We’d found a good Italian/Austrian restaurant to dine the night before in Vienna, so we earmarked it for the following night, their menu was extensive and the prices reasonable.
But although we wandered the streets we were never to find it again!
We visited several more churches and I noticed with surprise that they were mostly Protestant. Living in Europe I’ve become used to seeing Catholic churches, but of course, it was in this part of the world that the Protestant movement began.
I found this amazing shop in the cellar and was tempted to buy until I remembered our small our little rabbit hutch at home.
I’ve decided that as I now live in Spain I should next showcase a very famous Queen, a woman I have to admire as she was so strong.
Her story is stranger than fiction, you couldn’t make it up.
Like many of her generation, she was very camera shy. Her grandfather was Henry III of Castile and this is a map to show where that was.
And he married Catherine of Lancaster, daughter of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster. They had a son called John and he reigned as King John II of Castile from 1406 to 1454. He was only a year and 10 months old when he became king and he was one of the most incompetent kings on record.
(Don’t worry, we’ll get to the heroine next week), this is just the opening preamble just to confuse you).
Since all my books except one are set in Africa, I thought I would share some of my photos with you.
I took these when we were filming in the Northern Cape, a dairy farmer, and his family.
We found that it’s generally the women who farm, along with the household tasks, childrearing, water collecting and just about everything else. This then was an exception and the old man was a delight. He’s taken onboard every new practice he can and was making a real success of his farm. They even arrange for school visits to show what can be achieved.
Another reminder about the Thursday guest blogs. I am fully booked for March but no one earmarked for April. No publicity is bad publicity, so if you would like a feature, please email me firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or you can pm me on Facebook.
We were drawn back to the Hofburg like moths to a flame. Looking at the size of it, I was amazed to read later that the Royal Palace in Madrid is even larger, though it certainly didn’t look like it to me. The Hofburg is also home to some very special horses, the ones that perform in the Spanish Riding school.
The ancestors of the Lipizzan horses can be traced back to AD 800 when Barb horses were brought into Spain by the Moors. In the 16th century, both Spain and Austria were ruled by the Habsburgs and Emperor Maximillian II brought a few of them to Austria and his brother established a stud to breed them. All Lipizzaner horses are descended from 8 original stallions and are very good at haute école or ‘high school’ classical dressage movements, with stylized jumps and other movements known as the ‘airs above ground.’ (They jump incredibly high and seem to float around in the sir waggling their hooves).
One other interesting fact is that Lipizzaner horses are born black and go a lighter shade each year. (In horsey language you never have a white horse, it’s always called a grey).
They stable the horses and have a full-sized riding school within the Hofburg building complex.
We didn’t go to the show, as we’d seen the performance several times before near Johannesburg where they also have a stud and give shows to the public on Sunday mornings.
They look so angelic, but one bit me while touring the stables in South Africa, we’d been warned they can be very bad tempered, even if they can hop and jump around very nicely.
Over many months I have posted about every king and queen of England starting from the very first king whose name I’ve quite forgotten. I’m a little nervous that if I say the wrong thing then I might be had up for treason – although there have been some amazingly critical programmes on television recently which ‘lift the lid’ on the nefarious activities of the royals and their bad behaviour.
However, they have not found any fault with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II who at 66 years is the longest living monarch in the world. What is most amazing is that not once, in all those years have we seen her cough, sniff, scratch an itch in a personal place, pick her nose or do anything that wasn’t 100% ladylike. I wish I knew how she does it. Does she have special underwear that never wrinkles? Or special medicines that ensure her nose doesn’t run or allow her to sneeze in public?
She must be the nearest thing to a perfect human to ever grace this planet.
Next week in the history section I shall be telling the story of another great Queen. I have a few to choose from, any preference? Leave a comment.
I just wanted to share with you the fabulous news that Unhappily Ever After was the solo medallist in the New Apple Literary Awards for Excellence 2017 in the humour category. (Love that excellence bit!)
the third book in the Amie series Amie: Stolen Future was the solo medallist in the New Apple Literary Awards for Excellence 2018 in the Action & Adventure category.
A huge thank you to all their kind judges whoever they are 😊
As regular readers may have noticed every Thursday I host a guest blog. I am fully booked for March but no one earmarked for April. No publicity is bad publicity, so if you would like a feature, please email me firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or you can pm me on Facebook.
