Tuesday, 28 May 2013

How I Made My Video For Gipsy Moth

I enjoyed making the video for Postcards and Suntan Cream with Animoto so much that I thought I'd try one for my novel, Gipsy Moth.
It was really easy. Firstly, there are various styles to choose from to give the general feel of the video. I chose Antique Bouquet because I felt that the colours blended in with those on the cover.
Then I chose the music. It's an instrumental by Dorine Levy called Fly With Me. Apart from fitting in with the theme of flying, it also has a dreamy quality and is an instrumental rather than an electronic piece more suited for today.
The pictures are from the cover and a trip I made to Teignmouth one cloudy day in February, and again are very atmospheric.
All this suggests the emotion that Kathy goes through when she is sent away to Devon because she's  pregnant. And of course if you want to find out if her dreams come true, you'll have to read it!
To play my video click here.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Introducing my Postcards and Suntan Cream Video!

After seeing Jane Jackson's video for her book Dangerous Waters (which you can see here) I decided to make my own to promote Postcards and Suntan Cream, my book of summer short stories.
It was easy and free to make a standard 30 second video with the help of Animoto, and I spent a happy afternoon fiddling with  it, though I could have done it a bit faster I suppose!
If you want to see it, just click here.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Journey to the Klondike Goldfields with Finding Fortune by Pippa Goodhart and Great Uncle Arthur!

 Finding Fortune by Pippa Goodhart is an adventure novel for older primary school children, although I enjoyed it a lot myself! It tells the story of Ida, whose mother has died, and who runs away with her father, Fa, to find their fortune in the Klondike Goldfields in 1897 at the height of the Gold Rush.
Pippa has done a lot of thorough research to make  the story believable, and you can find how she did it here on The History Girls blog.
From Grandmama's house, they escape across the Atlantic by ship to Quebec and then by train across the Canadian prairies to the west coast where they get yet another ship up to Dyea at the start of the Chilkoot Trail. On the way, they meet helpful and not so helpful prospectors who serve to hinder their progress.
The real challenge comes when Ida and Fa have to provide a ton of goods to last them for a year. They make many trips to Pass Summit carrying it all on their backs and then build a wooden boat to sail to Dawson before they can even think about finding gold. Some of the story is told in letters that Ida writes to Grandmama, in the hope that they will travel the thousands of miles to England. But did they find gold? You'll have to read Finding Fortune to find out!
I've always been interested in the Gold Rush, because my Great Uncle Arthur, pictured here, actually went! Aged just twenty, and the only boy in a family of five girls, he decided to go and seek his fortune. Heaven only knows what his mother went through!
I'm not sure whether he followed the Chilkoot Trail or the White Pass to the south, but both routes were treacherous, and the pack horses that people bought were no use and often left by the trail where they fell.
 In 1898, they began to build the White Pass Railroad, too late for Ida and Fa, and too late for Great Uncle Arthur.
We were able to ride on it on a trip to Skagway, Alaska. You can see how the train clings to the mountain side, and then rattles over the sort of trestle bridge you see in cowboy films, before entering a tunnel.
It made me think about the journey that he made over one hundred years ago, and the hardships he must have endured without the luxury of train travel.
The story goes that he did find gold, but spent it all on wine, women and song, despite how innocent he looks in the photograph!
Have you read Finding Fortune or travelled up the White Pass Railroad?

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Eat, Read and Buy Books at the Bookstop Cafe, Lincoln!

It's marvellous what you can find online! Through the RNA, I found a link to Nicky Wells' blog about the Bookstop Cafe in Lincoln. Here are Joff Gainey and Becky Lindley, the owners, at the Grand Opening.
They've had a fabulous idea to open a bookshop and a cafe with a difference: whilst you enjoy a cup of tea or coffee with a delicious piece of cake, you can sample the books from local and indie authors, and if you like one you can buy a copy to take home.
This is great for the shopper, or visitor to the historical city of Lincoln, to rest their feet and try out some new fiction, but it also gives a very important opportunity to those local and indie authors to make their books accessible to the reading public. It's a win:win situation!

If you'd like to visit the bookshop, you can find it at:
47b Steep Hill, Lincoln

If you want to find out more about placing your book in his exciting venue, you can tweet Joff at @BookStopCafe

Here's my book of summery short stories, Postcards and Suntan Cream, sitting proudly in the centre at the top. I hope you'll go in, treat yourself to a coffee, and read it!
If you have young adults in your family, they might enjoy Joff's own self-published fantasy novel, Sleeping on a Cloud, which you can see at the bottom right.
Happy reading!

