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.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

To celebrate the paperback publication of  One Cornish Summer author Liz Fenwick is running a  'Cornish Summer Memories' feature.

I was delighted to be invited to share my own relections on Cornwall, where my family and I spent many happy holidays.

Left to right - my brother Laurence aged 4, my sister Janis aged 13, and me, aged 8

As I leant towards this calf, it began to suck the end of my plait!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

A Proud Mother

At the moment I can think of no better use for my blog than to celebrate the achievement of my son, Thomas Williams


Thomas Williams


It's less than a year since the hardback of his book VIKING BRITAIN was published by William Collins.

August 9 is the publication date ot the paperback version of his book  and here it is in all its glory.

NB: Since I wrote this two weeks ago the publishers are already talking about a paperback reprint!



VIKING BRITAIN - A History

There are a few of my illustrations in the book but the very striking cover illustration was produced by Joe McLaren.

To follow Tom on Twitter - @battlescapes
To follow Tom on FaceBook - https://www.facebook.com/thomasjtwilliams



Tuesday, May 1, 2018

DON'T JUMP TO CONCLUSIONS......

Things aren't always what they seem.  


You've heard about the woman who walks into doors? Well In my case it was the sheep wot dun it. 

The only near eruption of physical violence in my marriage came from me.  I still recall the incident vividly. We were sitting side by side in the parked car, me in the driving seat. I was seething and drew my arm back to hit my husband. But it wasn't just the impracticality of the location for a physical fight which stopped me. I just couldn't do it. The trigger for the argument was trivial and certainly did not warrant anyone getting bruised - physically or psychologically - I ended up giving him a half-hearted shove.

This happened in the early years and since then, despite no re-occurrence, I have always accepted the label of being the aggressive one in the marriage - relying on my husband’s admission that even if that blow had landed where I initially intended, he probably deserved it.


As you've probably guessed, all this is just a preamble..........

About six weeks ago I took myself out for a walk, on my own. My initial aim was to walk down to the farm and back. I say “down” as the farm is lower than we are but the road skirts the side of the valley. It dips, then climbs and then dips again.  Undertaken briskly, this short walk takes about half an hour but delivers a bit of a work out.





















By the time I reached the farm’s entrance I was still feeling fresh.  Instead of retracing my steps I turned right, taking the uphill lane opposite the farm’s driveway. “I’ll just walk as far as the sheep, to say hello,” I thought to myself.

Entrance to farm
Lane leading to the field with sheep




















This lane is steep at first, but then begins to level out. I began to look ahead for the 6 extremely plump and woolly sheep in a field that abuts the road. The last time I’d visited them I guessed they might even be pregnant.  But as I progressed I couldn’t see the sheep, let alone any lambs.  Then I realised that the furthest field of the small-holding was partially obscured by the contours of the land.  And wait….!   I spotted a few creamy humps just beginning to protrude above the green slope. The backs of the grazing animals.


The next moment I was lying flat on my face - half on the lane, half off it - feeling extremely stupid. There'd been no heart-stopping lurch when you know you’ve tripped. No time to throw out arms to break the fall. No sense of disaster.  Just bang! One moment upright, the next splayed horizontal. To paraphrase Tommy Cooper's famous line - Ground face, face ground!

On revisiting the spot today I confirmed what I'd suspected. For several yards the ground is broken away at the edge of the road and, while looking ahead, I'd put my foot in this gully!


(What I also discovered today is that there are now two lambs. Mother and babies are separated from the others.)





















Needless to say, after my prat-fall I gave up on my intention to visit the sheep.  I walked home with blood dripping from a deep graze on my hand, various aches and pains, mainly around my ribs, and a sore face.

It wasn’t till the next day that I truly realised what I’d done to myself. While affording me some measure of protection - but not to themselves - my glasses had rammed hard against my cheekbone, brow and the side of my nose. Fortunately my black-eye did not puff and close up, but the livid bruise took over four weeks to completely disappear.


Tomorrow I am going into town to collect my new glasses

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Karen King's 'Rise of the Soul Catchers'

I am delighted to be one of the stops on Karen King's Blog Tour for 
Rise of the Soul Catchers

In introducing this book the one thing I am sure of is that it's for Young Adults.  But I don't know whether to describe it as Paranormal, Romance or Adventure. Or maybe it's a mix of all three...?  Better still, I'll shut up and hand over to Karen


RISE OF THE SOUL CATCHERS 

Can love survive anything – even death?




