Saturday, December 1, 2012

Updating My Blog

I have spent most of the day 'playing' with the layout of this blog. My first comment on my home/landing page was - boring! I think it still is. Tomorrow I'll try adding more to it to improve its appearance.

I have added a few more gadgets but it needs several more hours work. For those who are visiting for the first time there are some interesting posts to comment on and photographs to enjoy.

At least I've achieved my one promise. To post on the first of the month.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Copyright on Pictures and Text

Unless otherwise stated the text and photographs on this blog are the copyright of Penelope S Hellyer and should not be reproduced in any way without the prior permission of the owner.

Gay the Botanist

I love this picture of Gay just before she married Arthur. It says on the reverse,' taken at Lord Portland's pond'. This was nearby where she was teaching at the time. She gave up teaching when she married Arthur.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Financial Times article by Robin Lane Fox

Thank you Robin Lane Fox for such a great article in the FT 3rd November; about Arthur Hellyer, me and my book The Haphazard Gardener http//

The link to read the article is -

Promotion, Promotion.

I didn’t manage to post at all in the interim. Promoting two books takes much longer than I had realised but I’ve had one piece of excellent promotion via ‘The Society’ Magazine (October issue) published by The Argus newspaper for The Haphazard Gardener. Link here - 
It is a great two page spread with lots of pictures and a well written article.  Thank you to Katy Rice.

I have gathered more followers on twitter and a couple more on facebook; all good for self-promotion and an excellent piece of news that came in last week - Robin Lane Fox has written an article in the FT about The Haphazard Gardener and Arthur which was published on the 3rd November. It is a great article - This news I would normally have shared at the beginning of December.

I get hundreds of page views but very few people follow but I note it happens on other blogs too. Or there are lots of followers but only the same few ever comment. I have often wondered why that is? But if you do call by and read maybe you could click 'like' either on my amazon product page or my author page for my debut novel or
This month extra posts will be impossible. I am into the 4th day of NaNoWriMo which I’ve registered for again this year.  Last year I managed the 50K words in 23 days.  This year I’ve attempted outlining more thoroughly and working out how and where the story might go. However on Day One – my writing hand was already making its own decisions.


Monday, October 1, 2012

A Quick Update

I didn’t manage to post as often as I would have liked but it was a slight improvement on the month before. Eight days in the UK takes me right off my tracks and last month I’ve been focusing on Alice; taking the advice I’ve been given and adding a couple more chapters.

The book is selling reasonably well given the limited amount of promotion I am doing. But both Joanne Phillips and Patsy Collins have featured me on their blogs which has increased my traffic but not the number of followers. Thanks to you both.

Jane Risdon invited me to join the Garden design, plants and nature group on Facebook. There are some lovely photographs on this page. She hoped that the extra coverage would create even more interest for the book.

I will try to pick up the momentum during October and will post more old pictures later in the week.

Viburnum to the left and hawthorn to the right. The east terrace garden.
I have had some lovely feedback and a two further reviews for the book on Amazon.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Working the Land

This photograph of Gay and Arthur - working the land - is one of my favourites. The bleakness of the land can easily be seen. The shelter belts on the northern boundary are not evident. And yes Gay really did work this hard along with Arthur until her arthritis no longer enabled her to do so.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The House on the Prairie

This gives a very strange perspective to the finished house. My guess is that they are stock in the foreground and I am certain that the mature tree to the right hand side is a large beech tree that used to be in the farmers field at the top of the farm lane.  There was no chimney in those days - how I wonder did they ever keep warm!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Arthur - Working in the Vegetable Garden.

I love this picture of Arthur hoeing. Again the date of the photograph is unknown to me but the mature shelter belt along the northern boundary makes me think that this was the early 1950s.  I wonder if his verge of wild flowers was to increase insects to help the pollination of the fruit growing on this edge of the plot.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Arthur & Gay - Young Adults

This delightful photograph of Arthur the young man, is another that I cannot date or place. If this were a family history site I would be encouraging you all to ask to look at all the old photos and get the senior members of your family to try to date and identify them before it is too late.  Was this Arthur's dog?  Was this taken in his back garden? Or the back garden of the home that he and his mother lived in before Gay and he was married?

