MEET BRENDAN GERAD O’BRIEN

OK, OK, I admit it I have a soft spot for Irish writers, the land of my birth, though I have long since lost the accent.  While we may speak the same language as the English, Welsh, Scots, Americans and the Australians, I maintain we have poetry and words flowing through our veins. Have you guessed that this week’s guest is also from Ireland? What a surprise!  Welcome, Brendan Gerad O’Brien. He now lives in Wales, but you can never take the power of words away from the Irish – not that I’m biased of course. Over to Brendan.

Brend

When I won my first writing competition I was so excited I ran all the way home. I was about eight years old. The Fun Fair was coming to Tralee – our little town on the West coast of Ireland – and apart from Duffy’s Circus which came in September, this was the highlight of our year. Our English teacher asked us to write an essay about it and I won the only prize – a book of ten tickets for the fair.

So writing was in my blood from a very young age. My uncle Moss Scanlon had a small Harness Maker’s shop in Listowel – a bus ride from Tralee – where I spent some wonderful summer holidays. The shop was a magnet for all sorts of colourful characters who’d wander in for a chat and a bit of jovial banter. One famous storyteller who often popped in was John B Keane, and I asked him once where he got his ideas from. He told me that everyone has a story to tell so just listen to them. I was there when John B’s first story was read out on Radio Eireann. I can still remember the buzz of excitement.

But it was only when I got married and the children came along that I made any serious attempt to write a book.

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The result was Dark Septembera brutal alternative history thriller set in Newport during WW2. Germany invade Britain. Stormtroopers attack the South Wales coast to capture the coal mines. Newport is blitzed. Danny O’Shea’s wife is killed. O’Shea heads for neutral Ireland with his son and they witness Welsh Nationalists ambushing a German convoy carrying a mysterious cargo.

But the Nationalists fall out and the cargo disappears. Then O’Shea goes to the aid of a dying woman – and both the Germans and the Nationalists believe she told him where it’s hidden. Now pursued by both the Germans and the insurgents, his only concern is to get his son to safety.

I always found writing short stories is amazingly therapeutic. I get a great buzz from taking an idea and developing it, often watching it evolve into something completely different from how it started out. Great ideas are all around us. Little gems are waiting to be harvested everywhere we look. I found myself listening to what people are saying, and the way they say it.

For instance, the Irish are famous for their colourful and exaggerated language, always using a dozen words when one would have done. So I set my short stories in Ireland. The names are changed, of course, because I don’t earn enough to survive a lawsuit.

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Dreamin’ Dreams contains twenty of my published short stories. They’re all based on real people who passed through my life at some time or other, or events that actually happened to me. Enhanced, of course, and sometimes exaggerated out of all proportion.

The title comes from something my father said years ago when I got poor grades at school. ‘What do you expect?’ he said to my mother. ‘He never does any studying. He just sits there, dreamin’ dreams.’

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This was followed by Gallows Field, set in Tralee, Ireland during WW2.  Eamon Foley, a Local Security volunteer is in a crowded pub when his brother-in-law Joe McCarthy is shot dead. Foley thinks he sees a face from his past when he was working in Dublin and witnessed a brutal murder. Important items went missing then and the killer believed Foley took them. Foley thinks shooting Joe was a warning that they’ve caught up with him and are looking for their stuff.

But Garda Sergeant Liam Edge believes Joe was a victim of a jealous husband because of his involvement with numerous women.

Then Foley’s sister Mary is found dead in the town park.

And his son is taken by a nun in a car.

When Foley illegally obtains evidence saying who is responsible, Sgt Edge dismisses it, insisting they follow proper police procedure.  With dreadful results.

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My latest book is A Pale Moon Was Rising, again featuring Eamon Foley during 1944. A German submarine is spotted in Tralee Bay on the West coast of Ireland.

Next morning the body of a young man with fatal head injuries is found in the river. He’s wearing a distinctive silver ring.

Garda Eamon Foley traces the ring to Paudy Daly, who’s been missing for over nine months.

But Paudy’s father, the notorious Mixer Daly, is furious when he sees the body. Because it is not his son.

Garda Foley discovers that the body is that of a Polish seaman. So where did he get Paudy’s ring?

Then Garda Foley learns that the last time Paudy was seen alive, he was on his way to rob a pig-breeder’s house.

Writing magazine

Thanks for choosing me for your blog, and have a great week,

Sláinte

Brendan

bgobrien.net

I had no idea that Brendan was such a prolific writer, as the books featured here are only a part of his vast repertoire. Check him out on his Amazon author  page

https://www.amazon.com/Brendan-Gerad-OBrien/e/B006ICG2HE 

and thank you for being my guest this week.

MY CHAT WITH VAL

This week I’m reposting a lovely interview I had with Valerie Poore.  She asked such interesting questions and I had to think quite hard to answer them. I’ve done a cut and paste from her blogger site as there is no facility to reblog.  So sadly, you can’t see the lovely picture of her barge in Rotterdam Harbour that Val has on her page. This is the link if you want to go and have a peep. https://vallypee.blogspot.com.es/2018/01/from-africa-to-amsterdam-meet-lucinda-e.html?spref=fb

From Africa to Amsterdam: meet Lucinda E Clarke

Posted: 27 Jan 2018 02:20 PM PST

It’s been a long time since I did a weberview here, so I’d like to offer a very warm welcome to Lucinda E Clarke, whose amazing books set in Africa have entertained me on many a long cold evening in Europe. 

DEE Friday morning market

Lucinda has written three full length memoirs, one humorous novel and a four book action adventure series. Apart from the humorous book, all her writing is set mainly in Africa, which is where she has lived most of her life. She now lives in Spain, but I can tell from her books her heart, like mine, still lives in the southern hemisphere. 

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Lucinda’s memoirs and her humorous novel Unhappily Ever After

So Lucinda, I’m going to mix my questions up a bit, but they are all things I’ve been curious about since I started reading your memoir ‘Walking on Eggshells’

Firstly, then, I’ve read all your books (I think) and have enjoyed every one of them (I know), but which of your books have you most enjoyed writing?

