MEET SARAH JANE BUTFIELD

This month is a trip down memory lane for me as Sarah is another long-time Facebook friend. It must be at least 3 years since I read her first book. She not only writes books but runs her own promotion company as well and is a great friend to other indie authors.

sarah jane

Hi Lucinda and thank you for inviting me to your blog.

Over the last few months, aside from pursuing my writing and publishing goals and ambitions, I have been dealing with some happy and sad family events. The happy events include the arrival of a further 3 grandchildren and the sad events include a family bereavement and some challenges involving our precious dogs.

Anyway back to all things ‘writing and publishing’!

I have been nicknamed, ‘The Accidental Author’ for a very good reason, hence why I used it as the title for the first book in the self-help new author series. I started writing my first travel memoir as a cathartic exercise after we lost our home, business and pretty much everything in the Brisbane floods in 2011. I had for many years longed to write a romantic fiction novel, not with any thoughts of having it published, I was purely focused on the writing of it. As a young adult, I was hooked on Mills & Boon love stories and I felt sure that I had a love story to share. At that time, and right up until after I published my debut book Glass Half Full, I had no idea what I had got myself into and how addictive the self-publishing and writing to be self-published would become.

sarah pic 1

Glass Half Full: Our Australian Adventure, my debut travel memoir, and the award-winning sequel Two dogs and a suitcase: Clueless in Charente, are regularly found high in the Amazon rankings in categories including; Parenting, Grief, Christian faith, Step-parenting, Travel and France. My culinary memoir, Our Frugal Summer in Charente was voted as one of the ‘Top 50 self-published books worth reading in 2015’.

Sarah has also written memoirs about her time working as a nurse.

Sarah Jane, the roving Florence Nightingale, has had a successful career as a qualified nurse and used her nursing and later her teaching qualifications to take her across the world. Her new nursing memoir books are part of The Nomadic Nurse Series which started with the multi-award-winning Ooh Matron! Published  in September 2015. Book two, Bedpans to Boardrooms was published in February 2017.

Sarah has also taken a sideways step into publishing for other indie authors. She published the first three books in a series of self-help literature primarily aimed at aspiring and debut self-published authors, but which are frequently referred to and complimented on by established authors who are leaving traditional publishing houses and contracts and entering the indie or hybrid world of publishing.

Book one is permanently free as Sarah Jane wants everyone who has a story to share to be inspired and believe that it is possible to self-publish a book whatever you hope to achieve by doing that, it is called The Accidental Author, which has become Sarah Jane’s nickname on the motivational speaker circuit which she has now taken a foothold in.

She says: From a writing perspective, I am working on book 4 in the self-help author series called, ‘The Accomplished Authorpreneur,’ where I take the authors up a level in their skill set to achieve global exposure and maximise sales.

I am also developing an author coaching service with my Rukia Publishing partner Margaret Daly who is based in New York, to provide a ‘marketing for indies’ coaching course with an optional ‘Done for You’ service including educational packages to enable authors to learn how to successfully promote themselves and their books online and in their local area.

As always I would love to hear from readers, authors and bloggers who are interested in finding out more about my books and my writing, the publishing and marketing services that we offer at Rukia Publishing and from anyone who would like to get involved as a reader, reviewer, blogger, etc.

A little bit about Sarah:

Author Sarah Jane Butfield was born in Ipswich and raised in rural Suffolk, UK. Sarah Jane is a wife, mother, qualified nurse and now an international bestselling author. Married three times with four children, three stepchildren, and four grandchildren, she an experienced modern-day mum to her ‘Brady Bunch’, but she loves every minute of their convoluted lives.

Author website www.sarahjanebutfield.com   Connect with Sarah Jane on social media:  Twitter  @SarahJanewrites   @SJButfield     @GlassHalfFullTM  @TwoDogsMemoir

@FrugalSummer

Facebook: www.facebook.com/AuthorSarahJaneButfield

www.facebook.com/Twodogsandasuitcase

www.facebook.com/OurFrugalSummerinCharente

www.facebook.com/Ooh-Matron-1646665865549530/timeline/

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/rukia_publishing/

 Blogs:  Sarah Jane’s Writing Blog http://sarahjanebutfield-glass-half-full.blogspot.co.uk/

Sarah Jane’s Blog at Rukia http://www.rukiapublishing.com/sarah-janes-blog

Subscribe to my newsletter for updates, competitions and sneak previews – http://eepurl.com/0IuML  

Support and networking for authors provided by Sarah Jane:

http://www.rukiapublishing.com/

https://www.facebook.com/RukiaPublishing

https://www.facebook.com/promotingauthors

Does anyone remember the old days when we all had one address? Now, I ‘m showing my age.

