Did you miss me? Probably not, but I took a whole week out (and I may be a bit erratic for the next few weeks as well, due to a multitude of reasons). No, I was not on my new mega yacht, nor scaling Mount Etna, but desperately trying to get Amie 2 perfect. It doesn’t matter how many times I proof read, there is always another mistake. I think the only answer is to keep the length of further books down to a couple of hundred words.

From reading lots of blogs, I’ve discovered there are two ways of writing a book. Either you have this grand idea lurking at the back of your brain, and you sit at the keyboard and away you go.

The other is to plan out the story, flesh out the characters, list the chapters, carve up the action for each section and write to plan.

The first appears creative and the second more organized. You can guess which kind of writer I am. While the words flow and the scenes tumble out one after the other, I might change my mind about something, or the characters take over, or an extra twist appears out of the brain matter. This leads to a lot of mopping up afterwards.

So I mop up and make corrections and follow my editor’s advice and correct and then I make mistakes in the corrections and so it goes on and on and on.

As soon as I get my first film offer (yeah right), I shall simply lie back, nibble grapes, dictate my books from the sofa and instruct browbeaten secretary to check out the facts. This will save me so much time.

I already have the plan for Amie 3 in my mind, but when I will be free to start it is another matter altogether.

Hopefully, Amie 2 should be out about mid September, if DH can remember the formatting formulae.


But we’ve left Oliver in charge much too long, and it’s time to move on. He was a busy man, or rather his wife was, as they had 9 children. This is surprising as she can’t have looked too alluring, since her husband believed that women and girls should dress in a proper manner. Make-up was banned. Puritan leaders and soldiers would roam the streets of towns and scrub off any L’Oreal products found on unsuspecting women. Too colourful dresses were banned. A Puritan lady wore a long black dress that covered her almost from neck to toes. She wore a white apron and her hair was bunched up behind a white head-dress.

(c) Cromwell Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
(c) Cromwell Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

“Elizabeth Cromwell” by Robert Walker –  in a puritan outfit?

Puritan men wore black clothes and short hair. (The Primark ones remember?)

roundhead 1

Despite all these rules, Cromwell himself was not strict – and obviously from the picture above, neither was his wife. He enjoyed music, hunting and playing bowls. He even allowed full-scale entertainment at his daughter’s wedding. Isn’t that just so typical of politicians? Say one thing, do another.

olivers house

This is Oliver’s house, but he may have had the wedding at some posh place down the road.

Now it would be thrilling to write that Oliver came to a sticky end and there is huge doubt about his death. Was it kidney stones, a urinary infection, or even the rumour it was malaria?  (in England!)

Of course there was the usual state funeral with all the trimmings at Westminster Abbey. But, 3 years later they dug him up again to rummage around doing a post mortem. Then the body hanged in chains at Tyburn and thrown into a pit

.oliver execution

Now, and I find this amazing. His head was bought and sold several times before being buried in Cambridge. Now I can understand buying and hoarding Rolling Stones records, or Elvis Presley’s toothbrush or even Red Rum’s favourite saddle blanket, but a head!! How gruesome can people get?

Anyway, enough of this boring man, whose boring son took over, but he only lasted 9 months, and with a nickname like Queen Dick, I suspect his heart wasn’t in it.

So, it was time to bring back the next king – till next time.


I am weighing up my chances before I put the following into Google translate and trek down to the clinic with the paper clutched in my hand.

ME:                  Good morning Doctor

DOCTOR:       Buenos dias. What do you need today?

ME:                 I need a prescription

DOCTOR:       What is your problem?

ME:                 I am nervous, so maybe Prozac, or a strong valium of some sort?

DOCTOR:       You have problems? A death in the family? You are moving to the Outer Hebrides? Your house has fallen down?

ME:                 No, not that sort of problem. I want to take an anti-depressant to control my nerves before the big event.

DOCTOR:       Which is?

ME:                 Well it’s sort of, um, er, like giving birth.

DOCTOR:       (INCREDULOUS) But you are far too old to have a baby!

ME:                 Well no, it’s not a baby, it’s a book.

DOCTOR:       What?

ME:                 I am shortly going to publish another book and believe me it’s like giving birth, or even worse, sending your new baby out into the world. You understand?

