Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – 20th March 2017 – Paul Andruss, Staci Troilo, Robert Marston Fanney, Annette Clark and Ed. A. Murray

Smorgasbord Blogger Daily

Doesn’t Monday come around quickly and here is the first of the Blogger Daily posts which is intended to promote bloggers. I tend to spend about an hour each day reading other bloggers posts and it is not nearly enough considering the great posts out there. However, here are just a handful which I think you will find interesting and if you would like to share your most recent post then please leave a link in the comments.

Thomas the Rhymer Paul Andruss

Writer in residence Paul Andruss has a very active and informative blog of his own and posts tales, legends and challenges our understanding of  everyday people, items around our homes and what other people tell us is true!

Unlike Otto Titzling, or even Herr Bustenhalter, the mythical inventors of the modern bra, Thomas Crapper was a real person; a plumber who opened a London bathroom fittings factory and warehouse in 1861. The quality of his porcelain ware gained him recognition in a rapidly modernising society. But it was the future Edward VI who cemented his reputation by asking him to fit the bathrooms in the newly purchased Sandringham House.

The Victorians were nothing if not social climbers and crashing snobs. What was good enough for the future king was good enough for them. Although having recently learned about the copious amounts of red meat in the upper class Edwardian diet, I think the certified robustness of Mr Crapper’s facilities must have also played a part in the choice.

Thomas Crapper is often credited with inventing the toilet.

Not true.

Read the rest of this toiletry revelation:

Staci Troilo with a post on various aspects of the review system on Amazon including the platform’s oversight on reviewers. Well worth reading.

I recently got a book review that I didn’t care for. It was a five-star review, but one of the comments was, in my opinion, way off the mark. Which got me thinking…

Why would the reviewer give the book five stars if it was lacking in some way?
Why are there not better criteria for reviews?
We need reviews as a mark of credibility, but how credible are the reviewers?

I’m not going to say which book of mine I mean or who reviewed it or what comment I didn’t like. I’m bringing all this up because I think we need to have a frank discussion about reviews. I knew I was taking that particular comment personally, so I decided to look at reviews of books I had no stake in. I looked at reviews of bestsellers. You know, books by household names that have hundreds of reviews.

Read the rest of the post:

As we welcome signs of spring there are certain parts of the United States who have experienced unprecedented summer temperatures in the last week or so which are having a critical effect on some states. Robert Marston Fanney takes a look at some of the outcomes of this unusual weather.

March Climate Madness — Wildfires, Scorching Summer Heat Strike Central and Southwestern U.S. By Winter’s End

In Colorado today the news was one of fire. There, a wildfire just south of Boulder had forced emergency officials to evacuate 1,000 residents as more than 2,000 others were put on alert Sunday. Smoke poured into neighborhoods as dead trees killed by invasive beetles or a developing drought, exploded into flames. Depleted snowpacks along the front range of the Rockies combined with temperatures in the 80s and 90s on Sunday to increase the fire risk. Thankfully, so far, there have been no reports of injuries or property loss. A relieving contrast to the massive fires recently striking Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma — where farmers and communities are still recovering.

Read the rest of the post:

As writers we treat commas dreadfully at times. We put the responsibility of making sense of our sentence and determining  the tone of our writing all upon this speck of print. The Story Reading Ape recommended this post today by Annette ClarkA Comma’s job security!

The comma stood on the corner, bleating, “Please, can someone help me? I know I belong somewhere, but I can’t quite remember where.”

Devon Taylor, copy editor, sat at the counter of the diner counter across the street and watched as passers-by skittered around the pitiful punctuation mark. They looked away determined to not notice it.

Devon (destined to become The Nib) couldn’t really blame them. Commas were notoriously slippery creatures. But there was something about this comma that made Devon think it was truly in trouble.

The editor set down the empty coffee cup and wandered across the street.

“What brings you to Conjunctionville?” Devon asked the punctuation mark.

Read the rest of the Comma’s tribulations:

For the final post this evening I have selected The quest to write the Great American Novel by author Ed A. Murray – I found it interesting as I was looking at the same question in relation to books written about the UK. All the epics that I read are set far back in history or follow families up to and during the second world war. But what do we classify as the Great British Novel now that we are so diverse in culture?  Answers on a postcard please!!  I do recommend you read this as you will also be introduced to Philipp Meyer and his two books American Rust and The Sun.

The elusive Great American Novel. You’ve heard the term. What does it mean to you? A masterful book by an American author? A story that tells a relatable tale to any American?

A few months ago I read an article in the New York Times called “Why There’s No ‘Millennial’ Novel.” The main argument, it seemed, was that America has become such a progressive and diverse country that there is no single voice that can speak for an entire generation. The author, Tony Tulathimutte, first argues that “the ‘voice of a generation’ novel never existed to begin with,” and then asks the question, “why did we ever pretend novels by straight white guys about straight white guys spoke for entire generations?”

This is a gross oversimplification. The Great American Novel exists.

Read the rest of this thought provoking post:

Don’t forget to let me know if you would like to share a recent post by putting the link in the comments section. Thanks Sally

Writer in Residence – Paul Andruss – Dorothy – My Gift from God


Dorothy – My Gift from God by Paul Andruss

Stevie Smith had her Lion Aunt. I had a work’s mum. Her name was Dorothy, which is Greek for ‘Gift of God’. Although at those times she was absolutely driving me up the wall, I could have sworn she was from a different place entirely.

Like many significant people, I cannot remember meeting her. Presumably it was day one at my new job. The first memory is Dorothy announcing I should treat her like a work’s mum. So it must have been after she’d found out she was the same age as my mother. Like mum she had her son, Paul, at the age of 23. He was a month younger than me.

At 5 foot 2, Dorothy was the same height as mum. Hard to believe as she always wore 6 inch stiletto heels. She once took her shoes off and for a horrible moment I thought the earth had opened up and swallowed her. ‘Even my slippers have heels,’ she confessed in that coy way of hers. ‘I can’t even walk in flats, they cripple me calves.’