This picture of Gay was taken at Lord Portland's ponds - date 1934 the year she was married to Arthur.  With her is one of her students. It was during this period that she did supply teaching at a couple of schools in London.

I love the image. She looks far from elegant but she is so beautiful, and happy in a job she loved.

Monday, September 3, 2012

More from the Early Years

As with so many family pictures there are no dates for many of the black & white photographs.  This one of Gay tending to a calf was probably taken in the early 1950s.  This assumption is based solely on the growth of the trees in the background and I can confidently say that it was taken in the northern part of the garden. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Early Years

Copyright Penelope S Hellyer

The people behind the story The Haphazard Gardener are initially my parents Arthur and Grace (Gay) Hellyer.  Shortly after their marriage in 1934 they began to build themselves a wooden framed house based on the design of a Dutch barn.  The photograph on the left shows Arthur, I think contemplating his next move. 
Copyright Penelope S Hellyer
The photograph on the right shows them some time later balancing precariously on the roof of the house – the figure nearest is Arthur one of the other figures is Gay – the other two were friends that were occasionally roped in to help them.  The house took approximately five years to complete. What would health and safety have to say?

The copyright to the text and these photographs remains with Penelope S Hellyer.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Brief Overview

I didn’t fulfil my wish last month to post more regularly; will try to do better this month.  But I’ve scanned lots more pictures.  I believe that the book is selling well and within the first week of selling on Kindle I had sold 3 copies with no returns; I am assured this is an excellent result for a memoir which is being self-promoted.

Thanks to Anita Andrews for featuring me as Author of the Month through August, and to Patsy Collins for interviewing me on her blog as well as giving me some good advice about word verification.  Maybe this will encourage more people to leave comments. I must admit that I too have several attempts at word verification and often give up and abandon my comment on other people’s blog.

Joanne Phillips has been an absolute star again this month – thank you for all your help and advice.

If you have bought the Haphazard Gardener please leave me a review or tick like at

I am blogging again tomorrow and that’s a promise.

Follow me on Twitter - @penelopehellyer

Monday, August 20, 2012

Kindle version now available.

A Kindle version of The Haphazard Gardener is now available – priced at £2.99.  Once again a huge learning curve for me and thanks must go to Joanne Phillips for her help and guidance in converting the original into a mobi file.  I’ve not kept a log of this journey – I fear it might be much too confusing – but if I can do it anyone can. Joanne Phillips saved me much of the hard work; but the last stage was left for me! And I now have the software to implement my novel Alice and other projects in the pipeline to upload to Kindle in the future.

If anyone else has read the book or buys the Kindle version please leave me a review at If you visit and read this post – please follow or just leave me a comment - it’s always nice to have feedback.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Change of Direction

July has been a tense and busy month. The Haphazard Gardener was available from  from the 1st week in July. I have learnt an amazing amount about indie promotion from different websites and authors’ happy to share their own experiences. Several have been particularly generous with their help; they will know who they are, so a special thanks to you.

From this month I will post more regularly on this blog – sharing photographs both of my beautiful garden and from a time when it was not so beautiful.  I hope you enjoy and become as fascinated with the journey as you may be with the book should you wish to buy it.  Please if you visit – leave me a message and follow me.  It is so nice to see new followers.

For the month of August I am being featured by Anita Andrews as her author of the week.  Thank you Anita. 

Today I received my first review on  - 5 stars too – this gives me such a warm feeling.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Be Inspired Award

Thank you to Patsy Collins for awarding me 'Be Inspired' and for her challenge to be creative - as my book is non-fiction.  I'll do my best to impress!  Patsy's ten questions were as follows:-
1. What gave you the idea for your book?
2. Overall how long did it take to write the book?
3. What kept you going half way through?
4. Are any of your characters based on real people even though you must say they're not?
5. Did you ever wonder if you'd have the work published?
6. When you've had one book published do you feel pressure with the next?
7. Would you write in a different genre - or do you always stick to what you know?
8. Do you prefer writing novels to short stories?
9. Do you use everyday happenings in your book?
10. If your book was to be on TV who would play lead male/female roles.