Val, firstly thank you for the opportunity to talk about me, myself my books and my life – no one I meet in person is the slightest bit interested (sad eh? I don’t believe it! VP)

I most enjoyed writing the 4thbook in the Amie series “Amie: Cut for Life,” because I was beginning to feel like a proper author. I knew where I was going with it, even though I never map out of any of my books. It took longer than the others, but I believe the end product was the best. I think I’m getting a bit better with practice. Only another 50 or so to go and I should have cracked it.

Well,  I’ve just finished your Worst Riding School in the World, Parts 1 and 2 and I laughed my socks off, so I think you’ve more than cracked it if you can write both humour and drama so well! Anyway, I saw you mentioned how much you loved Botswana. Is that the country you have in mind when you are writing your Amie novels and how well did you get to know Botswana before you moved to South Africa?

I lived in Botswana for almost 3 years and it’s the real Africa. South Africa is more a first world infrastructure (shopping malls, high rises, excellent road network etc) dropped down in the middle of the African bush. There was none of that in Botswana, though we were beside ourselves when they opened the first cinema and a Spar shopping supermarket in Francistown, such luxury!

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Lucinda’s action adventure series set in Africa

I can imagine that. It sounds wonderful in your books, though. Can I ask which you find it easier to write: fact or fiction and why?

The fact is so much easier – you are simply recounting what happened, so the story is all mapped out in your head. You don’t get to page 149 and suddenly realize your heroine can’t come to the rescue because you’d put her in a wheelchair and left her in a prison three thousand miles away!

Haha, true, but fact has its own challenges, doesn’t it? Do you think your travels have helped you as a writer? If so, in what way?

Goodness yes! Despite the reviewer who told me I didn’t know what I was talking about (she had never been to Africa, but she had seen it on the television news). You get to meet people who have a different mindset, opinions, knowledge, education and you realize that everything you have been taught until then, was only from one point of view – possibly the media in your own country. Our thoughts are shaped by the propaganda we are fed. “Travel broadens the mind” is one of the truest sayings I’ve ever encountered.

I so agree with that. But how do you think living in Africa has influenced you and your writing?

I was just so incredibly lucky. Like you, I was far away from the suburban areas, living in the bush. My filming took me to chiefs’ kraals, witchdoctor’s huts, agricultural projects, schools, hospitals, local government – I could go on and on and on. I was so privileged to be welcomed to places where I would joke with my African crew “Look after me guys, I’m the only white person for miles and miles!” So many of the people I met touched my heart, so few possessions, so brave, so accepting and often bewildered by the fast-paced modern world that was trying to drag them into the mainstream.

One shoot I remember was when the African government official could not understand why the San (Bushmen) should be allowed to hunt and live as they had for centuries. No, the official policy was they must live in houses with running water and send the children to school and the men must get jobs. They had rounded them up and pushed them into this housing estate miles from anywhere and the San looked so miserable. It was so sad; they didn’t want to live what we call a conventional life.

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Lucinda with an African chief

Strange how even Africans can totally misunderstand other Africans. Now, as writers we are always striving to improve, aren’t we? Is there anything you find difficult in the writing process, and if so, how are you trying to overcome it? (Sorry, this is a boring question, but I really am curious!)
There are some days when the words don’t come – onset of word retrieval or lack of. Other days I can’t type fast enough to keep up. I get twitchy if I don’t write for a couple of days, but then I’m writing up blogs, or the newsletter or commenting on social media or composing reviews. Basically, I love to write and that’s what was so wonderful about my work in the media. I would be bouncing out of bed screaming “Yeah! It’s Monday!” – although I’d probably worked right through the weekend as well!

I’m a workaholic and was heartbroken leaving the production work behind when we left South Africa. If I feel I’ve hit a brick wall in a book, I plough on, even though I might delete a whole lot later. I’m very disciplined having worked to deadlines so often, I occasionally have to tell myself that it’s not a train smash if I didn’t get 5,000 words done today – I am supposed to be retired after all.

My word, I’d be delirious to write even 1000 words every day. That’s amazing, but Lucinda, I know you’ve been writing for years; do you remember the first thing you ever wrote?

Oh yes, it was a report on the Sunday School class I was teaching (to win brownie points to get into teacher training). It was published in the church magazine, but I think I was the only one ever to read it, as I snaffled all the copies and took them home to read! I cringe when I think about it now.

Now you’re being too modest, I’m sure! Are you writing anything at the moment? Can you tell us what it is, and when it’s likely to be available?

I am currently writing book 5 in the Amie series. She’s the young English girl I uproot from the London suburbs and dump in Africa and then when war breaks out and the last evacuation plane takes off, she is left behind to survive as best she can. Since book 1 I have put her through all kinds of hell, and in this book, she gets mixed up in high-level international politics over mineral rights which are necessary for nuclear devices. I can’t give much more than that away at this stage but she is still under threat from the government forces who are using her. I hope to have it out sometime this year, but I’ve been so busy marketing I’ve neglected the writing side. I need an extra 6 hours a day!

Well, that sounds as if it’s going to be as unputdownable as the others! I won’t keep you any longer now, Lucinda, as I’m going to pack you off to your keyboard to get writing! Thank you so much for joining me here today. It’s been great to have you on my barge for a chat. At least it hasn’t been windy today so you haven’t had to cling to your cuppa.

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The day I met Lucinda on her flying visit to Amsterdam. A meeting I enjoyed because I admire her immensely

For anyone interested in sampling some of Lucinda’s great books, click here for her Amazon author page.

Lucinda is also active on Facebook

And on Twitter

Have a good week allemaal. I’ll be back with all that’s wet and watery next time!

 

MEET LINDA M STRADER

My guest this week is a very special lady and I’m thrilled to host her as she is one standing up for women to be people, like me she admires strong women who can, in most cases, do a man’s job.

Originally from Syracuse, New York, Ms. Strader moved to Prescott, Arizona with her family in 1972. In 1976, she became one of the first women on a Forest Service fire crew in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson.

Her publishing history includes many web articles on her expertise in landscaping with desert plants. A local newspaper, the Green Valley News, printed an article about her firefighting adventures, the magazine, Wildfire Today, later published an excerpt. The article generated interest in her speaking on this topic to several clubs, including the American Association of University Women. Summers of Fire: A Memoir of Adventure, Love and Courage is her first book, scheduled for publication on May 1st, 2018 by Bedazzled Ink Publishing. She is currently working on a prequel.