And very shapely calves they were too Dorothy.

In fact all of Dorothy was shapely; and glamourous. Imagine if you can a mature Sophia Loren, beneath a huge pair of Nana Mouskouri glasses and a swept up lion’s mane gathered into a chignon at the neck. Lacquered to within an inch of its life, her hair added at least another 2 inches of height.

Her poitrine, as the French so delicately put it, was classic 60’s lift and separate; more suited to movies such as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes than a place of work. What an addition she would have made to those two little girls from Little Rock; the complementary red head to Russell’s brunette and Munroe’s blonde.

No man could resist Dorothy’s cheeky grin and winning ways. God knows I couldn’t, even when I could have cheerfully choked her. Like during the days she chattered all afternoon while I was desperate to get some work finished. Happily those days were few and far between – the days I would rather work than listen to her outrageous tales I mean.

My favourite was the Shirley Bassey concert when an admirer threw her a diamond bracelet. Best remembered for two James Bond themes ‘Goldfinger’ and ‘Diamonds are Forever’, Shirley Bassey didn’t just sing her songs; she lived them. Even down to crying on stage.

Dorothy skilfully pantomimed Bassey stopping; looking down in surprise; hand clutching trembling heart; picking up the token; holding the glittering bauble to a spotlight in admiration; her vehement protests and finally the reluctant acceptance. It was all probably staged but Dorothy bought the act hook, line and sinker. In much the same way I bought Dorothy’s performance. Tell you what, if Bassey had one tenth of Dorothy’s ability, I can see why she was so popular.

If men liked Dorothy, Dorothy liked men. She only tolerated other women; except for her sister and the mother she worshipped. Dorothy’s mum had been a small large woman; a homebody. Dorothy’s dad was a womaniser. Dorothy’s sister never forgave him for what he put her mum through, whereas Dorothy admired her old man.

She visited his sheltered accommodation twice a week, picking up shopping, doing his laundry, making sure he was eating and slipping him a few quid for a couple of pints and a flutter down the bookies on a Saturday afternoon. In many ways, she was the son he never had. She was certainly a chip off the old block.

Dorothy married quite young. Her husband had a serious accident when they were courting and I think it bought out her maternal side. Some years later, she met the second love of her life; Tom, a big strapping man’s man. It was love at first sight on both sides. He wanted them to run away together. But Dorothy was sensible. They both had families; kids. How could they ruin so many lives? In the end, she convinced him to do the right thing – a 25 year long affair.

I know what you are thinking, but actually I’m with Dorothy on this one. What the eye don’t see, the heart won’t grieve over. Dorothy prevented more heartache than she ever caused. And when she finally did break someone’s heart, it was not the one you think.

Dorothy and Tom’s magnificent obsession was worthy of F. Scott Fitzgerald; a love story to put Erich Segal in the shade. If love never means never having to say you’re sorry; then keep your gob shut. The only soul confession is good for, is a selfish soul. Leaving someone worse to make yourself feel better is not love. It is not even decency. Your guilt is your burden. Deal with it. If you can’t bear what you do then perhaps you shouldn’t do it.
On a lighter note, here is another remarkable coincidence. Just as I had the same name and was the same age as her son and she the same age as my mother, Tom’s wife was called Dorothy. Make of this, what you will.

Dot made me roar laughing with tales of Tom, who she ran as thoroughly as the rest of us poor dumb men. When they first started going out, she said to him. ‘If you think I’m carrying on in the back of your car you can think again!’ and made him book hotel rooms. When she realised how much it was costing him, she told him rent a small furnished flat as it was much cheaper, and it also saved the expense of nights out.

‘In the early days,’ she once confided, grinning, ‘I saw Tom three days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Then it was my husband Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. I couldn’t wait for Sundays, I was bloody knackered. It was my only night off!’

When I knew Dorothy, they were down to Friday night in the flat and every lunch time. No, nothing so strenuous I’m afraid. Every day she brought sandwiches and a flask of coffee, which they would eat in his car with her chattering or, more often than not, arguing. There were no long comfortable silences with Dorothy. If it was his wife’s birthday, Christmas or an anniversary coming up, she’d take Tom up to town to pick out a card and present for his Dorothy – as she coyly referred to his wife.

After we’d worked together some dozen or so years, Dorothy contracted lymphoma and took early retirement due to ill health. On the day she finished work she came back from lunch and told me she’d broken up with Tom. She left this tough giant of a man crying in the car.

‘But Dorothy,’ I protested, ‘why…?’

‘I’m not sneaking out of the house behind my husband’s back!’

‘But …’

But nothing! Dorothy was implacable. She never saw Tom again.

I fared better. But then, I was her son. We kept in touch for all the years it took the cancer to finally kill her. The chemo hit her hard. It left her heart so weak, they couldn’t give her anymore. During that time I had moved away, so it was only phone calls, birthday and Christmas cards, and thank God for Interflora!

One day her husband phoned to say Dorothy had died. ‘She was a little old woman in the end,’ he told me. ‘You wouldn’t have recognised her.’

Stupid isn’t it. After all these years I’m still filling up. But you know what, I’m glad I never saw her. Dorothy was no little old woman. Dorothy was a glamazon, a monster, a fiend, a friend and a thoroughly guilty pleasure. She was also the woman who met me in the corridor one day as I was coming back from a meeting, took me in the office, sat me down, and said…

‘There’s just been a phone call love. It was your brother. Your mama’s dead.’

She offered me a cigarette (I’d just spent 6 months giving up) and a cup of tea; then held my hand waiting for whatever came next.

A few months later a colleague said Dorothy went into the general office as soon as I left and gave them a grisly blow by blow account, freely inventing those details she felt I had overlooked in my grief – such as wailing like a banshee. Maybe they wanted to get her into trouble, but I howled with laughter. How can you resent someone for being so totally and unashamedly themselves? Bloody Dot eh? What a liberty. I felt better than I had in weeks.

