Returning to Italy…

“Ciao”, or “salve”, as the expression goes nowadays.

It is really cold here in Tuscany at the moment. As I write, I am wearing two jumpers – one of them a thick Aran faithful, plus my cosy socks. Not many people understand why we live here in the summer and Sussex in winter. But, we’re high in the Tuscan Apennines, the winters are bighting-cold and summer rolls up when it wants. It’s arriving late this year, like a bride. When it decides to come, it will be glorious.IMG_8843

Here I am, wearing my warm Aran. Snow fell on the Mountain of the Moon last night.

We are being warned that our planet is in danger. The world is topsy-turvy and our way of life is having dire effects on climate change, amongst other problems. At the moment, the radio tells me it is over 20 degrees in Scotland. Here it is 6! meadow view

I know that before too long, the bees will be buzzing over my lavender and our meadow will brim with butterflies and orchids, but in the meantime, I need to warm up by chatting to somebody else who loves Italy. Welcome back, Daisy James, who has recently published another of her Limoncello novels. As you know, I am passionate about Italy and, even though I haven’t read Daisy’s book yet, I wanted to find out about her writing career and what she thought of la bella Italia. I’m saving the read until I can laze by the river when the sun arrives.

 

Daisy,  what makes you want to write about Italy? Have you visited?
Italy is one of my favourite places to visit. We were lucky enough to take a trip to Florence last summer where we explored the city, all the wonderful little nooks and crannies, and ate some wonderful food too – the gelato is to die for! My favourite was saffron flavoured, I didn’t fancy the marmite and walnut flavour for some reason! Whilst we were there, a Hollywood movie was being filmed around the streets and famous monuments which was fun to watch. It was really strange seeing movie directors hanging from helicopters over Il Duomo!Florence
Florence has a special place in my heart too, Daisy. But, I never came across Marmite gelato in the 70s. Yuck!  I spent a year there as part of my university degree, when I was twenty. In fact, I fell in love with a handsome Florentine who drove me all over Tuscany in his Alfa Romeo Spyder. I lived in a tiny flat with a view over the terracotta tiles, near the station. Not a particularly desirable area at that time, (a bit of a red-light district, if I’m honest), but I learnt lots of Italian! Later, I realised I hadn’t been in love with my handsome boy – I’d been in love with Italy and that continues.

My next question concerns your writing. I have lots of indie author friends and they are always interested in how people come to be published. How did you get with Canelo?
I’m really fortunate to have my novels published by the people at Canelo. Everyone there is incredibly supportive, friendly and approachable. I saw a call-out for submissions a couple of years ago and thought I’d nothing to lose so I sent of my manuscript for The Paradise Cookery School – set in the gorgeous Caribbean – which is the first of the books I had published with them. I was fortunate enough to have it accepted by my wonderful editor there, Louise Cullen, and I have a new series this year – Villa Limoncello which is set in Tuscany – the second of which is due out in June.

What other books have you written and how did you come to writing?
Apart from my two series with Canelo, I have standalone novels published by HQStories who were my very first publishers. I’ve been writing since I could hold a pen, sketching pictures to go with my stories and then binding the paper with string to make them look like books! I wrote throughout my teenage years, but stopped whilst I was at university, then started again when I had my family – just short stories at first. I wrote my first full-length novel in 2012 and it’s still in a shoe box on top of my wardrobe where it’s definitely going to stay! My next was The Runaway Bridesmaid which was my first published novel, set in New York and Devon.

I wonder if you will ever develop that story stashed in the shoe box! Maybe modify it, use some passages for another book? They say you should never throw anything away!

For anybody who has never visited Italy before, where would you recommend?

Gosh, that’s a really difficult question! There are so many wonderful places – Florence, Siena, Pisa, San Gimignano are all amazing places to spend time and I thoroughly enjoyed our trip there last year. I also love the south of Italy too – I had a fabulous break in Sorrento a while ago, and especially enjoyed the boat trip over to Capri – the views were stunning! However, top of my list for a first timer would have to be Venice. My tip would be to catch the train and arrive at the station, then to simply wander around the streets and soak up the atmosphere rather than rushing from one tourist attraction to the next. I went when I was a student, so we couldn’t afford to visit these places, but I think I found more of the real Venice this way. I’d love to go back!