In addition to writing, Ms. Strader is a landscape architect, certified arborist, and watercolor artist. She currently lives in the same area where her Forest Service career began.

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As I researched the history of women in the U.S. Forest Service for my memoir, I discovered something rather disheartening: There wasn’t much to find! Since its inception in the late 1800s, the Forest Service was strictly a man’s world. What surprised me, though, was that women were not even working in offices until men decided they hated paperwork. But hiring women for field work? That took a while to happen.

The first exception to the rule was Hallie M. Daggett, who was no stranger to National Forests and wilderness experiences. She had learned to hunt, fish and trap, which was quite an accomplishment for a refined and educated lady in those days. She also had a profound hatred of forest fire destruction, and wanted to be a part of the Forest Service’s goal to prevent such catastrophes. Therefore, she was honored to be hired at the Gulch Lookout Station on the Klamath National Forest in June of 1913.

Hallie acknowledged that she had support from a few men, thus securing the lookout position. However, dissenters insisted that she couldn’t possibly handle being alone in the lookout tower, especially once it got dark, saying, “She’ll be on the radio the first night, pleading to go home.”

I’ll bet Hallie laughed herself silly over that one. Of course, she proved them wrong. Full of spirit, skill and aptitude, she continued working as a lookout for 14 more years.

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That article sparked my curiosity. What other interesting, strong women in history could I find?

Emma (Grandma) Gatewood didn’t own any fancy hiking equipment. She scoffed at a sleeping bag, tent, backpack, hiking boots or special clothes. “Most people today are pantywaists,” the sixty-seven-year-old said, as she planned to solo hike the 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail in May of 1955.

Emma carried her supplies in a denim draw-string bag, including a woolen Army blanket for warmth and a shower curtain for a raincoat. Keds sneakers were her only shoes—although they did need regular replacement.

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She ate peanuts and canned Vienna sausages, supplementing this simple diet by foraging for wild strawberries, onions, and sorrel. Occasionally, she reveled in what she called, “trail magic”—food shared with her by strangers. Talk about one tough woman.

Now I had a mission. What other inspiring ladies could I find?

Canadian Molly (Myrtle) Kool was one cool lady. She loved the water, and spent much of her childhood working on a scow with her father, Paul Kool. Longing to be her father’s first mate, she applied to the Merchant Marine Institute in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia in 1937, but they denied her application. However, that didn’t faze Molly—she kept trying, and earned a coastal master’s certificate in 1939. While that is impressive in itself, think about this: At only 23 years old and female, she was now a Captain! But did she get a Captain’s respect? LINDA SEA 1

Fellow sailors gave her a pretty rough time on the rough waters of Bay of Fundy, where she hauled cargo. However, Ms. Kool was known for her smart comebacks in times of stress, refusing to succumb to the harassment she received. When her ship encountered dense fog and collided with another ship, she was tossed overboard, in danger of being chopped to bits by the ship’s propeller should she go under. Luckily, she was able to grab a piece of wood to stay afloat. When passengers on the other ship threw life preservers at her, she hollered, “I’m already afloat! Quit throwing useless stuff at me and send a boat!”

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Gotta love her practicality.

Molly Kool lived until the ripe age of 93, outliving both her first and second, husbands.

There are many more women in the past that have made a mark in history, and plenty that have in recent years. Others will continue to do so over the years to come. While it may be assumed that women no longer have to struggle to achieve the recognition for accomplishments that are easily bestowed on men, the reality is women still face harassment and bias. However, with inroads being made in all fields, let us hope that someday soon, everyone, regardless of gender or any other labels, are respected and revered for doing what they love and doing it with style.

You can connect with Linda here:  Lstrader2008@aol.com

Blog address: https://summersoffirebook.blogspot.com/

Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/LindaStraderauthor

I can’t show you the cover of Linda’s book as it is not out until May, and she’s sensibly into the marketing before it hits the shelves! Keep a look out of it, and thank you for being my guest today.

 

TOURS AND TRUTHS

votive church

Since we had purchased a 24 hour ticket for the Vienna HOHO bus next morning we made for the bus stop and got on the wrong bus. We hopped off and while waiting for the bus we wanted, we visited the Votive Kirk.

This was built following the attempted assassination of Emperor Franz Joseph in 1853, by his brother Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian to thank God for saving his life.

The next bus took us past the Burgtheater and then out into the countryside.

It was a pleasant drive, through Grinzing as far as the Klasterneuburg monastery. The weather was cold and overcast and no one got off at any of the stops, possibly because they were unsure when there would be another bus back to the centre of the city.

A third bus drive took us out of the city in the opposite direction, the north east, to Donauturn, which is the park area enjoyed by the Viennese. There is a huge tower there a restaurant and a fun fair.  We also passed over the Danube with many cruise boats plying to and fro and tried to work out the where the Danube splits into 4, the river, the tamed river, the canal and the lagoon overflow.

We wandered round the city centre for a while found a great Italian restaurant and that day, despite the bus tours we walked 9.5 kilometres – a gold medal level for me.

HISTORY

By 1944, the eldest princess, Elizabeth had also joined the army, mending trucks and teaching drivers to drive and teaching driving instructors how to teach driving to people who couldn’t drive. I know this is true, because my mother was in the same section and she had pictures of them.

ADD BREAK

The second of my career memoir sees me returning to South Africa and once more writing scripts for video production. Eventually, I founded my own small production house and made dozens of movies for international conferences, awards ceremonies and … for heaven’s sake I made programmes for anyone who would pay me. Over 15 years I traveled Africa shooting (camera kind) in deep rural areas, meeting chiefs, witchdoctors, celebrities, politicians and ordinary folk. The tales are both heart-warming, sad and educational (did you know some animals are gay?).

More Truth, Lies and Propaganda

Caroline died last night. It was a long, lingering and particularly nasty death – just as I had planned. I had originally decided to kill her by chopping her to pieces under a combine harvester, lots of blood and gore flying everywhere. I could see the birds flying up in protest, small insects bombarded by pieces of her, and the cries of the crowds gathered to stare at the miniscule remains of what had once been a beautiful, young lady. But then at the last minute I changed my mind. Why destroy the peace of the English countryside?

