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Thursday, 31 December 2015

HERE'S TO WORLD PEACE

A very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one without any fear...

HAPPY CHRISTMAS, WAR IS OVER sang John Lennon whose lyrics echo down the years.  I wonder what the great singer/songwriter would have thought of the world as we head into 2016?

Celebrating the end of any war is a time of both sorrow and joy so I've chosen to repeat a popular poem from May 2015 for my final post of the year.  The poem was written by Gill Cullen, a Guernsey girl now living in Vancouver, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Liberation of the
Channel Island of Guernsey.  This, my favourite line, will stay with me always: So many of our loved ones gone, yet still present in the cry of the seagulls or the rise and fall of the tide...
Thanks again, Gill.





Dear Guernsey

How I wish I could be with you this year. This 70th celebration of the end of the Occupation.

How many years I have sat and listened to stories of your Occupation, from my father ... stories of trepidation and daring , Of victory signs , Of tea dances, of curfews (often missed - with bad recompense ) Of hunger .. Of seaweed bread ... Of cabbage soup , Of Crystal sets , Of prisoners of war .....

My childhood was during a time of recovery for you, dear Guernsey ... And I embraced your lovely beaches , your windswept shores , your crashing waves ...
Ferry rides ...watching every wave as it broke on the bow of the "Martha Gun " or the " Capstan" or the " Lady Dorothy. "
Other Liberation days when a trip to Herm was often in order to help celebrate ..and to walk through the fair on the way back ....
My life has taken me away from your beautiful shores , but my heart remains a Guernsey Girl, an islander through and through ...
I would love to stand with everyone this year, on this anniversary .. So many of our loved ones gone .. Yet I am sure still present .. In the cry of the seagulls or in the rise and fall of the tide ...
I miss you always more on days like this ..
Yet you always welcome me back with open arms and a warm hug
 Enjoy your day, dear Guernsey ........
You will always be my first love ...
My Sarnia Cherie ....


 

Peace in our World


Thursday, 24 December 2015

Happy Christmas to you all



Thanks to everyone who has supported my blog this year. Wishing you all a peaceful Christmas and a very happy New Year



Sunday, 13 December 2015

Walking Back to Happiness




I made a Christmas Wish today for a woman I've never met. Melanie Reid, a successful Times journalist is tetraplegic after breaking her neck and back in a riding accident in April 2010.

And though her life was shattered that day,  she has shared her high and lows ever since in her  weekly Spinal Column, laudable for its wit and  unremitting honesty. Her words have made me smile, weep, groan, commiserate, coil back in horror or hit the air with my fists... and yet I  have never experienced pity.

Although she is officially paralysed she still has a degree of function. 'It takes 200 muscles to walk properly,' she says. 'I may have, oh, 50 in my legs and torso that, although they are rigid, unco-operative and sore, combine enough power to allow me to bear my own weight.'

The news recently hadn't been good - her desire to walk  superseded  by the reality of crippled hands, paralysed bowel and bladder, worn out shoulder joints and constant neuropathic pain. So earlier this year she gave up trying. 'Attempting to walk just caused me more heartache,' she recalled. 'It was a waste of other people's time; it served purely to remind me that I would never recover ; it exposed my past foolish bravado.'

That 'foolish bravado' can now be described as optimism. For the past month Melanie has been commandeering unsuspecting visitors to help her husband guide her along on the frame. In the beginning it was three steps before her leg buckled. Then, gradually, she made it further. This week, with the aid of her husband and brother, Melanie walked. 'I walked the  length of the living room, ' she says, 'not once, not twice but three times.'

Which brings me back to my Christmas wish. Melanie now has hope for the future. Please, Santa, make that hope a reality.




Saturday, 5 December 2015

ROMANTIC ENGLISHMEN ARE STILL ALIVE AND LIVING IN YORKSHIRE


I was thrilled recently when local authors Helena Fairfax and Marie Laval asked  if I would join them for a Coffee and Romance book-signing at the Old Gate, Hebden Bridge, one of Yorkshire's prettiest towns. We arrived on a dull but dry day and set up our stall.

The slow trickle of customers soon turned into a stream on  what everyone agreed was the wettest day of the year.  And that was when the camaraderie kicked in.  No amount of rain could daunt the late arrivals who, despite being  soaked to the skin, added to the party atmosphere.

'Which book should I buy for my girlfriend?' asked one man who soon came back with his mates to look at the historical and contemporary  novels on display.  They generously chose books for their wives and girlfriends - their their mums and sisters too.

Which brings me to the purpose of this short post: thanks guys. It was a pleasure  to meet you all. Romantic Englishmen are very much alive and living in Yorkshire.



Marie, Marilyn and Helena - photo taken by a customer


Fame at last in the Ladies!
A man braves the rain.






Monday, 23 November 2015

OCCUPYING LOVE




My second historical novel Occupying Love, due out next year, is set in the German Occupation of the Channel Islands during World War Two. In this excerpt heroine Lydia Page returns to Guernsey on a sunny day in June 1940 unaware that her life is about to change forever.



Chapter One 
June 1940


The shock of that day never left her; it invaded her dreams and shadowed her waking moments. She could see herself now, carrying an old brown suitcase down the ship’s gangplank, her chocolate brown hair tousled by the fresh Guernsey breeze. In the year since she’d left the island nothing had changed. Fishing boats rocked from side to side, slapping waves against the harbour walls, yacht sails shimmered in the early evening sun, fine wisps of cloud skittering across the skies like pockets of hand-stitched lace.

