Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Happy Birthday to my Blog!

This weekend celebrates the first birthday of my blog, and what a year it's been, meeting lots of new people online who have helped me with my writing and to self-publish my book. Thank you to you all for your advice. I've also enjoyed reading your blogs and admiring your wonderful photographs. I'm sorry that the cake is only virtual, or you could all have a slice!

My latest news is that I've been selected as one of the 75 top nominees for the Top Writing Blogs Award, and voting for the competition beings today!
If you like my blog, you can vote for me by clicking on the button on the right before February 3rd 2012.
Thank you! 

Monday, 23 January 2012

Good Luck with New Beginnings, Rebecca Emin, it's the Chinese New Year!

Today, in the Daily Mail, Jonathan Cainer, the astrologer, says that it's an auspicious time to start something new because the Chinese New Year corresponds with a new moon!
So I wish the very best of luck to Rebecca Emin for her Web Splash to launch the official publication date of New Beginnings.

About New Beginnings
Sam Hendry is not looking forward to starting at her new school. Things go from bad to worse as the day of truth arrives and all of her fears come true... and then some.

When Sam meets a different group of people who immediately accept her as a friend, she begins to feel more positive.

With her new friends and interests, will Sam finally feel able to face the bully who taunts her, and to summon up the courage to perform on stage?

Rebecca has been very kind to me in helping to get my book into a real book shop - The Wallingford Book Shop, in Wallingford (!) so, it's only fair that I reciprocate.  Join  us over on Rebecca’s blog Ramblings of a Rusty Writer to find all of the details of how she is planning to celebrate today, or you can read some reviews of the book itself on or

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Wizard of Oz at the London Palladium

We've just been to see the Wizard, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, at The London Palladium, and it was fabulous!
The staging and special effects are magical, as you would expect from such a wonderful theatre with its legendary revolving stage, and we were swept away to Oz in the typhoon, and explored that fantastic land with Dorothy and Toto, who was so clever too.
Danielle Hope sang beautifully, well, we knew she could from watching 'Over the Rainbow', on the BBC a couple of years ago, which she won, giving her the part in the show.
Michael  Crawford played a very scary Wizard, as well as Professor  Marvel. It's the third time that we've seen him: once in Swindon in a play with Michelle Dotrice, called 'Same time Next Year' - a bit like One Day, and also in 'The Woman in White'. we'd have loved to see him in 'The Phantom of the Opera', but his voice still shone through today.
All in all it was a fantastic show! We booked in advance,  but today they had some seats available in person for £25.
So what are you waiting for?  Fly over the rainbow to the merry old land of Oz!

Friday, 13 January 2012

Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan

Forty years ago, I studied the Renaissance from a history book with no illustrations! How I ever managed to get my 'A' Level without ever seeing The Virgin of the Rocks, or The Last Supper, I'll never know!
As time went on, I eventually visited Florence and Rome, but this year, Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan,  is in London, and I just had to go.
There were over 90 exhibits, and it took three hours to go round, but it was astounding. The highlights for me were, of course, the beautiful paintings gathered there from around the world in one place, for such a short time: the beautiful sixteenth copy of The Last Supper, and the two versions of The Virgin of The Rocks, which Leonardo, himself, may never have seen together in one room.
Moreover, though, were the many sketches and cartoons which he made in preparation for his masterpieces: some quick impressions; another one worked over and over, until it was an inky blob. This showed the way that his work evolved from different ideas: a foot here, a group of men there, to be absorbed and built up into a breathtaking whole. I thought that it was rather like the way a writer works, taking elements from the world around them and building them, through trial and error, into a finished work.
If you've been to see the exhibition, you'll know what I mean; if you've got tickets, you're going to love it (wear comfy shoes!); if you haven't got tickets, someone said yesterday that they are on eBay for £300!
I'm glad that I booked in advance!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

I'm an eCollegeFinder Top Writing Blogs Award Nominee! Here is my advice to students aiming to improve their writing acumen.

I'm an eCollegeFinder Top Writing Blogs Award Nominee, and as part of the awards process I am encouraged to write a blog giving my advice to students aiming to improve their writing acumen. So here goes!

Firstly, I would advise you to Read, Read, Read as much and as widely as you can.
Reading is fuel for your thoughts and fuel for your writing. Try different genres. You might be pleasantly surprised that you like them and they may give you fresh ideas: e.g. if you like science fiction, try an historical novel, then write a sci fi story set in the past!

Secondly, Keep a Notebook handy and jot down any interesting events or conversations; you'll never remember them otherwise!
Keep a variety of notebooks in various places, e.g. in different rooms or bags that you use. Or at least, write a journal when you travel to somewhere new. You don't know when it might come in useful to set a scene.

Thirdly, Write, Write, Write! Keep exercising your 'writing muscle'! Like other muscles, if you don't use it, you lose it!
Writing is, of course, what it is all about. If you can't organize a regular time for it every day, try to write whenever you can. A special 'writing day' is a good idea. Set aside a whole day for yourself and your writing. Don't turn on your phone and don't peek at Facebook or Twitter! Plan easy to prepare nourishing snacks and go for it! It's surprising what you can achieve. Maybe it won't be perfect at first, but you'll have some thing to work on next time.

So there you have it! Read, Keep a Notebook and Write!
Good Luck!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Twelve Days of Christmas by Trisha Ashley and, Twelfth Night!

I have just finished Twelve Days of Christmas by Trisha Ashley while it's still strictly Christmastime!
It's a heart-warming book, perfect to snuggle up with as it says on the back 'with a mince pie and a glass of mulled wine'.
Holly Brown, a young widow, goes to house-sit in a lovely old house on the Lancashire moors. It does take about 100 pages for the cast to assemble, including four suitors for Holly (!), but after that it's a roller-coaster ride through the holiday season when they are all snowed in, and you are kept guessing as to who is the one she will choose in the end. I loved it! And as there's a lot of cooking in it, I was inspired to make some of the dishes, like venison casserole and cottage pie!
I bought The Magic of Christmas, also by Trisha Ashley, at the same time, but I'll just have to put it away until December!
There's always a discussion at this time of the year as to when Twelfth Night really is. If you count the nights from Christmas, you come to tonight,  January 5th, but the Three Wise Men are considered to have arrived on Epiphany,  January 6th.
On my travels this year I have found that in Spain and Iceland, they celebrate it on the 6th.
In Spain, it is the festival of the Three Magic Kings. Children write a list to them on December 26th and leave out satsumas, nuts and cognac for them, and water for their camels (!) when they arrive on Epiphany Eve, the 5th, to fill their shoes with presents.  They also have illuminated Kings climbing up their houses in much the same way we have Father Christmas!
In Iceland, Christmas, or Yule, also ends on January 6th with big neighbourhood parties to celebrate the departure of the last of the 13 Yule Lads who leave, one by one, after Christmas Day. Bonfires and fireworks are also lit and elves and trolls join in with the dancing!
So for me, January 6th is definitely when I take down my decorations!