Saturday, November 2, 2013
Of course it was Bugs Bunny. And Lori's was the first name to come out of the hat.
Congratulations Lori Crane Hess.
Please send your email address to firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll send you an e-version of FLY OR FALL.
Sunday, October 27, 2013
Yes! The time has come to start sculpting scary pumpkin faces, lay in a stock of sweets and practise a scary cackle for Thursday, and that knock on the door by a gaggle of hungry 'trick or treaters'.
I'm doing all the above, but as an added extra this time, I've banded together with several other writers, and am taking part in a Halloween blog-hop organised by the estimable Francine Howarth. We are offering books as prizes in return for a correct answer to a question.
I have to confess straight away, that my newly published book, FLY OR FALL, has no link whatsoever to Halloween. There are no pumpkins, ghosts or witches. It's a grown up love story that has just garnered its first review. I'm thrilled to say it's a *Five Star* !
Click on the Hallowe'en link at the top to join the party, visit the other authors who are taking part, and answer the various questions. Everyone is different.
Scroll down to the previous post to read the prologue to FLY OR FALL, then answer this question: In the prologue to FLY OR FALL, the television is on. The antics of which cartoon character (the name please) trigger in Nell the sense that the ground is falling away beneath her feet?
Answers in the comment section. The winner of FLY OR FALL will be announced on Saturday November 2.
Sunday, October 20, 2013
I loved Guy Fawkes Night. Many of my most treasured childhood memories revolve around this event. It was such a novelty to be out at night in the cold and dark, watching the Catherine wheels and Roman candles, and rockets shooting into the sky from the end of the garden. With our woolly mittens on, we tried to eat potato skins filled with a cheesy baked potato mash and we scalded our tongues drinking soup from earthenware mugs. I still love fireworks and those smoky autumnal smells - the burning wood and leaves from the bonfire, mixed with the gunpowder from fireworks and the sharp metallic scent of sparklers (not to mention roasting swede!) - still vividly evoke the excitement I felt as a child.
I am taking part in a Halloween Giveaway Blog Hop, organised by Francine Howarth at http://tgunwriter.blogspot.co.uk/. Several writers are involved and we are all offering books as prizes. If you want to take part visit Francine's website, or simply answer the question below and you've a chance to win an e-copy of my recently released book - FLY OR FALL.
Q. In the prologue to FLY OR FALL, the television is on. The antics of which cartoon character (the name please) trigger in Nell the sense that the ground is falling away beneath her feet?
Answers in the comment section. The winner will be announced on Saturday November 2.
Saturday, July 20, 2013
Here is the excerpt from page 170 of my soon to be published book, Fly or Fall.
Steam infused with sandalwood swirled around me. I rested my head against the wet wall and expanded my lungs. Today’s exercise session had been a disappointment. My movements were wooden, my limbs heavy; I got through the class somehow, but was unable to achieve the usual split between the mental and the physical. In the past it had been here, in the steam room, where I’d found the greatest release. As my languid body grew hotter and sweatier, I would luxuriate in the bawdiest of fantasies. Not today. It was so very hot. I’d no energy to move, yet the relaxation I sought eluded me, and as for fantasising? Reality had intervened. I’d woken up.
Many times the steam exhaled, filling the cell-like room with a dense, aromatic fog, and many times the fog thinned and condensed, falling from above in cool heavy drops. This self-indulgence could no longer be justified. I roused myself and began to stand; suddenly overcome by a draining weakness, I clutched for the door, conscious only of the imperative to get out of this cloying heat. My hand was on the handle, but I had no strength, yet the door swung open. There was someone in the way, blocking my escape. My head jangled and the perimeters of my vision closed in, a dark frame round a dwindling image. A chill wave of nausea swept over me. Then I was asleep and dreaming.
‘Mrs. Hardcastle? Mrs. Hardcastle? Are you all right?’