Thank you, Sarah, there is lots to explore in the links and book above.

 

 

 

 

 

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MEET LINDA KOVIC-SKOW

My guest this week is Linda Kovic-Skow (and I forgot to ask her the origin of her surname it’s very unusual). She’s written books about her time in France which I thoroughly enjoyed.

LINDA KOVIC-SLOW

Please tell us a little about yourself.

Originally from Seattle, I currently winter in Saint Petersburg, Florida and spend summers on a boat in the Pacific Northwest Waters of Washington and British Columbia. I’ve been married for 32 years and I have two daughters. I am an enthusiastic traveler, but I also enjoy hiking, boating, reading, gardening and socializing with friends.

 

Can you tell us about your memoirs?

In the summer of 1979, when I was twenty-one and working as a medical assistant, I wanted a career change. I was thrilled when my resume landed me an interview with World Airways, but they encouraged all of their flight attendants to speak a second language. I was broke at the time, so I decided that French immersion was the best solution, and a job as an au pair would enable me to accomplish my goal in the shortest amount of time. To secure the position, I…er…well…I lied on my application and pretended to speak the language—fully aware my lie would be discovered once I arrived at my destination. Based on my diaries, French Illusions: My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley, recounts my adventure working as a nanny in France. The sequel, French Illusions: From Tours to Paris, recounts the rest of my adventure in France.LINDA 1

Were these difficult books to write?

I have to admit writing my memoir was a lot more complex than I initially imagined it would be. My diary offered a great outline, but I had to research and fill in, hard-to-find data on the Loire Valley, the Loire River and the town of Tours. Internet searches produced most of the information and travel books supplied the rest. From the beginning, difficult questions emerged, such as how to deal with the French sprinkled throughout the book, and how to format my internal thoughts. Oh, and I really struggled with how much detail to include in my own love scenes. Wiping the sweat off my brow, I wrote and then rewrote these scenes until I could read them without squirming in my seat.

LINDA 2

Do you have a favorite chapter in either of your books? Why?

 Ahhh…my favorite chapters to write came in the last section of my memoir. Throughout most of the story, circumstances required me to internalize my discontent and unhappiness with my employer at the Château de Montclair. Within these last pages, I finally had the opportunity to expose my true feelings in vivid scenes filled with passion and drama. It was a thrilling, rewarding experience.

 

Do you have a video trailer to promote your book? If yes, where can readers find it?

Yes. You will find my video at http://lindakovicskow.com. I searched the internet for weeks, listening to French music, trying to choose a song for my book trailer. When I heard “Imposture” by Danielle Pauly, from the album Café de Paris, my heart lurched. I loved the melody. I wasn’t sure what the title meant in French so I looked up the translation. It meant “fraud.” The song was perfect.

Linda Kovic-Skow is an award-winning nonfiction travel author. She is also the creator of AmazingAudioBooks.com, a website where you’ll find highly-rated audiobooks for $15 or less. (This I took from her author page – and, I see she has a blog too. When you read this Linda please send me the link).

Do your books have an underlying message that readers should know about?

Set in the beautiful Loire Valley, my memoir will remind older readers what it was like to be young, adventurous and filled with dreams. Younger readers will relate to the difficult decisions women make as they transition into adulthood. My hope is that both of these groups will come away from my book realizing it’s not too late to create your own memories. Go out and explore the world. Life’s for living, after all.

What is the most rewarding part of being an author?

Once I published my memoir and put it out there to the world, I hoped, more than anything else, that people would enjoy it. Positive reviews, whether voiced or written, put me over the moon with happiness.

My website: http://lindakovicskow.com

Put some time aside one weekend and dive into Linda’s books, you won’t regret it! And thank you Linda.

Till next time, take care.

 

MEET SUSAN NAVAS

A very warm welcome to Susan Navas who writes books for children. I was so taken with them that I bought some for a young relative for her birthday. We’ve been Facebook friends like forever and she is going to be living in Spain for part of each year so we have that in common as well.  Over to Sue.

SusanNavasPhoto

What and where is home? Until recently I always had a deep feeling of not belonging anywhere. Nowadays, my partner and I spend our time flitting between our two homes, one in a market town in Cambridgeshire and the other in the heart of rural Andalucia. The contrast is great, but oddly, for the first time in my life, I feel like I’ve found home.

