PARLIAMENT AND POTIONS

TRAVEL

We had booked a tour of the Parliament building in Vienna and the MP’s were kind enough to leave the building so we could go and have a good gawk at it.

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It’s a very imposing building (I’m convinced I was Christopher Wren in a former life, I love gazing at architecture).

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I just love that sign telling you where you will find missing children! There didn’t seem to be any around to claim though.

HISTORY (WELL KIND OF)

Now that Carlos of Aragon is dead, busy haunting the streets of Barcelona, his younger brother Ferdinand is heir to the throne. We can forget about all the girl children, because under Salic law women cannot ascend the throne in Aragon.

Fedinand 3

This is Ferdinand, but I couldn’t find a picture of him before he got a crown.

Isabella, still controlled by her mad mother spends most of her days praying, but Mummy is now really furious as King  Henry’s wife Joan (miraculously) produces a daughter and so Isabella and her elder brother Alphonso are a step further away from the throne to rule Castile. She is not a happy bunny.

Then, King Henry, summons Prince Alfonso and Princess Isabella to attend court at Segovia, probably so Henry can keep an eye on them. Isabella is now 11 years old and Alfonso 9.

 

AFRICAN FACTS 

SANGOMAS PART 1

Tribal medicine and herbal cures are still alive and well even in the cities in South Africa. You can often see the witch doctors (both men and women) also called sangomas, as they are often dressed more traditionally and are liberally adorned with beads, charms to ward off bad luck and have chicken bladders in their hair.

witchdoctor 1

On two occasions I was told by the sangomas themselves that they woke in the night and followed a voice telling them to leave their homes and walk. They had no idea where they were going but followed paths and roads until they finally arrived – often after days – at the home where they were expected. In each case their host or hostess was an experienced witch doctor who told them they had been chosen to carry on the profession and taught them everything they knew. In both cases the newly trained returned to their home villages to practice.

(More next week)

Amie makes friends with Ouma Adede the best known and most powerful sangoma in Apatu – and I based her on my meetings with the witchdoctors I met and talked to.

me 6

Till next time, take care.

 

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MEET TERRY TYLER

I have to admit I’ve not read all the books featured on my guest blogs. That had been my original intention so I could make some really intelligent comments about them and gush about how much I loved them. Of course, that never happened I’m not Superman or woman in my case.

This week is different, as I’ve read 3 books by this author and loved them – despite being in a genre I would never even consider – but they were recommended, so I bought the first, read it in a day and then immediately got the second …. What I loved about her Renova trilogy was the premise that it could, one day, come true.

Terry Tyler the stage is yours.1 New

First of all, I’d like to thank the lovely Lucinda (sorry if I’ve made you sound like a 1960s magician’s assistant) for inviting me to her blog!

I wasn’t quite sure what to write about for a while, but I imagine this might be of interest to other writers (and maybe come as a surprise to readers)―I’m talking about THE FEAR that lurks in so many writers’ minds all the way through the production of a novel.  What is it?  It’s the fear that you’re writing a load of rubbish.  If it’s a sequel or a series, and the previous one has been well received, you can add to that the worry that readers will find this one a disappointment.

After writing many, many novels (15 published, 9 or 10 unpublished), I’ve found that my process always follows more or less the same pattern:

Step 1: Get idea.  Mull it around for a while to see if it has legs.

Step 2: Develop plot in head.  Write basic plan.  Start writing.

5K words: Question my conviction that this idea had legs.  Feel unable to get into the heads of any of the characters.  Have to force self to write, every step of the way.

6K – 15K: Start to understand who the characters are but worry they are wishy-washy duplicates of those I’ve written before.  Realise plot isn’t going to work quite as I thought, and make various alterations.  Feel sure it’s banal rubbish.

16K – 30KWell, I’ve got this far, so I may as well carry on.

40K: Consider scrapping.

50K – 60K: Start thinking it might be okay.  Realise what wasn’t working and why, go back and make notes in mauve about where I have to change/add things, but it’s okay, it’s fine, they can all be dealt with in the first rewrite.

