How about a Christmas present for me? It won’t cost you more than a moment and very little effort. I’m asking all you FABULOUS people out there for a re-blog of this post (flatter them p 148 of How to Win Friends and Influence People).
You see I have been trying to build up my email list like, well forever. Everyone I know has thousands and thousands and thousands of names and I’ve struggled to reach even a limited number – (you may sigh here). Now I know the fake news going around that the Big A is about to go bust is nonsense and that we will only be able to sell our books all by ourselves, but I do see it’s a very good idea to have a healthy mail list a little larger than your friends and family – and I have a very small family. I’m fed up with sending dozens of copies of my newsletter to DH and myself over and over again. He’s now threatening to unsubscribe!
I am sending out my Christmas newsletter on Saturday, December 23rd and my subscribers will get a free copy of:
Amie African Adventure which has done really well and won lots of awards from individual readers and international awards and 173 reviews (unless some have gone AWOL while I type this!)
And that’s not all. Subscribers will be able to download Part 2 of The very Worst Riding School in the World – which is only available from my newsletter and will NEVER be on general sale.
Part 1 is available free on the Big A and wide and is also free so you can grab that short read if you have got this far.
There are now 12 chapters of the Amie back stories and these build up month by month to download for free.
Sam, Amie’s spoilt brat of a sister, is taking her first overseas holiday with boyfriend Gerri and they are getting into all sorts of trouble in Spain – he’s landed in jail and she’s spent several hours in the lift between floors. The other character who features is Ben, who was Amie’s cameraman in book 1, she meets up with him in book 2 and he plays a huge part in book 5 which is still in progress. DH has designed this lovely cover for the backstories.
Oh, and before I forget there is also a bit of rubbish blurb from me and if you would like me to feature your book, then let me know by this Friday morning (it takes me hours to sort out the techie stuff on MailChimp). I’m not sure whose twisted mind designed it all but if you know who it is, advise them to steer clear. So I think my newsletter is really good value and it only goes out once a month, twice at most. OK, I’ve finished groveling now and it only remains to wish you all a Wonderful Christmas with friends and family or a good book (preferably mine 🙂 ) and a Happy, Healthy and Brilliant 2018. With love from Lucinda.
This week I’m adding a few more pics of our trip on the Canal du Midi. I loved going in and out of the locks, and in one of them, you might be able to make out where are 3 in very quick succession in succession and it looks as if the boat coming downstream towards us was hanging in mid air!
It was amazing to see grass growing on the lock gate.
We were out on the boat for a couple of hours stopping off on the way back at a lochside cafe.
Being a Sunday night we assumed that there would be plenty of places to have our evening meal. We were wrong. We walked around the new – though it is hardly new now – part of town and finally found a fast food joint which was manned by a charming young man who used sign language and pictures of the meals he had on offer printed out on a plastic sheet.
The following morning we set off for home again.
As I mentioned last week poor George/Albert/Bertie had a bad stutter. He was also very shy and didn’t want to be king at all he’d not been expecting it – it was big brother’s job.
George was born in 1895 so may even have remembered great granny Queen Victoria and he was 41 when he had the throne thrust upon him. He wrote in his diary that he burst into tears. It was time to book the speech therapy lessons.
So moving on to George VI the family were at it again with all the name thingie. We know him as King George, but he was christened Albert, Frederick, Arthur, George and before he became king he was called Albert and Bertie to friends and family. So why I wonder did they decided to use his last name as king to make him King George? (And the littlest male heir we have now is also called George – I think someone should show them how to google names and see how many different ones there are).
I’ve since discovered that ‘the queen what I don’t like’ demanded the name Albert to offset the fact that George was born on December 14th, the day when ‘Dear Albert’ died.
THE ADD BREAK.
Here is the beginning of book 4 in the Amie series – Amie: Cut for Life. myBook.to/Amie4
“Oh, my God! It’s Amie! It’s Amie!” The shriek reverberated around the walls of the shopping mall, bouncing off the plate glass windows and echoing along the hall.
