Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Open House Sunday Interview with author Frank Parker


Welcome to the Open House Sunday Interview, and my guest this week is author Frank Parker. Frank will be sharing something of his childhood, special guest for dinner, a delicious sounding lamb roast and some delightful music from Jazz singer Clare Teal.

About Frank Parker

I’m Frank Parker and I am a writer. I didn’t used to be. Like many people I always wanted to be. On several occasions during my career as an Engineer I produced stories that I submitted to publishers. I even had a writing job once. It involved talking to small and medium sized businesses and writing up profiles for a regional business magazine. To make any money you had to sell advertising to accompany the articles. Selling is not a skill that comes naturally to me so that job did not last long.

I returned to Engineering, working on chemical plants, refineries and power stations throughout the North and Midlands of England. In 1997 I joined a defence contractor as a project administrator, a job that saw me through until retirement in the autumn of 2006. I came to live in the Irish Midlands so as to be near my son and his family. And, now at last, I have the freedom to write.

Novels

So far I’ve self-published 4 novels and two collections of short stories. You can find out more about them here. My stories have also appeared in anthologies published independently in County Laois.

Politics

I have also pursued a lifelong interest in politics. Between 1985 and 1991 I served as a councilor in North East Lincolnshire. So you should not be surprised to find posts on my blog commenting on current affairs from a broadly Liberal point of view. The environment and the damage we are doing to it, from agri-chemicals and air and water pollution to climate change, has always been a matter of concern to me. As a councilor I argued the case for the local authority to purchase timber products only from sustainable sources.

History

Since 2013 I have been studying Irish history in an attempt to gain a fuller understanding of the turbulent relationship between that country and its near neighbour. It began when I discovered that among the leaders of the Norman invasion of Ireland in the 12th century were a number of individuals with a prior connection to the county in which I was born and grew up, Herefordshire. That discovery lies behind my historical novel Strongbow’s Wife which describes the invasion and its aftermath from the point of the view of the woman who married one of the most powerful of those leaders. You will find articles about some of the people and places involved by clicking the Hereford and Ireland History tab above.

For the past year I have been researching the background to the period in Irish history usually referred to as The Great Irish Famine. This work was prompted by a friend and together we hope to produce a book on the subject.

We will find out more about Frank’s books after he has been in the hot seat and answered his chosen questions.

Welcome to the open house Frank and can you tell us where were you born and something about  your childhood memories.

I was born in Hereford. My parents were Londoners; Dad was serving with the RAF and Mum worked in Air Raid Precautions as well as being a tailor working for Simpsons of Picadily in their Stoke Newington factory. In the summer of 1941 she was expecting me so she and her widowed Mum were evacuated. She chose Herefordshire because a decade before she had holidayed there. After a year of living in various shared houses, in the spring of 1942 they found a stone built cottage to let high in the hills above the Golden Valley in the west of the county. It was to become our home for the next 14 years.

A stream ran behind the cottage with a couple of steep waterfalls in a deep ravine. Five small meadows and an orchard surrounded it. The owner used these to graze cattle through the autumn and into spring – in bad weather the animals were housed in a stone built block, the gable end of which faced the cottage across a cobbled yard. In late spring the cattle would be taken to market and the grass left to grow to be harvested for hay in July. This was a traditional rich mixture of grass and wild flowers and provided the winter feed for the cattle. It was stored in a ‘Dutch Barn’ – a steel structure with a curved corrugated steel roof – beyond the cattle sheds.

For me, growing up this set up appeared idyllic. Dad was killed in action shortly after my second birthday and, two and a half years later, Mum gave birth to a baby girl. I suspect that her arrival was one of several factors that stymied Mum’s chances of returning to London after the war. But for me and my sister, having the run of five acres of meadows, a stream and the gable end of the cattle shed to bounce balls from, was close to paradise. The cottage and its surroundings are the setting for my novel Summer Day.

I came to realise much too late that for my mother it was a lonely and isolated existence, especially after her mother died in February 1948.

In 1952, having passed the 11+ examination, I was sent away to a boarding school in Surrey. By the time I completed my education six years later, Mum had taken up with a local man, had two more daughters and set up home in an old house they bought in the village. A lot of hard work went into modernising and adapting that house and I was a, sometimes reluctant, labourer on many DIY projects whilst working as an apprentice in an Engineering business in Hereford.

Both the cottage and the house had large gardens where we grew most of our own fruit and vegetables. As a consequence I acquired a life long love of gardening.

Which author would you have to dinner, why and what questions would you ask them?

I would love to have the late Herbert George Wells as a dinner guest. I had already read several of his science fiction works by the time The History of Mr Polly was chosen as one of the set books for the Cambridge GCE ‘O’ level English Literature examination in 1958. I loved that book and could readily identify with the young man and his life as an apprentice to a trade he had no interest in, his loveless marriage and his escape to a very different life which, nevertheless, does not fully live up to his expectations.

But Wells was much more than a novelist; he was a Socialist and advocate of social reform and the creation of a progressive world government, all ideas that I have espoused myself.

I would love to know what he makes of the real social, political and technological advances of the seven decades since his death. What, for example, does he make of the United Nations as a forum for addressing the world’s problems? How would he rate various United States presidents or British prime ministers? How would he view recent incarnations of the British Labour Party: Tony Blair’s ‘New Labour’ or Jeremy Corbyn’s attachment to left of centre policies?

Would he be disappointed by the failure to close the gap between rich and poor, exhilarated by the advent of ‘smart’ technology and instant international communication, dismayed by the continuing ignorance of large sectors of the population?

In truth it would take many more than one dinner engagement to explore the mind of this great man of letters, a true polymath who thought deeply about science, politics, economics and philosophy, and wrote prolifically about them all.

What kind of music do you listen to and who are your favourite musicians?

I do not have a record collection. I listen to whatever happens to be on the radio – and mostly that means my local commercial radio station here in the Irish Midlands and an elelctic mixture of old and new popular music. I love live music, too, and I don’t mind if the artiste is a well established celebrity performer, a young person just starting out, or an established amateur performer. My taste ranges across all the genres that have been popular at various times during the last 60 years: folk, rock, blues, country, soul . . . It also embraces all of the many singer/song writers who have found fame and fortune over the same period.

But my first and continuing love is for jazz. The first live concert I ever attended was in the summer of 1957 at what was then the Gaumont State Theatre in Kilburn. The concert party was a group styled ‘Jazz at the Philharmonic’ and featured Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton and Oscar Peterson, among others. Ella Fiztgerald topped the bill and took about a dozen curtain calls. This was at the start of Fitzgerald’s move away from Be-Bop into swing and the standards of the Great American Songbook. The first of a series of albums she produced with Norman Granz (who also manged the JATP tours) at his Verve records, this one featuring the songs of Cole Porter, was released the previous year.

As for a favourite piece of music – I guess anything from that era would do or you could play something by one of the greatest modern re-interpreters of the music, Clare Teal. I first saw her perform at a small venue in East Yorkshire about 15 years ago – around the time she was ‘discovered’ by Michael Parkinson, whose Sunday evening radio show she eventually took over. Here is Clare Teal with ‘Chasing Cars’ live at the Lichfield Festival in 2014. You can find her music: Clare Teal Amazon

If you cook do you have a signature dish that everyone loves to eat? Can we have the recipe?

I love to cook. I do most of the cooking in our house; not, however, the baking. Cakes and pastries are Mrs P’s department and she excels. I like cooking spicy casseroles and Indian style dishes. Here’s my recipe for a spicy lamb roast.

  • Take a small to medium sized joint of lamb, leg or shoulder will do.
  • Make a spice mix – use your own favourites and vary the quantity to suit your taste and that of your guests. I use cumin and coriander for the base, preferably whole seeds, a tea spoon of each, heated gently in a frying pan to bring out the aromas, then crushed in a pestle and mortar along with 3 or 4 cloves and a piece of cinnamon. Add oil – I use rape seed oil, but olive oil is good too – to make a paste.
  • Pierce the surface of the joint in several places and push in slivers of garlic and rosemary leaves then massage the paste into the surface and leave to stand for about an hour.
  • Meanwhile peel and chop a couple of medium onions – again, the quantity can be varied to suit your taste – peel and grate a two inch piece of ginger and chop a small red or green chilly. Once again adjust this or leave out altogether if you don’t like too much heat.
  • Sweat the onion with a little oil for ten minutes in the base of a large pan, add the ginger and chopped chilly. Now place the marinaded joint into the pan and cover with stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for about two hours until the meat is starting to fall off the joint. Lift the joint and cover with foil whilst you strain and thicken the pan liquor to make a sauce.
  • Slice the joint and serve with mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables.

Tell us about your work in progress.

My current work in progress is a historical novel based on the two and a half years that Captain (later Sir) Arthur Kennedy spent as Poor Law Inspector in the town and district of Kilrush in County Clare during the famine.He came to despise the actions of some of the land owners in the area who were evicting large numbers of their tenants, thereby increasing their dependence upon the relief provided by the poor law, whilst at the same time controlling the amount of money available for relief, by their refusal to pay sufficient taxes.

Books by Frank Parker

The latest book by Frank Parker released on November 17th 2017.

About the book

A layman’s guide to the worst man made disaster to afflict Great Britain, it’s causes and lessons for the future.

Whilst the British elites were celebrating the achievements of Empire, a million people died from lack of food and housing elsewhere in the United Kingdom.
Is it possible for humanity to achieve the Liberal ideal of the greatest good for the greatest number or are Malthus’s predictions about the relationship between population and food production about to come true?

A recent review for the book

This is a deeply researched and well-written book. I was expecting it to focus almost entirely on the famine years. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it covers much broader topics which help to put the famine into historical, political, social, economic and religious perspective. Indeed, a full eight chapters are devoted to “setting the scene”. There’s even a fascinating chapter on nutrition and mental development.

The actual famine is broken down into four chapters as the crisis begins, develops, peaks and then wanes. At the end is an interesting summary giving the author’s personal view on the disaster, and on the continuing presence of famine in the world today.

A Purgatory of Misery is worthy of attention for anyone interested in European history. It gives a broad sweep of history, from way before the famine up to and then beyond those famine years. And it presents what seems to me to be a well-balanced account that does not take sides or inappropriately point the finger of blame.

A full review including an interview with the author is on thebookowl.com

Read the reviews and buy the books:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Frank-Parker/e/B0076JVE5I

And Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Frank-Parker/e/B0076JVE5I

Read more reviews and follow Frank on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7834486.Frank_Parker

Connect to Frank

Blog/website: https://franklparker.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HerefordAndIrelandHistory/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/fparkerswords

My thanks to Frank for sharing his memories and music with us and I know he would love to receive your feedback. Thank you for dropping by.. Sally

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Smorgasbord Saturday Meet and Greet – MaMa’s Book Corner, Fifty Something and Jane Kelsey


Welcome to the Saturday morning post where bloggers can introduce themselves.  Each week I will share a small selection of bloggers at random either new contacts or those who provide author and blogger services.