Sunday, 12 May 2013

The Summer House by Santa Montefiore - A Good Read for Spring or Summer

The Temple of Apollo is a folly overlooking Stourhead Gardens in Wiltshire, and Santa Montefiore uses one like this in The Summer House.
It isn't one of Santa's usual stories of sapphire Italian skies or French vineyards, heavy with purple grapes, but is set in Fairfield, an English country estate, and tells the story of Antoinette Frampton and Phaedra, who turns up at her husband's funeral claiming to be his daughter.
George, Lord Frampton, was only 58 when he was killed in a skiing accident, and his wife and sons are reassured by Julius Beecher, his friend and lawyer for 30 years, that a DNA test confirms her claim.
It's recently been in the news that Peaches Geldof has called her new son Phaedra, and I was surprised to find the same name here. It's usually a girls' name, and can be pronounced as Fey-dra, Fee-dra, Fie-dra, or  Fed-dra which I think that Peaches has chosen. It means bright, and in this story the character is a blue-eyed, blonde Canadian with a positive attitude who is embraced by George's family. There is a growing mutual attraction between her and David, the eldest son, which they both try to resist as they help Antoinette restore the summer house to its former glory. However, Phaedra isn't telling everything. What is her secret? What is her true identity?
The story also deals sensitively with Antoinette's loss, and also her worry that if George had kept his secret about Phaedra from her, what other secrets did he have?
Altogether, a gripping story told against an English country spring that unfolded around me as I read it. Beautiful!

Which is your favourite Santa Montefiore novel?

Monday, 6 May 2013

A Postcard from San Francisco featuring a new book by Miranda Dickinson!

Here is the iconic Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Very often, the top or the bottom is shrouded in mist. It was built in 1937, the same year that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was released. We had just been to an exhibition about  the film at the Walt Disney Family Museum at The Presidio.
San Francisco is like no other American city with its cable cars hurtling along like the night bus in Harry Potter: people clinging on for dear life up and down the precipitous streets and around the corners.
The most amazing thing is that the gripman (who operates the grip which catches and releases the cable under the road) and the conductor actually get out and push the car around at the terminus whilst the people in the queue wait and take lots of photos.
Many films have been made in San Francisco, including one of my favourites, Mrs Doubtfire, starring Robin Williams. Here is the house on the corner of Steiner and Broadway. The address, 2640 Steiner Street, as given by Miranda to Daniel in the film, is the actual address of the property. It's not very usual to give that out that sort of information, but it helps tourists to find it!

Although many books are set in San Francisco, my suggestion hasn't even been written yet! It doesn't even have a title. The clue is in this selection of books by Miranda Dickinson.
When I got back I came across a vlog by Miranda, setting out the scenes and people she is going to include in her next novel set in . . .  San Francisco! She'd been on a research trip with her husband and put up videos about the places she'd seen which you can find here.

To celebrate the May Day Bank Holiday weekend, whether it rains or shines, I'm offering a FREE DOWNLOAD of my book of Twelve Super Summer Stories,  Postcards and Suntan Cream from 8am Friday, 3rd May 2013 to 8am Tuesday 7th May 2013, British Summer Time. Just click on the book cover at the top of the page!

Sunday, 5 May 2013

A Postcard from New Zealand featuring After the Fall by Charity Norman

Aotearoa is the Maori name for New Zealand and can be translated as the Land of the Long White Cloud. We visited most of it from Milford Sound in the south to Auckland in the north. However, one place I wished we had seen was Napier, in Hawke's Bay on North Island, where After the Fall is set.
This novel by Charity Norman gripped me from the beginning when one of Martha McNamara's twin sons has fallen from the balcony of their new home in New Zealand, and we don't know if he  is alive or dead.
We see the story through Martha's eyes, but she's not letting on how or why he fell. She says he was sleepwalking, but was he? The story is told in a series of flashbacks, interspersed with Martha waiting by her son, Finn's, bed in hospital, and being questioned by Social Services.
Her husband, Kit, an Irish artist, wanted a new start in New Zealand because his advertising business failed in the UK, so Martha has given up everything to bring Sacha, her teenage daughter, and her twins with Kit, Finn and Charlie, to live in a remote farmhouse above Napier.
At first, all is ok, but then why do things keep disappearing? Is it the Patupaiarehe spirits that the Maori people believe live in the woods? And what is Sacha getting up to with her new friends? Also, who is her father? Another clever aspect of the book is that Charity Norman has Martha's mother, long passed away, whispering in her ear as her conscience. Rather like an 'I told you so!' Jiminy Cricket. I just had to keep reading!
Have you read After the Fall? What did you think of it?

