Welcome to my blog. I am not a very regular blogger, but I try to keep this site updated with news and information. If there's none of the above I may just share my random ruminations.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

A FLOCK OF REVIEWS

On the release of BURIED TREASURE into paperback with its brand new cover, I thought I would gather together some of my old Book Blogger - pre-face-lift - reviews. 

All right - so maybe the image I've chosen is a bit of an exaggeration...........


Donna Maguire of DONNA'S BOOK BLOG said:

I really enjoyed this story, it was well written and I loved the characters!

The two main characters are very different as the book’s blurb does say, but they compliment each other brilliantly and I loved finding out more about them both as the book progressed.

The story is a mix of genres with an underlying romantic theme and I thought that the plot worked really well as it is not always that easy to mix the genres and make an additive story as the author has done here!

It is 4 stars from me for this one, I thought it was a really enjoyable story – highly recommended!


JANE HUNT WRITER said:

I love to read something a little different, this story is a mix of genre, there is a gentle romance. which is slow-burning, ridden with internal obstacles to its success. There is a mystery, with historical roots, that draws the couple together, when it seems, in the beginning, they have nothing in common, except that they irritate each other. There is also a strong emotional thread in this story, as the first part of the book reveals, why Theo and Jane are unwilling to trust again, this poignancy makes the characters easier to empathise.
The believable setting is contemporary and well researched, and has intrinsic interest. Your primary focus is always on Jane and Theo in this character-driven story. The subsidiary characters both past and present are complex and realistic. The flaws and emotional baggage carried by the two protagonists make them authentic.
An easy to read, engaging romance with an intriguing mystery set against a politicised contemporary background.

SPLASHES INTO BOOKS (@bicted) SAID:

Although this story is a romance it has an eclectic mix of other genres threaded through it. The prologue gives an intriguing indication to one aspect of the treasure. There’s also other threads relating to treasure which have an added mystery as both main characters have different treasures they seek to discover.

The potential couple are university lecturer, Theo, and event/conference planner, Jane. Their backgrounds and attitudes initially appear polar regions apart, but as the story progresses and their relationship develops their similarities are revealed. The story is largely told from the points of view and events involving these two characters with background information regarding them shared through their memories. Both are influenced by relationships in their past and I really liked how they develop through the story and how their attitudes to life, love and events are influenced by getting to know each other.

There is also a wide range of secondary characters, many of whom are well developed. Influential relationships, especially those with parents and siblings, marital, work colleagues and, probably most importantly of all, with oneself are all explored throughout the story. The archaeological explorations are fascinatingly described, too.

It is a very different story and the first that I’ve read by this author, but I’ll definitely look out for more by her in future. I was particularly impressed by how she uses dialogue to move the story on and to make revelations. Read it to discover that title really is appropriate – buried treasure is not always what it seems!

I requested and was gifted a copy of this book and this is my honest opinion after choosing to read it.
Although this story is a romance it has an eclectic mix of other genres threaded through it. The prologue gives an intriguing indication to one aspect of the treasure. Influential relationships, especially those with parents and siblings, marital, work colleagues and, probably most importantly of all, with oneself are all explored throughout the story. The archaeological explorations are fascinatingly described, too.

It is a very different story and the first that I’ve read by this author, but I’ll definitely look out for more by her in future. I was particularly impressed by how she uses dialogue to move the story on and to make revelations. Read it to discover that title really is appropriate – buried treasure is not always what it seems!

BOOKS ARE COOL (@llamamum) said:

This book centres around two main characters, Jane and Theo. Just as it real life, it takes a little while to get to know them and to understand what makes them tick. And when we do we can really enjoy this story about them, although it’s not all plain sailing for them.

It’s not a straightforward romance for a variety of reasons, and there’s so much more going on too. We get a good look into the worlds of academia and conference organising, both of which are very interesting, if competitive. We see how the need for continuous ‘improvements’ and ‘steps forward’ can be at loggerheads with respecting and conserving history. This historical facet concerns the buried treasure that is referred to in the book’s title.

There is an edginess to the novel. There are some dark skeletons lurking in cupboards that need to first be let loose and dealt with. They have a lot of issues to deal with to move on and at least try to find some happiness in their lives.

JESSICA BELMONT said:

This is my first read by Gilli Allan and it most certainly won’t be my last. I love the mix of romance, politics and historical mystery happening in Buried Treasure.