70K: Begin to love it!  Feel it’s really coming together!

71K: Me to husband: “I think I’ve lost any talent I’ve ever had.  It’s garbage.”

Husband: “You always say that.”

Me: “Yes, but this time I mean it.”

Husband: “You always say that.”

72K – 80K: See light at end of a tunnel.  Try to push to back of head what a huge task the first rewrite is going to be.

80K- 90K: Realise it’s going to be far too long.  Tell self that a story should be the length it needs to be, and as long as it’s well edited and your readers are enjoying it, it doesn’t matter if it’s 15K words longer than originally intended.

90K – 100K: Who cares about those who say that 70K is the ideal length for a popular fiction type novel, anyway?

105K – end: Thank God that’s over.  Type ‘the end’, feel a nanosecond of victory, go and stare at telly.

1st rewrite: Ahh.  This really is terrible.

2nd rewrite: No, but it seriously is.

3rd rewrite.  Hang on.  I think it might okay.

Subsequent rewrites: It’ll be okay.  It will, it will.

Send to proofreader, who is also first test reader, then spend every day I don’t hear from her thinking that she doesn’t know how to break the news to me about how bad it is.

Next, there is the second test reader, who is über-picky, which is good, but it’s very hard at the time!  Then there are all the final amendments, the realisation that I should have added a scene here and there, the massive plot hole, etc., but onwards I go to the end.

Then it’s up and ready to press ‘publish’ on the given day, and I feel a tiny moment of accomplishment and deep joy.  Next, the ARCs are sent out, and the whole panic process starts all over again.

I sometimes wonder why I do it!  Recently I read a tweet that said something like, ‘how come writing is the thing I want to do most in the world, all the time, but at the same time the thing I want to do least?’

That just about sums it up.  Now, I must go and carry on with the current WIP that is currently over 90K words long and nowhere near the end, a mess of mauve notes, with characters that have changed personality between chapters 14 and 15….

Thank you once again, Lucinda!

Thank you, Terry, what a relief to read that I’m not the only author who agonizes over the rubbish I scribble.  I realize now there are more books of yours for me to find.

Check them out on Terry’s Amazon page

Amazon UK

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Terry-Tyler/e/B00693EGKM

Amazon.com

https://www.amazon.com/Terry-Tyler/e/B00693EGKM

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/TerryTyler4

 

and her blog

http://terrytyler59.blogspot.com/2018/05/

Till next time, take care.

MEET SHIRLEY LEDLIE

My guest this week has another inspiring story to tell. Like so many people we might bump into in our daily lives we have no idea what people have suffered – unless they write a book about it, and Shirley has done just that. Far from being a simple biography, Shirley’s book was suddenly in great demand, but I’ll let her tell you herself.

Billy

I was born in Nottingham, England in 1958 and yes, that means I will reach the big sixty later this year. I’m the author of Naked in the Wind-chemo, hairloss and Deceit plus, two short travelogues.

As far as writing is concerned, I’m a late starter. After moving to France, almost twenty years ago, I had the opportunity to sign a contract with the UK Bella Magazine to write a weekly life-style article. Each week I would write half a page about life in Brittany for an ex-pat family. Our ever-growing family of animals featured in it fairly often; with four dogs, hens, quails, ducks, two cats, a rabbit, guinea-pigs and last but not least a donkey, there was always some escapade to write about! How I loved it! This lasted for a little over a year until a new editor having a clean sweep, swiftly brought my writing career to an abrupt halt.

At this point in my life, I had no idea five years later I would be at the forefront of a Big Pharma scandal and campaign, a co-founder of a global support group and I would write a memoir about it! What a whirlwind ten years it’s been.

So, what exactly have I been campaigning for, the last ten years? Patient Rights.  After being diagnosed with breast cancer, the surgery, chemo, and radiotherapy became my routine for the following ten months. I don’t mind confessing to being a total wimp and if it hadn’t been for my friend dragging me into the car every three weeks I doubt I would have finished my chemo sessions.  Little did I know that the following year I would discover that the new chemo regime had left me with a permanent disfigurement, that wasn’t as rare as I’d been informed.  It wasn’t long before I realised others being treated with the same drug were also not being warned.