I come from a multicultural family. My father’s parents were Polish Jews and my mother is Spanish. Somehow I always felt I was stuck between both of these cultures, these worlds, living in England at the same time and never seeming to fit in any ‘pigeonhole’. Agnil, the main character of my Agnil’s Worlds series for children is a fantasy reflection of that.

So what happens when an ordinary ten-year-old girl finds out she’s a half-elf? Sliding between worlds, Agnil rescues the elves from many dangers, but can she fulfil the most difficult quest of all – to bring her parents back together?The Rise of Agnil Front LR

The Rise of Agnil is the first book of the Agnil’s Worlds series. When Aggie goes fishing on her own for the first time and is dragged into the river by a shape-changing elf, her life is turned upside-down! Everything she thought she knew about herself is about to be challenged.

Agnil_and_the_Wizard_Cover_for_Kindle

 

The second book in the series, Agnil and the Wizard’s Orb, picks up on the theme and finds Agnil, the half-elf, being bullied at school because of her slightly pointy ears – a visible sign of her difference from ordinary people. The book explores racism, apartheid and persecution. Yes, all through a story about elves.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00051]

Book three, Agnil and the Tree Spirits, picks up on an eco theme. The plight of forests has long been close to my heart. In Lilurrian, one of the eight elf worlds, tree spirits and elves live in harmony with nature in a beautiful forest. The Great Library, the centre of elf learning and culture, lies at its heart. When the Navigator sets out to mine the crystals of Lilurrian, the whole forest is under threat of destruction. How can Agnil, the half-elf, prevent this disaster? Who is the Navigator and what does he really want?

CentaursSecret

The final book is called Agnil and the Centaur’s Secret. When coming up with the story, I took inspiration from the famous Rosetta Stone, which had enabled Egyptian hieroglyphics to finally be deciphered. The Book of Kalon holds secrets that neither elves nor tree spirits can decipher. When the last centaur was killed, the secrets became locked within the book’s pages for thousands of years. Only Professor Silver can read it, but first Agnil must seek help from an unexpected ally. Will Agnil finally share her own huge secret with her dad, or will she hide it from him forever?

Agnil’s Worlds is a fantasy adventure series aimed at children aged 7-10 years.

Now when I asked Susan to tell me about her books, she modestly forgot to mention the award she got, but I found a picture of it.

SUSAN UK PRIZE

Amazon links

The Rise of Agnil: http://smarturl.it/AmzAgnil1

Agnil and the Wizard’s Orb: http://smarturl.it/AmzWizard

Agnil and the Tree Spirits: http://smarturl.it/TreeSpirits

Agnil and the Centaur’s Secret: http://smarturl.it/AmazonCentaur

Thank you, Susan, and do go take a look at her books, we must all know young people who love to read, or should be forced encouraged to read and these would make great presents.

Till next time, take care.

MEET PAULETTE MAHURIN

I am especially pleased to introduce you to an author you may not know. I love her books, have read most of them and they not only tell a great story but have substance and depth. No way could you describe them as frothy and fluffy! My favourite is “The Seven Year Dress,” – once I picked it up I could not stop reading. Welcome Paulette, let’s start with a short bit about you.

paulette head shot

Paulette Mahurin lives with her husband Terry and two dogs, Max and Bella, in Ventura County, California. She grew up in West Los Angeles and attended UCLA, where she received a Master’s Degree in Science.

While in college, she won awards and was published for her short-story writing. One of these stories, Something Wonderful, was based on the couple presented in His Name Was Ben, which she expanded into this fictionalized novel in 2014. Her first novel, The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, made it to Amazon bestseller lists and won awards, including best historical fiction of the year 2012 in Turning the Pages Magazine.

Semi-retired, she continues to work part-time as a Nurse Practitioner in Ventura County. When she’s not writing, she does pro-bono consultation work with women with cancer, works in the Westminster Free Clinic as a volunteer provider, volunteers as a mediator in the Ventura County Courthouse for small claims cases, and involves herself, along with her husband, in dog rescue.

Profits from her books go to help rescue dogs.

THE SEVEN YEAR DRESS FRONT COVER The Seven Year Dress KINDLE(1) copy 2 One of the darkest times in human history was the insane design and execution to rid the world of Jews and “undesirables.” At the hands of the powerful evil madman Adolf Hitler, families were ripped apart and millions were slaughtered. Persecution, torture, devastation, and enduring the unthinkable remained for those who lived. This is the story of one woman who lived to tell her story. This is a narrative of how a young beautiful teenager, Helen Stein, and her family were torn asunder, ultimately bringing her to Auschwitz. It was there she suffered heinous indignity at the hands of the SS. It was also there, in that death camp, she encountered compassion, selfless acts of kindness, and friendship. Written by the award-winning, best-selling author of His Name Was Ben, comes a story of the resilience of the human spirit that will leave you thinking about Helen Stein and The Seven Year Dress for years to come after the last page is shut.