Amie froze in her tracks. The plastic shopping bags slipped out of her hands and slithered onto the floor. Was the voice referring to her? Had someone recognized her? Was it someone who knew her well? What was she going to say? How could she explain? What was worse, she could have sworn it was her mother’s voice. No, that wasn’t possible. Her parents were six thousand miles away, outside London. This was Johannesburg, South Africa, her mother wouldn’t be here. Would she?
“Now Mary, calm down, you’re imagining things. You know it’s not Amie. Amie’s gone.”
Still, Amie couldn’t move; she was riveted to the spot, she didn’t even dare turn round. The mannequins in the shop window peered sightlessly at her as she stared at the reflection in the glass. Her mother’s name was Mary. It was her mother. Here, just across the hallway. Hell!
“It’s only another girl who looks a little like Amie.” Her father’s voice wasn’t convincing and Amie could feel his eyes boring into the back of her head. Did he believe his daughter was standing only a few feet away? “Remember,” he continued, “you thought you saw her in Croydon shopping centre a few months ago. That wasn’t Amie either, just a girl who reminded you of her.”
“Let me just ask her Raymond, let me ask her …”
“No! You can’t go bothering people. There are millions of thirty-year-old girls with blonde hair all over the world. Come and sit down for a moment dear.”
Amie retrieved the bags off the floor, fumbling with stiff fingers to prevent dropping them a second time. She dithered, uncertain what to do. More than anything in the world she wanted to run to them, throw her arms wide open and tell them that yes, she was Amie, their daughter. She was alive; alive and well.
She shuffled over to a nearby bench and sat down as if needing to rearrange her packages. She didn’t have the strength to walk away, her legs felt like rubber and she was shaking from head to toe. She sensed movement behind and to her horror realised that her father was helping her mother to sit on the seat that backed on to the one Amie was occupying.
“Now don’t go getting yourself upset Mary. We’ll sit here a moment while you get your breath back, and then we’ll go upstairs to our room and have something stronger to calm you down.”
Her father was fussing like he always had throughout their forty odd years of marriage. If they were going upstairs, then they were staying here at the hotel that was part of the shopping complex. What was she going to do? It would be wonderful to talk to them, to feel her father’s arms around her, to comfort her mother. She could also find out what had happened to Samantha, her sister. Had she made it up with her husband Gerry, or was she now divorced? And what about Dean and baby Jade, her niece and nephew, how were they?
Mary Reynolds was weeping. It was tearing Amie apart at the seams. What was she going to do? What were the consequences if she told them she was still alive? Would it comfort them or cause them more pain? If she broke the imposed code of silence would her employers simply shut her up for good?
She leaned further forward and buried her head in the bag of underwear she’d just bought until she sensed them getting up from the bench. She counted twenty seconds before peeking behind her; they were heading for the hotel entrance. She would recognize her father’s upright figure anywhere and the particular way her mother walked, a kind of penguin waddle that had always made her and her sister laugh when they were small.
She clenched her fists around the shopping bags, took a big breath and made for the nearest exit. She needed to get back to the B & B where she was staying and consider her options. This was not a decision to be taken lightly and Amie was not known for making her mind up quickly. She had the uncanny knack of seeing problems from several angles all at the same time and needed space to process them.
So there we were in Carcassonne, and we’d ‘done’ the castle what was next? Back at the B & B we discovered that our landlady had left a bottle of wine in our room, which was a nice touch, I guess she saw the birthday cards on the dresser.
Sunday we decided to visit the cathedral, but we should have gone earlier as a service was about to begin and the place was packed. We noticed no less than 3 beggars sitting outside but did not see anyone give them anything.
Coffee in the square followed, but all the shops were shut which surprised me, I remember them being open on Sundays in France. After a cup of very mediocre coffee at an exorbitant price, we wandered down to the canal to book our boat trip. (And I know Val has been waiting for this).