My answers:-
1. My parents journey in life and my love of their work and the garden I inherited. They transformed a scrubby field bought in the 1930s to a woodland gem, which I inherited in 1978.  My father Arthur worked until a few months before his death in 1993 - still informing and advising and sharing his extensive knowledge of plants and gardens. I felt their story should be told, not only did they plant a market garden within an ornamental garden garden full of fine trees and shrubs but they built the house in which we lived.

2. The book has been in the writing since 2002 - when I was recovering from major surgery. 'A gentle plea for chaos' by Mirabel Osler and 'Four Hedges' by Clare Leighton were my inspiration. The serious writing began some years later when I worked with Writers' News tutor Sue Johnson.

3. The support and encouragement from Sue Johnson and my lovely husband Philip.

4. The characters are real of course.  The extensive research undertaken on Arthur gave me a better understanding of the 'man' as opposed to my father. Not until his death did I realise his true worth in the world of horticulture - not only in the UK but around the world. My research on Gay was heartwarming.  The students she inspired in the early fifties still remembered her with grateful affection. Other characters that were part of my life have been omitted.  The book is about two main characters in Part One and two main characters in Part Two and Three and the most important theme - the garden is in each part of the story.

5. Yes and No. I was doubtful of my capabilities until I worked with Sue Johnson and then positive.  She sent me on the conventional route but after several rejections and a couple of yeses from Vanity Publishers - one of which would have entailed taking out a mortgage to pay for the book - I read as much as I could about self-publishing.  I took the plunge with FeedaRead after reading an advert in Writer's Magazine.

6. No. Not when you self-publish.  I've already finished the 1st draft of a Novel - written during NaNoWriMo last November.  And of a children's picture book. I've lots of other ideas too.  The only 'pressure' maybe from Philip - who enjoys my writing and his observation that it gives me pleasure - not quite as much as my beautiful x garden but it is another way to express myself.

7. I am already writing in different genre but I would like to write a fictional biography/memoir about one of Philip's notorious relatives way back in history - but that would have to include a trip to Australia.

8. I don't mind which genre I work in as I long as enjoy what I've written. I wouldn't write scary of crime novels - these would bring back too many bad memories.

9. Obviously for The Haphazard Gardener I did - and my novel Alice is based loosely on my experiences - though also well fictionalised.  I don't know how you can't be influenced by the people or experiences you've had in your life.

10. I can't answer this - all four main characters were such unique people!

To take part and to place the award on your website - you must thank the person who nominated you - choose five nominees and set them ten questions. My nominees are:-

Jane Risdon - for making me laugh with her posts and her support.
Joanne Phillips - for her instructive website and support and encouragement.
Jerry Fresia - much of the above won't apply to you - though you are the author of books - but you are an inspirational person.
Joanna Cannon - for her beautiful stories - so full of poignancy and a deep understanding of life. - filled with beautiful poetry.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Sunshine Award

I am posting especially to thank Joanne Phillips - author of 'Can't live Without' for awarding me The Sunshine Award way back in May.  Joanne's blog is full of interesting information about all things writerly including self-publishing - since we 'met' she has been very encouraging and supportive. 

with thanks to Joanne Phillips
All you have to do it write five things about yourself.  Include the logo in your post. Link to your nominees and link the person who nominated you.  Simple - can't think why it's taken me so long!  Here are five sintillating things about me.

1.The book that gave me the inspiration to tackle my book The Haphazard Gardener was Mirabel Osler's 'A Gentle Plea for Chaos' and Clare Leighton's 'Four Hedges'. 

2. My favourite author is Alan Bennett - for his dry sense of humour and matter of fact storytelling.

3. My biggest heartache was leaving my beautiful garden is Sussex in 2005.

4. My happiest decade + was from 1989 when I met my lovely husband Philip to 2005 when we sold up.

5. My favourite things are flowers, trees, mountains, clouds and waterfalls.

My five nominees are:-

1. Jerry Fresia - an insprirational artist & author who lives on Lake Como. Sign up for his newsletter for a magical journey.
2. The owner of the next blog appears to be anoynmous but it is a wonderful blog of poetry, photographs and flash fiction.
3. Joanna Cannon - - Joanna writes truely wonderful words full of understanding and perception.
4. Tracy Fells - - Tracy is from Sussex a county I miss very much - she has intersting posts and lovely photographs.
5.  Julie - - Lots of information and gorgeous photographs.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A new month - a new beginning

A new month – a new beginning!  Today I published my book and set up distribution to – and several other book distribution companies.  At the moment it's only available from If you live in Italy you will have the same problems as me and need to wait for Amazon or the Book Depository to be ready to sell it.

