Saturday, 27 September 2014

I couldn't put down The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes!

The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes wasn't in my To Be Read Pile (see last week's blog post), because I was actually reading it! So, now I've finished, here's my review.
For a start it was hard to put down once I got into it, because it started at a rented house at a seaside resort, rather like the books I've been reading all summer, and at first I thought, oh no, not another!
But that was only setting the scene for Jess Thomas, optimistic, despite all life's hard knocks, and Ed Nichols, who is destined to lose everything because of one silly mistake, to eventually meet.
Two people couldn't be more different, she is his cleaner, and he, a high flying computer expert who's sold his business and made a lot of money. He is reeling from a failed affair, following an equally disastrous  marriage, and she is a divorcée, bringing up her own daughter, Tanzie, as well as her ex-husband's son from another relationship, Nick.
It is when maths genius, Tanzie, is offered a lifeline to enable her to get a scholarship to a private school where she will not be bullied, like Nick has been, that things really kick off and this story becomes a road trip like no other with happiness as well as heartbreak, and some really funny moments.
I like the way that each character takes it in turns to be the subject of a chapter. However, Jojo Moyes hasn't written it in the first person, but in the third, using the character's language to good effect.
If you are looking for a great story to enjoy, this is for you!

Saturday, 20 September 2014

My 'To Be Read' Pile of Books - Autumn 2014


'I look at books as a child looks at cakes - with glittering eyes and a watering mouth, imagining the pleasure that awaits him.'
Elizabeth Gaskell



After spending the summer reading about sunny holidays in Devon and Cornwall, it's definitely time for a change, so here's my 'To Be Read' pile for the next couple of months before I turn to a more Christmassy theme!
The books are in no particular order, and I'm not really sure which one I'm going to choose first either!




Kate Atkinson Life After Life
I have only read Behind the Scenes at the Museum and Case Histories by Kate Atkinson, but his one intrigues me because of the premise of the possibility of having an infinite number of chances to live your life until you finally get it right.

Lisa Jewell The Truth About Melody Browne
The Truth About Melody Brown is the first of two Lisa Jewell books in my pile because I enjoyed Before I Met You, set in Guernsey and London in the 1920s and the 1990s. This one attracted me because it's about a nine-year-old girl who loses her memory after a fire destroys her home, and doesn't begin to recover it until she attends a hypnotist's show in her early thirties. However nothing is as straightforward as it seems and she has to uncover many mysteries before she can find out the real truth about her life.

Leah Fleming The Postcard
This book is also about uncovering family secrets. Finding a postcard to someone called Desmond amongst her deceased father's belongings, Melissa sets out on a journey across oceans and into the past. This sounds like my sort of story!

Ali Harris Written in the Stars
A more light-hearted sort of novel about Bea who slips whilst walking down the aisle on her wedding day which triggers two parallel lives: one where she gets married and one where she doesn't.
Each life has its ups and downs, but which one will make her happy ever after?

Alice Peterson By My Side
'By My Side' refers to Ticket, a golden Labrador, who becomes a companion to Cass who is paralysed from the waist down after being involved in an accident with a truck. This is an unusual story, but love grows when she meets Charlie on a flight to Colorado. Will he be able to help her to live her life to the full again?

Hazel Gaynor The Girl Who Came Home
I heard Hazel speaking at this year's RNA Conference about how she self-published this book, and it was so successful that an American publisher offered her a contract. How fabulous is that?
It is based on a true story about Maggie who survives the Titanic disaster in 1912 and, in 1982, shares the painful secret that she's kept for a lifetime with her great granddaughter, Grace, resulting in events that change both their lives.

Lisa Jewell The House We Grew Up In
This is my second Lisa Jewell book. It explores the devastating event, one Easter, many years ago, that shattered the perfect Bird family's life, but which they are forced to confront when they return to their childhood home.

Well, these are my choices. Which one would you read first?