Carcassonne lies on the Canal du Midi which is the 240 kilometre long canal that joins the Mediterranean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean, considered at the time to be one of the greatest construction works of the 17th century. It was one of my favourite kings, Louise XIV who got things moving. The canal was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996.
Now for those techie people, I mined these facts off Google. The total rise is 57.18 metres, and the summit level is 189.43 metres. It’s 2 metres deep and 20 metres wide on the surface but only 10 metres on the canal bed. I guess that means it’s best to stay in the middle?
Ex Edward VIII now the Duke of Windsor, only came home again to Britain after he passed on when the Royals attended his funeral.
He died in Paris, but before we say goodbye to him a bit of trivia. Edward VIII is the fourth longest-lived British Monarch, a total of 28,463 days. Well, of course, I had to get my calculator out to find out just how old he was when he died, and that’s your homework for this week!
By now his brother sat on the throne, not all the time you understand, there were times when he got up and walked around for a while. He didn’t want to be king, for a start he stuttered badly and that’s not good as kings are supposed to give very long speeches.
PIC of FUNERAL from the BBC.
EMBARRASSING NATURAL BREAK
Apart from DH (and he has a tendency to grunt when shown), there is no one to share this with except you, a lovely review I got from Book Viral for Amie African Adventure.
A powerful and riveting adventure set against a background of violent upheaval, Amie African Adventure proves a masterfully penned novel with just the right mix of suspense and plot. Matching storytelling grace with a story truly worth the telling, Clarke’s novel is explosively authentic and she’s not an author to skip on social commentary. In fact, far from it; but she makes her points without too much breast-beating, with a tender regard for her characters that gives her storytelling a natural gravitas thoroughly suited to unfolding events. We feel Amie’s angst and her character is carefully observed, Clarke’s dialogue is timely and authentic whilst tension and suspense are always to the fore as she navigates the complexities of her plot. It’s the necessity of circumstances which dictate the choices Amie makes and readers will react with varying degrees of outrage, anger and concern as they hope for a better future for her. Most importantly, it all makes for an enthralling read that keeps the pages turning at a feverish pace whilst setting the tone for an exciting new series.
For readers who appreciate a well written, intelligent and engrossing adventure story Amie African Adventure proves a must read and is recommended without reservation.
Now on the first Monday of the month, I usually write about a book thing rather than my travels – such as they are. Right now I’m in the “Shall I, shan’t I?” stage regarding my next book. Do other writers suffer a sort of empty nest syndrome after launching their latest offering out into the world to meet the general public? (Not that Amie has gone anywhere she’s still lurking in the shadows!)
This time after the flurry of all the screaming and shrieking about the launch – delicately of course – I sat back and thought ‘what now?’ I was physically and emotionally drained. At that point, I heard a little voice from under the bed crying out to me. Don’t laugh! I’m a very sensitive person and I have these flashes occasionally. It was Horatio, begging to be let out.
Back in the 1980s, I wrote several short stories for children which went out on the South African Broadcasting Service. They asked for more Horatio tales, but I had a miserly thought that instead of receiving a few Rand for every flighting I could add a few extra stories and have a whole book. Of course, this would sell millions overnight and I’d be off on my mega yacht in no time at all. I submitted a different series of stories about a witch to the SABC, completed Horatio and gave the manuscript to my then agent. I even produced what I now know is called swag to go with it.
I understand she tried Penguin in London who wrinkled their noses and that was that under the bed it went in South Africa, through 10 house moves, then packed into a cardboard box and flown to Spain and thrown under yet another bed, along with all those awards I shall never look at again.
So in my indecisive mood I decided to take action – not an easy feat getting under our bed the hydraulic lift thingie doesn’t work too well and I nearly sliced off an arm hoisting it out. Would you believe the two copies I have are typewritten on real, old-fashioned paper!