I need to return too. The last time I visited Venice was when I was eleven. But, we are very busy in our six months here with our holiday guests in our converted watermill. This September, we are running a Writing Week for the second time, so time slips away in a flash. The best thing to do would be to mark free weeks at the beginning of the season on our calendar and then take off to explore. Last year, we visited the Abruzzo region. Wild and beautiful too, but afflicted by earthquakes, unfortunately.

Daisy,  what are your three top writing tips?
Read, read, read.
Write, write, write.
Never give up – rejections, although difficult, are part of the journey.

I agree with you. Plus, when you’re writing, try not to edit as you go along. There’s a danger of blocking yourself. Chop, change and restructure afterwards. For me, it’s probably the hardest part of writing. But, so important.

Do you have a picture of where you write?
When it’s warm – I love to write in my little summerhouse (aka: shed!)

shed

That is so cute! I’m trying to imagine what it’s like inside… tidy? No internet for distraction? A kettle and mug for tea or coffee? A bottle and opener for celebrating when the writing flows?  A comfy chair for sitting in when reading over what you’ve created? Or is it untidy and that’s why you don’t want to show us?

It’s been great fun chatting. I could do with a glass of Limoncello right now… in fact, I think I’ll have one by my side when I manage to find time to read your book. Before you go, tell us something we would never guess about you!

When I’m not writing, I like nothing better than to spend time on the archery field!

That’s original. Hope to catch up with you soon! A presto and thank you. Mille grazie! Good luck with your books.

Here are a few more facts about Daisy and you can click on the links below to see her book.
Daisy James is a Yorkshire girl transplanted to the north east of England. She loves writing stories with strong heroines and swift-flowing plotlines. When not scribbling away in her peppermint-and-green summerhouse (garden shed), she spends her time sifting flour and sprinkling sugar and edible glitter. She loves gossiping with friends over a glass of something pink and fizzy or indulging in a spot of afternoon tea – china plates and tea cups are a must!

Summer dreams at Villa Limoncello

Escape to Villa Limoncello… where dreams come true in the most unexpected ways.
Izzie Jenkins never expected to find herself living in a gorgeous oasis in Tuscany but when life gives you Villa Limoncello you say thank you and bake treats to celebrate!

Izzie and debonair chef Luca Castelotti are officially setting up shop together but when their inaugural ‘Pasta and Painting’ venture is sabotaged and one of their guests poisoned they’re forced to turn detective. Because if they can’t find the culprit, they’ll be out of business before they’ve even begun…

A gorgeous holiday read.

 

 

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A change

They say a change is as good as a rest. It’s hard work packing up to leave the country for six months. And to drive one thousand miles from West Sussex to Tuscany. But we enjoy it, despite the laden car packed to the gunnels, as if we are leaving forever.2019 car

Taking coals to Newcastle???

We took an extra day this year and stayed near Colmar in Alsace. Our chambre, overlooking the snow-capped range of the Vosges Ballons, was in the home of Luc and Marie-Helene. We managed a friendly hour or two with them, conversing in our school French. What a lovely couple. They gave us a couple more tomato plants to add to those Maurice had packed. (He grows his from seeds he collects from his Italian tomatoes and starts them off on our kitchen window ledge in England). I don’t like to get political on social media, but I do believe that if there were more inter-cultural exchanges like our mini-break, there would be fewer wars and certain attitudes over the B word (notice I don’t actually spell it out), would be modified. (I fully realise I am simplifying matters, but maybe we need to sometimes. Our country is in a dreadful tangle at present.) Entente cordiale springs to mind, as a solution.
That apart, we wandered around the quaint town of Colmar, admiring the colours of the wooden buildings that look like gingerbread houses and trying local wine and cheeses. Having a day off in the middle of our journey helps breaks up the driving.

However, this year I have final edits to do by May 8th for “The Tuscan Secret”, which comes out mid-June. So, I couldn’t relax completely. I feel as if I know the book off by heart now, having gone through structural, line, copy and finally, proof edits so many times. It’s amazing where you can work, when needs must.

