Saturday, 23 February 2013

The Liebster Blog Award

First of all, I'd like to thank the totally terrific Terry Tyler for taking any notice of me at all and for asking me to take part in this most strangely entitled blog tag thing.  Secondly, I wouldn't mind knowing what the award is, not that I have any chance of winning it, but just so that I can say something appropriate to the person who does..

Here is the link to Terry Tyler's lively post and very entertaining blog:

This bit I copied from Terry's post, who copied it from K J Waters' post, to tell people what it's all about ~

The purpose of the Liebster Blog Award is to recognize blogs with fewer than 200 followers that deserve a look. My job is to list 11 random facts about me, answer the 11 questions Terry Tyler has set me, then to nominate 11 new bloggers, who should bask in the Liebster glow - which means doing the same as I am doing here! ie, post a blog linking back here, with 11 random facts about you, answer my 11 questions and nominate 11 new bloggers (and think of 11 questions to ask them - can be anything!). Off we go then...


11 random facts about me

1. I used to work for Playboy as a blackjack dealer.  Some of you might have read about this in 'Bunny on a Bike'.  Please try not to judge me too harshly.  I was ridiculously young and fabulously naive.  My friend 'Carol' can't remember a thing about it, but I'm pretty sure it happened anyway.

2. I would love to have been an astronomer/physicist. Truly. I met Patrick Moore at the Astrofest, followed a course at Hertford University led by the unreasonably attractive and utterly brilliant Dr. Stuart Clark (, listened to Jocelyn Bell describing how she discovered black holes and I've read books too numerous to mention on every theory of everything: strings, cats, photons and slits etc. etc.

3. Confession: I think Prof. Brian Cox is delicious in every way. Here's a photo of him showing people how to listen for background radiation:


4. I loved my VW camper van.  I bought it from two Americans in Greece, where I worked as a teacher of English and Aerobics (usually separate classes) for two fantastic years.  Mimi proposed the deal by popping her head inside my shower curtain after a high impact class and I had to say something, so I said 'yes'.  I drove it back to England through Yugoslavia, Italy, Switzerland and France. My orange camper van provided me with enough adventures for a lifetime.  Do I miss it?  Do I wish I'd kept it? Mais oui!!! 

5. Food I love: homemade meringues and whipped double cream, dark whiskey truffles, bacon, spinach, The Vermonster icecream.

6. I used to drink special brew and blackcurrant. I also used to look like Kim Wilde, eat PopTarts and fancy Illya Kuryakin.

7. I hate being told what to do or how to do it.  I have a special look for people who try this.  You wouldn't like it.

8. Confession: I sometimes put cream on my wholegrain cereals.

9. I know how to fly a glider. This skill was mainly accomplished in self-defence, in order not to resort to throwing myself off the top of a mountain in Wales where my father took me most weekends to go flying.  I also learned a lot about mist, cloud formation and sheep.

10. I lived and worked in Seychelles for a year.  Beaches, palm trees, sunshine, giant poisonous centipedes, bird-eating spiders, shark attacks and weevils in my cornflakes (handy tip - put milk on and wait for them to float to the surface).  Not that I'm complaining.  

11. I wish I liked shellfish. Living in SW France, with its vast array of shellfish and its healthy attitude to food (if it moves, kill it and eat it) I wish I could combine the pleasures of dissection and degustation. 

Right.  Here is the second part of this extravaganza.  Terry set some questions and I shall do my best to answer them...

1.  What's your favourite flavour of crisps?

Crisps in France are either plain, cheese or peanut flavour. I stick to plain. I used to like Walker's cheese and onion (happy days!)

2.  How many of other people's blog posts do you read per day, on average?

Per day! When I go on Twitter (three or four times a week), I do look at one or two blogs, especially those with poetry.  It strikes me that everyone else has a far better idea of how to create a blog than I do.  But I am learning.