Basically this is a watering hole for bloggers across all the areas of interest. Watering holes are very useful for meeting like-minded people and also a way to grow a supportive and sharing community.

If you are NEW to smorgasbord it would be great if you could introduce yourself in the comments.. a brief intro and then a link to the post that you feel best represents your blogging style.

If you are a REGULAR visitor to the blog then please do leave a link to your latest post too, so that we can visit and share.

The idea is to encourage more readers to your posts and an opportunity for us to get to know you better.

The community that kindly supports me is always welcoming, and you will find a great deal of support and encouragement especially for new bloggers.

I look forward to finding out more about you.  Sally

The first blogger this week is a new contact, LeighAnn is a book blogger/reviewer… always useful person to know. She has been reviewing books for years but has recently moved her blog over to WordPress this year.

About LeighAnn Schneider of MaMa’s Book Corner.

Hello all! My name is LeighAnn and I am a book blogger/reviewer. I have been reviewing books for authors and publishers on my blog since 2012.

I am a mother to some awesome kiddos and a couple fur babies. Reading is my passion (outside of my family) so I would love to share this passion with you! I have just recently switched over to WordPress because I was having a hard time keeping up with Blogger on the go (and as a mom of 5 I’m always on the go) and it was just much more convenient to move it over here! So I’m basically starting fresh and hoping for the best!

I’d love to read your comments and engage with you! If you do follow I’ll also be more than happy to go check your blog out and return the favor. Thanks for stopping by!

Here is the link to contact LeighAnn if you would like her to review your book: https://mamasbookcorner.wordpress.com/contact/

Here is an extract from one of LeighAnn’s recent reviews for Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills.

My Thoughts:

I received this book in one of my Owlcrate subscription boxes. It was a nice change from what I normally read as it was very light and funny. I don’t read many contemporary novels but maybe I should. Parts of this book had me cracking up laughing.

I am in love with the characters in this book. They were so well developed. Each character had their own unique personality and their own flaws. Nobody was perfect, they were real, and I appreciated that. It was refreshing.

My favorite character by far was Gideon. He is so sweet and patient but also super quirky and funny. The things he would say had me laughing all throughout the book. You can’t help but like him.

 

Head over and check out the complete review: https://mamasbookcorner.wordpress.com/2018/02/17/foolish-heartsreview/

Meet Sam Smith at Fifty Something.

I’ve realised over the years that the more you rush around & stress over things the more you tread water and get no-where.

I’ve also learnt that you always feel a whole heap better if you politely distance yourself away from those negative people who just like to try to pull you down for no apparent reason other than the fact that it may make themselves feel better – stay with the positive people in your life, you’ll know who they are.

I’m Sam, I live in Yorkshire, England, I’m fifty something and never felt better. Like most people, I’ve had many life experiences both good and bad. Many have been happy & exciting, some devastating and some quite boring. Since turning fifty I have now realised it’s time to take a step sideways, maybe step out of that box, out of that comfort zone, do those things that others may raise an eyebrow to, and Laugh – a lot.

Fifty is just a number 🙂

There seems to be a temporary problem with Sam’s blog since yesterday and hopefully it will be resolved shortly.

Here is one of Sam’s latest posts about her new home aboard a boat: https://lovingthefiftysomething.com/2018/02/07/how-to-create-a-utility-room-on-a-boat/

The third blogger I would like to showcase is Jane Kelsey who is a book reviewer and supporter of Indie authors. She accepts physical book copies for review and she is interested in the following genres and kick-ass female protagonists….

  • paranormal
  • fantasy
  • romance (not erotica!)
  • horror
  • dystopian

You can find out how to submit your book here: https://janekelsey.com/review-policy-contact/

Here is an extract from a recent review.

img_20171030_185150_037-e1518808137171.jpg

A deadly infection threatens to wipe out humanity. The only people who can stem its advance are the Silver, a vampiric race who offer a simple exchange: protection in return for blood and subservience. It’s not a deal that Emmy’s willing to make, but as her world burns around her she finds herself in the arms of the enemy and the line between oppressor and saviour begins to blur. ” (Goodreads)

Genre: Fantasy, Dystopia, Romance.

Imagine the world as we know it coming to an end and being caught between two races: Vampires (Silvers) and Zombies (Weepers). It does sound good, doesn’t it? Once the Weeper’s infection start spreading, Emmy has one chance at salvation: to submit her life to the Silvers for protection because being human became a hell lot more complicated…

THE CHARACTERS…

What I like about Emmy is that she is not scared of speaking her own mind and not wanting to be bossed around. Her friends are so important to her that she would risk everything for them, and she does. I really liked her for that. However, she is also quite childish and not realising the severity of her situation and instead focusing on the drama of Hot guy 1 and Hot guy 2. She also never stopped to question things and making an actual survival plan… when the end of days come and you depend of those in power, antagonising them is not the best solution!! She was lucky that the love triangle kept her alive. I also had some issues in regards to some of her choices…

Read the rest of the review here: https://janekelsey.com/2018/02/16/bookreview-a-bargain-in-silver-by-josie-jaffrey/

Just a reminder that this is a watering hole and a place to share your latest post and introduce yourself if you are new to the blog or would like to mingle with the other guests.

Thanks for dropping in and look forward to hearing from you. Sally

 

Smorgasbord Invitation Blog Magazine – The Literary Column with Jessica Norrie – O is for Loneliness


Jessica Norrie joins us for her monthly literary column and explores Loneliness in fiction and also in recently published articles on the subject in leading business and science journals. When you have read the article, Jessica would love to have your views on the subject.

O is for Loneliness by Jessica Norrie

https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1405259930l/18774964.jpgI thought I knew why my daughter gave me A Man called Ove for my birthday. I recognised this grumpy middle aged man who drives the computer shop assistant mad with his poor understanding, and grumbles about neighbourhood litter and other people’s driving.

https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1334848488l/13486632.jpgI was amused, then slightly hurt. Ove is less appealing than The hundred year old man who climbed out of the window, or Harold Fry who took a break from his mundane marriage to rescue an ideal from his youth.

https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1335816092l/13227454.jpg But by chapter 4, I realised my daughter hadn’t intended a dig at me. For Ove (pronounced Oovah in the audiobook) is less lucky than I am. Rather than write spoilers, I’ll omit the details of his family life. Suffice it to say, he’s lonely. “Ove heard his younger colleagues all laughing together.” Even when his misfortunes mirror a friend’s, they increase his isolation. “Sorrow is unreliable… When people don’t share it there’s a good chance it will drive them apart instead.” Ove’s loneliness is partly his own fault and partly from circumstances beyond his control, but whatever we think of his character, we have to pity him. My partner found the book too sad to finish, and for me the many moments of comedy came as much needed relief.

https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1493724347l/31434883.jpgThe relief didn’t last. My next read was the current UK bestseller,.Eleanor Oliphant is Completely fine Eleanor is younger than Ove, but even more alone. After work on Friday, she picks up two bottles of vodka to keep her company until Monday morning. Not that her relationship with her colleagues is great: “They hate me, but they don’t actually wish me dead.” Eleanor is highly intelligent (perhaps too intelligent, analysing and disapproving where others would sail past) with huge reserves of general knowledge and some limited self knowledge too: “I do not light up a room when I walk into it. No one longs to see me or to hear my voice. I do not feel sorry for myself, not in the least. These are simply statements of fact.”

She is formal and courteous, but doesn’t pick up social signals, so she dresses wrongly (Velcro shoes, and she’s at least forty years too young for the useful “shopper” she trundles about with). She’s clearly intended to be “an outsider … seeing the world in a surprising and revealing way”, as Mark Haddon blogged about his hero Christopher when explaining  The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time wasn’t a portrait of someone with Asperger’s.

https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1479863624l/1618.jpg In Eleanor’s case other factors have played the most disturbing and abusive part in forming her character – although her world view, which is sympathetically portrayed, suggests she may have some kind of high functioning special need too.

Eleanor is not a grim Scandi noir heroine, she’s younger than Ove, and the comedy is less black – there are numerous very funny episodes (the beauty treatments! The terrible music venue!) mixed in almost equal parts with the sadness. There was some sentimentality, some triteness, but without them this would have been a much grimmer book. On Google I found several descriptions of Eleanor as “delightful”. I wouldn’t go that far, and I’m not convinced she has a bright future, but having dug her such a deep hole, her author Gail Honeyman does provide a rope ladder, and I closed the book hoping she would keep her footing.

https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1501020342l/34836959.jpgThird present, third lonely protagonist! Isabel, née Archer, is the heroine of John Banville’s Mrs Osmond (It’s a sequel to The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James but you don’t have to have read the latter.) I struggled with this at first, as I’m not convinced Banville has much empathy with female characters. (In the second half when we meet Mr Osmond, Banville is much more sure footed.) But my attention held when I was reminded of Eleanor Oliphant’s narration: “There are days when I feel so lightly connected to the earth that the threads that tether me to the planet are gossamer thin, spun sugar”. This is echoed in Isabel of whom Banville says : “her presence here in the world was a sort of phantom, a ghastly revenant”. Here’s the abuse too: Isabel “had got out of the way of being treated pleasantly, in the ordinary human fashion…for years and years, she had crouched inside herself, holding her breath and ever on the watch, like a child hiding in a cupboard from a capriciously cruel parent.” Eleanor doesn’t understand she’s wanted unless she’s given an overtly warm welcome when visiting her few acquaintances. The more polished Isabel has more friends, but repeatedly doesn’t know what to say to them, why she’s visiting them, or what they can do for her. “…her hidden troubles, clamouring within her for the attention of those who were close to her -but who were they?” She feels closest to her maid, Staines, but Staines refuses her timid overtures because of their different social standing. Right to the end, Isabel rejects friendship by being overly critical of the people offering it, condemning herself to more of the loneliness that she hadn’t, initially, colluded with as Ove and Eleanor do.

https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1502148606l/264.jpgWhy have loneliness narratives hit such a nerve? As we hunch over smart phones using emoticons to express our feelings, are we drawn for catharsis to protagonists articulating their isolation on our behalf? Society doesn’t understand them, they don’t understand society – does this express our own lack of connection? The UK government appointed a Minister for Loneliness in January 2018. The New York Times disagreed there was a “loneliness epidemic” but expressed concern about “social disconnection”The Harvard Business Review had loneliness as a cover story last November, and The New Scientist  flagged it up back in December 2014.

But perhaps I’m reading too much into it. I should stiffen my British upper lip, and move on. These stories simply continue a tradition stretching back from Hamlet to the Girl on a Train, via Jane Eyre and Pip Pirrip. The hero/heroine is lonely, or has some other mountain to climb. S/he sets out; scrambles over the foothills; things get worse; hero/heroine perseveres; companions, health and wealth are threatened or lost en route; eventually hero/heroine arrives at a place of comfort (or occasionally doesn’t). That’s all there is to any work of fiction, and I just need to get out more.