 

On the channel ferry and on the Swiss roads

I can’t wait to get back into writing the sequel, but if it all goes pear-shaped and the books don’t sell, I shall continue to write my short stories. As if to console me, after hearing the news from my editor at Bookouture that they need to tweak my book description, because the pre-orders are not amazing, I received an e mail as we drove through Switzerland from my other editor at the People’s Friend. The magazine has bought two more of my stories and also want to feature me on Author of the Week in the May 18th issue. If I could have leapt about with joy, I would have, but I was firmly strapped into my car seat as we drove through the Swiss valleys. Perhaps I should have tried yodelling instead. (Perhaps not).
We have a lot to do before our first guests arrive at the end of the month to stay in our converted watermill. The place needs spring cleaning plus a lick of fresh paint and the garden needs pruning and taming. Just as with my edits, I have more cutting back to do, and plants need moving to different beds. All very reminiscent of the structural edits I have had to do, moving chapters around and deleting passages superfluous to the plot. Wish me luck, please.

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Daisy, Daisy, give me your cover do!

I’ve just met another Italophile via social media and this post is an antipasto for a future Italian feast with Daisy James.

For the time being, just let me tell you that her new cover was revealed yesterday and I’m allowed to share it with you. I haven’t read the book yet, but it’s teetering on the top of my to-be-read pile. The cover is so happy and mouth watering (like lots of Italian experiences).

limoncello Daisy James

And here is the blurb:

Escape to Villa Limoncello… where dreams come true in the most
unexpected ways.

Izzie Jenkins never expected to find herself living in a gorgeous
oasis in Tuscany but when life gives you Villa Limoncello you say
thank you and bake treats to celebrate!

Izzie and debonair chef Luca Castelotti are officially setting up shop
together but when their inaugural ‘Pasta and Painting’ venture is
sabotaged and one of their guests poisoned they’re forced to turn
detective. Because if they can’t find the culprit, they’ll be out of
business before they’ve even begun…

A gorgeous holiday read perfect for fans of Sarah Morgan and Jenny
Oliver.

*

You’ll have to wait for the main course once Daisy and I have shared a glass or two of Prosecco (and Limoncello) and I’ve chatted to her about why she too is in love with la bella Italia!

Prosecco

A presto!

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Chatting with Carol Thomas again…

 

 

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It’s so good to be sitting with Carol again in the holiday sunshine and talking about writing. She’s released another book recently and I love the catchy title.

First of all, tell us a little about “Maybe Baby”.thumbnail_Maybe Baby_High Res

Maybe Baby is a romantic comedy and the sequel to The Purrfect Pet Sitter (Lisa Blake book #1). While each book can be read as a standalone story, Maybe Baby revisits the characters from The Purrfect Pet Sitter as they move into the next phase of their lives.

Book blogger, Rachel Gilbey delighted me with her review that said: “Incredibly entertaining, this book has everything, animals, humour, romance, an old flame and a pregnancy test! … The pages just flew. The writing flowed well, and I really enjoyed all the characters, both human and furry!”

I can vouch for it being standalone. I haven’t read its prequel yet, but it didn’t matter. The characters and story of this sequel drew me in immediately.

Your stories are contemporary. I’m used to researching history for my Tuscan novels and delving into archives. How do you go about your research, Carol? I know your Facebook followers are really useful to you in this. You enjoy getting them involved, don’t you?

I do, indeed, and their help has been invaluable in the creation of Maybe Baby. As it states in Rachel’s review, the book involves a pregnancy test; despite the fact I have had five pregnancies, and I am a mum of four, I felt it was important to speak to other women about their pregnancy experiences.

