Wednesday, 25 March 2015

A Free Short Story and a Bargain Full-length Novel

Hanson's Hunch 

A Five-star Review from top Amazon reviewer C. Lahain:

A detective tries to solve a series of murders where the victims have no obvious relationship to one another.

This is a short, suspenseful work. Spicer packs a lot of character and action into it. The motive behind the killings isn't something I've seen before. Detective Hanson remains something of an enigma throughout the piece. We get the sense of a complicated and gifted intellect, and the tiny peek into his home life hints at an abundance of warmth buried under the all-business exterior. I would have loved even more of this personal side as a contrast to the nightmare going on around them.

The end comes as a big surprise. I'm still not sure how I feel about it...very mixed emotions for reasons anyone who reads it will understand. However, this resolution did add a nice splash of dark humor.

Free until 30th March









My Grandfather's Eyes 

With an average of 4.6 out of 5 stars for 25 reviews, this is a book that you can get your teeth into. 

Here's what reviewers say:

'The protagonist in this novel is Alex Crane who must surely be a contender for one of the most selfish, self-centred and egotistical characters of twenty first century fiction so far. Even though she is such an unpleasant character her story is completely riveting and you become totally absorbed in her life.'

‘My Grandfather’s Eyes is an adult, psychological suspense story, written in a masterful, unforced style by an author who writes powerfully about the hidden desires human beings may harbour, despite their unattainability. For me, it was difficult to get into initially, probably because I was hung up on the author’s previous work and expecting a few wry sitcom moments, but I’m glad I persisted – it is a wonderful work of readable ‘literature’ and a terrific achievement. It deserves every one of the five stars I have no hesitation in awarding. I hope the author writes more works with the same insights into human nature.'

'A much darker tale than Bunny on a Bike, this tale shows a different facet of Bev's skill as a writer. Wonderful use of language! And complex relationships described in detail. The main character Alex had large moles on her face and this made her more real to me as I am not enamoured of cliched, excessively beautiful characters. An excellent read that kept me transfixed to the end.'

Just 99p/99c until 28th March





Tuesday, 3 March 2015

My French Life - Buying the house of our dreams...argh!

  (If you would like to read previous posts, please go to My French Life.)

So, the house of our dreams was going to be in up-market Corme Royal, with its very own 12th century church.  Around seven miles from where we were staying in our rented gite.  Little did I realise that finding a house was only the first step in a long, and incredibly boring process, fraught with traps for gormless hippy-types whose French was still a little rusty and whose life experience had been, thus far, as pleasant as a tranquil scene from a Wordsworth poem. Twiddle dee, twiddle dum.




The square in Corme Royal - very posh!



However, undaunted by the huge problems we were yet to discover...we made a semi-confident offer slightly below the asking price, which was promptly rejected.  “Yes,” said Anna, our costly estate agent (10%!!), the house is over priced, “but Mme X has no need to sell quickly, if at all…”

It turned out that the house had, in fact, been on the market for four years, in which time Mme X had received one (derogatory) offer.  One offer in four years!  So, with the logic of French property sales going over our heads once again, we upped our offer as much as we could, whilst nervously watching the exchange rate steadily descend.

Sadness.   

To cut a (very) long story short, in the end we agreed a price that would just about cripple us financially, and (more frightening still) stretch our largely fictional mortgage application to breaking point.  All for the incomparable delight of sitting in an overly spacious office, with an overly important notaire, who treated us to a heart-felt rendition of the forty-page document detailing everything from our full names, date of birth and shoe size, to the terms and conditions surrounding various guarantees against termites, building integrity and the presence of lead and asbestos.  

Asbestos?

It was at this point, perched on the edge of our chairs and on the brink of despair, that several worrying as yet unmentioned ‘minutiae’ were uncovered:  The roof was asbestos (but, apparently, not the ‘dangerous’ type), the wall in the bouanderie was asbestos, too (type not specified).  Some of the paint used in the house was so laden with lead that we were advised to remove it only whilst wearing protective clothing and quality breathing equipment, and to ensure that our children didn’t inhale for a month after such removal.  Also, (a minor point) we learned that our toilet was not connected to the mains, but rather functioned via a ‘fosse etanche’ which was situated under the bathroom and which, according to Mme. X was a state-of-the-art system, and which, according to the notaire, was technically illegal, unless we had specifically agreed to not having it changed and brought up to the ‘norme’.  

What?*! 

There was a pause in the proceedings, which had my husband and I thinking about backing out of the whole deal.  Especially when we had also learned that the clause I’d asked for in the agreement which ensured that the house would be left to the surviving spouse in the event of extreme misfortune (and not immediately divided up between the snapping children), had been omitted!

Mon Dieu!