Gilli Allan has created really impactful characters. Jane and Theo have their pasts, which are rather dark, making them damaged in the earlier parts of the story. I loved watching their stories unfold and their characters growing and coming to terms with their pasts. It was really well written.

I loved the mystery. Gilli Allan plants seeds throughout the story and satisfied my curiosity with the resolution. I had trouble putting this one down because there was such fantastic writing and it created a sense of intrigue. I was very impressed.

Wonderful writing, intriguing plot, and an unexpected love story (and well-rounded characters) Gilli Allan has created a great gem of a novel that I recommend checking out!


FNM (@fnmbookreview) said:

This is definitely a different sort of romance story, it contains quite a few different elements which all seem to run seamlessly through each other to make for one very entertaining and intriguing read.
The prologue was enough to get me hooked on the story for this one, what I did have a bit of trouble with was completely liking both of the main characters, Jane and Theo, straight away. I warmed up to Theo first and by the end of the book was completely team Jane as well. The way the author was able to go into details about archeology, as well as some of the event planning, was a great addition to the book, she had obviously done her research and I think that really showed as the story progressed. The background of both Jane and Theo was an integral part of the story and it really helped set up everything else that was going on. An awesome four and a half star read!


JENNIFER WILSON  said:

I didn’t immediately warm to Jane, finding her, as Theo himself does, a little prickly, but then, as the snippets of her past relationship with Lew began creeping into the narrative, your picture of her shifts, and you really do feel for her. She’s had a challenging past, with a perfect sister to compete with, and a horrific ex who has managed to stay firmly lodged in her brain. Likewise Theo, socially-awkward, but ultimately endearing, and trying to do the right thing in his job as an archaeological consultant.

I particularly enjoyed with Buried Treasure, the slow-burn approach, to both getting to know the central characters, and them getting to know each other. This gave plenty of scope for the central threads of mystery and the political drama of town planning to be given time to develop, rather than feeling like backstories, added to give flavour without much further thought.

As the threads of the book came together, I found myself racing through the pages, desperate to see how everything worked out for Jane and Theo, hoping they could each resolve their personal and professional dilemmas. I would definitely recommend this for any fans of a romance with an element of mystery to it, as well as anyone who has had the misfortune to become entangled in planning, either town or events!


Em Radzy of  VAIN RADICAL SAID:

Buried Treasure is the story of Jane, a woman haunted by a decade long, abusive affair she had two years prior to the novel with her boss, as she tries to piece her life back together. Her family are responsible for a large amount of Viking treasure in the British Museum, and there’s rumors and belief there is more hidden in her Aunt’s house. This is also the story of Theo, a man so rigidly in control of his life, he’s never fully lived to his potential, and how he and Jane help one another through their lifelong problems.

Written in 3rd person, present tense, with either Jane or Theo as the main character of a chapter, this novel is styled in a very interesting way, in that there’s very little internalization. Until the last few chapters, or when Jane is thinking about her ex-boss, everything we’d need to know is told through dialogue and omission, nothing more. I find this fascinating, as scenes are set, characters move around, and yet even without exposition or internalization, I knew what was going on. I can’t say I know one character more than another or could reel off who Jane or Theo is in the same way I could with deep 3rd or 1st, but this storytelling technique allowed rich, vivid imagery and a pace which flowed effortlessly as it was never held back by thought. It reminded me a lot of visual media, like a TV show or movie, where we wouldn’t be given thoughts so easily, which was intriguing.
Something I thoroughly enjoyed about this novel is the research, and the history which has carefully been put in. A lot of time has gone into making this as realistic and exact as possible, and it showed in an effortless way. I also enjoyed the varied interactions and relationships, all which show just as much care and consideration. This novel obviously took its time to be made, and I applaud the author for that.

Now, this isn’t a fast, gory, or crime filled novel. Neither is it psychological in any dramatic sense, but if you’re looking for a book which allows the characters to develop and tell their story in a demure way, this is something to check out. 3rdperson present is a rare sight to behold, and Allan has conquered it so well.

If I had to be completely honest, the ending didn’t do it for me. Compared to the rest of the novel, it felt fast, which does absolutely match the scenes happening and emotional charge created, but for me, it should have been quieter, slower, and gently finished. That’s just personal preference, but you know I’m a stickler for an ending… and am rarely totally happy. Other than that, though, this was a beautiful novel. It reminded me a lot of Cultivating a Fuji, or The Pelican, not in plot, but in atmosphere, which I greatly enjoyed.