‘It’s Sharon, Mrs. Hardcastle. ‘
I could see smooth, tanned legs and the white edge of shorts. I realised I was outside the steam room, sitting sideways on a lounger, my head on my knees. I sat up giddily.
‘You fainted,’ she said. ‘Lucky I was there or you’d have hit your head on the tiles.’
‘Thank you.’ I glanced up. ‘...Sharon. How long...?’
‘Just a few moments. How are you feeling now, Mrs Hardcastle?’
‘Bit groggy. ‘
‘Should we call an ambulance? Or your husband?’‘No!' Not Trevor. 'It’s my own fault. I stayed in there too long. Don’t worry. I’ll be fine in a moment. I drooped my head down onto my knees again.
I have tagged seven other friends and fellow authors. Some are willing, some have yet to get back to me. I'm sorry if this proves a burden. Melanie Roberston-King, Kimberly Menozzi , Jo Lambert , Margaret James , Kit Domino , Linda Mitchelmore , Jeannine Gray .
Saturday, June 29, 2013
|My husband and I on the terrace|
|View of the London Eye from the terrace|
This week my husband and I travelled up from Gloucestershire to London. We checked in at the New Cavendish Club and then went out for several hours of lunching and shopping.What could be nicer?
Lunch was perfect but afterwards it was he who gleefully bought himself a pair of shoes, while I bought nothing! And then we returned to the club to get ready to go out. But we could easily not have been in London at all.
It was only a few weeks ago that we received our invitation to a reception at the Houses of Parliament. But my husband wasn’t keen. In the abstract, making a trip to London only to stand around for several hours in a collar and tie, on very best behaviour, glad-handing and making social chit-chat was unappealing to him. But my eagle eye instantly honed in on the venue and the date this event was going to be staged.
We did stand around for an hour or so, drinking wine, eating nibbles and chatting to old friends and work colleagues of my husband’s, but it was fun. Then I felt very privileged to be taken by Colonel Bob Stewart, MP for Beckenham, on a bespoke tour of The House. We watched the Lords in session. We visited the chapel and the terrace, and were taken into the Commons, once the sitting was over.
Behind the Scenes at the Museum
When he was free, we met up with our son and he took us behind the scenes, unlocking doors that the general public never pass through. I feel doubly privileged that on our trip to the capital last week I sneaked a peek at the slightly dusty and a touch shabby, back offices and store-rooms of our great museum.
The Mildenhall Treasure
Now, to get back to that treasure.... Why do we feel an attachment to this fabulous hoard of Roman silver? It is because we DO have a family connection.
My uncle Sydney Ford, (pictured with the treasure on his sideboard behind him) was the husband of my grandfather’s sister, Ethel. My son, Tom, (pictured beside a display of the treasure in 1989) is therefore Syd's great great nephew.
In uncle Syd's version of the discovery of the Mildenhall Treasure, he found it on his farm. He was driving the tractor and plough which turned it up out of the soil. He took it home and cleaned it up. He thought it was pewter. He was going to declare the find and took it (or some of it) to London - to the British Museum - to show them, but 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.
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 neighbouring land. And I’ve also heard that there is some doubt over whether it originally came from the Mildenhall area at all. Roman villas have been found there but no remains of a villa of sufficient grandeur to have owned such a service has ever been excavated in the location. Another suggestion I’ve read, linked to the previous point, is that it was stolen (from whom or from where was not made clear) and had been hidden there by twentieth century villains! And there were persistent rumours at the time, apparently, that Sydney Ford knew in advance he was going to be relieved of his fruit bowl et al so he kept back a cache of coins or some other choice artefact from the hoard when the authorities came for it in 1946. It was declared Treasure Trove And he was recompensed - £2,000 between him and his ploughman, Mr Butcher.