DOCTOR:      No I don’t. – Have I got this right? You want me to give you Prozac because you are about to publish another book?

ME:                Exactly. It’s a nerve wracking time for an author. I like the book, I think it’s great, but will the readers like it? Will it sell well? Is it as good as the first in the series? (MORE ENTHUSIASTICALLY)  First you love your book, then you hate it then you think it’s the greatest book written since sliced bread.

DOCTOR:      Your book is about sliced bread?

ME:                Oh goodness no. It’s continuing the story of Amie, she’s the young girl who goes to live in Africa and then civil war breaks out and she then has other adventures, and this time it’s even better….

DOCTOR:     No.

ME:               How can you possibly know that? You’ve not read it!

DOCTOR:     No! To the Prozac. No the valium. No to any other anti-depressant.

ME:               Oh. Are you sure?

DOCTOR:     Yes. Good day Lucinda.  Next please!

ME:               But. You don’t understand…

DOCTOR:     No, but do you understand those men in white coats over there?

ME:               I’m gone.

It won’t work will it?

Which connects quite brilliantly with Oliver and his “No work on Sunday” policy. But he did even worse things. He closed down the inns, citing the drink and pony cart driving laws. If you were caught drunk in charge of a horse, you were in big trouble.


He closed down the theatres, so no one could see Shakespearian plays written by Sir Francis Bacon, and the cinemas had to cancel the screening of Jurassic Park 59, The Chainsaw Massacres 74, and the latest James Bond movie the 193rd in the series.

Dancing was forbidden as well, so that wiped out a whole generation of entertainers.


Now that is quite appalling yes? But Oliver went even further. He banned Christmas!! Can you believe it?

It caused no end of suffering at the North Pole. Santa had a nervous breakdown, Mrs Claus lost 28 stone in weight and 1,943 elves were forced to sign on for benefits and welfare. There was even talk of roasting Rudolph for Christmas dinner. (He was only saved because he refused to get into the oven).


By the C17th, Christmas had become a holiday of celebration and enjoyment but Cromwell wanted it returned to a religious celebration where people thought about the birth of Jesus rather than eat and drink too much. In London, soldiers were ordered to go round the streets and take, by force if necessary, food being cooked for a Christmas celebration. The smell of a goose being cooked could bring trouble. Traditional Christmas decorations like holly were banned.

Most sports were banned and to keep the population’s mind on religion, instead of having feast days to celebrate the saints (as had been common in Medieval England), one day in every month was a fast day – you did not eat all day.

These were very, very dark days for Britain.  Would this ever end? And what was Oliver doing all this time? Find out on Monday.


Before I start today I’ll do a bit of groveling. Fred’s Diary is holding a competition for a travel story and I have a couple of entries in. Can you vote for me please? There’s a really nice prize. This does not apply to you if you like another story better, or want to vote for a friend, so there is absolutely no coercion from me here, but you don’t believe everything I write do you?  Here is the link just in case   www.fd81.net

When I was in my first frantic scribbling phase and sending manuscripts in all directions, to radio, magazines and newspapers, there wasn’t a commissioning editor in London or Johannesburg who wasn’t swamped by my efforts. They must have groaned every Monday morning as they tried to find their desks beneath the piles of stories, articles etc sent in by me.


There was one lady in Durban who I will always remember. Why? Because she sent me the nicest rejection letters you could ever wish to read. I’m not sure how she did it, but instead of telling me I was submitting garbage, or she wouldn’t touch a particular subject with a barge pole, she made up some reason or excuse that kept my enthusiasm alive.


I wish I had kept those now as they were a masterpiece in tact and empathy.

I swore that if I was ever in that position, I would do the same, so years later when I was lecturing, I would always sit with the students to gently explain why they got an F, or a mark they were unhappy with. Some took it in good faith, while others would simply argue that they should have got an A. They were not willing to learn from a low mark, they were more interested in passing than actually learning.

My take was that if they repeated the exercise, putting all the ‘wrong’ things right, then they will have taken a giant leap forward. That was the whole point of the project to learn from it. If they knew it all before enrolling on the course, there was little point in them coming to college at all.

Some took my advice, others didn’t, they were too busy arguing to learn anything.

