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Sunday, 25 September 2016

Brangelina, the Great British 'Break-off' and who stole the Toffee Deluxe...

'What's Brangelina?' asked my favourite uncle.  'Not bloomin' Brexit  all over again?'

'Don't worry,' I shook my head.  That's  yesterday's news. Brad and Ange have moved on. It's The Great British Bakeoff  everyone's talking about  now.'

'Breakoff?' He looked puzzled.  You mean Bacup! It's been in Lancashire for as long as I can remember and that's where it belongs.'

'Do listen. The Great British Bake-Off. They've defected to Channel Four. Well, Hollywood has. The rest are staying with Mary.'

'Hollywood?' Is that where Donald Grump lives?'

Close - but back to Bake-off. The newspapers  are full of it.  Pushy Paul versus Mumsy Mary. And now Channel Four has  a celebrity food programme with no star.'

'Bah - food again. Why IS everyone so interested in cooking these days?

'Because it takes their minds off  what's really happening in the world. Besides, we all love to eat.  Which reminds me. Have you heard the latest on the Toffee Deluxe?'

What about it?'

'It's leaving Quality Street.'

'Good riddance, I say. Never did like that programme. 'Is it time for tea? All this talk of food's making me hungry.

Image result for quality street

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Read all about it - in the sunshine!

I am taking a  holiday  from my blog till September 2016 - see you all then!

If you're worried by stories of library closures across Britain, take heart - it's not all empty buildings and unread books. There's a new fashion for open-air borrowing and it's definitely catching on.  Last week I visited a mobile cafĂ© and library in Homestead Park in York where celebrations were in place for the the 100th anniversary of the birth of Roald Dahl.

Charlie and his Chocolate Factory in Homestead Park, York

Celebrating the  100th anniversary of  Roald Dahl's birth 

Nearer my home in Lancashire 'Little Garden Libraries' have been popping up in the front gardens of book-lovers' homes. All you have to do is 'take a book and leave a book' and the service is entirely free. They can even be found in local hotels, too.
A hand-made little library ready for its new home at Ribby Hall, Wrea Green, Lancashire.

A little garden library in a Lancashire garden

Sunday, 24 July 2016

It's Never too Late to start Writing

Linda Mitchelmore (centre) at Torbay Bookshop signing her debut novel To Turn Full Circle

I'm thrilled to welcome Linda Mitchelmore to my blog today, a brilliant novelist I met through social  media who has become so much more than just a 'cyber' friend.

Linda was extremely supportive to me when I was trying to get my debut novel traditionally published, and has continued to encourage me through all the trials of bringing out my second novel Occupying Love.

Linda, like me, came to novel-writing later in life and is a prolific short story writer.  I have asked her today to tell us about her journey to publication.

Welcome Linda! It's great to have you here for the very first time. I can't believe how long it has taken me to ask... Now, at last,  it's over to you.

'To paraphrase a famous saying … ‘some are born writing, some achieve writing, and some have writing thrust upon them’. I am the latter. That said, I do have a vivid memory of being six- or seven-years-old sitting at the dining table and ‘writing a book’. My mother cut strips of leftover wallpaper lining-paper, stitched them together with wool and a carpet needle to make my blank canvas. I remember illustrating the front cover in crayon and writing my name – large – at the bottom, but not what I called said book or what it was about.

There’s another saying along the lines of … ‘it’s not what life chucks at you that matters, but how you deal with it’. Deafness got chucked at me. It was a slow deterioration to begin with – high sounds were the first to disappear – but by the time I was in my forties I had little hearing at all. Conventional hearing aids were of no use as I had zero receptors left to pick up sound, however artificially amplified. So, I disappeared into a world of reading. My children were still at home and magazines with short stories became my reading of choice from a time factor.

One Christmas my (now late) mother-in-law gave me a copy of Woman she had finished reading in which there was a short story competition. While the family were glued to The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, and the Queen’s Speech I had a go. And lo and behold I made the shortlist, was given £50 for my efforts and was published. It was heady stuff. Deafness often means the sufferer retires to the sidelines but here was my name, out there, and no one had a clue whether I was deaf or not. I had another couple of acceptances and then a lot of rejections! One acceptance (and a £100 fee) came from Writing Magazine so I decided to enrol on their short story writing course. My assigned tutor recommended that I try an agency, Midland Exposure, to see if they would take me on. They did. With Midland Exposure’s guidance my sales crept up to around the twenty mark. Midland Exposure are now closed for business but they opened up doors to magazine editors for me and, to date, I have had over 300 short stories published worldwide. I was a happy little bunny again earning extra money for the family coffers, never thinking for a moment I could (or even wanted to) write a novel. But my tutor had other ideas and suggested I enrol on Writing Magazine’s novel writing course. With her guidance I began to learn the craft of novel writing, and I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme – money well spent in my opinion. After a few near misses, Choc Lit took me on and I’ve now had six titles published with them. But I am a late developer because I became the owner of a bus pass, had my first grandchild, and saw my first novel published, all in the same year!