All in all, if you’re looking for a gently written, demure novel which tackles shockingly powerful topics in a sensitive way, as if plucked from a rose tinted 50s film, this is something to absolutely check out. Equally, if you don’t need upfront character backgrounds and development which is mentally relayed, give this a peek. It’s one to have a look at.


Lynne Fellowes of JUST 4 MY BOOKS said:

The title of this book caught my attention, together with the mention of an archaeological puzzle.  I expected mystery and red herrings, but wasn’t ready for the slow-burning, burgeoning romance that ensued, particularly between the two main characters Jane and Theo.

The prologue instantly intrigued, but then, if I’m honest, I struggled to get into the crux of story.
For the first 20% (Kindle reader here 😉 ) neither Jane nor Theo “excited” me to the extent that I cared enough about them.  Early chapters contained a lot of flashbacks and backstory which made it hard to follow. I was constantly flicking back to get facts straight in my head.

Things became much more interesting after that, though, so my perseverance paid off. The couple, with such different backgrounds and life experiences, seemed incompatible – or, possibly they fulfilled the old adage that opposites attract. They clearly had different treasures to uncover, and all that earlier backstory made sense of their behaviour and expectations.

I loved the detail of the archaeological explorations – as I knew I would – and that aspect of the story shone for me with a believable, and obviously well-researched setting. Much as I chose to read this book for the mystery of finding treasure, it became a much more character-focused story with a solid, emotional element running through it.

A story that proved to be much more than it said on the cover.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

She was almost killed, now she writes novels...

Reposted from Magic of the Muses - Eileen Shuch: 

Interview with Gilli by Gilli Allan



Gilli Allan, author


You know you're in a pandemic when your author friends interview themselves for your blog.

With the Covid19 crisis taking an emotional toll on me and robbing me of a good percentage of my stamina and sanity, my good friend Gilli Allan prodded me to help her promote her novel, Buried Treasure, re-released with a brand new cover.







Feeling less than able myself to muster up an appropriate congratulatory blog, I let her go it alone. She's a great writer. I love her books. I love her attitude. Take a listen to what she wants to tell you, not about her book but about herself:


Gilli Allan: Thank you for the invitation to your blog.





When and where were you born?


Gilli: I’ll tell you the where but not the when.  Orpington, in Kent, in the United
Kingdom.





Where do you live now?


In Gloucestershire in the West of England, in an area known as the Cotswold Hills. But not the posh and sedate part, beloved of Tory grandees, but in a village near the far more counter-culture and alternative town of Stroud.




Have you ever been in a life or death situation?




During the summer of my thirteenth year, I was crossing the road outside my house and was hit by a van.  It was a serious accident; I was thrown about fifteen feet and landed on my face, and apparently there was a lot of blood. Fortunately, I’ve never had any memory of it although still suffer from mild PTSD if I have any kind of a shock.

Luckily a police car happened to be cruising the area and alerted emergency services. I was carted off to hospital very swiftly and actually made a fairly swift recovery (although I still blame my creaky knees on being hit by that van, and the dis-function of my thought processes is obviously due to undetected brain damage!).

 




What is your favourite colour?


It’s got be yellow, the colour of sunshine, daffodils and baby chicks. When PVC was all the rage, I had a yellow oilskin (a proper sea-going garment).




You didn’t go to university.  Why not?


My performance at school was indifferent.
The only subject I was good at was art. (I have belatedly come to the conclusion that I’m dyslexic.  I can tick nearly all the pointers.) I left to go to art school at sixteen but dropped out after 2 years.




When did you first start writing?


I first decided to write a book when I was around ten, but the urge to create was soon blighted by the difficulty of dreaming-up a coherent story. I resurrected the hobby in my young teenage years and carried on writing – beginning but never finishing – a number of ‘books’. 
did it to please myself, never considering it a serious ambition.





What were you doing when the idea ‘to take writing seriously’ occurred to you? 


I was doing the ironing, while listening to the radio. I had a three-year-old son, and was unenthusiastic about the idea of trying to resume work as an illustrator in advertising.  What else could I do that would enable me to
stay at home?  What else was I good at? 
radio programme came on about Mills and Boon, and the light bulb went on.




But you say you are unable to write a category romance, what do you mean?


