Thursday, 20 December 2012

Very Inspiring Blog Award and The Osmonds Christmas Album

I didn't plan to write another blog before Christmas, but I'm very pleased to accept this Very Inspiring Blog Award from the Very Inspiring Blogger, Rosemary Gemmell!
In accepting this I have to write seven random things about myself, but I thought I'd tell you what my favourite Christmas songs are instead, as it's only four more days to go!

7. All Alone on Christmas by Darlene Love because I love it in Love Actually.
6. Merry Christmas Baby by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band - who wouldn't love this?
5. Driving Home for Christmas by Chris Rea. The perfect song when you're driving home for Christmas!
4. Wonderful Christmastime by the wonderful Paul McCartney. Ching, ching, ching. Ching, ching, ching!
3. Fairytale of New York by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl. Who can resist the boys of the NYPD choir singing Galway Bay? I'm not sure of the rest of the lyrics though!
2. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Luther Vandross, because it sounds so warm and Christmassy.
1. The Osmonds Christmas Album by The Osmonds. There was once a snowy Christmas TV Special, and this is the album. Fabulous! 'There's No Snow in LA, So Santa Don't Bring Me a Sleigh!
I now have to nominate some more people with Very Inspiring Blogs, so I choose: Jen Black, Rebecca Emin, Angela Bell and Debbie White. Congratulations Ladies!

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Too busy? Would you like to clone yourself this Christmas? Read what happened to Lou Suffern in Cecelia Ahern's The Gift

I first read The Gift by Cecelia Ahern back in 2008 when it was published. As you can see, my hardback copy came covered with silvery snowflakes and tied with a bright red bow. Fantastic!
It's a magical Christmas story, that really makes you think about the consequences of trying to do too much and be in two places at once at this time of year.
Lou Suffren, a busy Dublin businessman, is such a person who takes pity on a homeless man called Gabe (yes, I know, but  you'll have to read it!) by giving him a job in the post room. This part reminds me a bit of The Secret of My Success, the 1987 film starring Michael J Fox, but Gabe soon gives Lou the ultimate gift which changes his life.
I can't tell you too much, because it would spoil the story, but I can certainly recommend it as a wonderful book to read at this time of year -  if you can find time!
I wish it could be made into a film. Adam Sandler would be great to play Lou because he played a similar role in Click.
This is probably my last blog before the big day because I'm quite busy myself at the moment!  Happy Christmas!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

You Really Must Read The Snow Child by Eowen Ivey!

Eowyn Ivey was named after Éowen a 'shieldmaiden' in The Lord of the Rings. She's so glad that they made the films so everyone knows at last how her name is pronounced - rather like Ay-wun! Now you know that, you must read her first novel,  The Snow Child
I caught up with her on Monday at The Wallingford Bookshop, where she had come all the way from Alaska to sign copies for waiting fans. A bookseller, herself, she was on a mission to visit several bookshops on her 'Snow Day', although at 9.30 am it had only just stopped raining! But as she drove along, she listened to Christmas CDs and Alison, who runs the shop, provided mince pies and other Christmas nibbles.
Now, back to the book itself, the quotes on the cover call it 'Spellbinding' and 'Enchanting', and I have to agree.
It's a fairy story for adults, though I think that young adults would enjoy it too, based on the traditional tale of  Snegudrochka or Little Daughter of the Snow as told by Arthur Ransome in Old Peter's Russian Tales.
In the story, an older couple, unable to have any children, build a little girl in the snow who comes to life.
Eowyn tells this story with beautiful imagery about the barren Alaskan winter, reflecting poor Mabel's sadness at losing a baby, and the joy she and Jack feel when the little girl, who they call Faina, comes into their lives. There are also their neighbours, the warm and friendly, Esther and George, and their son, Garrett, who helps Mabel and Jack, and becomes like a son to them, but who has an impact on the way the story turns out.
It's quite funny that in the first drafts of Gipsy Moth, I also had a childless couple called Mabel and Jack, although I did write Jack out in the end. So in a way I felt quite familiar with them, even if they lived in Devon and not Alaska!
As I said it's a beautiful story, one that I could not put down. A beautiful read for the Christmas holidays, or indeed as a special present for a friend. I loved it!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

My Next Big Thing has Already Been Delivered!

Gwen Kirkwoodauthor of Scottish family sagas, has invited me to take part in a blog event entitled THE NEXT BIG THING - a series of questions and answers about what’s happening next in my writing life, and actually for me, the next big thing has already been delivered; so here we go!

What is the title of your book?
It’s called Postcards and Suntan Cream.

How did you come by the idea?
It’s a collection of short stories with a summery theme. Postcards and Suntan Cream is the title of the first one, and I thought it would be good for the book itself.