3.  If you weren't promoting your book/blog, would you still use Twitter/Facebook so much? If not, how much would you?

Honestly?  I probably would never have used Twitter had I not started writing.  When I started, about eight months ago, I thought it was the biggest waste of time and totally boring.  I persevered only because I wanted to publicise my books.  Now, I really look forward to getting a personal tweet, especially a funny one.  Facebook is just to keep up with friends and family and to see lots of photos, especially of my daughter, who still lives in England.

4.  Do you smoke?  If not, did you ever?  (I know at least one person I've tagged has good reason to really, really hate it)

I hate smoking. It smells.  Of course I did try it at the bottom of the school fields when I was about 16 (very late developer).  I lit the wrong end and was the 'butt' of everyone's jokes for ages! What?!

5.  When a doctor asks you how much you drink, do you lie?

I tell him to mind his own business.
6.  What is your star sign?  Do you know about the typical characteristics of that sign, and if so, which ones apply to you?

I'm an amateur astronomer!  Sorry, we don't have star signs, just unfashionable clothes. 

7.  Do you remember your first blog post?  What was it about?

Just looked. It was about 'Bunny on a Bike' and involved Carol telling me off for calling her 'a bit of a fictional character'.

8.  Imagine you have to give up these four things for a month:  Alcohol, writing, listening to music, television.  Starting with the one you would find the easiest to give up, in what order would you find them the easiest to do without? 

Alcohol, television, music.  I would rather eat a country pie than give up writing.

9.  I love QI, Have I Got News For You, Mock The Week, Ed Byrne, Frankie Boyle sometimes, Fawlty Towers, Python,  Catherine Tate.. and loads more.  I loathe Michael McIntyre.  What do you/don't you find funny?

Most of the above.  Also, Eddie Izzard, Sean Lock, Bill Bailey and, wait for it... Mickey Flanagan! My husband does a brilliant  Billy Connolly, but I don't like the real thing much.

10.  Do you watch soap operas?  If so, which is your favourite, and if not, why not?
Not my kind of thing.  I suppose I don't think they're worth watching. Too unrealistic and full of confrontational people with their arms crossed and their chins jutting. I did used to follow Coronation Street when I was at university, mainly to annoy my middle class boyfriend.

11.  And finally - please put a link here to any of your blog posts - tell us what it's about, and why you have chosen it!
I wrote this poem when I'd been cooped up in someone else's house and felt the need to escape and be on my own.  You know the feeling.  I chose this post because I want more people to read my poetry! 

So, all that remains for me to do is to find some people to tag to answer the questions that are brewing somewhere between my ears.  Now, who shall I pick...?

When you’ve done your 11 random facts about yourself, you should answer these questions:

1. What’s the most beautiful place you’ve ever visited and why?

2.  Do you ever read (or write) poetry. Why/Why not?

3.  Who would be the perfect dinner date and why?

4.  If you could be someone else for a day, who would it be and why?

5.  Would you prefer to go into space or explore the ocean floor (safely) and why?

6.  Describe the view from one of the windows in your house/apartment.

7.  Can you remember your first kiss?  Keep it clean!

8.  Do you do anything to keep fit? What or why not?

9.  Describe yourself when you were around eighteen.

10. Where do you stand on football? (Try not to be silly, now)

11. What kind of music do you listen to?

Thank you for taking the time to read this!  I hope you will now take a look at these other fine people's blogs, as they have all agreed to take part :)

I nominate these people for The Liebster Award: 


Bill Carson

Friday, 22 February 2013

Excerpt from 'One Summer in France'

('One Summer in France' is the prequel to 'Bunny on a Bike')

Camping la Belle Sirène, was far more touristy than the Municipal Camping de Carcassonne, and much more up-market.  It had proper tarmacked roads, a café, a crêperie, a shop, a pool, tennis courts and lots of happy campers.
‘What does Sirène mean?’ asked Carol, looking serene.
‘Mermaid,’ I replied.
‘And what does complèt mean?’ she eyed me, vitriolically.
I was proud of my superior knowledge of the French language.  Complèt means full.’
The world was a cruel place for people like us, who did not understand the wisdom of planning ahead, or making such things as reservations.
‘Let’s ask anyway,’ I said. ‘You never know!’
‘Sod it!’ replied Carol.

Chapter 11

It was 2.00 and Anna said that there would be a free emplacement by 3.00, without electricity but with shade.  The emplacement would cost twenty-two francs a night, more than double the cost of the previous campsite, but, as Carol pointed out, this was the South of Piggin’ France and there was ‘stuff’ to do that didn’t involve cats and dull old blokes.
I thought her assessment of Antoine and Cedric’s generous hospitality very harsh, but was secretly pleased to be in a younger, more lively place, even if it would make a hole in our daily allowance.  We had ninety nights to go and 4,000 francs left, give or take.  That meant we had just over forty-two francs a day.  We were loaded!
Having set up our tent and kind of unpacked, we went down to the centre and made for the crêperie.  I had a pancake with Nutella and ice cream and Carol had one with Marsala, which smelled nice.  She wouldn’t let me try any on the grounds that I might like it.

The campsite was buzzing.  People arriving, people leaving and people wandering in and out of the shop, pool, café, crêperie.
Then, at half past seven, everyone disappeared.  We decided that we would buy a gas stove and cook some steak, so off we went to the supermarket, which was, miraculously, about to close also. Anna waved us in and went back behind the meat counter.  She was a beautiful woman, we decided, with her short dark hair and her olive skin.  We asked for some steak and she cut two thin slices from a larger piece, popping a sliver of raw meat into her mouth as she served us.  We assumed she knew what she was doing. I wondered whether she might be a vampire.
‘Do you stay on the campsite all the time?’ I asked.
‘I have a tent with my husband just behind the café.  We work the summer season and then go to the mountains.’
I had no experience of people working in this way and therefore had nothing very intelligent to add.  Unfortunately, this didn’t stop me.
‘Is it an interesting place to work?’ I smiled, alluringly.
Anna looked at me as though I had just landed from another planet and didn’t understand the notion of a holiday wage or the concept of exploitation.
‘It’s ok.  We manage.’ She smiled back.
Carol stood on my foot and said thank you to Anna, pushing me towards the exit and the remnants of the bread left over at the end of the day.
‘We need some ketchup,’ I protested.
‘No we don’t,’ said Carol, propelling me towards the checkout and away from Anna.
‘What’s the matter?’ I muttered.
‘You just told Anna her life was crap!’ she replied.
‘No, I-’
‘Yes, you did!’
‘Did I?’
‘Oh, shit!’
When we got to the checkout, there was no one there.  I whistled nervously and Carol scowled.  Moments later, Anna arrived, slipping behind the checkout desk and putting our purchases through the till.
‘What does your husband do, Anna?’ I asked, before Carol had time to stop me.
‘He looks after the cleanliness of the campsite,’ she said, warily.
I was about to ask whether that meant he was a bin-man, when Carol blurted out that she had left her purse in the tent.
‘That’s okay, you can pay me tomorrow,’ smiled Anna, her teeth brilliant white, her expression radiant.
Outside, I pointed out that Carol’s purse was in her pocket, but she didn’t seem to care.  I wondered what in the world had got into her.

