My guest this week is an American with Italian roots, and he’s no lightweight in the writing department. For example:-  He was named Washington Journalism Teacher of the Year in 1986, Distinguished Adviser in 1996 and Vocational Teacher of the Year in 2000. He supervised student newspapers, yearbooks and literary magazines that earned more than one hundred state and national awards. He also writes a popular blog, Living (with) Abroad in Tuscany, and is a speaker and author on the topics of Italian living and genealogy. He graduated from the University of Washington with a BA in editorial journalism and Western Washington University with an MA in education.

I’ll hide here quietly in the corner while Paul tells us more.


I never meant to be an illegal alien, but I couldn’t help myself. I grew up in America proud of my Italian heritage, and I had always thought that living in Italy for a year would give me a greater appreciation for what my grandparents had left behind in order to give their children a chance for a better life. However, I had tried unsuccessfully for several years to find conventional employment in Italy, so when I received a job offer with cash payments, no visa requirements and no work permit, I jumped on it like a man who had just downed a quadruple espresso. Never mind that I spoke little Italian and would have to haul my wife and two reluctant teenage daughters with me. I had to indulge this compulsion.

Actually, my wife needed no persuasion. She not only carried her own load but also stood behind me, pushing when I felt hesitant. The daughters were not so eager, believing that high school years are the best times of one’s life, and I’d be forcing them to miss a precious one-fourth of this paradise. They begged us to let them stay behind with friends, but we knew better. Were we right? We had little idea, but we’d soon find out. And I could tell you how the story ended, but that would spoil the suspense.

After our year abroad, Lucy and I continued to travel to Italy regularly for short trips, and when I retired from teaching in 2010, we started going to Italy for three months every year. It was then that I started an online blog about our experiences.
All of this led to the publishing of a memoir this year, ‟An American Family in Italy: Living la dolce vita without permission.


Through a series of follow-up visits, I gradually undertook the challenge of trying to understand both modern Italy and the old country of my ancestors. With little formal training in the methods of genealogy and a slowly developing knowledge of Italian, I stumbled my way into discovering my family’s roots back to the 13th century. My struggles to obtain my permesso di soggiorno, codice fiscale and Italian citizenship and passport provide amusing examples of the best and worst ways to work with the Italian bureaucracy.

Now we live in Italy about four months a year and in America the rest of the time. We have homes in both places, and it works out just perfectly. We usually live in Italy in late winter and early spring, and then again for about a month in the fall. paul s

This takes advantage of the moderate weather in Italy during these seasons, and then the beautiful summers of the Pacific Northwest.

Our immediate family is in the States, and that’s a strong draw to be there for the greater part of the year, and especially during the winter holidays. After a few months in one country, we start yearning for the other again, so going back and forth leaves us always with something fun to look forward to.

In October of 2015, I became the proud owner of a home in Tuscany, in the city where my grandparents met and were married.

For more information about my ongoing adventures in Italy, here are links to my blog and personal websites:

Thank you, Paul, I know a lot of readers love learning about people moving to live in different countries and I’m sure your story will be of great interest to them. Thank you for being my guest this week the second person to fall in love with Italy and move there.

Until next time, take care.




We’d found a good Italian/Austrian restaurant to dine the night before in Vienna, so we earmarked it for the following night, their menu was extensive and the prices reasonable.


But although we wandered the streets we were never to find it again!

We visited several more churches and I noticed with surprise that they were mostly Protestant. Living in Europe I’ve become used to seeing Catholic churches, but of course, it was in this part of the world that the Protestant movement began.

I found this amazing shop in the cellar and was tempted to buy until I remembered our small our little rabbit hutch at home.


I’ve decided that as I now live in Spain I should next showcase a very famous Queen, a woman I have to admire as she was so strong.

Her story is stranger than fiction, you couldn’t make it up.

Like many of her generation, she was very camera shy. Her grandfather was Henry III of Castile and this is a map to show where that was.

Based on Image: Conquista Hispania.svg de HansenBCN derivative work:

And he married Catherine of Lancaster, daughter of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster.  They had a son called John and he reigned as King John II of Castile from 1406 to 1454. He was only a year and 10 months old when he became king and he was one of the most incompetent kings on record.

(Don’t worry, we’ll get to the heroine next week), this is just the opening preamble just to confuse you).


Since all my books except one are set in Africa, I thought I would share some of my photos with you.

I took these when we were filming in the Northern Cape, a dairy farmer, and his family.

