Monday, June 30, 2008

Two Trees and me in the media

Nipping out on Friday to put M’s tax return in the post (and let that be an example to all of you), I remembered I was going to buy a copy of Woking News and Mail. However, in the post office, getting a large letter stamp (what a lot of time, effort and petrol this wastes - this idea of getting the letters sized as well as weighed,) the postmistress said, ‘Oh, there’s a photo of you in the paper. I recognised you as soon as I saw it.’ She then offered it to me. It was in the free paper, rather than the paid for paper, but it doesn’t seem to make much difference these days. It was quite a large article - and very large photo - taking up half the page, equivalent to an A4 sheet. The journalist did get a few facts wrong, but I have to say that there was a lot of information in it, not just about Tainted Tree, but also the next book, if it ever gets finished, and even a bit about my autobiographical slice of life, The Fruit of the Tree. I’m looking forward to all the bookshops in Woking rushing to order.

My week of training for yesterday’s early morning really paid off. I was up with the lark, yesterday, Saturday, at 6.30 a.m., would you believe? And I actually felt human. (Whether it will last is another matter.) I rushed off to Jennifer, who was driving us to Winchester. I was three quarters of the way there when I remembered I had left my lunch in the fridge. I had the previous night made myself a smoked salmon sandwich having taken the bread from the freezer. When I put my three slices in the microwave, I set it on full instead of defrost, and it was so hot I could hardly butter it. Naturally I put it in the fridge overnight (though probably would have done, anyway), but in the morning, I sort of thought it was in with the books I was taking to Winchester. I had to prevail upon Jennifer to stop at a garage and put up with their fairly useless range. When I ate my sandwich - tuna and sweetcorn - later, I could barely taste the tuna; that was partly because they had put a layer of pepper on it almost as thick as the tuna itself. It practically took the skin off my tongue.

We had quite a lot of visits during the course of the day and made a good number of sales on both days of Winchester. I was delighted to be visited by Adrienne Dines who had been one of the competition judges the previous year, when Tainted Tree was selected for the second prize. She is coming to give a talk at the Guildford Festival in October, as the Guildford Writers’ guest speaker, and she is absolutely charming and delightful. We also talked to Kay Green of the Circaidy Gregory Press, see also Circaidy Gregory Review of Independent and Small Press Books, who have similar sentiments to our own about the big people dominating the book trade.

It was a good day and we didn’t leave until about 6.00 in the evening. I really didn’t feel inclined to start cooking as soon as I got in, so I rang M and instructed him to get in a Chinese. Unfortunately, he left behind the fried rice, so I made a batch in the microwave. I tried the experiment of throwing in an egg for the last minute of cooking, and it was almost like proper egg fried rice. By the time I’d reheated the meal, eaten it and worked out whether the money I’d brought home matched the day’s sales, and played around a bit on the computer, it was 11.45 pm. So I didn’t quite manage to keep to my early nights of the previous week. I think I’ll soon be returning to Owl status.

My Myspace friend, Beth, has tagged me. I have to think of 15 things to say about myself and then tag 10 friends and ask them to do the same. So watch out friends, I’m thinking about you. Once you have been tagged, you have to write a blog

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wine in America, Conference at Winchester

A quiet few days, although M and I did attend a very pleasant baby shower, at which the women (mainly friends of the grandparents) oohed and aahed over the antics of the delightful baby in question, while the menfolk fled into the garden and talked, no doubt, of cabbages and kings.

Other than that, it was a quiet weekend, and the last couple of days seem to have been devoted to shopping at Sainsbury’s - twice; I forgot some things first time round; washing and ironing and devoting a little time to M’s tax return - the things I do for my husband!

Last night was Guildford Writers, though there were very few of us present, and I read out another piece of my holiday writing, which I have been copy-typing into the computer. People have been known to lose all their work on the computer, but it’s a whole lot easier to lose some scruffy bits of paper, as I am only too aware.

Have Wine Will Travel is very near to print publication in America, and will soon also be back on the Virtual Tales site to be purchased as an electronic book. There has been a lot of activity with emails and final versions flying backwards and forwards, which is very exciting. It is greatly enhanced by its excellent cover design and I hope will be successful in America.

