loan all the time?! What a lovely thought.


Shall I tell you the truth? There was a fatter book next to The Deserter's Daughter on the shelf, so I moved it in order to have a better photo...



Thank You And See You In 2018

Posted on 15th December, 2017

Thank you for reading my posts throughout the year and extra special thanks to everyone who kindly left comments. Thanks also to the guests who have visited my blog throughout the year, especially my friend Kirsten for her monthly round-ups about her writing experiences. I know from all the comments and feedback she receives how much her guest blogs have been enjoyed.


You may know that two or three years ago I pinched Jen Gilroy's idea of having a guiding word for each year. 2016's was ANTICIPATION, which, for the year in which I signed up with my literary agent and then got together with Allison & Busby, turned out to be highly appropriate. Then this year's word - knowing I was on a 6-month deadline to write my next novel for Allison & Busby - was APPLICATION, which turned out to be a polite word for HARD-GRAFT(!). You'll be able to read the results of my Application/Hard-Graft next June, when A Respectable Woman is published.


I can't resist sharing with you (again!) my two beautiful covers for The Deserter's Daughter.



It has been an exciting year. Thank you to everyone who has read The Deserter's Daughter, and special thanks to those lovely people who have left reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. On a personal level, they are deeply appreciated and on a professional level, they make really do make a difference.


I'm signing off for Christmas now. I'll be back in January, so I hope you'll come and visit me then.


In the meantime....


....allow me to show off my unexpected festive footwear (ouch!) as I wish you a safe and accident-free Christmas.


Gyda Chyfarchion Tymhorol

a Dymuniadau Gorau am y Flwyddyn Newydd


With Season's Greetings

and Best Wishes for the New Year



It says Dispatches From the Querying Trenches, but maybe it should be re-titled Dispatches From the NaNoWriMo Trenches. Let Kirsten tell you more....


* * * *


So that was November.


The month I took on and ‘won’ NaNoWriMo.


For the uninitiated, National Novel Writing Month is an annual creative writing project that takes place during November with the strapline ‘the world needs your novel’. Participants attempt to write 50,000 words between November 1 and November 30 and my writing friends were signing up left, right and centre.


At first I was cynical. I wasn’t entirely sure the world did need my novel – after all, there are plenty of fantastic novels out there already, aren’t there? And 50,000 seemed an awful lot of words. It took almost a year to get to that point with my first novel - how could I possibly cram all that writing, all that thinking, all that angst-ing into one measly month? And a 30 day month at that. What if the muse didn’t strike? What if I rushed out of the gates with 5,000 words a day and ran out of steam by Bonfire Night. What if I left it until the last minute and attempted an unseemly and ultimately unsuccessful gallop to the finishing line. Either way, I was dooming myself to failure.


Nonetheless I signed up. I was 23k words through my second novel - a love story set on an archaeological dig - and progress was slow. Even if I only completed 10,000 words, it would still be a result. Plus everyone else was doing it and I didn’t want to miss out on the fun and camaraderie. (I know, I know - I’m such a ‘follower’…)


Well, what a great, big whirlwind of a month it’s been.


720 hours later, I have added 50, 016 words to ‘Muddy Milly’ (working title!) and have pretty much completed the first draft. And it’s been brilliant.



There is something very freeing about the manta ‘ don’t get it right, get it written.’ With my first book, I spent hours polishing the same old passages - passages that didn’t even make it into be final cut of the book. With NaNo there is little time to vet what you’re writing - you just push on. You write whether or not the muse has bothered to turn up but with the characters and story always front of mind. I found it much easier to crack on than on previous occasions when I hadn’t turned the computer on for the best part of the week. I accept this isn’t for everyone but I believe it made me braver and ultimately a better writer. The characters took on a life of their own and decided to go off-piste on a couple of occasions. A couple of new characters made an appearance. I even wrote my first sex scene!


I’m so chuffed to have completed the challenge. Like many of us, I don’t have a whole load of control over some aspects of my life at the moment, and it’s been great to prove to myself that I can still take on and finish projects. Plus, in the eternal quest for agents and publication, writing is so often all about rejection or ‘failing’. It’s lovely to ‘win’ for once.


The certificate has pride of place on the fridge. I’m showing my stats to anyone who will look – and even people who would rather not. Even the teens have said well done!


The support and camaraderie part was everything I hoped it would be and many thanks to Sue, Moira, Jane, Karen, Tara, Cath, Kate, Alexis, Jan, Julie, Cass, Catherine and the bunch from Reading Writers for making it so much fun. I couldn’t have done it without you guys. We are all winners and may all our writing dreams come true.


Here’s to doing it all over again next November.


In the meantime, a very happy December to you all and I’m off to start my Christmas shopping!