 Up ahead, the old tomato lorries wound their way like a wooden snake towards the cargo ships bound for England. Her papa had grown tomatoes in the greenhouses behind their home for as long as she could remember. Nowadays he didn’t need the income, but the twelve-pound fruit baskets – or ‘chips’ as the locals called them –  were his pride and joy. Feeling exhilarated at the thought of seeing her parents again, Lydia headed for the bus terminus, stopping to rest on a bench by the harbour wall.

It started as a low rumble, growing steadily louder till it turned into a roar. Startled, she shaded her eyes from the sun and stared up into the sky. Three planes came into view, bright lights shining from their wings like the eyes of a giant eagle. A wave of raw fear rose up from her stomach. Someone shouted, ‘Enemy aircraft’ and her limbs froze. Lydia dropped to the ground, her face hitting the dirt as she landed. Bullets ricocheted over her head as she cowered in terror while the bombs plunged with sickening accuracy on to the harbour.

 A piercing scream brought Lydia back to reality – it had come from her own lips. All around her people were crying or standing motionless in shock as blood dripped on to the pavements while air raid sirens, woken from their reverie, shrieked in protest. Coughing, she gasped for air, dense now with smoke, and tried to roll over.

‘You OK, Miss?’ A policeman loomed overhead.
 She fingered a cut on her face. ‘I think so. What happened?’

‘The Jerries have bombed the tomato lorries. Must ’ave mistaken them for tanks.’ He gripped her arm. ‘Can you get up?’

 Nodding, she let him pull her off the ground.

‘I’d get out of here, if I were you. Fast as you can. It’s not safe.’

‘But Papa, what about Papa?’ A vision of her father lying dead in the rubble flashed in front of her eyes. ‘He’ll be in one of those lorries…’

‘If he’s out there now, Miss, there’s nothing you can do for him. You’d best find shelter in case the Jerries come again.’

 Her suitcase long forgotten, Lydia headed for the dockside where a lone mother sat in the debris, cradling her daughter in the shelter of the harbour wall. The child was silent but the woman sobbed as smoke rose into the sky like a giant funeral pyre.

 Lydia stumbled on, ignoring the shouts of well-meaning people; ‘come, shelter with us, Miss,’ the roar of fire engines and the sickening smell of burnt flesh. Where was her father…?

A familiar face appeared through the smoke. ‘Tom –Tommy!’ She’d known his family for years. ‘Have you seen Papa?’ She gestured towards the smouldering lorries.

‘The Jerries got their target, alright, but there’s plenty of folk sheltered under the pier. No-one can get through.’ Tommy Tostevin scratched his head. ‘What on earth are you doing here?’

‘It doesn’t matter now. I’m here and that’s the end of it. What can I do?’

‘Go home, my girl. Go to your mother. It’s going to be a long night.’

Lydia nodded, too numb to cry. She stumbled on down the esplanade towards the Weighbridge, the familiar granite tower now oozing smoke. Next to it stood a burnt out car with one headlight clearly visible amongst the wreckage. Staring up at the clock face, she saw that the hands had stuck at two minutes to seven.

Just then an ambulance came to a halt, its rear doors opened towards St Julian’s Avenue. With a burst of adrenalin she headed towards it and jumped inside.

‘You injured, Miss?’ The white-coated doctor looked up as she landed beside him.

‘No, I’m fine. It’s just that I know a bit about, well, medicine, and I wondered if I could help?’

‘There’s lots of injured people down there. It’s not a pretty sight. We could do with another pair of hands, though.’ He glanced at her. ‘Are you sure you’re up to it?’

She nodded. ‘Just tell me what you want me to do.’

‘Patch up your face first.’ He handed her a box of dressings. ‘Then follow me.’

They edged their way back to the burning lorries, the roar of engines filling the air: the enemy planes had returned. Lydia ducked and covered her head with the palms of her hands, her heart pounding louder than the shells that shook the ground beneath them.

She shut her eyes but the sight of blood mingling in the gutter with the juice of crushed tomatoes would stay with her forever.


Friday, 13 November 2015

IF ONLY CANCER COULD TALK...

My Dad was  a  successful journalist. He loved life and he loved talking. Sadly, he also loved smoking and drinking. Which is why, in 1979, he had his tongue removed along with the tumour that had grown all the way  down his throat.  He survived, due to the dedication of two amazing surgeons.  But his life was never the same again.

Harry Brown in 1969 outside the Football League in Lytham St Annes Lancashire where he was Public Relations officer


Below is an excerpt from an article I wrote in a national women's magazine at the time.

'We all remember Humphrey Bogart, Jack Hawkins, Steve McQueen, John Wayne, Diana Dors - the cast is endless. They all died in a blaze of publicity.  But there are other, less well-know victims whose lives go on day by day - those who the doctors have saved from cancer but not from themselves.

In 1979 my father went into hospital for major surgery on a growth on his tongue. Six weeks later a  man who bore my father's name returned home. The lively, gregarious, good looking man had been reduced to a shrivelled, mutilated wreck. The surgeons had saved his life but they had lost sight of his dignity.