I put a request on my page asking for new mums to answer a few questions, and the number of responses I received was overwhelming. They came through the night (these ladies insisted they were up anyway) and into the next few days.

thumbnail_Me and my babies

 

 

 

 

(Carol and her own babies)

The generosity of those who took part was amazing. They shared intimate details about their pregnancy and birth experiences. I smiled, cried, cringed for them, and laughed out loud as I read. I had, of course, asked for the humorous and embarrassing bits as well as the sensible and more serious aspects 😉

The research enabled me to look for common experiences, to note things that would be recognisable to most women facing the situations of my characters. I am incredibly grateful to all those who responded and have subsequently contacted them – letting them know that I have included them in the acknowledgements.

Other help I received from my Facebook followers included deciding upon which female crime-fighting duo would be most recognisable to women in their thirties; getting advice on the work patterns of a West Sussex firefighter; and naming a pair of kittens who steal the limelight in one pivotal chapter.

Of course, not all research can be done this way. Writers have to get out and about too – she says reflecting on her “essential” research trip to France – but I do love getting my followers involved. I think threading such insights into a novel as those gleaned through my pregnancy research adds to its authenticity, and gives those who have contributed some ownership of the story even before it is released.

If you are reading this and you’d like to get involved, please give me a follow and say hello, you never know what I might ask next:

Carol’s Facebook page

Blurb for Maybe Baby

Just when you thought you had it all worked out …

Best friends Lisa and Felicity think – maybe, just maybe – they finally have everything sorted out in their lives.

Lisa is in a happy relationship with her old flame, and busy mum Felicity has managed to reignite the passion with her husband, Pete, after a romantic getaway.

But when Lisa walks in on a half-naked woman in her boyfriend’s flat and Felicity is left reeling from a shocking discovery, it becomes clear that life is nothing but full of surprises!

You can buy Carol’s new book from Amazon

Or Ruby Fiction

About the author

An active member of the Chindi Authors, Carol Thomas lives on the south coast of England with her husband, four children and lively Labrador. She has been a playgroup supervisor and taught in primary schools for over fifteen years, before dedicating more of her time to writing. Carol is a regular volunteer at her local Cancer Research UK shop. She has a passion for reading, writing and people watching and can often be found loitering in local cafes working on her next book.

Follow Carol via:

website

Facebook

TwitterInstagram

Pinterest

and her blog

 

Thank you so much for sitting and having a cuppa with me, Carol. I wish you all the luck in the world with your writing.

Here is my review of Maybe Baby

If you need a couple of hours to restore your faith in human nature, then this is the one for you. A light hearted glimpse into a world where friendship, romance and kindness reign. There are babies, pets, a holiday in France and the ups and downs of true love thrown into the equation, so everything to like. And the hero – hunky Nathan –  should write a manual on how to woo the female species! Written with an easy style, I curled up and read this in one sitting. I have to admit I have not read the prequel yet, but Maybe Baby works perfectly well as a stand alone. I wasn’t at all confused by the caste of interesting characters. I am going to read the prequel to find out more about Dom, the paramedic… I love the catchy title, by the way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Top Twelve Tips for Healing Insomnia

I think we all suffer from insomnia at some tine or other. I found this blog really useful. Thank you Brigid Gallagher. xx

Watching the Daisies

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Does fibromyalgia cause insomnia or does insomnia cause fibromyalgia?  I do not have a definitive answer. However, I do know that insomnia can wreak havoc on health and well being.

I first succumbed to fibromyalgia in 2003, and insomnia took hold of my life for seven long years.

15 years later, my lifestyle has completely changed and I have embarked on a new life path, embracing a slower pace of life, as per the title of my memoir.

My top tips for healing insomnia are:

Limit sugar, caffeine and alcohol 

Sugar and caffeine are both stimulants. Eating sugar causes a spike in blood glucose levels, causing an immediate stimulation of the brain.

Caffeine acts on the central nervous system to increase alertness and attention. It can stay in your system for up to 12 hours – not so good if you are prone to insomnia!