(Great) Uncle Syd, was a favourite. We always loved seeing him. He was mischievous and rascally and had a definite twinkle in his eye. When I was young I took on board the story as he told it. Of course it was true. But now? I have no trouble in believing him capable of a certain degree of roguery. I don’t suppose we will ever know the real story and Syd is long gone and can no longer give us any answers.
Sunday, June 16, 2013
Waking up to this view set the standard for the rest of the holiday. Bliss.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
I am absolutely delighted to be part of The Contemporary Book Fair, the brain child of Francine Howarth. It lasts from the 19th - 22nd of April, and gives all those contemporary novelists taking part the opportunity to showcase their books.
I am grateful to Francine for the chance to preview a new book I have coming out in a couple of months. It is still in pre-production, so I don’t have a definite date yet. But I can tell you a little bit about it, post the opening chapters, and give you an idea of the book jacket designs I am playing around with.
To visit the The Contemporary Book Fair and all the other wonderful authors taking part in the blog-hop, either click on the small Book Fair Logo at the top of the page or follow this link:
My new book is called Fly or Fall. It is about a woman, Eleanor (known as Nell), who dislikes change and has always been risk-averse. She became pregnant with twins and married young, giving up on her ambition to go to university. When the story opens, her invalid mother has not long died. This circumstance, combined with her husband’s advocacy, conspire to force a move away from London, away from her friends and her safety net.
Nell finds herself in a strange new environment, among women who have an opposite view of life to her own. She finds them materialistic and superficial. The fact they are married seems no deterrent to their having adventures and revelling in the fact.The house which Nell and her husband, Trevor, have moved into needs a lot of refurbishment. One of the men working for the building firm they engage to do the work (on and off, over a two year period), is infamous as a local Lothario. Although Nell doesn’t want to emulate her friends’ behaviour she is obscurely troubled that this man does not make a pass at her.
Throughout the drama, the ongoing ‘improvements’ to Nell’s new house can be viewed as a metaphor. Against the low-key backdrop of the financial crisis, which culminated in 2008, the story follows the dismantling of all of Nell’s certainties, her preconceptions and her moral code. Unwelcome truths about her friends, her children, her husband and herself, are gradually revealed. Ultimately Fly or Fall is a love story. By the end, when the story is brought bang up to date, Nell has rebuilt herself as a different person, a braver person, and she has embarked on a totally transformed life.
The book begins like this:
Fly or Fall
The cartoon rabbit ran straight off the edge of the cliff. He hung, apparently oblivious to his predicament, feet pedalling the empty air. There was a snigger, halfway between laughter and derision, from our twelve year old twins. Perhaps belief is everything, I thought. If you believe you’re still on the same level, that life hasn’t changed, you won’t see the void which has opened beneath your feet. And if you don’t see it, you don’t fall. Inevitably the rabbit did stop running, did look down. I felt with him the nightmare lurch of panic, the sudden plunge downwards as he dropped out of frame. The result was explosive. As the dust cleared a precisely incised, rabbit shaped crater was revealed at the foot of the cliff.
‘I still can’t believe the amount of money....’ I murmured, with a dazed shake of my head.
‘So? What’s your problem? Any normal person would be jumping for joy.’ We were speaking quietly; the twins, had yet to be told their father wanted to move, let alone that without even putting the house on the market we’d received an eye-watering offer.
‘I’m not arguing,’ I defended myself half-heartedly. ‘But I suppose I’ve always thought the amount it might sell for was academic. We have to live somewhere. Your job’s here, our friends are here, the kids go to school here. Why sell?’
‘We’ve been through this. There’s nothing to keep us, not really. Why stay in Battersea when we could live in the country. Clean air, green fields...?’
I hadn’t reacted the way he’d wanted and expected, and I could hardly explain why to myself let alone to him. Why did I have such a sense of foreboding? If I agreed to sell and move out of London, our lives would change in countless superficial and practical ways but, to use Trevor’s words, they’d be changes which most normal people would regard as improvements to the style and quality of life. To him it was a no-brainer. Why stay in a property worth so much money when we could sell it and move somewhere cheaper in the country. Deflated by my reaction to his plans he had to work hard to keep his irritation in check.