In the end, being irrepressibly optimistic and a tad gullible, we signed on an infinite number of dotted lines and hoped for the best.  

Mme X looked smug and Mr. X seemed delighted.  

“It’ll be fine!” said Al.
“I love you,” I replied.



 Much more fun than buying a house!


For better or for worse, the house was ours.  What next?  Oh, yes.  We needed to rewire it. “How does 14,000 euros sound?” enquired a friend of a friend, who lived in a very big house and drove a very nice car.  “What about 9,000 euros?” offered a fully qualified and above-board English electrician (no language barrier...).  My mouth flapped, Al’s jaw dropped, and I set about getting more quotes. 

Finally, we hired a local French electrician who quoted 6,000 euros and gave us a 10% discount.  Sorted!  We arranged the dates for the work to be completed two weeks before we were due to leave the gite and move in.  Perfect.

Did I say ‘perfect’? 

Happy Days!

(to be continued…)

Saturday, 28 February 2015



huge 

*thank you*

to 

Cathy Ryan

 for featuring

 'My Grandfather's Eyes'

on her excellent blog today:






Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Living and Writing

There are many ways to write a book.

I tried storyboarding once.  I laid my story out like a patient on an operating table and fiddled with it until it died.  Now I keep everything between my ears and listen carefully while I clean the cooker and pack the fridge.  While I ferry food and cheer at football matches.

When the beautiful but fragile first draft is done I let it rest.  I leave it to get stronger while I try for a family picnic, or a trip to the beach with cold beer and sun.

When it calls me back I ignore it.  Until (I tell myself) I have forgotten it. Then I gently shake it to see what life is left.  To see what surgery is needed.  And, before you can say 'it's nearly Christmas' a year has passed and the story sits up and smiles.

Living and writing - I want both.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Simone, Simone by Peter Davey

I loved this story. So well written. So engaging. The only reason I've given it a four-star rating is because, for me, the magic stalled just a little when Simone and Alain were talking about Alain's writing career in the cabin. The rest of the time, I was held in Peter Davey's spell. He really can evoke those feelings we all have of missed opportunities and sinking regret. That's not to say that this is a sentimental story. Not at all. The plot is clever. And the ending has a very satisfying twist.

I read 'Loved and Lost in Lewisham' some time ago and enjoyed it very much. 'Simone Simone', in my opinion, is even better. Highly recommended.









Saturday, 14 February 2015



HAVE FUN 
WITH 
BEV AND CAROL!




One Summer in France view here
&
Bunny on a Bike view here

99p each today




Thursday, 12 February 2015

A Good Day for Jumping





They made breakfast together in Blair’s kitchen.  She knew her way around now.  There were lots of gadgets.  Blair loved that kind of thing.  He had a huge coffee machine that made noisy cappuccinos; a juicer that took the whole fruit, skin and all; and a toasted sandwich maker that looked as though it had come from the next century.  She watched him making ham and cheese toasties with English mustard.  His hands were elegant, like the hands of a piano player.  There were tiny crinkles around his eyes that made him look as though he were always about to smile.  Now, with his head bent forward, he looked vulnerable – the soft down of hair on the back of his neck gently curled, his long intimate eyelashes fluttered against his cheek.  Sarah thought him beautiful this morning.  But she kept him back a little, knowing that she was not in love.
“Shall we go out somewhere after breakfast?”  He handed her a toastie.
“Okay, if you want to.”  She sat on the small sofa, with one leg tucked under her.  She hadn’t planned on staying all day.
“How about a spot of shopping in the King’s Road?”
“Bit skint at the moment.  The agency’s always late with my cheque.  Do you know how much they make out of it?”
“A disgusting amount, inevitably.” He watched her talking about things that didn’t matter and thought her all the more enchanting.
“You wouldn’t believe it! But it’s not forever.  They only get commission until the end of the year. Leeches!”  She had the impression he was not listening to what she was saying.  “This is a great toastie!”
“I noticed.  Want another?”
“Yes please.”
She had shoved the rest of the sandwich into her mouth and started laughing because she couldn’t speak.  She covered her mouth with her hand while Blair shook his head and grinned.
They had more breakfast and drank strong coffee, sitting close together on the couch, looking out at the leaves of the trees scintillating against the blue of the early spring sky.  Sarah’s mouth was greasy and she wiped it with the back of her hand.  It was something she would not normally have done, but she knew that Blair would be shocked, and so she was brazen. It made him giggle like a schoolboy.
He took the plates and cups and tidied everything up.  Sarah watched him and thought him obsessive.  He wiped the sideboard with a new cloth, lifting the jars and cleaning underneath them.  He unplugged the toastie machine and cleaned it carefully so as not to get water on the electric cable.  He even swept the floor, twice.  Sarah wondered how long she could stand all this if they lived in the same house together.  Did he have equally fastidious habits in the rest of the house that she hadn’t noticed yet?  Certainly, the bathroom was spotless and the towels were always clean and folded.  Blair folded the dishcloth and clapped his hands together.
“Finished?”  she asked.
“Finished what?”
“Practising to be old?” she laughed.
He stared at her, not knowing what she meant.
“Who ever folds the dishcloth?”  She stood up and dangled the cloth in front of his face.
“Oh.  Ha! Ha!  Very funny.”  He didn’t want her to make a fool of him.
“Here!” she dropped the cloth into his hand, bored by his lukewarm reaction.
She imagined what Andy would have done in the same situation.  Not that he would have tidied up in the first place.  But if she had held a dishcloth to his face he would have snatched it and chased her, finally rubbing it in her own face and holding her down until she begged to be let go.  She couldn’t imagine Blair doing anything like that. 
“Hey, it’s sunny, lets go out, see what happens.” 
His optimism was unkillable.  But the day was bright and it would do her good to be in the fresh air for a while.  There was no rush to get home, after all.