Sapphire and Will vow to love each other forever. But when a car crash ends that dream all too soon, they find themselves separated in an afterlife with zones named after the colours of the rainbow. Determined to find each other, they start an adventurous journey alongside a cast of characters they don't know whether to trust. They finally meet again in the terror-fuelled Red Zone where the dreaded Soul Catchers are planning on taking over the entire afterworld and are plunged into a dangerous battle. Is their love strong enough to survive against the odds? 

 (Previously published as Sapphire Blue


Extract from Sapphire’s Viewpoint:

My mind is a mess. I can’t leave Will. I’ve got to help him. But how can I? I don’t know this world. If I don’t go with Grandpa and my family, I’ll be on my own. The Soul Catchers might get me too. 

Soul Catchers. The very name makes me shudder. Have they got Will? What are they doing to him?

Will and I promised to love each other forever. How can I go without knowing he’s safe? I can’t leave him. But if I stay, how can I help him? My head is such a mish-mash of thoughts and fears I’m hardly aware of Grandpa leading me over to the silver bus, of climbing up the steps to board it.

It’s crowded so we have to go right at the back to find a seat. Grandpa gently pushes me into the seat by the window. I look out and see the guy still waiting on the steps. He’s not giving up on his sister. How can I give up on Will so easily?

That guy belongs here. He knows his way around, I remind myself. I’m new. I need to stay with Grandpa. Besides, the zone guides will find Will.

What if they don’t? I might never see him again.

The realization smacks me like a punch to the stomach, momentarily winding me.

I can’t go. Going with Grandpa might mean leaving Will forever and I can’t do that.

I can get another bus and meet up with Grandpa later, when I find Will. He could be on his way here, right now. I think of him walking in alone and confused like I was, of running to greet him, hugging him, letting him know that even though we’re here we still have each other. I have to wait for him.

I get up from my seat, almost jumping over Grandpa in my haste to get off.

“I’m waiting for Will,” I shout as I race down the aisle toward the closing door.

I can hear Grandpa and Aunt May calling me to come back but I ignore them. The doors are closing. With a final burst I reach them, slip through the narrowing gap and leap out, landing sprawled out on the ground. I hear the doors slide shut behind me and a loud whoosh. Scrambling to my knees I swivel around just in time to see the silver bus rise up and soar off into the sky, swiftly disappearing behind the clouds. Okay, so that’s why it’s called a sky-bus. Now what the hell do I do?

Rise of the Soul Catchers is  published on 25th April.


Karen King writes edgy YA with a heart and sassy, heart-warming romance. Her first YA, Perfect Summer, was runner up in the Red Telephone Books 2011 YA Novel Competition and her second YA, Sapphire Blue, now republished as Rise of the Soul Catchers by Littwitz Press, was called ‘the best YA book out there right now’ by a reviewer for Ind’Tale magazine.
Karen has four romcoms published by Accent Press, and a fifth one is due out in June this year, Her latest romcom, The Cornish Hotel by the Sea, was #3 in the Amazon bestseller holiday reads.  She has recently signed a two book-contract with Bookouture for more romance novels.
Karen has also written several short stories for women’s magazine and had 120 children's books published. When she isn’t writing, Karen likes travelling, watching the ‘soaps’ and reading. Give her a good book and a box of chocolates and she thinks she’s in Heaven.

Author links:
Twitter: @karen_king




Monday, March 26, 2018

LIFE BITING BACK - the genesis of FLY OR FALL

Maybe I should write a book about winning the lottery!


“Where do you get your ideas from?” is a frequent question posed to writers. For me the simple answer is: I make stuff up. And then I ask myself : But what if...?
It’s more complicated than that, of course. Imagination on its own is never enough. My own experience informs and deepens my writing, and provides me with ideas and directions, but the finished story is never a word-for-word account of the life I’ve lived.
But when the stuff you did make up begins happening in ‘real life’, perhaps that’s when you should start to worry!

Fairy Dance - Arthur Rackham
I was a fey, day-dreamy
I loved dressing-up. Me as a 'gypsy'
child. I resisted letting go of fairy tales, Santa Claus and magic. Eventually I had to grow up - probably far later than many of my peers - but oddly, when I did, I felt I’d taken a longer step forward than they had. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the teenage comics and romances my friends read, but I wasn’t an uncritical sponge. I took them with a large pinch of salt.


Perhaps I’m too much of a cynic, but the endlessly regurgitated tale of the hard-done-by heroine, whose extraordinary beauty goes unnoticed - even by herself - until the rich, handsome, toned, maybe a touch arrogant but otherwise impressive (and universally admired) hero, comes along and notices her, seemed a bit soppy to me. I was more drawn to the quirky hero's of the Edwardian writer, Ethel M Dell. Or - more worryingly - the old-lady-murdering hero of Dostoevsky's Crime & Punishment - Rodion Raskolnikov!

It's a good thing that these days there is far more variety in contemporary women’s fiction, but the parameters were far more rigid when I first seriously attempted to write a love story. To have any chance of my book being published I knew I should try to write a typical category romance. Knowing what you should do and accomplishing it, are two very different things, however. Once I’d begun ‘Just Before Dawn’ it took off, following its own, unconventional trajectory. I knew it wasn’t keeping within the rules but I was too excited following a story which seemed to know better than I did, where it was going.

Re-published in paperback
My own design
Having almost immediately found a publisher for it, and feeling undeservedly complacent, I made no attempt to keep my second book - ‘Desires & Dreams’ - within the supposedly acceptable ‘romance’ guidelines. I was aware I’d been lucky, but not sufficiently aware just how lucky. In retrospect I can more clearly see how much of a fluke it was to have so quickly found a newly established publisher whose mission statement fitted what I was writing so perfectly. The publisher's demise hardly more than five years after their launch is an indication of just how difficult it was then to buck the system.

Re-published in paperback
My own design










From then on, I struggled to find another publisher, in part perhaps because I was continuing to write stories which confronted the realities of contemporary life, good and bad, without flinching or looking away. Stories in which flawed characters face life’s inevitable hurdles - love, death, marriage, sex, parenthood, infidelity – not always doing the right thing but ultimately finding a way through the maze to peace and a credible, happy-for-now, ending.



My original cover -
before the book was re-published
by Accent Press
My original cover -
before the book was re-published
 by Accent Press















Eventually abandoning my quest to find a publisher, I went independent and self-published TORN and LIFE CLASS. After receiving good reviews, I wished I had another book to bring out. Wait a minute! I did have another book! I’d begun it years before, it was the next book I planned to offer my original publisher. But at a stressful time of my life I'd abandoned it, even before my publisher folded.
My original cover -
before the book was re-published
 by Accent Press
The initial concept for FLY OR FALL came to me four years after we’d moved-house from South London into Surrey, a move instigated by me.  But what if I hadn't wanted to move.......?

What if a woman who dislikes change is persuaded - against her will - to move-house from Battersea in London to an area where she knows no one? And what if her mother has just died?  And what if the new house is old-fashioned and run down and in need of major modernisation....?

I'd had some experience of having work done on the house, but nothing too disruptive, and there'd been no untoward incidents to base a story around. It was then I had a very surprising conversation with a woman I knew slightly. I’d never been propositioned by a worker in my home but for her flirting (and, I inferred, much more) with builders, was a commonplace and welcome add-on to home improvements!  Dragging my eyebrows down from my hairline, I latched onto another idea.  Like me, my heroine, Nell, is not that kind of woman! She is very unlikely to respond positively to a pass from a stranger. But what if I put her in a house full of builders, and the man with the reputation as a local womaniser fails to make a pass at her? Would she feel relief or resentment?

At that time in my life I was working in the bar of a sports club for a few evenings a week. It struck me that my heroine might take a similar job which could expose her to an entirely different world to the one she’d left behind in ‘right on’, ‘politically correct’ Battersea. I still had no overall story, but all of these thoughts were rumbling around in my head in a lumpy, unconnected way, and I was laboriously writing them down, hoping that something would begin to gel.


Irene Allan - 1922-1986
Suddenly, everything in my life was turned upside down by the totally unexpected and early death of my much-loved mother. Despite this disturbing coincidence with my heroine’s life, I continued writing. It was an escape from the grief.  But very soon afterwards, my husband was head-hunted. The job was many miles away in Gloucestershire, and I found myself faced with the self same dilemma I’d confronted my heroine with!  I was in shock.  What was going on?  Instead of writing a story using my own life as a resource, my life had begun to mirror the story I was writing!  I was happy in Surrey.  My son was at school and I was putting down roots, forming a network, and I wasn’t at all sure I wanted to move ever again, let alone to a county neither my husband nor I had ever even set foot in. But it was a good opportunity and we made the joint decision to go for it.

I found myself living through many of the life events and emotions I’d only previously imagined, including the major  upheaval of building, electrical and plumbing work!  The unfinished untitled manuscript was put away.  So it was, that many years later, only when I wanted to add to the body of work I was independently publishing,  I decided to have another look at this book.  I immediately saw that it had potential; better still, the intervening years had healed the rawness of the bereavement and dislocation I’d felt, and I was able to look back on that period of my life more dispassionately.  My well of experience had, by this time, deepened considerably, giving me far more to draw on. And the perfect title jumped out at me. I updated and finished FLY OR FALL.