As a writer I realise that you can’t make up a character with as many contradictions as Dorothy. If she was in a novel there would be no room for anything else. And in the end I think that’s what this is all about. This remembrance is not just for my Dorothy, but all our Dorothys. For like it or lump it, one way or another, we are all friends of Dorothy.

I don’t know if there is an afterlife. But I do believe nobody really dies until they are forgotten. Though Dorothy was as seductive as Cleopatra and as frightening as Attila the Hun, history won’t remember her because history never knew her. In the great scheme of things she did nothing of note. And that goes for all our Dorothys. So if that’s the case, why are we now thinking of all the remarkable things they ever said or did?
©Paul Andruss 2017

Have you had a Dorothy in your life ?. I had one but she was called Betty and like Dorothy was actually quite tiny when she too off her six inch heels.. But she taught me a lot about life from the age of 14 when I started working in a souvenier kiosk along Southsea seafront until I was 18.   Once met never forgotten.. tell us your story in the comments.


Finn Mac Cool

About Paul Andruss

If I were a musician I would be Kate Bush or the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson; but without the mental issues or dependency on prescription drugs. For Brian not Kate! I can talk about anything except myself, so let’s talk about my work.

I’ve written 4 novels, Finn Mac Cool, and the (Harry-Potteresque) Jack Hughes Trilogy. ‘Finn Mac Cool’ and ‘Thomas the Rhymer’ are available for free download. Hint! Hint!

Thomas the RhymerAbout Thomas the Rhymer.

11 year old British schoolboy, Jack Hughes, sees a fairy queen kidnap his brother. With friends Catherine & Ken, Jack embarks on a whirlwind adventure to return Thomas the Rhymer to fairyland & rescue his brother

What’s been said about … Thomas the Rhymer

‘Fans of Harry Potter & Narnia will love Thomas the Rhymer’

‘Thomas the Rhymer leaves you feeling like a child curled up in a comfy armchair on a wet & windy afternoon, lost in a good book’

‘Spellbinding! An ideal Christmas read for young & old alike!’

Download Free from Paul’s website:

Connect to Paul

Facebook Page:

Please find the previous posts from Paul in this directory.. you won’t be disappointed.

My thanks to Paul for this wonderful story of a woman who knew how to make an impression and who once met would not be forgotten.

Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – 6th March 2017 – Skin cancer, Bullies, Local History, Book Marketing, Book Reviewing

Smorgasbord Blogger Daily

Welcome to a selection of blog posts that I read over the weekend. To begin with a very important message from author Taylor Evan Fulks about skin cancer. Some of the photos are very graphic but that just intensifies this very important message.


Here is an extract from the post and I do urge you to head over and read it all.

I guess you could say I’m going for the shock factor…In my writing and in life, I believe that’s all this society understands. We’ve become so desensitized about everything, so, unless it’s in your face (no pun intended) people don’t get it.

Anyway, this post encompasses valuable information that may in fact, save your life or the life of someone you love. So I urge you to take a moment to read this, look at the pictures, then go and inspect your own body and/or the body of someone you care about.

Read the rest of this important message:

Thomas the Rhymer

If you are regular reader of the blog you will have seen that Paul Andruss is contributing exclusive articles that are proving very popular. In his spare time!!!  He also has a terrific blog of his own and today he shares another extract from his book Thomas the Rhymer that I am currently reading. This is a chapter that is also graced by one of Donata Zawadzka’s stunning illustrations.

Extract from Thomas the Rhymer – Chapter 6: Yesterday upon the Stair

Reaching the park Jack began to feel nervous in case the beautiful lady appeared, or worse, the tramp. Sensing his discomfort, Catherine was sympathetic, “Jack, we do not have to go this way.”

“What do you mean?” he asked defensively.

“Nobody would go all the way to Smithdown Road unless there was good reason. Sometimes they call me names. Once or twice they chased me. I know where they hang around now and avoid them.”

“It’s nothing like that!” he protested.

When she looked unconvinced, Jack kept his mouth shut. Not feeling up to persuading her otherwise, he let her take him through the park. It was not long before he heard some shouting, and wondering what it was all about looked back before she could stop him. Recognising a gang of older lads from school, he realised they were probably the very ones Catherine meant.

Read the rest of the extract and links to Download Thomas the Rhymer for FREE:


Read the reviews and buy the book:

Marsha Ingrao was approached to write a non-fiction book about her hometown Woodlake in California. Sceptical at first, little did she realise that it would turn into such a wonderful community project and successful publishing venture. Definitely worth reading if you are planning on writing a local history book. Recommended to me by Tina Frisco –

What Would You Do with an Email about a Possible Nonfiction Book Contract?

Who knows why I didn’t delete Ginny’s email on Wednesday, May 28, 2014. She asked me if I wanted a nonfiction book contract to write a book about Woodlake, CA. It sounded like a spam email. Did I want to write a nonfiction book? Did I want a successful blog? Did I want 1,000 more readers each month? Did I want to make $100,000 a year with my blog the first year?  Come on! Really?

Read the rest of this very interesting post:


Lucinda E. Clarke with a request for your opinion about book marketing. As she notes in this post today, we are inundated by expert opinion on how to market our books and also improve our blogging experience. But are we flogging a dead horse!

I have come to the following conclusion.

Not all books that hit the charts are good.

A lot of excellent books never sell.

You can become a NYT bestseller by targeting carefully and working the system.

What is the difference?

Marketing – which equals getting your book/s out there and VISIBLE, really VISIBLE.

Now before you read any further don’t think for a moment that I am whining. I applaud and admire those people who have the marketing skill. I may or may not write good books, depending on your point of view (you can see them below!) but I ain’t got the marketing skill, nor do I have the money to pay some person or organisation to do it for me. I cannot even railroad DH into doing any of it either. (you may say aaaah here)

I receive dozens of blogs each week telling me how only Facebook ads work, no, wait, it’s Amazon adds that do the trick.