Alcohol may help you fall asleep more quickly…

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Chopping, changing and other challenges…

 

thumbnail_The Tuscan Secret - Square Graphic

On Friday, to my delight, the new cover for my first Tuscan novel was released by Bookouture. As hackneyed as it sounds, this is a dream come true for me because I have a two-book contract with this amazing publishing company and the whole process has been a revelation.
To get to this point has been like taking a large piece of material and then measuring, cutting,  fitting it over and over again until I produced a garment that looked good. But, instead of my standing in front of a mirror, asking myself if the sleeve was right, or the hem lopsided, whether the colour suited or the style was up to date, I had close guidance from a lovely editor. Ellen Gleeson has helped me through structural and line edits. An external copy editor has gone rigorously through the book and after the final proof read, publication has been set for June 26th. The book is now on pre-order for 99 pence.

I chatted to Ellen in between all this and enjoyed the informality (and it gave me a break from editing!)

Ellen Gleeson Bookouture photo

Ellen, how did you get into the job of editing?
My first job in publishing was a work experience placement in the audio department of HarperCollins. I then worked as an Editorial Assistant at Collins Learning, working on primary and secondary school material teaching materials, but I always knew I wanted to move to fiction: bringing the kind of books I love to read to as wide an audience as possible. After a couple of years away from publishing I joined Bookouture as a Publishing Assistant, and have since been promoted to Publishing Executive, which involves looking after my own authors. I love it!

With all the scrutiny you have to bring to books in your work,  are you able to read  now purely for entertainment, without mentally editing?
Yes! Of course every reader thinks critically about what they’re reading, it’s part of the process and part of the enjoyment. But I love reading as much as I always have.
What kind of books do you enjoy?
I love fantasy novels for the pure escapism and wildly imaginative worlds you can find yourself in. Epic historical stories, for seeing characters flung into situations you’d never be in, and the things you find out about the past and other places. Police procedural crime for pure grip factor. One of my favourite books of last year was The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle which combines a classic murder mystery story with an amazingly inventive high-concept twist.
What advice do you have for a new author thinking of writing a book?  How do you think he/she should start?
Get going! Have a plan for your story structure, and write, write, write. Writers’ groups on Twitter are a great place to turn if you’re feeling alone or demotivated. Taking part in something like #NaNoWriMo can really spur you on and get those words on the page. Also, know what genre you’re writing in, and read successful books in that genre to get a sense of what’s working.
Do you have any hobbies?
I’m a member of SHE choir: a relaxed, collaborative choir for anyone who identifies as a woman. All the songs we do are arranged by members so anything goes: pop, R&B, folk… I absolutely love singing with this incredible bunch of women.
Tell us something we wouldn’t guess about you.
I once drunkenly got my eyebrow pierced on holiday. It looked awful, and when I got back my friends laughed at me so much that I took it out.
If you could invite three authors to an informal supper in your kitchen, who would they be?
Marian Keyes, for a good laugh round the table and hopefully some wise words about family and relationships. If I can bring him back, Terry Pratchett, an author I’ve loved since I was ten. His witty and whacky observations about the world would make for great conversation, by all accounts he was a wonderfully kind man and I would love to pick his brain about the Discworld. And you’ve got to be on the list Angela – despite working closely together for months, we’ve never properly met and that has to be remedied. And you can bring some delicious Italian food with you.

Aw, how lovely! You’re on, Ellen! I feel so lucky to be working with you. Your support is invaluable. I’ll start thinking up a menu!

Another very supportive, encouraging editor I have met on-line is Alan Spink from “The People’s Friend” women’s magazine.  Over the last two years I have had a dozen or so short stories accepted. I know that’s not very many by other writers’ standards, but I’ve been submitting for many years without success. So I am delighted for the progress I’ve made so far.

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Writing short stories is obviously different from writing a novel, but the editing is equally as important. I enjoy the discipline and the challenge. Alan always points out ways I might improve a story that he can’t immediately accept and his advice is very welcome.

I chatted to Alan via the weekly writing hour that the magazine has each Tuesday morning at 11 o’clock. (Could all this chit-chat be defined as displacement activity?  I don’t think so… it is so useful to have in my mind that there are real people in the industry; that we are not simply submitting our work to an impersonal address where mountains of slush piles teeter and fester, never to be read.)