THE PERSECUTION OF MILDRED DUNLAP Book-Cover-Front(1) copy

A women’s Brokeback Mountain. The year 1895 was filled with memorable historical events: the Dreyfus Affair divided France; Booker T. Washington gave his Atlanta address; the United States expanded the effects of the Monroe Doctrine to cover South America; and Oscar Wilde was tried and convicted for gross indecency under Britain’s recently passed law that made sex between males a criminal offense. When news of Wilde’s conviction went out over telegraphs worldwide, it threw a small Nevada town into chaos. This is the story of what happened when the lives of its citizens were impacted by the news of Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment. It is a chronicle of hatred and prejudice with all its unintended and devastating consequences, and how love and friendship bring strength and healing.

To Live Out Loud FRONT PROMO copy 2

An innocent Jewish military officer, Alfred Dreyfus, was unjustly sentenced to life imprisonment on a desolate island. The news that could exonerate him was leaked to the press, but was suppressed by the military. Anyone who sought to reopen the Dreyfus court-martial became victimized and persecuted and was considered an enemy of the state.

Emile Zola, a popular journalist determined to bring the truth to light, undertook the challenge to publicly expose the facts surrounding the military cover-up. This is the story of Zola’s battle to help Alfred Dreyfus reclaim his freedom and clear his name. Up against anti-Semitism, military resistance, and opposition from the Church in France, Zola committed his life to fighting for justice. But was it worth all the costs to him, to those around him, and to France?

his name was Ben

Hearing the words “it’s cancer,” threw Sara Phillips’ life into chaos, until an unexpected turn of events and a chance encounter with a stranger changed everything—his name was Ben. Based on real events, Ben and Sara discover that when all else fails, healing can come in the most unexpected ways. Chilling and heart-wrenching, His Name Was Ben is a triumph over the devastating circumstances and fear experienced when faced with a terminal illness. In this narrative, the power of love conquers shadows and transforms the very nature and meaning of what it is to be fully alive. From the award winning, best-selling author of, The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, comes a story filled with soul and passion that will leave the reader thinking about it for days after the last page is closed.
“Paulette Mahurin compassionately renders an insightful tale about love and life in the moment, when a moment is all there is. Both ordinary and extraordinary, Sara and Ben kept me up at night rooting for them, as did Mahurin of course, a writer of exceptional heart, for her tender and wise depiction of love against all odds. A rare pleasure, His Name Was Ben is not to be missed.”—Lee Fullbright, author of The Angry Woman Suite.

You can find all Paulette’s books here.

 https://www.amazon.com/Paulette-Mahurin/e/B008MMDUGO/

As you can see, Paulette’s books have done incredibly well, rising high in the Amazon charts. She included these few words of advice:-

MY SECRET TO SUCCESS

You’ve never heard of me. Or my books. So how successful could she possibly be, you ask? I’ve never made it to The New York Times best seller lists nor been picked up by a well-known publisher. But, I have had several books on Amazon best-seller lists. My last, The Seven Year Dress, made it to Amazon Australia #1 best-seller Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Teen Young Adult. And to date, a year after publication it’s #5 best-seller in Literary Fiction on Amazon U.K. It’s also ranked up in the top twenty in the U.S. and is continuing to sell on multiple other Amazon worldwide sites. So what’s my big secret?

I don’t try to write stories or contrive plots. I don’t try to design sentences that read grammatically correct. I don’t try to design scenes to entice readers. No, none of that. I just tell the story as if I’m sitting down with a friend and telling them about something that has happened. I vomit out the story, starting with concepts, then sentences, then characters who enter scenes and beef it up to give it richness. I communicate with my protagonist like I would any other new person I meet and ask them to describe themselves—as it fits with the context and then I ask why is your story unique? If it’s not unique then why is it special and of interest for someone to hear about it? Once I have an idea about the story I spew it out: vomit.

There’s no mystery to being a “writer.” What defines a writer is someone who sits down and tells a story. And I don’t know anyone alive who doesn’t have a story to tell. It’s how we communicate daily, in little vignettes. It’s how we relay interesting happenings to family and friends. Time spent at a computer doesn’t define a writer nor does the number of words on a page.

paulette book signing

The simple mystery to my success is I tell stories. I vomit them out onto the page and don’t worry about grammar, creative content, formatting, etc. I don’t rely on my internal critic, which is never accurate anyway. I leave the critiquing, editing, polishing up the story, etc. to my publisher/editor.