Read the rest of this thought provoking post and add your views:


My TBR is leaning agains my bookshelves currently. Entirely my own fault as a bookshop both real and virtual is like a sweet shop to a chocoholic.. (I am one of those as well but for another day).. I have had to turn down several requests to review books recently. I hate to offend but I have chosen to promote authors in a different way by showcasing them and their books in my various blog series. I have made a commitment to read those books currently on my TBR albeit a little slowly and they will appear from time to time.

Rosie Amber tackles the issue of requests for book reviews in her post. Much of what Rosie highlights also applies to those requesting book promotions.

Do you keep submitting your books to bloggers, but are yet to have them reply with a ‘yes, I’d be happy to review it?’. Book bloggers do get snowed under, and sometimes state on their blogs that they’re currently closed for submissions. What if this is not the case, though, but you still keep getting a ‘thanks, but no thanks’, or no reply at all?

Find out what those ten reasons might be:

I hope that you have enjoyed the first Blogger Daily of the week and please feel free to include the link to your latest post in the comments section. Thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – 3rd March 2017 – Gratitude, Ziggy Stardust, Spam emails, Tailorbirds and World Book Day

Smorgasbord Blogger Daily

Welcome to today’s selection of blog posts that I would like to share with you.


The first post is one that made me realise that I am very lucky to have never faced leaving a young family behind because of illness. Only adding to the horrendous stress of facing a life-threatening disease, not once but three times.. This was posted by Patricia Salamone yesterday and I think will make us all give thanks.


I lay in the hospital bed at Columbia Presbyterian in New York. It is ten thirty pm., and the nurses continue to give me enemas to clean out my colon. I can barely walk at this point and tell the nurse this is the last one. I feel like my legs won’t last another trip to the bathroom. The enemas stop and I am left with my thoughts about tomorrow morning. Will it be the last morning for me, will I never see my children again or my family for that matter. I left instructions with my husband and my sisters, they were trying to encourage me but with tears in their eyes. My children were four, nine and eleven. They needed me.

Read the rest of this thought provoking post:

Thomas the Rhymer

For those of you who enjoyed the blog sitting posts by Paul Andruss, here is a post from his own blog that fans of 1960s music and David Bowie with enjoy. An intimate, behind the scenes, story of the rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust. Here is the link to part one that I suggest you read first.

America was not going well for Ziggy and the Spiders. The major cities took them to heart. They performed sell out concerts at New York’s Radio City Music Hall and Santa Monica (broadcast by a local radio station, it became one of the era’s most desired bootlegs). Yet Middle-America proved harder to break. Concerts were poorly attended.

Shows at Dallas, Houston and Oklahoma City were cancelled because of poor ticket sales. At St Louis there were 180 people in an 11,000 capacity hall – calling them down to the front David delighted fans with an intimate chatty performance. Seattle saw only 400 and Phoenix 200. In Phoenix David played ‘Drive in Saturday’ for the first time. This was his follow-up single for Mott the Hoople. He had already presented them with ‘All the Young Dudes’, giving them a huge hit.

Read the rest of the post:


Next a problem that many bloggers face when someone feels that they can take advantage of your work and branding to aid their own. Debby Gies tackles the unsolicited emails from strangers implying a love for your blog and a desire to be a part of it.  I get particularly irritated when people email without using my name which is clearly prominent on my blog and posts. A giveaway that they have never been near it. Thankfully 99% of those who do contact me are bonafide and not a problem but recently I had a very persistent approach from a guy who would not take no for an answer.  Here are some elements to look out for courtesy of Debby.

I’ve noticed in these part 6 months as I began my author guest post series and after being invited to other writer’s blogs to guest appear that my website had garnered a lot more attention. This has been great, but like everything else in this world of technology, when more people become aware of our blogs, we also tend to attract more attention from spammers and/or people requesting to be on our blogs. 

Read the rest of this useful post:

Smorgasbord Blogger Daily

I am drawn to photography blogs especially when they feature images of nature. With our worldwide Internet we have access to the wonders of nature across the globe and here is a new blog to me. Aditya Singh has some amazing bird posts.

About the Tailorbird

It has a rosy crown, red eyes, its beak is long and curved, the body is greenish from above with greyish brown wings and the underbody is whitish. The tail is long and it grows longer in the breeding season.

Behavior: It eats tiny insects that dwell under leaves and in the bushes. I have even seen one clinging on to a stone wall / concrete wall and picking insects from the tiny crevices with millimeter precision.

Find out more about this beautiful little bird:

Jessica Norrie

And now a Friday regular contributor.. Jessica Norrie with her thoughts on World Book Day this week.  We had something similar at school 50 years ago which involved swapping our favourite book with a classmate and keeping for a week and writing an essay.. No costumes but some interesting reads.

I support everything World Book Day stands for. Who wouldn’t want to support reading, advance literacy, encourage authors and readers, swell the book borrowing and buying audience of all ages and races? Do you sense a BUT coming? It’s only a small one.

 The schools I taught in and the ones where my children went celebrated World Book Day. One way to do this was by inviting the children and staff to dress up. (Fortunately for you, ex colleagues, I’ve lost the photos.) For me as a parent it was, mostly, fun deciding with the children who they would dress up as, how to put together the costumes, working out the inevitable challenges (Babar’s ears, Pirate Pete’s parrot). Some of that time I was working from home as a translator; at others I had access to my own school library and stationery cupboard which clearly did make my challenge easier. Even so, making a costume at home, if the school gives you enough notice, is not usually difficult.

 Find out more and share you thoughts on World Book Day:

Thanks for stopping by and I am sure you will enjoy reading the full posts of these talented bloggers. Please remember to leave the link for your most recent post in the comments. Thanks Sally

Reblog – Paul Andruss celebrating the work of Illustrator Donata Zawadzka.

Here is an extract from Paul’s post today celebrating the work of illustrator Donata Zawakska.

Wrapped in Light was the second drawing Dona did for Thomas the Rhymer. This time I wasn’t shocked because I knew what her remarkable talent could bring to the book. But I was still delighted by her creativity and insight.

