MEET GRAHAM HIGSON

OK, I have to admit I’ve not read Graham’s book – yet – but I will, the title is enough to make me smile and I know we have the same sense of humour. However, that said Graham and I have met, over Skype as he was kind enough to allow me on his Showtime uTube programme. I’ll be posting the links everywhere once it’s finalized. We had great fun doing it and chatted for ages. A really nice guy and I’m pleased he’s agreed to be a guest this week.

GrahamHigson (2)

How much was that little screw?

The phone number could have been one of those despicable cold-callers telling me I was eligible to compensation for an accident I’d not had. I usually ignore these, but I’m so glad I answered this time.

“I read your book,” the woman said, in a voice I didn’t recognize, yet with a hint of familiarity.

“I know that voice,” I said, hoping I wasn’t mistaken.

“You bloody well don’t!” she spat, breaking into a delectable Cockney accent that I’d last heard … well, when writing her dialogue for my book. “You never ‘eard me speak like vat before!”

Sharon was an expert on voices, and I can’t remember the number of occasions she had time off working in the shop so she could attend auditions, from Emmerdale to Eastenders, from Minder to Midsomer Murders.

“So what did you fink – I mean, think – to it, the book, I mean?”

“Well, you got an awful lot in there, fings I’d forgotten all about. And that Doctor Who story what I told you that time – fancy you rememb’ring that. I fink you’re a good storyteller.”

“You’re not so bad, yourself…”

And so it went on, talking as if we’d seen each other only the day before, yet it was getting on for over 15 years. Such was the immeasurable bonding we’d had, an intangible spirit that held us together when things were going bad.

How Much For a Little Screw? isn’t a misery memoir, yet it has its lows, as well as highs. I’ve been told by industry professionals that, in a suitable adaptation, it would stand as comedy screen drama, which cannot, and should never be, merely one laugh after another; variation is the key, with happiness and humour tempered with desperation, frustration, and the occasional sorrow.

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The book isn’t only a collection of anecdotes about what goes on behind a shop counter; I think, more than that, it was my celebration of the team I was a part of, the people I may have taken for granted at the time – some of who are no longer with us – and a realisation of what was good.

And it was Sharon, bit-part actress (she won’t like that) and people expert extraordinaire, who would occasionally take me to one side and tell me that these were good times, that in years to come I would look back on and wish to recapture and see them for what they truly were: life’s treasures.

www.grahamhigson.com

http://smarturl.it/littlescrew

Twitter  http://twitter.com/grahamhigson  @grahamhigson

Thank you Graham and if you need a good laugh do take a look at his book.

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OLD AND USELESS BOOKS

I was reading a book the other day – yes really, I do read, I’m a voracious reader, in bed, the smallest room, during meals if I can get away with it, while not watching the television, you get the picture. But I gave DH (Dear husband) quite a fright when I shrieked with joy the other day. I’d not only found a typo but noticed a plot hole in a book by a very, very famous household-name writer. Yes!! Even the best of us and their top five publishing companies are not perfect.

I still cringe when I think of the mistakes I made with my first book, I probably shot myself in the foot at the beginning of a possible career as an author (who am I kidding I’m long past career time, I’m supposed to be retired). You know the kind of mistakes. The CreateSpace cover taken from a bad photograph, my own personal editing, heck I’d been paid in the past to edit a national magazine so of course I could find mistakes in my own work couldn’t I? No. The print was too small, the paper the wrong colour and it was riddled with typos.

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However in my rose-coloured cloud I didn’t notice any of these things and I promptly ordered 50 paperback copies. What I was going to do with them all I had no idea, but it felt good and I sat for days gazing fondly at the boxes jammed full of my masterpiece.

Then the axe fell. A kind writer friend pointed out a typo, another mentioned a split infinitive, a third casually dropped that adverbs were last year’s flavour and a total no no in modern literature. I raced to my laptop. Called up the manuscript, made the changes and uploaded again in both kindle and paperback. Panic over. Until, I noticed the 45 copies (by now I’d bullied a couple of friends in buying a few) and wondered what to do with them.