I am in training for an early morning on Saturday, when I accompany Jay Margrave of Goldenford Publishers to the Winchester Writers’ Conference. Irene will not be there that day, as she has been shortlisted for the Bristol Prize, with one of her excellent short stories, but she and Anne will be ‘womanning’ the stand on Friday. I’m making a point of going to bed about ten minutes earlier each day, the theory being that I shall be able to get up earlier each morning. Alas, I missed the deadline to send in a short story to the Conference, owing to incorrect information on the outgoing letter. It’s a whole year since Tainted Tree won its prize, and now it will be there with our other books on the stand. If any friends are going to Winchester, please come and say hallo, we'd love to see you.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Pastry in the fifties, spring cleaning at midnight

Since we are all supposed to be broke as a result of the Credit Crunch, nineteen fifties cooking is becoming popular. I hear that people are going back to suet puddings and suchlike. My mother never, ever cooked suet puddings - in fact nothing stodgy like that. Her pastry was excellent and she could turn out a wonderful Dutch apple pie, which has a top crust, covering apples cooked with currants, which would produce a wonderful winey flavour. There was no bottom crust. She also created her version of milles feiulles - layers of pastry with jam and custard filling with a final topping of pastry cover with icing. And another of her success stories were marmalade tarts - a simple pastry made into a sort of envelope with marmalade sitting in the middle. Come to think of it, why haven’t I tried that? I can’t equal her pastry, though the family always enjoy my apple crumble. I make it so often for company that I’m sure they must be bored by it, but it seems to be everyone’s favourite. I didn’t bother to do one this time, partly on that basis, and partly because strawberries and soft fruit is in season. However, the girls were disappointed and I promised that I would produce one next time. I don’t quite know when that will be, because we each have arrangements taking up part or all of the weekend for several weekends into the summer.

A Great Disaster occurred this week - I lost the 4,000 words I had written during the holiday. I guessed it had got caught up with other papers, and maybe filed or deposited with M’s stuff in one of the cupboards in my office, or in my filing cabinet. When I thought I had looked everywhere, we examined the contents of the dustbin - not something I’d choose to do too often; checked the waste paper recycle bin and then M pulled the filing cabinet forwards to make sure it hadn’t dropped down there. It hadn’t, but the sight of a hundred cobwebs caused me to rush for the vacuum cleaner - even though it was midnight. Eventually at 12.40 a.m., we gave up and went to bed. Naturally, when in the morning, I had another look, I found it. Nice to know my office is clean though.

The next day, another drama - my computer screen petered out. It did it a few times, which was an early warning, before giving up the ghost. I took it to the local computer shop and they confirmed it had reached the end of its life, and I ordered a new one and took the old model home for M to play with. He then carved the back off with a hacksaw, fiddled with some plugs inside and got it going again. As I rushed to catch up on emails, I asked myself how I could tactfully say that I was not going to put up with a machine whose back was stuck on with sellotape. Fortunately, after 20 minutes or so, its brief second life was over, and I didn’t have to convince anyone.

On my way out of the car park at Knaphill, the following day, I met my hairdresser, which was useful, because it reminded me that my hair was a mess and that I must make an appointment. Her mind though was on other things. As soon as we neared each other, she said, ‘I really, really enjoyed your book,’ And when I returned today with a copy of A Bottle of Plonk which she had requested I bring her, she told me how she got involved with the characters and had now passed Tainted Tree to her daughters who were queuing to read it. We even, as I sat in the chair being shorn, discussed the characters and how I came to write the book. Every author’s dream, I imagine, being asked to talk about themselves and their work.

So now my screen is installed and I’m able to get back to the computer and the writing, etc. My printer appears to have gone wrong now, but I’m philosophical. Only thing is that the new screen is a rectangle instead of my almost square one from before, and all my pictures look fat, particularly the ones with me in them.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

No murders at the Midsomer fete

I watched the final part of The Apprentice on Wednesday night. Alan Sugar pretends to be tough but he’s actually a bit of a softie in my opinion. He hired Lee, who was a good candidate, but owned up himself to being embarrassed by his lack of education. I think AS saw that vulnerability in him and decided to give him a chance because of it, not in spite of it. I shall have to find something else to do on Wednesday nights - write a novel perhaps.

Fired with the success of my inclusion in Writers’ News, last week, I sent a press release to the local paper, the Woking News and Mail. To my surprise, first thing on Thursday morning, they telephoned me and said they would ring later to interview me and would arrange for a photographer to call. I thought I could make it Monday or Tuesday and that would give me time to do something with my hair, which needs cutting and which is splaying out in all directions. However, a little later I was told that the photographer would be coming in the afternoon, which indeed he did. If I am able to get hold of a picture, you can judge for yourselves whether or not I was able to tame the mop.