SHIRLEY LEDLIE

I’ve always been an ‘all or nothing kind of girl’ and this instantly fell into the ‘all’ category! I threw myself into raising awareness about this little-known side effect often in my own peculiar way,  took on the giants of the pharmaceutical world and co-founded a global support group.

Some of the support group members would despair at some of my wacky antics, but it had become apparent that nice and polite was not going to work. I carried on regardless.

After seven years of living in this surreal world, I finally accepted my disfigurement and the only thing left to do was write a book about my journey. This was supposed to be the grand finale. I could now get on with my new normal life. Wrong. The legal eagles in the US picked up on the story. One morning I checked to see how many books of Naked in the Wind I’d recently sold. There was a large bulk order. Suddenly my memoir was of much interest to several law firms in the US! I instantly found myself being sucked back into the, almost, forgotten world of Big Pharma. The podcast/radio interview requests started to appear in my inbox, articles needed writing and my past fight was discussed all over the internet. I’m still involved as of today, but where it will end I have no idea! I’m just going with the flow and if I can help in any way, I will.

sHIRLEY PILGRIM BOOK

After my first memoir, I wrote two short light-hearted travelogues The Unexpected Pilgrim and Mischief in Manhattan. I didn’t plan beforehand to write about my trip to Israel. After returning home from the spur-of-the-moment visit, I was so spiritually moved I felt compelled to share and I really hoped that readers would be able to put their political beliefs to one side. Some readers have emailed me, thanking me for telling a different story to the one they read about in the tabloids.  I will warn you though; your feet will be aching by the time you read the last page!

The Unexpected Pilgrim: A light-hearted and fast-moving travelogue.

When presented with an opportunity to visit Israel for four days, Shirley decided it was a

chance she could not turn down. It would mean sightseeing on her own – a daunting task for this woman in her mid-fifties with a terrible sense of direction.

She decides to cram as much as possible into her short time there with some amusing and exhausting consequences!

SHIRLEY MANHATEN BOOK

Before leaving for New York City, I’d already planned to write about this sight-seeing trip, so I was well prepared to take notes about everything. We crammed so much into every day; I was worried my poor Fitbit would explode as it clocked up on average 28,000 steps every day.

Mischief in Manhattan:  Five women from England decide to go to New York City for five days, to sightsee and celebrate a 50th birthday. Shirley was invited along to make up the numbers, but how would she get on with the three ladies she didn’t know? Would they all see eye to eye or would there be bickering in the Big Apple? How do fried dumplings, spoons and dress shoes become an issue? With neighbours they hadn’t bargained for and some typical ‘Englishness’ thrown in, this travel memoir is sure to keep you entertained!

What’s next? I have made a start on my first novel and the first in a series of motorhome travels around France, Portugal, and Spain.

Thank you, Lucinda, for inviting me to be a guest author!

Here are the links to Shirley’s books,

Naked in the Wind  https://amzn.to/2EX5TGD

The Unexpected Pilgrim  https://amzn.to/2ErAOer

Mischief in Manhattan  https://amzn.to/2JVTCWP

And thank you, Shirley, for being my guest,  I’m honoured to share your story which will inspire and give hope to many people.

MEET PAUL SPADONI

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.

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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.

PAUL S'S BOOK

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:
https://livingwithabroadintuscany.blogspot.com/
https://www.paulspadoni.com/

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.

 

PICKS AND PROSTITUTES

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?

MEET ROBERT FEAR (FRED)

This week’s guest author I know from chats on FB, particularly in the groups Indie Authors Support and Discussion and We Love Memoirs. I’ve also read many of his books and enjoyed them. How many of you will pick up on the word ‘time’ in one of his titles? I’m really pleased to welcome Robert/Fred Fear on this week’s blog, starting with a brief biography.