On this regular forum we were asked, if we had the chance, whom would we like to interview on the magazine, and I suggested Alan. Lo and behold, he replied. Here are his answers to yours truly:

“In Fiction Tracey’s recent Writing Hour on Twitter, she was posed some questions for my good self. Never one to shirk a challenge, I said I’d be delighted to answer them. So lo and behold here are the Q&As, which I hope you’ll find fun and interesting.
How did you start working for “The People’s Friend”?
I have worked for DCT since 2004, having had no previous editorial experience. I first started working for our sister magazine, “My Weekly”, and I remember the Fiction Editor at the time, Liz Smith, saying my chatty covering letter helped me get the job.
After two years, the “Friend” beckoned, the magazine I am happy and proud to call home. To those who are applying, or thinking of applying, for future jobs – if you can bring your personality to the fore through a letter or interview, then like me, it might make all the difference in landing you that dream job.
Are you a writer yourself?
I love to write but, sadly, I don’t seem to find the time these days. I have written a few short stories for the magazine and, like most writers, I dream of writing “that” novel one day. To me, there is nothing better than locking the world outside and transporting yourself into a story world, letting characters express themselves through your imagination.

I so agree with that, Alan. We can do anything in this world that we create. Power!What are your favourite books?
Like my taste in music, my book reading is eclectic. I tend to favour historical novels for my fiction reading, and my non-fiction reading comprises of biographies and autobiographies. I’m also a bit of a stats fan, so almanacs of various description line my book shelf at home. My favourite classic novel would have to be “The Strange Case Of Doctor Jekyll And Mr Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson. I read that as a teenager and was instantly captivated by RLS’s gothic storytelling. More up to date, Markus Zusak’s “The Book Thief” is worthy of a page-turning mention.
And, thinking of the magazine, what is your favourite type of short story, and your least liked?
My favourite type of short story would have to be historical again. I think the imagination can accept elements of improbability with historical fiction. In some ways, the imagination demands it. It’s campfire storytelling, where heroes and heroines are brought alive through a world of timeworn mystique and endless possibilities. I’m not a fan of the crime genre. It seems to be all the rage, but that can often equate to stereotypical writing.
Describe working in a predominantly female squad?
Ha ha. No one day is the same. Will you settle for that? Seriously, though, it’s great. There are three guys who work in the “Friend”, and I think we’d all agree that we feel as part of our individual teams as we do the magazine. It’s true, sometimes the fiction ladies talk about fashion or favourite male celebs they have a crush on, but I do the guy-old thing of zoning out. Works like a charm!
Out of interest, what is the percentage of male to female PF writers?
Oh, that’s a good question. I’d say it’s about 5% of men who write fiction for us, regular and unsolicited manuscript writers included.
And, finally, can you give us your best tips for submissions?
There are three. One – read the magazine. Not just a single issue, but read it regularly so that you get a feel for the fiction that we publish. Secondly – don’t give up. I know of two writers of mine who spring to mind here, and both had multiple stories (easily double figures) rejected before they received their first story success. And one success was quickly followed by a second, and then a third . . . Three – stay true to your own storytelling voice. We are all unique, so let your personality shine through your writing.
Thank you, Angela Petch, for the questions.

You are more than welcome, Alan. It was fun and I am very grateful for your time.

Alan Spink
Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one aspiring tip to new writers is to “write from your imagination”.

If you would like to read the original interview and maybe read the regular newsletter from this long-standing magazine, then click here

I’ve enjoyed chatting with my editors and I hope you might derive some useful tips from the interviews.

Now, on with the editing!

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Digging up history

Meet John Broughton, an author from Lincolnshire who came to Italy for a year in 1986, met Maria, and stayed ever since. I had an appointment with my friend in a little bar near Pompei, about half way between our Italian homes. We sipped our glasses of “Villa dei Misteri”, a prestigious wine made by Mastrobernardini, who obtained permission to use the historic Pompei vineyards and research Roman techniques. (Each bottle cost €100 and so I’ll leave it to your imagination to decide if I’m using artistic license here about the truth of what we were really drinking …)

 


In AD 79 the secrets of Pompei were burned in an avalanche of boiling mud and ash from Vesuvius, so Pompei seemed a fitting venue to chat about the adventure of writing. Both of us write historical novels and try to excavate hidden stories and secrets with our research. John’s books feature the Dark Ages. I enjoyed his first book, The Purple Thread and am proud to have my quote on his cover. Discovering the world he describes, set in the era after the Romans have left Britain and the Christian Church is becoming the dominant force in the western world was “like being led by eerie candlelight into another world.”
I have all his other books waiting on my Kindle and I know I won’t be disappointed. I learned such a lot about this early period of history from John’s work and wish I’d had an entertaining teacher like him at school.