Everyone has a story to tell. Tap into yours and vomit it out. No great secret or formula. Like the Nike commercial says, Just do it! I wish ya’ll much success and good luck with your storytelling.

Thank you, Paulette, for being my guest today.

MEET MARGARET ELEANOR LEIGH

OK, OK I know I shouldn’t have favourites here but Margaret Eleanor Leigh is one of them. We’ve spent many hours chatting via pm and I felt for her every step of the way before and after hospital. I think we met through the Facebook group We Love Memoirs.

But, that is not the reason I just love her – I adore her books. Why? Because there is a smile in every sentence. I’m not sure how she does it, she spends a lot of time correcting doctrinal dissertations for students, but for me, her books are an absolute delight. I get a thrill every time I download one, the pure anticipation!  Researching her Amazon page I’ve discovered the only one I’ve not read and as soon as I’ve typed this up I’m off to download it. Time to meet Margaret.

m e l

You’ve probably never heard of me, and that’s partly because I’ve been quiet for a long time, and partly because I am one of those obscure writers no-one has ever heard of. (Obscure does not necessarily equal bad, mind you, although it certainly can ….)

I’ve been quiet for a long time because I’m not long back from the most horrendous journey of my life. It was the kind of journey everyone hopes they’ll never have to make. I’ve been on quite a few journeys in my time, and some of them were quite entertaining (see Memoirs One and Two, which are all about journeys of one sort or another). But there was nothing remotely entertaining about this latest journey, and not for nothing does it warrant the provisional title: Is There Life After Butchery?

 

Basically, I had a near-death experience at the hands of a talentless scalpel-wielding butcher, followed by a year of hell. Hell consisted of an abdominal wound the size and shape of the Grand Canyon that refused to heal, and not one, but two stomas. (If you don’t know what a stoma is, and are even remotely squeamish, don’t go looking it up, particularly just before dinner.)

Fortunately, for every scalpel-wielding butcher, somewhere else in the world there’s a scalpel-wielding genius. Six thousand miles from the site of the original carnage, I fell into the hands of one such miracle-worker. Against all the odds, and against all the negative prognoses, he reversed all the damage wrought by the butcher, including the stomas, and left me with just a neat little tapestry of scars and a well of gratitude as deep as the original wound. Oh, and a bad attack of writer’s block.

There’s no such thing as writer’s’ block. At least that’s what I used to say before I was felled by the wretched thing.  In this instance, the writer’s block can be explained by the self-evident fact that a close encounter with the Grim Reaper isn’t the most promising material for Memoir Number Three. You may even be making a mental note to avoid it when it finally appears, and that’s okay. Nevertheless, it is the job of the memoirist to take the raw material of life, whatever that may be, and turn it into something amusing for the enjoyment of others. I concede its going be a bit of a stretch to make this particular raw material amusing and I may have to settle for edifying.

I’ve written other stuff besides memoirs. Lots of stuff. Some of it is good, some of it is not so good.  And I hope to write lots more, because yes, there is life after butchery, and yes, miracles do still happen.

Now, Margaret didn’t mention her children’s books in her blurb, but I can promise you they are delightful too. And Margaret where is book 4? There’s got to be one for the last season!

You can find all Margaret Eleanor Leigh’s books on her Amazon author page – and please let us know when your ‘butchery’ book comes out – only you can make such a horrific event such fun to read.

https://www.amazon.com/Margaret-Eleanor-Leigh/e/B00KD7AE7E/

MEET BETH HASLAM

Now, most of my blogs follow a formulae – a picture of the author, a brief (preferably witty) bio, the book covers and a bit of blurb on the storyline. Beth’s blog is going to be different as she sent me a story which is typical of the ones she writes on her blogs. I even had to nag her to give me book covers and links – but then Beth’s memoirs of going to live in France where they have integrated with the local people and set up what sounds like a miniature farm, speak for themselves. Enjoy!

The Unwanted Visitor

BETH PIC 1

I’m one of those people who tends to be a little flimsy on a morning. No particular reason for this other than a touch of fatigue brought on by the family cat. Our morning routine is pretty consistent and begins at around 5 am. I am usually alerted from a lovely, deep sleep by the sound of throaty purrs. Brutus, our portly cat, has materialised on the bed and is making his way to my pillow for a session of face-time. Try as I might to resist his advances, I’m no match for his persuasive talents at that time of the morning.