His operation was very much an experiment, and he is still counting the cost. They removed his tongue (he is a journalist) and mutilated his face leaving him totally unable to speak and unrecognisable as the man he was before.  He can talk now and he tells me in muted, muffled tones what it is like to be stared at by adults, jeered at by children - 'Been in a car crash have ya mister?' and regarded as a freak by the world around him.

Medical science has, of course, moved on since then.  But what I didn't say in that article was that my father was terrified of dentists after waking up during a tooth extraction when he was a boy. He knew he had a 'sore' in his mouth but put off having it checked out until it was too late.

I'd like to think  that telling his story today might help save someone's life.


 Mouth Cancer Action Month is here to make people aware of this frightening disease. Please don't think it won't happen to you.

Mouth Cancer Action Month

1 - 30 November 2015

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Do you read 'he-books' or 'she-books?'






An early cover design for Baggy Pants and Bootees. Can you see the baby in the sky?



There's a man on the front cover of my debut novel - a soldier to be exact. Quite a few men have read Baggy Pants and Bootees  since it was published last year, so  I do know it appeals to both sexes. 


There is, however, a strongly held view among publishers that men don't buy books written by women. I wonder why? They've always read women's magazines as far as I know - if only to understand the logic of the female mind - so it follows that they should read our novels. Or does it?

In an article in last week's Times newspaper, Antonia Senior, a writer of historical fiction, says 'I chose to write primarily from a male perspective. In my gender, if you choose a female protagonist who falls in love in even the smallest sub plot, she will be placed on the front cover, decorative and bosomy, gazing winsomely into the distance.' In short her solution was to 'go male.'

Antonia reserves 'a special convulsion of rage' for the women's fiction prize, formerly known as Orange, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this week.  The newly named  Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction has been described as sexist by both novelists and critics alike.

Which brings me back to Baggy Pants and Bootees,  a story of love, loss and war. Did I subconsciously soften the title to make it more acceptable to the female fiction- buying public?  And should I do the same with the sequel? The heroine, Sophie Wainwright, is a woman in a man's world - not bosomy or particularly 'winsome,'  just a typical sixties girl.

I wonder what she'll look like on the front of the next cover?

Baggy Pants and Bootees


Antonia Senior's novel The Winter Isles is available from November 5 2015.



Saturday, 24 October 2015

Wireless Connection? Just ask Bill!




Ninety-five-year-old Bill Palmer pictured with DJ Alex Dyke in The Times newspaper this week.

When 95-year-old Bill Palmer married his wife, Sheila, last year after 30 years of friendship, life seemed perfect. Little did he know that his desperate loneliness would soon make him an internet sensation.

The plucky pensioner hadn't reckoned on the power of his own voice when he joined a phone-in on BBC Radio Solent when he had 'no-one else to talk to.'

Bill, it seems, has been been living alone  in their bungalow since Sheila, 85, had a bad fall. She was taken to hospital and then then on to a nursing home, suffering from dementia.  'Every day is hell, he confessed to disc jockey Alex Dyke. ' She's just so happy when I see her.... (but)  oh, I feel so alone.'

How did the disc jockey react?  He sent a BBC car to pick up Mr Palmer and take him to the station for a cup of tea and a piece of cake.  The emotional moment, captured on the radio station's facebook page, has been viewed almost 200,000 times.

Dyke, who was sadly too busy to see Bill when he visited the station last year said it was his 'nicest moment in 30 years of broadcasting.'

Meanwhile Bill has been inundated with offers of companionship, from Sunday lunch to a private concert by a ukulele orchestra -  and a message from someone in North Carolina.  When his wife found out what had happened she told him. 'We're the talk of the nation.'

 I like to think  this feel-good story is one with a mission, proving it wasn't always better in 'the good old days.'  Local radio is the unsung hero of the airwaves these days keeping whole communities in touch with each other and, as a result, looking after their wellbeing. Only last year I was fortunate enough to be interviewed on BBC Radio Lancashire when DJ John Gillmore organised a 24 - hour interview marathon to raise money for Children in Need.

 These acts of kindness are actually going on all day every day all over Britain.  So don't forget to support your local radio station. You might even be saving someone's life.



 

Monday, 12 October 2015

SEE NO WEEVIL, HEAR NO WEEVIL, SPEAK NO WEEVIL



'Jesus wants a little wee' my young daughter once sang in Sunday school, her slight muddling of the words casing much hilarity.

Yet it seems even the most well-read adults still make basic mistakes when it comes to pronunciation. According to today's Times newspaper, Don Quixote (that's Don-Key-Hoh-Tee to those in the know) has topped a list of literary names that people struggle to say correctly. 

Quixote is joined by Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones and Hermione from Harry Potter, 'both of which may be tricky for some but are less likely to be still causing readers problems in 400 years' time.'

Astonishingly, a survey of 2,000 people aged 18-65 found that 39 percent had pronounced the names of literary characters incorrectly.  Some, it seems, even struggle over the name of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot. The poll follows the Harry Potter author JK Rowling's recent disclosure that Voldemort is actually pronounced 'Vol-De-Mor' - advice that does not seem to have been followed by the film's actors.

Even the names of the authors themselves can be a  problem for some people.  Eoin Colfer,   author of the Artemis Fowl books, for example, is pronounced Owen Colfer and JM Coetzee, (twice Booker Prize winner) is pronounced Cut-Zee-Uh.

Most of us can remember a 'lightbulb' moment  when we finally realised we had been mispronouncing a well-use word since childhood.  Mine was the word tragedy which I had pronounced as trage-ty until the age of twelve when I saw the word written in huge letters in the headline of a tabloid newspaper.