Monday, 8 September 2014

Catch the Last Rays of Sunshine with The Beach Hut and The Beach Hut Next Door by Veronica Henry

With summer virtually over, it's great to recapture some of that endless sunshine we've had this year with two books by Veronica Henry.
The Beach Hut and The Beach Hut Next Door are two sets of stories all linked together by the row of beach huts at Everdene Sands in Devon.
In the first book, the stories are linked by the Milton family who are having their last season here before their hut is sold after fifty years of idyllic summers, and in the second it is the story of Elodie who grew up at The Grey House on the cliffs that runs through the book.
Both books marry the past with the present, telling the story of Jane Milton's first summer at their beach hut and the way it changed her life forever, and Elodie's last summer there before she left to make a new life for herself.
Veronica Henry writes like Maeve Binchy in, for example, The Italian Class: seeing the same thing from a different point of view and really getting under the skin of the characters. She also good at making you feel the sands of Everdene between your toes!
So drag your deck chair out of the shed, find a patch of sunshine in your garden and settle down with these two great reads.
I've enjoyed them so much that I'm going to get A Night on the Orient Express next!
Have you read any Veronica Henry books?

Saturday, 23 August 2014

New Video to Celebrate New Look Postcards and Suntan Cream!


Click here to view my brand new video to celebrate my new look summer short stories, Postcards and Suntan Cream!
Escape to France, Italy or America; take a cruise on the Sovereign Royale across the Atlantic; or visit a British seaside holiday resort in the 1960s.
Meet characters young and old in stories of life, love and laughter.
This August Bank Holiday, whether you're sitting on the beach, or by the fire (!), these stories are perfect holiday reading.

Download Postcards and Suntan Cream here from Amazon.

Friday, 22 August 2014

August Bank Holiday Launch of New Look Postcards and Suntan Cream!

This August Bank Holiday I'm having a re-launch of my book of super summer stories: Postcards and Suntan Cream!
These stories of life, love and laughter, set in romantic holiday destinations, are perfect for the beach, or a deck chair in the garden, but you can always take refuge on the sofa if it rains!
This exciting new cover was designed by Samantha Groom whom I can thoroughly recommend for her fantastic photography and creative skills.

So make the most of the holiday weekend, whether it rains or shines, and relax with Postcards and Suntan Cream!
Download it here on Amazon and enjoy!
PS You can also contact Samantha Groom at magicat45degrees@gmail.com

Sunday, 10 August 2014

I'm Being Tantalized by Tantalus, the Intriguing First Novel by Jane Jazz

To tantalize means to torment with the sight of something that is out of reach.
This is the clever premise of Tantalus by Jane Jazz.
Sylvia and Tom are tantalized by the sight of each other, but they cannot reach each other because they are fifty years apart: separated by time and a wall between their studios which disintegrates to reveal each to the other, but will not let them touch or visit each other's time.
This first occurs in 1975 when Sylvia, a painter, is 25, and Tom, a sculptor, is 28, but is living in 1924.
It's a beautiful story, rather like The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger or Ferney by James Long where two lovers are kept apart by time. However, in those two books, the lovers do meet through the years, but Sylvia and Tom are kept apart only to see each other through the wall. However, they discover that they can communicate by letters pushed through a hole, and their words are full of emotion.

Jane has written a Romantic story with a capital R, calling on poetry from Keats and paintings by Millais and Burne-Jones, and it's well worth visiting her blog to find out how she researched and wrote it, with the benefit of many more illustrations.
But, to find out what happens to this couple so deeply in love, you will have to read her novel, which at the moment is only available as an ebook. I can't wait for the paperback version because I'm being tantalized by the beautiful illustrations and would love one to hold in my hands and treasure it for ever!