 

I asked John why he enjoys writing in this period.
Saints and Sinners and Mixed Blessings, its sequel (Nov 2018 and January 2019) are set in my favourite period – the Anglo-Saxon era. I like it because my surname is Anglo-Saxon – a place name that means a fortified hill by a stream. Saints and Sinners began with my desire to write something set in my home county of Lincolnshire but the Dark ages are very dark for the Kingdom of Lindsey. Even so, I wrote about St Guthlac, who was a hermit in Crowland in the Fens. He went from being a violent, heavy-drinking, womanising nobleman to being a saint. Typical Lincolnshire lad but in reverse! His best mate Aethelbard went from being an outlaw to becoming one of the greatest kings of Mercia. The book is about them.

The Purple Thread was an education to me, as well as being a fabulously entertaining read, full of description and great characters. I felt immersed in that world. How much research do for your books?

I admit to doing a lot of research, filling whole exercise books. But I enjoy it nearly as much as the writing. Of course, in the genre of historical novels you can only use a small fraction of what you discover, to avoid creating ‘knowledge dumps’ in the middle of your chapter. I try to pick out juicy snippets – either events like the racial massacre of Danes in Oxford or how the Saxons dyed cloth yellow or how the Danes built a long ship (just some interesting bits). After all, who wants to read a historical novel without a feel of the period?

Absolutely agree! I need to visit the places I write about. It’s not enough for me to look them up on Google. I need to be able to breathe, to listen and to see the locations to make them come alive. In that way, you can pick up details you might not have thought of, merely sitting at a desk. I take notebooks with me wherever I go. Where do you write?

I write in a corner of our sitting room where I have a desk next to a bookcase. I do all my writing on the keyboard in Word for Mac. Unfortunately for me, we live next door to a noisy bar, so I claim to be the only writer in the world who can blot out boozy, swearing football fans! Iron concentration, that’s mine! And yes, I would love to write by a quiet gurgling stream in Tuscany. Do I have a routine? Yes, more or less. It’s just that some days you think you’re going to write thousands of words but end up with nothing and other days you don’t feel like it but do your best work- I can’t explain that. But anyway, usually, after breakfast I deal with my e-mails. That done, I re-read the last few paragraphs I wrote the day before and write until about 11.30, by then I’m desperate for a walk. My best work tends to happen between 16.00 and 18.30 and then, not being able to beat them at the bar, I join them!
I hope you don’t drink from €100 bottles all the time, as we are doing today! And, when you’re not writing, what do you like to read?

I enjoy – surprise! – historical novels, but lately I’ve read rather a lot of World War 2 novels. Perhaps I’m trying to make up for the fact that my dad didn’t like to talk about the war, probably because he was in the RAMC and he was the only survivor of a ‘friendly fire’ episode. His best mates died.
Yes, traumatic times and that generation didn’t talk much about the war, did they? I found that with my own parents. Thank heavens for diaries.
Have you ever self-published?
I have a little experience of self-publishing but that showed me how difficult it is to promote your work, especially if, like me, you live in Italy all year round and can’t rely on support groups or go to libraries or schools to promote your work. I have a very friendly editor, James, at Endeavour Media – I say that because he has yet to reject one of my submissions! I prefer to have my work promoted by a publisher, even if a lot of what they do is unseen by me so it’s a question of trust.
Yes, all the social media input involved with publicity can distract from writing. But it has it plus sides! I’ve made lots of new friends as a result, including yourself. It’s been great to talk. Cheers, cin cin and good luck with your writing, John. By the way, if you come my way to Tuscany, it’ll be Chianti or Montalcino… sfuso (from the barrel).