I promised at the end of my last book (Truth, Lies and Propaganda) that I would tell you how I finally got rid of Caroline, so I have described her demise at the end of this book.

Are you curious to know what Caroline had done to deserve a vicious and torturous death? Quite frankly I haven’t the faintest idea. Perhaps she is the heroine in a book I’ve not written yet. She is a marvellous example of how you can do exactly what you want to do if you are a writer, as long as you don’t put it into practice in everyday life.

As authors we control the lives of those we create, it’s one of the perks, but we have a lot less control over our own lives. What was I doing, sitting in a small front room in London, my feet freezing despite the thick woolly socks and furry slippers, my fingers numb as they pecked at the keyboard?

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I glanced up at the grey, leaden sky and shivered. I could hear the swish of the cars passing by as their tyres skidded over the wet tarmac and the slap, slap sound from wellington boots as people walked past the house. Years earlier I hadn’t even heard of SAD, the syndrome where you get depressed by bad weather and lack of sunshine. Here in London, I had not seen the sun for several days. I remembered my first airplane trip when we rose above the clouds, and there, to my amazement, was the sun, throwing its beams over the top of the fluffy white pillows in the sky. It was still there, of course it was! How stupid of me to think the sun had deserted us, but that’s the feeling you get when you don’t see it for days and days.

What was even worse, this weather was destroying my creativity. I battled to put words on paper, even though I had a contract to write a series of radio programmes for the South African Broadcasting Corporation. (I shall refer to them as the SABC in the future as I’m far too lazy to type it all out each time).

I had recently returned from living in Durban, a city on the east coast of South Africa, fronting the warm Indian Ocean. There, the words flew straight from my brain and magically appeared on the screen, well sort of if you get my drift, I’m using a little poetic licence here.

I began daydreaming about the work I had done in the past, the fun I had with the amazing people I had met. I remembered the excitement of working in the SABC radio studios in Johannesburg, the friends from the Communications Department in Durban and all the wonderful experiences out in the African townships with the crew, while filming a wide variety of programmes.

But that was all over. I had just finished the last SABC programme and I doubted they would ever give me another series, I lived too far away. The classroom beckoned a return to the profession I had trained for decades earlier.

I was not looking forward to it one little bit. I had heard tales of the modern monsters who now inhabited the hallowed halls of learning. If it was bad 30 years before, it was even worse now, ‘Health and Safety’, and ‘I Know My Rights’ had seen to that. It seemed to me that a black belt in judo and other martial art qualifications prepared you better for the classroom these days, than the three years they offered you in teacher training college in the 1970s.

What was worse, I was not living in the best area of London either, so I was expecting the worst if they even considered offering me a job. I’d not graced a classroom for years, and I was just a little bit out of touch. No, I was a lot out of touch. The kids would make mincemeat of me.

Till next week take care.

OPERA AND OPPORTUNITY

TRAVEL

Hidden along the Stephansplatz in the centre of Vienna are several little arcades, and I wanted to explore them all.

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and then, much to my surprise there was this huge screen outside the Opera House showing an operatic performance. We stood and watched for ages until …

DH spied a Hop on Hop off bus and there was no stopping him – there is no shortage of them in Vienna which is geared up for tourists. We took the complete circuit of the Red route to get our bearings and got off a stop early to visit the Theseus Temple. It’s a rather strange place, even if you ignore the statue of the naked man outside, but what this uh, sculpture represents I have no idea.

By this time we had walked 8.2 kilometres, so time to find food – schnitzels of course and make for bed.

HISTORY

King George and his queen were very brave and stayed in London during the war instead of running away.  They did send the princesses to stay in their holiday home in the countryside.

 

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Buckingham Palace
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Windsor castle, holiday home

 

 

 

 

 

ADD BREAK

While my first memoir Walking over Eggshells focused on my relationship with my Narcissistic mother (thank you, Donald Trump, for explaining this condition to the whole world) and the effect it had on my life, my other two memoirs focus on my career in writing for radio and television. The first is called Truth, Lies and Propaganda – and I’m a master in propaganda, in fact, I deserve a Ph.D.in the subject.

Truth, Lies and Propaganda

I have decided that tomorrow I am going to kill Caroline. I’d like to squash her flat under a road roller, or push her off the top of the Empire State Building, but I’m not sure how I could get her there, and I suspect Health and Safety have got it securely enclosed by now. I can’t shoot her as I’ve no idea where I’d get a gun, and a knife means getting up close and personal and I don’t want her blood all over me. I could poison her, but then I don’t know very much about poisons, and I really should dispose of her in a more interesting way. I’ve grown to hate her, and I want her death to be lingering and painful.

For months she has caused me unmentionable pain and heartache. I’ve sat up all night worrying about her, and if I give up and go to bed, her very presence has caused me to toss and turn until the early hours. I have to put an end to this. She’s got to go. So, how am I going to dispose of her?

 A combine harvester, that’s the answer!

I will mash her to pieces in a peaceful and idyllic cornfield, while the birds sing and the soft wings of the butterflies barely disturb the air. Her screams will resonate as she is dismembered into bite-sized chunks between the rotating blades and her blood spurts metres into the air turning the ripened, golden maize a brilliant red.

Yes, that’s what I’ll do tomorrow.

For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be a writer. In those early days, it seemed such a glamorous occupation, I so admired those people who could transport others into a land of fantasy, take them back in time to another world or forward into the future on another planet. What was more, you, the writer, were in control! You could give your characters a headache, or better still, break their legs or pop them into a wheelchair, and you could kill them off in so many different and exciting ways.

How about leaving them to be gnawed to death by rats, or drowning them in a vat of vintage wine, or poisoning them with their own birthday cake?

Of course, you can be nice to your characters as well. You can present her with a loving, rich, faithful and successful husband and four adorable children just like those in ‘Little House on the Prairie’, and make her stunningly beautiful at the same time. Now she’s beginning to sound nauseating, and you hate her already don’t you?