Robert Fear has lived in Eastbourne, on the south coast of the UK for half his life. He moved there to be with Lynn, his future wife and is still there with her thirty years later. As cat-lovers they have taken on several rescue cats over the years and are owned by three at the moment – Hazell (tabby), Jet (black) and Sparky, a bouncy ginger one-year-old.

For his day job, Robert works as a self-employed software consultant. In his spare time, he writes, edits and self-publishes books, and organises annual travel writing competitions.

Robert’s interest in travel goes back to his twenties when he spent most of his time abroad. His experiences included; a summer in Ibiza, hitch-hiking around Europe and touring the USA & Canada. His most eventful trip was in 1981 when he travelled around Asia.

Born into a religious sect known as the Exclusive Brethren, his father John took the brave step of leaving it with his young family when Robert was nine years old. Robert never saw his grandparents again but is thankful for being able to grow up outside this restrictive group. His life has been full of adventures that he would never have experienced otherwise.

Robert Fear - Author Pic

Fred was a nickname that Robert Fear was given while at school. It became his travel name and he is still known as Fred to this day. In this blog post Fred talks about the background to his self-publishing ventures.

Fred’s Diary 1981: Travels in Asia is the edited version of a handwritten diary that I kept during my travels in Asia between February and July 1981. The final collection ran to 600 pages of closely written detail.

It was almost forgotten for many years, only making an appearance when friends asked to see it or to read it.

Fred's Diary 1981 cover v2

In 2005 I decided to start typing up my diary onto the computer. I managed to get the first two months done but then ran out of motivation.

A couple of years later there was an article in a PC magazine about Kindle and self-publishing that sparked my interest.

The second part of my diary was released in 2009 and its title, Time in Thailand, probably indicates to you that things didn’t go as planned. £99 to Hong Kong was published in 2011 and covers the first part of my trip where I did some work as an extra for Chinese television.

By now the bug had truly bitten and I started planning the release of the whole diary. Over the next two years, I typed everything up and started editing the diary for publication, all in my spare time.

Fred’s Diary 1981: Travels in Asia was self-published in December 2013 and was relatively successful. It was a long book though. The paperback version ran to 564 pages and contained 165K words.

During the first few months of 2015 further editing was undertaken and the second edition, released in October 2015, contained less than 100K words, with around 360 pages. It has also had a professional final edit and a wonderful new cover.

A lot of my spare time over the past couple of years has been devoted to making my father’s dream come true.

It started for me back in 1992 when my father, John, was becoming increasingly frail and was confined to bed most of the time. Visits to the hospital became more frequent and the doctors were talking about months, not years.

John had been working on his memoirs for several years and had already typed up many of the chapters. He also had plans in place for finishing the remaining chapters of his book. Now he was unable to continue and my mother, Mary, called me to see if I could help. I was more than happy to.

In the evenings and at weekends I sat at my computer and transcribed the chapters that John had already finished. These were duly printed off and sent back to him. It was a period of reconciliation between father and eldest son as we discussed the changes that he wanted made and planned for the missing chapters.

Exclusive Pedigree v3

During the months following his death, I continued working on John’s memoirs with the help of Mary and my brother, Alastair. The limited edition was published under the title Exclusive Pedigree and if it hadn’t been for a chance remark the life of the book could have ended there.

Towards the end of 2015, I was visiting my mother for a few days and gave her a paperback copy of the second edition of Fred’s Diary 1981: Travels in Asia, which she wanted to read. The conversation turned to self-publishing and we started talking about John’s memoirs. Then came the bombshell, “Did you know Rob that John always wanted to have his book published properly?”

Thanks to the tremendous support of beta-readers and fellow authors alike, my father’s memoirs were professionally self-published in July 2016. I think John would be proud of the finished result, a fabulous tribute to his life entitled Exclusive Pedigree: My life in and out of the Brethren.

Travel Stories 2017

While working on the second edition of Fred’s Diary 1981: Travels in Asia, I started a blog in February 2015 to assist me with the editing process. To encourage people to visit my blog fd81.net I started a Travel Story competition for entries of between 500-1000 words which I ran in parallel with daily diary extracts.