BETH PIC 5

Brutus steadfastly inveigles himself onto my nice, warm pillow and uses my head as a radiator. A cat with unnecessarily long limbs, he’ll extend an arm, using it to great effect by gently drawing my hand towards him. This is the signal that he wants to be stroked. Failure to comply on my part then involves the subtle use of claws, which he cleverly disguises as an act of affection. I imagine it’s rather like acupuncture. Mildly perforated and still enfeebled, I quickly give in and begin stroking his head, which causes him to turn into an inboard motor. The sensation of being in a ship’s engine room might be acceptable, soporific even, but the accompanying process of gradual suffocation, as Brutus gradually drapes himself over my nose, is eventually too much. I give in, turn over and fall off the pillow.

BETH PIC 4

At this stage I’m semi-awake and then start dozing, desperately trying to return to my slumbers, but it’s no good – and why? Because Brutus has begun to clean his toes. The engine room transforms into a giant rasping workshop of activity as the lick-a-thon gets under way. As unmentionable detritus, including a goodly sprinkling of flowerbed, is carelessly flicked all over me I eventually surrender. Cussing about life with animals, I tumble out of bed and perform my required duty.

With slippers and dressing gown on, and Brutus doing his best to trip me up, I stumble downstairs to meet the next challenge. The dogs – Aby and Max. I sleepily fight off loving onslaughts from our over-affectionate Australian Shepherds, who behave as though they haven’t seen me for six months.

BETH PIC 3

With wiggling bottoms, and toothy smiles that can light the dimness of any room, they pin me to the bottom step, moaning in delight, ready to plan the daily walk. Weakly I deliver a number of random pats, struggle free and shuffle into the utility room to prepare Brutus’ breakfast.

 

BETH PIC 2

Fortunately this pattern, one that can only be endured by animal-lovers, is nothing that can’t be rectified by a nice strong cuppa, and also the product of my Christmas present – a juicer. This has been a true revelation to me and I adore it. With Max still grinning from ear to ear as he adoringly hangs onto the hem of my dressing gown, I drag us both to the sink, hoping not to unravel before I reach the chopping board. I reach for my random collection of fruits and vegetables and begin to hack them into juicer-friendly sizes.

Still half-asleep, I stuff the ingredients into my wonderful machine, which munches and grinds its way through the contents with consummate ease. It belches out ex-veggie bits into one container and a heady drinkable liquid into another. This can often be a strange colour but it is thrillingly packed with vitamins and minerals – I’m convinced it’s an act of magic.

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Just enough for two glasses, I give one to my husband, Jack, who is decidedly less thrilled. His belief is that these bright green/orange/dark red concoctions containing more than six types of vegetable and at least three varieties of fruit appear much too similar to human waste, and should probably carry a gastro intestinal health warning. Disappointing though his attitude is, I shouldn’t be at all surprised given that he’s a die-hard carnivore. I’ve reminded him of the health benefits and, so far, all seems to be well down below. So, in spite of his continued scepticism, he manfully sips his way through most offerings.

The single downside to my magnificent machine is that it devours an inordinate quantity of produce. After my first few goes it quickly became clear that I would need a bigger vegetable rack to contain them. In the meantime, I made do by using three deep boxes which I left on the window ledge in the cool of the utility room.

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A few days ago, following another nocturnal feline skirmish that I’d failed to repel, I was on my way to the utility room to collect my ingredients. Jack was already downstairs and commented, “I noticed a mouse in one of your veg boxes this morning. Huh, at least someone appreciates your devil’s brew mix.”

I took very little notice of him and shambled into the crowded utility room, which was occupied by both dogs and Brutus (on the worktop) all eating their breakfasts. I was about to collect a clump of celery when a head popped up between the sprouts. It was there again, but this wasn’t a mouse at all, it was a large rat. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m usually perfectly fine with rats, but they do need to be in their own place – and not mine.

BETH PIC 6

I recoiled in horror and started shrieking at the animals to do something helpful. Aside from Max who raised an eyebrow, my appeals had absolutely no affect whatsoever. They were intent on eating their meal and a hysterical mum wasn’t going to get in their way.

Meanwhile, the rat, alerted to the possibility that it wasn’t welcome, calmly squeezed its bulk between my greens and started to waddle over the apples and lemons. My continued squawks brought Jack bounding in. “It’s a rat,” I ranted, “a huge one. Do something, Jack!”

“You’ve got a roomful of so-called shepherding and hunting animals in here, can’t they catch it? You feed them too much, that’s their problem. Anyway where is it?” he grumped with exasperation.