If you look at Dona’s Fairy Queen Sylvie, there is something not quite human about her. The beauty is other worldly. This is due to what Dona cleverly did with the spacing of Sylvie’s eyes. The other thing that Dona instinctively grasped was the Celtic costume and the runic symbols Sylvie is standing over – almost as if they are carrying her.


Read and extract from Thomas the Rhymer and discover more about Donata:

If you are looking for an illustrator for your books you will find details in my author services directory for Donata.. but here is a reminder of her links.

Buy her work




Smorgasbord Weekly Round Up – Rum Cocktails, Blog Sitters and all that Jazz


I have had a lovely week with a birthday and Valentine’s Day and I am now about to pack my bags to head off for a girls week with my two sisters to celebrate all our birthdays which all fall in February. I will report on the activities they have planned on my return… at least those I can talk about!

I got very excited when I read the headlines in the Daily Mail online yesterday that promised hotter temperatures than Spain with a high of 16 degrees and sunshine.. As I was planning what to pack, I thought I better check a more reliable source than the DM!  Sure enough, apart from a couple of days with a glimpse of yellow behind the clouds there is a 45 – 55% of rain all week and a high of 10 or 11.

I have put away my swimsuit, shorts and flip flops again in the attic with the other summer clothes that I fear may never see the light of day again.

However, all is not lost as David bought me a therapy lamp with safe tanning for my birthday. I have been using as advised and retire upstairs to the spare bedroom and don goggles, my iPod and pretend for 15 minutes that I am on a tropical island on a sandy beach. It was not quite there…. but David solved that by buying a bottle of rum, and a dram of that in my coconut water and Bob’s your uncle.. (please drink responsibly with only one cocktail per tanning session and only at sundown)


I was going to put up a few regular posts during my absence just to keep things ticking over. I then thought that it seemed a shame not to use this as an opportunity to promote a few of my blogging friends and so posted a part-time blog sitter vacancy.

I know how busy everyone is with their own blog and projects so was very grateful to receive a wonderful response to the advert.  I have put together a programme of events for the week that I am away beginning Tuesday with posts from this group of talent writers.

Paul Andruss, Tina Frisco, Colin Chappell, Debby Gies, William Price King, Geoff Le Pard, Noelle Granger, Susan M. Toy, Mary Smith, Robbie Cheadle, John W. Howell and Linda Bethea.

The full programme details can be found here:

Time for some of the posts you might have missed during the week.

William Price King – Leontyne Price

classical music

As always my thanks to William Price King for his weekly music post and this week we follow the career and performances of Leontyne Price during the 1960s. Look out for William’s Creative Artist Interview on Wednesday March 1st.  It is an interactive interview and I hope that you will drop in and ask William questions about his life and career in the comments.

Paul Andruss

Thomas the Rhymer

Although Paul has contributed articles for the blog over the last couple of months I was delighted when he accepted my invitation to be a regular contributor going forward.. This is his official first post as Writer in Residence.

Personal Stuff

A short story for Valentine’s Day.. about love.. of course..

Weekly Image and Haiku


Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Author Update

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glimpsesCover Art by Jon Hunsinger51abcfiqqgl-_uy250_

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – New on the Shelves







Smorgasbord Blogger Daily showcasing 25 bloggers and their posts.


Smorgasbord Health 2017Seasonal Affective Disorder

Food to pep you up a bit.. and not just for Valentines Day.

New series – Top to Toe – The Human Body – The Brain

A -Z of Common Conditions… nothing more common than the cold!



That’s me done for the week.. It is a bit early for a rum and coconut juice but I might take a cup of coffee up with me to the tropical paradise and listen to some calypsos!

N.B. If you would like to promote your books and blog here on Smorgasbord the details are here. If you contact me and I don’t respond immediately don’t worry I will get back to you on my return after 28th of Feb.

Thanks for dropping by and see some of you tomorrow for a few of the regular promotions before I head off.

Smorgasbord Blog Sitting Special 21st – 28th February – Programme of Events

blog-sittingNormally when I go away for a week I will leave a few regular posts scheduled and pop in from time to time. However, this time it struck me that an empty blog might be put to better use by sharing book and blog promotions.

When I advertised the part-time position of blog sitter, I had no idea that I would get such an amazing response, since I know how busy everybody is with their own blogs.  A special thanks to Paul Andruss for opening up his archives and providing seven posts for the Blog Sitting at Midnight slot all week.

There will be some regulars for you on Monday including the the second of the Top to Toe look at our major organs..The Brain part two… a Bookstore New on the Shelves and a Cafe and Bookstore Update.. Then from Tuesday it is over to you!

For your delectation… here is the programme of events for the week 21st – 28th February – Blog Sitting Specials

Tuesday 21st

Paul Andruss – The Conquerors

Tina Frisco – Time is an Illusion

Cafe and Bookstore – New on the Shelves – Lucy Brazier – First Lady of the Keys

Colin Chappell – Time for some Laffs – Thermodynamics of Hell and Cats vs. Pills.

Wednesday 22nd

Paul Andruss – Raft of the Meduse

William Price King – Finale of the Leontyne Price Series.

D.G.Kaye (Debby Gies) – I Spy

Afternoon Video.

Thursday 23rd

Paul Andruss – Walk on the Wild Side

Cafe and Bookstore Collaborative Anthology – Love in Times of War

Geoff Le Pard – A Wartime Romance

Tina Frisco – Time for some Laffs – Some Lessons in Management.

Friday 24th

Paul Andruss – Of Cabbages and Kings

Top to Toe – The Brain Part Three

N.A. Granger (Noelle Granger) – Maine is a Happy State.

Afternoon Video

Saturday 25th.

Paul Andruss – Cottingley Fairies

Weekly Image and Haiku – Midday Sun

Susan M. Toy – Sisters

Sunday 26th

Paul Andruss – Rosabelle: B.E.L.I.E.V.E

Mary Smith – Afghan Ceilidh

Monday 27th

Paul Andruss – Devil in Devon

Top to Toe – The Heart

Robbie Cheadle – Seven Ice-Cream Rainbow Fairies and Seven Fantasy Books.