We went for a swim before dinner.  The pool was open late on Saturdays, so we were in luck.  I wore my South-of-France-Dream-Goddess bikini, purchased from a local boutique in Hanley and chosen for it’s brilliant yellow and chain links at the front of the top and the sides of the bottoms.  Carol wore a well-engineered, silky green number that brought out the colour of her eyes.
We sauntered into the pool area and had a look at the competition.  There were a few glamorous women who were obviously older, richer and more interesting than we were, so we installed ourselves enticingly in one corner and waited for the single men on holiday at La Belle Sirène, to make their way over. 
In the meantime, we became fascinated with the women and their complicated accessories for poolside life.  They had stylish headwear, little skirts to cover up their cellulite, a range of garish jewellery and were wearing, as far as we could tell, copious amounts of makeup.  They were dressed up to the nines and, unbeknown to us, consumed with envy towards the two very young and very pretty girls who were now giggling and dipping their toes in the water.
It didn’t matter how much I smiled at them, when I managed to catch one of their eyes, they looked as though they would like to kill me.
‘Do you think we have come to a private party?’ I whispered to Carol, eventually.
‘Nah!  They’re just old and jealous,’ she replied.
‘Really?’ The thought that I had anything that they could possibly want had not occurred to me.
‘Yeah.  We have no wrinkles,’ she said.
I looked more closely, and I saw what Carol meant.  So, that was it.  Well I never!  And suddenly I remembered a line from a poem by Keats.
‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty!’ I said to Carol.
The look she gave me betrayed the fact that she was not a fan of classical poetry and so I smiled benignly and told her not to worry.  It was just something I had read somewhere.

If you would like more of Carol and Bev, you can download one of my books now, by clicking on the direct links to Amazon at the top of this page.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

They Say

It was for love,
You know.

Tina Stone, she
Heard them.
Right through the

She said there
Was a row
Such as she'd
Never heard,
She said.

And they found the mirror

And money gone
From Mrs Jones'

And post unopened
On the

I heard he ripped
The hinges from the gate.

Molly saw her
Crying at the window
With her lipstick

It was red.

But what a shame
They left her.
Poor girl,
What thoughts she
Must have had,
With him gone
Like that.

There was blood upon
The pillow
And an eyelash
Loose upon her

She held a pen
And left us
All to guess
What it would

It was for love,
No doubt.

Do you think
You could?

No, dear, no.
Not for the likes
Of him, dear,

But for love?

There's no love
Worth it, I should

They found the
Paper on the
Floor beside the

Lying there.

Perhaps she changed
Her mind
Too late
And no one

She could have
Called out, dear.

Perhaps it
Was for love
After all, d'you think?

Friday, 15 February 2013

A Very British Blog!!!

Very British writer Clive Eaton has invited some writers to answer some Very British questions!  I have been tagged by Terry Tyler whose very interesting answers you can find here:

And here are mine:

Q. Where were you born and where do you live at the moment?
I was born in Bridgnorth, a market town in the Midlands on the river Severn.  I could see the tower clock on the bridge from my bedroom window and watch the traffic crossing over it at night time.  Fond memories of panting my way up Stoneway Steps in my over-sized navy-blue uniform and ridiculous beret to Bridgnorth Grammar School!  I now live in SW France in a rather pretty village, in a traditional Charentaise house that is in the process of being renovated (lots of pictures on the link on the right of this page, if you like that kind of thing).

Q. Have you always lived and worked in Britain or are you based elsewhere at the moment?
How long have you got?  I started out as a teacher in Milton Keynes (the kids loved me so much that one of them let my tyres down on my last day – obviously to stop me leaving!).  Then, I worked as an EFL teacher on Crete for two years, in Rethymnon – wonderful.  Went to Seychelles after that and worked for the Government, living on the main island of Mahé and going to work on the smaller island of St. Anne on a WWII landing craft with a dodgy engine - made life interesting as we drifted out into the Indian Ocean.  Flew back to England via a few more places (two months pregnant and only able to eat chips and bread) and ended up in Cambridge, living in a camper van and teaching at Clare College.  Finally got a lecturing post at Anglia Ruskin University – wonderful job and wonderful people.  Have been in France for almost four years now, teaching a few lessons and writing a few books.  Where next??

Q. Which is your favourite part of Britain?
That’s easy. Shropshire. I'm a Shropshire lass, born and bred.  I come from a family of market gardeners and accountantsI love the sight of a ploughed field or a clean balance-sheet!