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Remembering the Centenary of the Outbreak of the First World War

My father was born in 1899 and was 14 when the war broke out. How could he and his family have imagined what effect it would have on their lives?
He was born in a Norfolk village, untouched by progress. By the time he was 18, he was called up. Not with the Pals' Battalions, as at the beginning of the war, but with a London regiment whose boys took the birthday cake my grandmother had made for him, and ate it.
He survived the war, being wounded in October 1918, just weeks before the Armistice, and sent home. But the effect of the horror of war never left him and affected the rest of his life.
I've been able to search for his war records on Ancestry and have been able to visit the place where he was shot: a very moving experience.
Here he stands in the photo, a young man only eighteen years of age, off to fight for his King and Country. Today's boys are off for three years of fun (and study) at uni. Let's not forget what that generation, one hundred years ago, did for us.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Two Fabulous Summer Reads by Judy Astley: Just for the Summer and In the Summer Time

I love books that are set in the past and the present, showing how events then have impacted on people living today.
Judy Astley has gone one further, taking the characters and setting for her first novel, Just for the Summer, actually written twenty years ago, and writing a new novel, In the Summer Time, which brings their stories up to date.
In Just for the Summer, three families holiday in a Cornish seaside village each year. Clare's daughter, Miranda, has just got herself pregnant with local boy, Steve. Her husband, Jack, is trying to tell her that he wants to leave his lecturing job in Chiswick, and settle them all in Cornwall for good.
Meanwhile, Clare is daydreaming about Irish author, Eliot, who had made a pass at her (deliciously!) in the woods last year, and she's hoping that when he arrives with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Jessica, he may do it again.
The last couple are Archie and Celia with their son, Andrew, who, unlike the others, own their own cottage, and are members of the golf and sailing club which keeps them busy, whilst Andrew indulges in fantasies about Jessica.
Lastly, Jeannie, Steve's mother, represents the views of the local people as she cleans the cottages.
The story plays out about the relationships between the adults, and between the children as the summer progresses.
This is taken up in In the Summer Time. Miranda returns to Cornwall with Clare because Jack has died and wanted his ashes to be scattered at sea near their holiday home. Without giving too much away, eventually, many of the original characters arrive on the scene, and the summer proves to be just as memorable as that one twenty years before.
I thoroughly enjoyed these books which are perfect for holiday reading. I liked the way the stories carried through over the years and I was interested in how Judy's writing style had inevitably changed.
I did manage to speak to her briefly at the RNA Conference 2014, to tell her I was enjoying her books, but as she was due to take part in a panel discussion, I couldn't talk about them any further.
May be one day, I'll get another chance!


Thursday, 17 July 2014

Happy Times at Harper Adams: RNA Conference 2014


One of the best parts of attending an RNA conference is the chance to meet new people. So far, I have always travelled alone and I always feel a mixture of fear and excitement at the prospect!
I needn't have worried though, because here are some of my friendly flatmates: Natalie Klenman, Elaine Everest, Elaine Roberts and Francesca Capaldi who all made me very welcome. There was also Melanie Heard-White who I met on the first afternoon and who decided to come with me to the first  session. It's always better than walking alone into a room where everyone seems to know everyone else, and you don't! We all spent sometime together at the Friday Night Drinks Party.

Here are some other friendly ladies at the Gala Dinner: Sally Quilford, who I knew from her column in Writers' Forum, Charlotte McFall, and Amanda Ward and her mother-in-law.
I also talked to Liz Harris, Jude Roust and Jules Wake who I know from the famous Ox Lunch, and people that I'd met at previous conferences like Deborah Swift and Jan Preston and online  writing friends like Rosemary Gemmell.












I enjoyed all the sessions I went to, including those by Janet Gover on making location another character in your novel, and Jean Fullerton on plotting using Pride and Prejudice as an illustration. Such entertaining and memorable speakers! However, the most entertaining was the talk by Jane Lovering and Rhoda Baxter on 'Writing Funny'. They made perfect foils for each other, with Jane taking the comedy role in her black onesie with penguin feet. Something to do with 'juxtaposition of thingamy', but their message was to have fun and enjoy what you're writing.