Once upon a time when I started writing for radio, I learned very quickly how to think in sound. It was easy to transport listeners from the bottom of the Mariana Trench to the heights of Mount Everest. All you needed was a sound engineer, a box of pebbles, a few whooshing noises, bubbles blown into a glass and so on.
Later when I graduated into writing for television, I was hauled over the coals more than once for including stock shots that would need to be purchased at enormous cost, so I learned to think in visuals – finding innovating ways around expensive underwater scenes and moon shots from Cape Canaveral.
In between, there were articles for magazines, speeches, newspapers, adverts etc etc.
Then, after a pretend retirement came the books. This can’t be so difficult I thought. I was wrong. The grammar Nazis criticised what I thought was perfect English, I’d been at it for years after all. But no, I’d erred on the wrong side of the written rules, which for a book novice like me, were unacceptable to the general reading public. So, enter the editors and hopefully, all those niggly things were put right. I had a better idea of where I was heading.
Now we come to the nasty bit. How to tell the world you have written a masterpiece (well a full-length novel) it was time to learn the marketing side.
I signed up for numerous ‘helpful’ newsletter and blogs, studied their advice, tried all kinds of different approaches. Most, however, were invitations to spend money on learning this technique or another. If only I spent anything up to $/£1,000 I would be an instant overnight success.
Not having that amount of spare cash lying around, I took what little I could gain from the ‘free’ bits, but it was only after a few months that I realized that one course of action contradicted another.
Use Pinterest – No, Pinterest is out Twitter is the new shout out.
Give book 1 in the series away for free and readers will buy the rest – no, a free book is only read by 2% of the readers who download it.
If you’re an unknown writer, you will only gain readers by giving your books away for cents. No, if you price them that low, everyone will consider them worthless.
Every day I must receive at least half a dozen ‘offers’ in my inbox. I’ve investigated the people behind these and it seems that most of them have had success with books – but mostly ‘how to’ books.
Many of them must be so busy running courses, recording podcasts and writing enticing emails to sell their advice to find the time to actually write. So, does that suggest they are making far more money from selling courses than they ever get in royalties?
It reminds me of the stories of how so many people got rich during the diamond rush in Kimberley. They were not the miners at the rock face, nor the farmers who originally owned the land, but the merchants who supplied the shovels, picks, beds, tents, beer, and prostitutes to men who’d trekked for miles across land and oceans to make their fortune. The shop and brothel keepers may not have found the one diamond that made them rich, but they made a steady living supplying the tools along with hope to desperate men who handed them their last pennies.
The ones who succeeded in making a fortune from the diamonds themselves were those who could afford to buy several shares and then rent out their claims for a share of the profit, or, the men who determined the price of the diamonds once they were liberated from the rock.
Many of us probably feel like those miners. We don’t buy picks and axes, we buy space in promos, we burrow into the pages of social media, we collapse at the end of the day juggling life and marketing and networking while trying to find the time to write the next novel.
And that’s usually the bottom line for many of these promotional guides. ‘If you’re not selling, then write another book, build up your back catalog.’ That’s enough to keep most of us from complaining their system doesn’t work for writers who are now hundreds of dollars poorer while their sales figures barely peep over zero most days.
Of course, the bottom line is maybe our books are not good enough – our genre is not in vogue right now – the market is saturated – we don’t have the high-level contacts – readers are now trained to only read free books – most people don’t read they prefer games and Netflix.
There could be any number of reasons, but the poor writer is left wallowing in a pit of self-doubt and worthlessness. Being driven to write is a disease we can’t escape and like a fly in a spider’s web, we are trapped vacillating between writing and marketing with only so many hours in the day to allocate.
This week’s guest author I know from chats on FB, particularly in the groups Indie Authors Support and Discussion and We Love Memoirs. I’ve also read many of his books and enjoyed them. How many of you will pick up on the word ‘time’ in one of his titles? I’m really pleased to welcome Robert/Fred Fear on this week’s blog, starting with a brief biography.
Robert Fear has lived in Eastbourne, on the south coast of the UK for half his life. He moved there to be with Lynn, his future wife and is still there with her thirty years later. As cat-lovers they have taken on several rescue cats over the years and are owned by three at the moment – Hazell (tabby), Jet (black) and Sparky, a bouncy ginger one-year-old.
For his day job, Robert works as a self-employed software consultant. In his spare time, he writes, edits and self-publishes books, and organises annual travel writing competitions.