John Broughton pic

About the author

I was born in Cleethorpes Lincolnshire UK in 1948: just one of the post-war baby-boom. After attending grammar school and studying to the sound of Bob Dylan I went to Nottingham University and studied Medieval and Modern History (Archaeology subsidiary). The subsidiary course led to one of my greatest academic achievements: tipping the soil content of a wheelbarrow from the summit of a spoil heap on an old lady hobbling past our dig. Well, I have actually done many different jobs while living in Radcliffe-on-Trent, Leamington, Glossop, the Scilly Isles, Puglia and Calabria. They include teaching English and History, managing a Day Care Centre, being a Director of a Trade Institute and teaching university students English. I even tried being a fisherman and a flower picker when I was on St. Agnes, Scilly. I have lived in Calabria since 1992 where I settled into a long-term job, for once, at the University of Calabria teaching English. No doubt my lovely Calabrian wife Maria stopped me being restless. My two kids are grown up now, but I wrote books for them when they were little. Hamish Hamilton and then Thomas Nelson published 6 of these in England in the 1980s. They are now out of print. I’m a granddad now and happily his parents wisely named my grandson Dylan. I decided to take up writing again late in my career. You know when you are teaching and working as a translator you don’t really have time for writing.
As soon as I stopped the translation work, I resumed writing in 2014. The fruit of that decision is my first two historical novels, The Purple Thread and Wyrd of the Wolf, published by Endeavour Press, London. Both are set in my favourite Anglo-Saxon period and are available on Amazon as eBooks and paperbacks. Currently my third and fourth novels are available from on Amazon, Saints and Sinnersand its sequel Mixed Blessings set in on the cusp of the eighth century in Mercia and Lindsey. A fifth Sward and Sword will be published in June 2019 About the great Earl Godwine. I have two more under consideration and three others just lurking in my computer.

John’s website

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Guest Interview – Angela Petch

Talking about books with Patricia Osborne – but, mainly, Mavis and Dot. Still trying to raise as many pennies as possible for #cancerresearchuk.

Patricia M Osborne

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Today I am joined by fellow Chindi author, Angela Petch, to talk about her writing including her latest novel, Mavis and Dot. This week Angela is Chindi’s Author of the Week.

AP 24e (002)Hi Angela, thank you for joining me today. Mavis and Dot is your latest novel, can you tell our readers what inspired you to write it?

Thanks for having me on your blog. It’s always great to have the chance to talk books.

Mavis and Dot had been on the back burner for more than thirteen years, since losing my best friend to ovarian cancer. We used to enjoy charity shops and auctions and when we went out and about, we nicknamed each other Mavis and Dot.

When she fell gravely ill, I wrote her a silly story about Mavis and Dot and it made her laugh. Out came her paints and she sketched a cartoon, which I still…

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Love and the beauty of age…

Shoo

 

I read that in Finland and Estonia, Valentine’s day is an occasion for honouring friends and “significant others”. Well, today, I’m honouring Mavis and Dot and senior people.

Mavis and Dot are both retired, in their late sixties. Walk down any high street and you’ll pass them by, maybe dismissing them as being tired and dowdy, of no interest. If you’re quite young, maybe you’ll never imagine yourself becoming like them, letting yourself go, your hair grey, your tights a little wrinkled, your clothes unfashionable and baggy.
Stop! You’re being judgemental. I was going to write, ‘look beyond the wrinkles,’ but I won’t. Admire those beautiful wrinkles. They’re signs of a long life. They’re laughter lines and sorrow scars. The grey is silver and the “crow’s feet” are simply life showing in a person’s face. To fear growing old is to spend a huge chunk of your life being unhappy; it’s a waste of time, so stop it!

My elderly, Italian mother-in-law sparkled with true accounts of her years in war-torn, occupied Italy and I was able to thread her stories into my first novel, which is being edited and re-released in June 2019 with Bookouture. My second Tuscan novel, Now and Then in Tuscany was written as a result of talking to my old friends in the area where I live in the Apennines. They shared memories of the annual transhumance, the ten-day trek from the hills down to the milder coast, each winter. