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?

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Wet Jubilee Weekend and a Visit to Hughenden Manor.

What a wonderful Jubilee weekend, despite the variable weather!
Yesterday, we visited Hughenden Manor, and managed to see the former home of Queen Victoria's Prime Minister, Disraeli, and the gardens before it began to rain.
The house, although grand, was quite intimate, and you could imagine guests arriving from London for one of the weekends that his wife, Mary Ann, would delight in organising. Of course, his most famous guest was Queen Victoria who came for lunch. We saw the chair that she sat on. Disraeli ordered the legs to be sawn off a bit so her feet could reach the floor.  It made me wonder though if she could still reach the table, or did she disappear from view as she sat down?
The other interesting part of the history of Hughenden is that it was used during the Second World War as a secret intelligence base to analyse aerial photographs and produce maps for bombing missions. The old Ice House is set up to show the photographic workshop, and the cellars of the house to recreate the lives of the people who worked there.
Thanks to everyone who took advantage of the Gipsy Moth free download over the weekend. Over 850 copies were downloaded! I hope that you will enjoy reading it!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Last Minute Gluten-Free Jubilee Cup Cakes!

Do you need to bake some cup cakes for that last minute Jubilee tea party?
The problem with gluten-free cakes is that they are often rather dry. I've found that the answer is not to skimp on the milk you add. I know you don't normally add milk to a Victoria sponge mix, but it is essential with gluten-free flour, and five tablespoons to the 3 eggs, 6oz self-raising flour, 6oz caster sugar and 6oz margarine works well. (Cook for 20 mins Gas 5 or 190 degrees Celsius.)
I got these decorations from Sainsbury's. I really wanted red, white and blue sugar strands, but they'd all gone, so I had to buy them separately. I particularly like the pearls contrasting with the red and blue. The resulting mix looks a bit like royal jewels!
Thank you for all your support with my free download offer on my novel, Gipsy Moth, which ends at 8am BST tomorrow. Enjoy the rest of this wonderful Jubilee weekend!

Monday, 4 June 2012

Gipsy Moth and KDP Select - Free Download Still Available this Bank Holiday!

Apart from having copies of my novel, Gipsy Moth, printed and available to read like a traditional book, I also published it online with Amazon Kindle.
I had heard that by joining Amazon KDP Select, you could offer your book for free for a period of 5 days within 90 days. It was easy to do, I just clicked the option beside the book title.
And over this Diamond Jubilee weekend,  I reached number 7 in the Historical Fiction Chart! 
I'd love to make it to Number 1, so if you haven't already downloaded my book, you can do it here, or forward the details to someone who might enjoy it. 

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Waving to The Queen and Wellingtons full of Mud

When I was three, the Queen came to open a new building at the local university. I can't remember whether we  walked or went on the bus, but I do remember standing in the crowd lining the street with Edward, the boy who lived next door, and our mums, waiting to see her. At last the royal car swept by, and everyone waved their flags, then Edward and I (it must have been his idea because he was four) ran down the street to the end of the crowd and waved to her on our own (the world was a much safer place in those days), and she waved back. A special wave just for us!
I used to play a lot with Edward, and one day (he was full of good ideas) we filled my shiny new Wellingtons with wet mud to see if they were waterproof, much to our mums' horror!
I used this incident in my novel, Gipsy Moth, which you can download for free this Jubilee Weekend.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Queen Victoria and the Jubilee Concert

These are the preparations for the Jubilee Concert to be held outside Buckingham Palace on Monday 4th June.
You can't quite see Queen Victoria in this photo, but she's there behind that giant canopy. I wonder what she thinks about all the high tech wizardry going on around her? She probably enjoys the crowds of people surging forward to celebrate her great-great granddaughter's Diamond Jubilee, and is proud that Queen Elizabeth has achieved sixty years on the throne like she did.
Victoria has seen it all before, of course, as there was the memorable concert in 2002 for the Golden Jubilee with Brian May playing his guitar on the roof of the Palace!
If you can't get to London for the celebrations, or the rain is dampening your spirits, you can download my novel, Gipsy Moth, free this weekend from Amazon. Happy Jubilee!

Friday, 1 June 2012

Jubilee Weekend Promotion - FREE Download of Gipsy Moth!

Isn't this Jubilee cake wonderful? My daughter took the photo on a trip to York. 
And to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Weekend, I'm offering my novel, Gipsy Moth, as a FREE download on Amazon from 8 am BST, Friday, June 1st, 2012, to 8 am BST, Wednesday, June 6th, 2012!
It's a love story to savour in a deck chair, as you sip a cool drink, or if the weather doesn't hold, tucked up on a comfy sofa with some hot chocolate close at hand.
A good advantage of a Kindle is that you can read with one hand and turn the pages, whilst you hold your drink in the other!

A Brief Synopsis
It’s 1929, and Kathy’s greatest wish is to fly a Gipsy Moth like her childhood sweetheart, Ben. But when his parents find out she’s expecting his baby, they forbid them to marry, and Kathy is dispatched to her aunt’s in Devon in disgrace, whilst Ben is sent to Lincolnshire for his RAF officer training.
How can their love survive when they’re so far apart? Especially now that Kathy has met her aunt’s stepson, Paul, who encourages her to take some flying lessons at Haldon Aerodrome, despite her pregnancy, and her imagination has been captured by Amy Johnson who is proposing to fly solo to Australia.
But when Ben’s plane is lost at sea, Kathy is torn between raising her baby alone and being frowned upon by society, or giving it up for adoption and pursuing her dream of flying. On top of this, she uncovers a disturbing family secret which makes her decision all the harder.

I hope that you enjoy my novel, and have a great weekend. Please feel free to leave a review on Amazon!