We found that it’s generally the women who farm, along with the household tasks, childrearing, water collecting and just about everything else. This then was an exception and the old man was a delight. He’s taken onboard every new practice he can and was making a real success of his farm. They even arrange for school visits to show what can be achieved.

Another reminder about the Thursday guest blogs. I am fully booked for March but no one earmarked for April. No publicity is bad publicity, so if you would like a feature, please email me   or   or you can pm me on Facebook.

Till next week, take care.



I’m thrilled to welcome another long-standing Facebook friend as a guest this week. I first met Jill through the group We Love Memoirs but there was so much I didn’t know about her until she sent me the information for her blog post. I have such admiration for her. So many people have amazing lives and it’s lovely to get to know them better. We have no idea what the people we casually chat to on our devices, experience day to day, and can only respect their tenacity and their compassion. Time to let Jill tell you her story in her own words.


Hi. I’m Jill Stoking, the author of ‘Joan’s Descent into Alzheimer’s’. Not my only published work but the most significant. Other stuff consists of articles, short stories, and poetry, published in various places.

Eighteen months into her stay at the nursing home for EMI 2000.

This, however, was a big deal because it’s about my mum and the years caring for her while juggling a melting marriage which finally dissolved completely. Not a laugh a minute read it’s true but my sense of humour veers to the dark side and it’s there if you’re anywhere near my wavelength. When Lucinda said she wanted a zany, humorous piece I took the view that either she was totally on my wavelength or I’m not who she thinks I am.


Once the care years were over I went slightly off-piste, finally ending up in Kent on the North Downs – the only place I’ve ever lived where you have to strain the chalk out of the drinking water. I live with QT my canine buddy, who has a pheasant phobia.

It was all going great. I’d even started a second book. Then I began noticing slight absences in my memory, which worried me enough to visit the doctor who subjected me to a ‘mini-mental test’. You can view them online but I didn’t know that then. I thought I was doing okay – alright, I couldn’t recall a name and address I was asked to remember and the drawing of overlapping pentagons at the end of the test – well, I couldn’t do that either. The upshot was that I was sent to have my brain and thought processes looked at in greater detail, which took the best part of a year to complete. In September of 2015, I was diagnosed.

Mild Cognitive Impairment with an Alzheimer’s Pattern.

There are no prizes for guessing where that’s going, given that my mum’s youngest sister is now near the end of her own journey with Alzheimer’s. I perceive that this is not much of a zany read at the moment but on the days when I can stand outside myself, I see the humorous side of some aspects of life with the early stages of dementia.


The day after the diagnosis, QT and I escaped to Dungeness on an early autumn day with wall to wall sunshine. We sat on the shingle and indulged in people watching. For those who are unfamiliar with Dungeness, it is renowned for its nuclear power station, having two lighthouses and being a truly quirky place.

We passively observed a near drowning as a rather rotund lady ventured into the sea for a paddle on a shingle beach that had, at that point, a steep shelf. The outgoing tide dragged the shingle from beneath her feet leaving the poor woman prostrate and taking on water. Several Good Samaritans rushed in to retrieve her. I’m ashamed to say I wasn’t one of them.


I got into conversation with a young dad who was teaching his sons the art of fishing. The only fish worthy of being classed as a ‘catch’ was reeled in by the oldest lad and was deemed suitable for fish fingers that night.

I glanced back at the nuclear power station.

On the way home, via the supermarket, I stopped at the petrol station to fill up. Went to pay and my credit card number had completely fallen out of my brain.

Now, I don’t use cash, everything is paid by credit card but even after two attempts, I was nowhere nearer to paying for petrol. I asked the girl if I could step away from the machine for a moment, knowing that if I got it wrong a third time the card would be locked.

Glancing behind me I was amazed to see a queue of lorry drivers – ten good men and true – who hadn’t uttered a single word throughout my ordeal. Fortunately, I have my card numerals attached to the phone numbers of much loved but departed friends who, even post mortem, are continuing to bail me out.JILLS BOOK

In my book, it’s obvious that before I was aware that my mother had dementia, I found her initial symptoms irritating. I had no clue that I would be following in her footsteps. Nobody witnesses me turning my place upside down on a daily basis, searching for misplaced items.

Friends know I have memory problems and that once I’ve slept, most details from the day before have gone, unless they’ve been written on the door that serves as my notice board. They’re incredibly patient and caring and that’s worth a great deal. I’m still driving but only have a one year licence which is being reassessed as I write. Understandably, I limit my driving to places I know well and visit often.