What genre does your book fall under?
A variety. The stories are about women of all ages from young to old. There are romantic ones, thoughtful ones, funny ones and a couple of trips back to the Sixties. That’s why I’ve got another beautifully nostalgic cover by Samantha Groom.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters if it were a movie?
In the Postcards story, I would have Carey Mulligan playing Ellie in the past, and Julie Christie playing her today, but I don’t think she’s anywhere near eighty yet!

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Twelve super summer stories that you can relax with, whatever the weather.

Will your book be self-published or traditional?
I have self-published it as a paperback and an e-book. I’m getting quite good at formatting!

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I wrote the stories two years ago, and then came back to them this year to edit them for the collection.

What other books would you compare yours to within your genre?
I enjoyed Loves Me Loves Me Not, the RNA anthology of short stories,
but I can’t compare myself to such great writers!

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
Many things. A lot of the stories are based on my experiences in the hotel industry, and others are based on places I’ve visited. I always keep a holiday diary.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
There is a ghostly element!

As this has been a very popular blog event, it's been difficult to find someone who hasn't answered the questions already. Therefore, Rhoda Baxter, author of smart romantic comedy, and I are sharing Catherine Miller, a member of The Romaniacs who has had a lot of success with flash fiction and short stories, and she will be taking part next Tuesday, 4th December. 
So please visit her blog then, and hear all about her Next Big Thing!

Friday, 23 November 2012

A Mention in This Week's Henley Standard, and Another Recommendation from Amazon!

Two bits of Good News today! I've had a mention in this week's Henley Standard, and been recommended as a read in the Amazon Romance Books store!
I got in the local paper because I took my books, Gipsy Moth and Postcards and Suntan Cream to sell at the Arts and Crafts Exhibition again this year. Our local photographer took my photo and passed it on to the paper, who gave me a short interview over the phone whilst I was cooking dinner! Unfortunately the photo wasn't printed, but there is quite a bit about Postcards, Gipsy Moth and self-publishing, together with a link to this blog!
The other bit of Good News is that I've been selected again as a choice in the Amazon Romance Books store - at the top of the list.
This is all good publicity and I'm really pleased.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

The Girl You left Behind - Another Excellent Read from Jojo Moyes

This year I've read three excellent books by Jojo Moyes. She's such a wonderful writer and totally immerses you in the time, the characters and the story.
The Girl You Left Behind is about two women. Firstly, brave Sophie who runs a bar in a village which has been occupied by Germans in northern France during the First World War, and secondly, Liv, a hundred years later, whose husband gives her a portrait of Sophie shortly before he dies.
The portrait is also known as The Girl You Left Behind, and the novel tells how the painting came  to be in German hands; the love of Sophie for her husband, the artist, who was a prisoner of war;  and how Liv fights to keep it when the family of Sophie's husband tries to get it back.
The section about France reminds me of Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris which I have read many times,  although it is set in the Second World War.
Of course, there's love interest for Liv in the form of Paul, a former New York policeman whose job it is to trace paintings and return them to their rightful owners. But who is the rightful owner? And what is Liv prepared to do to keep the painting that means so much to her?
This was a totally fabulous read that kept me hooked until the end.
Which is your favourite Jojo Moyes book?

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Gipsy Moth - Free Downloads Update

I'm very proud of this chart! It's years since I've done any.
I thought that you might like to know how I got on with my Gipsy Moth Free Downloads yesterday.
To offer your book as a free download, you have to have it solely with Kindle Direct Publishing, and you can only do it for five days in any 90 days. It's easy to do from your KDP Bookshelf, remembering, of course, to allow for the time difference. KDP works on Pacific time which is 8 hours behind, but quite conveniently fits in well with an 8am start here.
When it was all set up, I blogged about it here, and tweeted about it with the hashtag, #freedownload, to attract people looking for free downloads! This worked very well and by 4pm, I had risen to 11th in both the Historical Romance and the Historical Fiction charts. I had tweeted again at lunchtime to tell those that had missed the first tweet. (I think I'm allowed, because I don't shout 'Buy my book!' all the time. And one day's indulgence shouldn't hurt.) Then, I tweeted some more asking for help to reach the Top Ten. It's really exciting seeing your book go up the charts! At the end of the day, it was 7th in Historical Fiction and 8th in Historical Romance, so I was really pleased.
Of course I know that it was all only freebies, but as I saw last time, when I did it for the whole five days over the Jubilee weekend, it does make your book more noticeable, and all I have to do now is to get people to really buy it.
Lastly, the interesting bit is that most of the downloads were in America (including India): nearly twice as many as in the UK. I was also pleased to see downloads from Germany, France, Spain and Italy. I guess Japan isn't ready for Gipsy Moth yet!
Have you tried giving free downloads? How did you get on?