Your thoughts are welcome!

©Jessica Norrie February 2018

You can read the reviews and buy the books by clicking on the covers.

My thanks to Jessica for putting the spotlight onto an issue that clearly has prompted literary exploration over the centuries and continues to be an issue today. Please leave your thoughts in the comments.

About Jessica Norrie

Jessica Norrie studied French literature at Sussex University, and trained as a teacher at Sheffield. Then she wandered into parenthood, told her now grown up children stories, and heard theirs. A qualified translator, she worked on an eclectic mix of material, from health reports on racehorses to harrowing refugee tales. She taught, full time, part time, adults, children, co-authored a text book and ran teacher training. In 2008 she was inspired with the idea for “The Infinity Pool” and it appeared as a fully fledged novel in 2015. Meanwhile she sings soprano and plays the piano, walks in the forest and enjoys living in and using London. She looks forward to writing more in the future.

Jessica Norrie

About the Book.

In this thoughtful novel set on a sun-baked island, Adrian Hartman, the charismatic director of the Serendipity holiday community, is responsible for ensuring the perfect mindful break, with personal growth and inner peace guaranteed. People return year after year to bare their souls. For some, Adrian IS Serendipity. But Adrian disappears, and with him goes the serenity of his staff and guests, who are bewildered without their leader. The hostility of the local villagers is beginning to boil over. Is their anger justified or are the visitors, each in a different way, just paranoid?

As romance turns sour and conflict threatens the stability of both communities, everyone has to find their own way to survive. This evocative story explores the decisions of adults who still need to come of age, the effect of well-intentioned tourism on a traditional community, and the real meaning of getting away from it all.

One of the recent reviews for the book

Well-written and acutely observed on 14 December 2017

Jessica Norrie’s novel, set on a sun-drenched island somewhere in the Mediterranean, examines the personalities and pitfalls encountered on the sort of package holiday that offers holistic life-skills and self-improvement courses. While practising yoga and suchlike activities, guests at the Serendipity resort, together with staff and, from time to time, local villagers, confront social, personal and philosophical challenges.Norrie has a confident narrative voice and a shrewd and sympathetic view of human nature, which makes her account of the goings-on at Serendipity entertaining as well as thought-provoking.

The central character is absent for much of the book: this means that the reader builds up a picture of him through the thoughts and observations of other characters, like a photographic negative – he is defined by his impact on others. When he re-emerges in his own right, his condition is so altered that we learn about other people from their decidedly contrasting (and sometimes unattractive) reactions.

The prose is occasionally lyrical – as a swimmer emerges from a pool, “The water softly shifted to a forgiving stillness” – and consistently accessible. The author is very good on the strains inherent in a globalized culture. The gulf between Serendipity’s staff and guests on the one hand and the local community on the other sours into violence, which may not be entirely surprising since, as one of the resort’s denizens observes, “Our food and our water supply are better than theirs, so we don’t eat in their restaurants or buy their fruit, except in town where it’s so touristy; most of us don’t even try to speak their language; we don’t talk to them when they come to our bar; we expect them to put up with us sunbathing naked on the beach in front of their grandmothers – and then we go on about how beautiful the country is and how fascinating the local traditions are.”

The author also has a clear-eyed view of the reality beneath picturesque Mediterranean society. A young woman considers “meeting and marrying some local man and giving birth within the time honoured local conventions, kicking just a little against restrictions on her sex because that was what each new generation did, then in turn chivvying her own daughters and unconditionally adoring her sons.”

The Infinity Pool is a well-written and acutely observed examination of diverse lives.

Read some of the many excellent reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jessica-Norrie/e/B01CEUZF26

and on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Infinity-Pool-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B011RA8QZW

Find more reviews on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3270629.Jessica_Norrie

My thanks again to Jessica Norrie and to you for dropping in.. your feedback is always welcome. Sally

Smorgasbord Blog Sitting Round Up – Amazing contributors taking care of the blog in my absence.


 

I am back…. we had a wonderful time and a surprise visit from my niece and my great nephew to bring even more to the celebrations. I can tell from the comments that you enjoyed the blog sitting posts that were contributed by very talented bloggers and authors and I am so grateful for their efforts.

In case you missed the posts… here is a brief rundown..

Thursday 15th February.

A warm welcome to a new contributor Cage Dunn, an Australian author who shares  thoughts on the life and commitment of a storyteller.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/02/15/smorgasbord-blog-sitting-special-who-are-you-by-author-cage-dunn/

Vicki Steward will be sharing her home town of Glastonbury where she has lived more or less permanently since 1993. Glastonbury is renowned for his music festival but it is a town that attracts not just musicians but those who wish to sample a life that is rich in diversity.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/02/15/smorgasbord-blog-sitting-special-whats-normal-for-glastonbury-by-vicki-steward/

Friday 16th February

Thomas the Rhymer

In the usual Friday Spot . writer in residence Paul Andruss explores some of the more complex and sometimes chemically enhanced writing styles of the rich and famous.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/02/16/smorgasbord-blog-sitting-special-style-and-the-glorious-bird-by-paul-andruss/

Very pleased to hand over the blog to the very capable hands of author Lillian Csernica who asks the question… Where will your writing take you? And what will learn about on the way?

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/02/16/smorgasbord-blog-sitting-special-where-will-your-writing-take-you-by-lillian-csernica/

Today a post from Rowena Newton of Beyond the Flow, who has faced some life threatening and changing challenges but clearly faces the long-term issues with positivity and a love of life.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/02/16/smorgasbord-blog-sitting-special-life-was-meant-to-be-easy-by-rowena-newton-beyond-the-flow/

Saturday 17th February.

Welcome to a treat straight from the Kosher Kitchen of Dolly Aizenman along with the history behind the recipe. As we anticipate a royal wedding in the UK in the spring perhaps I should forward this to the parties concerned. The wedding feast for the Tudor Court.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/02/17/smorgasbord-blog-sitting-special-royal-wedding-carrot-and-banana-by-dolly-aizenman/

The entertaining John W. Howell is going to share what not to do if you suddenly come into a windfall.. such as the mega-millions from a lottery win… I am off to spend my fiver!

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/02/17/smorgasbord-blog-sitting-special-top-ten-things-not-to-do-if-you-have-a-winning-mega-millions-ticket-by-john-w-howell/

Very pleased to hand you over to another blog sitter this afternoon. Author M.J. Mallon. (Marjorie). An adventure in Scotland when Marjorie and her mother visited the famous Kelpies on their trip to Edinburgh.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/02/17/smorgasbord-blog-sitting-special-the-kelpies-a-pink-bus-shelter-and-two-taxi-drivers-by-m-j-mallon/

Sunday 18th February

Most of you will be familiar with Carol Taylor and her cooking and food posts and her new weekly food column. Today as part of the blog sitting series, Carol shares a life changing and emotive experience from a few years ago. This post might give you a different perspective about those who live on the streets.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/02/18/smorgasbord-blog-sitting-special-life-in-a-cardboard-box-the-chocolate-run-by-carol-taylor/

This week my lovely friend Debby, D.G. Kaye is taking over the hot seat in the Open House Interview and will sharing the background to why she rights non-fiction and memoirs, her publishing adventures, favourite music and the one big adventure she would like to experience.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/02/18/smorgasbord-blog-magazine-open-house-sunday-interview-author-non-fiction-memoirs-d-g-kaye/

I have another treat for you with the next blog sitting post. Jennie Fitzkee has a wonderful blog where she shares stories of her life as a pre-school teacher. But in this post Jennie shares a hidden talent… well hidden from us up to now! The Wedding Dancer.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/02/18/smorgasbord-blog-sitting-special-the-wedding-dancer-by-jennie-fitzkee/comment-page-1/#comment-132171

Monday 19th February

Today in the blog-sitting special, you get two authors and two editors. Author and Freelance Editor, Judy Penz Sheluk interviews fellow editor and author Lourdes Venard. This is great, since editors are always busy, and it is useful to make new contacts. It is also helpful to find blogs, such as Judy’s, where you can be interviewed.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/02/19/smorgasbord-blog-sitting-special-interviewing-an-editor-judy-penz-sheluk-interviews-lourdes-venard/

A welcome to Jacqui Murray to the blog sitting series with her first post for Smorgasbord. Most of us are on a learning curve when it comes to blogging, however long we might have been at the task. Jacqui shares some very important elements that are important to remember when posting.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/02/19/smorgasbord-blog-sitting-special-jacqui-murray-on-a-subject-we-are-all-invested-in-blogging/

Time for one of the wonderfully amusing posts from author Linda Bethea about her fabulous mother Kathleen Holdaway Swain. Linda’s stories about her mother have always entertained and enlightened me and this story has changed by shopping trips for the better!

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/02/19/smorgasbord-blog-sitting-special-15th-21st-february-2018-i-dont-have-the-money-right-now-by-linda-bethea/

Tuesday 20th February

A welcome back to to Debby Gies with one of the posts from her archives to share with us today.  When this post appeared last year it was met with rave reviews and for weeks on Facebook we were all announcing to the world our new status.. A Perennial Woman..

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/02/20/smorgasbord-blog-sitting-special-aging-and-wisdom-the-new-perennial-age-of-women-by-d-g-kaye/

Blog sitting today is children’s author Jemima Pett with a science fiction short story.  Xanadu is stranded on an alien planet having crash landed…

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/02/20/smorgasbord-blog-sitting-special-originality-and-the-insects-by-jemima-pett/

In case you missed here are some of the regulars from the week.

Personal Stuff

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/02/14/happy-valentines-day-where-two-once-embraced-sally-cronin/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/02/15/smorgasbord-letters-from-america-1985-1987-homesickness-first-dinner-party-huntsville-state-park/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/02/16/sallys-drive-time-playlist-music-to-get-your-weekend-started-the-eagles-and-the-proclaimers/

Posts from your Archives

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/02/13/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-bad-bentheim-castles-dungeons-and-apple-strudel-by-darlene-foster/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/02/14/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archivesthe-origins-of-st-valentine-day-by-micki-peluso/

img_2522

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/02/14/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-an-art-museum-for-book-lovers-by-jennie-fitzkee/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/02/14/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-dulwich-floods-2004-by-geoff-le-pard/

Cafe and Bookstore update

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/02/12/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-author-update-alexis-rose-sue-coletta-barb-taub-yecheilyah-ysrayl-and-k-d-dowdall/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/02/16/sallys-cafe-and-bookstore-author-mary-anne-edwards-christoph-fischer-claire-fullerton-linda-g-hill-update/

Health – Serialisation of Turning Back the Clock – Anti-Aging programme.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/02/13/smorgasbord-health-column-turning-back-the-clock-chapter-two-anti-aging-and-a-healthy-boy-requires-the-correct-ph-balance/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/02/20/smorgasbord-health-column-turning-back-the-clock-anti-aging-the-hormone-factor/

 

Humour

sky-diving

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/02/13/smorgasbord-laughter-lines-papal-dispensation-the-joys-of-maturity-and-birthday-cake/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/02/14/smorgasbord-afternoon-video-a-party-game-for-all-the-family-and-the-cats/

world-round

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/02/15/smorgasbord-laughter-lines-trouble-in-paradise-and-other-marital-jokes/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/02/20/laughter-the-best-medicine-an-australian-shaggy-dog-story/

Thank you again for contributing, liking, commenting and sharing. I will get caught up today and normal service will resume tomorrow.. Take care and thanks Sally.