Yes, that’s how long ago I wrote it. So now I’m labouring away, got an illustrator lined up and soon I will pluck up the courage to tell DH that the next offering will have pictures in it! I must just tell myself that I will not have a nervous breakdown trying to get it out for Xmas, or I’ll aim for Christmas 2018.
Since I’m already out there in 3 genres, what’s one more? I’m probably schizophrenic as it is, and it gives Amie a break for a couple of months.
Not only was Edward or David as he was called – they like things to be very complicated, downgraded to a Duke, the British royal family refused to be friends with him. He had broken the unwritten rules by saying he didn’t want to be a king anymore.
That was not on. If you are born a king or queen then you become a king or queen and you rule whether you like it or not and you stay ruling until you go to the big throne room in the sky.
The House of Windsor does not do this abdication thing and let the youngsters take over and have a go. In the UK the Heir Apparent might wait for years and years and years.
But there was no stopping Edward from making history and after a lot of fuss, his younger brother had to step in and take over.
THE BOASTING BIT
Just have to share with you that October was a great month with two really unexpected awards. Amie African Adventure was a Finalist in the Book Excellence Awards in the Adventure category and a Finalist in the IAN awards in Literary Fiction.
And, Walking over Eggshells was a Finalist for First Non-Fiction in the IAN Awards, so I am very thrilled.
There is quite a town now around the castle and the basilica at Carcassone. Even though it was raining when we were there the place is packed with tourists. The narrow streets are crammed full of eateries, souvenir shops, more souvenir shops and a few more souvenir shops. DH is always a little tetchy when there are swarms of people around but he does understand they were not going to clear the place for us.
There are also a couple of hotels in the citadel. I couldn’t find out – probably due to my appalling French – if any of these buildings had people left in them when they were all ordered to go and live across the river. Did they all flock back again when they heard the tourists were coming?
The only museum worth seeing according to the Trip Advisor reviews was the school. Now I’d hate you to think I am quite this old, but I did recognize some of the things I saw on display. And it was fun to practice writing with a nibbed pen and real blue ink in a pottery inkwell set into the desk. DH chickened out of that one.
Who knows if Edward thought through his decision to abdicate? His reign lasted 326 days one of the shortest ever (if you don’t count Lady Jane Grey who only managed 9 days). He couldn’t marry straight away as Wallace still had to finish getting divorced from husband #2.
Edward was downgraded to a Duke and then took his new wife off to visit Germany (I showed a pic of this a couple of weeks ago). This was not a popular thing to do at that particular time, and from being wildly celebrated when he was younger, life didn’t seem like much fun. He also had to take a huge cut in salary of course. They don’t look wildly happy, do they?
I hope you don’t feel sorry for him, remember what he said when his younger brother died? Here is another quote: from 1920 when he visited Australia about the indigenous Australians: “They are the most revolting form of living creatures I’ve ever seen!! They are the lowest known form of human beings & are the nearest thing to monkeys.”
So you can imagine how he felt down at being demoted, and serve him right.
BEGINNING OF Amie book 3 Amie: Future Shock
Behind her veil, the tears streamed down Amie’s face as she watched them lower the coffins into the freshly dug graves. She could remember little about the previous few days and constantly fought an overwhelming panic. Her mind was a jumble of disconnected thoughts, blurred memories and questions. People she didn’t know well had invaded her world to arrange this terrible funeral.
From where she was standing on the far side of the cemetery, partially concealed behind a tall Natal Mahogany tree, she could see Ouma Adede who had once foretold her future. What was she doing here? There were others: Mrs Motswezi from the orphanage where Amie had first found Angelina, half-familiar faces from the Club, couples they’d dined or swam with at the beach. There was a tall, very good looking man with blonde hair she had never seen before, he was probably from the embassy. And Ken, of course, the sun reflecting off his dark skin and black curly hair that showed his African heritage. Even Jennifer and Patrick were there, but Amie was not allowed to talk to them, neither could she approach them. At one point, without thinking, she’d taken a step forward as if to walk over and join them, but a hand had grabbed her arm and held her back.