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Happy Birthday Gipsy Moth! Have a Free Download to Celebrate!

A year ago today, I launched the paperback version of Gipsy Moth at my local farmers' market, so I thought I'd celebrate with a virtual birthday party!
Make yourselves at home and help yourself to some mulled wine. Come and sit by the fire; it is a bit cold outside.
It's been a good year, I've sold most of the paperbacks that I had printed, and lots of the ebook version on Amazon.
If you haven't read it yet, here is your chance to download the new edition free here, just for 24 hours, from 8am November 11th 2012 to 7.59am November 12th 2012 GMT.
There are some exciting extras at the back, and the formatting and presentation has been improved.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Gluten-free Christmas Cake and Writing!

I've just made my gluten-free Christmas Cake!
I do it every year around this time.
But what has that got to do with writing?
Well, I began to leave myself a note in the recipe book each October, such as you've run out of raisins, or you'll need some currants, or even how about getting a bag of mixed fruit?
I even left a note in May 2011 when I made my daughter's wedding cake!
I like looking back and seeing what I've written.

However, at the same time I began to add a note asking myself if I'd finished Gipsy Moth by the time I made my next Christmas cake. Then, another year, whether I'd got it published. It's a bit crazy sending a message to my future self, but last year I was able to write that I had self-published it and I was launching it at the local Farmers' Market as well as on Kindle!
This year I've put that I'm self-publishing my book of short stories, Postcards and Suntan Cream, again in paperback and Kindle, and that I'm getting on with my next novel.
I wonder what I'll write for 2013?

This photo shows my favourite stage in the cake-making process when all the dried fruit, that I have reminded myself to buy, is mixed together. It smells like Christmas and the colours are magical.

I've been using the same recipe for many years. I often say that I won't bother to make a cake this year, and get one from Marks and Spencers instead, but I think I've only done it once or twice when it didn't need to be gluten-free. I like homemade ones better!

I've adapted the original recipe by using plain gluten-free flour instead of normal wheat flour. The thing about gluten-free flour is that any cake you make can tend to be rather dry. For sponge cakes, you need to add 5 tablespoons of milk to get that springy texture, but that doesn't work for a rich fruit cake which has to be firmer to hold the fruit.
So I add some extra egg, that is 3 instead of 2½, or 6 instead of 5 etc.
I also use chopped dried apricots instead of mixed fruit peel, because they add more moisture, and substitute ground almonds for flaked almonds to help prevent it drying out too much.
Lastly, when it is cooked and has cooled down, I prick the bottom and sprinkle on a tablespoon of brandy, and keep it wrapped up in greaseproof paper and foil. Repeating the dosage every few weeks!

I hope that if you try my ideas, they work for you, and you can enjoy a Gluten-free Christmas Cake too!

PS Here's what it looked like straight out of the oven. Yum!

Sunday, 28 October 2012

A Touching Love Story Set in the North of India by Liz Harris

Boy and girl fall in love, and are kept apart. A story structure that has stood the passing of time since Shakespeare and probably before.
Liz Harris has put it to good use here in her novel, The Road Back, about 1960's English girl, Patricia, who goes to Ladakh with her father, Major Carstairs, to travel his 'road back' to the place that had enchanted him during the war. Here she meets the love of her life, Kalden, the fourth son of a Ladaki family who is destined to become a monk.
Ladakh is to the north of India, in the foothills of the Himalayas, and so very different from England, and Liz draws it beautifully, making it reflect the relationship between these star-crossed lovers. The story is sensitively paced as their love grows, but will they travel the 'road back' to each other? Is it even possible?
You will have to read it to find out!

Friday, 26 October 2012

The Spellbindingly Fun Blog Party!

A Spell for a Hopeful New Writer

Take a sprig of Scottish Heather, 
And a rip of Parchment Paper,

Stardust from the Northern Lights, 
And Dragon Tears to give you frights,

Mix them with a Silver Spoon, 
In a small bowl made from Stone of Moon,

Add a Nailclipping from yourself,
And your book will appear on Waterstone's shelf!!

For more fabulous spells to promote the launch of How Do You Voodoo? visit Janice Horton's blog and Party, Party, Party!

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Gipsy Moth is a recommended Amazon Romance today!

The picture's bit fuzzy, but I had an email today from Amazon recommending some Romance books and Gipsy Moth is on the top of the list!!
I've read it of course, but if you want to have a look, you can find it here!
Gipsy Moth

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Fabulous New Book Cover from Samantha Groom for my Self-Published Short Stories

Here is my fabulous new book cover from Samantha Groom who created the one for Gipsy Moth (which you should be able to see in the right hand column).

I wanted something dreamy and light to reflect my summery stories in comparison to the more serious nature of my novel, but on the other hand, I wanted it to be similar to show that it was another book by me!