Should I give them away? Sell them cheaply? Shred them?

From being a delight to behold, they sat accusingly in their boxes in the spare room.

“We are defective,” they screamed at me every time I walked past. “We cost you a lot of money!” They whined as I tried to ignore them.

“What are you going to do with us?” They wanted to know.

Eventually, as the tally of errors piled up, the corrections made and a new cover, then another new cover and then another one graced the book I bit the bullet and destroyed the lot. Now I finally have this.

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But that was not the end. Just as I breathed a sigh of relief, I noticed that every other author had matching covers on their series. I looked at Amie books one and two and no they had completely different covers, nothing to tell you they belonged together. I adored the covers, they were brilliant, but they didn’t tell the story inside.

Another, bitter, learning curve.

So back to the drawing board and now they make a set –

but yes, you’ve guessed it, I have several copies of the old versions on the shelves.  Should I give them away? Sell them cheaply? Shred them?

You see if I inflict them on people as Christmas or birthday presents they may be less than impressed and not look for my other books. Most times I’ve grabbed the new version out of the back of the car when someone has asked if I have any handy to sell. (You don’t carry your books around with you all the time? No? What about the bookmarks and the business cards and the inscribed pens?) Personally people are probably horrified when I squeak “Yes, I have all of them. Which one would you like?” The someone was probably expecting the conversation to go –

“Sorry, I have a few at home though.”

“Oh, what a shame, maybe next time?”

“Yes of course.” It was Christmas 2014 when we last bumped into each other wasn’t it?

But oh no, I’m prepared, and I whip open the boot/trunk of the car. But then my hand hovers over the old covers, do I, do I not?

“I must order more Amie 1 paperbacks I mention casually to DH over breakfast.”

“Whatever for? You have a shelf full of them.”

“But those are the old covers, and could you just redo the ones that have awards now?”

He gives me that ‘look’.

So what do you do with early editions?

THE ADVERTISING BIT

I am thrilled to announce that the first book in the Amie series is now available in audio – so now there is no excuse for busy people not to read all about her adventures as you travel to work, go running, cook the evening meal and do the laundry etc. I believe it’s free if you sign up for audio books.

AMIE 1 AUDIO COVER

www.amazon.com/dp/B0725CYNYG

Till next week, take care.

PLEASE DON’T BE MY FRIEND

The other day I posted the following on my Facebook Timeline.

Dear Prospective Face Book Friend, I do understand that you may be looking for pen pals and maybe even a romantic connection, especially if you are posted abroad in a war zone. However, despite this being a public page, I use it to chat to my reader and writer friends and exchange hints, reviews, and other marketing information. So it’s probably not the kind of page you are looking for – besides, I’m a happily married grandmother, who’s rapidly losing the wrinkle war. I hate to decline friends, so I hope you’ll understand and not make a friend request.

Yes, I know I come across as hard, overbearing and pretty unpleasant, but I’m really a softie inside and I don’t like to refuse a friendship, my page is public after all. The problem is, I don’t like to be rude or offend, but then (like many of us) I get bombarded with virtual roses and bottles of drink and even more flowery comments.

I was also hoping my post would deter the ones from humans who, deep down, may not be genuinely interested in me and my books. For example I had one who asked me what I was wearing. Ah, I thought, s/he was curious about writers and their habits, so I told it (with a name like Alex it wasn’t easy to tell). I’m sitting here I wrote in my usual creative gear, IMG_0726my fluffy red and white pyjamas liberally adorned with red reindeer and Xmas trees (I bought them around Christmas time) under my red furry dressing gown with the rabbit on the pocket, a pair of free airline socks and my favourite reindeer slippers. (They may be mooses, I’m not quite sure).

I was then treated to a picture of my new friend. S/he wasn’t wearing very much at all and what s/he was wearing defied comprehension.  DELETE! DELETE! DELETE!

