VIENNA AND A VICIOUS ANIMAL

TRAVEL

Now because I’ve decided we need more pictures in here, these are two statues in Vienna, but sadly I can’t tell you anything about them.

I thought I would be really mean and pop up a couple more pics of the scrumptious cakes they have in Vienna. Austria is renowned worldwide for its cakes and hot chocolate.

Saturday, we got up early and walked to Karlsplatz and got on the underground for a trip out of town to visit the Schönbrunn (beautiful spring) Palace.

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This is the tiny country cottage that Empress Maria Theresa inherited and then extended it a little (as you do). She enlarged it to 1,441 rooms in the Baroque style making it one of the most important monuments in Austria. It’s been the summer holiday home for the Habsburgs, and it’s very sad they couldn’t play on the beach or swim in the sea as Austria doesn’t have a seaside.

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These days, in fact since the mid 50’s they let any old people wander around it, so we were let in too. The palace reflects 300 years of history, reflecting the changing tastes, interests, and aspirations of successive Habsburg monarchs.

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HISTORY

Over 500 years earlier in Spain, in the castle of Avila, the Dowager Queen constantly tells her young daughter “If your stepbrother Henry dies without heirs, then your younger brother Alfonso will be king.  If Alfonso dies, you, Isabella will become queen.”  This is a little daunting when you’re only 6, but the really scary thing is that the Dowager Queen is terrified that the new king is out to harm the little Princess Isabella. Don’t forget she is mad.Henry IV 6

So, she whisks the kids off to the lonely castle of Aravelo to keep them safe. Princess Isabella has lessons and, under instruction from her mother spends an awful lot of time praying. She spends hours and hours each day on her knees.  Court etiquette is rigid, it’s more nunnery than a royal court.

Aravelo castle 2

AFRICA FACTS

I thought that as all but one of my books is set in Africa I would try and include an interesting fact that you might not know.

Ask anyone which animal is the most dangerous in Africa and they will probably quote one of the Big 5 – lion, Cape buffalo, leopard, rhinoceros and elephant.

However, many local Africans living in rural areas will tell you it’s the Honey Badger.

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Many Africans will tell you they are the fiercest of all the animals. They’re not really badgers and though only 28 centimeters high, they’re notorious for their strength, ferocity, and toughness. They have been known to savagely and fearlessly attack almost any kind of animal when escape is impossible, even repelling lions. They will also attack horses, cattle and Cape Buffalo and their skin is so thick that bee stings and porcupine quills rarely penetrate it. When they attack they are virtually tireless and urban legend has it they will jump up and grab a large animal by the testicles and refuse to let go.

I scripted a video for National Geographic a few years ago, where a couple hand reared a cub before releasing it into the wild when it was old enough to fend for itself. It was one of the best projects I have ever worked on.

Finally, a quick reminder about my books with this advert.

WANTED READERS 27 MARCH 2018

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lucinda-E-Clarke/e/B00FDWB914/

Till next week, take care.

Lucinda

 

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LITTLE PRINCESS AND LAP DANCING

TRAVEL

So, we are still in Vienna. I’ll have to drag this out a bit as we don’t really travel all that much though I would love to go away more. The problem is the difficult people you meet that demand money to cart you about and let you sleep in their hotels and houses that stop us traveling more.

One thing that really struck both of us while in Vienna were the reminders of the last great war. For example, there were these memorials.

We also visited the Jewish Museum which had some excellent videos and I was riveted to the presentations – living history, people talking about their personal experiences. We spent a good couple of hours there, reading letters and stories about the resistance fighters and the concentration camps many of which were located in Austria.  (No photos allowed).

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Pi museum exterior By Gryffindor – Own work

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This is another reminder for the Victims of Holocaust. Under this square are the excavated remains of a Jewish Synagogue from the Middle Ages, which had seen the tragic end of the Jewish exhaustion during that time.

 

When we got back to the hotel, this was waiting for us on the table. I thought it was a really nice touch.

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HISTORY

Mad queen Isabella Castile

If you remember we are in Spain in the town of Avila population at the time 1451, with 1,285 inhabitants in the province of Avila, Castile and Leon. Now I hope you’re not going to be difficult and ask me how or why it was in 3 provinces – that’s what the book said.