Robert’s interest in travel goes back to his twenties when he spent most of his time abroad. His experiences included; a summer in Ibiza, hitch-hiking around Europe and touring the USA & Canada. His most eventful trip was in 1981 when he travelled around Asia.
Born into a religious sect known as the Exclusive Brethren, his father John took the brave step of leaving it with his young family when Robert was nine years old. Robert never saw his grandparents again but is thankful for being able to grow up outside this restrictive group. His life has been full of adventures that he would never have experienced otherwise.
Fred was a nickname that Robert Fear was given while at school. It became his travel name and he is still known as Fred to this day. In this blog post Fred talks about the background to his self-publishing ventures.
Fred’s Diary 1981: Travels in Asia is the edited version of a handwritten diary that I kept during my travels in Asia between February and July 1981. The final collection ran to 600 pages of closely written detail.
It was almost forgotten for many years, only making an appearance when friends asked to see it or to read it.
In 2005 I decided to start typing up my diary onto the computer. I managed to get the first two months done but then ran out of motivation.
A couple of years later there was an article in a PC magazine about Kindle and self-publishing that sparked my interest.
The second part of my diary was released in 2009 and its title, Time in Thailand, probably indicates to you that things didn’t go as planned. £99 to Hong Kong was published in 2011 and covers the first part of my trip where I did some work as an extra for Chinese television.
By now the bug had truly bitten and I started planning the release of the whole diary. Over the next two years, I typed everything up and started editing the diary for publication, all in my spare time.
Fred’s Diary 1981: Travels in Asia was self-published in December 2013 and was relatively successful. It was a long book though. The paperback version ran to 564 pages and contained 165K words.
During the first few months of 2015 further editing was undertaken and the second edition, released in October 2015, contained less than 100K words, with around 360 pages. It has also had a professional final edit and a wonderful new cover.
A lot of my spare time over the past couple of years has been devoted to making my father’s dream come true.
It started for me back in 1992 when my father, John, was becoming increasingly frail and was confined to bed most of the time. Visits to the hospital became more frequent and the doctors were talking about months, not years.
John had been working on his memoirs for several years and had already typed up many of the chapters. He also had plans in place for finishing the remaining chapters of his book. Now he was unable to continue and my mother, Mary, called me to see if I could help. I was more than happy to.
In the evenings and at weekends I sat at my computer and transcribed the chapters that John had already finished. These were duly printed off and sent back to him. It was a period of reconciliation between father and eldest son as we discussed the changes that he wanted made and planned for the missing chapters.
During the months following his death, I continued working on John’s memoirs with the help of Mary and my brother, Alastair. The limited edition was published under the title Exclusive Pedigree and if it hadn’t been for a chance remark the life of the book could have ended there.
Towards the end of 2015, I was visiting my mother for a few days and gave her a paperback copy of the second edition of Fred’s Diary 1981: Travels in Asia, which she wanted to read. The conversation turned to self-publishing and we started talking about John’s memoirs. Then came the bombshell, “Did you know Rob that John always wanted to have his book published properly?”
Thanks to the tremendous support of beta-readers and fellow authors alike, my father’s memoirs were professionally self-published in July 2016. I think John would be proud of the finished result, a fabulous tribute to his life entitled Exclusive Pedigree: My life in and out of the Brethren.
While working on the second edition of Fred’s Diary 1981: Travels in Asia, I started a blog in February 2015 to assist me with the editing process. To encourage people to visit my blog fd81.net I started a Travel Story competition for entries of between 500-1000 words which I ran in parallel with daily diary extracts.
It was such a success that I subsequently ran another competition for Travel Highlights of between 50-100 words. Again this went very well. I decided to publish all the entries in a new book called Travel Stories and Highlights.
In 2016 I re-ran the two competitions. Again, there were a lot of fantastic entries and a 2017 Edition of Travel Stories and Highlights was published in December 2017 with the best 50 travel stories and 50 highlights from both sets of competitions.
This year was the third year for the competitions and the response has been so terrific that I have been able to publish a brand new 2018 Edition containing 60 compelling Travel Stories and 40 absorbing Travel Highlights.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Hidden along the Stephansplatz in the centre of Vienna are several little arcades, and I wanted to explore them all.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?
This week the list of 5 more books that had me totally enthralled. I’ve only read about 120 odd this year, most previous years I’ve read more than that, but with all the marketing, and writing and entertaining DH, I’ve not devoured as many in 2017. This passion for reading began before I started school, and I’ve always been caught on those application forms when it said ‘list your hobbies.’ I’d put down reading of course, and then I’d be stuck! It would seem frivolous to add chatting with friends or occasional meals out, but that was the truth. I read in the bath, at the table, waiting in the car for the kids to come out of school, every spare minute I had. I never go anywhere (and I mean anywhere) without my kindle in my pocket or bag.
Here are the second five books I’ve really enjoyed this year, although it’s been really, really difficult to choose which ones to include.
NO DARKNESS by Mark Morey
You will not be surprised by this choice as Mark has set his story in Zimbabwe under Mugabe where a simple misunderstanding leads to terrible consequences. The interaction between the hero and his African girlfriend highlight the cultural differences and this is another fast action-packed story set against a background I know well. (That Amie is listed under the ‘also bought’ has no bearing on my choice of best reads!) From my experience, Mark had it just right with an exciting story that moved fast and furiously.
THE GOOD MOTHER by Karen Osman
This is a psychological thriller and it kept me on the edge of my seat. I admit to guessing the ‘twist’ at the end quite early on, but this was such a good book that it didn’t stop me from reading it as fast as possible. Writing to a convicted murderer in prison seems an unlikely scenario and I’m not sure now where I saw it advertised, but I thoroughly enjoyed it especially as it was that bit different to many other books.
CYPHER by Cathy Perkins
This was a good, solid family drama with murder, mayhem, mystery and a bit of romance thrown in. It had me guessing and I love that in a book. There were enough twists and turns to keep me happily turning the pages. The added bonus was I learned new facts about the world of finance and big business. A book that entertains and teaches at the same time is the kind I really like.
MY PRISON WITHOUT BARS by Taylor Evan Fulks
There is a good reason the front cover of this book is plastered in awards. It’s based on a true story and I was intrigued to see if I could separate fact from fiction. It’s about physical and mental abuse, I can relate to that, and it’s not for the faint-hearted. The book is beautifully written, you cannot help but connect with Taylor, live with her through her pain and hope that she finds peace and a happy, stable relationship in the end.
FIREFLIES IN THE NIGHT by Nalini Warriar
This is another award-winning book which is beautifully written. Set in India in the 50s and 60s and the Indo China conflict, a family is torn apart from differing attitudes between traditional customs and the modern world. It’s a conflict taking place in so many countries even today, but the author takes us back to a time when change was not as common. You expect the young to want to forge a different future, but a parent seeking to break away from tradition gives this book another dimension entirely.
Only five more books to go and you can find them here next Monday. Till then, take care.
Jill and I have been FB friends for a long time, I remember beta reading her first book, or was it her second? Anyway, I’ve read both and I highly recommend them. She is so right that travel broadens the mind and introduces you to different cultures and peoples. Jill is a true traveler in every sense of the word and has some great stories to tell.
I am an international educator and a writer. I write travel memoirs and articles about my experiences living in different countries while working as a teacher/administrator in American and international schools around the world. Documenting my travel experiences has given me opportunities to relive all the good, bad, harrowing, and remarkable events I endured along the way. Writing about traveling also comes naturally to me as I continue to encounter diverse cultures, distant lands, and historic sites in this unique lifestyle of mine.
I’ve been living in Honduras, my 7th country, with my husband, Dan, and Yorkie-Poo, Mickey, for the past six years and now call Tegucigalpa, Honduras, my home. Originally from Wisconsin, in the Midwestern U.S., I relocated abroad in 1990, and return each summer for two months. During the months of August through June, I work as an elementary principal at an American school and travel Latin and South America when school lets out for the holidays. It’s a lifestyle that I love, and the travel is just one part of it. Living in another culture, experiencing firsthand how indigenous people live, and learning about their customs, traditions, and languages are all eye-opening. Most days I feel like I’m living my dream, despite the occasional water and power outages, monsoon rains, crazy taxi drivers, and odors of raw sewage.
My first memoir, HERE WE ARE & THERE WE GO: Teaching and Traveling with Kids in Tow, chronicles my family’s 10 years living abroad. We moved from Wisconsin to Guam with our two toddlers and from there onto Singapore, Ghana, and Mexico. During those 10 years we survived Super Typhoon Yuri while on Guam, swam with Orca’s in Mexico, chased elephants in the Ghanaian bush, and celebrated Chinese New Year in Singapore. After those 10 years we returned to the U.S. and went through a sort of reverse culture shock.