“Over there somewhere, behind the dogfood bins,” I replied, pointing nervously at two knee-high feed containers.

Jack fought his way through the furry mass and peered behind the bins.

“No, nothing here, it must have gone through the hole by the radiator. Useless bloody animals, catch a rat? That lot couldn’t even catch a cold. Now can you stop making such a noise please, I’m trying to watch the news.” With that he stalked off.

Feeling somewhat sheepish, I returned to the job in hand and studied my goods for signs of contamination. Our new visitor might be a carrier of several vile diseases for all I knew, a simple rinsing of my legumes might not be sufficient. Just as I was considering this important point the dogs, who had finished their breakfast, started to show a renewed interest in the food bins. At first I ignored this, assuming it was a late show of teaminess, when Aby started urgently whining and staring at me imploringly. Still under the impression that they were alerted by old scents I pulled back a bin and to my horror saw that the rat was still there and looking decidedly frisky.

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In an instant both dogs exploded into a flurry of activity and started blundering around. Even Brutus looked up, mildly interested at all this canine activity.

Jaaack, it’s still here!” I yelled.

Jack thundered back in and surveyed the perpetrator, which was scampering around in circles behind the containers.

“Quite a fatty isn’t it?”

“Yes, can you do something please, I’m frightened it’s going to escape into the house.”

Jack gave me a withering look and switched to operations mode. “Right, you take the empty bin and I’ll grab the full one, that’ll give the dogs or Brutus a chance to get it. It’s obviously too large to get through the hole in the corner, so there’s a tiny chance that one of them might have the intelligence to catch it.”

“Oh I daren’t go any closer,” I whined pathetically.

“Why not?”

“Well, I haven’t got any pants on.”

“Wha…what’s that got to do with anything?” he cried, totally nonplussed.

“You know what they say about rats running up drainpipes, anything could happen with me standing here with just my slippers and dressing gown on!”

With a look of complete frustration at my reticence, he snapped, “Ridiculous woman! For goodness’ sake, just get out of here then, I’ll sort it out with the dogs, although I dare say they’ll just continue knocking things over.”

With that I scurried out of the room and closed the door firmly behind me.

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During the next couple of minutes the rooms bulged with the sounds of shouts, barks and scrambling noises, then the vacuum cleaner was switched on, which was strange. Next thing, the door was flung open and out shot Brutus looking like a mobile inflated toilet brush with the fluffiest tail I have ever seen. He galloped up the stairs, four at a time, and disappeared from view. Poor lad, he has always considered the vacuum cleaner to be a weapon of mass destruction.

One defender of the realm down, three to go. I felt sure one of them would manage to trap the perp.

Sounds of pandemonium continued, then Aby flew through the door with an enraged-looking rat in her mouth and Max in pursuit. As she dashed around the dining room table with it I attempted to do something useful by opening the kitchen door for her, but I was too late. Max-the-misguided had decided this was a great game and rugby tackled her just before she made the exit. Aby was floored, spat out the rat, which triumphantly scampered off to another corner of the kitchen.

“Bloody idiot dog!” raged Jack as he came into the kitchen with vacuum cleaner nozzle in hand. “Where has it gone now, and what are you doing up there?”

As a security measure, remembering my state of undress, I’d taken the sensible precaution of taking refuge halfway up the stairs. I ignored his insensitive question and pointed towards the area where our escapee was last seen.

“It’s over there. Can you shoo it out of the door before the dogs have another go?”

“I tried that last time. I got it nicely stuck on the end of my nozzle when Aby grabbed it and galloped off. Now she’s let it go again.”

“Actually it wasn’t her fault, it was Max and…”

“It doesn’t matter, they’re both idiots. Sort them out please, they’re causing havoc with the furniture!”

Jack went off to find his rodent-proof gloves while I attempted to control the dogs. When he returned they were both rigidly sitting to attention, on crimson alert, and whining in anticipation of the next fiasco.

“Ah, there it is,” he said, gently removing a chair with his giant red rubber gloves, “I reckon I can probably grab it now.” As he reached towards the defiant rodent Max somehow interpreted this to be a signal to advance. He sprang over Jack’s arm and pounced on the rat, which deftly swerved out of the way, scuttled through his legs and pelted out through the open door into the garden. This was Max’s second own-goal, but at least the intruder was outside.

“That sodding dog!” bawled Jack, from a seated position where he’d been felled, “If he were five times more intelligent, he still wouldn’t qualify as an ingredient for your vegetable juicer.”