Samantha came up with some excellent ideas, and after lots of exciting emails, when new designs appeared almost daily like magic in my inbox, she produced this one, which I love because it gives the flavour of some of the stories which are set in the Sixties using a genuine photo and postcard from that time.

As you can see, it's called Postcards and Suntan Cream and I'll  be launching it in the New Year when thoughts will be turning towards holidays in the sun.
If you are looking for a cover for your book,  contact Samantha at

Sunday, 14 October 2012

I have just had to sit down and finish Secrets of the Tides by Hannah Richell

Writing experts are always telling us to write about what we know, and Hannah Richell has done just that in her compelling  first novel, Secrets of the Tides which is set in her beloved Dorset where she spent many childhood holidays with her family. This is quite poignant as she now lives in Sydney, and it's a long way to come back to visit her favourite spot on the south coast!
That is as far as the familiar goes in this story about a family tragedy which takes place on the last day of the summer holidays and plunges the Tide's into ten years of of guilt and regret for the events of that day.
The plot follows Helen, the mother, and Cassie and Dora, her daughters, as they come to terms with the tragedy. This may sound a little heavy, but Hannah tells the story with such compassion, that you feel for each of them as the years go by.
Centre to it all is Clifftops, the house which belonged to Richard, the father's, parents which sets the scene for the story and acts as a background through the years, and the Dorset coastline which is described in much detail, and illustrated at the end of the book with the author's notes.
The only quibble that I have with the book is that it switches backwards and forwards through time, which made me feel a little dizzy until I was able to begin to build up the story, however, this method acts as a teaser to make you keep reading!
So all in all, I loved it and as I said in the title to this blog, I just had to sit down and finish it!
Have you read a book recently that has had that effect on you?

Sunday, 7 October 2012

I recommend A 1960s Childhood From Thunderbirds to Beatlemania by Paul Feeney

I love the Sixties and was lucky enough to grow up in that magical decade when anything seemed possible, including landing a man on the moon. Fabulous!
So I was really pleased to find this book in a National Trust shop, although it's also available on Amazon.
Paul Feeney gives a nostalgic account of the Sixties starting on January 1st 1960, listening to Jack de Manio (remember him?) on the Today programme (no breakfast TV then or even Radio One) and moving through the decade.
Each page jogs a memory:
Remember party line telephones, Encyclopaedia Britannica door-to-door salesmen, and when postmen wore uniforms like Postman Pat, and not shorts in all weathers?
Remember School Friend magazine, outside toilets in the school playground, and playing two ball against the wall?
Remember Worzel Gummidge, The Clitheroe Kid, and Crackerjack?
'It's Friday, it's five o'clock and it's Crackerjack!'
And all the children in the audience would yell, 'CRACKERJACK!'
I adored Thunderbirds, Stingray, and  Fireball XL5 with Steve Zodiac too, however, Paul Feeney said he watched Laurel and Hardy, but would have loved to have some kind of recording device to allow him to see them all!
It's hard to believe that 50 years ago this week, The Beatles released their first single Love Me Do, which only reached number 17 in the charts, but Paul mentions that their second single Please Please Me got to number 1, and was the beginning of Beatlemania in the UK and America.
This is truly a fabulous book, illustrated by some atmospheric black and white photos of magazines, adverts and cinema posters, and whether you read it for the memories, or you are researching into those  times, or just curious about what it was like to be a child in your parents' time, it is well worth a read. The only thing that I would add would be an index to help look things up.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

A Grand Day Out at Buckingham Palace

Twenty years ago, I inherited my mum's china tea service, and too good to use everyday, I always thought it would come in useful if the Queen ever popped in for tea.
Imagine my surprise then, when we went to Buckingham Palace for a tour recently, and were given paper cups in the Garden Cafe!
Honestly though, I suppose that china cups with Buckingham Palace emblazoned on them would not last the day and be smuggled out in any bag that the visitor had to hand!
However, apart from the small problem with the paper cups, the rest of the day was wonderful, not to mention that lovely strawberry cake. Yum!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

At last I've got round to reading the Book Lovers' Appreciation Society!