I always found it amazing that after that first assignment, I could stare at 70 odd faces and earmark the five or so who would be successful. They just had what it takes. Difficult to put my finger on why, or how I knew. Was it a different slant on a subject? That elusive spark of creativity? Their enthusiasm? Heaven knows but I was never wrong. One student I took out on shoot for qualify for his work experience, a necessary qualification for graduation, eventually became my business partner and he bought the company when I left South Africa. He had that indefinable something that contributed to our success.

KZN BP Misc wasing

I mention this as I have been in touch with two authors in the last month whose books I just could not award the usual five stars. One was really upset and told me my book wasn’t worth 5 stars either yet they had given me a glowing review. So why, I asked didn’t you give it 3 stars which you thought was fair? Emails flew back and forth as if the “you should have given me 5 stars” would have changed the content of the book.

The other author admitted they had doubts about the realism of the plot and was going to have a good think.

While I’m not the guru of whether a book is good or bad, like all of us I am entitled to give my opinion from the reader’s point of view. I am not talking here from the viewpoint of a writer, just the average everyday reader.

No prizes for guessing who will probably succeed in the long term.

Well it’s thankful that Oliver Cromwell did not run England for a long time or he might have caused even more havoc.  When he was younger, he quarreled so badly with his neighbours, he had to move house, and at one time, wait for it, he was a tax collector. He then became a rabid puritan, was sent to Parliament and began to get big ideas. Then it was into the army and when his Roundheads won the war, he was free to bring in all kinds of terrible laws.

Now while he was quite happy to see the illustrious king have his head chopped off (poor Charles) he said that England should not have a king. So, when he won the war he called himself The Lord Protector of England, Wales Scotland and Ireland and signed himself Oliver P.  Lord Protector is another name for king. You couldn’t trust politicians even in those days. He was existing on a miserable income of £100,000 a year – you do the conversion to today’s money.

He had the very best PR service as in 2002 the BBC poll listed him among the 10 greatest Britons of all time – which of course is quite wrong.

Next he set about making people’s lives miserable with all kinds of stupid laws. One example was you were not allowed to knit on a Sunday! Yes, really. In fact you were not supposed to do anything on a Sunday except go to church and pray. If you even went for a walk and you were not on your way to church you could end up with a hefty fine. Playing football on that day could end up with a whipping.

Swearing was punished by a fine and if you swore a lot you could be sent to prison. Most forms of work were banned on a Sunday and women caught doing such a thing could be put in the stocks.


I wonder if people had to wait until Monday to throw rotten tomatoes at them. Is throwing decaying vegetables a form of work?

If you think this is bad wait till I tell you the really awful stuff on Friday.


In many parts of Spain we have todos (‘all’ in Spanish). These are shops run by the Chinese which sell just about everything. From garden furniture to cotton buds, linen to light bulbs, cell phone cases to clothes, Christmas decorations to religious icons. In fact they offer just about everything except for boats, cars, food and medicine. There are huge distribution points which import goods from China by the container ship load, flooding the market with cheap imports.


It wasn’t too long ago that if you wanted to insult anyone, you bought them a present with ‘Made in China’ stamped prominently on the bottom. Chinese toys given to children at Christmas were perceived as dangerous, either poisoning them with the ingestion of lead paint, or guaranteed to choke them with dangerously sharp, small, detachable parts. Most of these toys never lasted beyond Boxing Day anyway.

My mother went the extra mile one Christmas and presented my ex with socks made in China, they were also stamped ‘seconds’.  She really knew how to make a point.  (There is a lot I left out of the book).

Some todos are small, like Aladdin’s caves, there is not enough space for two people to squeeze past each other in the aisles. Others are large warehouses, boiling hot in summer, freezing in winter.


Despite a slightly guilty feeling at not pouring all our hard-earned pensions into the Spanish economy, everyone shops there. If we want a broom, we get it from the todo, price € 4.  If we walk three shops down to the ferreteria, we can buy a better broom for € 12.  It will last maybe twice as long, but you do the maths, 2 x 4 = 8.  You still save money.

So what has this to do with books and reviews?

Firstly, most indie books are offered at a lower price. Reason one? The independent publisher does not have to share royalties with agents, publishers and distributors. Reason two? The sneaky feeling that as an indie, you are relatively unknown, so you don’t have the courage to ask a high price.

Now compare books to brooms in the minds of the potential reader / purchaser. Is a cheap book, (or even a few thousand words masquerading as a book) an inferior product?

Sadly in many cases yes, even in my own experience – and that’s been quite extensive – I’m not the first person to cringe after a couple of years and rewrite and correct that first book before uploading it again. I’m not sure what to do with the half dozen paperback copies of the first edition of my first book, I’m loathe to sell them now. Readers will see the mistakes I made and judge my later work on those early scribblings.

Yet every day more new, hopeful authors are uploading their ‘baby’ for all the world to buy. They have yet to see the errors, the mangled grammar, the tense changes mid sentence, the missing punctuation. As we are all indies in the same indie boat together, we are all judged together.

I am breathlessly waiting for Amie 2 to come back from the editor for the second time. I’ve have probably made lots more mistakes even in this second time around and then I will line proof it to get it as perfect as possible.  Please, please if anyone finds a mistake in any of my books, I would love to know.

So what can we all do to raise the standard of indie books?

For newbies, engage an editor, even a high school English teacher if the high priced ones are out of financial reach. Read your work out loud, does it flow? Ask a close friend or partner to read it to you out loud, how does it sound? Ask for beta readers on FaceBook or other social media you don’t know very well and ask for their real and truthful opinions.

For those of us who have been round the block a while, help all we can by gently pointing out problems we see, even if it means not handing out 5 stars like lollipops. I hope honesty will win out in the long term and benefit everyone.

And remember that even the top writers have their work torn to shreds behind the scenes by editors, proof readers, line editors, grammar experts etc all employed by the publishing houses. It’s just that we don’t see what goes on, we only see the final product.


Back in the days of Oliver Cromwell they didn’t have to worry about such things. But this was a dark and depressing time for England. In this totally unbiased version of history, poor, innocent Charles was tried for treason, and he was unfairly found guilty.

The penalty was to have his head chopped off, and I must apologize but I can’t find a picture of that, so here is one more picture of this wonderful king with his head still on. At his final speech, he did not stutter once and he was as brave as a divine king could be.


This is how England looked at that time. It was a time called the Interregnum (whatever that means).


Shameful isn’t it? England had no king at all. And on Monday I shall tell you of the dreadful things that Oliver Cromwell did.


I can’t put an exact date on it, but I do remember I woke up one morning and realized with horror that I was never going to win Wimbledon. To add to my misery, I also understood that I would never win the downhill slalom at the winter Olympics, (that might have something to do with the fact I have never learned to ski). Nor was I going to come top at the world chess championships, or a maths Olympiad, speed past the finish line in the Comrades Marathon or a whole lot of other stuff come to that.

And how old was I when I had this breathtaking revelation? Approximately age 25. I had not started training for any of these things the moment I left the womb. So, what was left? Well nothing earth shattering that was for sure. I was not destined to become famous and have the general public fawning over me and racing to the bookstall to read the articles on how I decorated my bathroom.

Most of us come to this conclusion at some time or another, often leading to mild depression as the years fly past. There is one exception of course, for everyone who attended school, we can pick up a pencil and write yes? Well, maybe.

I learned never to tell people outside the media circles what I did for a living. I’d pretend to have another job, something exciting and conversational like mortician beautician or abattoir cleaner. Why? Because at social occasions some aspiring writer would back me into a corner with the fatal words “I’ve always wanted to write a book. They say there is a book in all of us!” Then followed a long, often garbled description of the book they had in mind. Forget log lines, forget back cover blurb, this was the complete description page by page by page.

On one fatal occasion I invited one aspiring screen writer to come round so he could discuss his screenplay. I might be able to get him ‘in’ to the South African Broadcasting Corporation Drama Department.

Two hours later, after explaining the 3 lines of dialogue at the beginning and the next hour and a half of his play which  consisted of a chase scene in a deserted factory/warehouse, dodging pipes and leaping off walkways, I wished I had never encouraged him.

I was truly lost for words. When I eventually made some noncommittal noises, he suggested it could be adapted for radio.

Shame, he was a really nice guy, and I always like to help whenever I can, but this time … My only option was to be honest.

Which brings me back to honest reviews. If someone has hiked the long, hard, and often lonely road to publishing a book, then they are serious about what they are doing. But while I could stand with a racquet on Centre Court at Wimbledon facing Roger Federer I might have a pretty good idea I was not going to win the match. I’d be very lucky not to get knocked out after the first serve. And I mean this literally, I’d never get out of the way of the ball in time, I wouldn’t see it coming and I’d be nibbling the grass and getting chalk-line dust up my nose.

Very few of us, myself included, will not make the big time. We might sell a few books, we might get a few reviews, but we could strive for fame and fortune for decades and make ourselves thoroughly miserable every time we call up our sales figures.

Being realistic about our talents is all part of the game. That is one good reason for giving an honest review – or messaging the author, not to damn them but to help if we – as  a reader, not an author – have suggestions that will improve the book and assist in helping it up the sales ladder. But there is always Pandora’s box isn’t there? With hope left in the bottom when everything else escaped.

Those in the first English Civil War got very good at climbing ladders. You have to do that when you want to get into castles and some uncooperative peasant on the other side won’t open the doors to let you in.

ladders soldiers

The brilliant royalists fought very bravely, with their long, wavy hair flying out from under their helmets and wearing their gay, brightly-coloured frilly clothes and silk stockings, they went all out to win.


But the tide turned and because the Roundheads did not mind getting their boring clothes dirty and covered in mud, they were finally victorious. Which was a terrible shame and should never have been allowed to happen. (not that I am biased of course).


When Charles I was defeated he was brought before the Rump Parliament, so called because they had been sitting for a very, very, very long time and they now had sore behinds. The King was accused of plotting against himself, a form of very High Treason and so he was sentenced to death by having his head chopped off.

This was a total outrage. The day for execution drew near.  (to be continued). And I will explain the first and second civil war bit if I can find it by Friday.


Firstly today a HUGE thank you to all the people who voted for Amie an African Adventure in the ReadFreely Best 50 Self-Published Books worth reading 2015. A thank you especially to the discerning reader who entered her and I am thrilled to say that out of 6,000 entries and 10,000 votes, she came in at #18

I can now put this pretty sticker on the front cover of the book. Of course I will have to be extra nice to DH who does all that sort of stuff for me.image002


I don’t think the little button will work, as I tried it – I was hoping everyone might just click and buy to see what all the fuss is about. Never mind.

Waiting anxiously for the return of Amie 2 from my editor, she is so thorough I hope she doesn’t find too much stuff. When I went back over it again, I began thinking that it’s not such a bad book after all. In fact it’s quite exciting and I found myself proof reading faster and faster to find out what happens next. Well at my age, my memory is not what it was.

All I have to do now is write the back blurb and this has been worrying me for weeks. It’s my very weakest writing skill – log lines, yes, thrilling ‘read me’ blurb no.

This doesn’t bring me to reviews, but I’m there anyway.

The next big question we all ask is – ‘I’ve read this book for a review (reciprocal or otherwise). It’s perfectly awful, either because of the spelling / grammar / editing or, which is far worse, the story just doesn’t hang together’.  There may be horrendous inconsistencies, her hair changes from blond to brunette, or suddenly he has gained an extra foot in height, the murderer was on the other side of the word when he killed her, or the characters all have split personalities and behave as those characters would not behave. I’ve just finished the second book in a week that I just can’t give more than 3 stars.

So, do I go ahead and post, or do I pm the author and explain my dilemma?

It’s far kinder to do the latter, and this is what I did. But am I coward? Yes. Because my 3 star will not appear on the page, only the 5 star reviews remain – left by family, friends and readers who just can’t bring themselves to criticize some author’s baby they have slaved over for months.

There is also the fear that if you are honest, in order to help raise the standard of independently published books, you will lose popularity and your own book sales will fall. So do you go anonymous and pretend you are an ‘Amazon customer’? That’s pretty sneaky right?

So, do we leave it to the unwary reader to choose the book with 5 stars? What if they become bitterly disappointed, and in turn, avoid purchasing any other indie book, thus impacting on all our sales? They will have no faith in any 5 star reviews they see, unless it is from a national newspaper, a publishing house or one purchased at $600+ from Kirkus.

Between us, we should be able to come up with an answer.

Well if we think we have problems, they are nothing in comparison to Charles I’s problems. No one was being nice to him anymore. He had no time whatsoever for this upstart Oliver Cromwell. Charles was so convinced that he was right that he raised his standard at Nottingham and made war on the Roundheads. At first he was successful, thanks to Prince Rupert who was dashing in all directions.

PRINCE RUPERT OF THE RHINEThis is Prince Rupert. For some inexplicable reason he was known as Price Rupert of the Rhine, as he had taken one of those expensive boat cruises he’d seen advertised on the telly, and the name stuck.

Some towns in England supported the Royalists – for example the really nice people in Oxford who were kind and loyal.


While others (sadly) supported the Roundheads.  Places like Kingston-upon-Hull.


Now did you know there were 2 civil wars? No? I’ll enlighten you on Monday.


I promise that today’s blog will only be half serious, and below we will continue with the history lesson and find out what Oliver Cromwell was up to.

I was amazed at the amount of feedback I’ve had about my blog on reviews last week. It’s a subject very close to writer’s hearts. I had no intention of scribbling more about it, but I wanted to share the following.

Firstly I had a message from a very good FB friend who said it was the first blog she’d ever read which asked people to give the writer’s book 1 or 2 stars!  Yes, it was a joke, getting a low number of stars is very discouraging. I’m only after honesty as a method of policing ourselves and raising the standard of indie books (including my own).

But I felt bad after writing it. The two 3 stars I have are from my brother in law and my best friend. (I think they are about the only people from my small pool of family and friends who have written reviews). To date all the others had been 4 or 5 – so who was I to preach? Was I being totally hypocritical in my last blog?

Then, Bingo! (The timing was almost surreal). On Friday I received a 2 star on Amazon from a total stranger who had bought Walking over Eggshells because of all its 5 star reviews. She read it and wrote the following:-

I don’t generally read biographies of people who aren’t famous. This book had so many five star reviews that I thought it would be a worthwhile read. In my opinion this book should be listed as a cautionary tale for those who either grew up with or live with a person diagnosed with a narcissistic personality disorder. Unfortunately for her, the author does not find out that is what’s wrong with her mother until her mother is deceased.
If you want to read a story where the primary character is so obsessed with pleasing her mother that she seeks validation for her every move, then this book is for you. Is the daughter co-dependant? I don’t know and really don’t care. Is she “normal” as she later defines herself? Somehow I doubt it.
Not story related but be prepared for the many grammar errors and occasional misspellings in the Kindle edition.

 I think that is a very fair comment, (if only she had sent me a list with all the typos and bad grammar. I can’t find them, but I’m sure they are probably there).

It might have something to do with my rather strange upbringing, and maybe I’m not normal, but I did not dissolve into floods of tears.  She has hit the nail on the head, I did write the book to raise awareness of narcissistic personality disorder, and if it finds readers who are living through the same hell, it might help to make sense of the situation they are in. It might give them ideas on how to cope or the strength to walk away.  I was tempted to add a comment under the review thanking the reader for her perception, but I know that’s not the thing to do.

An email dropped into my box this morning, and this is what it said:-

Thank you for sharing this painful story… I too had a most difficult mother and find it almost impossible to explain this kind of mother/daughter relationship.

So, it’s swings and roundabouts and hopefully I’ve proved my case.

On Friday, more about review groups as it’s time for the ‘fluff’ part of the blog.

If you remember King Charles was all right with the world. He was perfectly happy running up huge overdrafts and living the high life. Here he is again in another gorgeous outfit.


Cromwell who was leading the Roundheads at the time, said that NONE of this was right. Under Habeas Corpus, people should not be put to death for no reason, that it was wrong for ANYONE to be put to death twice and that Charles was certainly WRONG for taking all the Ship Money for himself.

This picture shows the check out queue on the Thames as boat owners wait to pay their taxes.


Charles had found an old law hidden in his comic collection between the Beano and the Dandy. This told him that he could tax people to build ships and he didn’t need parliament’s approval. He decided to take this one step further and demand money not only from those people who lived on the coast, but in the inland towns as well.

This puzzled the country folk as they had no idea what a ship was and they had no money either.


When Oliver heard this he was very cross indeed. He was a little strange though. For example he forbade the wearing of make up BY LAW!!!  This was partly to ensure that those early Chelsea pensioners would not creep out to fight as he knew they would not do so without painting their faces blue. (Refer back to ancient Britons and the wode face painting before battle). Here they are again.


It was perfectly obvious, war was inevitable.