All three books are now available from Accent Press.

To find out more about FLY OR FALL, go to Books in my Handbag
A character interview with Patrick Lynch
A character interview with Elizabeth Whitgift
A character interview with Eleanor (Nell) Hardcastle



Monday, March 19, 2018

Becoming a Writer Was NOT a Foregone Conclusion.


Despite writing all through my teenage years, I never took it, or myself, seriously. I was well aware I was writing rubbish. I’d managed to get into Grammar school but I wasn’t in the top set. If I received a B+ for an English essay I was pleased with myself, usually getting no better than a B or B- . I felt that I was intelligent, but I couldn’t prove it. I was too impatient, careless or lazy. (In recent years I’ve become convinced that I am on the dyslexia spectrum, something that was not even recognised at the time.) So, the fact that my hobby was to write (or, more precisely, to begin writing) romantic novels, did not mean I harboured ambitions to be an author. I knew I wasn’t clever enough. It meant only that writing answered a need in me, satisfying my pubescent cravings for love. After all, “Art” was where I was headed in life. My parents were convinced of it, I agreed with them. It was the only subject I was unarguably good at. And yet, and yet..........



I have a vivid recollection of travelling home on a commuter train from Charing Cross, to my family home in Orpington, Kent. I was working at the time as a sales assistant in a department store. At the time I saw this as a short interlude between art-college and a “proper” job, but as time ticked by, and the number of West End stores I'd worked in multiplied, I became increasingly depressed. A situation not improved by the continuing desert of my  love-life.

The train crossed The Thames and I was struck by a stunning sunset over the Palace of Westminster. I stared and stared as we travelled through Waterloo and then London Bridge, where the rail track skims the roof-tops. I found myself trying to find a satisfactory way to describe the sky. And I wasn’t simply listing the colours I saw but trying to construct the most lucid and engaging form of words to precisely convey the scene. The way the blue of the sky grew watery, bleeding down to a luminous duck egg green, how the bruise dark clouds reared up, slashed horizontally where the light from the setting sun bled through in gouts of brilliant orange and scarlet. (I told you the memory was vivid!) But even as I stared, shuffling words and sentences in my head, I remember thinking that as a supposed artist I should be mentally selecting the paints with which I’d render the scene. Why was I trying to describe it in words?


More than a decade and a half later I’d worked for years as an illustrator in advertising, I’d met and married my husband, I’d had our son Tom and he was in his fourth year. I began to wonder what I could do from home to earn money. Free-lance art work was a possibility, but with a toddler in tow it would be difficult. I did do some work in those early days of motherhood, but I postponed a real push to get back into commercial art until Tom was older. It was then the light bulb went on above my head and I made the decision that would alter my life. “I know what I’ll do now, I’ll write a novel.”

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Wild World of the Garden

When we first moved west from the southernmost suburbs of greater London to our house in Gloucestershire, we almost immediately had two very unexpected visitors.  Although we had lived for some years on the edge of the countryside, it was a manicured countryside. I was now in the 'real' country, and awaited with glee a Snow White type existence from then on.  It didn't turn out like quite that, but over the years we have probably seen more wildlife in our garden or in the field over the wall, than we would if we'd stayed in Surrey. And I love it.

Tom and nosy pigeon (or is it a dove?)

I came upon our first visitor 'strolling' down the sideway towards our back door. I looked at him, he looked at me ... and kept on coming. Leaving the door open I retreated back into the house just to see what would happen.  I hardly expected the dove / pigeon to come in, but a few hops later and there he was in the kitchen: 'So, this is what the inside of a house looks like!' he seemed to be thinking. I kept still and he made his way, in calm and leisurely fashion, out of the kitchen, via the hall, into the sitting room where I managed to immortalise the moment. In the resulting shot, my son, Tom (Thomas Williams - now grown up and the author of Viking Britain!), looks more wary than enchanted. Our visitor had a good look around then, seemingly satisfied, retraced his hops back through the kitchen and out of the house.









It was very shortly after this incident that I had another close encounter, but this time with a rather more exotic member of the ornithological family. I looked out of the window one day only to see a very odd looking, and very large polka-dotted black bird standing on the wall between us and the farmer's field behind us.  And when I say 'very large', I mean very very.  It was getting on for the size of a peacock to which the  guinea fowl  is related, I later discovered, when I identified it.

Pheasants in the garden



Another unusual siting, was made by my husband and at first I thought he was either drunk or teasing me. It wasn't a buzzard, the largest bird we commonly see circling over the valley. He'd spotted a bald eagle!  I was just in time to see it and agree with his identification.  It turned out to be an escapee from a bird sanctuary many miles to the north of us. It was later caught and returned home.

We hear more than see the pheasants, their clacketty gobbling call is unmistakable,  but they do sometimes pay us a personal visit.




The first time I saw it in the middle of our lawn I thought the big green bird with a red head  must be a parrot! Sadly the green woodpecker is not a common sight in the garden. Slightly less uncommon, but still not frequent visitor is its cousin the lesser-spotted woodpecker.  Torn between the desire to photograph them and the fear they'll fly off before I return with my camera, I usually just stand at the window and watch - so the pics above are stock.

It's always exciting to spot a jay, that flash of iridescent electric blue contrasting with the soft pinky buff  plumage is an instant giveaway, but they're there and then they're gone.



We have most of the usual garden birds, blackbirds, dunnocks, robins, wrens, all of the tits and finches, but very few sparrows and no starlings, and the numbers of thrushes have diminished over the years. When we first moved here, even when I couldn't see them, I could hear them singing or bashing the living daylights out of a poor snail (and no, I don't use slug bait), but now there are far fewer.  I am always very happy to see them.

Bull Finch on the feeder

Blue Tit on the fat balls.
Dunnock posing on the old chimney pot we use as a planter

My favourite - the long-tail tit
- they usually arrive mob-handed
Nuthatch - looking like a little bandit






Jackdaw - they always look mean to me.












We hear tawny owls but I've only once seen one here, swooping low past the window in the gloaming......







I could go on and on ... and on ... about birds but I think it's time I moved on to mammals.

And first, perhaps, I should mention the very cheeky visitor who has no compunction about stealing the birds' food, even when he knows we're watching.

Impossible for a very amateur photographer to capture the bats who regularly swoop around the house on a summer evening. Like some of the others in this post, this  fabulous picture is not mine.

Unlike the bats, badgers are very rarely seen. You have to get up from your bed if you think you've heard them.  But even then, it's usually so dark they look like no more than fat black cushions shuffling around the night garden.  They leave the evidence of their depredations, however - churning up the lawn to look for grubs and several times, virtually destroying the bird feeder to get at its tempting contents.


We found a hedgehog once, apparently considering a small space between the gnarled trunk of an old rose bush and the ivy covered wall behind it, to build a nest. After finding herself being peered at, she apparently decided the spot was too public; we don't know where she went.  Over the years we have found hedgehog droppings, but I guess we are like so many places, the population has dropped off. But we do make sure the garden is hedgehog friendly (in other words - neglected in parts).












Owned by Rebecca Charley and Richard Spyvee, the management of the farm in the valley behind us is kept as natural as possible, without the use of sprays and chemicals. In fact, the farmer, Rebecca, is the south west farming adviser to the National Trust and is a multiple award winner for her small herd of Red Poll cattle. Rebecca has appeared on BBC TVs Country File describing the management of these lovely animals. They enjoy a peripatetic life style  to insure a variety in their diet, and they are grazed at various locations around here, so they are only in the field behind us intermittently. But we love it when they are there - we always refer to them as 'our cows' - and enjoy giving them apples and ivy, which they love. 

My sister communing with one of 'our cows'
One of the few horses who's deigned
 to respond to our blandishments











That field beyond out garden wall is steep in parts and boggy in others, with a tendency to become overgrown with bramble. Horses are also kept there from time to time, but they can be be a bit snooty. Otherwise it is empty apart from the foxes and rabbits, and the occasional worker, clearing the overgrowth with a very clever, radio-controlled 'bramble digger-upper'.
A baby rabbit who'd wandered and turned up in our garage















When we first lived here, we never saw any deer.  But over the last few years there's been an increasing population, mainly of roe deer. Indeed, over the last six months the deer have apparently decided 'the grass is greener' and we've caught them trespassing in our garden on several occasions.So far it's not been a problem, but I'm slightly concerned how much more tasty out garden will look to them in the summer.



Sadly, the spawn in the pond has dwindled over the years. Even when we've had tadpoles, they've vanished before metamorphosis. No fish but we do see newts, frogs - and toads, hiding in damp corners.


A visitor to the pond, on the look out for easy pickings, is the heron.






And last but not least, the beautiful slow worm, curled in the sun, looking like some extraordinary piece of Viking jewellery.