I bought the Book Lovers' Appreciation Society a few years ago, and stuck it on a bookshelf and never got around to reading it until now, and I'm sorry it took me so long!
So many of my favourite authors are there like Maeve Binchy, Katie Fforde, Deborah Lawrenson, Mark Mills, Santa Montifiore, Jojo Moyes, Elizabeth Noble to name but eight! It's a real treat to find a short story, or novel for that matter, from someone whose work you love, but to find so many in this book is fantastic. On the other hand it's a wonderful opportunity to try some new authors (to me) like: Nicci French, Victoria Hislop, and Jane Elizabeth Varley.
No need to mention that the stories are wonderful, and Gerri Halliwell says in her introduction that the book is like 'a cosy box of chocolates' she couldn't stop at one and had to read more. I have to agree!
£1 from your purchase is donated to Breast Cancer Care, so it's a worthwhile buy as well.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Me Before You by Jojo Moyles - an Unforgetable Read

I've just finished Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, and I don't think that I've ever been moved so much by a story.
Louisa Clark is literally a small town girl who loses her job and goes to work for the Traynor family to help look after their son, Will, who has been injured in a road accident and is now a quadriplegic.
The last book I read by Jojo Moyes was The Last Letter From Your Lover, and in it she got totally into the character of Jennifer Stirling who is struggling in the stifling early 1960s to come to terms with her feelings for another man.
In this book, she is totally into Louisa's character. A girl from a relatively poor home, but full of love, who has to come to terms with a rich, yet undemonstrative family.
I also love Will's character. For example, instead of calling her Louisa, her calls her Clark, rather like Daniel Cleaver in Bridget Jones's Diary. A really nice touch.
Of course,  I've been reading this whilst the Paralympics have been on which has made the story all the more  poignant.
I can't go into it too much here, but can only say, read it as soon as you can.  

Friday, 24 August 2012

A Day Out on Brownsea Island and Enid Blyton

 This week, when the sun was shining, and it wasn't pouring with rain, we went to Brownsea Island in Dorset, although there was low cloud and drizzle on the way and we nearly turned round and went home again!
I'm so glad we didn't, as you can see, it turned out to be a beautiful day.
I love Brownsea Island so much because it reminds me of the Mediterranean coast with blue sea sparkling through the dark pine trees.
In 1907, it was the site of the first Boy Scout camp and Scouts were still arriving, girls as well as boys in these enlightened times, some with rucksacks almost as big as themselves in the little ferry which sails every half an hour from Sandbanks.
The island belongs to the National Trust, and is one of the last refuges for the Red Squirrel, and one raced by me so fast that I ended up with a very grainy photo, not good enough to post here.

 There are several narrow little beaches, where waves lap over caramel covered pebbles, and I could imagine the Famous Five landing a rowing boat and setting out on a great adventure.

I used to love the Famous Five books, and any book with Enid Blyton on the cover is irresistible.  (I bought the Barbara Stoney biography on a trip to Enid's former home, Old Thatch near Bourne End, a couple of years ago.) So I was excited to find Enid Blyton and her enchantment with Dorset by Dr Andrew Norman in the National Trust shop.*
It focuses on the Famous Five books and their setting in Dorset, especially the Swanage and Corfe Castle area, with lots of detailed information about the region in Enid's time and before. However, the most interesting fact for me is that Brownsea Island features as Whispering Island in Five Have a Mystery to Solve. Definitely one for my bookshelf!

*The pictures and text behind the book in the photo are from another source about Enid Blyton and are just there to make up the picture.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

the Last Letter from your Lover by Jojo Moyes should NOT be made into a movie!

the Last Letter from your Lover by Jojo Moyes should NOT be made into a movie! Not that I think anyone is planning to at the moment. But if they are, it should be made into a television drama serial instead, so we can sit back and enjoy every emotional romantic moment and precious detail all over again, (with a box of man-size tissues) rather than squash it into an hour an a half.
The Daily Telegraph calls it 'An utterly absorbing and blissfully romantic read', and I would totally agree.
It is the story of two women, Ellie, a reporter in 2003, who is in love with an unobtainable married man, and Jennifer, in 1960, married to an eminent businessman, but who has a secret lover.
Jojo draws the characters and their time so well, rather in the style of Daphne du Maurier. I can see Jennifer as an elegant woman, trapped in the conventions of the lingering post war period, when all women could do in her situation was to literally keep calm and carry on, that is, of course, until they have to make a choice and risk having the scandal of their failed marriage spread all over the papers.
Ellie is a modern woman with her own job and flat, but the choices for her have not got any easier over the years. The Last Letter is the thing that binds these two women together towards a dramatic conclusion.

I've only read one of her other books and that was The Ship of Brides. I lent it to someone going on a trip to Australia and never got it back, so they must have loved it as much as me!
Have you read any of Jojo's books?

PS It is interesting how there is more than one cover design for her books. I wonder why?

Sunday, 12 August 2012

I've been watching the London Olympics!