In case you are wondering,  my daughter should have sung Jesus' little ones are we. Meanwhile, if you have spent years of your life mispronouncing a word, I would love to hear from you.


















 

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Take Life Bird by Bird

If life gets tough, take it bird by bird.

This advice comes from a well-thumbed and innocuous looking paperback, first published in 1994, which was brought back from America a few years ago by my daughter.

The book is Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott - author, teacher, public speaker and political activist -whose work sells in millions all over the world. It is not, as the title suggests, a handbook for ornithologists but, in Anne's own words, 'some instructions on writing and life.'

So why Bird by Bird? The title was inspired by Anne's  brother who, at ten years old, was attempting to write a project on birds that he'd had three months to complete.  It was due the next day and the task seemed impossible.

'We were in our family cabin,'  writes the author 'and my brother was at the kitchen table, close to tears, surrounded by paper, pens, pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm round my brother's shoulder and said 'Bird by Bird, son. Just take it bird by bird.'

The moral? If you deal with a major task in bite-sized chunks you are much more likely to succeed. ( I happen to know she's right because I've followed this advice ever since.)

One of Anne's roles is to teach budding authors, some of whom already have experience, some who just want to learn how to write.  'Becoming a writer is about becoming conscious, she says. Write about your childhood, write about the time when you were so intensely interested in the world, when your powers of observation were at their most acute, when you felt things so deeply. Exploring your childhood will give you the ability to empathize and that understanding and empathy will teach you to write with intelligence an insight and compassion.

It seems to me that Anne's advice applies not just to writers but to every one of us. How can we be kind to each other if we have not first learnt to be kind to ourselves? How can we face what seems like an impossible task unless we break it down into small tasks that gradually chip away at the bigger problem?

And so the lesson in life is  simple: frame by frame for photographers, term by term for teachers, pun by pun for politicians, minute by minute for the unmotivated... you get the idea. I could go on but I'm just too busy working on my next project!

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Romance is alive and living in Yorkshire....

 
From left to right: Sue Barnard, Yours truly, Leah Fleming and Fiona Lindsay
 
Take a bevy of authors, a sprinkling of comedy and an abundance of home made cakes, add chilled Prosecco, good company and mix well. Leave in majestic surroundings for four hours and watch the contentment spread.

This was the perfect recipe for the Romantic Novelists' Association afternoon tea held in the historic city of York last weekend. It was great to meet up with new friends Sue Barnard and Fiona Lindsay as well as  popular author Leah Fleming whose novels I first discovered more than twenty years ago - and have been a fan of ever ever since.

The highlight of the day was  an hilarious talk on 'Northern Birds' by  best-selling author Milly Johnson. In case you are wondering, Millie is not an ornithologist, but an expert on the workings of the minds of the Northern woman, as well as an accomplished speaker!

This was my first  event as a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association and I'm looking forward to many more.
 
t
Just some of the lovely food
 
Milly Johnson keeps the audience spellbound


Milly Johnson's new bestseller Afternoon Tea a the Sunflower Cafe




Sunday, 23 August 2015

Fancy a Spell in the Eighth Century?

What does historical fiction mean to you? The Second World War? The Victorians?The Tudors? Today my guest author Sharon Bradshaw takes us right back to the eighth century with her debut novel The Monk Who Cast a Spell.
 

 

Sharon, who writes her own  Hope and Dreams blog, has a passion for history.  She also writes poetry which is published in  anthologies and quarterly magazines.

A qualified solicitor, she ran a writing competition in 2011 publishing an Anthology of selected entries to raise funds to buy bread for the children in Tanzania. Sharon lives in the UK near Warwick with her family.

Find The Monk Who Cast a Spell on Amazon

Hello, Sharon.  Welcome to my blog and thanks for agreeing to talk to me today.

How did you become a Writer?
 
I have loved books since I was a child, and I wanted to write the stories in them. History came later, with an interest in the 8th century. When I left University I qualified as a solicitor, and that became my career for over 30 years. Although I was an avid reader during this time, it was only when I took a career break in 2012 and was helping my son in his business, that I felt able to begin writing historical fiction.

Please tell us about your novel, and any other writing which you are doing.
 
I imagined a young man one day. He was sitting on a low stone wall gazing out to sea, and the thought stayed with me. Eventually, I asked the usual 5 questions: how; why; what; when; and where. I realised then that he was a Monk watching for the Viking long ships; crossing the sea in 794 AD to Iona. His name was Durstan. He falls in love with Ailan after their sexual awakening at Beltane, is drawn to Beth when he thinks he has lost her, and becomes injured then in a Viking raid.

The story takes place at a time when the early Christian Church is trying to gain a stronger foothold in the British Isles, and people still worship the Gods of their Ancestors. They use charms, amulets and spells for protection. There’s magic too, history, and a forbidden love in the book.

You can find me most days on social media. I was pleased to be asked on Linkedin last year, by Motivational Press in California, to send the first three chapters of the book with a synopsis and marketing plan.  The Monk who Cast a Spell was published on 16th March, 2015. and is the first book in the Iona trilogy. I’ve almost finished the sequel.

When you are writing do you listen to music, or prefer silence; and do you have any rituals which you follow, to help the words flow?
 