It’s time to make things go wrong. Enter the nymphomaniac, blonde secretary with the very, very, short skirt barely covering her knickers, legs that start at her armpits, big boobs and a predatory nature. Now, that’s more exciting isn’t it?

TLP HIGHER RES

As a child, I had very little control over my life so writing was extra important to me. It was the only way I could escape from the misery of everyday life. I would sit in my room and scribble silly little stories in an exercise book and then run and show them to my mother. She was not kind and sneered at my earliest attempts to influence the world of books – although my grandfather, a reluctant writer himself, was more encouraging.

A huge influence on me in those days was Jo in ‘Little Women’. I can’t remember how many times I read Louisa May Alcott’s story. Jo began writing when she was young, and I cheered for her when she sold a story and bought a carpet for the house, and then another story which helped keep the family comfortable in difficult times while their father was away fighting in some war or other. (At least that is what we were told. He wouldn’t have run off with another woman, would he? Or been serving time?) Jo was the heroine of the family for me, and I dreamed of making a fortune by writing such wonderful books that everyone wanted to read them.

Of course, life isn’t like that, and the usual questions came up as I reached the last of my school years.

“Do you want to be a secretary, a nurse, or a teacher?”

Frankly, I didn’t want to be any of them. My vision of secretarial work was being a lackey to some overbearing, loud-mouthed man in some dingy office. I would be sent to collect his dry cleaning, sharpen his pencils and spend hours thumping away at a typewriter making thousands of mistakes. I would never make a good secretary. Even today, I’m ashamed to say, I can’t touch type, my eyes are constantly glued to the keys, and even at my advanced age I still make thousands of mistakes.

Nursing was a definite no-no. I fainted at the sight of blood, not a prerequisite for a medical career, you’d agree. Even in primary school, they sent for my mother to come and take me home after I had fainted in class. The doctor was called, and I was put to bed for the rest of the day. And what had been the cause of all this? It was the human nervous system. The teacher had told us to open our biology books at page such and such and there, in bright, luridly coloured pictures, we could see what happens when you prick your finger. They showed the path taken by messages as they sped to the brain along the nerve highways and back again, armed with the new information that ‘Ow! That hurt!’

I even feel a bit queasy now just writing about it.

I collapsed several more times in high school, each time they decided to rip open a heart, an eyeball or some hapless animal’s lung. But the results were less dramatic and I was no longer in the spotlight for my disgraceful behaviour. The teacher simply instructed two of the biggest lads to grab me under the armpits, drag me through the door, and prop me up against the outside wall of the biology lab.

So that left teaching. I agreed to become a teacher as it seemed the least daunting career that could possibly be suitable. Not that I had any experience of children, they were about as foreign to me as the pygmies in the Congo. However, I convinced myself that teachers had nice long holidays, and they finished work early at three o’clock every afternoon.

I tried one more time, but my last few whines about wanting to be a writer were firmly ignored, and that was that. Dickens, the Brontë sisters, and Shakespeare would never have to turn in their graves worrying that I would pose any threat to their sales revenues.

As the obedient daughter, I would attempt to pour information into the heads of unwilling and recalcitrant children and earn a proper and respectable living.

Till next week, take care.

CHURCHES AND CINDERELLA

TRAVEL

Now I’ve had to scramble looking for where I left off before Christmas and the Best Reads posts, and yes, DH and I were in Vienna. In my usual boring way, I had sussed out what there was to see and do, making copious notes before we left. We didn’t hang around but walked into the centre of town to the opera house.

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We meandered up the main central pedestrian way – the Stephansplatz and visited St Stephen’s Cathedral, an imposing Gothic edifice which was begun around 1350 or so, so it’s quite modern as you can see!

I was eagerly eying the shops but Dh managed just in time to whisk me into St Peter’s Catholic Church with its impressive dome.

In the middle of the Stephansplatz is this amazing statue. It was commissioned by the Habsburg Emperor Leopold I at the end of the last great plague to hit the city in 1679. It’s probably the most intricate column I have ever seen.

HISTORY

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I recently read a book about Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, written by an insider who painted her as less than loveable, although she won the hearts of the British people.

Without her, George would have struggled as king, a role he certainly never wanted. To begin with, she insisted he have elocution lessons so he would sound posh without stuttering and so, of course, she chose an Australian to tutor him. Makes perfect sense. She was said to be very controlling and very bossy.

ADD BREAK

This week the opening pages of my comedy Unhappily ever After. You didn’t really think that Prince (now King) Charming and Cinderella would live happily ever after did you? Come on, she was from the wrong side of the tracks, and if truth be told, he was a bit of a wimp. The other famous Fairyland characters, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty get a similar treatment. Throw into the mix the Green Giant sent by the ‘Red Party’ to rouse the simple, stupid peasants into revolting against their royal masters and the stage is set for disaster.

(I should mention this book comes with the following warning which is inside the front cover).

This book is not suitable for children, nor is it recommended for adults who are of a gentle, sensitive or nervous disposition. The opinions as stated by the characters are neither politically correct, nor in fact even kind or considerate. The author takes no responsibility for their appalling actions. It should be remembered that it refers to a time before the new laws about correct speech were promulgated. No offence is intended to any race, gender, creed or belief of any persuasion, and as such this narrative should be treated as a work of fiction.

The death of Charming’s parents – they simply adored chariot racing and misjudged that final bend – brought untold wealth to the young prince and power beyond belief. In his hands was the authority to dispose of any or all of his subjects as he saw fit. He was a total autocrat in a land that did not expect to be ruled in any other way. Yet Charming remained his own sweet self. The result was a happy and contented kingdom where each day was as delightful as the one before and would be forever more. Nothing would happen to disturb Charming’s idyllic life or his upright, well‑bred existence – not even his wife.

Of all marriages theirs must have been the most mismatched in the history of time. Everything that Charming was, Cinderella was not. She’d had a hard upbringing, in one of the poorest areas of Charmingdon and she’d never shaken her common accent. She’d been born a peasant and she would die a peasant. Not all the royal trimmings in the world would ever change that. Not that Cinders had ever been seen to make an effort. Since becoming a royal she’d had all the advantages of dancing classes, elocution lessons, instruction in etiquette, even horse riding lessons, but having made it to the top without such accomplishments, Cinderella really didn’t see why she should bother now.