It isn’t an easy or a happy childhood. Little Isabella’s mother, Queen Isabella is mentally unstable.  She has periods of hysteria, and her husband and her children are afraid of her. Her madness is an inherited trait from the royal house of Portugal. (Apologies to the Portuguese – that’s what the book said).

When little Isabella is only 3, her father King John II dies, and he is succeeded by his son Henry from his first marriage.  He becomes Henry, or Enrique IV. It all gets very complicated doesn’t it, but the NHS at the time was not as efficient and people kept dying all the time. (Have you noticed Disney never mentions this fact).

THE LAP DANCING EPISODE

Now I promised you the story of the lap dancing club this week. Besides writing scripts for radio and television I was up for hire for anyone daft enough to pay me to write anything – as you can tell I’ve no morals at all. Hunger and shelter win out every time. But I was a little taken back when I was asked to write a radio ad for a lap dancing club.

I decided to raise the stakes a little here and it went something like this:

“Come to XYZ club and meet Mandy, who is working hard to provide for her poor granny who needs an expensive heart transplant. While she dances close to you (very close) you will be contributing to Help the Aged and making a beautiful girl very happy at the same time.”

“You can also get to meet Veronica, currently putting herself through post-grad school in micro-genetic bionics. She will be happy to chat with you over a bottle of champagne. Make it soon, as she will be leaving once she has been awarded her PhD.”

“You may be able to help Annette, who has no family at all. Sadly, they were all butchered in the revolution in her home country and now she is building a new life for herself. Come along and give her some love and encouragement.”

All lies, of course, I never got to meet any of them, and a guy who frequented the XYZ club told me none were a day under 40 and they’d all been around the block a good few times and looked very much the worse for wear.

I sighed and shamelessly ran all the way to the bank.

My web page – just in case you feel inclined. http://lucindaeclarkeauthor.com

Until next week, take care.

Lucinda

 

 

 

 

MEET ALICIA GIRALT

My guest this week is Alicia Giralt, and reading her story has struck a chord with me and made me feel very humble yet grateful. It reminds me to be thankful for what I have right now. Do, please read to the very end, and you will see exactly what I mean.

Alicia, over to you.

Alicia

I was born in Barcelona, Spain. At twenty, I moved to the United States, where I have lived for almost 40 years. I started writing when I was a child and have continued ever since. In college, I majored in print journalism inspired by Hemingway, who was also a reporter.

I loved working in newspapers but wasn’t thrilled that my Hemingway-esque words would end up lining a bird’s cage.

One of my professors invited me to apply for a scholarship to pursue a master’s in Spanish. He said he was sure I would get it. Taking this course of study had never crossed my mind, but he had planted a seed in my brain. I continued working and studying at the same time. In December 1990, I was pregnant with my third child and ready to graduate. It was a time of economic crisis and I was elated to have three offers from different newspapers. One evening in class I was talking to a friend Bettina about Christmas plans and feeling excited. I’d chosen my new job and was going to start working the day after classes ended. Bettina told me that since her job was being a teaching assistant, she didn’t have to work until the new semester started. Something was wrong with this equation. But I was happy about going to work, five-months pregnant, and leaving my two older sons in daycare.  Bettina did not have to work. Very interesting.

I talked to the professor who had mentioned the scholarship and my future changed forever. I loved reading, so studying literature didn’t feel like work. It was fun. When I was almost done with my studies, I was offered a scholarship to obtain a Ph.D. in modern languages. Was that possible? And how much fun would that be? A lot, I thought, and it was.

With my Ph.D. in hand, I went to a job interview at Weber State University in northern Utah, a place I knew nothing about. The night before the interviews –there were to be several– I strolled around my hotel. The town is in a valley framed by the Salt Lake to the west and the Wasatch mountains to the east. The mountains were covered in snow and the full moon shined on them. It took my breath away. Next morning, I taught an advanced class. To my surprise, one of the students started talking to me in Catalan, my home language. A young man in Northern Utah speaking in Catalan? This had to be a sign.

Nineteen years later, I’m still in awe of the scenery and amazed by the quality of my students. I’m certain the future is in good hands.

This January 1st. I had to resign due to health issues, but I keep in touch with many of my former students and colleagues. There’s always a silver lining: Finally, I have time to write those stories that have been percolating in my brain.

alicia'spoetry book

I’ve published academic articles, a book about Spanish writer Lourdes Ortiz, and a medical Spanish textbook. I’ve also self-published a poetry book in Spanish and a bilingual Spanish-English children’s book and did the illustrations to the former. My poetry has appeared in journals and magazines. I’ve received so many rejection letters that I could wallpaper my whole house–and my neighbor’s. Luckily, I have also received numerous teaching awards, among others, the Higher Education Teacher of-the-Year by the Utah Foreign Language Association, Outstanding Mentor Award, Excellence in Teaching, Secondary Education Award by Southwest Conference on Language Teaching. Southwest Conference on Language Teaching (Best higher education, foreign language professor in the 9-state region), the John A. Lindquist Award for Community Involvement, the Gwen S. William Award of Excellence, and the Lowe Award for Innovative Teaching.

Alicia kids book

In 2005, I traveled to Seoul, South Korea, to present a paper at the World’s Interdisciplinary Congress on Women. On an organized trip to honor Korea’s comfort women, my mother told me she loved me. The only problem was that she had died when I was 15-years old. I felt I had to share this experience with anyone who would listen, but being an academic put a damper on it. My colleagues would no doubt see me in a different light, maybe in a bat-crazy light. So, I only told close relatives and friends. Ten years later, in 2015, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Now, I really had to share my story. I could die soon and my story would die with me.

Alicia's book

After chemo, I went back to work and research, with no time to write my memoir. When my cancer came back a year later, at stage four, I knew I was running out of time to tell my experiences. No more procrastinating. I am convinced of the existence of an afterlife–my mom had shown it to me. Gone was any fear I might have had about dying. In April 2016, my oncologist told me I had a year left, maybe two. I’d better hurry up. I finished my memoir, which should come out in February 2018.

In Blooming out of Darkness: A memoir about cancer, spirits, and joy, my goal is to offer readers a progressive look at spirituality, without dogma or limitations, with only joy. If someone benefits from it, all the work will have been worth it.

You can get Alicia’s children’s book here  https://www.amazon.com/dp/1419667173

This is the link to Alicia’s website. https://aliciagiralt.org/blooming/

Alicia, it has been a privilege to have you as my guest this week, and I hope you have many more days left on this earth. One comforting thought for all writers is that their work will live on long after they have gone.

 

CAFE AND CASTILE

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.

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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.

HISTORY

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.

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Based on Image: Conquista Hispania.svg de HansenBCN derivative work:

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).

ADD BREAK

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 lucindaeclarke@gmail.com   or lucinda@lucindaeclarke.com   or you can pm me on Facebook.

Till next week, take care.

 

A SPANISH EPIPHANY

While most of us are taking down the Christmas decorations, here in Spain they are still celebrating. Sunday 6th is the Epiphany when the Magi or 3 Kings arrived to worship the baby Jesus and it’s the night before this that little Spaniards get their paws on the seasonal presents.

In towns all over Spain, they re-enact the scene and it changes a little each year. We live between two small towns so it’s sometimes difficult to decide which fiesta to attend, but we decided to make for the sea this year – we’ll go to the inland one next year.

I feel a bit guilty about this pic but I couldn’t resist it – not so easy to get on your donkey in a long cloak.

 

The inn on the beach was full, but the angel was there to watch over them, while the shepherds took shelter next to the bushes.

Since I was racing around trying to get the shots, I didn’t see the 3 Kings, who’d trekked across the beach to meet Herod, but this year the entertainment did not feature any belly dancing (and I don’t blame them, their goosebumps were the size of molehills the other year).

They were replaced by two juggling uni-cyclists and a fire-eating stilt walker.

The lovely thing about all the fiestas is the whole family takes part, and no one worries about being brained by the little hard-boiled sweets the Kings fling out of their chariot – one town ordered 6 tons of them this year after running out last year when they only ordered 4 tons). They rain down in handfuls of confetti-like killer hailstones and I failed to take an in-focus shot of the children racing in all directions gathering as many as they could. I groveled for a couple so I could share them with you.

The procession winds its way around the town, up and down the narrow streets as it gets dark.

Yes, it’s a real baby! I’m told it’s the most recently born in the village. This year he or she was very well behaved, not even squawking when they turned the floodlights on full blast and let the fireworks off. In total 3 sets of fireworks.