I like to walk in the morning, and prefer to write in a quiet place when I’m working on a novel, or engrossed in the plot for a short story. But I also love to people watch in noisy cafes, and jot down notes of my thoughts. Chocolate cake is helpful too, when I’m doing this!

 What is your first memory?

One of my earliest memories is of the family pet, a West Highland white terrier, who didn’t leave my side

What is your favourite genre to read?
It has to be history, although I try to read about different eras and in other genres, to stretch my imagination as a writer. The past has made us who we are today, and I love to read other writers’ interpretations of their chosen time.

What inspires you to write?
Writing has become a compulsion and something which I do every day. I find inspiration everywhere from researching the 8th and surrounding centuries, to places; people, and even the weather. There’s bits and pieces of everything in my work.


What are you working on at the moment?
I have recently finished compiling my first poetry Anthology, and am editing the sequel to The Monk who Cast a Spell. I’ve also started to do some freelance work, and am becoming established as a Motivational Speaker.


Thanks, Sharon. Good luck with the new book.

Find Sharon on Facebook here

And on twitter here

Sharon's blog
 

Monday, 17 August 2015

Oh, what a lovely war weekend....


I spent the last two days on sunny Lytham Green in Lancashire at the annual 1940s War Weekend - a wonderful excuse for wine-sipping  and soaking up the sunshine under the  guise of serious research for my next War World Two novel. What struck me most was how easy it seemed to talk to strangers - all of them with a common interest. German soldiers mixed with their British, American and Russian counterparts in an atmosphere of extreme bonhomie. Thankfully the war was just a memory.
 


This little girl was so well behaved!
Anyone for a dance?

 

We're in the mood for working....
 

Forties glamour on Lytham Green

And the dogs came too..
 







Lift, anyone?

Say hi to the Allies...

Monday, 10 August 2015

'SUR PRIZE, SUR PRIZE' - WOULD CILLA APPROVE?



Is this my prize?


How many of you can remember the day you won a prize? Any prize? Did it make you feel good? If so, that's great. But what if you've never received any prize or award, ever, as far back as you can remember? How does that make you feel?

When my daughter first went into teaching she spent six months at a school where, on sports day, everyone was a winner.  The idea was to make all the children feel equal rather than some of them feel inadequate.

'But they're not all equal and never will be,' she complained to me later. So they need to understand that now.'  I agree. But I  also believe that children need encouragement.

Writers, actors, artists and those who choose to put themselves to the test through their work  or sporting activities, are used to disappointment and rejection.  It is part of  every day life. With the popularity of TV talent contents you could be forgiven for thinking that  some people actually enjoy being humiliated.

But they are in the minority. Take the late, great Cilla Black. Whatever you might think of her talent as a singer or television presenter, she tried all her life to make people feel good about themselves. That's quite a gift.

 I read recently about a school back in the 1950s which had a more  positive attitude to prize winners. They gave a prize for Optimism, prize for Peseverance, prize for Imagination and prize for Cheerfulness.

But best of all  was the Prize for the Person Who deserved a Prize but didn't get One. 
This  I really like the sound of. I think Cilla would have approved too.

 

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

SENSE AND INSENSITIVITY - A novel cover for cybercriminals?


Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen fans will be horrified to hear that her novels are currently being used by cybercriminals to conceal online hacking.

Passages from Sense and Sensibility, written in 1811 and still one of the author's most enduring works, have been discovered 'wrapped around' malicious software, according to The Times newspaper this week. The aim is to to dupe virus scanners into believing that they are in the presence of a respectable web page. The hidden virus is then free to attack the victim's computer.

And, according to a report by technology company Cisco  UK, what they call 'Austen-based attacks' are on the rise. For users encountering unexpected references to their favourite Jane Austen characters - such as Elinor Dashwood and Mrs Jennings - on a web page may be perplexing but not a cause for alarm, says the report, 'but their lack of unease gives adversaries more opportunity...'

Hackers, it seems, also use text from magazines and blogs which prove a better strategy than using random strings of text.  Even more worrying is the suggestion that cybercriminals are increasingly mirroring the practice of legitimate businesses by setting up customer support lines and offering warranties to hackers who buy their software.

Meanwhile, mature 'newbie' authors like me who try to have a good online presence might be forgiven for disappearing into the attic to find ancient leather-bound copies of their favourite works. After all, if you can't join them you might as well beat them. What do you think?
 

Monday, 13 July 2015

Don't Mock Harper's PR - this is a genuine publicity stunt.


There's been nothing quite like it since Lady Chatterley's Lover was banned in 1960 or children's author JK Rowling finally  emerged as a crime writer...  readers just  love a controversy.

So it's  no surprise that  Harper Lee's sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird has hit the headlines on the day before it's due to hit the shops. After all, Go Set a Watchman has been eagerly anticipated for the last 50  years.

The problem is caused by Atticus Finch, the pro-equality lawyer at the centre of the original book who has reappeared as a racist bigot in the follow-up, according to today's Times Newspaper (and quite a few other tomes a well.)  Strange how this 'news' seems so relevant right now.

So what would I prefer to hear about? I really enjoyed the article in last weekend's Guardian about actress Mary Badham, who at just nine years old played  Scout, the lead role in the film of To Kill a Mockingbird. Her leading man was, of course, Gregory Peck, whom she  regarded as a surrogate father for much of her early life. Mary retired from acting when she was just fourteen - now that's some career path!