It was such a success that I subsequently ran another competition for Travel Highlights of between 50-100 words. Again this went very well. I decided to publish all the entries in a new book called Travel Stories and Highlights.

Travel Stories 2018

In 2016 I re-ran the two competitions. Again, there were a lot of fantastic entries and a 2017 Edition of Travel Stories and Highlights was published in December 2017 with the best 50 travel stories and 50 highlights from both sets of competitions.

This year was the third year for the competitions and the response has been so terrific that I have been able to publish a brand new 2018 Edition containing 60 compelling Travel Stories and 40 absorbing Travel Highlights.

Twitter:  @fredsdiary1981

Fred’s Blog:   fd81.net

Facebook:    www.facebook.com/fredsdiary1981

Fred’s Diary 1981: Travels in Asia   getBook.at/FredsDiary1981

Exclusive Pedigree: My life in and out of the Brethren  getBook.at/ExclusivePedigree

Travel Stories and Highlights: 2017 Edition   getBook.at/TravelStories2017

Travel Stories and Highlights: 2018 Edition   getBook.at/TravelStories2018

Thank you, Robert, for being my guest today and I can personally recommend his books, especially if you like traveling.

Till next time, take care.

 

VIENNA AND VIEWS

TRAVEL

While on our bus tour, we got brief glimpses of the UNO village complex which houses several departments of the United Nations and the St Francis Assisi Church. I just wanted to backtrackIMG_4895 on that a little to show you the pictures of some of the stained glass windows in the Votive Church we’d seen earlier (stained glass windows must be one of the most beautiful sights ever, especially when the sun shines through them). And also a picture of this amazing contraption, which I guess they must use for cleaning the windows or getting up anywhere high? It has a lot more charm than the modern cherry-picker.

The next morning we walked into the central museum complex area as I wanted to take pics of the guys selling tickets for the various musical concerts. They were all dressed in period costume. To my surprise, they seemed a little reluctant to have their photos taken, but I persevered and there was nowhere for them to hide anyway!

HISTORY

Of course, we all know that princesses fall in love all the time but when Princess Elizabeth did, it was not at all popular. He was a Prince of course, but he didn’t have a kingdom or even a princedom anymore and his family was a bit strange as well.

PRINCE PHILIP

It was a big problem in those days, marrying other royals, they were all foreign!

The one Princess Elizabeth chose looked very handsome but had a decidedly dodgy family. His father had lost his throne and was no longer the King of Greece, all his sisters had married Germans and his mother was in a home for the insane.

But, on the other hand, he had lived in England and spoke the local lingo with a posh accent so maybe he would be OK.

qe !! MARRIAGE

In a blaze of publicity and a welcome respite from the drudgery of post-war life, the two married on 20th November 1947 in Westminster Abbey.

Now, this is something not many people know. Westminster is NOT an Abbey, though it is built on the site of an old abbey. It’s NOT even a cathedral. Its proper name is the Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster.  It’s the traditional venue for royal coronations and weddings, having the status of a Church of England, ‘Royal Peculiar’  – a church responsible directly to the sovereign.

THE NATURAL BREAK (A polite way of saying that here is where I talk about my books)

Amie Back Story v2.1

Each month I write a new chapter to the Amie backstories, featuring mostly her elder sister Samantha and Ben whom she first meets as her cameraman in Togodo.

Sam is an idiot and constantly getting into one scrape after another on her first trip abroad, while Ben is psyching himself in his rural village to become a man. This is a teaser from the first chapter and you can download the next 14 chapters for free from my monthly newsletter.

This is the link to click on. http://eepurl.com/c-GqWr

PART ONE

Battered and bruised, Amie sat shivering alone in the small prison cell. How had this happened? Where had it all gone wrong? She thought back to where she had come from, anything to take her mind off waiting for the next appalling meal to be shoved through the flap at the bottom of the door. It was always the same, a heap of maize meal porridge, a watery stew in which floated the odd suspect morsel of meat surrounded by pulpy vegetables. The only drink they’d offered her was water and she wasn’t too sure that was clean. Despite her revulsion, when her stomach began to rumble after the first couple of days, she could sense her strength beginning to ebb, and she devoured the food and drank every last drop.

