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Remember, Remember, the 25th November.

Remember, Remember, the 25th November.

remember-remember-2

To me, the sound of November has a special ring to it because it’s my birthday month.  When I was a child, I would count down from the first day of the month.  On the fifth, when the fireworks were launching beautifully, and we were allowed to wave glittery, shining sparklers in the garden after dark, making figures of eight and other shapes, I would know we were half way.  Oh go on then, I still do!

This year, though, November has been the most incredible birthday month ever.  Not only have I reached the milestone of fifty years old, with, even if I do say so myself, grace and humour, but I am launching my debut novel. Now there will be two birthdays in November.

Aside from all the over 50 jokes, (‘at 50 you’re still hot but only in flushes’; ‘remember now you’re over the hill, you will begin to pick up speed’; ‘only when you’re over 50 you realise that your parents were right about nearly everything’) starting to say things like ‘in my day’ and walking with your hands behind your back, turning half a century has actually been rather fun.  I hired a big, old manor-house in Somerset and invited my friends and family for a weekend, complete with dogs and kids.  It was a huge amount of memorable, celebratory fun and it will be another fifty years minimum before I’ll forget it.

Publishing my novel has also been a fun journey, but with a huge, bucket full of seriousness and hard work thrown in.  For the last three years, Gilding the Lily has been my sort-of nemesis.  But last week I received the first paperback proof and my stomach flipped into my heart as I touched the cover, turned the pages like… well, like a real book.  And it is… it’s a real book.  It’s real.  Publishing day is tomorrow – the 25th November 2016 and I can’t really describe what I’m feeling.  I think it’s a mixture of excitement and terror.

I was always writing – journals, poetry, short stories – but never did much with them.  I have always been part of a book club, creative writing group or similar.   It was in my early twenties when a magazine  published my first article.  I was even paid £75, which back then was ‘quite a lot of money’. Being a ‘proper writer’ suddenly became and idea, but I already had a job as a PA that I couldn’t possibly give up – how would I pay the bills, keep my flat?  So that’s how it went on, until my mid-forties when finally I realised that life is just too-damn-short.

In that time, my characters have evolved and became real people, in my head.  I am good friends with them now.  All of them – they are like actors and are serious about their job. They ask me how I would like them to do this scene or play that role, and they put such passion into their work.  Then they perform, and they do so with such convincing and tangible dignity, that I admire them hugely.

So now publication day is here, they are celebrating with me – in my head.  It’s their birthday month too and they can finally come into their own.  They deserve it, they’ve worked hard for it, and only I can make this possible for them, so they are relying on me for everything.   And everything is what I want to give them.  Thank you guys for coming into my head – you are my great friends and I will do my best for you.  But in return, can you please help me to become a ‘proper writer’? Can you sell my books?  Can you help me make a living from this rapport that we have?  I know the answer they will give: ‘well that remains to be seen’.

16 Facts About London You Probably Didn’t Know

16 Facts About London You Probably Didn’t Know

16-facts-about-london-you-probably-didnt-know

London is an iconic and contemporary city with a history stretching back to the Romans.  It is called home to

8.6 million people.  But here are some interesting things that maybe not all of them know.

 

  1. The Metropolitan line opened in 1863 and is the oldest underground line in the world.

 

  1. The last person to be executed at the Tower of London was a German intelligence agent named Josef Jakobs. He was shot by firing squad in 1941.

 

  1. Out of 287 tube stations, only 29 are south of the River Thames.

 

  1. In 1952, pollution was so bad that Sadlers Wells Theatre were forced to abandon a performance when smog entered the auditorium.

 

  1. Although it’s not been used since 1932, The British Museum has its own underground station.  It is situated between Holborn and Tottenham Court Road.

 

  1. Only six people died in the Great Fire of London in 1966.

 

  1. Despite its rainy reputation, London has less rain on average than New York City.

 

  1. All distances to London are measurable to Charing Cross.  The actual centre can be pinpointed to a plaque in nearby St Martin’s Church.

 

  1. It’s illegal to die in parliament.

 

  1. 60% of the underground is actually over ground.

 

  1. Sir Christopher Wren’s first design for St Paul’s Cathedral featured a 60ft high stone pineapple on top of the dome.

 

  1. The walkways of Tower Bridge were accessible to the public until 1910, when they were shut because they became popular with prostitutes.

 

  1. Big Ben is the name of the bell, not the tower.

 

  1. Until 1916 you could buy pure cocaine at Harrods.

 

  1. The area of Covent Garden used to be a market garden to a convent. The name is actually misspelled.

 

  1. In 1929, author J M Barrie, having no children, gifted all the rights to Peter Pan in his will to Great Ormond Street Hospital.

 

Seventeen Popular Plants That Are Toxic

Seventeen Popular Plants That Are Toxic

I’m not a big fan of gardening and I’m very happy with my small low- maintenance garden.  Sadly, I can’t seem to keep pot plants alive in the house or outside either, so I don’t often keep them.  I love flowers however, but I avoid lilies because, despite their glorious aroma, I know the nectar could be poisonous to my two dogs.
It could be a good thing for me because, surprisingly, many household plants are also poisonous to humans in some way.  I don’t mean deadly as in you touch them and drop dead – seriously toxic plants are uncommon in the UK.  But there are many that present a health hazard.  Especially if you make tea with the leaves…
Here’s a list so you know what to look out for.  Not all of these plants are as deadly as others, but all of them are toxic in some way.  You may have some in your garden or decorating your house.  It’s surprising what’s out there.
Christmas is coming, so I’ll start with that.  What do you use to add seasonal cheer?  Poinsettia?  Mistletoe?  Holly?
– Poinsettia (skin and eye irritant).
– Mistletoe (the whole plant, especially the berries).
– Holly (berries).
– Hydrangea (buds).
– Hyacinth (yes, really! The bulbs can irritate the skin).
– Poets Narcissus (the whole plant, especially the bulbs).
– Foxgloves (especially flowers and seeds).
– Deadly Nightshade (especially the berries).
– Lily of the Valley (all parts are toxic).
– Larkspur (especially young plants and seeds).
– Water Hemlock (especially the root).
– Yew (all parts except the flesh of the berries).
– Datura (all parts are poisonous).
– Monkshood (a gardener died in Hampshire after apparently handling this – toxins can be absorbed through the skin).
– Giant Hogweed (grows near riverbanks and sometimes up to 5m tall).
– Bluebells (I know!)
– Amaryllis (bulbs).
Twelve Facts About Autumn

Twelve Facts About Autumn

So we’re all set for all things russet, red and orange.  Pumpkins, cobwebs, falling leaves, Halloween, a harvest moon (the full moon closest to the autumn equinox), snappy twigs, chilly-crisp mornings, electric blankets, deep hot baths and roaring fires.  
In honour of the season, I found some interesting facts to share with you.

1.      The autumn equinox always happens on 22ndor 23rd September and marks the beginning of the season, but to record data more effectively, the Met office set dates that can easily be compared, so declare it on 1 September. 

2.      The word ‘equinox’ is from the Latin meaning ‘equal night’ and describes the period when the sun shines directly on the equator and means day-time is equal in hours to the length of night-time.  There are 2 equinoxes every year – in September and March.

3.      Our calendar (the Gregorian calendar) is not perfectly symmetrical with the orbit of the earth though, and therefore, in 1931 autumn equinox fell on 24th September.  The next time this happens will be 2303.

4.      Some scientists say that our testosterone levels (men and women) are highest during autumn because of ancient human mating instincts.

5.      All Hallows Eve (or Halloween) was a pagan holiday honouring the dead and is the last day of the Celtic calendar.

6.      Keats called autumn the ‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’.

7.   Tree leaves change colour because there is not enough light in the shorter days for photosynthesis to occur and therefore the amount of chlorophyll is reduced.

8.      The Journal of Aging Research found that babies born during the autumn months are more likely to be centenarians than those born at any other time.

9.     These days the word ‘fall’ is commonly used more in America to describe the third season, but it was in widespread use in England during the 17th century and is a shortening of the phrase ‘fall of the leaf’.  ‘Autumn’ begun to be used in the 18th century and is from the French word ‘autompne’. This in turn came from the Latin ‘autumnus’.

10.   Until about 1500, autumn was called ‘harvest’.

11.   Winter, spring and summer all feature in film titles that have won Oscars, but no film with autumn in its title has ever won one.

12.   Some research shows that women lose more hair in autumn.

BlogLovin

BlogLovin

I just discovered BlogLovin.  It’s a page where you can tag all the things you love to read about and find blogs about them.  It’s a bit like a personalised magazine and very easy to use.  I’m hoping to get some great content to share this way AND you can now follow this blog with BlogLovin too. <a href=”https://www.bloglovin.com/blog/18300557/?claim=4av3vedcz4w”>Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>.

Synopsis for Gilding The Lily

Synopsis for Gilding The Lily

GILDING THE LILY
A gripping mystery of jealousy, murder and lies.

An invitation to her estranged, wealthy father’s surprise 75th birthday party in New York sees Amelia and her husband, Jack, set off across the pond to meet a whole new world of family politics.

Amelia, now a successful business-woman, has guiltily never liked her father’s women, but does her upmost to give his new socialite partner, Evelyn, the benefit of the doubt. Wouldn’t it be nice if they could just all get along? But there’s something very dark, determined and dangerous about her…

When Amelia’s father, Roger, becomes ill, Jack grows suspicious that there is more to it. Amelia understands why, but no one else will believe them. They travel back to America to piece together the puzzle, but when Roger goes missing, the couple are driven to their wit’s end. It takes a DEA officer and a secret assassin to bring them any answers, but the ruthless truth is something no one expected…

This fast-paced psychological debut will keep you guessing until the very end.

Happy Birthday Dad

Happy Birthday Dad

 

 
Happy Birthday Daddy, I love you and miss you too.
Even though you are not here, these words are present and true.
I struggled to buy you gifts I’d only guess you wouldn’t hate.
It always seemed you had everything, even when I was eight.
It was hard to please you sometimes, and you never said the words
That I needed to placate me when I had a bout of nerves.
Your standards were always higher than mine.
I always felt so small.
But now you are not here anymore, I feel I’ve grown so tall.
I wish you could see how much there is to this life I’ve made my own.
I know you would be proud, dear Dad, more than we both could have known.
I wish I could struggle again with those presents; I know what you would like.
I think it’s just you could never say how much we were alike.
So happy birthday Daddy, I miss you more than ever.
I hope you can see your little girl and how she can sometimes be clever.
Thirteen Murderous Quotes

Thirteen Murderous Quotes



“It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.”

― Voltaire
“I want to commit the murder I was imprisoned for.”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
“How to Commit the Perfect Murder” was an old game in heaven. I always chose the icicle: the weapon melts away.”
― Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones
“If you’re that obsessed with someone, why would you kill her?
Humans are full of contradictions.”
― Ai Yazawa
“I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.”
― Johnny Cash, The Very Best of Johnny Cash
“I am thinking,’ he remarked quietly, ’whether I shall add to the disorder in this room, by scattering your brains about the fireplace.”
― Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White
“You wanted to kill your father in order to be your father yourself. Now you are your father, but a dead father.”
― Sigmund Freud
 “What I feel is that if one has got to have a murder actually happening in one’s house, one might as well enjoy it, if you know what I mean.”
― Agatha Christie, The Body in the Library
“You should have died when I killed you.”
― John le Carré
“All the motives for murder are covered by four Ls: Love, Lust, Lucre and Loathing.”
― P.D. James, The Murder Room
 “One situation – maybe one alone – could drive me to murder: family life, togetherness.”
― Patricia Highsmith
Seeing a murder on television can … help work off one’s antagonisms. And if you haven’t any antagonisms, the commercials will give you some.
― Alfred Hitchcock

In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed – they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love and five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock!
― Orson Welles, as the character Harry Lime in the Graham Greene film, The Third Man (1949).
Am I Settling For Second Best?

Am I Settling For Second Best?


I suppose one could say that I was lowering my expectations in my decision to self-publish.   But I would beg to differ and here’s why. 
I spent much time (about a year in fact) selecting, researching, writing individual letters to and awaiting replies from more than several agents, all of which, with the exception of one (my favourite), politely rejected me.  The one that showed interested provided fantastic feedback, invited me to re-submit and then, no less than eight months later, politely rejected me.  Add another mountainous wave on my uppy-downy emotional roller coaster ride.
Simultaneously, that little hammer inside my head, that clonks my skull on a monthly basis, reminding me that my savings are not infinite, begins to be a little louder and more painful.  I gave up my job to do this after all… where is my conviction now?  
Then along came a provider who talked me through the process in a magical way.  Perfect timing, I think I said.  I liked what he told me and it made total sense.  With every question I put forward, the answer was educated and enigmatic.  Maybe I was being pulled in… but I don’t think so.
I was always under the impression that self-publishing was only for those whose book was not good enough for the trad-pub market.  Now though, I see it as a stepping stone.  I haven’t given up on finding an agent and still want one (any of you reading this?).  My thinking is that I if self-publish very well indeed, then one might not be able to even tell the difference.
This is a tough challenge seeing as I’m a beginner in this whole process.  But it doesn’t mean to say that it’s not possible.  With expert guidance, I can now get help with:

  •         finding a professional proof-reader and copy editor; 
  •         designing my book cover; 
  •         printing a physical paper back; 
  •         converting the script to a perfectly downloadable ebook; 
  •         learning how to market and publicise my book; 
  •         understanding my new ‘brand’; 
  •         choosing a suitable, international typeset.

Yes, it costs money and I’m adding this to what I have already spent on mentorship and advice.  BUT, I am positive that I can at least break-even on book sales, collect some good reviews, and create at least a tiny bit if ‘hype’ around my novel.  Now then, isn’t that just the ticket, if I can then create a new bucket list of agents and send them the novel with all that attention?  Some of their work is already done.  Plus – if I can get my second book started in the meantime, this could, just could be a cherry/cake situation.
So then, settling for second best?  I think probably not – more like opening doors.