I fully intended to try to write this kind of book but found I couldn’t do it. Once I’d put pen to paper the plot instantly took a very non-M&B direction. I am not dissing the genre, but in giving myself permission, as it were, to try writing seriously, I was instantly gripped by the magic and potential.  I
knew I HAD to finish the book that was unfolding before my eyes, whether or not it proved a commercial prospect.




How have you been coping in the Covid 19 emergency?


I am well aware of our good fortune. I can only imagine the desperation of those with young children who are financially insecure, and are forced to live cooped-up in a high-rise block! 

I have always been pretty self-reliant and self-sufficient.  In the current bizarre situation, it probably helps that I don’t have grandchildren and not many close friends. All the people I am most deeply attached to live several hours drive away, so at the best of times, we don’t meet-up that often.  Living in London, my son and his wife are hyper-aware of hygiene, and are probably the most unlikely people to catch the virus.  I’d love to see them, of course, and also my best friend and my brother and sister and their partners, but life is what it is.  I don’t spend time fretting about what I can’t do.  I just
get on with what is possible.







Do you have strongly held spiritual beliefs?


I am fairly fatalistic about life. My accident is a case in point. Had the van been travelling faster, had I not been a fairly resilient, strong-boned individual, had the police car not been cruising the area, who knows? I have a code I live by which could broadly be described as Christian, but I am more political than religious. I don’t take my skepticism about the super-natural as far as Richard Dawkins.  His certainty about the materiality of life annoys me, as his position discounts many people’s mystical and paranormal
experiences. My own experience and that of members of my family, leads me to the sense (I wouldn’t put it as strongly as belief) that there is more to life
than meets the eye.  





Have you achieved what you wanted to
achieve in life?


The trouble with ambitions is that they are either unreached or if they are, you don’t notice and fix your sights on something further off in the distance.  

As a child I wanted to be rich and famous.  As art was the career I seemed to be heading for, a famous artist was the goal.

I then decided I wanted to go out with and ultimately marry a pop star.  Every girl at school would envy me. The fame would come vicariously.  Or I could be a famous fashion model.  I was forever pulling ‘the face’ in mirrors,
and wishing other people would see what I could see. Any flaws could be overcome by dieting, a growth spurt and good lighting.

When I decided to try my hand at writing seriously, the ambition was to be published. 
That happened so quickly that my ambition instantly changed to becoming 
a bestseller and going on chat shows.

I have reached a point in life where becoming famous would be a nuisance. I certainly don’t crave ‘things’; I am proud of re-using, up-cycling, and making-do and mending.  I have garments in my wardrobe that go back to my twenties! 

Now, I just want people to read mybooks.  




Oh, I’ve just had a thought. A major movie deal would be nice! 




























BURIED TREASURE




Find Gilli’s other books TORN, LIFE CLASS and FLY or FALL at









Contact Gilli at










Wednesday, July 8, 2020

BURIED TREASURE SEES THE LIGHT


At last...

BURIED TREASURE goes into paperback and I can now reveal its new cover.  It has seemed like years not a months since I began the process, but that impression has probably been exacerbated by the paralysing effect of Coronavirus.  



I am very much indebted to Cathy Helms of Avalon Graphics.  I commend her skill and her patience.  

In some ways, the delay since it's publication a year ago has benefited its second entrance onto the stage, as I now have many wonderful reviews. Here is a quote from just one: 

BURIED TREASURE was.... “A compelling read. It was so many things: a love story, a hunt for clues to lost secrets, a fascinating look at how our past experiences shape us, and how we can heal even after damage.” Clare Chase.


Hyper-sensitive about her lack of education and damaged by a disastrous love-affair begun when she was a teenager, Jane Smith is constantly driven to prove herself and to shore up her fragile self-esteem. More importantly, she has to get everything “right”. In the early stages of carving out a career as an Events Organizer, Jane arrives at Lancaster College (part of an ancient university) to scope it out as a possible venue for a conference she is organizing. 
Theo Tyler is a ‘desk’ archaeologist working as a part-time teacher at Lancaster College. His background makes him a curiosity to some – had his mother not been a rebel, overthrowing family expectation and privilege - his own passage through life would have been gilded. The reality was chaotic, further marred by a destructive relationship.  He hates people’s fascination with his parents notoriety rather than in his present achievements.
There is no necessity for Jane and Theo ever to connect. He is part of the faculty, but she is there to meet and be shown around by the hospitality manager, so their first encounter is unplanned and unpromising, but….
Jane has a family connection to a significant historic archaeological discovery and Theo wants to organize a conference.
The story follows the gradual interweaving of their interests and the breaking-down of their preconceptions.  The unlikely friendship that grows up between them leads to a place neither expected, proving that treasure is not always what it seems.