How long had she been there? Days, weeks? If only she’d thought to scratch on the wall to mark the passing of time, but it was too late now.

She took in her surroundings. One lumpy, stained, foam mattress on the bare concrete floor, a bucket in the corner that was emptied only once a day, a window securely barred, too high for her to reach and look out. She could hear the everyday sounds from the nearby market, but no one knew she was there; no one was going to come and rescue her. She lived with the ever-present worry that at any moment she would hear footsteps echoing down the corridor outside coming to drag her outside to go and answer more questions.

All she had left were thoughts and memories of her former life in a warm and loving family thousands of miles away in England. She smiled as she remembered the times she and her sister had discussed their future lives, it had seemed so easy, so predictable, so planned and precise, so ordinary. She could see it so clearly as if it was yesterday.

SAM

“Amie, I need your help with my homework,” said Samantha, flinging open the door to her sister’s bedroom.

“Not again! If you didn’t spend so much time mooning over Gerry, you’d get twice as much done. And how am I supposed to help? You’re two years above me!”

Samantha ignored the comment and threw herself onto the bed. “It’s all right for you, it’s all too easy, you’ll romp through your exams.”

“Only because I work hard, and concentrate in class. I know what I want to do and where I’m going. I have it all planned out.” Amie sounded smug.

Her elder sister sighed. “I guess I’ll go the teaching route, it’ll fit in better with being a housewife and a mother. Though,” she added, “I have no intention of getting tied down too early. I want to travel and see the world first.”

BEN

Seven thousand miles further south sat another young person thinking about his future, a future which could not be more different to the one Amie faced. He scuffed his bare, black toes in the dust making swirling patterns, only to obliterate them and begin again. He hated to admit it: he was frightened. It was bad enough for the other boys, but he was the son of his father who was brother to the chief. They would expect more of him, he would possibly be the first one and he would not dare flinch, nor cry out however bad the pain was. He shuddered just to think about it. It was made even worse knowing that he was the youngest in the age regiment, and on his shoulders rested the standing of his family in the tribe.

Like the dust particles he was stirring, thoughts circled around Ben’s head. He was torn, halfway between the old world and the new. He was now part of the modern Africa. He lived in a house with a bathroom, hot and cold water flowed from the taps, and he slept in his own bed. He attended the best school in Apatu, run mostly by the local British expats who showed him pictures and videos of places on the other side of the world. He watched in awe as pictures of spaceships rocketed skywards, saw men walking on the moon, and listened as they explained how satellites orbited the earth too far above them to be seen. In many respects, he was receiving a similar education to Amie, but that is where the similarity ended.

He was familiar with the village where his family sent him for the holidays. When he was very small it was fun to throw off his shoes, run barefoot across the savannah and bathe naked in the shallow river. He’d follow his father’s cattle for long days under the blazing sun, occasionally screaming and chasing away the odd hyena or wild dog that came too close. He’d wave his long stick and jump up and down without getting too close. To his relief, not once did the predators come any nearer, but slunk off with their tails between their legs.

In his earlier years, he’d enjoyed the company of the other boys close in age, as they ran free as birds, ducking and diving under the lower hanging branches of the smaller thorn trees. They spent hours poking long sticks into the tall, red termite mounds, throwing stones at the weaver birds’ nests to bring them crashing down to the ground, much to the frustration of the males who shrieked with fury. Hours of hard work patiently weaving the strands of dry, yellow grass into the tightly knit balls precariously fixed to the very end of the thorn branches, lost because of the fecklessness of some nasty little boys running wild. He’d competed in the informal running races, mock fighting with sticks against the others, and sitting breathlessly at the feet of the local storyteller. The old man had told tales of past heroic deeds by members of their tribe, stories of how the majestic African animals lived on the plains and the legacy of the ancestral spirits who guarded the tribes-folk from beyond the grave.

Till next week, take care.