To celebrate the May Day Bank Holiday weekend, whether it rains or shines, I'm offering a FREE DOWNLOAD of my book of Twelve Super Summer Stories,  Postcards and Suntan Cream from 8am Friday, 3rd May 2013 to 8am Tuesday 7th May 2013, British Summer Time. Just click on the book cover at the top of the page!

Saturday, 4 May 2013

A Postcard from Australia featuring The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes

Ok! I make no apologies for the fact that one of the books I read in Australia was by Jojo Moyes . . . I was on holiday and I love her books!
Here is the Radiance of the Seas setting sail from Sydney Harbour on a sunny February evening. Contrast this with the departure of the HMS Victoria, an aircraft carrier, leaving Sydney on a grey July day in 1946, transporting 650 Australian wives to Plymouth to reunite them with their British servicemen husbands. Sydney Harbour Bridge, built in 1932 would have been there, but obviously not Sydney Opera House, which was opened in 1973. However, the buildings in the area known as The Rocks in the foreground would have existed, but as a rundown, former slum area which used to be frequented by sailors and prostitutes and was, at that time, in danger of being demolished. However, today, The Rocks has been saved and forms a popular tourist area with pubs, restaurants and cafés.
It's the second time that I've read The Ship of Brides, the first time was several years ago and in fact I'd lent it to someone for their trip to Australia and never got it back!
The story focuses on four brides: Margaret, pregnant with her husband, Joe's, baby; the Melbourne socialite, Avice, dismayed at having to travel on an aircraft carrier; naïve Jean, barely sixteen-year-old, and Frances, a nurse who has served in the South Pacific. Other characters whose stories are also told are Captain Highfield on his last voyage before retirement, and the Marine who is posted outside the girls' cabin every night to keep them safe from the other sailors.

Jojo has been very thorough, as always, with her research, describing life on the aircraft carrier and the alterations which had to be made to allow the brides to live on it for six weeks. This forms the setting to reveal the story behind each girl, how they change on the journey and what happens on their arrival at Plymouth - if they make it there.
A nice touch at the beginning is the description of one of the girls, now a lady of advanced years, witnessing the dismantling of the aircraft carrier in an Indian scrapyard. It is not until the final chapter that we find out who she is.
I can recommend this book for being alternately heart warming and heart wrenching, whether you read it in Australia or at home.

To celebrate the May Day Bank Holiday weekend, whether it rains or shines, I'm offering a FREE DOWNLOAD of my book of Twelve Super Summer Stories,  Postcards and Suntan Cream from 8am Friday, 3rd May 2013 to 8am Tuesday 7th May 2013, British Summer Time. Just click on the book cover at the top of the page!

Friday, 3 May 2013

A Postcard from Hong Kong featuring Sheltering Rain by Jojo Moyles

When I'm travelling, I love to read books associated with the country I'm visiting. On a recent trip to Australia and New Zealand, we stopped over in Hong Kong. I'd just bought Jojo Moyes' first novel, Sheltering Rain, and was amazed to find out that it started right there, so it was the perfect book to read.

Here is Hong Kong, looking down from The Peak: a city bristling with skyscrapers, very different from the sight Joy Leonard would have seen back on Coronation Day, 1953, when she met Edward Ballantyne, a young naval officer.
It is the story of four women: Alice, Joy's mother, disappointed by her own life in the colony; Kate, Joy's daughter, smarting from a string of unsuitable relationships; Sabine, Joy's granddaughter, growing up and discovering love; and of course, Joy herself, and the secret she has kept through the years which has affected all their lives.
The action takes place in Hong Kong in the 1950s; in Ireland, where Joy and Edward have settled; and in London, where Kate and Sabine are living at the beginning of the story.
For a first novel, Jojo Moyles has an incredible writing style, drawing you into the story and involving you with the characters so you feel that you are living right in that damp, old house in Ireland with them.
As in The Horse Dancer, a later novel by Jojo Moyles reviewed here, horses play an important part, especially the relationship between them and the young girl in the story. Here, the character of Sabine, aged sixteen, is captured perfectly, and you are right beside her as she rides to her first hunt clutching the mane of her little grey horse.
As you know, I am a great fan of Jojo Moyes, and I really enjoyed this book.
Have you been to Hong Kong? Do you have a favourite book that is set there?

To celebrate the May Day Bank Holiday weekend, whether it rains or shines, I'm offering a FREE DOWNLOAD of my book of Twelve Super Summer Stories,  Postcards and Suntan Cream from 8am Friday, 3rd May 2013 to 8am Tuesday 7th May 2013, British Summer Time. Just click on the book cover at the top of the page!