 

Smorgasbord Blog Sitting Special – Originality and the Insects by Jemima Pett


Blog sitting today is children’s author Jemima Pett with a science fiction short story.  Xanadu is stranded on an alien planet having crash landed…

Originality and the Insects by Jemima Pett

Originality and the Insects is the first flash fiction of 2018. It’s just under 1750 words. I was thinking of working with the title “The Wrong Glasses” but I went through the list of prompts I had collected last year, and noticed some other options.

Somewhere in the middle of the year, Chuck Wendig gave us generator of inspirational themes: http://inspirobot.me/. I used inspirobot for about ten minutes in order to get something worthwhile. They are mostly rubbish, but I saved two… including this one:

The difference between originality and an insect is that an insect doesn’t kill you.
Tree with quotation

Xanadu Xavier XtraL lay in her landing chair, aware of a clicking noise. Several clicking noises. She kept her eyes shut while she identified them. Heat base cooling down—that was the regular click-thunk of the compound as it contracted at microscopically different intervals. Three variants of a click-ping—those were gauges hitting rock-bottom (or off the scale and refusing to be beaten). An intermittent crackle in her helmet audio; that probably couldn’t be classed as a click. A clunk of an outside pipe doing its thing in whatever atmosphere existed outside the ship. Irregular taps on the tiny portholes, like someone trying to attract her attention.

Nobody should be out there.

Let alone trying to attract her attention.

She opened one eye.

A shaft of illumination highlighted her right knee, still in the brace position, the joystick, and her left boot against the open door of the third-left locker cover, taking the weight of the third-left locker contents in its box. What was in the third-left locker? She shut her eye again and let the hammering in her head take the place of the clicking for a while.

Next time she opened both eyes, the light caressed her stomach, and highlighted the waterpod at her left elbow. Good idea. She hoicked round, pressed the pump… nothing. Twisting towards it, she tapped the gauge. The needle dropped. Yeah, why would water survive the heat of uncontrolled landing? Well, it should be somewhere around. Ah. There were pools on the floor and gathered between her body and the rest of the curved seat.

Tap, tap, tap-tap.

According to the data on the fourth planet in the Febrius V system, it was an emerging world with a potentially breathable atmosphere and adequate dihydrogen monoxide for water-based life forms to rehydrate if necessary.

Somehow, Xanadu had felt it would be necessary, if she survived the uncontrolled landing she’d needed to make, due to the failure of secondary and tertiary control thrusters. In fact, she was lucky she’d been within entry range. With only her primary thrusters to work with, she’d made pulse after pulse until the ship grazed the atmosphere, followed by a drastically elliptical entry.

She stopped herself thinking of the scoundrel she’d left before she got into this mess. No past, only present. The present was… uncomfortable but tolerable. Except for that damn tapping.

How was she to get out of here?

Preferably alive.

By fixing the secondary and tertiary engines.

Probably the primaries needed work now too. And the main engine core.

Okay, first, get a sitrep on the engines and core.

That means, reboot the computer.

Okay, let’s see if we can deploy the solar gain accumulator….

Maybe it would help if she unstrapped herself.

And now, move to an upright position.

She hauled herself forward, watched the water pool underneath her, and vowed not to sit again in a hurry. Feet planted either side of the joystick, she grabbed the handholds above the control panel, and peered out of the porthole, the opposite side from the beam of light.

A moue of her lips suggested that she didn’t think much of the view.

She slumped uncomfortably against the sidewall, avoiding the projecting handles of the hatch. Perhaps if she soaked up that water she could suck the moisture out and sit down again.

If she sat down again she might never wake up again.

This wasn’t a bad dream was it?

It wasn’t.

An hour passed. Xanadu sucked water, found rations, and used the emergency tapes to read the air composition inside and out. The mini-airlock worked perfectly well, thanks to its manual controls.

Well, she thought, shaking her hair free of the helmet, and stretching. I’m ready to face this world. Let’s hope the engines are fixable.

She opened the small hatch and shimmied out.

Warm, sulphurous, but breathable, just as the tapes had read. The ground was squidgy with some sort of moss. The pH of the surface liquid was nothing to worry about, maybe weak carbolic acid, nothing corrosive. The ship was sitting at an angle, on its base plate, so the guidance and attitude controls had worked right up to the end. Why wasn’t it working now?

She climbed up onto the thorax, as she called the large central section, and sat astride the dorsal secondary thruster, pondering. Something flicked past her ear and she shooed it away. Something fly-like. Well, it could fly off.

A methodical approach to problem solving is the first step towards success spaceflight, she reminded herself. She used to hate Professor Methodical, as they all called him. They used to mouth it behind his back during lectures, but it was a mantra that had stayed with her. What would Professor Methodical do if he was stranded on a live planet on a dead ship? Use your ingenuity. Oh ye gods, it was like being in a simulator with him. Wait, was she in a simulator? How could she tell? What is reality? Is being tapped on the shoulder by a small — aggh!!

She brushed off the annoying leg and fell backwards.

Have you ever looked into a fly’s eyes? Millions of eyes, all black and sparkling.

As she picked herself off the ground, she thanked whatever god had brought her here for the soft landing.

“Go away!”

The fly remained on the side, irritatingly poised at an angle defying gravity. It seemed to look at her with a questioning tilt to its head. It was just keeping in balance, she told herself.

“Look, I need to get back up there and deploy the solar array. Stop irritating me. You aren’t poisonous are you?”

Maybe. It had wicked fangs.

“And I’m so dehydrated that you can leave me alone. I’m not juicy, even if I do look fat. I always look fat in this. Humans do.”

She walked alongside the fuselage about six metres and climbed to the solar array.

“Ah, you see? It’s jammed. Not surprising, really—not coming through your atmosphere like that. Should have burnt off. The flanges worked.”

She fiddled with the sturdy metal struts and hatches a little more, then “Yay!” as the arm unfolded, and the solar array started to unfurl itself.

“Now, we wait.”

The ground was not appealing as a place to sit: soft, but oozing. The fly returned to the secondary thruster and moved aft towards her. She shuffled further back, so she was in the shade of the array. The length of the shadow made her realise…

“Shit, how long are your days here, anyway? Huh?”

The fly tapped on the fuselage. Eight times.

“Eight of what? Hey! Don’t tell me you’re a telepath!”

The eyes blinked in a sort of rippling effect. Three more solar arrays unfurled from their various hatches. Good. The first had earned some juice. Now to get enough to at least get the computer up and retreat inside for the night.

“Okay,” she said, climbing down the fuselage. “When I get in, I’m going to say goodnight, and settle in for a rest and recovery session. And by that I mean I’m going to get myself the hell away from here. So don’t you and your friends stay too close. Because when we go, it’s like… whoosh!”

She got herself half in the module and turned to pull the hatch closed. The fly seemed to watch her.

She let herself down onto the floor.

The fly stood at the edge, its head half in the hole.

“No way, Jose — you stay right where you are!”

It pulled back enough to let her close the hatch. The eyes rippled a pattern, but she couldn’t say what or why.

The computer reboot light came on, and circuits started their oh-so-reassuring hum.

The storage units read fifty percent full when the sun went down. By that time, Xanadu had worked on a plan to utilise the carbolic acid in the fluid beneath the ship to provide the kickstart fuel the primaries needed to lift off. If she could fix the secondary coil coupling as soon as the sun came up, she’d be ready to roll. The tertiaries were using the same faulty coupling. Xanadu smiled grimly as she realised—she’d always said it was a weakness that should have been designed out.

As night went on, the grimness got worse. How long would this night last? The computer had no data on the planet’s rotation.

To save time, she got the computer to strain and load the carbolic acid and start processing. The warning light on the batteries came on after half an hour. There must be a way she could get more done before daylight returned…

The computer flashed a response back on the day length. It had obviously had enough time to measure rotation against the star background.

Four point six earth years.

When she decided there was no point sitting there in stunned silence, she screamed. Once her voice was so cracked it refused further abuse, she wept. Then she curled up and went to sleep.

Tapping woke her. It was still dark. She shut her eyes and told it to go away.

The light outside grew fast. Strange, sunset had been very slow. The tapping started again. Oh heck, what did they want now?

She opened the small hatch. The light came from the bodies of some insects the fly had brought with it. The fly tapped on her arm, then on the side of the hatch, then on the edge of the rim.

What?

Hatch… rim.

Close it again?

The fly took the lighted insects up to the solar arrays. The warning light went off. The processing continued. The batteries charged quickly; Xanadu couldn’t remember seeing anything like it before.

“Engines ready for departure,” the computer flashed.

“Okay” she said uncertainly. She tapped experimentally on the hatch cover. A return tapping suggested they’d heard her.

The light departed. Xanadu watched it float over the uneven bog, and hoped she’d really got enough carbo-fuel to make it off this godforsaken dump.

Well, if it worked, maybe it wasn’t godforsaken after all.

The primaries caught, the secondaries supported, and the tertiary thrusters made all the necessary adjustments for a perfect launch. She hoped she hadn’t boiled too many insects in her wake.

It certainly wasn’t the insects that would have killed her.

© J M Pett 2018

About Jemima Pett

When Jemima Pett discovered the words ‘portfolio career’ she realised she was an example of a new trend – having not only a number of different jobs, but in totally different fields. These included social work, business management, computer technology, environmental research. The thread running through all of them was communication – and that continued in her spare time with writing and editing club magazines, manuals, reports… Jemima loved words, loved to learn and to apply her learning to the real world.

Eventually the world just wasn’t big enough, and so she went back to inventing her own, as she had as a child. First came the Realms, a feudal England run by princes in castles who just happen to be guinea pigs – although you can read them as people equally well. Then came the Viridian System, a planetary area on the outskirts of known space where a frontier mentality mixes with big business and tourism. Her next project could be anything from a D&D fantasy type world, to a children’s picture book about the real adventures of her guinea pigs, who live with her in a small village in Norfolk, UK.

Jemima’s latest book The Princelings of the North

About the book

Dylan and Dougall are princelings at Castle Haunn, a remote place to the far northwest of an island off the coast of Scotland. So when they discover a prince locked in a tower, their thoughts turn to rescue and returning him to his rightful place in a castle hundreds of miles away. But nothing is ever that easy, and what starts as a simple mission turns into a nightmare that rocks the foundations of the Realms.