“You can’t go any closer, not now, not ever,” the stern voice displayed no emotion.
At last the preacher finished his eulogy. One by one the mourners filed past the graves on the way to their cars. Ouma Adede looked up and stared straight at Amie, even though she was shrouded in a black muslin veil and hidden behind the tree, and Amie could have sworn she gave a brief nod. But then the elderly witchdoctor walked out of the graveyard without a backward glance. Did their eyes really connect or was it her imagination?
Once all the mourners had departed and the preacher had hurried away, Amie was herded straight to the car, then back to her room and once more the door was firmly locked behind her. Now Amie could weep in private.
The Bastide (it’s what they call the castle but I have no idea why)fell into ruins and had become a bit of an eyesore until a local man thought of building it all back up again.
This wasn’t going to be easy, as no one had thought fit to lodge the original plans with the town council. So they brought in this famous architect who poked around for a while and drew up what he thought it should have looked like.
It has been suggested he added a few extra towers with pointed tops to make it look nicer. He seemed to be very fond of these as they were everywhere. So while a couple of bits remain from the past, a lot of it is new, less than 200 years old.
And I sensed this, even in the streets surrounding the castle. It did not have the same vibes as Fontainebleau or Hampton Court where you can feel those who lived there long ago. (All other writers will understand this). In one of the courtyards, there were some red steel frames leaning against the walls and I wondered if they were still doing restoration work, but I was informed this was a modern sculpture. It looked so out of place I deleted the photo I’d just taken in disgust.
Of course in those days when you built a large home it had to have a chapel or church to show how religious and good you were and in this case, it was the Basilica of Saint-Nazaire.
There were two rose windows which faced each other east and west and I suspect this must have been the original building?
The problem was Edward VIII kept turning up everywhere with this obviously
unsuitable woman. The Dowager Queen Mary of Tek refused to even acknowledge the American’s presence when they were forced to meet.
Then parliament got involved, and they all threatened to resign if the wedding went ahead. Edward VIII had already discovered that being king was not much fun after all. There were a lot of papers to read, and boring meetings to attend, and behind the scenes, he had to do as he was told. He was by now completely besotted with this social climbing upstart and was lost without her. He was given the ultimatum and decided to hop off the throne and let his younger brother have it. As far as I know, he’s the only British king to do this by choice.
This is the opening to the second Amie book – Amie and the Child of Africa.
The silence of the night was shattered by the sound of approaching vehicles. Bright lights split the night, illuminating flying insects in their beams as the trucks drew nearer. There were excited shouts and one driver blasted his horn which immediately woke everyone in the camp. Whoever had been on guard duty barely had time to shout a warning as the new arrivals thundered towards them.
Jonathon wriggled out of his sleeping bag and seized the rucksack that was always next to him before pulling Amie to her feet.
“Run. Run,” he whispered loudly. “Run as you’ve never run before.” Stopping only to grab their shoes, they left the tent and raced off into the darkness.
Amie didn’t need to be told twice. They’d been discovered and the only thought she had was to get as far away as fast as she could. There was no time to jump in the two trucks parked next to the tents, their only chance was to make for the other side of the valley on foot and hide in the trees on the lower slopes of the mountain range.
She ran blindly, trying to keep up with Jonathon. His legs were so much longer, he was just over six foot tall and she was seven inches shorter, so he was forced to slow down to keep pace with her. She didn’t stop to think she might step on a night adder, or crash into one of the smaller termite mounds she couldn’t see in the dark. Nor did she stop to think of all the dangers beyond the safety of the camp. There were lions out here, hyenas, buffalo, jackals, wild dogs and elephants. Anything they might bump into could easily turn round and attack.
As soon as they were on the other side of the wide, dry river bed, they stopped to put on their shoes, Amie’s feet were already bruised and bleeding and it was more painful with her shoes on.