I have waited all month.  Apparently FeedARead weren’t receiving my emails!  After a few tense weeks I managed to make contact and my book was sent to me.  Today I thought that I would have to write – ‘still not arrived’ but it arrived on Friday and today my book is out there for all to buy, except it will take a few days to filter through to Amazon etc.  I am pleased with it.  I can’t promise that there may not be a few typo’s still – read June blog to understand why!

Now to promoting the book!

I have an author page @  and a new website @ as well as this blog.  When my book is at Amazon I will create an author page there as well.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Trying to be Positive

The Haphazard Gardener is back with FeedARead proofed and waiting to be printed.  I have made some changes and hopefully found all the mistakes; but I seem to find typos in a lot of things I read.  With so many hours spent by different people checking and yet still missing the most obvious mistakes I am convinced that you read words as you want to read them.

FeedARead contacted me today to say I could order my author copy to check before launching!  This time it worked – I could go to my account and order one – although the postage seemed a bit steep BUT I couldn’t have it posted to my address. They don’t deliver to Italy.  I am so confused with all of this.  One reason for choosing them was that they were International – they have known from the outset where I was based – I asked a few questions before I took this route! 

I’ve sent an email with HELP written in large text and have received a reply today – if I send them my address they will send one out to me – so I am another step nearer to having the book out in the big wide world!

I have been working on my new website to be published when the book is launched.  I was given the domain name by my daughter and son-in-law ‘because we are so proud of you’.  I won’t tell you what I felt for a couple of days whilst trying to set the website up – but now it is well on its way and looking good.

I need to add gadgets, create a QR and add lots more text.  I’ve used the phrase ‘learning curve’ often but for me it is a very steep hill I am climbing.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Reading the review copy

FeedARead and I batted emails backwards and forwards until at last I received my ‘author’ copy for review.  OMG it is such a pretty book – it brought tears to my eyes.  I jumped up and down a little and then remembered my recent diagnosis and told myself to calm down and breathe deeply.

Now I can see the manuscript as a book – which I can hold in my hand.  It’s a nice size – the line spacing could be closer but I like it as it is.  The older black and white photographs shown are the best they can be – they’ve been rattling around for years – in boxes and folders – some of them date back to 1934/35 so you can expect them to be a bit faded.  I tidied them and enhanced them with Photoshop.  The interior looks very nice.  The cover is great - the front cover a photograph that my daughter Sorcha took at least ten years ago - whilst I was busy gardening.  The back cover a photograph of mine - of one of the woodland walks in the wild garden at Orchards.  Wonderful memories.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The book is now published

The Haphazard Gardener was completed last year with the help and guidance of Sue Johnson - tutor with Writers' News Home Study Courses.  The words came thick and fast; suddenly I knew where the book was going and in which order to put it all together.  Sometimes one assignment critique from Sue was followed swiftly by my next finished assignment.  She spoke of 'letting her coffee go cold' whilst she read the next piece.  My confidence grew.

The manuscript has had so many read-throughs, each time I came across silly little mistakes; whether read to myself or aloud.  My daughter Sorcha gave me the final proofread. 

I offered the manuscript to several publishers and received some nice responses - but all rejections except via Vanity Publishers; some of which required a fortune to publish, whilst others were more modest.

An advert for FeedARead appeared to be the solution I was looking for.  The book is now published - privately - whilst I wait for my copy to review.  Once reviewed it will go public.  In the meantime I am working on a kindle copy.

The Book

The Haphazard Gardener has been in the 'writing' since 2002, when, whilst convalescing from major surgery, I began to write about my beautiful garden in Sussex.  Pieces of prose, thoughts about the garden, poems, were all part of my daily writing life for several weeks, whilst others worked in the garden on my behalf.  March 2003 found me hospitalised once more, yet still I 'crutched' my way around the garden with my first visitors of the new season.

The late Rosemary Verey, a family friend had suggested in 1990, that I wrote a daily journal about the garden and the jobs that need to be done.  This I did from then onwards and it is from these journals, the bones of the book took shape.