One year when the 3 Kings arrived the baby had been whipped away, possibly to be fed or have its nappy changed.

The same can’t be said for the camel though, it was definitely spoiling for a fight. I am terribly curious as to what was in the sack labeled ‘Produce of Brazil.’

Finally, the Kings took over the stable area, as the Holy Family made a quick exit at the rear, and settled down to dish out the presents.

It was all a bit much for this little one, would they ever call out her name to get a present? Sadly her parents were probably well organized and delivered her present early, so it’s right at the back of the van and will be one of the last to come out.

Just a reminder that if you would like a copy of the first in the Amie series – Amie: African Adventure, then all you have to do is sign up to my newsletter and I’ll be posting the link again in my next issue at the end of the month. http://eepurl.com/c-GqWr

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Amie reluctantly accompanies her husband when his work takes him to Africa, but a civil war breaks out and when the last plane evacuating all the foreigners takes off, she is left behind to survive any way she can.Amie Back Story v2.1

And you also get the Amie backstories for free, serialized each month. Some of the characters you can meet appear in important roles in book 5 which is a work in progress.

Till next time, take care.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

MONSTERS AND MONARCHS

ALL AMIE BOOKS OCT 2017Now on the first Monday of the month, I usually write about a book thing rather than my travels – such as they are. Right now I’m in the “Shall I, shan’t I?” stage regarding my next book. Do other writers suffer a sort of empty nest syndrome after launching their latest offering out into the world to meet the general public? (Not that Amie has gone anywhere she’s still lurking in the shadows!)

This time after the flurry of all the screaming and shrieking about the launch – delicately of course – I sat back and thought ‘what now?’ I was physically and emotionally drained. At that point, I heard a little voice from under the bed crying out to me. Don’t laugh! I’m a very sensitive person and I have these flashes occasionally. It was Horatio, begging to be let out.

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Back in the 1980s, I wrote several short stories for children which went out on the South African Broadcasting Service. They asked for more Horatio tales, but I had a miserly thought that instead of receiving a few Rand for every flighting I could add a few extra stories and have a whole book. Of course, this would sell millions overnight and I’d be off on my mega yacht in no time at all. I submitted a different series of stories about a witch to the SABC, completed Horatio and gave the manuscript to my then agent. I even produced what I now know is called swag to go with it.

I understand she tried Penguin in London who wrinkled their noses and that was that under the bed it went in South Africa, through 10 house moves, then packed into a cardboard box and flown to Spain and thrown under yet another bed, along with all those awards I shall never look at again.

So in my indecisive mood I decided to take action – not an easy feat getting under our bed the hydraulic lift thingie doesn’t work too well and I nearly sliced off an arm hoisting it out. Would you believe the two copies I have are typewritten on real, old-fashioned paper!

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Yes, that’s how long ago I wrote it. So now I’m labouring away, got an illustrator lined up and soon I will pluck up the courage to tell DH that the next offering will have pictures in it! I must just tell myself that I will not have a nervous breakdown trying to get it out for Xmas, or I’ll aim for Christmas 2018.

Since I’m already out there in 3 genres, what’s one more? I’m probably schizophrenic as it is, and it gives Amie a break for a couple of months.

HISTORY

Not only was Edward or David as he was called – they like things to be very complicated, downgraded to a Duke, the British royal family refused to be friends with him. He had broken the unwritten rules by saying he didn’t want to be a king anymore.

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That was not on. If you are born a king or queen then you become a king or queen and you rule whether you like it or not and you stay ruling until you go to the big throne room in the sky.

The House of Windsor does not do this abdication thing and let the youngsters take over and have a go. In the UK the Heir Apparent might wait for years and years and years.

But there was no stopping Edward from making history and after a lot of fuss, his younger brother had to step in and take over.

THE BOASTING BIT

AMIE 1 AWARDS 18 OCT 2017

Just have to share with you that October was a great month with two really unexpected awards. Amie African Adventure was a Finalist in the Book Excellence Awards in the Adventure category and a Finalist in the IAN awards in Literary Fiction.

And, Walking over Eggshells was a Finalist for First Non-Fiction in the IAN Awards, so I am very thrilled.

Till next week, take care.