Tuesday 28th

John Howell – My Sister

Linda Bethea – The Sinful Suitcase and the Common-Law Cows.

Afternoon video.

My thanks for the terrific posts that everyone has contributed and I hope those of you who drop in during the week will enjoy as much as I have when reading them.

I will be popping from time to time to make sure that everything has been scheduled okay.. hope to see you here. Thanks Sally

Writer in residence – Paul Andruss – Or the Horse Might Talk


Anton Pieck 1895- 1987

(Anton Pieck Museum, Hattem, Netherlands)

After sending a post to Sally, she wrote back asking if I fancied a regular guest spot on Smorgasboard – Variety is the Spice of Life. My blood ran cold as I read her words. I couldn’t write back. I couldn’t even think. I’d start then stop, struggling to answer. I was torn. Like a heroine in some Victorian melodrama, it was all…

But I can’t pay the rent

But I must pay the rent

But I can’t pay the rent

But I must…

In my heart I knew, just like our heroine, I would end up thinking… Blow the rent I’m off t’ hen party up Blackpool!

But knowing what you want to do is never really the hard part, is it? It’s convincing yourself you’re able to do it. It’s not dismissing things out of hand just because you’re scared of failing.

I woke in a cold sweat 8 am Sunday. I know it doesn’t sound much, but 8 o’clock on a Sunday morning for me is like the middle of the night for normal people. Why is it when you sit down at your computer to write something, you dry up? But come some God forsaken sleepless hour you can’t stop thinking?

The French philosopher René Descartes, ‘I think therefore I am’ (as opposed to Earnest Hemmingway – I drink therefore I am. For heaven’s sake stop it with the Hemmingway jokes. There are plenty of other alcoholic authors you know.) René said he did his best work in bed, claimed lying flat helped the blood rush to his brain. Let’s face it, if it rushed to the place we all first thought of, he would have been known for something a lot spicier than ‘I think therefore I am!

In those wee small hours…

(8 o’clock – wee small hours! Come on! Really? Some people have done a day’s work by then!)

Alright! IN THE BRIGHT EARLY MORNING – all that kept running through my mind was I’ve never done this before; never written to a schedule, much less an external one. What if I ran out of things to say? What if I was a fake and everything up to this point a fluke? Then I remembered of my ‘work’s mum’ Dorothy (more of her another time).

Once in a vain attempt to forestall an argument I snapped, ‘When all’s said and done Dorothy!’ She turned on me with a withering look. Or was it pity? Sometimes you couldn’t tell with Dorothy. But I knew exactly what she was thinking.

Dot could hold a grudge for Britain. In her eyes, nothing was ever done and there was always plenty more left to say. She had the ability to turn the coldest dead ash into a whole new conflagration. I almost said unique ability, but sadly the more I see of people the more I realise there is nothing unique about it. With no sense of irony, one of her favourite expressions was, ‘(insert name)… could cause murder in an empty house!’

Then it dawned, Dorothy had a point. She usually did.

There is always something to say. It’s what we humans do. We talk incessantly and often nonsensically, as though compelled by evolution to fill the void. It seems the only word that stops conversation dead is ‘no’. After ‘no’ there is nowhere left to go. So why, when in crisis, is it one of our favourite words?

That, my dear, is down to fear. That complicated set of visceral instincts designed over billions of years to preserve us from physical danger. But not, I hasten to add, the million and one things we hesitate to do as modern urbanites because we’re worried about looking foolish or worse, failing. This is why life coaches tell us to stop before saying ‘No’. Count to five or even ten and then force out a strangled ‘Yes’.

Chairman Mao once said, ‘A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step’. Which was my next thought lying in bed on that frantic Sunday morning. Yes is like that single step. You don’t know where it will take you, or even if you’ll ever get where you want to be. But it opens up a world of directions.

And just to whack the point home with a great big stick, I then remembered this story. I’m not too sure of its origin. It sounds like something from the Arabian nights, but I’m pretty sure it’s not. It was probably made up by some unscrupulous raconteur.

Wot? Wot are you looking at me like that for?

It about a thief in old Bagdad – you know as in pre-Saddam days. Taken before the Calif to be sentenced to death, he shouted out, even before his judge could speak, ‘Spare me for a year and I’ll teach a horse to talk.’

The calif was so intrigued, he agreed, ordering the prisoner comfortably lodged and fed while he performed this miracle.

As the thief was led away another condemned man sneered. ‘And how on earth are you going to do that?’

‘A lot can happen in a year, friend,’ the thief serenely replied. ‘The Calif might die. The horse might die. I might die. Or, who knows, the horse might talk.*

And suddenly I had the first post.

*The thief did indeed teach the horse to talk. In the early 20th century, its descendants migrated to the United States, where 50 years later one landed the starring role in the popular TV show ‘Mister Ed’.

©Paul Andruss 2017

Finn Mac Cool

Thankfully Paul saw reason and accepted my invitation…. You will have enjoyed a number of his previous posts before accepting this full time position…I have not promised any remuneration so I do hope that you will show your appreciation by following Paul’s blog and reading his books.. here is more about our Writer in Residence.

Thomas the Rhymer

If I were a musician I would be Kate Bush or the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson; but without the mental issues or dependency on prescription drugs. For Brian not Kate! I can talk about anything except myself, so let’s talk about my work.

I’ve written 4 novels, Finn Mac Cool, and the (Harry-Potteresque) Jack Hughes Trilogy. ‘Finn Mac Cool’ and ‘Thomas the Rhymer’ are available for free download. Hint! Hint!

About Thomas the Rhymer.

11 year old British schoolboy, Jack Hughes, sees a fairy queen kidnap his brother. With friends Catherine & Ken, Jack embarks on a whirlwind adventure to return Thomas the Rhymer to fairyland & rescue his brother

What’s been said about … Thomas the Rhymer

‘Fans of Harry Potter & Narnia will love Thomas the Rhymer’

‘Thomas the Rhymer leaves you feeling like a child curled up in a comfy armchair on a wet & windy afternoon, lost in a good book’

‘Spellbinding! An ideal Christmas read for young & old alike!’