(This link will take you to my web site review page and a button link to my book on or

Jill your story is so inspiring with a wonderful sense of humour, and you certainly have that (right in my wavelength) is the biggest weapon we have against adversity. I’m honoured to have had you on my blog today. thank you.

Until next time, take care.





We were drawn back to the Hofburg like moths to a flame. Looking at the size of it, I was amazed to read later that the Royal Palace in Madrid is even larger, though it certainly didn’t look like it to me. The Hofburg is also home to some very special horses, the ones that perform in the Spanish Riding school.

The ancestors of the Lipizzan horses can be traced back to AD 800 when Barb horses were brought into Spain by the Moors. In the 16th century, both Spain and Austria were ruled by the Habsburgs and Emperor Maximillian II brought a few of them to Austria and his brother established a stud to breed them. All Lipizzaner horses are descended from 8 original stallions and are very good at haute école or ‘high school’ classical dressage movements, with stylized jumps and other movements known as the ‘airs above ground.’ (They jump incredibly high and seem to float around in the sir waggling their hooves).

One other interesting fact is that Lipizzaner horses are born black and go a lighter shade each year. (In horsey language you never have a white horse, it’s always called a grey).

They stable the horses and have a full-sized riding school within the Hofburg building complex.

We didn’t go to the show, as we’d seen the performance several times before near Johannesburg where they also have a stud and give shows to the public on Sunday mornings.

They look so angelic, but one bit me while touring the stables in South Africa, we’d been warned they can be very bad tempered, even if they can hop and jump around very nicely.


Over many months I have posted about every king and queen of England starting from the very first king whose name I’ve quite forgotten. I’m a little nervous that if I say the wrong thing then I might be had up for treason – although there have been some amazingly critical programmes on television recently which ‘lift the lid’ on the nefarious activities of the royals and their bad behaviour. The Queen at Madame Tussauds, London

However, they have not found any fault with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II who at 66 years is the longest living monarch in the world. What is most amazing is that not once, in all those years have we seen her cough, sniff, scratch an itch in a personal place, pick her nose or do anything that wasn’t 100% ladylike. I wish I knew how she does it. Does she have special underwear that never wrinkles? Or special medicines that ensure her nose doesn’t run or allow her to sneeze in public?

She must be the nearest thing to a perfect human to ever grace this planet.

Next week in the history section I shall be telling the story of another great Queen. I have a few to choose from, any preference? Leave a comment.


I just wanted to share with you the fabulous news that Unhappily Ever After was the solo medallist in the New Apple Literary Awards for Excellence 2017 in the humour category.  (Love that excellence bit!)

2017 NEW APPLE AWARDS MEDAL AMedal1000x1000


the third book in the Amie series Amie: Stolen Future was the solo medallist in the New Apple Literary Awards for Excellence 2018 in the Action & Adventure category.

A huge thank you to all their kind judges whoever they are 😊

You can find both on my web page

or my Amazon page

As regular readers may have noticed every Thursday I host a guest blog. I am fully booked for March but no one earmarked for April. No publicity is bad publicity, so if you would like a feature, please email me   or   or you can pm me on Facebook.

Till next week, take care.




I’m thrilled to welcome my guest this week who also forsook the grey skies of UK to live in the warmer climes of Europe – only no one mentions that Europe can be very cold in winter. Just when you thought you had read everything about relocating and renovating an old European building along comes this book with a difference – a love story with a house and the battle to make it habitable and blend in with the local community. Over to Clare.

Clare and house

I’m told that most people who buy a house take the trouble to get it checked out first, and see that there is no serious structural damage, or reason why they shouldn’t invest their money in that place or property. When I fell in love with an old farmhouse in the hills of Umbria, I took less than ten minutes to make my mind up, before writing out a cheque on the spot. I was so excited that I couldn’t wait to tell my elder brother, and called him that same evening from the only telephone for miles around, which was located in the corner of the village shop.

Even the crackling phone line couldn’t disguise the horror in his voice when he heard what I had done.

“What does the surveyor say? Presumably, you’ve had the property checked out?” he said reasonably.

“I haven’t got a surveyor,” I answered.

“Well, what about a lawyer. Surely you’ve consulted one of those?”

“Er, no. I haven’t.”

“Well don’t worry. We’re still in time to stop this. We can get your deposit back if you only decided to buy the place this morning.” My brother was trying to sound calm and reassuring.