Interestingly, my favourite Times columnist Melanie Reid has  a few words  to say about both Scout
and  Harper Lee in her Notebook today.  Of the author she writes: 'She never wanted publicity or fame. I struggle to believe she would change her mind in old age. For me, it is faintly sick: the news reporters standing on the pavement outside her care home; directing cameras at the windows, or interviewing townsfolk; while the critics wait with sharpened pens for those once-rejected words.

Admittedly some of  Melanie Reid's thoughts  in this piece are a little tongue-in-cheek. But I prefer to believe that she says it like it is.



 

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

To tell you the truth...

When was the last time you were truthful with yourself ? In a world of social media where everyone seems keen to impress, I think we may have forgotten how to be really honest about our feelings.

Which is why two articles written by authors for authors  have made a big impact on me this week. The first  was written by the highly successful and enormously likeable novelist Freya North. In this  summer's edition of The Author magazine, the journal of the Society of Authors,  Freya talks candidly about facing her doubts and fears, something we all have in our lives but often prefer to dismiss.

With a dozen best-selling novels over a twenty-year career,  the contemporary fiction writer admits
'until  recently I had never known the feeling of not being able to write and so, when it struck, I was floored.'

  'I had the book whirring around in the ether, close enough that I could sense every scene, yet too far away for me to hear what the characters were saying. They were talking behind my back but every time I turned they were gone.'

Her mind, she admits was bursting, but the screen remained blank. It was months before  her latest novel, aptly named The Turning Point, was finally finished.

Freya's story of how she suffered from, and dealt with, writer's block, will no doubt bring comfort to anyone who believes it is not fashionable to admit to any kind of failing.

Meanwhile, it is six years  since Annie Barrows took on the authorship of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, when her aunt Mary Ann Schafer became ill. Sadly her aunt  died without witnessing the book's worldwide success (more than six million copies sold in 37 countries) but not without leaving a very important legacy.

Annie who was already well-known  in the States as a prolific writer of children's books, most notably the Ivy and Bean series,  says writing for adult readers was a very big learning curve.

Interviewed in this month's Writing Magazine, she  explains how the change affected her.

'As a children's book writer, you have to write so tight, you have to keep it spare, you have to know everything that's going to happen before you write a word, you have to have everything planned - so I lost my mind when I got to write for grown-ups.'  '

Her new book had so many drafts it resulted in a 57 inch high mountain of paper that took a very long time to edit.  'When I started with  The Truth According to Us....I was enjoying myself, as my editor said, far too much. I was playing with my characters......and I hadn't really got the story.

Set in America in the 1930s the book is described as an engrossing tale of small time secrets and family tragedy.

'This is a novel,' she says, about the stories families tell, not to outsiders but to themselves.' She goes on ' I don't really think there's any such thing as a fact. There's what people believe about themselves and their pasts and the stories they tell themselves and how they create a narrative out of their lives.

Which brings me back to my reason for writing this post.  Authors or not, we all have a story to tell. Without stories life would be very dull.

But instead of trying to impress the world,  should we try now and then to face our failings? It might make a whole lot of people sigh with relief after all.


 

Monday, 22 June 2015

Mad, Bad and Dangerous to know

I came across a piece on actor Rupert Everett this week in an eighties copy of Cosmopolitan magazine (yes - I'm a hoarder!) The Most Promising Actor of 1982 and star of 'Another Country,' was interviewed by journalist and soon-to-be TV star Paula Yates. He told her;  'I want to be successful not just famous, and not just for lots of money. I want to be in position where I can choose what do, which parts I'll play.'
 
Interesting then, that Everett was quoted this week as saying people now think they have right to everything they want.





'People have forgotten how to communicate, he says. 'Even sex is conducted online. No one's looking outwards anymore. We've been trained over the last 30 years to be as selfish as possible. 

In the new X Factor world it's enough just to want it. The creative mantra is, 'I want this so much.' They want it so they have a right to have it.' 

 

I am sure Rupert Everett has worked very hard for his success and  deserves everything he has achieved, but isn't it amazing how the years can change our views?

 

The actor, who is now 56, is currently in the Italian coastal town of Taormina, which has been hosting the 61st Taormina Film Festival this week.

 

Read the full article here



 






 

Monday, 8 June 2015

Oh, to write like Einstein...

 
 
 
Einstein and his handwriting courtesy of The Times newspaper
  
 
I have always been envious of people with  handwriting that flows along the page  symmetrically and is easy to read. My own handwriting has been the butt of so many jokes over the years and  sometimes I do struggle to read it myself. So I'm delighted to hear of  new software that mimics the  'elegant handwriting of Einstein' according to The Times newspaper  today.

The Einstein  font is the brainchild of German typographer Harald Geisler and Elizabeth Waterhouse, (a dancer with a Harvard physics degree!)  It is based on samples of the great  physicist's handwriting taken from hundreds of notebooks, essays and letters.

The inventors wanted to see if  writing in Einstein's script could change a person's relationship with what they are writing or thinking. 'For example,' said Mr Geisler, 'when you wear something nice like a Prada shirt, your body language changes.' (Please wait while I go and buy a Prada shirt to test this theory.)

According to Miss Waterhouse 'Einstein was a thinker with both beautiful ideas and graceful penmanship.' She added 'The idea  of genius handwriting that everyone can use is deliberately wonderful and ironic.'

A fundraising campaign to pay for the development of the font has been hugely successful. Its  release is scheduled for the end of this year to celebrate the centenary of Einstein's general theory of relativity.

As for me - if I type using this amazing new font AND wear designer clothes at the same time - I'll be happy.

 

Monday, 25 May 2015

No Greater Love...




Marie Colvin
 Marie Colvin - Photo courtesy of The Times newspaper
      When Marie Colvin, the Sunday Times war correspondent, set out on her fatal assignment to Syria three years ago, she carried with her a  heavy manuscript contained in a small knapsack.  After she was killed in a rocket attack  the 387-page unpublished novel, Gospel Prism by Gerald Weaver, was recovered with  her few belongings.

      In her role as war correspondent for the Sunday Times Marie was regarded by her peers as unsurpassable.  Despite losing her left eye when she was hit by a Sri Lankan  rocket-propelled grenade in 2001,  she still managed to file her report on time. From then on she wore the black eye patch which became her trademark.

      In a remarkably honest podcast  Weaver, who has been described as Marie's first love and lifelong friend, talks about her with deep affection.  She was, he says, the one who encouraged him to write  about  'our friendship and our relationship' adding 'Marie was the father of the book and I was the mother.'

      The author  describes his debut novel as ' a detective story with a spiritual aspect' but it is clearly so much more than this.

      'I carry Marie around inside me a lot' he says simply.

       Gospel Prism was  published on May 23 2015 and  is dedicated to Marie Colvin's memory.



      http://www.gospelprism.com/gerald-weaver-on-marie-colvin-impact-on-gospel-prism/

      Monday, 18 May 2015

      HOLDING OUT FOR A HERO

      Behind every picture there is a story.

      These two  service medals  (below) were given to me by my daughter on the anniversary of VE Day,  to add to my collection of World War Two memorabilia.  With them came a photograph of their owner, Lieutenant R Greenwood,  taken in February 1942  and a snap of two young soldiers.

       'I knew you would want to know the story behind it,' my daughter wrote. And she was right!
      
      Is one of these men Lieutenant Greenwood?

      Lieutenant R Greenwood

      Why did he have a scar on the bridge of his nose? Is he one of the younger men in the snapshot? What did he do after the war?If Lieutenant Greenwood was a member or friend of your family, I'd love to know. Whatever the truth he's a lasting symbol of every war hero who finally made it back home.
       
       
       

      Monday, 11 May 2015

      Dear Guernsey.... a letter to an old friend

      GILL CULLEN, a Guernsey girl now living in  Vancouver,  wrote this  letter to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Liberation of the Channel Islands. It has touched my  heart and the hearts  of  so many people and is reproduced  here with her  kind permission. Thanks, Gill.   Long live Freedom!
       
       
      Torteval Church, Guernsey

      Dear Guernsey

      How I wish I could be with you this year . This 70th celebration of the end of the Occupation.
      How many years I have sat and listened to stories of your Occupation , from my father ... Stories of trepidation and daring , Of victory signs , Of tea dances , of curfews (often missed . With bad recompense ) Of hunger .. Of seaweed bread ... Of cabbage soup , Of Crystal sets , Of prisoners of war .....
      My childhood was during a time of recovery for you, dear Guernsey ... And I embraced your lovely beaches , your windswept shores , your crashing waves ...
      Ferry rides ...watching every wave as it broke on the bow of the "Martha Gun " or the " Capstan" or the " Lady Dorothy "
      Other Liberation days when a trip to Herm was often in order to help celebrate ..and to walk through the fair on the way back ....
      My life has taken me away from your beautiful shores , but my heart remains a Guernsey Girl, an islander through and through ...
      I would love to to stand with everyone this year, on this anniversary .. So many of our loved ones gone .. Yet I am sure still present .. In the cry of the seagulls or in the rise and fall of the tide ...
      I miss you always more on days like this ..
      Yet you always welcome me back with open arms and a warm hug 

       Enjoy your day, dear Guernsey ........
      You will always be my first love ...
      My Sarnia Cherie ....

      Tuesday, 5 May 2015

      READING OR WEEDING?



      Reading or Weeding - The Little Garden Library in Lancashire




      A little library goes a long, long way, to misquote a famous saying.  But I didn't have to go far this weekend to discover a novel swap-shop in the small town where I live.

      Librarian Ruth Taylor has set up a Little Garden Library in  front of her Lancashire home, to the delight of passers-by. After just a week she has found plenty of curious readers who are invited to take (and leave ) anything from children's books to popular adult fiction.

      'It's all to promote reading for pleasure,' she told the local evening paper. 'I've seen similar schemes in London, for people who might not otherwise have the chance (to borrow books).

      Ruth has always loved libraries  and says this is just her way of 'passing that on.' Each book includes a personalised book mark explaining the concept of the swap shop to readers. Her home is close to a local primary school and she has had plenty of interest from children passing by.

      The mother of two  has worked in libraries  at three  secondary schools and is now based in her local council library.

      NB - I've just been round with a copy of my debut novel Baggy Pants and Bootees.  Ruth has promised to have a leisurely read of the book before passing it on!

      I

      Saturday, 25 April 2015

      Here's 'hop'ing you like the new book!


      What are you writing next? is  a question I'm often asked.   So it's great to be nominated for the Work in Progress Blog Hop to talk about my second historical novel 'Occupying Love.'