Still trying to catch up with things, but I had to rush out on Friday to top up fruit, bread, milk etc, for the family coming on Saturday, and this turned into a nearly full size shop. Early evening I fitted in a visit to Janice Windle’s Open House private view of her paintings - all fantastic. In addition to that, I got ready books and props for the table at the local Village Day on Saturday, where, in the event, we had some sales, and managed to stay outdoors all day, without any rain falling on us. It was a much better day than I’d hoped, actually, and it was nice to be greeted by people who had read Tainted Tree and enjoyed it. At least one of my sales was as a direct result of a recommendation by someone else. Anne, Irene and I also discussed the very successful trip by Irene and Jay to Frieburg, Guildford’s twin town in Germany, where they had good sales of Goldenford’s books.

The Son&Heir and the entourage arrived at the Village in the afternoon, but too late to enjoy any of the entertainments. The Tug of War had been repeated at least twenty times, but unlike in past years, not across the pond. Health and Safety will no longer allow people to fall in the pond, in case they pick up anything nasty. The atmosphere reminded me of an edition of Midsomer Murders, but nothing quite so dramatic happened.

Today the girls entertained us, as is their wont (but not necessarily our want). I am reminded of Mr Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, speaking to his daughter: ‘You have entertained us long enough.’ GD1, who is a mini Imelda Marcos, and has always invaded my wardrobe since she was tiny in search of interesting shoes, borrowed a pair of heels, which almost fitted. GD3 draped herself with scarves from same wardrobe, and they then belted out songs from High School Musical 2, GD1 doing a lot of wiggling. Later we all went out for a lunch and once again braved the English weather in the pub garden, before they went off home. Hope summer is due soon.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Strictly for the Grown-ups

I’ve dealt with the editing of Have Wine will Travel with Virtual Tales and now it only remains for me to sign the contract. I’ve included the new cover on my slideshow, but for those of you who haven’t spotted that, here it is again, together with my original - a decidedly DIY effort created with the aid of a scarlet tablecloth; an old bottle of wine (later used in a casserole) and a couple of glasses from Sainsbury's.

In the meantime, they tell me that the rating is going to change from 13 plus to R - which means restricted, I think, to a more or less adult readership - due, so they tell me, to the mature themes and controversial content (discussion of abortion, the gay couple, “living in sin”, extramarital affairs, domestic violence, etc.). I said I thought this was reasonable; I was rather surprised it originally had a 13 plus rating. Perhaps the watershed would have been better set at 15 or 16.

And talking of age related issues, I’ve been to have a hearing test, and apparently I’m losing some of the higher pitch sounds, which accounts for tinnitus rushing in to take their place. I have to learn to ignore this - like I also try to ignore the double vision that I suffer from sometimes. My brain is having to work hard to ignore all these things.

At Guildford Writers, last night, I managed, after some speedy copy typing to produce a couple of pages of the next novel to read to the group. This was taken from the stuff I wrote on holiday, but needs work. So, alas, does every aspect of my life at the moment. As always, I don’t know what to do first.

Before the book circle provides me with next month’s read, I managed to squeeze in most of The Shining Skull by Kate Ellis, another of my prizes from Piatkus Books. This is a far better book than To Die For, which I read on holiday. There’s no gratuitous sex or violence in it, and to me comes under the genre of traditional detective story in that nothing too terrible is likely to happen to the detectives so one can be a bit detached. The author also has a sense of humour which comes out in the narration. I am near the end and am curious at how it will come out; it has an intricate and carefully worked out plot. Having said that, I found the numerous characters difficult to sort out initially. But The Shining Skull is the 11th book in a series about the same detective; no doubt if I had read the others, I would have known something about the principal characters at the beginning. I still find a problem with the many viewpoints though. With Tainted Tree, I deliberately set out to have one main viewpoint, apart from letters and diary entries. It seems to me that if you have too many viewpoints, it weakens the book from an emotional point of view. Interesting but not moving.