Q. Have you ‘highlighted’ or ‘showcased’ any particular part of Britain in your books? For example, a town or city; a county, a monument or some well-known place or event?
'Bunny on a Bike' is set in 80s London, seen through the eyes of a young graduate who makes a random career choice.  I got to know the Oxford Street area well and spent a lot of time in Hyde Park (loved Speakers' Corner).  One of my most magical memories is of feeding the sparrows in St. James' Park (one small heart beating against each of my outspread fingers).

'My Grandfather’s Eyes' features the Cambridge area, although a good deal of it is set in Northern Italy.

'A Good Day for Jumping' is set in London, Afghanistan, Crete (the majority of the time) and Bristol (the bridge plays a huge part in the story, although not in the way you may think).  I spent a lot of time with my friend who has a flat in the posh part of Bristol - now, she is the most 'British' person I know, (originally from Goa). 

'One Summer in France' starts off in the north of England, in and around Keele, where I went to university, but most of the action takes place in, you guessed it, France.  The character of Bev is more or less based on my view of myself at the time as a bimbo-graduate with a quirky love of English literature and an indefatigable spirit of adventure. 

Q. There is an illusion – or myth if you wish - about British people that I would like you to discuss. Many see the ‘Brits’ as having a ‘stiff upper lip’. Is that correct?
I don’t believe in stereotypes, obviously.  But the idea of bearing hardship and injustice with a stoical indifference has a very heroic feel to it and is probably rooted in British history and social culture, along with the various other 'virtues' that used to be an important part of a good education.  Whether present day society gives the same importance to such values is questionable.  Perhaps we could ask a couple of MPs.

Q. Do any of the characters in your books carry the ‘stiff upper lip’? Or are they all ‘British Bulldog’ and unique in their own way?
My characters are generally fairly flawed.  They are just as likely to run away as to stand and fight.  It depends on the situation.  I suppose Joyce Shackleton ('A Good Day for Jumping') is the nearest I get to  the ‘stiff upper lip’ idea.  She is an eccentric and complex character who tends to live by a code that may seem admirable, but which does her very little good in the end.

Q. Tell us about one of your recent books
One of my most recent books is 'A Good Day for Jumping'. I must say that it took a great deal of writing and I would probably consider it as some of my best work so far.
There are various character-based story lines, which come together and lead the reader to what I hope is an intriguing and satisfying conclusion. The action takes place mainly on the island of Crete, where our 'hero' Stephen Firth arrives, having ditched his fiancee at the altar. He meets the charismatic Kookis (proprietor of a Kafeneon in Rethymnon) and, through him, Roula, who is a wholesome, highly intelligent, yet vulnerable girl, unused to the undignified and petty behaviour Stephen Firth exhibits.  My favourite character, if not Kookis, is probably Joyce Shackleton, who has a compelling story to reveal and who holds a secret that leads to the climax of the novel.
People have said that my style of writing can be almost poetic and I am deeply flattered by such comments. What I am interested in, is portraying a character with language that is potent, succinct and, hopefully, original (nobody likes a cliché)

 Q. What are you currently working on?
I am almost finished with the third draft of ‘Martha’ (horrendous working title).  I sometimes think I make my life too difficult because this one is a mixed genre and, I would say, has a mixed register, too, ranging from almost literary to fairly contemporary.  There  are a number of characters, each with his or her own story.  The overall tone is one of a present day soap opera, set in France, with the addition of an element of the thriller, which lends a fairly violent and chilling edge to an otherwise idyllic story line.  Claude Cousteau was one of the very first characters I conceived, in my very first completed book 'A Taste of Lemons'.   I have a couple of very honest friends who prevented me from publishing this first novel (my baby - so true in retrospect!), but I have stolen Claude and am delighted with the evil contrast he provides in 'Martha'. 

I shall be publishing when it is ready!