“Never mind, darling,” I gaily replied, “at least the rat’s gone now. I call that a great result!”

Jack gave me a disdainful look and snarled, “I blame myself. None of this would be happening if I hadn’t bought you that damned juicer, which has resulted in the utility room turning into greengrocers. Now, fascinating though it may be, it’s too early to be on safari. Please don’t bother me again about helping out with invasions of anything smaller than a wild boar, I’m going to catch up on the news.” With that he tramped back to the TV.

I surveyed the scenes of gentle chaos. A couple of chairs had been knocked over in the kitchen, the utility room had fared less well. The empty dog bin was on its side, the other at a jaunty angle surrounded by red cabbage, sprouts and vacuum cleaner attachments. Well, I thought, at least nothing had been damaged in our early morning incident, not even the rat, which seemed to have been the calmest of us all.

Clearly I couldn’t blame any of this on my wonderful new juicer. It simply had to have its fuel. No, there was only one unwanted gift that day, and it was now happily sauntering around the garden no doubt plotting a return visit – one that none of us would look forward to.

If you’d like to chat with Beth here are the links to use:
 
 
Twitter:  @fatdogsfrance
 
Instagram:  fatdogsandfrenchestates
 

 

MEET LESLEY HAYES

Lesley Hayes

My guest this week lives in Oxford, England and is a psychotherapist by profession and a prolific writer. I enjoy her books which I would describe as deep, leaving lots of room for thought long after you read the last page.  Again, Lesley is one of the earliest virtual friends I met on Facebook and we’re both in the Indie Authors Support and Discussion group. We re-tweet regularly and I do recommend her books they are truly inspiring.

My name is Lesley Hayes and I write… It feels like the opening to a confession at Writer’s Anonymous, and in a way that’s appropriate. Writing is a kind of addiction, a craving that can attack the soul with the sharp bite of a need demanding to be answered in the dead of night, at dawn, or at any unguarded point throughout the day. I began writing stories while I was at school, neglecting every other subject (apart from History, which intrigued me with its many lies and mysteries) and ducked university at the age of 17 to work on Honey magazine, where my first short story was published. It was the beginning of a long and fruitful love affair with writing for publication, which has weaved in and out of everything else I’ve done over the ensuing years.

Oh yes, I should probably mention that I got married and divorced twice, had two children by the time I was 23, moved to Oxford in my late thirties and re-invented myself, fell in and out of love with disregard to gender a number of times, trained and practised as a psychotherapist for twenty years, and adopted a cat. For the past five years I have shed most of my therapy clients and emerged all damp-winged from the chrysalis of one identity into the bright uncertain dawn of another. The muse never really went away all those years as a therapist; she simply bided her time, as muses tend to do. I am impatient when it comes to change, and got quickly bored with knocking on the door of agents this time around, so in 2013 I began self-publishing my newborn novels and their older sibling short stories, many of which had been previously broadcast on BBC Radio Oxford.

The first novel to erupt with genie-like eagerness from the unplugged bottle was The Drowned Phoenician Sailor, which begins with the death of a psychotherapist (go figure.) This was swiftly jostled aside by A Field Beyond Time, which I’d actually been in the process of writing for ten years during my years as a therapist before the awakened muse finally goaded me into completing it. Round Robin, Dangerous People, and The Other Twin soon followed, and I have another in the pipeline which is still so top secret I would have to kill Lucinda if I disclosed it.

A writer’s life is often a solitary one (not so different from that of many psychotherapists) and as an introvert I am protective of my personal space and dread it when I’m invited out to show my face in public. You won’t catch me at book signings and literary gigs, parading my authorship and touting my wares, and the best thing about writing this for Lucinda is that I’m invisible. However, I’m no recluse and have a number of close friends and a cherished partner and Oxford is the perfect place to live with mild to moderate invisibility among other writers, eccentrics and people of diverse religions, ethnicity, and sexual preference. If you come across any of my books, read carefully between the lines if you want to find me… I have written clues to my true self into the characters of every one.

If you want to risk that journey visit my website: www.lesleyhayes.co.uk where you can find links to all my books. If you want to take a faster track follow the links here:

The Drowned Phoenician Sailor   http://bit.ly/1FQ5Vw9

A Field Beyond Time    http://bit.ly/UrraBL

Round Robin     http://bit.ly/1EPqxRh

Dangerous People       http://bit.ly/1OKTNBH

The Other Twin    http://bit.ly/2gzkfEF

Oxford Marmalade        http://bit.ly/1wQ6WN0

Thank you Lesley for being my guest.