The Son&Heir and family are coming at the weekend and hope to enjoy our Village Open Day, where I and my Goldenford buddies will have a table. There’ll be lots to do for them, so I won’t be missed. A maze and a scarecrow competition and the army out in force with things to explore, as well as lunch, ice-creams and strawberry teas. Let’s hope the sun shines.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Washing, Shopping and Writing

Well, post holiday it’s down to earth. I managed to get the washing out today - how lovely to see the sun again. It’s the third wash since the holiday, and there’s probably another couple still in the linen basket, but now miles of ironing waiting for me. Still the suitcases are unpacked and away, so things are progressing. Then into Guildford to meet my fellow graduates from Surrey University for lunch at the Guildford Institute. A lovely veggie lunch can be had there, and I had a chocolate and cherry gateau - To Die For. I also bought some shirts and polo shirts for M, on special offer - the shirts, not him. They linked the special offer to Father’s Day, but it’s his birthday tomorrow. And though the holiday’s over, I bought a tankini for next year. I’ve been waiting for someone to design one with shoulder straps rather than a halter neckline, and I finally spotted one. Thank you M & S.

On the writing front, my copy of Writers News' arrived this morning and there’s a nice little piece about me which includes a picture of my Tainted Tree cover.

And I forgot to mention one all important fact about the holiday - I actually wrote 4 - 5,000 words of my current novel, working title, Innocent Bystanders. This, I hope is a breakthrough, as previously, I hadn’t added anything to it for the last six months or so.

In the past couple of days, I’ve been editing the new US version of A Bottle of Plonk. Virtual Tales and myself decided that the title was too obscure for an American market, and it has been changed to Have Wine Will Travel. In addition, it has a lovely new cover. Look for it under Romance at VT. Once this slightly amended version is up and running, VT are bringing out a print version. So American readers, you’ll be able to get it from and won’t have to pay for postage and packing from the UK.

You may have seen the lovely comment from Elizabeth Grace on the Myspace site. Elizabeth was the first American reader of Tainted Tree, and since then I’ve had my first order from Australia, from Lyne, who’s also on Myspace. I’ve also included comments from another reader.

Elizabeth Grace:
I finished Tainted Tree and LOVED it! I tried to post a review on, but since I've only made purchases from (the American version), I'm not allowed to add my review to the UK site. In any case, I want you to know how much I enjoyed the book -- I picked it up and kept reading through, stopping only for meals and the occasional bathroom break. I wanted to read while eating lunch, too, but my hubby took offense, so I set it down long enough to gobble up my salad.

I have read Tainted Tree, despite meaning to save it for my holiday in August. I couldn't resist and read it straight away in great big chunks and really enjoyed it and the twists and turns and highs and lows of Addie's search. Well done you and I wish you every success.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Books and the travelling wine

That's enough about the holiday - except that M and I both put on pounds - only three or four, but that's terrible bearing in mind the walks up the hill in Illetas (known by our friends, Diane and Bob as Cardiac Hill) and the half hour exercise each day. So now it's back to the harsh realities of one cake per week, and only a very little dip into my chocolate button supply.

In addition to that: I have unpacked one and a half of the suitcases and dealt with one wash in the overflowing linen basket; I have done my Sainsbury's shop, but forgot to get teabags, so another trip will be called for very soon. There's also the email mountain to tackle, as well as the post.

Amongst the emails was one from Virtual Tales, sending me an updated version of A Bottle of Plonk which will be called, on their site, Have Wine, Will Travel. They have removed some of the English expressions to make it more suitable for the American market, and I have to check the new version and get it back to them asap. Shortly after it comes out with the new name and cover, it will be available in print form from So any friends out there in the States will be able to buy this version, without postage costs from the UK, or of course, on line, if you prefer.

Two of the emails were very nice comments about Tainted Tree, and I also had two notes through the post - one of them from Anne's mother, Joyce, who always enjoys my writing. Thank you. I do appreciate it.

These are the comments - and if you're a reader and you've enjoyed Tainted Tree - let me know and I'll include your words, too.

We have just returned from holiday where I read your book. I must say that I really enjoyed it, and in parts I could not put it down.

I find Tainted Tree very interesting and readable. The way you developed the plot is very good, the reader can't put it down. I nearly missed my stop on the train last Monday. I have read your other two books , but find this one the best. You were absolutely right to celebrate the launch in style - the book deserves it.

Great read - I really enjoyed it - genuinely interesting, compulsive reading and so relevant to what is happening today. Well done - look forward to the next one.

Just a short note to let you know how much I enjoyed Tainted Tree - in fact I couldn’t put it down - it was a really interesting saga, beautifully written (a real ‘tear-jerker’ at times!) and I loved the characters, especially Addie. Thank you for a ‘good read’, Jackie.