‘But it’s such an unremarkable house.’
‘For God’s sake Nell! Where have you been? You’ve heard about the property boom?’
‘But it’s smaller than the others in the block, with a much smaller garden. I never in a million years thought.... Anyway, what about your job?’
He sighed deeply. ‘I’m a teacher, I can get a job anywhere.’
‘Are you sure about that?’
‘I’m not dragging us off to the depths of the country on a wing and a prayer. I’ll make sure I’ve something to go to. I may quit teaching altogether.’
‘But you love teaching?’
‘I used to,’ he retorted darkly. I felt I was being drawn into an Alice in Wonderland world where all my certainties were being turned upside down. ‘Look the whys and wherefores are not important … the important thing is this. He waved the formal offer at me. His taut, flushed face betrayed his excitement, as he contemplated a very different future to the one I’d envisaged.
‘I don’t want … we don’t need so much money. Wealth can be very corrupting.’
He sighed again. ‘Of course it seems a lot to us because we’ve been scraping along for years. It’s only recently things have eased up a bit. But we’ll still need a house to live in,’ His tabby, greying beard received another vigorous raking. ‘We’ll only have the balance, to play with.’
‘I know that.’
‘Sure, our lives are going to change. But we are who we are. It is possible to be comfortably off, to have a few hundred thousand in an investment account, without abandoning your ideals. Unless you truly believe our principles are so flaky? The kind you adopt when you’re poor then slough off like a snake’s skin as soon as your circumstances improve?’
‘No one really knows how they’ll respond to temptation until they’re exposed to it. It’s a leap into the dark. Perhaps I am going to develop a taste for furs and diamonds and love-affairs. And you? Fast cars and bimbos?’
‘Do try to keep a sense of proportion. It’s not that kind of dosh.’
‘I am joking.’ But as I said the words I knew I wasn’t joking, not really. I had cloaked my real misgivings in the facile.
‘Anyway, how come you get to have love-affairs and I get the bimbos?’ he added, with a rueful smile. ‘Sounds a bit discriminatory to me.’
‘What is the male equivalent to a bimbo? A gigolo? A toy boy? Chance would be a fine thing.’Much of the discussion so far had been conducted in this half-joking, half-serious vein. My insides still bubbled with a mixture of shocked surprise and apprehension, bordering on hysteria; I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. For me it was still too soon to properly and calmly evaluate what all this would really mean to us.
At length he spoke again.‘You think I don’t understand, but I do.’ His tone was now conciliatory, bordering on the condescending. I remained silent, repressing the urge to flash back, ‘Good for you.’
‘I know all this has been a shock. I know the last few months since Beryl died, have been hard on you. Losing your surviving parent has got to change your perspective on life and the way you live it. Even when that parent had long ceased to be the mother you knew. We always knew you’d inherit the house. The probate will soon be sorted and we ... you’ll get the title deeds. What the house is worth is the only new element for you.’
But not for him? Had he been comparing house prices for years? Weighing up what my mother’s death could mean for us? I sensed a ‘But’ coming, possibly an ultimatum. Did he want to secure my compliance here and now? Yet, as he proceeded, I saw apprehension in his eyes.
‘Seriously, Nell, it’s down to you. If you really don’t want to sell the house and realise some of the profits by moving out and down-pricing, then I can’t force you.’
I glanced away from his intent stare, back towards the TV, which now flickered in the corner without its cynical audience of two. Since I’d last looked Bugs Bunny had not only survived his fall but had triumphed over his pursuers, in the interim mysteriously achieving a lifestyle of wealth and opulence. As the title music swelled the final frame revealed him lying back complacently against a pile of harem cushions, a jewelled turban balanced between his ears, the inevitable carrot held pinched in his fingers like a cigar.
‘Beats me why you can’t just accept it and rejoice? Trevor persisted doggedly. ‘Our ship’s come in. It’s our turn.’He made my misgivings seem increasingly nebulous and perverse. How could I continue to resist? One moment I’d felt like I was at the edge of a precipice, facing a leap into the unknown, yet still clinging to the possibility of retreat. Now I realised the world had shifted on its axis; there could be no going back. The secure ground had vanished from beneath my feet. I had only two options left ̶ to fall or to fly.
Monday, March 11, 2013
Well, no, actually. Maybe I’ve been lucky. Although I have to confess I don’t have hundreds, the reviews I do get are usually flattering. But I can assure you they are not from personal friends or relations. Some are from acquaintances - people I have got to know through the on-line writing community - but does that make them invalid? I hope not. I’d far rather people were honest than praised me to the skies, just because they know me! I often say that I don’t write conventional romance. Real life is messy and unpredictable. I prefer not to prettify or to gloss over the realities of starting a relationship. So I know everyone won’t like or ‘get’ my books. But I am tremendously grateful when people do and then go to the trouble of telling me (and the reading public) so I’d love to share with you some reviews received this year.
Sometimes you read a book and the characters stay with you no matter how many books you read in its wake. Torn is such a book. I found myself liking and disliking Jess by turn as Allan's strong prose and authentic dialogue guides the reader through the ups and downs of this complex woman as she goes through a rite of passage to discover what it really is she values in life. At times you want to shout at her for the decisions she makes - just as sometimes we want to shout at ourselves for our weaknesses and rash choices. I warmed to both male protagonists, as wonderfully different as they were, and loved the whole feel and colour of the novel. It's a while since I finished yet I can still picture the rural scenes, which transported me from the busy city in which I was reading at the time. Thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking as well as a welcome escape into the country!
Thoroughly enjoyed this. It's a well written book with a gutsy storyline that keeps you guessing all the way through, makes you constantly change your opinions of the characters along the way and the rural setting sets the scene beautifully. The issues that the author covers are dealt with in a pretty true-to-life manner, with sensitivity where needed and it invoked a myriad of feelings whilst I read. Jess is a great character; she is strong yet weak, kind yet a little selfish. Some of the comments her 3 year old son comes out with bring lovely light moments where I laughed out loud. I found Dan easy to love and felt quite protective over him, and whilst it took me a good while to warm to James (he suffers from foot-in-mouth), I eventually did. I was literally torn over who Jess should choose. Can definitely recommend adding this your reading collection.
A touching sensitively written story while dealing with sensitive issues and ways people can find themselves in. Definitely worth a read.
Christmas was still a fortnight away. Although my mother-in -law was due to arrive on the 20th, in our minds Christmas proper would not commence until the arrival of our son and daughter-in-law on the 27th. Not only were they planning to spend longer than usual with us, we had the imminent commencement of his new job to celebrate. On the 7th of January he was starting at the British Museum as research curator for the 2014 Viking Exhibition. Even so, I had to have everything prepared before the arrival of my first guest, so as soon as I was able to I had to pull myself together. Between trips upstairs to make sure my patient was all right I was wrapping presents, preparing food, doing housework and putting up decorations. Within a few days my husband had recovered and, together, we managed to get everything ready before our first visitor’s arrival.
However, it seems that the Norovirus is a very tenacious and long-lived bug. All went well until Boxing Day, when mother-in-law began vomiting. She had obviously picked up the bug from one of us. Thankfully, given the severity of her illness, our other visitors had not yet set out. We phoned our son and told him not to come. I will draw a veil over the next few days but the washing machine was in almost constant use, and I had to make several trips to the supermarket and chemist for extra cleaning products and strong disinfectant. My mother in law was in bed for a week.
All this is just to explain why, after three further postponements (I will spare you the reasons why), we have just celebrated Christmas with our son and his wife. A jolly good time was had by all.