Head over and buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Princelings-North-East-Book-ebook/dp/B0785RY891

And Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Princelings-North-East-Book-ebook/dp/B0785RY891

A selection of other books by Jemima Pett

One of the excellent reviews for Book One in the series The Princelings of the East

We follow Fred and George, Fred who is the thinker or Philosopher and George who is the Engineer, but the totally unique and endearing thing about these two totally lovable characters is that they are in fact Guinea Pigs. But not just your average guinea pigs that eat lettuce and live in a cage, they are Princelings and they live in a castle, contribute to its fine tuning and banter with the humans.

Fred and George remind me of an English cartoon that is currently showing on Australian television called Country Mouse and City Mouse, which I recently realised is a retelling of Aesops Fable.
The two mice are intelligent adventurers who travel around, but they have different likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses which help them along in their adventures.

Similarly, Fred and George are brothers with very different talents and interests but they work together on their adventures, that’s until they get separated and have to work apart to solve the mystery of the Energy Drain.

I enjoyed this book very much and I was intrigued the whole way, itching to find out the answer to mysterious energy drain. I won’t spoil it but there may be some wibbly wobbly timey wimey shenanigans ( sorry that is a Dr Who quote which I realise if you aren’t a super nerd like me, Yes I own a Tardis, you won’t have a clue what I am talking about lol.) I loved the reference to Wozna Cola which sounded an awful lot like a certain dark coloured liquid that has taken the world by storm for about 4 decades

This was a clean read, with no violence at all which I think is such a credit to the author as I feel quite passionate about this very topic when considering if a book is for a Middle Grade audience. I would recommend this to 10+ plus due to the intricacy of the plot and there is quite a cast of characters to follow. I also feel that this story would be more appealing to boys than girls.

I like the cover, but I do wish that it had pictures of Fred and George as I think that would totally appeal to kids to help them visualise these completely adorable guinea pigs.

I am looking forward to reading the further adventures of Fred and George.

Read all the reviews for all the books and buy: https://www.amazon.com/Jemima-Pett/e/B006F68PVE/

And Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jemima-Pett/e/B006F68PVE

Read more reviews and follow Jemima on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5388872.Jemima_Pett

Connect to Jemima

Blog: http://jemimapett.com/blog/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jemima_pett
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jemima.pett

My thanks to Jemima for this terrific short story and I know she would enjoy your feedback. I will check on comments when I return. Thanks Sally

 

 

Smorgasbord Blog Sitting Special – Aging and Wisdom – The New Perennial Age of Women by D.G. Kaye


A welcome back to to Debby Gies with one of the posts from her archives to share with us today.  When this post appeared last year it was met with rave reviews and for weeks on Facebook we were all announcing to the world our new status.. A Perennial Woman..

Perennial years

Aging and Wisdom – The New Perennial Age of Women by D.G. Kaye

How many times have we said we don’t feel or look our age? When did middle-age sneak into our lives? Where did the years go?

I’m sure we’ve all begged the answers to those questions once or twice as we women approach our ‘Perennial’ years.

What comes to mind when women use the terms ‘the new 40 or 50′, even 60 or 70? Here’s a clue: it encompasses so much more than just looks.

In my opinion, looks have changed since the last generation, without discounting so many other changes that have occurred through the decades to empower women. Women in their 40s and 50s look much younger than those from decades past. I’m not referring to the advent of cosmetic surgery, but when I look back on decades past, I notice some interesting hairdos and fashion statements. Looking back at the women in my own family and even movie stars with the styles of yesteryear, it’s not hard for me to compare a woman of today in her 40s or 50s appearing younger looking than those before us at the same age. Was it the hairstyles, a more sedentary lifestyle which gave the impression a women in her 30s back when of 30 or 40 years ago looked similar in age to women now in their 40s or 50s?

Back in those days, women didn’t lead lifestyles like they do now, some with powerful jobs, being the bigger bread winner, many working what used to be considered, jobs for only men, or raising a family while carrying a job. “We’ve come a long way baby,” as the old cigarette ad used to say. (Am I giving away my age?)

I have to laugh at the many times me and my sister would bring up the subject of our dreaded childhood weekends we were forced to spend at our paternal grandparents’ house. We’d remark to one another about how even when we were small, our grandmother looked like . . . well, a grandmother. We only envision her old from as far back as we can remember. But lol, I digress.

What made me write this post on women then and now was prompted by a conversation I had on the weekend with one of my sister-in-laws. She shared a topic of discussion that came up between her and her yoga teacher. Her teacher had referred to women in the age group of 40s and 50s as ‘perennials’. Have any of you heard this term used before? I haven’t. But I love it.

I’ve heard of some more unflattering terms such as menopausal, even cougars, but not perennials.

According to the yoga teacher’s preferred term, perennial, it represents this age category because many women are reaching their full potential, ‘in full bloom’ as they enter their 40s and 50s. This age bracket is where many women enter new phases of life such as: the empty nest stage where their kids are finally moving out or getting married, making new lives for themselves or raising families. This is a time where women begin to re-evaluate their accomplishments and desires and come to realize they want to do things that either they may not have thought about doing when they were younger, or were too busy raising their families or building careers, choosing to put their own desires on hold.

I can identify with this wonderful choice of word, perennial, representing a time period of continuation of our evolving. We are still evolving and learning and doing. Every year we bloom with more knowledge from our experiences and eventually, the new bloom leads to desires of the ‘me time’. A time for us to focus on the things we enjoy whether it be travel, new hobbies, furthering our education, or even writing books.

So much can apply to this ‘new age’. The possibilities are endless if we allow ourselves the entitlement to flourish and bloom to complete ourselves for ourselves.

I absolutely adore the term ‘perennial’ and it does sound so much better than ‘the change’. In fact, there may even be a book from me down the road on the subject.

How do you feel about the term ‘perennial’?

I am sure that Debby would love to hear your answer and receive your feedback, and I look forward to reading both on my return tomorrow.  Thanks to Debby for another wonderful post.

About D.G. Kaye

Debby Gies is a Canadian nonfiction/memoir author who writes under the pen name of D.G. Kaye. She was born, raised, and resides in Toronto, Canada. Kaye writes about her life experiences, matters of the heart and women’s issues.

D.G. writes to inspire others. Her writing encompasses stories taken from events she encountered in her own life, and she shares the lessons taken from them. Her sunny outlook on life developed from learning to overcome challenges in her life, and finding the upside from those situations, while practicing gratitude for all the positives.

When Kaye isn’t writing intimate memoirs, she brings her natural sense of humor into her other works. She loves to laugh and self- medicate with a daily dose of humor.
I love to tell stories that have lessons in them, and hope to empower others by sharing my own experiences. I write raw and honest about my own experiences, hoping through my writing, that others can relate and find that there is always a choice to move from a negative space, and look for the positive.

Quotes:
“Live Laugh Love . . . And Don’t Forget to Breathe!”

                 “For every kindness, there should be kindness in return. Wouldn’t that just make the world right?”

When I’m not writing, I’m reading or quite possibly looking after some mundane thing in life. It’s also possible I may be on a secret getaway trip, as that is my passion—traveling.

This is D.G. Kaye’s latest release in December 2017.

About Twenty Years: After “I Do”.

May/December memoirs.

In this personal accounting, D.G. Kaye shares the insights and wisdom she has accrued through twenty years of keeping her marriage strong and thriving despite the everyday changes and challenges of aging. Kaye reveals how a little creative planning, acceptance, and unconditional love can create a bond no obstacle will break. Kaye’s stories are informative, inspiring, and a testament to love eclipsing all when two people understand, respect, and honor their vows. She adds that a daily sprinkling of laughter is a staple in nourishing a healthy marriage.

Twenty years began with a promise. As Kaye recounts what transpired within that time, she shows that true love has no limits, even when one spouse ages ahead of the other.

Here is one of the recent reviews for the book

“Twenty Years After I Do” is a love story, all the more compelling because it is true. Kaye shines a light under the table, exposing those things many of us prefer to keep out of sight. For all of the unpleasant topics in the book, this is not a depressing journey. She doesn’t say that love concours all, but she shows us, through her own life, that it so often does. More accurately, she explains that love will help us face whatever outcome life gives us.

The author is one of the decreasing number of people who understand that marriage is “ti deathl do us part.” Staying together is not optional, it’s not a choice to be made. That choice was made with the speaking of the words, “I Do.” She shows us that love and humor are tools we can use to overcome obstacles we would have thought unsurmountable.

This is a good read. Reading it has made me feel like I’ve made a friend.
 

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B077V386TL

and Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B077V386TL

Other books by D.G. Kaye

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Read all the reviews and buy the books: http://www.amazon.com/author/dgkaye7

and Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/D.G.-Kaye/e/B00HE028FO

More reviews and follow Debby on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/dgkaye

Connect to Debby Gies

Blog: http://www.dgkayewriter.com
About me: http://www.wiseintro.co/dgkaye7
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/@pokercubster (yes there’s a story)
Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/dgkaye7
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/dgkaye
Google: http://www.google.com/+DebbyDGKayeGies
Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/dgkaye
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/dgkaye7

Thanks again to Debby for sharing this very popular post from her archives.

Smorgasbord Blog Sitting Special – Interviewing an Editor – Judy Penz Sheluk interviews Lourdes Venard


Today in the blog-sitting special, you get two authors and two editors. Author and Freelance Editor, Judy Penz Sheluk interviews fellow editor and author Lourdes Venard. This is great, since editors are always busy, and it is useful to make new contacts. It is also helpful to find blogs, such as Judy’s, where you can be interviewed.

Interviewing an Editor – Judy Penz Sheluk interviews Lourdes Venard

It’s my honor to introduce Lourdes Venard. I have worked with Lourdes during pre-publication of The Hanged Man’s Noose, as well as in her role as Editor, First Draft, a newsletter for more than 600 members of Sisters in Crime, Guppy Chapter.

Lourdes is the founder of Comma Sense Editing, LLC, which provides services to individual authors, magazines, and other clients. Before founding Comma Sense, she was a writer and editor at major American newspapers, including Newsday, The Miami Herald, Chicago Tribune, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and The Washington Post. In addition to her other duties, Lourdes teaches copyediting through online courses at the University of California, San Diego, and through the Editorial Freelancers Association.

Judy: What steps should a writer take before hiring an editor, and is hiring an editor really necessary?

Lourdes: Whether you are looking for an agent or self-publishing, you need to present your best writing. But before hiring an editor, here are five steps I recommend you take:

1) Don’t hire an editor the day after you’ve typed “The End.” Put your manuscript in the drawer, figuratively speaking. Stephen King waits six weeks between the first and second drafts. Others recommend two to three weeks.

2) During those weeks, read books on the craft of writing, especially on dialogue, pacing, and tension. You may have already read dozens of books, but it never hurts to read a few more or to refresh yourself with books you’ve already read. I recommend Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell. Read other books in your genre to see what they do well.