Q. How do you spend your leisure time? 
Swimming, reading, watching Professor Brian Cox on TV and a lot of BBC Four (I can see you yawning).  Sometimes half a film.  I don’t like cooking.  I love to look at the stars and I read lots of books on quantum theory and astro-physics (weird, eh?). Oh, and I love my new Kindle.

Q. Do you write for a local audience or a global audience?
That’s a difficult one.  I would say that I write for anyone who can read English and who likes a character-driven novel with surprises in the plot to keep you guessing.
My lighter titles 'Bunny on a Bike' and 'One Summer in France' are definitely written for people who appreciate British humour, specifically irony.

Q. Can you provide links to your work?
If you are still with me, and I thank you if you are, you'll find links to all my books on Amazon at the top of this page on the right.  Many thanks for your time.
It just remains for me to thank Clive Eaton for thinking up this blog tour and also Terry Tyler for inviting me to take part.   

Why not have a look at Francis Potts' blog for his answers to the same questions?  A very drole raconteur and sometimes delightfully silly person.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Writing and Selling Books

If there is a part of my 'job' that I still don't really like, it's the self-promotion part. 'Hey!  Look at my book!  It's a masterpiece! Buy it now!'

I know that I'm talking to people who know exactly what I mean, and if we didn't have to do it, wouldn't it be marvellous?

We could spend our precious free time writing books, creating the plots and the characters that inhabit that other world inside our heads as we go off to work, having shoved the latest pile of dirty washing into the machine so that we can forget to hang it out later.

I have my routine, just as everyone does. In the morning, I get up at around six-thirty, full of book, and see the kids to the school bus. Then it's home to write up my new ideas for a couple of hours before my husband gets up and goes to work in his office.  After coffee and almond croissants (I wish you could try one!) I do my tweeting and retweeting.  The tweets are fun to write and I enjoy trying to make them intriguing and snappy.  The retweeting takes a lot of time.  I like to read what I am retweeting and reply to any tweets I particularly like.  Then, before you can say 'that book will never get written', it's time to tidy the house and make some lunch, prepare my lessons and teach my classes.

The afternoons are chaotic and too boring to go on about here.  But I generally slink off and do some more writing when I can get away with it, always reading what I wrote earlier to get back into the flow and generally working until my eyes give out.

Evenings in are spent on the computer again, in front of the television.  I like to watch BBC four while I whizz around my virtual world, chatting with the interesting folk involved in the world of books; having a bit of a laugh and telling people about my writing.

And when a new book is finished, after all the edits and re-edits have been done, when it has been formatted and re-read before being published, I set about composing new tweets and wade in.  However,I can't help feeling that I am blowing my own trumpet very loudly indeed and that people will shudder to read that I have received another five-star review..

But the reviews I get thrill me.  They drive me on and validate my faith in my writing.  I am grateful for the effort made by the people who have not only read my books, but have taken the time and the trouble to leave a comment on Amazon or Goodreads.

As an examiner, I must say that the star rating is rather unscientific, but until someone comes up with a different system, I suppose we are stuck with it, even it it means that relatively unknown authors must rely upon other methods to get noticed, while people in the public eye zoom to the top of the charts and stay there. 

Selling books is quite different from writing books.  In a perfect world, we would all have someone to do it for us.  Having said that, my good friend and ex-astronomy teacher, Dr. Stuart Clark, assures me that the only person who ever sells books is the author.  He goes all over the world promoting his work. And he is very talented and successful.  Nevertheless, I am not convinced that I would like to follow this path (I know that you are thinking the same thing that I am thinking - 'Fat chance!'),  But I am glad not to be following the traditional route for now.  I like being in control of my books.

I suppose it's about finding the right balance and being a bit of a realist.  If I didn't tweet and if my fabulous friends on Twitter didn't retweet me, I would end up with a pile of books that would never be read, and that would be too sad.

So, if you have any miraculous solutions, leave a comment.  In the meantime, in a world where there are far more important things going on, I'll shut up and get on with it...