“No, we can’t. I already paid the whole amount. And I don’t want to pull out of the deal. It’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen in my life.”

In my defence, there wouldn’t have been much point in having a surveyor inspect my new purchase, as there wasn’t a great deal of it left standing. The old stone house that I had rashly just bought had hardly any roof, gaping holes in most of the stone floors and one entire section that had disintegrated into a pile of rubble.

But I was just 26, and blind as only a person in love can be. I had seen an advert for the house in an English newspaper just three days earlier and boarded first a plane, then a train to reach a remote corner of central Italy, on a journey that was to change my life.


The story of how I came to buy an old stone house perched on a knoll outside a tiny hamlet in the hills of southern Umbria is told in my book Chickens Eat Pasta: Escape to Umbria.  It’s a love story really, with the house itself of course, and with a man, I later met there – a strange coincidence given that I was only the 43rd resident in the little hilltop village, where everyone knew everyone else, and most of them were related.

By rights, the whole unplanned adventure could and maybe should have gone horribly wrong. Not only had I bought an old ruin with no clear idea or plan of how to restore it. I had also inadvertently chosen one of the most highly seismic areas of Europe as my future home. The village where my house is situated is in one of the most earthquake-prone areas of Italy, and as I soon discovered, tremors are quite common, generally heralded by the glasses rattling on the shelves.

This was my house when I first saw it

The house when Clare first saw it

But as things turned out, my insouciance was rewarded. I made some extraordinary friends, who looked after me and helped me through some very difficult times and encounters, and these make up a cast of characters who are every bit as important as the protagonist.

Of course, I’m by no means the first person to write a book about doing up a property in a foreign country, but my story is very different from the best-known titles in this genre. For a start, it’s not a syrupy tale of sunshine and happiness. Not everyone was kind to me, nor was it always warm. The climate in this part of Italy can be very harsh, and I well remember that first winter, with no heating aside from the open fire, and the bitterly cold air seeping in through the rotten window frames and missing panes. The only way to get warm was to go outside and chop wood, before heating water over the open fire to cook a plate of pasta, all by the light of a candle as the sun sank over the snow-capped mountains.


The village that became Clare’s second home.

These days, my house has a roof, solid window frames, electricity and heating. It’s also been renovated to withstand earthquakes which involved dismantling the building brick by brick and lining each room with wire cages so that the structure would flex instead of collapsing when the earth shook beneath it. That’s just as well given the massive tremors that have struck this part of Italy over the past 18 months. My experience has confirmed a strong belief in the power of love, friendship, and coincidences – and that just sometimes, it pays not to ask too many questions before taking the plunge.

my house now

The house now.

From Clare’s press release:

As events unfold, the strong storyline carries with it a rich portrayal of Italian life from the inside, with a supporting cast of memorable characters. Along the way, the book explores and captures the warmth and colour of Italy, as well as some of the cultural differences – between England and Italy, but also between regional Italian lifestyles and behaviour. It is a story with a happy ending. The author and her husband are still married, with three children, who love the old house on the hill (now much restored) almost as much as she does.
I wrote the book partly for our children, who have grown up spending their weekends and summers there. The house has been completely restored – it’s hard for the children to understand how dilapidated and basic it was when I was first bewitched by the place.”

You can follow Clare on her Facebook Book Page, her own Facebook page and on Twitter.

Read her blog about life in Umbria here

Chickens Eat Pasta is published by Troubador and is available for purchase direct from the publishers here and in all the usual places in both ebook and paperback.


CLARE PEDRICK is a British journalist who studied Italian at Cambridge University before becoming a reporter. She went on to work as the Rome correspondent for the Washington Post and as European Editor of an international features agency. She still lives in Italy with her husband, whom she met in the village where she bought her house.
PUBLISHED 28 July 2015
£9.99 (Paperback)
ISBN 9781784623517 (Paperback)
Distributor: ´Orca Book Services. Tel: 01235 465521.

BIC subject category : BM – Memoirs / WTL – Travel writing
Paperback 216 x 138mm Portrait
please contact Sarah Taylor
Tel: 0116 279 2299 Email:

Troubador Publishing Ltd, 9 Priory Business Park, Kibworth, Leicester LE8 0RX

Most people would not have shown as much courage as Clare and stories like hers are inspiring, they show what can be achieved if you are determined and prepared to step out of the everyday rut. You can’t help but admire Clare – a huge thank you for being my guest this week.