Way back in 1976, a girl at work told me that she was going to take the next two weeks off to watch the Montreal Olympics. I thought that she was mad. . .
But as I write, I'm waiting for the Closing Ceremony, and I'm rather sad that this wonderful fortnight is over.
It was so compulsive: I even watched Nicola Adams win her gold medal at boxing, something I wouldn't normally do, but amazingly, she was the first woman to win that gold medal and she was British!
Earlier in the Games, Clare Balding did a report on women in the Olympics. I'd always taken it for granted that women could compete against men equally, and I was amazed that the heroine of my childhood, Mary Rand, who got a gold for long jump in the 1964 Games, was the first British female to win one in a field and track event.
Of course, I didn't see every event, but I did get tickets for the Dressage at Greenwich Park, as you can see. I learnt quite a lot about it as I watched, and joined in the celebrations when Team GB won their section.
All the 2012 volunteers were fantastic, greeting us when we arrived, and sending us on our way at the end, not to mention answering any questions cheerfully.
The great thing about having the Olympics in Britain is that everyone has been talking about it from that fantastic Opening Ceremony onwards. It's been rather like Christmas without all the shopping and presents.
What has been your favourite London 2012 moment?

Monday, 6 August 2012

The Cornish House by Liz Fenwick is a really good read.

I was lucky enough to buy The Cornish House at the RNA Conference at Penrith and get it signed by Liz Fenwick and I've really enjoyed reading it.
The characters are drawn so well:  Maddie who has been widowed and is bringing up her stepdaughter, Hannah, has a guilty secret which kept me guessing until nearly the end. Hannah, having lost her father who died and her mother who walked out, is understandably the teenager from hell, and I wondered if Liz actually knew such a girl, but I hope not! Then there is the gorgeous Mark who Maddie is not sure about, and the charming Gunnar for love interest, not to mention her new Cornish friend, Tamsin, urging her on to make the right decisions. Of course, there is the house itself which belonged to Maddie's aunt, and the secret that it hides until Maddie and Hannah discover the answer. All in all it is a fabulous summer read, or indeed for any time of the year.
What is your favourite book about Cornwall?

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Maeve Binchy

I was really sorry to hear that Maeve Binchy had died, because she was a great influence in getting me started with writing.
One wet Bank Holiday weekend, we had our village fete, but it poured. It took twenty minutes to rush round and look at the stalls and then rush home to get dry again. However, Scarlet Feather had caught my eye on the second hand book stall and I bought it to take home and read and I loved it.
Being busy with a young family, I had only time to read on holidays, but now that they were older, although I still felt guilty at having some 'me time', I worked my way through all her novels, revelling in her magical stories. This led me on to trying other novelists like Joanne Harris and Anita Shreve, and soon I was thinking that maybe I could try writing myself. And so I did.
So thank you, Maeve, for all your wonderful stories.
Which is your favourite Maeve Binchy book?

Monday, 23 July 2012

The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards is a beautiful book for summer reading.

I've just finished The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards, and it is one of the most beautiful books that I've ever read, and I'm only sorry that I couldn't fly out to the Finger Lakes Region in New York State where fictional town of The Lake of Dreams is set to take a more worthy picture for this blog.
The style reminds me of Anita Shreve, but it is deeper and more searching emotionally. Motifs such as dreams, glass, locks, people and places lost and found, are woven seemingly effortlessly into the story of Lucy who returns home to The Lake of Dreams to try to come to terms with the death of her father ten years before. However, she finds some clues in the old family house which lead her to her ancestor, Rose, who has been written out of the family history, and she is compelled to find out why.
Lucy's relationships also play a large part in the story: with her lover, her old boyfriend back at the lake, and with her family: her mother and brother; her uncle and her cousin. All come into play in solving the family mystery.
I haven't read The Memory Keeper's Daughter, also by Kim Edwards, yet, but I think I will in the near future.
Have you read either of these books? What did you think?
Have you been to the Finger Lakes?

Monday, 9 July 2012

Tweet Right by Nicola Morgan is the Sensible Person's Guide to Twitter!

I tweeted for the first time on February 26th 2012, and although Twitter tells me that I've tweeted 166 times since, I haven't been at all sure that I'm tweeting right, so this is why I recently downloaded Tweet Right by Nicola Morgan onto my Kindle.
Nicola takes you step by step through setting up on Twitter and tells you amongst other things about etiquette, blogging and finding followers. I now know the difference between DM (Direct Message) and DH (Darling Husband), so that can't be bad!
Although I read it through from beginning to end, I think that I'll use it for reference too.
My Twitter address is @jean_bull
I hope to hear from you soon!

Monday, 2 July 2012

Recipe for Life by Nicky Pellegrino is a Delicious Read on an Italian Holiday!