In between the short story writing and the novel publications I was selected to be in three charity anthologies which raised money for Cancer Research UK – Sexy Shorts for Christmas, Sexy Shorts for the Beach, and Sexy Shorts for Summer.

It’s often been suggested I write a ‘How-to’ book. I wish I could! I’m a very organic writer and don’t plot or plan and I certainly don’t analyse how I do what I do. I start with a character who has a problem, put her (or him) in an interesting location and let her (or him) work it out for herself. If I could analyse I would probably get less rejections than I do (yes I still get them!) but, strangely, when I get another sale it is all the sweeter.

Sometimes I wish I’d started on my writing journey earlier in life. Would I have become a best-seller if I’d started being published in my thirties? Possibly, and I’d probably have been richer! But would I have been happier? It is what it is, I think, and I’ve met the people I have, when I have, because of that – and I am the richer for it in other ways.

Every writer will have a different journey. This, then, is mine.

Linda with fellow Choc Lit authors in 2015


You can find all Linda's books on here

Thursday, 14 July 2016

When nothing adds up...

I really know how George Osborne, ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, feels today.

English 1 Pound Note (1966-70) Signature J. S. Fforde Photo courtesy of

I've never really understood money.  Which is probably why I'm a writer instead of a millionaire. Take my first job as a Saturday girl in a Midlands newsagents when I was still at school. All went well on day one until my new boss hauled me into the back office and slapped a ten shilling note on the desk. (Yes - I'm THAT old!)

'It's  bit early to pay me,' I said, oblivious to  the angry face in front  of me. 'Is everything all right?'

The poor man, whose face was already a deep shade of red, almost exploded. 'No it is NOT all right,' he hissed. 'You don't seem to know the difference between ten shillings and a pound note. If you stay much longer I'll go bankrupt.'

My next weekend  job was in a local hairdressers where I washed hair, swept up and, if the staff were busy, gave clients their bills.  I got sacked again after a month.

'Could you tell me why you don't want me,' I asked the manager, trying to keep my voice steady.

'Firstly, you keeping telling everyone you want to be a newspaper reporter - this is a hair salon for heaven's sake.'  His eyes rolled heavenward. 'Your maths is terrible. You've already undercharged several ladies and let one go without paying at all.'

Undercharging the ladies! Clearly a heinous crime.

I'm sure Theresa May will never be accused of that.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

The day Guernsey will never forget...

Photo courtesy of the Corbet family with thanks to Gillian Mawson

Seventy-six years ago today on June 28 1942  enemy planes bombed Guernsey harbour triggering the German Military Occupation of the Channel Islands.

The tomato lorries, queuing patiently to  send their precious load to the mainland, were mistaken for troops, even though there was no question of the island being armed for an invasion. Prime Minister Winston Churchill had already made that clear.

What happened next changed lives forever.

My novel Occupying Love begins on that day just as Lydia Le Page disembarks from the mail boat  in the warm evening sunshine.

June 1940

The shock of that day never left her; it invaded her dreams and shadowed her waking moments. She could see herself now, carrying an old brown suitcase down the ship’s gangplank, her chocolate brown hair tousled by the fresh Guernsey breeze. In the year since she’d left the island nothing had changed. Fishing boats rocked from side to side, slapping waves against the harbour walls, yacht sails shimmered in the early evening sun, fine wisps of cloud skittering across the skies like pockets of hand-stitched lace.

 Up ahead, the old tomato lorries wound their way like a wooden snake towards the cargo ships bound for England. Her papa had grown tomatoes in the greenhouses behind their home for as long as she could remember. Nowadays he didn’t need the income, but the twelve-pound fruit baskets – or ‘chips’ as the locals called them –  were his pride and joy. Feeling exhilarated at the thought of seeing her parents again, Lydia headed for the bus terminus, stopping to rest on a bench by the harbour wall.

It started as a low rumble, like a vast swarm of bees in flight, growing steadily louder till it turned into a roar. Startled, she shaded her eyes from the sun and stared up into the sky. Three planes came into view, bright lights shining from their wings. A wave of raw fear rose up from her stomach. Someone shouted, ‘Enemy aircraft’ and her limbs froze. Lydia dropped to the ground, her face hitting the dirt as she landed. Bullets ricocheted over her head as she cowered in terror while the bombs plunged with sickening accuracy on to the harbour.

 A piercing scream brought Lydia back to reality – it came from her own lips. All around her people were crying or standing motionless in shock as blood dripped on to the pavements while air raid sirens, woken from their reverie, shrieked in protest. Coughing, she gasped for air, dense now with smoke, and tried to roll over.

‘You okay, Miss?’ A policeman loomed overhead.

 She fingered a cut on her face. ‘I think so. What happened?’