So with the very best intentions, I hoped my post would not subject me to such heart-stopping shocks, (it’s not good to call the paramedics in too often), this post will do the trick I thought.

Sure enough a few minutes later I got a friend request from a dear little granny living in France. She looked so cute and cuddly, grey wavy hair, delightful smile, pretty dress. Great, I thought another fan friend who has heard about my brilliant books and can’t wait to read them, she might even buy one, or two, or three, or four. I cheerfully pressed accept and said how happy I was to connect with her.

In just a couple of minutes she private messaged me, telling me how thrilled she was to be my friend. She lives in France, and she was dying of cancer. How sad I thought, my fingers were poised to send her virtual hugs, hearts and kisses.  She was a widow previously married to an English entrepreneur, (I hadn’t noticed at this point she had a German surname) and he had been killed in a car crash with their only daughter. I reached for my hanky

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and upped my mental reply to include a bunch of virtual roses (I was trying to decide if a bottle of plonk would be suitable as well in this instance). She continued by telling me she had 10.5 million Euro in the bank and if I promised to donate it to various charities….I could keep 20% for myself.

I groaned. Yes, it’s what we called in South Africa a 411 letter – they want your name, bank account number, the date you stopped being breast fed, your inside leg measurement and all your pin numbers.

What a disappointment. Off I go to Facebook to do the blocking and reporting thing – DELETE! DELETE! DELETE!  But FB do send you a nice apology don’t they – saying they’re sorry you’ve been subjected to this.

They can’t still be catching people out with this scam surely? Did s/he think I was born yesterday? Well maybe looking at my avatar…?

Now the big question of course is, she’s given me her private email address, so do you think I can add it to my Mailchimp list so she’ll get my monthly newsletter? I’m a bit worried she might unsubscribe.

You can subscribe if you like http://eepurl.com/cBu4Sf

BANKOK AND ALMOST THE END OF ESCORTED BIG TRIP

The summer palace at Bang Pa-In was truly special and as I can’t put too many photos in each blog, I’ll spread it out over a couple of weeks. No words from me are necessary, the pictures speak for themselves.

HISTORICAL NONSENSE

Well of course all this frolicking around in the bedroom had consequences didn’t it? (Urban legend has it that Albert put locks on the doors – that’s how serious it was).  I’m still puzzling over that letter from last week, do you think Albert ever got to read it?  The Queen hated being pregnant, viewed breast-feeding with disgust and thought new born babies were ugly. She compared them to frogs.

vic-before-babies

In November 1840, three doctors and a nurse were installed in Buckingham Palace. When the Queen went into labour, she was worried that she might cry out and be heard by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Prime Minister Lord Palmerston and other important ministers who were all waiting in the next room.

This was referred to as the first silent birth – and you thought it might be fun to be a princess? Think again.

The reason for this almost public exhibition? Years ago, many had believed that James II’s son was a changeling and had been smuggled into the queen’s bedchamber in a warming pan, so it became practice to have state ministers on hand to view a new royal baby immediately it was born.

Stay safe until next week.

PLOUGHING ON THROUGH THE FAR EAST

We landed in Bangkok on 2nd February. Honestly their idea of a 3 star rating hotel would equal about 15 star in Europe, it was amazing. Once again we were upgraded to a deluxe suite, not sure why, but we were not going to complain.

Our guide took us to the following places and I’m not sure now which is which. Yes I’m ashamed to admit it but I didn’t want to spend all my time writing stuff down as I had in the past, but use my eyes to wonder, gape, drool and take it all in. There was so much to see, so many details, and we moved at such a fast pace to get it all in that it would be either the pictures or the script, and the photos won. We visited Wat Traimit, Wat Arun (Dawn Temple) and Wat Po.

Wat Traimit is the temple of the golden Buddha, famous for its 900 year old five and a half ton solid gold image of the Buddha. This week I am just going to post ONLY pictures of this as it just takes your breath away.

It was impossible to get it all in in one shot. I just love the one where they are working on the feet, using Mother of Pearl, as the man was showing us.