Even on the way home, I met some new friends waiting for the train to Birmingham: Gail Mallin and Jen Gilroy, and we talked as we'd known each other for years!
All in all, I had a very happy time!
Thanks to Jan, Roger and Jenny for all their hard work!

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Relax and enjoy Secrets of the Lighthouse by Santa Montefiore

It's always a pleasure to lose myself in one of Santa Montefiore's novels, and Secrets of the Lighthouse did not disappoint.
The story takes place on the wild shores of Connemara. Ellen has run away to Aunt Peg's house in Ballymaldoon, because she doesn't want to marry William, the man that her mother, Madeline, thinks is the perfect match for her. There, she discovers a whole family that she did not know existed, and also the brooding Conor whose wife, Caitlin, died under uncertain circumstances at the old lighthouse.
A broad cast of characters, reminiscent of the those found in a Jojo Moyes novel, enlivens the story of how Ellen uncovers the secrets of her family, not only in Ireland, but also in England, and finds out how Caitlin died, and the hold that she still has on her family, and indeed, Ellen as she grows closer to Conor.
Through all this, Ellen has to decide whether she is to stay in Ireland where she feels she belongs, or return to England to marry William.
This is a great story which I could not put down!

Friday, 23 May 2014

Get Comfy and Settle Down to Read Before I Met You by Lisa Jewell

It's Guernsey,1995, and when Betty's step-grandmother, Arlette, dies, she is set the challenge of finding Clara Pickles, the mystery person mentioned in her will, despite the fact that Clara will inherit £10,000 instead of her.
In Before I Met You by Lisa Jewell, Betty sets off to Soho, London, to track her down with the £1,000 Arlette has left her and Arlette's fur coat.
Arlette, too, sets off for London in 1920. She gets involved with Gideon Worsley, an artist who wants to paint her in a suggestive pose with Sandy Beach, a member of the Southern Syncopated Orchestra, whereas Betty gets involved with rock star, Dom Jones, and market stall holder, John Brightly.
It sounds complicated, and it is, but Lisa Jewell skillfully leads you through the tangle of the two plots and the deep emotions that Arlette and Betty experience to a satisfying conclusion.
This is a great book to settle down with in a comfy chair, and a few tissues!
Have you read any of Lisa Jewell's books?

Monday, 5 May 2014

My Writing Process Blog Tour


 

Today, I'm joining in the 'My Writing Process' Blog Tour. I was invited by Christina Hollis, a best-selling Harlequin author. Her latest novel is Jewel Under Siege, a romance set in the time of the First Crusade, and you can find her blog here.
This blog tour is a great way of learning about how other writers, experienced or just starting out, create their novels and in doing so, pick up some useful tips.

What am I working on?

I’m working on two novels at the moment. One is a time slip set in the present and the First World War and the other is set solely in the present as a relief from all the historical research!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?


Everyone brings their own experiences and knowledge to their writing. In the First World War novel, I’ve drawn upon family stories passed down to me, as a child, from my grandmother, and from research I was able to do about my father who was shot in October 1918 near Arras, France. (Obviously, he survived, or I wouldn’t be here!)







In the novel set in the present, I’ve drawn upon my own experiences of helping to make wedding cakes which add originality to the scenes.

Why do I write what I do?

I’ve chosen these things to write about because they interest me. I can’t imagine choosing a story, set in a university astrophysics department, involving the discovery of the beginning of the universe, and being attacked by aliens, although someone else may like to try it!


How does my writing process work?

Ideally, I would like several whole days free to concentrate on my writing, but life gets in the way, and I have to write when I can.

Firstly, I try to plan my novel and I am getting better at this. I find Julie Cohen’s three-act story plan, which she told us about at the RNA conference in Penrith, very useful.

Secondly, I do my research. Although it's very easy to do it online or from books, I think it's very important to visit the places I’m writing about and talk to people.