Friday, July 3, 2020

What's so Hard About Designing a Cover?

It seems to me that I ought to say something about my upcoming Cover Reveal and the launch into paperback of my book, BURIED TREASURE.

Although I once worked in advertising I am happy to admit that I know little about identifying a market and working out the most effective way to sell my product to that market.  I wasn't even what used to be called 'a creative' or 'a visualizer'. These were the people who dreamed up advertising campaigns and translated ideas into images.  I was a workhorse.  I was told what to draw and I drew it. And remember, these were the days when ads were initially produced with pens, paper and paint.

When it comes to book cover design, I am very literal.  I can appreciate a clever quirky cover, but I am not able to to produce a visual interpretation of some inner metaphorical truth about a story while at the same time, making it a desirable and intriguing image to the buying public.  Nor do I have the requisite skills on a computer to actually achieve the designs I would ideally like to produce.

Although I had produced a cover for my Indie book BURIED TREASURE, it did no more than satisfy me, and was provably not setting anyone else's imagination alight.  So from early on I had decided I would redesign my cover and relaunch the book when it went into paperback.  The latter went on hold while I wrestled with the design.



I had a notion of a cut out title, in the manner of the book Love in La La Land.  But showing through the 'window' of the title would not be images of sunny California, but an Anglo-Saxon hoard.  I played around with this idea for a long time.  There obviously is a way to do it, but I did not have the necessary skills.  But while I was still trying to achieve my aim, I suddenly realised that I could create my title using pieces of Anglo-Saxon treasure (in combination with a photograph my son gave me)



And this is how I came up with a new cover that I was delighted with.  Others in the business, with more expertise about what appeals to the public than I have, were not so convinced.  A book about relationships and not one but two archaeological mysteries looked more like a thriller or even a horror story.


I eventually put my cover into the hands of a professional, Cathy Helms of Avalon Graphics.
http://www.avalongraphics.org/
 

She confirmed that, other considerations apart, my design is not in the right format to translate successfully into a physical print version.  Back to square one!  But you'll have to wait until the 9th to see what  Cathy has come up with.  I am more than delighted with the result and thank her very much for her hard work and patience.

And waste not want not, I have had a lot of fun making teasers for the cover reveal.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

My Connection to The Mildenhall Treasure

Not many people dig up treasure, but my uncle did …. or did he?

My childish imagination was very inspired by the idea of archaeology – the closest 'ology' there is to treasure-hunting.  I was probably influenced by the fact that my great uncle, Sydney Ford, who was a farmer in West Row near the Suffolk town of Mildenhall, ‘discovered’ a hoard of Roman silver tableware, during WW2.

I put discovered in inverted commas because on more recent investigation, the story is a lot less straightforward than Uncle Syd ever admitted to. I admit to plundering Syd’s story when I began to write BURIED TREASURE, a book with an archaeological theme. 


Uncle Syd, with his treasure on the sideboard behind him.
In his account (which I heard from his own lips), he was driving the tractor and plough which turned up the hoard from one of his fields. He took it home and cleaned it up. At the time, he thought it was pewter.  He tried to declare the find and took a piece to London - to the British Museum - to ask their advice. Because it was war-time the British Museum was closed, so he kept it. What else could he do?  At Christmas he kept his fruit and nuts in the great dish.  But a nosy neighbour tipped off the police and the hoard was taken away from him after the war, so he never got any credit for finding it, nor any recompense. This was his story and of course we all believed it.



The British Museum
In more recent years I’ve learned more about the ‘official account’.  It was not Sydney but his farm worker, Gordon Butcher, who turned up the treasure. It wasn’t even found on my uncle’s farm at all, but on tenanted neighbouring land that he was looking after. He was unable or unwilling to be clear about the specific location where it was unearthed, the account changing every time he was interviewed on the subject.




Partly because of this vagueness, there has even been doubt cast over the fact the hoard originated in the Mildenhall area at all.  Roman villas have been found around that location, but nothing of sufficient grandeur to have owned such a service has ever been excavated in the environs.  Other suggestions I’ve read, linked to the previous point, is that it was stolen (from whom or from where?) and had been hidden by twentieth century villains or by airman flying from Italy into the airfield at Mildenhall during the war.