3) Now, with the detachment you’ve gained from having your manuscript in the drawer and with the knowledge you’ve gained (or have been reminded of), pull your manuscript out again. Read through once, making a list of issues that need to be addressed—scenes that don’t work, weak characters, and plot holes, for instance.

4) If you haven’t joined a writing group yet, do so. Get critiques from writing partners or trusted beta readers. If several readers point to the same problems, take note.

5) Revise again. How many drafts is enough? This is different for every writer, but even seasoned writers like King complete three drafts. Others, even best-selling authors, craft 12 or more drafts before the manuscript is ready.

By this time, you may be so enmeshed in the manuscript that you lack the distance that is needed to look at it with a more critical eye. This is when you turn to a professional editor, who will guide you through any additional changes that the manuscript needs.

Judy: You do copyediting and content (developmental) editing. Can you explain the difference?

Lourdes: This is a good question, as many beginning writers don’t know the difference. Copyediting is mostly a look at grammar and spelling, as well as inconsistencies, factual errors, and large plot holes. This should be the second step of the editing process. The first step should be content or developmental editing—a thorough edit that looks at characterization, point of view, tone, pacing, dialogue, and the overall structure of the book. Most editors provide a critique, or editorial letter, in their developmental edit.

Judy: I often hear writers say that they can’t afford to hire a professional editor, that they have a critique group/partner to help them. What are your thoughts on this?

Lourdes: Critique groups and beta reader are good places to start, and I recommend them. But they shouldn’t replace an experienced editor who has knowledge of the business and knows what acquiring editors and publishers want. Also, some critique partners hesitate to point out all the flaws, or may be too busy with their own work to give the deep look that an editor does. As a developmental editor, I may spend months with an author in a collaborative process that goes back and forth. My intent is not to change an author’s voice, but to enhance and polish their manuscript so that it’s marketable.

Judy: You also offer other services, such as help with synopsis, author bios, agent and publisher query letters, and critiquing. In your experience, which of these services has the greatest demand?

Lourdes: Most of my clients also ask for help with synopses and query letters. I come from a journalism background, where we write to fit a certain space, so I enjoy crafting a one-page synopsis! Query letters are also essential and I work closely with authors to tailor something that will catch an agent’s eye.

Judy: You’ve worked with a lot of beginning writers, myself included. Are there common errors/mistakes that most beginners make?

Lourdes: Yes, I and other editors see the same errors. It’s not surprising, as crafting a book is something one learns with practice. The most common errors are wordiness and including unneeded information, stilted dialogue, head-hopping (suddenly shifting from one point of view to another), telling rather than showing, inconsistencies, narrative issues (from lack of tension to dumping too much backstory), misplaced modifiers, and a manuscript that is either too long or too short. Another very common error is not beginning the story in the right place; writers often want to “set up” the story. But an author only has five pages—and sometimes fewer than that—to grab the eye of an agent or publisher.

Judy: You published a novel, Publishing for Beginners: What First-Time Authors Need to Know, in October 2014. What prompted you to write it, and what sort of information can readers expect to find in it?

Lourdes: This grew out of questions I kept getting from clients—questions that went beyond editing. Many of them had written good books and self-published, only to see small sales. Others were hoping to publish traditionally and wanted to know how to find an agent. Others were conflicted about which route to take: traditional publishing or indie publishing. So my book covers the differences in publishing routes, as well as querying, editing, marketing, and even financial matters (a chapter written by my husband, an accountant).

Judy: You also edited an anthology of short crime fiction, Mystery in Paradise: 13 Tales of Suspense. How does that process differ from editing a novel?

Lourdes: I’ve edited several collections of short stories, and I love working with shorter fiction. In some ways, writing short is even harder than a novel. You need to create full characters that grab the reader immediately, you need to hide your clues in far fewer words, and your story needs to pack a punch at the end. I love “gotcha” stories that surprise me with their endings. As an editor, I’m working with the author to make sure those elements are in place.

Judy: What’s next for Lourdes Venard?

Lourdes: Because I mostly edit mysteries and crime thrillers, I’m looking to expand Publishing for Beginners, with a focus toward crime fiction authors.

Connect to Lourdes

Website: http://www.commasense.net/
Amazon author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Lourdes-Venard/e/B00OQI5A02
Twitter: https://twitter.com/lourdesvenard
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Commasense/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8584825.Lourdes_Venard

Now time to find out more about Judy Penz Sheluk.

 

An Amazon International Bestselling Author, Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, the first in the Glass Dolphin Mystery series, was published in July 2015. The sequel, A Hole In One, is scheduled for Spring 2018.

Skeletons in the Attic, Judy’s second novel, and the first in her Marketville Mystery series, was first published in August 2016 and re-released in December 2017. Past & Present, the sequel, is scheduled for early 2019.

Judy’s short crime and literary fiction appears in several collections.

In her less mysterious pursuits, Judy works as a freelance writer and editor; her articles have appeared regularly in dozens of U.S. and Canadian consumer and trade publications.

Past editorial responsibilities have included the roles of Senior Editor, Northeast Art & Antiques, Editor, Antiques and Collectibles Showcase, and Editor, Home Builder Magazine. She is currently the Senior Editor for New England Antiques Journal.

Judy is also a member of Sisters in Crime International, Sisters in Crime – Guppies, Sisters in Crime – Toronto, Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers, Inc. the South Simcoe Arts Council, and the Short Mystery Fiction Society. In addition, Judy has been elected to the 2017-18 Board of Directors for Crime Writers of Canada, as a Director, and as a Regional Representative for Toronto/Southern Ontario.

She lives in Alliston, Ontario, with her husband, Mike, and their golden retriever, Gibbs.

Books by Judy Penz Sheluk

Skeletons in the Attic – A Marketville Mystery which is now available in audio for those who love to listen to their books as well as read them.

About the book

Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate, though she is shocked to discover she has inherited a house in the town of Marketville—a house she didn’t know existed. However, there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder.

Callie’s not keen on dredging up a thirty-year-old mystery, but if she doesn’t do it, there’s a scheming psychic named Misty Rivers who is more than happy to expose the Barnstable family secrets. Determined to thwart Misty and fulfill her father’s wishes, Callie accepts the challenge. But is she ready to face the skeletons hidden in the attic?

One of the recent reviews for the audio book

Review originally published at Lomeraniel dot com Audiobookreviews.

After reviewing The Hanged Man’s Noose by this same author, and thinking that it was one of the best cozy mysteries I have ever read, I was looking forward to this one.

Calamity Barnstable’s father just died, and she inherits several documents, a house, and a mission: finding who murdered her mother when she was still a child.

After having listened to two books by Judy Penz Sheluk, I can say that she builds interesting and intricate stories with fully fleshed characters. I think this is why her stories work so well. Callie is a woman who I can perfectly relate to, in search for the truth, and trying to make her way in a new place. I especially enjoyed her friendship with Shantal, and the fact that nothing in this story seemed to be just black or white, and no one was what they seem. There are several twists and turns in this book, and I enjoyed it from beginning to end, unable to stop listening and find out the truth.

I have to say that the end was completely unexpected, and after all the buildup I felt a little bit underwhelmed. I don’t know how to explain it but it seems that the story suddenly deflated at that point. It is just a personal impression, and except for that I really loved the book.

Clayra Jordin did a decent job with the narration of this book, but honestly, I think Suzanne T. Fortin, who narrated The Hanged Man’s Noose did much better. Jordin inflected the right amount of emotion to the characters’ interpretations, and her voice was clear, but sadly all characters sounded exactly the same, which made several dialogs quite confusing.

This is the first book in a series, and I hope Judy Penz Sheluk hurries up and writes the sequels. She has me really hooked up to her cozy mysteries.  

Read the  reviews for the book and buy in print and audio: https://www.amazon.com/Skeletons-Attic-Marketville-Mystery-Book-ebook/dp/B01IQ0N3X6

And Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Skeletons-Attic-1-Marketville-Mystery/dp/1772232645

Also by Judy Penz Sheluk

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Read the reviews and buy all the books: http://www.amazon.com/Judy-Penz-Sheluk/e/B00O74NX04

And Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Judy-Penz-Sheluk/e/B00O74NX04/

Read more reviews and follow Judy on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8602696.Judy_Penz_Sheluk

Connect to Judy

Blog: http://www.judypenzsheluk.com/
Facebook: https://business.facebook.com/JudyPenzSheluk/about/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JudyPenzSheluk

My thanks to Judy and to Lourdes for blog sitting today and I am sure they would love your feedback and questions. Thanks Sally

 

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Open House Sunday Interview – Author – Non-Fiction – Memoirs – D.G. Kaye


This week my lovely friend Debby, D.G. Kaye is taking over the hot seat and will sharing the background to why she rights non-fiction and memoirs, her publishing adventures, favourite music and the one big adventure she would like to experience.

d-g-kayeDebby Gies is a Canadian nonfiction/memoir author who writes under the pen name of D.G. Kaye. She was born, raised, and resides in Toronto, Canada. Kaye writes about her life experiences, matters of the heart and women’s issues.

D.G. writes to inspire others. Her writing encompasses stories taken from events she encountered in her own life, and she shares the lessons taken from them. Her sunny outlook on life developed from learning to overcome challenges in her life, and finding the upside from those situations, while practicing gratitude for all the positives.

When Kaye isn’t writing intimate memoirs, she brings her natural sense of humor into her other works. She loves to laugh and self- medicate with a daily dose of humor.
I love to tell stories that have lessons in them, and hope to empower others by sharing my own experiences. I write raw and honest about my own experiences, hoping through my writing, that others can relate and find that there is always a choice to move from a negative space, and look for the positive.

Quotes:
“Live Laugh Love . . . And Don’t Forget to Breathe!”

                 “For every kindness, there should be kindness in return. Wouldn’t that just make the world right?”

When I’m not writing, I’m reading or quite possibly looking after some mundane thing in life. It’s also possible I may be on a secret getaway trip, as that is my passion—traveling.

Time to find out more about Debby’s chosen subjects.

Thanks for having me over here today Sal. It’s always a pleasure to be featured on your esteemed blog.

Tell us about your genre of books that you write and why.

I’ve always been a ‘tell it the way it is’ kind of girl. In fact, I’m pretty sure I should have been a reporter. I’m a nonfiction/memoir writer and no matter how hard I try to get around that by dabbling into the odd fiction writing piece, it always seemed I was writing on factual incidents, so I decided why bother packing it as fiction, why not just own up to it and tell the truth. All my stories have lessons in them that others can take from them. And when a story isn’t about a serious topic, I’ll always try to inject humor whenever I can. Why? Because sometimes we all just need to look for the funny.

What adventures have you had publishing your work?

Seriously? I could write another book with my adventures and mishaps of self-publishing, but I’ll share a few here.