      What is it about?  I have tried to sum it up in one sentence:

      In Nazi-occupied Guernsey during World War Two a young college student falls in love with the mysterious leader of the local Resistance, is coerced into sleeping with the German Kommandant and loses everything she holds dear before the shocking truth about her birth finally threatens to destroy her.

       The nomination comes from author Heather Burnside (pictured below)  who introduced me to the mysterious world of crime thrillers.


      Diane Nov 14

      Heather, who writes a vey successful blog and lively newsletter, is the author of SLUR, a crime thriller set in 1980s Manchester, about two young women who have been wrongly accused of murder. The main character, Julie, is subjected to insults and accusations, and believes that everyone has turned against her. This drives her to despair, and she sinks into a deep depression. When her friends reveal that they may have found the real killer she reaches a turning point and begins to fight to maintain her innocence. But she underestimates just how difficult it will be to prove a vicious murderer guilty especially when the police remain unconvinced.

      The book is available from Amazon in both Kindle and print versions and you can find out more at: http://viewbook.at/Slur. http://heatherburnside.com/

      Heather has also published a multi-genre selection of short stories called Crime, Conflict and Consequences, which will be followed by another crime thriller in summer/autumn 2015 - the sequel to SLUR.
       The rules to the blog hop are: Link back to the person who nominated you.
      Write a little about and give the first few lines of the first three chapters from your WIP.
      Nominate some other writers to do the same. So here goes...  
       
       
      Occupying Love
      Marilyn Chapman
       Chapter One
       
       The shock of that day never left her; it invaded her dreams and shadowed her waking moments.She could see herself now, carrying an old brown suitcase down the ship’s gangplank, her chocolate brown hair tousled by the fresh Guernsey breeze. In the year since Lydia had left the island nothing, it seemed, had changed. Fishing boats rocked from side to side, slapping waves against the harbour walls and yacht sails shimmered in the early evening sun, fine wisps of cloud skittering across the skies like pockets of hand-stitched lace.  (cont)

      Chapter Two 
      ‘Mama - it’s me - let me in.’
      Emily Le Page threw open the door, howling with a mixture of fear and delight.  ‘Lydia, my poor child, you look awful.’ She hugged her daughter to her.  ‘Why on earth are you here?'
      ‘I heard the Germans were about to invade.  I needed to know you were all right. Lydia’s eyes scanned the room. ‘Where’s Papa?  Has he…. has he gone to the docks?’
      ‘No, not tonight.  He wasn’t feeling well.   He heard the commotion and went out to check on the greenhouses.’
      ‘Thank God for that. I thought he’d been killed.’
       
      Chapter Three
      Emily Le Page stared at the headline on the Guernsey Star. She always read it from cover to cover and tonight was no exception.  German Officer Saves Guernsey Child from Fire! “Heroic Rescue,” says Kommandant.’
      Heroic rescue? It didn’t make sense.  Could this really be the enemy? Just a few days ago Hitler’s soldiers had taken over the island and no-one had a clue what to expect.  Murder, rape, bombs and torture were the legacy of the Nazis in Europe and here they were trying to make friends!
      A gust of wind shook the sash window and Emily shivered.  She cast her eyes round the familiar room with its carved oak furniture and sweeping bay windows. An unspeakable tragedy had brought them to this house, yet she had known more happiness within these walls then she ever thought possible. Built of pink granite on a cliff overlooking Saints Bay, ‘Sea Breeze’ was visible on a clear day many miles from shore.  Behind the house stood a small orchard of apples, pears and plums and beyond that lay the greenhouses where her husband spent his working days. (to be continued)
      Rather than nominate individual bloggers I would like to ask other authors to join in and tell us about their next novel. Good luck!
       
       
      

      Wednesday, 15 April 2015

      My word is my pond, sorry, bond...

      A long-standing  friend of mine has just bought a house  more than sixty miles away from her job. She's thrilled about the new 'chez-moi' but worried about the commuting.

      How will you make the transition? I texted  the other day, in between  emails and overdue edits.

      'How will I make the train station?' she replied. 'I'm not quite decrepit yet...'.

      We both laughed in an LOL kind way.  Such misunderstandings  happen every day. But I sometimes wonder how the mighty Shakespeare might have felt faced with the same situation. Or Graham Greene for that matter, or Ernest Hemingway ( who was known to have a difficult nature at the best of times.) Would their combined writerly genius have stood up to the test of text?  Or auto-correct. Or any of the myriad inventions these days that are aimed at 'improving' our spelling and grammar.

      Computers could  write novels! screeched a newspaper heading the other day with enough resonance to make the publishing world take note.  Of course they could.  But could they write a good novel?
       
      'It’s not hard to tell a story. It’s hard to tell good stories,'  Tom Meltzer re-quoted in The Guardian recently. 'How do you get a computer to understand what good means?'

      But back to the auto-correct. Even those of us who don't while away our time at the keyboard all day must  have shouted No - that's not what I meant...'   to the smug-looking screen as it churns out gobbledegook in the name of progress.  Must we  be told how to write?

      I think my five-year-old granddaughter has the right idea:before she speaks, or puts pen to paper, she listens to her teacher. I sent everyone an Easter card,' she told me recently. 'But Miss Jones says yours is an original, not a duplicate.'  Maybe she just likes big words. Or else she's been reading Hemingway.




      Title Wave's photo.
      I reproduce this with thanks to my friend and grammar expert Wendy Guilbert for bringing it to my attention.