Time had not been kind to the Queen’s figure either. She had a particular fondness for chocolates, toasted marshmallows, cream cakes, doughnuts, waffles, sugar buns – oh let’s be honest – Cinderella had a passion for anything edible. She spent the greater part of her day consuming everything in sight, and as her figure grew outwards, her appetite grew in tandem. She was of average height, with dull, mousy hair, and the fair complexion and freckles to match. Her large bulk made it impossible for her to ever look smart despite heroic efforts on the part of her many dressmakers. As soon as she began to move, her flesh wobbled in every direction, and at the extremity of a pair of very stout legs were the most amazing feet you’ve ever seen. Even she had to admit they were not exactly the most beautiful feet, but, she had a lot to thank them for. She was the only female in the whole land whose foot fitted that slipper lost at the Ball, and that made them the famous feet that had become her trademark. They were always bare. She liked, she said, to wiggle her toes at all times.

Despite all this Charming adored her. In his eyes she could do no wrong. He did not recognize her common behaviour, her faults, her gross appearance, her appalling manners. To him she was perfection incarnate. True, she had a bit of a temper, but everyone has their little foibles and if she possessed an interesting way of expressing her feelings, well, that was part of her enchanting personality.

Cinderella was not so inclined to adore her spouse. The thought of being the most important queen in the land had thrilled and excited her two centuries ago; to get ‘one up’ on those snotty sisters of hers was a dream come true. But it all turned out to be very boring. She began to despise her adoring husband. He irritated her with his goodness, yet it was his very goodness that made it so difficult to be really nasty to him. He failed to understand her snide remarks, her sexual innuendoes, her criticisms. She sat for hours wondering how to free herself from this marriage she had come to loathe. Perhaps she should come straight out and tell him in a language even a four year old would understand. Yes, she’d procrastinated long enough. She’d tell him today, this morning, at breakfast.

Till next week, take care.

MEET BARBARA CARTER

I’m sure many readers will resonate with this week’s guest Barbara Carter, living with a burst of creativity inside and not knowing how to express it – life always gets in the way!

BARBARA CARTER was born in Nova Scotia, Canada. She is a visual artist and writer and is currently working on a series of memoirs focusing not only on her personal journey but highlighting important issues such as: anxiety, depression, loss and grief and the not so great ways of dealing with inner pain. Also living with a narcissistic mother. Barbara has an amazing ability to shed light on the sometimes dark subject matter with her ability to use humor. She also instructs art classes and offers guidance in writing memoir. The focus of her work is on examining the past in order to heal and move on.

Barbara - May 2017

My story is about learning how to follow my inner voice/intuition/soul.

As a child, I loved colouring books. At about the age of 10, I learned how to draw. There were no art classes taught in the schools I attended, so I was very much on my own. Later, in my teens, I purchased how-to art instruction books to help me learn more.

My dream at that time was to become an artist.

I was also drawn to writing, especially poetry and song lyrics.

But I felt I had to choose one or the other, that I couldn’t do both.

Living outside a small town in Nova Scotia, Canada life didn’t work out as I’d planned. No one encouraged me to pursue creative avenues and I lost hope, ending up on a self-destructive path.

After years of spiraling more and more out of control, I eventually managed to do what everyone else around me was doing: get married and have children.

Giving up on my earlier dreams, I tried desperately to suppress my inner voice, to deny my desire to create. I struggled to become what I thought I was supposed to be: to fit in and just be considered normal!

During this period, I’d stumbled upon quilting. I made necessary items for our home, such as quilts, chair cushions, curtains, etc. But it wasn’t enough. There was still this longing inside, a need to create my own images.

I had no money for art supplies, so one day, in a flash of inspiration I made use of the only materials I had on hand: fabric, thread, and needle.

My earlier creations were black, white and gray, the colours I’d been using just before giving up on my dream of becoming an artist.

When I first began creating my fabric images, I didn’t realize that I lacked joy and colour in my art, as I did in my life.

I was a shy, insecure young woman who didn’t know how to achieve the life I wanted. I had no idea that my images were anything more than a “picture” to hang on the wall, because I, as a person, didn’t realize I had anything of value to say.

Over time, I grew as an artist by my commitment to step out of my comfort zone, to contact strangers, to ask questions, and to seek answers. As I did this, my confidence also grew.

On that journey, I met many amazing people and learned how to show my art in galleries. It all seemed like a dream come true.

Skip ahead many more years to my mid-forties. My desire to write became overwhelming, and I felt that if I didn’t get whatever was inside of me out, I would literally lose my mind.

So I began to write, having no idea of how to properly go about doing it.

Once again, I simply followed my inner desire/voice.

After years of secretly writing on my own, I signed up for a creative writing course, and it was there that the voice of my child-self first emerged. She was a strong, powerful voice, pouring out thoughts and feelings that I had no idea were even inside of me.

Floating Bird - Small

As an adult I had blocked out who I’d been as a child, especially how I’d thought and felt growing up. Until I began writing, I had relied on the facts and the memories of others.

 

My first memoir, Floating in Saltwater, contains stories of my childhood, the lessons I learned, the questions I asked, the messages about life I received and the struggle to trust my inner voice.

My second memoir, Balancing Act, is about my early teen years, my struggle to fit in, and my need to find love, happiness, and freedom. It expresses how I dealt with an over-controlling mother, my anxiety, depression, the loss of young love, and the steps that led to a nervous breakdown at the age of 15.

Balancing Act - Front Cover

I continue to follow my inner guidance and plan to write and release a series of memoirs that deal with various stages and issues in life. I hope that my journey, my words, can heal others on their own journey, and to encourage them to trust their intuition/inner voice, to find love and happiness, joy and peace, to address and finally, to lay their past wounds to rest.

Find me on Facebook at: Barbara Carter Author

https://www.facebook.com/Barbara-Carter-709937872489827/

Website: www.barbaratercarterartist.com

 

Barbara’s Web Page:  http://www.barbaracarterartist.com/index.html

I think Barbara proves what we all know, that until you’ve experienced life, had the knocks, the highs and the lows you are not as well equipped to write and share that pain and laughter with the world. You have more to give to your books and what they tell the world.  As the daughter of a narcissistic mother, I can relate to so much of what you say Barbara. Thank you for being my guest this week.