Till next time take care.




A Character Guest Blog

Thanks to J A Allen 🙂

J. A. Allen

Amie Fish

written by lucinda e. clarke

LUCINDA 10Dear JA, I happened to be passing her laptop when I saw your email and I have to admit I feel extremely hurt. Why oh, why did you ask her to write something when I have a much better story to tell?

There is no comparison to her boring life when mine has been so exciting, well some might think that, but to be honest, she’s put me through so much hell, I’d leave her if I could.

I was quite happy living near London close to my family and friends, but then she packed me off to Africa with my new husband, just when I’d planned out the rest of my life. OK, so I settled down and it wasn’t too bad, except she had me out with a video camera recording all kinds of daft things including – wait for it…

View original post 762 more words


Once upon a time when I started writing for radio, I learned very quickly how to think in sound. It was easy to transport listeners from the bottom of the Mariana Trench to the heights of Mount Everest. All you needed was a sound engineer, a box of pebbles, a few whooshing noises, bubbles blown into a glass and so on.

Later when I graduated into writing for television, I was hauled over the coals more than once for including stock shots that would need to be purchased at enormous cost, so I learned to think in visuals – finding innovating ways around expensive underwater scenes and moon shots from Cape Canaveral.

In between, there were articles for magazines, speeches, newspapers, adverts etc etc.

Then, after a pretend retirement came the books. This can’t be so difficult I thought. I was wrong. The grammar Nazis criticised what I thought was perfect English, I’d been at it for years after all. But no, I’d erred on the wrong side of the written rules, which for a book novice like me, were unacceptable to the general reading public. So, enter the editors and hopefully, all those niggly things were put right. I had a better idea of where I was heading.

Now we come to the nasty bit. How to tell the world you have written a masterpiece (well a full-length novel) it was time to learn the marketing side.

I signed up for numerous ‘helpful’ newsletter and blogs, studied their advice, tried all kinds of different approaches. Most, however, were invitations to spend money on learning this technique or another. If only I spent anything up to $/£1,000 I would be an instant overnight success.

Not having that amount of spare cash lying around, I took what little I could gain from the ‘free’ bits, but it was only after a few months that I realized that one course of action contradicted another.

Use Pinterest – No, Pinterest is out Twitter is the new shout out.

Give book 1 in the series away for free and readers will buy the rest – no, a free book is only read by 2% of the readers who download it.

If you’re an unknown writer, you will only gain readers by giving your books away for cents. No, if you price them that low, everyone will consider them worthless.

Every day I must receive at least half a dozen ‘offers’ in my inbox. I’ve investigated the people behind these and it seems that most of them have had success with books – but mostly ‘how to’ books.

Many of them must be so busy running courses, recording podcasts and writing enticing emails to sell their advice to find the time to actually write. So, does that suggest they are making far more money from selling courses than they ever get in royalties?

The Big Hole, Kimberley

It reminds me of the stories of how so many people got rich during the diamond rush in Kimberley. They were not the miners at the rock face, nor the farmers who originally owned the land, but the merchants who supplied the shovels, picks, beds, tents, beer, and prostitutes to men who’d trekked for miles across land and oceans to make their fortune. The shop and brothel keepers may not have found the one diamond that made them rich, but they made a steady living supplying the tools along with hope to desperate men who handed them their last pennies.

The ones who succeeded in making a fortune from the diamonds themselves were those who could afford to buy several shares and then rent out their claims for a share of the profit, or, the men who determined the price of the diamonds once they were liberated from the rock.

Many of us probably feel like those miners. We don’t buy picks and axes, we buy space in promos, we burrow into the pages of social media, we collapse at the end of the day juggling life and marketing and networking while trying to find the time to write the next novel.

And that’s usually the bottom line for many of these promotional guides. ‘If you’re not selling, then write another book, build up your back catalog.’ That’s enough to keep most of us from complaining their system doesn’t work for writers who are now hundreds of dollars poorer while their sales figures barely peep over zero most days.

Of course, the bottom line is maybe our books are not good enough – our genre is not in vogue right now – the market is saturated – we don’t have the high-level contacts  – readers are now trained to only read free books – most people don’t read they prefer games and Netflix.

There could be any number of reasons, but the poor writer is left wallowing in a pit of self-doubt and worthlessness. Being driven to write is a disease we can’t escape and like a fly in a spider’s web, we are trapped vacillating between writing and marketing with only so many hours in the day to allocate.

What are your thoughts?