Download Free from Paul’s website:

Connect to Paul

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Please find the previous posts from Paul in this directory.. you won’t be disappointed.

Guest Writer – The Birch Maiden by Paul Andruss – Illustrated by Donata Zawadzka

picture1The Legend

The Birch Maiden is a Scottish folktale about a beautiful fairy inhabiting a birch tree. One evening she is tempted by a basket of apples left on the ground by soldiers sleeping in the grove. One young handsome soldier awakens, and seeing her is instantly smitten. When discovered, the shy creature flees into her tree, which only makes the soldier desire her more. Eventually he learns of a way of making the fairy maid fall in love with him and she forsakes her tree to become his bride.

Here the story takes various twists and turns depending on the tradition that preserved it. Popular tales are rarely straight forward. Stories diverge due to being passed down for hundreds of years within the families of professional storytellers, from father to son. No doubt, some versions are embellished with orphaned fragments of otherwise forgotten tales.

Sometimes the fairy can only be freed if the soldier speaks her name three times under a waxing moon. Cunningly the soldier learns her name by hiding in the woods and listening to her sisters as they dance and sing in the glade. In this version the maid may sicken and die when she forsakes her tree for a mortal man’s love. In other versions she loses her memory, until one day she learns, from the song of a tame robin, her tree is dying and abandons her husband to resume her former life in the wildwood.

In darker versions, the soldier tempts her with an enchanted apple, obtained from a witch (sometimes the forest queen in disguise); traded for an impetuous promise to sacrifice what loves him most. He forgets to warn his wife to send out his favourite hound to greet him when he comes home from war. Thus his wife, or young daughter, is condemned to return to the tree, and the soldier learns the harsh penalty of trafficking with fairies.

The History

The Birch Maiden is reminiscent of ancient Greek tree-nymphs called dryads and hamadryads. The difference between the two is hamadryads die if their tree is harmed.
The word nymph requires explanation. Nymphs are girls of marriageable age. In ancient and medieval times, a girl was married off as soon as she was sexually mature, often around the age of 11. The classical world seeing women as inferior, and somewhat feral, feared their unbridled sexual appetite; which could only be contained in marriage.

Wild women such as Dryads and Maenads were viewed as sexual predators because they existed outside the civilised boundaries set by men. To be fair, the women followers of the wine god Bacchus, called Maenads, were pretty mean drunks who tended to rip blokes limb from limb after a night on the old Lambrini. But then again, with attitudes like that maybe the men deserved it. The Ancient Greeks were not half as trendy as we like to think.

Finding Grecian tree-nymphs at the northern edge of Europe is not surprising when considering the migrations of peoples during ancient times. An Irish tribe called the Scottii gave Scotland its name when they settled in the east by Hadrian’s Wall during the early Dark Ages. Here they met other migrants from Belgium, Holland, Germany and Denmark.

Many European tribes believed they originated in Greece. Germanic tribes and the Norsemen claimed they came from the ancient city of Byzantium. The antique Irish ‘Book of Conquests’ tells of the Fir Bolge, who lived as slaves in Greece.

Perhaps these are racial memories of an ecological disaster from 7,500 years ago, when the Mediterranean Sea broke through at the Bosporus (near where Byzantium would stand) in a mighty waterfall that caused the Black Sea to double in size in a matter of months.

Archaeologists estimate during this catastrophic flood, the water level rose by 5 meters a day. With farming established on the shores of the Black Sea for almost 4,000 years, the panicked population fled to Southern Greece where the first farming settlements in Europe are found around this time.

While we are familiar with the Biblical tale of Noah, not many people know is it is based on a number of flood stories thousands of years older that survived in the Greek myth of Deucalion and the Celtic of Hu Gadarn.

It is possible the Birch Maiden is an even more ancient. A tradition from the largely unknown aboriginal inhabitants of Northern Europe: the fishermen and hunters who had lived there since the Ice Age retreated some 13,000 years ago.

The incoming farmers already believed the gods punished mortals for clearing woodland without first propitiating the tree-nymphs, so it is easy to see them adapting the birch into their own traditions. Due to its shimmering white bark, the birch was already known as the Lady of the Woods and sacred to the primeval White Goddess of Old Europe.

The birch was the first tree to colonise Europe when the Ice Age ended and the mile-high glaciers that stretched almost down to London melted. Because it is well adapted to the cold it was also the first to leaf and so became a symbol of impending spring.

The Irish Ogham Alphabet names each of its letters after a tree which either leafs, fruits or flowers in succession throughout the thirteen lunar months of the year. The first letter is ‘Beth’: the birch. Its month starts after the winter solstice extending from the plough days of late December to the 20th of January. The first ogham message was 7 Bs, scratched on a birch twig that read: 7 times will they wife be carried off to fairyland unless the birch is her overseer. It is thought the word ‘book’ derives from its ancient name.

Associated with fairies, witches and the goddess, the birch encourages fertility and health. Cradles were woven from birch twigs to protect babies. Cows herded with a birch switch would be become pregnant. Maypoles were made from a birch trunk, and at Halloween witches flew to their Great Sabbath on birch brooms after first anointing themselves with a flying ointment made from the hallucinogenic fly-agaric, or fairy-cap toadstool, found growing amid birch trees roots.

Birch rods were used to beat wickedness from lunatics, criminals and children, a punishment used until recent times in the Isle of Man. Brooms made from birch twigs swept ill luck from the house and were used to beat the parish boundaries in spring to drive away all evil.

©Paul Andruss 2017

I would now very much like to introduce you to the wonderful artist and illustrator Donata Zawadzka who has graced my work with her art.


Polish born Donata Zawadzka is one half of an accomplished husband and wife artistic team, now living in Gravesend. I have known Dona for 6 years.