 

MEET SUSAN FAW

I really should run a competition for the ‘spot the typo’ on my blogs, for the moment they go live, I always see one – despite reading them very, very carefully. Let’s see what this week’s error is 🙂

My guest today is Susan Faw who writes fantasy fiction for the YA age group – and she’s won an award for her work – so please read on.

SUSAN FAW

Do you know when I first decided I wanted to be an author?

No, it wasn’t after reading Harry Potter. It was when I was about 4 years old.

My sister and I used to play a game before we could read before we were even school aged, where we would pick a picture at random from the only magazine my parents would allow in the house – The National Geographic Magazine. We would play school and whoever was the ‘teacher’ would make up a story about a picture and the other would have to ask questions.

You see, people love stories. Children love stories. Even back then I loved books and loved to tell a story.

And I still love to tell stories.

Which brings me to Harry Potter. Harry Potter did not create my love of stories. What Harry Potter did for me, was introduce me to a woman, a single mom, who was destitute and nigh unto homeless.

J.K. Rowling wrote the first book of the Harry Potter Series, Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone, in an unfurnished flat in London after fleeing an abusive relationship with her infant daughter. She lay on the floor of her flat day after day and wrote, and when Jessica was sleeping, she pushed the pram to a cafe and wrote some more. She was a university educated single parent, hungry, poverty-stricken and relying on food banks.

Yet despite the trials in her life, she wrote. Despite her situation, she wrote. She wrote because she believed in herself.

She wrote because she LOVED TO WRITE.

SUSAN FAW 2

I am also an avid reader and an unashamed fan of the Harry Potter series. Jo got one thing right, that so many authors forget. That in order to write, you just first love to read.

J.K. Rowling managed, in a day where electronics are king, to get kids and teens to put down their phones and their I-pads and turn off their TV’s to pick up a book. Not just any book, but a heavy many-hundred paged hardcover book and READ.

To me, that is true magic, in its purest form. She is my hero, she is whom I aspire to be. An author people want to read. For the money? No, although money is nice! I write for the pure joy of a story well told; to make a connection and be able to share the joy of new worlds with someone you have never and may never meet. The joy that comes from reading is the essence of real magic.

I would be thrilled to hear if you have one of my books and if you have taken the time out of your busy lives to try out my series if so I am so glad to have you along for the journey!

SUSAN FAW 3

I love connecting with my readers and others who share the same geeky fandom love. Come chat with me and tell me what are your favorite fantasy book series?

Find me on twitter: https://twitter.com/susandfaw
Find me on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SusanFaw
Or visit me on my website at http://susanfaw.com
Sign up for my newsletter for the latest news on new releases!
And last but not least, Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/susanfawauthor/

Come chat! I assure you, I love to talk too!

Thank you, Susan. I have such admiration for writers who can connect with young people and also admire JK for what she achieved. Thank you for being my guest.


 

 

 

MEET FIONA HOGAN

The last guest I’d like to introduce you to in 2017 is Irish writer Fiona Hogan. I always say that the best writers come from Ireland, (well I would wouldn’t I?) and when I was last in Dublin, I was both amazed and pleased to see so many roads named after famous literary scribes.  I’ve read two of Fiona’s books and I included The Lights Went Out among my best reads in 2016. I remember writing in my review that I wished I could string words together so beautifully. This is what Fiona sent me as her bio.

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Fiona Hogan is a writer, blogger, editor and mother of five. She lives in the beautiful countryside of Laois, in the midlands of Ireland and spends a lot of her time daydreaming. She has two books published on Amazon under the name Fiona Cooke Hogan – The Lights Went Out and Other Stories; a collection of quirky short fiction and What Happened In Dingle, a rather long, short story. She also writes horror under the name FB Hogan and has two collections of gothic horror on Amazon  – Death Comes Calling and The Nightmare.

 

Next year she hopes to launch her first novel – Martha’s Cottage; a romantic fiction set in contemporary Dublin and also – The Mandrake Root, a psychological horror set in the South of England.
There is also a screenplay in progress and a book of poetry and a million other things that she hasn’t got around to yet.
“Greetings from icy Ireland. I’m sitting by the fire with a hot whiskey and beginning to feel a little bit Christmassy. It’s the perfect night to write, the teenagers have finally left the room for bed and I’m able to scribble down the first few lines of a new story – the muse visited today. I love it when that happens and I never take it for granted. This one will probably be another horror, although there are angels in there, so who knows? I’m a very greedy writer, I write in a lot of different genres, can’t be pinned down. My collection of short stories – The Lights Went Out is a smorgasbord of style and theme – with anything from fear, loneliness, romance to fairy changelings.
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I am obsessed with Tolkien and have a huge love of nature, it helps that the place I live is scrubby, and pastoral, very much like the Shire and my blog – unusualfiction is filled with my musings and verbal ramblings on subjects such as Sunday strolls and the changing of the seasons.
I grew up on a diet of Edgar Allan Poe and HP Lovecraft and at certain times of year – Hallowe’en especially, I get seriously inspired to craft short sharp blasts of horror just in case we run out. It could be my favourite genre, but there are some genres I haven’t even touched upon yet – sci-fi, young adult, and fantasy, there is such possibility and scope when you’re a writer although I think I’ll give erotica wide berth, writing sex scenes tend to make me laugh aloud.

“When I’m not writing, promoting my work and editing I like to find a nice quiet space where the teenagers can’t find me and read in peace.”

Fiona tells me she has also set up an editing business called The EditingHub and hopes to aid authors in their journey to perfection.

You can find Fiona’s books here:

The Lights Went Out and Other Stories by Fiona Cooke Hogan
What happened in Dingle by Fiona Cooke Hogan
Death Comes Calling by FB Hogan
The Nightmare by FB Hogan
And learn more about her on these links.
Thank you for being my guest this week, Fiona and best wishes to everyone for a Happy, Healthy and Bestselling 2018!

 

 

MEET JOHN SEARANCKE

This week’s guest is also a member of the Facebook Group We Love Memoirs, so his name is familiar, although I’ve had to check several times to make sure I have spelled it correctly!  Over to John.