My second travel memoir, KIDS, CAMELS, & CAIRO, was written after spending six years back in the U.S. I earned my degree in Educational Administration and then decided to head back overseas. I ended up in Cairo, Egypt, at a school which was predominately Muslim. During those two years, I endured my biggest culture shock, yet. The Islamic faith and Muslim culture were very new to me and I had a lot to learn about it, resulting in quite a few cultural faux pas along the way. I got used to the school week going from Sunday through Thursday and wearing modest garments that covered my neck, arms, and legs, but I never did get used to the brazen stares of the Egyptian men.
After Egypt, I moved to Gurgaon, India, where I was an administrator at a new international school. I loved India, its people, the country, the amazing colors, and the food, however, I constantly had to stay alert to the monkeys that roamed the city stealing whatever they could get away with. I’m now working on a 3rd travel memoir, which will include a few shocking stories about the pesky primates.
As long as I continue to live abroad and experience the world’s countries and cultures with an open mind and heart, I hope to continue my writing. Being open and aware to what the world has to offer is the best and only way for me, and for others, to live the global lifestyle and survive a cultural adjustment. Through my travel articles and memoirs, I hope to entertain and educate readers about the personal joys, and inevitable pitfalls of my life abroad, like the time I ended up bathing in a river full of sewage, the time when our kitchen in India was infested with ants, and when I nearly passed out halfway up Mt. Sinai in Egypt. Learning a new language, eating unknown foods, living without the comforts of home, and being far away from family, are difficulties that everyone who relocates abroad goes through. I strongly believe though, that the positives I’ve gained from challenging myself and becoming more globally-minded far outweigh the negatives I’ve encountered in my overseas journeys.
Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta
When I asked Alison if she would like to be a guest on my blog, I had no idea what an amazing story she would have to share. Take a few minutes to read it, it’s fascinating. Welcome, Alison.
I’m Alison Ripley Cubitt, and I’m a multi-genre author and screenwriter. I worked in film and television production before turning to writing. I’ve gone back to film, this time as part of a production team with our own company, specialising in investigative drama.
I’m here to talk about one of my books, Castles in the Air: A Family Memoir of Love and Loss, which was partly inspired by the genealogy tv series, Who Do You Think You Are. I’ve always been fascinated by true-life stories, particularly those from the 20th century, which is the era that shaped my own life. I was reflecting on what a profound effect World War 2 had on so many people’s lives. Before I started writing my book, I had never really given much thought to how the war shaped my own family’s future.
In 1937 my grandfather was turning 40 and soon to be unemployed as he had reached the end of his commission as a Royal Marine. He was invited to apply for a job with the Admiralty based in Hong Kong but was given no details of what he would be doing until the third and final round of interviews. It turned out that he would be working with the intelligence-gathering operation in what would become the Far East outpost of Bletchley Park.
When war finally did come to South East Asia, my mother Molly was one of the last two remaining girls at her remote boarding school up country in Malaya. The nuns had insisted that war or no war, education came first and that they must finish their School Certificate exams. With the ink barely dry on the exam paper, the girls still in school uniform, were driven down the lonely switchback road to the nearest train station to start their long journey home to Singapore. In the surrounding jungle, the enemy was watching and waiting for the signal to invade.
Molly and her parents were evacuated in January 1942, and she spent the war years working as a stenographer in the same naval intelligence unit her parents worked in. A high-spirited teenager, she would wait until her boss went out and then pull out the secret intelligence communiqué she was typing at the time, and go and dash off a quick letter to a friend.
During the war years, Mum developed a crush on a family friend who was much older than she was. She never got him out of her system, still secretly carrying a torch for him long after she married.
The book is told in two parts: the first, a series of letters written by the 15-year-old Molly, to her crush, Steve. I wanted the reader to have an insight into what life was like for a teenager in wartime and for this to be written in Molly’s own voice. In part two I take up the story of the woman who became the nurse and mother I knew.
The letters were a revelation as they had been kept hidden for nearly 50 years. It is a miracle they survived. Steve (who never married) had kept every single one. When he died, his niece sent the letters to my grandmother, who kept them hidden away so my father wouldn’t find them.
Alison, it was good to meet you and I will be checking out your book. So often our parents did not talk to their children about feelings and events and many of us have discovered the truth only through the letters they left behind. It’s only after they have departed do we wish we’d asked all those questions while they were still alive. This book may well shed light for all of us whose parents fought in the last World War.