HISTORY NONSENSE

Now I could write a book about Queen Victoria, but I don’t like her enough and I would probably be very rude. Before Christmas I left her slobbering over Lord Melbourne, but her Uncle Leopold (the Belgium king who annexed the Belgian Congo as an extension to his back garden) and various other members of the family had other ideas. this is his photo.leopold-of-belgium

Of course they wanted to bring in a German suitor on the excuse that he would be Protestant and not a Catholic. (Frankly by now I’m sure Henry VIII wouldn’t have minded too much). Enter Albert (yeuk), the one with no sense of humour and every intention of being king.

This time he did the slobbering to get the young queen’s attention and it wasn’t too long before they were an item, frequently seen at the local bowling alley on a Friday night.

Till next week, stay safe.

Elephant Dentistry and Amsterdam

If you read this blog regularly you may remember that every time we take a holiday something goes wrong. And this time was no different except it all happened before we even left home. When I go away I make a big production out of it, it’s all part of the fun. The house has to be squeaky clean, the washing up to date and I’m packed hours and hours before we leave – from my pre-made list of course.

This time was no exception, and to keep the kitchen nice and clean we set out for our favourite pasta place in the village.  IT HAD GONE!! We stared dumbfounded at the empty store till a kind man told us it had moved to the next small town. Off we went but failed to find it, so back to our village, parked the car and went to eat somewhere else. An early night we agreed as we had to be up before dawn for the drive to the airport. Back to collect the car only to find it was locked in the underground parking garage – huge steel shutters between us and our transport. Another kind passerby suggested the police station might have a key. So back up 3 flights of steps and into the cop shop. They were sympathetic, but no they didn’t have a key, could we come back at 8am when the garage opened? No, we couldn’t we had a plane to catch. We pretended we were tourists and luckily I had my passport already packed in my bag. Mind, they could tell we weren’t local, not with my level of Spanish. Wait outside, they told us. So we sat on the steps and waited and waited until finally we were told to hurry back to the garage. There a friendly cop was playing with the metal doors as they shot up and down. Having taken our details in the office DH was escorted to the car and he was able to drive out.

We landed in Amsterdam and being me I had to see everything. First it was the Royal Palace

Then a daylight cruise on the canals so we could see where we were going. Then a visit to the Sex Museum.

A stroll through the Red Light District.

The next day we made for the Rijksmuseum to see the Night Watch.

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Whoops wrong pic

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Then to the diamond museum where we bought nothing at all of course – and on to the Van Gough Museum with a special exhibition about his madness – oh so many of us writers have exactly the same frustrations don’t we? I felt a real affinity with him.

And here I am on my birthday in the middle of a fountain.

The Heineken Brewery was next, even though I don’t like beer.

A church with an impressive organ and after dinner a night cruise on the canals. Then a walk through the Red Light District, visiting the Museum of Prostitution, and I have to hand it to Amsterdam, it’s regulated, open, honest and treated just like any other business. No pics here of course, but the girls looked absolutely beautiful. Millions of story lines flew round my head – why were they here and not starring in Hollywood?

Next day we visited the Jewish Historical museum and the Museum of Resistance which was amazing – but a little uncomfortable as it all happened not too long before I was born. Then the Red Light District. However, I must explain that our hotel was on the fringes, and as we are a little old for the nightclubs, the coffee bars in the area are humming late into the night.

Finally on our last morning we had a meet up with a FB friend Val Poore and that was magic. We have so much in common and we’ll be getting together again very soon. DH didn’t nod off either as we chattered about books and books and books and previous lives.

And the elephant dentistry? We found the perfect picture for the cover of Amie 3. She meets a lone bull who is frantically looking for a female to love, so he’s unpredictable and dangerous. Only problem with the pic is this ellie only had half a tusk. So we sent him off back to South Africa where my clever photographic friend worked Photoshop magic and gave him a smart new pair. I decided to stop at that.

Finally, thank you to all the people who sent kind birthday wishes, I’ve tried to thank everyone personally, but if I missed some, please forgive me.