John

Hi everyone! Firstly, let me thank Lucinda for inviting me on to her platform. My name is John Searancke and my wife Sally and I live partly in the Canary Islands and partly at a new home that we have just bought in one of the Five Villages, near to Chichester, West Sussex. We moved in during August this year and spent the first couple of months living in overly close proximity to a mound of packing cases. Writing has been temporarily on hold!

I started out in life in the Leicestershire market town of Ashby-de-la-Zouch. I was sent off to Prep School at Seaford in Sussex, and then on to Rugby School. After a number of short-term jobs, I settled into the running of a small loss-making country hotel that my parents had somewhat foolishly purchased. My parents’ marriage fell apart and I was left to pick up the pieces. I built the hotel up to become a well-known business over a 35 year career.  A second marriage then took me to Lancashire and then, in retirement, to the Canary Islands, where we live in the lee of Mount Teide, the famous volcano that we can see from our terrace.

El Teide

Lack of gainful employment (other than as restaurant reviewer for a Canary Islands newspaper) as I approached my 70th year impelled me to think about writing a book. Most people reckon that they have a book in them, don’t they? But how many take the plunge and actually do it? I cast around for ideas and came up with the storyline of making the move, lock, stock, and barrel, from the north of England to the balmy climes of the Canary Islands.

Car of the Month1

What could be more (we thought!) exciting than to drive our 27 year old red Mercedes all the way from England to our new home in the sun? How many times would a 27 year old car break down, and us without a word of Spanish? Would the car even make it?

I soon filled up a manuscript of strange goings-on and many tales of doggy derring-do as our Staffie, Freddie, an RSPCA rescue dog, settled in amongst new friends. Sadly, some years later as I write this, Freddie is no longer with us, but he lives on forever in our hearts and I remember him as my inspiration to get into print.

Dog Days Front Cover jpg

Dog Days in The Fortunate Islands” was the result of my efforts. The title is a bit of a play on words, Dog Days relating to old sailing ships becoming becalmed and the latter part being the old name for the island archipelago that was to become home.

My wife came up with the title of my second book, “Prunes for Breakfast”, which is most apposite. I still had the writing bug and, reading through a cache of family letters left to me, detailing family life through WW2, I thought that I could pay belated tribute to my father who had played his part to the full during those heady years from 1939 to 1945, including his landing in Normandy and his later incarceration in a German POW camp.

Prunes Front Cover jpg

My father and I had not got on as I grew up, so it was a cathartic experience to be able to tell his story.

A huge amount of research went into the production of that book, and it has latterly been issued in audio-book format. I achieved a dream when it got an Amazon #1 in its category, albeit probably only for a millisecond!

And so, to my third book…

A number of people who read “Dog Days in The Fortunate Islands” mentioned to me that I should write about my earlier life. I have difficulty grasping the fact that this could be particularly interesting to anyone. I realized that I had been self- employed for most of my life, that it was doubtful that anyone would actually have wanted to employ me and that, yes, perhaps, there were some stories to be told – some of them a little bit risqué. So, I am well over half way through this third book, at just over 50,000 words and it should be available in the spring of next year.

Here is the synopsis, the first time seen in print:

John Searancke came to the role of hotelier almost accidentally. After his parents’ marriage fell apart, he was dragooned in, at the age of 22, to pick up the pieces of their new venture, a barely trading country house hotel that had, frankly, seen better days. Not only was it posting an annual loss, but the fabric of the building was crumbling and there was no money left to make improvements.

There were to be battles royal with neighbours not wanting their status quo to be altered, the fire authority who sought to impose draconian new safety measures, and staff who were there just for their pay packets.

Over the years, and with the steepest of learning curves, the grand old building was renovated and transformed to meet the requirements of the modern discerning traveller. Accolades for the hotel and its restaurant were won; together they became a well-regarded destination for a number of celebrities – and those that deemed themselves to be celebrities, but were not. Stories abound featuring idiosyncratic guests, overbearing public bodies, fractured family life and animals of all shapes and sizes. The local fire station next door was demolished one foggy night, guests were frightened by flying dogs and snakes in the long grass, and there were, as befits a country house, strange goings on in the night. Guests checked in who really should not have been seen together, whilst others erroneously believed that there exists an incontrovertible law that the customer is always right.

A rescue mission originally thought of as a year or two turned into a 35 year lifetime love affair with a beautiful old building, turning a young man into a tired and grey haired hotelier; continuous improvements being made on the one hand as funds allowed, but with the stress of business dooming relationships along the way.

Then will come the part that I don’t like, because I am no good at it – the marketing and publicity. On that journey I hope, once again, to have the expertise of Sarah Jane Butfield of Rukia Publishing, to steer me along the way.

Please check my website for progress after Christmas, and leave messages for me…and in the meantime, a huge “thank you” from me to everyone who has read my books. I hope that you may like my next one even more!

John’s books sound like a fun read, and like most of us, he has dozens of addresses! You can find out lots more about him at any of these places. And thank you John for being my guest.

Website: www.johnsearancke.com
Amazon.co.uk Dog Days in The Fortunate Islands http://tinyurl.com/p6s7eku

 Amazon.co.uk Prunes for Breakfast http://tinyurl.com/ntpae84

Website: www.johnsearancke.com

Meet the Author at Rukia Publishing: http://www.rukiapublishing.com/meet-the-author-john-searancke.html
John Searancke Pinterest profile page: https://www.pinterest.com/johnsearancke/author-john-searancke/
Dog Days in The Fortunate Islands Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/sjbutfield/featured-book-dog-days-in-the-fortunate-islands/
Prunes for Breakfast Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/sjbutfield/featured-book-prunes-for-breakfast-by-john-searanc/
John Searancke Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/john.searancke.1
Dog Days in The Fortunate Islands Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dog-Days-in-The-Fortunate-Islands/867368390009475
Prunes for Breakfast Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/PrunesForBreakfast
Twitter: https://twitter.com/johnsearancke
Troubador Publishing: http://www.troubador.co.uk/shop_booklist.asp?s=john%20searancke

Thank you John for sharing this with us and like you, i shall be going to sit in the sun while I take a look at your books.