Thirdly, I make notes and then write with a hard 2H pencil (because it doesn't need sharpening so often!) in an A4 wide ruled notebook. I only write on the right hand page so I can add notes on the left. Bringing in Julie Cohen again, I read once that she was told that if you had to extend a chapter, instead of introducing more people or events, go deeper with what you’ve got. So therefore, on the left hand page, I might extend a scene by exploring exactly what someone did or what they had referred to. I also make notes there for further research or new ideas.

Then, I type it up, editing as I go, but that isn't the end, because, I'll print it out and read it out loud and edit it again until I'm happy with it.
I think that the main thing, though, is to keep writing!


Next week, I'll be passing the baton on to three RNA NWS members:
Clare Chase, newly signed up Choc Lit author, with Anna in the Works, 'a mystery romance with funny bits'!
Vanessa Woolley who has a regular column about her chaotic family life in the Maidenhead Advertiser, who is enjoying writing a romantic suspense,
and Evie Mclaughlin who took part in the NANOWRIMO (write 50,000 words in a month challenge) last November.

You can follow #mywritingprocess on Twitter

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Discovering the Secrets of Walter Mitty

Driving into London just before Christmas, I spotted the poster of Ben Stiller as Walter Mitty rushing across the sky, and I had to see the film!
We studied the original short story by James Thurber for 'O' Level in Modern Short Stories (which is still available).
'Modern' is quite a misnomer, because the stories were all written around the first half of the twentieth century, but the authors are famous, and the stories have lingered in my mind over the years, such as Peaches  by Dylan Thomas, Tickets, Please by D.H. Lawrence, and The Ice Palace by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is only seven pages long! So it's amazing that two full length feature films have been made from it. ( The other in 1947, starred Danny Kaye.)
Mitty and his bossy wife are on a shopping trip. She gives him some errands to run whilst she has her hair done. 'Buy some overshoes!' 'Get some puppy food!' No wonder this meek little man lives in a fantasy world, pretending he's Commander Mitty, commanding a US Navy hydroplane, or Captain Mitty going over the top in the First World War, and it is fitting in the end when his wife pops into a drugstore, leaving him outside in the sleet, that he lights a cigarette and imagines he's being shot by a firing squad!
The film, however, is a feel-good movie. Mitty is in charge of the photo negatives for Life magazine, he's not married, but is in love with Cheryl, a new employee, but can't even bring himself to give her a wink on eHarmony. He still has fantasies of impressing her, but when Negative 25, which is to be used on the cover of the last ever issue of the magazine goes missing, real life becomes just as exciting!
The film has great special effects, photography and music and is well worth watching.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Don't Forget To Read Foreign Fruit by Jojo Moyes!

If you've been following my blog, you'll know that I love books by Jojo Moyes, but I've only just read Foreign Fruit which won the RNA (Romantic Novelists' Association) Novel of the Year Award in 2004. How did I manage to miss this fabulous book?
It's another one of those engrossing stories that Jojo writes so well with a great cast, and begins in the 1950s in Merham, a sleepy East Anglian seaside town. Celia and Lottie (not her sister, but a child that the Holden family took in during the war) are entranced by Adeline and her Bohemian friends who move into Arcadia, an Art Deco house on the seafront.
The girls get drawn into the circle of people, including the androgynous Frances, an artist who is in love with Adeline, and Adeline's husband of convenience, Julian.
Eventually, Celia goes away to London, leaving Lottie at home with her family. She writes fabulous letters, but Lottie feels that she can't always believe her especially when she writes about this gorgeous man, Guy, because she's always exaggerating. However, when she does bring him home, Lottie falls hopelessly in love with him, and he with her, even though he's now engaged to Celia. Lottie can't tell him that she's now pregnant with his child, in loyalty to Celia, and their marriage goes ahead. Leaving Lottie with Joe who's a poor second best to Guy.