DH AND AMIE 3

Did you miss me last week? No, I thought not. Well for the last seven days I decided to get my head down and go over Amie 3 once again thoroughly before sending her off to my editor. I’d sent a very early draft through to DH and he found a few things wrong (of course he would).

So, come the morning we sit down together and I steel myself to hear the worst.

ME:    Well you can’t complain this time that she never goes off for a pee. She spends half her time in this book behind one bush or another. Her plumbing system is in full working order.

DH:    OK I noticed that but there are still no sex scenes.

ME:    I’m not sure my readers are looking for gratuitous sex, and I don’t use many swear words either.

DH:    I’m not talking bondage and erotica here but you’ve just told me she’s a healthy young woman. She has needs. (Every man’s dream right?)

ME:    You know I find sex scenes a little tricky. It must be the most undignified way to behave sober there is. And how can I possibly ever describe it better than millions before me? He whips his clothes off, she rips her clothes off and they wriggle around for a while praying she won’t get pregnant.

DH:    I still think you’re cutting it too short you could go into a little more detail. Right, what about this boring bit in the middle?

ME:    Boring? And what bit would that be? I can’t have her racing about on every page, it’s not natural surely. Fast paced is one thing, frenetic is another. Look we have her (spoiler) and then she takes refuge in (spoiler) and isn’t this bit (spoiler) exciting?

DH:    She’s crying again.

ME:    Well I’d cry if I saw (spoiler).

DH:    You might, but then you’re not superwoman.

ME:    Thanks.

DH:    She’s a strong heroine, and I think you’re basing her too much on yourself.

ME:    What! Hardly!

DH:    Well no, not the brave stuff, that’s not you, but she’s still snivelling an awful lot, toughen her up.

ME:    But she’s survived so far, that makes her tough. She’s not an Olympic weight lifter or a body builder. I want my readers to like her and feel for her. If she’s too tough they won’t relate to her will they? If you had your way she’d be dressed in black leather with boots and a whip!

DH:    Now that’s an idea.

ME:    Noooooo!

DH:    You want to sell to both men and women right?

ME:    Yes.

DH:    Then make her strong, not wet and drippy.

ME:    Amie won’t appreciate you saying that.

STRANGE LOOK FROM DH, HE MOVES A LITTLE FURTHER AWAY ROUND THE TABLE.

ME:    It’s a writer’s thing our characters live in our minds they are real people.

DH:    There’s not enough detail, all these guns for example. What size calibre are they?

ME:    Ah, now I did lots of research on the net and I did play with a gun once and those cartridge thingies…

DH:    (RAISES EYEBROWS) Magazines?

ME:    Yes those things it’s really hard to load the bullets into them and they hurt my fingers. I had a couple of dates with the policeman in Durban and he let me play with his.

DH:    (EYEBROWS FURTHER UP) His what?

ME:    His gun! I must have had a premonition I would need that experience one day so I asked him to show me where the bullets went and how to load them. It took me over an hour to get all six slotted in against that spring.

DH:    Figures. Good thing you weren’t in a shoot out at the time. Now Amie has a car in Durban, what kind?

ME:    Does it matter?

DH:    Of course it does, people want to know that.

ME:    (MUTTERING) If you insist, I’ll give her a Corolla, they make assemble those in Durban.

DH:    And a 737 will never get from London to Johannesburg.

ME:    Good point, I’ll up that to a 747. So is it as good as the other two? Did it hold your attention? Did you find it exciting?

DH:    I read it all the way through didn’t I?

(DH GETS UP TO MAKE COFFEE.)

Well at least I had a nice email from my editor this morning and she says it’s the best thing I’ve written so far (she’s terribly good at the sugar coating stuff), but of course there is lots of work to be done, including my tautologies – I really must look that up, I wonder what they are?

On the brighter side, Amie 1 an African Adventure got a Bronze in the Global E Book awards in popular fiction, so that cheered me up.

Have a great week.