Two things - firstly I love finding novels set in the the places I visit and secondly, Italy always makes me think of lemons, so there are some in my photo.
As I said in my blog about The Midwife of Venice, I found it very difficult to find novels actually set in Venice, so the other book I took was Recipe for Life by Nicky Pellegrino, set in southern Italy, but that wasn't really a hardship!
It's a beautiful story told in alternate chapters about Alice, who has suffered an unspeakable trauma in her life and wants to become a chef to prove she can do something, and Babetta, an old Italian lady, who looks after the garden belonging to the mother of Alice's friend, Leila.
Gradually, over time the two ladies meet and their lives are changed eventually for the better.
Nicky Pellegrino loves food and loves writing about food and its preparation, both in the restaurants that Alice works in in London and in the lovely Villa Rosa in Italy.
"Already there was the sweet smell of frying onions leaking from the door. . .'
It makes me want to get out my Le Creuset and start chopping! There's plenty of love life for Alice: her old boyfriend, Charlie; Tonino, her boss and Lucio, his brother who runs a pizzeria in the fictitious town of Triento, and it is intriguing to work out which one she will end up with.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I will look out for more by this author.
Have you read any Nicky Pellegrino novels?

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Be Inspired Award

Rosemary Gemmell has nominated me for the Be Inspired Award! Thanks, Rosemary, and may I say that your blogs have been an inspiration to me, especially Reading and Writing, and Flights of Imagination about writing your children's book, Summer of the Eagles which I really enjoyed, not having read many children's books for quite a while.
In accepting the award, I have to answer the following questions which I will base on my novel, Gipsy Moth.

What gave you the idea for your book?
I love Devon and wanted to set a romance there. However in doing my research, I found out about Haldon Aerodrome and Amy Johnson's solo flight to Australia, and the story, so to speak, just took off.

How long did it take to write overall?
Several years, but I started from scratch, and learnt to write as I went along. I also took out two years to concentrate on writing short stories.

What kept you going when you were half way through?
I kept going because I wanted to see my novel finished and on the shelf in a bookshop and possibly advertised on a curved wall on the London Underground!
Are any of your characters based on real people, even though you have to say they aren’t?
Not really, but Kathy represents the problems young women faced in the 1930s. Freedom to learn to drive a car, or fly an aeroplane, but not the freedom to raise a child on their own.
Did you ever wonder if you’d have the work published?
All the time, but I believed in the story: I still do, that was why I self-published. I wanted to share it with everyone. 
When you’ve had one book published, do you feel under pressure with the next one?
Yes, because I've learned such a lot that I want to try again and get another book published with a mainstream publisher.
Would you write in a different genre next time, or do you always stick with what you know?
My new book is still a romance, but set mainly in the present.
Do you prefer writing a novel, or short stories?
Both. I liked the variety of short stories. I entered the competitions in Writers' Forum and Writing Magazine each month, and although WF would accept any subject, WM prescribed what you should write about and that was quite a challenge. I did manage to get short-listed twice and came second in one of the WM competitions. Also I learnt a great deal from the feedback I got from Lorraine Mace at WF.
Do you use everyday happenings in your writing?
Yes, I use my experiences and adapt stories I hear and events I see. I think it would be very difficult to write in a vacuum.
If your book was to be on TV who would play the lead male and female roles?
I'm not sure, maybe I'd chose James McAvoy for Ben, and 
Keira Knightly for Kathy. They were fantastic in Atonement, even if they don't exactly match the characters I had in mind. 

I would now like to pass the Be Inspired Award and questions to:
Rebecca Emin, Angela Bell, Janice Horton, Debs Carr and Jen Black. I'm looking forward to reading your answers!

Monday, 25 June 2012

The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich- A good read for a trip to Venice

 I wanted a book to read on a recent trip to Venice, and saw The Midwife of Venice in Sainsbury's. I wasn't sure whether I'd like it because it was set in 1575, but as Venice hasn't changed much over the centuries, it was interesting to identify the places that Roberta Rich mentioned. One of these was the Campo de Ghetto Novo where Jews were, amongst other things, locked up at night, and made to wear red hats during the day to distinguish them from Christians.
It is here that Hannah lived, working as a midwife whilst her husband, Isaac, set sail for Constantinople, hoping to make a fortune, only to be captured as a slave in Malta.
When Hannah is implored by a Christian count to deliver his wife's baby, she agrees and gets enough money to buy Isaac's freedom, but things turn out to be not that simple.
The story is set in Venice and Valetta, as the couple struggle to get back together. The characters and setting are well drawn, and I was gripped by the story, hoping to find out if they would be reunited.

In Venice, there is only one piazza: the Piazza San Marco. All the other less important squares are called campo which means field.
The word ghetto, comes from the Italian geto, meaning foundry, which used to occupy the site.

The fabulous thing about Venice is that you will not be disappointed, because it looks exactly as it does in the guide books and on films and TV.

However, it was difficult to find a novel about Venice - there are plenty about Tuscany!
Can you recommend a good one?