Before I began writing my first book, I spent a year trying to learn the business of publishing. I signed up for many newsletters from some of the pioneers in the biz to learn the essentials about how editors worked, what formatting entailed, the importance of good, professional book covers, and marketing. I was overwhelmed to say the least but my passion to write books was stronger than my fear of the publishing process. Through the course of writing and publishing 6 books, I learned a lot about what makes a good book cover, a painful lesson on hiring the wrong editor, what a properly formatted book entails (without learning the actual process of formatting myself, but I give good directives, lol), and the importance of sharing, caring and giving back where I can.

I am humble. And I never forget how intimidating it was for me to publish my first book and the people who reached out to give me great advice and a helping hand when I was eager to learn and grateful for any help anyone could offer me. That help came in ways of suggestions for editors, formatters, cover artists, promotional opportunities and friendships I slowly made along the way with other writers who had generously given of their time to help me solve many dilemmas along the way.

What kind of music do you listen to and who are your favourite musicians?

I enjoy quite a few genres of music, depending on my mood. It’s funny, there was a time in my life where music was always on wherever I went – home or otherwise, until the writing bug set in and I can’t concentrate with any distractions including music. But when I do listen I love 70s music the most. Oh, I enjoy pop music from all decades, but something about the music of some of the great musicians from that decade just make me want to sing – The Eagles, America, The Guess Who, ELO, Earth Wind and Fire, well you get my drift.

But I also happen to love R & B, and preferably tunes from the 80s and 90s in that genre. And these last few years I’ve also become a big Country and Western fan. I think that grew along with my love for the Southwest USA – Luke Bryan, Sam Hunt, Lady Antebellum, Vince Gill, Tim McGraw and many more.

What is the one big adventure that you would like to experience?

I would love to participate in some writing conferences, author get-togethers, The Blogger’s Bash, and a girl’s holiday on a cruise-ship vacation one day! Writing can be a solitary life and I know that I’m so grateful to have many wonderful friends I’ve made through my writing and blogging and many of you live in different countries – predominantly the US and the UK. I really feel it’s time to meet some of my far away friends in real time. I shall see what this new year brings. These are bucket list wishes. 😊

Tell us about your WIP, plans for your blog and any special events coming up.

I wrote a post in January, outlining my plans for what I intend to share on my blog this year.

They are as follows:

• Sunday Book Reviews
• Guest Author Interviews (one scheduled for January, more to resume come April)
• Inspirational Posts
• Informational Share Posts
• Opinionated Posts
• Monthly #WATWB Contribution Posts (We are the World Blogfest)
• More Guest Post Features

These are my plans so far. As we all know, plans can change, but intentions are good, and plans help us be accountable. I’m also hoping to get involved in some Podcasting to expand my authorly horizons. And I think it’s time to venture into some freelance writing to supplement income. As far as book writing goes, I’d like to take a year off publishing another book because it eats up a good few months of my time doing so, and I want to explore new marketing avenues and activities to engage my readers and followers. I say I won’t publish another book this year, but I don’t know if I believe myself, lol. Let’s just say I’ve started a new journal with some new book ideas. I think my next book will be geared more toward the self-help genre than memoir. And I really want to write a humorous book too, so this may be a combined effort. I have a rough outline of ideas only for a book on ‘The changes after the change’. Probably won’t be pretty, but hopefully, plenty of laughs.

Okay, I know my time is up here, but I just wanted to leave you with one of my favorite quotes:

“Life is not measured by the amount of breaths we take, but by the number of moments that take our breath away.” ~ Author Unknown

And I’d love to share one of my favorite songs here in a video clip because I love the artist, the melody and the message:

Thanks Debby for sharing your adventures in publishing which have resulted in some wonderful books, and also your plans for the future.

This is D.G. Kaye’s latest release in December 2017.

About Twenty Years: After “I Do”.

May/December memoirs.

In this personal accounting, D.G. Kaye shares the insights and wisdom she has accrued through twenty years of keeping her marriage strong and thriving despite the everyday changes and challenges of aging. Kaye reveals how a little creative planning, acceptance, and unconditional love can create a bond no obstacle will break. Kaye’s stories are informative, inspiring, and a testament to love eclipsing all when two people understand, respect, and honor their vows. She adds that a daily sprinkling of laughter is a staple in nourishing a healthy marriage.

Twenty years began with a promise. As Kaye recounts what transpired within that time, she shows that true love has no limits, even when one spouse ages ahead of the other.

Here is one of the recent reviews for the book

“Twenty Years After I Do” is a love story, all the more compelling because it is true. Kaye shines a light under the table, exposing those things many of us prefer to keep out of sight. For all of the unpleasant topics in the book, this is not a depressing journey. She doesn’t say that love concours all, but she shows us, through her own life, that it so often does. More accurately, she explains that love will help us face whatever outcome life gives us.

The author is one of the decreasing number of people who understand that marriage is “ti deathl do us part.” Staying together is not optional, it’s not a choice to be made. That choice was made with the speaking of the words, “I Do.” She shows us that love and humor are tools we can use to overcome obstacles we would have thought unsurmountable.

This is a good read. Reading it has made me feel like I’ve made a friend.
 

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B077V386TL

and Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B077V386TL

Other books by D.G. Kaye

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Read all the reviews and buy the books: http://www.amazon.com/author/dgkaye7

and Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/D.G.-Kaye/e/B00HE028FO

More reviews and follow Debby on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/dgkaye

Connect to Debby Gies

Blog: http://www.dgkayewriter.com
About me: http://www.wiseintro.co/dgkaye7
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/@pokercubster (yes there’s a story)
Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/dgkaye7
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/dgkaye
Google: http://www.google.com/+DebbyDGKayeGies
Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/dgkaye
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/dgkaye7

Debby would be delighted to receive your feedback and any questions and I will be back on Wednesday to check out the comments. Thanks for dropping in.. Sally.

Smorgasbord Blog Sitting Special – The Kelpies, a pink bus shelter and two taxi drivers by M.J. Mallon


Very pleased to hand you over to another blog sitter this afternoon. Author M.J. Mallon. (Marjorie). An adventure in Scotland when Marjorie and her mother visited the famous Kelpies on their trip to Edinburgh.

The Kelpies, a pink bus shelter and two taxi drivers by M.J. Mallon

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I’ve been longing to see the Kelpies, two enormous horse sculptures that live in Falkirk, Scotland. This had been on my bucket list of things to do whilst up in Edinburgh. Not only did I come face to face with the Kelpies I also met two entertaining taxi drivers and came across a bright pink bus shelter with no buses. Such is Scotland, it has a charm you can’t hope to find anywhere else in the world and that is why I love it so.

Mum and I set off the day after I arrived in Edinburgh. The weather seemed fair, so I wasn’t about to take any chances. In Scotland when it’s dry you go out, you don’t wait for the next day!

We travelled by train and arrived at Falkirk High hoping to take the bus to the Kelpies. As we went off in search of a bus we walked past three taxi drivers having a chat. I sensed that these three were not your ordinary run of the mill taxi drivers. The nearby bus stop had a timetable that stated a half an hour wait so mum and I decided to opt for a taxi.

This is when the fun began!

We asked the three taxi drivers if one of them could take us to see the Kelpies. They greeted us with enthusiasm, told us the price and suggested that we take the taxi at the front. It turned out that our driver had a dual career. He’d grown tired of plumbing and now worked as a taxi driver/plumber. He had a fine line of chat that could win him a job as a chat show host or a comedian at the Edinburgh Fringe. I’m not joking! His banter started as soon as we asked him the price to take us to the Kelpies. He said Scottish folk get a special rate of six or seven pounds but the English have to pay ten. Obviously, he had heard I live in Cambridge!

Thereafter, his commentary continued in a steady flow of detail about local tourist attractions such as Callandar House – Visit Scotland, as well as unexpected details such as taxi drivers not being able to use the toilet in the station. But, his pièce de résistance came in force towards the end of the journey. He suddenly waved his mobile at us, revealing a photo of him in a kilt. Obviously, this must have been set to that exact spot on his mobile for effect. I have to say he cut a very fine figure in his kilt! Mum and I were gob smacked. I have never had a taxi driver show me a photo of himself in a kilt before and this is when the conversation took an unexpected direction. He mentioned his surname, (which I’ll keep to myself,) and asked us if we knew how to check whether a kilt belonged to a McDonald clan member. We said no. His exact words escape me but he said something like: ‘You put your hands up the kilt, and if there are two quarter pounders up there, then you have your answer.’ We had to laugh at his crude joke – there was nothing else we could do!

Mr Kelpie reared up in shock!

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Thereafter, he mentioned how he always wore his kilt during the festival. Mum asked him what he did whilst wearing his kilt during this busy time and he replied, ‘I get pissed.’

What a laugh! Oh my goodness, we were nearly there! The Kelpies were in sight.

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He dropped us off and suggested that he could pick us up on the way back from the pink bus shelter and gave us his business card with his plumbing details on one side and his taxi service on the other. We wondered what the return journey would entail…. More banter about his kilt, perhaps?….

The Kelpies were magnificent. We took lots of photos, had a lovely cup of tea and cake and wonder of wonders we sat out in the café and had a walk around before it started to rain! Soon, it would be time to go home but not before we took some more photos. My mum, bless her, isn’t a fantastic photographer – this is her photo of me and the Kelpies!

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She tried again and again and finally succeeded in taking a tiny photo of me beside the Kelpies. Unfortunately she cut one of their ears off, and the other one lost his nostrils but at least this photo gives you an indication of their mighty size!

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Here’s my mum with the Kelpies doing their thing…

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We returned to the very freshly painted bus stop shelter by the exit. A large poster said THERE ARE NO BUSES FROM THIS STOP (another peculiarity of Falkirk, a bus shelter posing as a bus stop with no hint of a bus in sight.) The nearest bus stop was at Falkirk Stadium. I wondered how far away this could be… a football kick away? Five minutes, or a mile? I asked a local lad directing traffic for advice and he said it was twenty minutes’ walk. This would have been great if it had been just me but my mum is getting older and a younger person’s twenty minutes’ walk is more like an elderly person’s mini marathon so we decided to get a taxi. The young man offered to book us a taxi so we accepted his kind offer. Of course this meant that we didn’t have a return trip with our taxi driver/cum plumber/kilt wearer which was somewhat disappointing…. But perhaps recommended!….

Our return journey taxi driver turned out to be a silent chap and mum and I sat at the back of the taxi waiting patiently for his much anticipated line of banter. I kind of missed Mr Kilt Taxi Driver but eventually Mr Strong Silent Taxi Driver spoke. He received a message telling him that his last pick up had left their phone in his taxi. Boy, the flood gates of speech opened! He said he gets the blame for stealing people’s phones and added that it was their fault as they can’t remember where they’d left their mobiles because they’re drunk. This led to a conversation about kids never admitting to doing wrong, and his daughter damaging his new flooring with her high heeled shoes. She said she didn’t do it, and his wife doesn’t wear high heels so I concluded that if his daughter and his wife are innocent then he must be a Taxi Driving Cross Dresser! But, of course I didn’t dare mention that to him as he was a big burly bloke who probably wouldn’t be seen dead in a dress or a kilt.