In the 1950s the town was very against the Bohemian crowd, and now in 2003, the town is against Arcadia being sold to be developed into a hotel for Jones, the owner of a club in London. Jones has hired interior designers, Daisy and Daniel to oversee the work, but when their child, Ellie, is born, Daniel can't cope and leaves Daisy to do the work on her own.  Mrs Bernard, the previous owner of Arcadia, comes in every day to help look after Ellie, but she won't talk about how she came to own the house or what it means to her.
It's when a builder uncovers Frances's mural on the terrace wall, depicting the people that spent the summer there in the 1950s, that secrets are revealed and the characters have to face their past and look to their future.
If you like Jojo Moyes too, don't forget to read this book!


Sunday, 6 April 2014

Travelling back to the South Pacific with James A. Michener


Apart from Pippi Longstocking, (see last blog post!) I wanted to read something more about the South Seas on my trip, so I bought Tales of the South Pacific by James A. Michener for a penny on Amazon, and was impressed that it had won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1948.
Michener was posted to the South Pacific as a Naval Officer during the Second World War, and this inspired his stories based on the men waiting for the inevitable attack, including the women they fall in love with, and the action when it happens.
Some of the stories may seem familiar as they were made into the musical, South Pacific, such as Our Heroine which introduces us to U.S. Nurse, Nellie Forbush, who falls in love with the French plantation owner, Emile de Beque, whom she hardly knows and then finds he has two children. She sings I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair in the show, and well she might because in the book, he has eight!
You might also remember Bloody Mary singing Happy Talk to Joe Cable in the film. In the story called Fo' Dolla', she's nothing like the lovely lady, Juanita Hall, who played the part on stage and screen, and has rivers of red betel juice running down the sides of her mouth which led to her name.
Throughout his stories, Michener takes us to a world of hot sun, lush vegetation, blue seas and coral islands. It's hard to believe that such a beautiful paradise could have been the scene of such terrible fighting, but it was interesting to find out more about those times in his book.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Sailing to the South Seas with Pippi Longstocking

I always like to think that I'm a bit like Joanna Lumley: it was a childhood book about a little penguin who wanted to see the Northern Lights that made her long to visit Norway and see them for herself.
For me, it was reading Pippi Longstocking in the South Seas by Astrid Lindgren one rainy day in the school library that made me wish I could sail south to those mysterious islands in the sun.
Of course, I took the book with me, and found the world of friendly people, white coral beaches, black pearls, and tropical rainstorms that I had longed for: the endless Pacific Ocean, tiny green islands surrounded by impossible blue coral reefs, hermit crabs in miniscule red-spotted shells and fish of all shapes and sizes.
All because of a book in the library on a rainy afternoon.
Have you ever been drawn to a place by a favourite childhood book?

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Step Back in Time with Ali McNamara

I've always loved adventures in space and time, from when Lucy found Narnia in the back of a wardrobe, so I was really pleased to discover Step Back in Time by Ali McNamara.
Jo-Jo, a career girl in 2013, gets knocked over on a zebra crossing and taken back to 1963. Of course, that was the year The Beatles really became famous and, lucky girl, she gets a job at EMI records! But that is not the end of it, she travels on again to the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties.
Each time she meets George who owns a shop called Groovy Records, whom she knows from the present. He doesn't change, apart from ageing, but her other travelling companions, Ellie, from Liverpool, and the gorgeous Harry do, from decade to decade. ( I couldn't help but see Harry as a younger version of Colin Firth!)
George seems to know some of the answers to why she is travelling through time, but is not letting on, so Jo-Jo must try and find out for herself and somehow get back to her life in 2013, but will it be the same?
I loved this story, having lived through all those decades(!), and Ali has created the atmosphere of each one really well.
It's a great magical mystery tour which kept me reading to find out what happened next, how she would manage to get home and whether she would ever get it together with Harry!
I enjoyed looking out for all the fab Beatles' references too!
I think it would make a great film!

Do you have a favourite time travel book?


Sunday, 9 February 2014

My First Radio Interview!