It was springtime in Hyde Park, and there were people out together enjoying the sun.  Sarah wore a red floral dress and sandals, feeling a little cold in the shade.  The trees in the park were huge and she wondered what kind they were.  They should be something magnificent, like oak. Blair would know.  He knew a lot of things that she didn’t.  She didn’t want him to tell her, though.  The trees did not need names.
They walked along the path next to the Serpentine. There were boats, ice-cream salesmen, even a restaurant by the lake.  It had everything.
And it had nothing. 
Sarah was on the outside of this world, where colours were bright and gaudy and sounds rang out audaciously across the park.  She watched a child throwing a stick for her dog, a group of boys playing football, a woman reading on a bench. It was like looking into a fairytale, or a painting, it wasn’t real.  She thought about Andy.  Where he was, there was a different sun that hardened the earth and cracked the skin on her brother’s face.  His heavy boots blistered his soft flesh and his weapon pressed hard into his shoulder where it dug in as he moved.  The weapon that he used to fire at the soldiers of the Taliban.  Men of flesh and blood who were themselves sons, brothers, husbands, fathers.  This world was real.  It mattered more to her. 
“What’s on your mind, beautiful girl?”  Blair had stopped walking.
“Nothing,” she lied.   “I wish I hadn’t worn these sandals, that’s all.  They’re pinching.” As she said it, she noticed the pettiness of such a complaint.
“Take them off, then,” he said, laughing. 
“Oh, they’re not that bad.  I’ll get used to them.”  She looked at him and was suddenly moved.  “Kiss me!” 
“Here?  With all these people watching?”  He was laughing still.
“Yes, why not?”  It was already too late. 
He looked around and took her hand to lead her away from the path.  They sat under the branches of a huge tree and Blair kissed her. She could not lose herself, but for a moment the sunlight glinted through the green canopy and made a part of her brain spark.  She felt warm and wanted.  She felt Blair’s love, even if she was not able to return it.
“What kind of tree is this?”  she asked, her voice distant.
“It’s an oak,” he said looking up through its branches.
“I thought it was.”  She leaned her head against his shoulder and felt a shudder run through her.
“Are you okay, Sarah?”  He drew back from her.
“Yes.  Yes, just cold in the shade.  Can we go back to the path?  We could get a coffee if you like?”  She was babbling.
Blair stood and held out his hand to help her.  He was a handsome, kind boy.  She could see the damage she would do to him when she left him.
“Maybe I should go home.  I’m spoiling your day,” she said.
“Don’t be absurd.  Come on, let’s get a coffee.” 
Inside, his chest constricted.  He knew that she did not love him as he did her.  But it was a passive knowledge and he chose to keep it unspoken, even to himself.  There was still more he could do to win her; he would not give up easily.  He thought of his own parents.  Of how they had married, not for love, but because their families had brought them together.  They were suited to each other.  He saw that their love for each other now was enduring, based on respect and compatibility.  It was not what he wanted for himself though, and when he looked at Sarah he knew that he had found the girl he wanted to marry, only for love. 
“Do you think you’ll stay at Firth’s forever?” she asked him, to break the silence.
“I don’t know,” he replied.
“I won’t,” she said.
He was glad she had turned her face away from him when she had said it.

It was almost dark by the time Sarah got back to the flat. Wendy had gone away for the weekend and the place was quiet.  She sat in a chair and got out Andy’s letters.  He would be coming home at the end of June, in just over three months.  He was almost half-way through his tour of duty, but this gave Sarah little comfort.  She was not at all sure that he would not decide to go back.  She would do everything she could to stop him.