Monday, 18 June 2012

Happy 70th Birthday, Paul!

Sir Paul McCartney has been flying the flag for Britain ever since The Beatles put Liverpool on the map back in 1962 with Love Me Do leading to phenomenal worldwide success.
In the Sixties, I could only dream about going to a Beatles' concert, and had to make do with seeing A Hard Day's Night at the Odeon, just once, until years later, it was shown on TV at Christmas. No videos, DVD and Sky in those days!
One happy memory was buying about two feet of Beatles' wallpaper for my bedroom wall for one shilling and three pence (about 6p these days). The man in the decorating shop told us how to attach it to the existing wallpaper with dressmaking pins. I've just looked on eBay and a similar piece has sold for £27.99! I should have held on to mine.
Eventually, my dreams came true, and I got to see Paul at the NEC in Birmingham in early January 1990 in his tour Tripping the Live Fantastic. We all stood and danced in our seats as he sang songs from his time with The Beatles to Flowers in the Dirt, his latest album.
Three years ago, I finally visited Liverpool! Here I am outside 20 Forthlin Road, where Paul spent his teenage years. It is a National Trust property now (Fame at last, ha, ha!) and they do guided tours.  It was fabulous to see the actual spot where he and John Lennon sat to write I Saw Her Standing There, and walk round the house that would have been so familiar to him.
In 2010, I managed to get tickets for Hard Rock Calling in Hyde Park with Paul the headliner, WOW!
We got there at 12 and picnicked. By 2.30 it was filling up, and we stood until 7.30 with the temperature in the 30s. Then, there he was on the stage, and we didn't feel tired anymore. Neither did he, because he played for three hours without a break! Everyone joined in young and old, and amazingly everyone, young and old, knew the words. The top photo shows how close we got to him. It was unbelievable! Really, if you haven't sung Hey Jude with Paul and thousands of his fans on a hot June night, under the stars, you haven't lived!
On June 4th, 2012, Peter Kay introduced him in the Jubilee concert as 'the biggest influence on popular music the world has ever known  . . . they don't come much bigger than that!'
Happy Birthday, Paul! And many more of them!
Have you ever seen Paul McCartney or any of the other Beatles?

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Wild West VI - Yellowstone At Last and Starlight at the Grand Tetons

The road from Cody was only opened on the day we entered Yellowstone, and the lake was totally frozen, even though the air temperature was in the 70s Fahrenheit. We could see the Grand Tetons range 50 miles away in the distance.

This is the Prismatic Geyser, so called because the minerals colour the steam. It's beautiful and magic.

 Here is the Yellowstone Canyon, with the distinctive yellow rocks that gave the park its name. The walls are a thousand feet high or deep depending whether you are on the top or the bottom. I walked the 600 feet down to one of the waterfalls, coming back up wasn't so easy. . .
Old Faithful at last erupting every 90 minutes or so to a maximum height of 185 feet. An amazing sight, although there are benches positioned in front of it where crowds of people wait.  All these volcanic features are within the  caldera or rim of the volcano that sits waiting under Yellowstone. . . even the hotel that we stayed in, which was a bit scary.
After Yellowstone, we headed south to the Grand Tetons. A range of mountains rising to over 13,000 feet and reflected in Jackson Lake.
At night, the stars were also reflected in the lake. I felt as if I could reach down and scoop one out.  The one in the centre is Venus, not the moon!

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Wild West III - Devils Tower, as in Close Encounters, and Butch Cassidy's Cabin at Cody, Wyoming.

Did you see Close Encounters of the Third Kind way back in 1977? Do you remember how Richard Dreyfus piled mashed potato on his plate to make a mysterious mountain, and filled his house with mud and bushes to make an even bigger one? Well, here it is: Devils Tower in Wyoming - no apostrophe. The Native Americans called it Bear Lodge which I think is better. The story goes that seven little girls were being chased by giant bears. They jumped onto a tree stump and cried to the Great Spirit to be saved. The tree stump grew and grew whilst the angry bears scratched at it with their claws until it was over one thousand feet high, making the mountain that we see today, and the little girls became the seven Pleiades stars in the sky.
We approached the mountain along a red dirt track, wondering what the pioneers in their covered wagons must have thought when they first saw Devils Tower looming up, as they travelled through the red rocky cliffs and outcrops, topped by Ponderosa pine, and carpeted with pale green prairie grass.

At Cody, just east of Yellowstone National Park, we visited the Old Trail Town of historic wooden buildings, brought from all over the area. It was closed, but the caretaker said we could go in to take some pictures of the outsides, so we did. Here I am pretending to come out of Butch Cassidy's cabin from the Hole-in-the-Wall valley where the Wild Bunch gang hid out. OK, he was an outlaw, but I loved the film!
What's your favourite Western?