They set off again, running over the veldt, not caring what was in front or to the side of them, not even stopping to see who else was also running. They only knew certain death lay behind them. Low hanging branches slapped their faces and legs, and twice Amy stumbled over shrubs as she tried to zigzag round the odd acacia tree that loomed in front of them. The only piece of luck was the moon. It was bright enough to cast deep shadows near the larger objects which lay in their path, but not bright enough to make Jonathon and his wife too easy a target.
We walked around Carcassone castle and were very impressed with how well the building had stood up for the last 800 years, I mean even the walls were nice and clean.
DH remarked several times that they don’t erect edifices like they used to, to last for centuries. I detected the odd pitying glance from the passers-by, which was puzzling. We sat and watched the movie on its history and learned that all the people living in and around the castle had been ordered to go and relocate on the other side of the river.
Next, the Black Prince came along and set light to the Bastide as they call it, and that didn’t do it much good either.
The locals were quick to grab what stones were left to build their own houses and I understand they didn’t leave much of it.
So what did we see? I’ll tell you next week.
Now, on one hand asking Wallace Simpson to marry him might have reassured many people that Edward VIII was not gay as had been thought by some. But there was an even bigger problem. She had married and divorced twice before and both her ex-husbands were alive and well.
This would never do. The King was the head of the Church of England they didn’t allow such things. The answer was to marry and shove off, or find a better match. Some historians tell us that the lady in question wasn’t all that fussed about marrying Edward, but she had told everyone that she would re-furnish Balmoral Castle and get rid of all that nasty tartan that Queen Victoria had installed.
THE NATURAL BREAK
That’s what they say to pretend they are not advertising yes?
I thought I would do something a little different and paste in the beginning of one of my books over the next few weeks. I’ll start with book 1 of the Amie adventure/spy series African Adventure.
They came for her soon after the first rays of the sun began to pour over the far distant hills, spilling down the slopes onto the earth below. At first the gentle beams warmed the air, but as the sun rose higher in the sky, it produced a scorching heat, which beat down on the land with relentless energy.
She heard them approach, their footsteps echoing loudly on the bare concrete floors. As the marching feet drew closer, she curled up as small as she could, and tried to breathe slowly to stop her heart racing. No, please, not again, she whispered to herself. She couldn’t take much more. What did they want? Would they beat her again? What did they expect her to say?
There was nothing she could tell them, she was keeping no secrets. She knew she couldn’t take any more pain; every little bit of her body ached. How many films had she seen where people were kicked or beaten up? She’d never understood real pain, the real agony even a single punch could inflict on the body. Now all she wanted was to die, to escape the torture and slide away into oblivion.
The large fat one was the first to appear on the other side of the door. She knew he was important, because the gold braid, medals, ribbons, and badges on his uniform told everyone he was a powerful man, a man it would be very dangerous to cross. He was accompanied by three other warders, also in uniform, but with fewer decorations.
They unlocked the old, rusty cell door and the skinny one walked over and dragged her to her feet. He pushed her away from him, swung her round and bound her wrists together behind her back, with a long strip of dirty cotton material. She winced as he pulled roughly on the cloth and then propelled her towards the door. The others stood back as they shoved her into the corridor and up the steps to the ground floor.
She thought they were going to turn left towards the room where they made her sit for hours and hours on a small chair. They’d shouted and screamed at her and got annoyed when she couldn’t answer their questions. This made them angry so they hit her again.
She’d lost track of the time she’d been here, was it a few days, or several weeks? As she drifted in and out of consciousness, she had lost all sense of reality. Her former life was a blur, and it was too late to mark the cell walls to record how long they’d kept her imprisoned.
This time, however, they didn’t turn left. They turned right at the top of the steps and pulled her down a long corridor towards an opening at the far end. She could see the bright sunlight reflecting off the dirty white walls. For a brief moment, she had a sudden feeling of euphoria. They were going to let her go!