I was excited when Vanessa Woolley asked me to be interviewed on Marlow FM 97.5, but last Friday, as the minutes ticked on towards eleven o'clock, my heart was thundering in my chest!
But I needn't have worried, it was all very relaxed, and I felt that I was chatting to friends.
Vanessa, who's one of the presenters of the monthly Book Club feature, phoned me to do a sound test, and said that she'd put me on hold and the next time we spoke we would be on air!
She'd sent me some outline questions in advance, and I had jotted down some notes, but actually when I got into the swing of it, I didn't need them. When you think about it, no one knows more about writing a particular book than the author!

We talked about my novel, Gipsy Moth, and I told them:

It's set in 1929, and Kathy has been sent to Aunt Sylvia's in Devon because she's pregnant and Ben's family won't let them marry. However, her aunt's step-son, Paul, has fallen in love with her and supports her dream of flying a Gipsy Moth . . .













Haldon Aerodrome
How I came to write it:

I did a Creative Writing course and the lecturer offered two tickets to a literary luncheon for the best first 1,000 words of a novel. I didn't win, but I'd got those 1,000 words as a base to build on!
I was also interested in the role of women in the 1930s. Things were changing for them, but unmarried mothers were still being snubbed by society.
I wanted to set the novel in Devon, but had no idea, until I visited the Teignmouth Museum website to plan a trip, that there had been an aerodrome up on Haldon Moor. It was a lucky coincidence that the Prince of Wales (Edward VIII to be) flew his Gipsy Moth there in May 1930 to a reception like Robbie Williams might receive today, and that month Amy Johnson was setting off to fly solo to Australia. It really made my story take off too!

My writing routine:

When I said that I didn't sit down at 8am and write 1,000 words each day, there were words of agreement from the ladies on the show! They agreed it's difficult to write regularly when life gets in the way, (but of course we get on with it when we have time!)

What I'm working on now:

I'm working on two novels at the moment: one is a time slip set in the present day and in the First World War, and the other is a modern chick lit type of romance which is a bit of a relief because I don't have to do so much research!
I actually love research and spend a lot of time living in the past and not writing! So I thought I'd try something different.

All too soon it was over, and we were talking about where you can buy my book:
On line from Amazon, or from The Wallingford Bookshop, Wallingford OX10 0DL Tel. 01491 834383,
or The Quayside Bookshop, Teignmouth, Devon TQ14 8DE TEl. 01626 775436

I had a great time, but I was relieved when it was all over!










Saturday, 1 February 2014

Judging Books by Their Covers - Life, Death and Vanilla Slices by Jenny Eclair

They say that you should never judge a book by its cover. Well, I often do, and I'm quite lucky with my choices!
The creamy yellow cover of Life, Death and Vanilla Slices caught my eye in Waterstones, where I was meeting someone and not intending to buy a book at all.
I think it was the vanilla slice that attracted me next, and then I saw it was written by Jenny Eclair. I only knew her as a comedian on TV, and didn't know that she'd written three novels. On the cover of this one were endorsements by Jojo Moyes and Jo Brand, two of my favourite ladies, so I reckoned that it must be good. Then, turning it over to read the blurb, I noticed that the heroine was called Jean. . . I was sold, and so was the book!
Jenny has such excellent storytelling skills that you are immediately immersed in the story of the Collins family when Jean is knocked down in an accident, dropping some vanilla slices which she only buys for family celebrations. Why has she bought them? She hasn't bought any for years.
It's a story of two women: Jean, the mother, who's in a coma and is sorting through her complicated life and trying to put it in order in her mind, and Anne, her middle-aged daughter, who has come to visit her in hospital, and is reassessing her own life too.
You discover that something terrible has happened in their family, but you don't know what it is or whether it was Jean or Anne who caused the awful event.
As she looks back at her life, Jean holds back from reaching the point when this thing happened, and Anne fights to keep the dreadful secret tucked away where she has hidden it at the back of her own mind, but eventually, they both have to face up to the past.
Jenny paints equally well a picture of life in the seventies, down to the stainless steel coffee pot (which I happened to have in my cupboard for the photo!), and life for Anne in the twenty-first century with her lazy, spoilt sons and indifferent husband.
She also cleverly combines the human drama and tenderness of Jojo Moyes with the dark humour of Jo Brand.
It's an excellent book and I'm glad I was seduced by the cover: it kept me hooked until the end.
And the vanilla slice that I bought for the photo from Sainsburys? Delicious!