‘The Jerries have bombed the tomato lorries. Must ’ave mistaken them for tanks.’ He gripped her arm. ‘Can you get up?’

 Nodding, she let him pull her off the ground.

‘I’d get out of here, if I were you. Fast as you can. It’s not safe.’

‘But Papa, what about Papa?’ A vision of her father lying dead in the rubble flashed in front of her eyes. ‘He’ll be in one of those lorries…’

‘If he’s out there now, Miss, there’s nothing you can do for him. You’d best find shelter in case the Jerries come again.’

 Her suitcase long forgotten, Lydia headed for the dockside where a lone mother sat in the debris, cradling her daughter in the shelter of the harbour wall. The child was silent but the woman sobbed as smoke rose into the sky like a giant funeral pyre.

You can find out more about Occupying Love in the link at the top of this blog.

Friday, 24 June 2016


Politicians are always told to 'leak' stories they'd rather hide on a major news day. So as an ex-working journalist I'm smiling ruefully at the news that the Brexit Campaign has won. Not that I wanted them to lose (or win) you understand  - I don't talk politics here.  It's just that
my new novel is out today.

So, instead of a leak I thought I would try a flood.




Or here

Or you can spend the day reading the latest news on Europe


Thursday, 16 June 2016

If I had a trumpet I'd blow it....

I never was very good at taking photographs (see below) - or at saying thank you.  But today I'm doing both at the news that my new historical  novel Occupying Love, released for pre-order yesterday, is  steadily climbing  the Amazon rankings.

Set in  Guernsey in World War Two, Occupying Love is the story of Lydia le Page, a feisty student who returns to her Guernsey home in 1940 on the day the harbour is bombed by the Nazis. Within hours she is trapped on the island as the five-year Occupation begins. Two men enter Lydia’s life: Martin Martell, the handsome but mysterious rector and Major Otto Kruger, the ruthless German Kommandant who falls under her spell. When Martin disappears Lydia discovers a secret from her past that changes everything and leaves her with  an impossible choice.  Should she choose  the man she loves or try to save the island?

I was born in Guernsey and spent many hours listening to my grandparents' stories of  life under German rule and the bravery of those whose passive resistance lifted the morale of the islanders.  What stayed in my mind was the  underground news agency which distributed news of Allies successes all over Guernsey and, more than 70 years later, has still not been fully recognised.
Though the book is a work of fiction, it's  a tribute to all the brave people who lost their lives on Guernsey whilst trying to bring hope to others.
Occupying Love is dedicated to David Richard Brown, the uncle I never met, who died at the age of 13 in 1940. David was one of many evacuees from the Channel Islands who moved with their schools, and without their parents, to Britain in 1940.  David's story was told to me by my grandparents who lived through the  five-year-long Occupation that changed so many lives.

Occupying Love is available to download from June 24, 2016 and to pre order at: here here
Fuzzy but it's true

Monday, 13 June 2016

Here today - 'gondola' tomorrow. Long may it rain.

Photo courtesy of the Guardian
This delightful photo from today's Guardian newspaper sums up everything there is to know
about the Great British attitude to the weather.
Only in this country could we organise an outdoor party for more than ten thousand people, cross our fingers and hope it wouldn't rain.  But rain it did.  And, right on cue, everyone donned free waterproof ponchos ( umbrellas were banned for security reasons.)
The party was not over. The people showed their support for their sovereign, despite the dark skies.
And everyone, including Her Majesty, was happy.

On a recent day trip to Venice I was amused to see that it rained there, too. The gondoliers decided to down paddles, take a rest and, within seconds, everyone  had run indoors.

That's me with the camera!

Where's the mop and bucket?

Dark clouds over Venice

I wonder who got it right?

Monday, 6 June 2016

The year's funniest book - and the psychic who predicted it.

Product Details
Photo courtesy of

One of my favourite stories from this year's Hay Festival concerns a talented psychic and the first woman chair of that hallowed institution the National Gallery.

Hannah Rothschild, a member of the banking family, has revealed that a psychic persuaded her to write The Improbability of Love which has been named joint winner of the Bolinger Everyman Wodehouse prize for comic fiction, along with Paul Murray for The Mark and the Void. The award is given annually to the best book to capture the spirit of PG Wodehouse.

Quoted in The Times newspaper today Ms Rothschild says she was advised to visit 'a wonderful woman called Ivy' when she needed some relationship advice. When they had finished the psychic predicted that she would write a prize-winning book with a heroine called Annie and that she would see a hill covered in wild violets.

Not long afterwards the author went for a walk in Devon and did, indeed, see wild violets. 'And then I thought, bloody hell I am going to have to do it,' she says.  'So I sat down that day and started to write a book about Annie.'

Described as both a satire of the art world and a romance, the book was also shortlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2016.

'If anyone wants Ivy's number I've still got it,' was the author's parting shot to festival-goers.

Now that's what I call a sense of humour.