So, what an adventure the Kelpies turned out to be! Don’t you agree?
If you’re ever in Falkirk don’t miss out, go and see the Kelpies. You must and make sure you visit the pink bus shelter and take a taxi! Who knows who you might meet?

©M.J. Mallon images 2017

About The Curse of Time: Book One – Bloodstone – a YA fantasy and science fiction adventure.

On Amelina Scott’s thirteenth birthday, her father disappears under mysterious circumstances. Saddened by this traumatic event, she pieces together details of a curse that has stricken the heart and soul of her family.

Amelina longs for someone to confide in. Her once carefree mother has become angry and despondent. One day a strange black cat and a young girl, named Esme appear. Immediately, Esme becomes the sister Amelina never had. The only catch is that Esme must remain a prisoner, living within the mirrors of Amelina’s house.

Dreams and a puzzling invitation convince Amelina the answer to her family’s troubles lies within the walls of the illusive Crystal Cottage. Undaunted by her mother’s warnings, Amelina searches for the cottage on an isolated Cambridgeshire pathway where she encounters a charismatic young man, named Ryder. At the right moment, he steps out of the shadows, rescuing her from the unwanted attention of two male troublemakers.

With the help of an enchanted paint set, Amelina meets the eccentric owner of the cottage, Leanne, who instructs her in the art of crystal magic. In time, she earns the right to use three wizard stones. The first awakens her spirit to discover a time of legends, and later, leads her to the Bloodstone, the supreme cleansing crystal which has the power to restore the balance of time. Will Amelina find the power to set her family free?

A YA/middle grade fantasy set in Cambridge, England exploring various themes/aspects: Light, darkness, time, shadows, a curse, magic, deception, crystals, art, poetry, friendships, teen relationships, eating disorders, self-harm, anxiety, depression, family, puzzles, mystery, a black cat, music, a mix of sadness, counterbalanced by a touch of humour.

One of the reviews for the book on Goodreads

Nov 19, 2017 Shelley Wilson November 19th 2017

The Curse of Time is a young adult fantasy novel set in Cambridge, England.

This book has a complex mix of themes running through it, and at times my head did spin as I tried to keep up. Amelina is a likeable character. She receives enchanted gifts and dreams about an elusive cottage. Her parents can’t offer her the support she needs, and instead, she turns to Esme, a friend who lives in the mirror.

As a qualified crystal therapist, I liked the inclusion of crystals throughout the story.

Our clasped hands shook with fear. I waited, afraid to witness the effect the Black Obsidian would have on my friends and me next. Our eyes met, and we strengthened our hold, clasping our hands tighter. The blackness of the moment grew. A flowing ribbon of dark, velvety light encircled our hands and bound our palms together sealing our bond.

There is also a strong personal development theme running through the book which I enjoyed.

As with all coming-of-age stories, Amelina grows as the story unfold. Learning who to trust, and how to use her gifts.  Enjoyable novel.

 Read the other reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B074CDJPY9

And on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/M-J-Mallon/e/B074CGNK4L

Follow M.J. Mallon on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17064826.M_J_Mallon

About M.J. Mallon

I am a debut author who has been blogging for three years: https://mjmallon.com. My interests include writing, photography, poetry, and alternative therapies. I write Fantasy YA, and middle grade fiction as well as micropoetry – haiku and tanka. I love to read and have written over 100 reviews: https://mjmallon.com/2015/09/28/a-z-o…

My alter ego is MJ – Mary Jane from Spiderman. I love superheros! I was born on the 17th of November in Lion City: Singapore, (a passionate Scorpio, with the Chinese Zodiac sign a lucky rabbit,) second child and only daughter to my proud parents Paula and Ronald. I grew up in a mountainous court in the Peak District in Hong Kong with my elder brother Donald. My parents dragged me away from my exotic childhood and my much loved dog Topsy to the frozen wastelands of Scotland. In bonnie Edinburgh I mastered Scottish country dancing, and a whole new Och Aye lingo.

As a teenager I travelled to many far-flung destinations to visit my abacus wielding wayfarer dad. It’s rumoured that I now live in the Venice of Cambridge, with my six foot hunk of a Rock God husband, and my two enchanted daughters.

After such an upbringing my author’s mind has taken total leave of its senses! When I’m not writing, I eat exotic delicacies while belly dancing, or surf to the far reaches of the moon. To chill out, I practise Tai Chi. If the mood takes me I snorkel with mermaids, or sign up for idyllic holidays with the Chinese Unicorn, whose magnificent voice sings like a thousand wind chimes.

Connect to Marjorie Mallon

website: https://mjmallon.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Marjorie_Mallon
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marjorie.mallon

My thanks to Marjories for sharing her day out and I would certainly love to visit these magnificent statues. I am sure that Marjorie would love to receive your feedback. thanks Sally

 

Smorgasbord Blog Sitting Special – Top Ten Things Not to Do If You Have a Winning Mega Millions Ticket by John W. Howell


The entertaining John W. Howell is going to share what not to do if you suddenly come into a windfall.. such as the mega-millions from a lottery win… I am off to spend my fiver!

Top Ten things not to do

Top Ten Things Not to Do If You Have a Winning Mega Millions Ticket by John W. Howell

The inspiration for this post is the fact that this week there were single winning tickets sold for the Mega Millions and Powerball Lotto games. You and I don’t have to worry about how to handle these winnings so I guess this post is dedicated to those two winners of over $400 million each.

10 If you have a winning Mega Millions ticket, do not tweet “Yay I just won $400 million. If you do at best, you’ll only have ten followers. At worst, your tweet will go viral, and you will now have a million close and personal friends. (Looks like everyone needs a loan huh, Carmichael?)

9 If you have a winning Mega Millions ticket, do not hire Tiny the WWF champ as a bodyguard. If you do, at best you’ll have to hire another to watch Tiny. At worst, Tiny will not be able to resist helping himself to your winnings even though he is a graduate of an intensive self-help course for kleptomaniacs. (You should have known when he showed up at your door offering his services, Carswell.)

8 If you have a winning Mega Millions ticket, do not give a press conference on national TV. If you do, at best it will take you hours to get home because of the traffic jam around your house. At worst, you will be asked for money everyplace you go since you are now well-known. (Who’s bright idea was that conference, Casimero? Oh yeah the lotto company.)

7 If you have a winning Mega Millions ticket, do not answer your phone. If you do, at best it might be your aunt, Mary. At worst, it will be your cousin Vinny reminding you of the five dollar bet you had back in high school. (Vinny believes that the interest on the bet now makes it worth $500,000. Told you not to answer the phone, Cassian.)

6 If you have a winning Mega Millions ticket, do not claim your prize without consulting a tax attorney. If you do, at best you can afford the tax hit. At worst, the new tax laws will put you in a bracket called the 110 percent bracket. (Good luck in raising the extra $4o million you owe, Caster.)

5 If you have a winning Mega Million ticket, do not go out and buy everything on the planet. If you do, at best you’ll come to your senses while there is still money left. At worst, you’ll realize too late that there is no return guarantee on yachts, planes, castles, jewelry, and art. (Now that you have all this stuff, Cavan maybe it is time for a garage sale.)

4 If you have a winning Mega Million ticket, do not let the ticket out of your sight. If you do, at best it will still be where you left it last. At worst, the ticket will ride in your shirt pocket through the wash. (Those tickets sure come out clean don’t they, Chadburn? You would hardly know it used to be worth $400 million.)

3 If you have a winning Mega Million ticket, do not quit work. If you do, at best the ticket is genuine. At worst, though some computer error your ticket is not the winner. (So much for telling the boss where he could shove your job, huh Chiko?)

2 If you have the winning Mega Millions ticket, do not forget to look both ways before crossing the street. If you do, at best the traffic will be light. At worst, your heirs will be enjoying the fruit of your lotto win. (Hard to tell where that truck came from right, Cal?)

1 If you have the winning Mega Millions ticket, do not fail to set aside some for charity. If you do at best, you’ll be labeled a cheap skate. At worst, you won’t get a charitable deduction, and the world will be no better off having you in it. (You wonder why dogs growl and cats hiss when you come by, Scrooge?)

©John Howell 2018

$400 million. Wow…..that is some jackpot and would take a few hours of serious thought on the subject of spending it…!!! Thank you John  for sharing.  Just as a matter of interest. Have you ever won more than £100 or $100 on the Lottery? 

Here is John’s latest book

About Circumstances of Childhood.

When a former pro football star and broadcaster, now a Wall Street maven is accused of insider trading, will he be able to prove his innocence and expose those who are guilty?

Greg and his boyhood pal dreamed of big success in professional football and then later in business. Greg was the only one to live the dream. Now the founder of an investment fund Greg is faced with a routine audit finding by the SEC. The audit points to irregularities and all the tracks lead to Greg. The justice department hits him with an indictment of 23 counts of fraud, money laundering, and insider trading. His firm goes bust, and Greg is on his own.

His best friend knows he is innocent but has been ordered under penalty of eternal damnation not to help.

If you enjoy stories of riches to rags, redemption, brotherly love, and a little of the paranormal, Circumstance of Childhood will keep you riveted.

One of the recent reviews for the book

A Great Tale on January 12, 2018

If John Grisham, Dean Koontz, and Dan Brown got together and decided to collaborate on a book, Circumstances of Childhood would be the result. The book has three distinct components that John Howell blends together seamlessly.

First, there is the friendship that blossoms out of tragedy between Greg and Keith. This part of the book is reminiscent of John Grisham’s YA Theodore Boone series or Stephen King’s The Body (inspiration for the movie, Stand By Me). The book then transitions into more of a Dean Koontz vibe with some other-worldly interaction that is very poignant and fascinating. It then transitions into a fast-paced courtroom drama ala Grisham. This part of the book had me on the edge of my seat. This is then followed by some Dan Brown type computer forensics and good old-fashioned hacking intermingled with more spiritual aspects.

This is a well-rounded book that compelled me to write an email to John while sitting in the Atlanta airport reading the book to tell him I was enjoying it. I look forward to John’s next effort. This was a worthy follow-up to his John J. Cannon trilogy.

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Circumstances-Childhood-John-W-Howell-ebook/dp/B075SKWHCR

And on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Circumstances-Childhood-John-W-Howell-ebook/dp/B075SKWHCR/

Also by John W. Howell.

Buy all of the John Cannon Series and find our more about John W. Howell: https://www.amazon.com/John-W.-Howell/e/B00HMRWO6C

and on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/John-W.-Howell/e/B00HMRWO6C

Read more reviews and follow John on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7751796.John_W_Howell

Connect to John via his website: http://www.johnhowell.com

My thanks to John again and I am looking forward to your feedback.. and if you have won 100 or so on the lottery please include your address so that I can send a begging letter. Thanks Sally