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Maeve's Times by Maeve Binchy - A Great Collection of Articles from The Irish Times

Last year I wrote how Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without unwrapping a lovely book by Maeve Binchy, so I was very excited to receive Maeve's Times this year.
It's a selection of her work first published in the Irish Times over an amazing five decades!
Most people will remember Maeve for her wonderful novels full of warmth and humour, and indeed these articles reflect that too, such as A Week of Self-Improvement, where she attends an Italian class (which obviously gave her the idea for Evening Class); brightened herself up with a disastrous facial for £2.80 (well it was 1976); helped serve lunch to some elderly people and, impressed by their wisdom, came away not so afraid of getting old; dealt with her office being brightened up by crawling under her desk and getting stuck in the corner whilst the workmen got on all around her; and took a walk around the City and got her handbag knocked out of her hand by two men who were actually trying to kill each other!
Other articles are more serious such as two news reports about the Greek coup and Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 and the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster in 1987.
She was lucky enough to attend three Royal Weddings, perched high up with the Press in St Paul's or Westminster Abbey, and followed the story of Diana and Charles from their engagement in 1981 to his engagement to Camilla in 2005.
It is truly a fabulous book; one to dip into or read from cover to cover in chronological order. I really hope that Róisín Ingle, the editor, brings out volume two!

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Night Music by Jojo Moyes is a Book Full of Passion!

Jojo Moyes has written another wonderful book, Night Musicfull of passion for music; passion between lovers, passion amongst families; and passion for the Spanish House.
The story opens innocently enough with Laura McCarthy taking chicken casserole and a baked potato over to the elderly Mr Pottisworth in the Spanish House, but although Laura plays a significant part in the story, it's really about Isabel Delancey, a recently widowed, gifted violinist who inherits Spanish House from a distant cousin.
Is this the end to all Isabel's problems? No, the grand old house is falling apart, and she hasn't enough money to repair it. There isn't even a plug for the fridge or a plumbed-in bath.
Now, step in Matt, Laura's husband who is also a  builder. The pair have always had their eye on Spanish House, and Laura has looked after Walter Pottisworth, hoping that he will leave it to them, and Matt has even drawn up plans for its renovation.
However, Nicolas Trent, an estate agent, who discovers the house and grounds, also sees its potential and wants to redevelop it and remake his fortune. He seems interested in Laura as well.
Therefore, the house and its lake provide the backdrop to the evolving story of how Isabel and her children: fifteen-year-old Kitty and her younger brother, Thierry, come to terms with living there, with Kitty often taking on the role of mother instead of Isabel, who drowns her sorrows by playing her cherished Guarneri violin late into the night, whilst the others plot to take Spanish House off her hands.
Other characters who add richness and depth to the story are Byron, a man about Isabel's age, with a secret past who works with Matt and helps the family settle in, and Henry and Isad, the 'cousins' who run the village shop after careers in the City, and observe the comings and goings of village life.
This is altogether a wonderful mixture for a novel to settle down with on a cosy evening. It's believable, it's great and I loved it!

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year from Hogwarts!

Happy New Year from Hogwarts!
Over the holidays we visited the Harry Potter Studio Tour at Watford, and as Ron might say, 'It was bloody brilliant!'
We wandered through the Great Hall set up for Christmas, and saw costumes used in the films, then through sound stages J and K (yes, I know!) where we passed the Gryffindor Common Room, the boys' dormitory, Hagrid's house and Dumbledore's study and much more. Fabulous to think that the films were actually shot there over the years.
Only a certain number of people were let in at a time, by ticket, so it was never too crowded.
It's a great place to visit the next time you're looking for a day out!