The treasure wasn’t snatched from him unexpectedly, as Syd would have it later. He did know in advance he was going to be relieved of his fruit bowl and the rest apparently, and family rumour has it he was able sort away some choice artefact from the hoard before the arrival of the police

Declared treasure trove The Mildenhall Treasure can now be seen in the British Museum.  Contrary to Uncle Syd’s claim, he was recompensed - £2,000 divided between Sydney and his ploughman, Mr Butcher – but he never did get any credit.    You won’t see his name attached to the exhibit at the British Museum.   

My son Tom standing beside his great great uncle's Treasure.
Little did he know,.when he was eight, that he would be working in the British Museum in fifteen years time as project curator of the Vikings Life & Legend exhibition. 

Great Uncle Syd, was a favourite. We always loved seeing him.  He was mischievous and rascally and had a definite twinkle in his eye which, looking back, I suspect was something to do with the fact he knew he was fibbing.

Even as an adult I retain some of my gullibility. I can still be surprised when I discover someone has been less than truthful. But these days I am far more likely to add a dose of salt to an unlikely tale. But when I was young, I completely accepted the story as he recounted it. (As did all the family - there was never a trace of suspicion.)  Now, looking back, I can quite believe him capable of a degree of roguery, but I don’t suppose we will ever know the real story; Syd is long gone and unable to provide any answers. 


Monday, January 6, 2020

You Make Your Own Luck. Really? What does it even mean?

It’s one of those glib statements that demands interrogation.  


I regard myself as lucky. But I’m lucky in a general sense, not in the sense of winning life's jackpot.  I do live in the Cotswolds, but not in a manor house in the area favoured by Tory grandees. You won’t find my 'lovely home' splashed across the pages of a glossy Life Style mag. I don’t hobnob with celebrities.  There isn’t a Porsche in my garage, designer shoes in my wardrobe, nor do I holiday in the Caribbean.   But even as a child I was aware that I was more fortunate than many.  My best friend at primary school was a poor little waif whose father had TB, who lived on the council estate and who didn't pass the 11+.  I’ve no idea what happened to her, but if she transcended her background and the sink school she went on to, then she is a stronger, more determined and resilient character than I am.

I am lucky that I grew up in a secure and supportive middle-class family. I’m lucky because I’m intelligent, healthy and articulate. I'm lucky because I'm obstinate and persistent, and continued to pursue my dreams when other, less bloody-minded individuals, may well have given up.  I may be a bit obsessive compulsive but I am inherently cautious, and definitely don’t have an addictive personality. It has always been easy for me to avoid the temptations of drugs or gambling because I've never been desperate and not needed the escape from reality these activities offer.  But my resistance is nothing to do with strength of character - neither has the slightest appeal.

If I seem to have made the right choices in life, is it by design or is it accidental? How much personal credit can I take for the good fortune which has insulated me and my family from the harsher and more desolate outposts of life?


I used to attend a Friday morning life-drawing class.  Two of the male members of this relatively small group were millionaires.  A strange coincidence, but think about it.  A middle-aged man who has made his millions is able to indulge his pass-times during most people’s working week.  We were a sociable group, had a lot of fun and laughs together, and usually went to lunch en-masse afterwards. Inevitably, during this period in my life, the “You make your own luck” remark was made (probably more than once) by one or other of these men. And of course, it was solemnly agreed with by his fellow success-story.

I may have raised my eyebrows but I didn’t argue. I’m not sure I ever really knew what either of these chaps did to make their money, and I certainly couldn't challenge the claim that they had put in a lot of hard graft, had never stopped planning and scheming, had followed up every opportunity, and were alert to every half-chance as it floated within reach.  I believed them, but is it the whole story?

However much we might like to believe it, we are not born equal. Life is not a level playing field. Our personalities are not self-created.  We are not all extrovert, confident, able to sell ourselves.  And anyone who claims - often with an air of self-satisfied complacency - full responsibility for their good fortune is deluding himself.  It's tantamount to saying - “You losers!  You didn’t pull your socks up like I did. You were wilfully blind to the many chances life offers equally to everyone. It’s your own fault you’re not a multimillionaire like me!”

For every one person who has made it, whatever *it* is, there are ninety-nine who worked just as hard but for whom the door didn't open at the right moment.  Whose letters or emails arrived at the wrong desk. Who maybe encountered the right person but at an inconvenient moment. Who became tongue-tied when trying to explain their big ideas. Whose life tripped them up.