After seeing her work on the internet and falling in love with it, I cheekily asked if she would mind doing some illustrations for Thomas the Rhymer. She agreed, but only if she liked the book. Fortunately for me she did!

Although she has many styles I fell in love with her delicate black and white line drawings reminiscent of the classic Victorian illustrators such as Charles Snicket, Walter Crane and of course the great Arthur Rackham. The Birch Maiden is a prime example.

I am sure that you will love her work so please to and view her outstanding art on her site. If you are looking for an illustrator you will find that Dona is a dream to work with and your books will be beautifully enhanced with her artwork.


Connect to Donata Zawadzka

View her website :
Buy her work on Redbubble:
Like Dona on Facebook:
Follow her on Twitter:

Thomas the Rhymer

Find out more about Paul Andruss and his books :

Other guest posts by Paul:

Thank you for stopping by and it would be great if you could share the post on your own networks.. thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – 28th January 2017 – Barking Mad, Furry Dudes, Writing conference, Writing flow and Beta Readers

Smorgasbord Blogger DailyWelcome to today’s Blogger Daily.. from the various historical references to being a little crazy, Furry Dudes being interviewed, writing conferences, constructive distractions and Beta Readers.

Thomas the Rhymer

Paul Andruss has an eclectic blog where you will find Irish and Greek legends side by side with introductions to people in history you might think had a fleeting role but didn’t.. We are very PC these days and you are encouraged not to refer to those of us who appear a little ‘odd’ or ‘crazy’ in public.. One of the expressions that I grew up with.. was ‘Barking Mad’  and in this post, Paul explores the various expressions used to identify ‘crazy’

Are you Barking Mad?

Barking is an east London suburb about 9 miles from the city centre along the River Thames. It originated as an Anglo-Saxon village in Essex – the land of the East Saxons. As ‘C’ was pronounced ‘K’ in the German tongue the original name Berecingas (settlement in the birch trees) was corrupted to Barking.

The story goes in the Middle Ages St Mary’s Abbey in Barking ran a hospital for the care of the insane. And that gave rise to the English expression ‘Barking Mad’.

Read on:

P.S. I Forgive You by D.G. Kaye

D.G. Kaye turned the tables on her guest yesterday by interviewing her about her book Loving Lady Lazuli.. a terrific read and well worth heading over to check out.

Shehanne Moore has a very unique blog where she supports authors by interviewing them with assistance from some cute furry dudes….I am sure she won’t mind me using and example…


Here is a snippet from Shehanne’s interview with Debby Gies..

lovingladylazuli_byshehannemoore-133x200Today I’m excited to have friend and author Shehanne Moore here. Shehanne is a Scottish author who writes sizzling historical romance fiction books, no doubt her blog is tagged: Smexy Historical Fiction.

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of visiting Shey’s blog, her humor is injected into every post and her blog is co-hosted by the ‘dudes’ as we all fondly call her ‘hamster buddies’ that love to comment and sometimes behave badly to Shey’s guests with their saucy remarks because of their jealousy of her writing and their own desire to become writers.

Read the terrific interview and find out more about Shehanne’s books.


Writing by its nature is something that is a solitary occupation. Distractions and a break in concentration can result a the flow being interrupted. However, as writers we need stimulation and support and one way to accomplish that is to get together with others to exchange ideas, receive constructive feedback and to motivate. Bridget Whelan has news of the return of a very popular writing conference this April.

Write by the Beach – an inspiring writing conference in Brighton April 2017
Bigger, better with TWO DAYS OF EXPERT WORKSHOPS plus a GUARANTEED ONE-TO-ONE with one of 15 brilliant agents and publishers, Write by the Beach is back.

Organised by the Beach Hut Writing Academy – in the gorgeous Angel House, right by Brighton beach – this conference gives you inspiration, ideas, publishing know-how and the chance to network with industry professionals. Oh, and delicious food! Whether you write novels, radio drama, short stories or TV scripts, there’s something for you.

Read more about the conference and the sessions and guest speakers available:

Jessica Norrie

Now time for Jessica Norrie’s popular weekly post.. as writers we find that there is an ebb and flow to our WIP.. This has to be fitted around our life commitments as well as those intrusions.. many times welcome.. from outside our four walls. However, Jessica found some very constructive by-roads to explore this week and she still managed to get a good word in or 1000 for her heroine.

Achievements and deletions

A spate of ideas had spated. A flow of words had flowed. I thought all that was needed was to continue at roughly the same rate and in a few weeks a final first draft of a second novel would spew out. But my heroine‘s been delayed again.

The reasons this week? One was a stand alone story for children that sprung unexpectedly from the novel a few months ago. A publisher showed a glimmer of interest, if I could adapt it to be suitable for a wider market. I spent time tinkering. My heroine didn’t mind, she’s a mother herself.

The local bookshop advertised for part time staff. Could be fun, could keep me off Facebook. I spent hours compiling a CV, before realising, though I sympathise with the difficulties of a tiny independent bookshop trying to stay afloat, the rate of pay and terms were so poor I would end up enemies with the owner. My heroine was drumming her heels. So in lieu of fresh ideas I made corrections to a previous section of the novel that I’d printed off.

Discover the other reasons for the ebb and flow


Have you considered asking for Beta Readers for your next book? Author Anna Dobritt gives you a comprehensive guide to what a beta reader will and will not do when asked to read your pre-published work.

Types of Beta Readers

A Beta Reader is someone who evaluates your story. Long answer; they give you feedback on your story. They are like beta testers for software, looking for bugs and problems. A good beta reader points out holes in your plot, point of view problems, and chronology problems. They point out confusing areas and let you know if you’re describing things too much.

Today I’m covering the different types of Beta Readers, so you can figure out what you need for your book.

Discover what a beta reader will be looking for in your book:

I hope you have found the posts I have selected to be useful and entertaining. Please don’t forget to leave the link to your latest post in the comments section.. The Blogger goes out each day which means that I have 30 slots to fill each week… what have you got to lose?  Thanks Sally