Here I include an excerpt from my book LIFE CLASS. It contains a reflection from one of the main characters, Dominic, on the statement I find so contentious.


 ....It was the mornings Dom didn’t like; the bleak, cold light of day creeping clammily over his shivering skin. He could have found a flophouse or a hostel, but he didn’t like them. You had to share with mad old men or bombed-out junkies, or worse, men who’d rape you and steal any money you might have earned. Why couldn’t they make those places cleaner and safer? Perhaps it was to discourage people from using them. To make them realise "Oh wow! I’ve just come to my senses. This is not a comfortable way to live!" As if anyone could just decide to stop being a drop-out and choose to be a banker and buy a Maserati and live in a penthouse! 


According to Michael at life class, that’s all it did take. Dom had overheard him one day explaining his theories to the old woman, the one who wore the floaty clothes – Rachel. Dom couldn’t remember how Michael had put it exactly, but he’d got the gist. It was something like, picture the life you wanted, and then believe you’d get it. All right for him. He’d been lucky … only he wouldn’t admit it. Michael would say, "You make your own luck", whatever that meant. Dom liked Rachel. Even though she claimed to be a family friend, she had argued with Michael. Said he was complacent and right wing. Rachel said that what he thought he’d achieved by the power of positive thinking was actually just down to chance. 


Though Dom hadn’t joined in the conversation, he’d agreed with her. It was like believing in God and thinking your prayers had been answered when one time in a million the right thing happened. There might be billions of people round the world ‘picturing’ as hard as anything, but never getting what they wanted. Only the few, the ones who’d have probably made it anyway because they knew the right people, would be able to say, "Look at me, you losers! All I had to do was believe in myself!" Anyway, Dom didn’t want a Maserati, or a penthouse. He just wanted to do art. And a family would be nice. But a proper family was the one thing he’d never have. 


No one knew who his father was, least of all his waste-of-space mother. He’d asked her about it once, but she’d simply shrugged. He had to face it. His dad was one of many, though why anyone would have wanted to shag her, or paid for the privilege, he couldn’t imagine. And then there’d been the foster families, but they all made it clear he was a disappointment, that he wasn’t what they’d wanted. Well, that was all right. They weren’t what he wanted. Families weren’t just about rules and manners and doing what you were told, were they? 


The nearest thing to a family he’d ever had was Stefan, but even he had expectations. Why couldn’t people just let you be? Why did they want to interfere, and tell you what you should and shouldn’t do? It was his life! If he wanted to live it sniffing glue and selling himself, it was up to him, wasn’t it?....

Friday, November 1, 2019

Treasure means different things to different people.....

What comes to your mind?


(I have to admit that this post is an expansion of an earlier one) 




The arena in which my latest story takes place is archaeology.  So the reason I decided to call the book BURIED TREASURE is self explanatory.  It is an accurate description of what most people's view of archaeology is - the search for treasures of the past, hidden beneath the earth we walk on.  But it's a simplistic definition. There is a lot more to the discipline than that. 





The main players in  BURIED TREASURE are two, very different, people - a conference planner and a university lecturer.  Each is marked by issues from their past, but each has closed off the hurt. There is nothing in their first meeting which suggests they should expect, let alone want to  connect again. But they have more in common than they could imagine. Each has an  archaeological puzzle they would like to resolve. 

And so begins an unlikely friendship, which develops - after many alarms and diversions - into something more profound. 

To design my cover, I looked endlessly at images of treasure and of archaeological digs.  Nothing I saw, though interesting and attractive in themselves, really spoke to me. My quest for the perfect image prompted me to ask the question: But what is Treasure?  


There's the magic crock of gold, but to find it you need a rainbow and a method to locate the spot where it touches the ground.




There’s the cave in the desert, lit by the jewellery, gems and tumble of golden coins and artefacts which fill it.  But to conjure the genii who will transport you there, you'll need a magic lamp.

To discover the location of the pirates' chest of gold you must first find a dusty old curiosity shop. Hidden in a dark corner amongst the jumble, there's bound to be a parchment scroll which, smoothed out, will reveal a map of a desert island. A dotted line leads to the spot, marked with an X.

















But BURIED TREASURE is less about material treasure (or even archaeology) than it is about the damage that burying the past can inflict on the present.  It is easier to suppress hurt and humiliation, and erect barriers against the world. It is only by trusting again, and exposing your mistakes to the light, that you can rediscover the best of yourself.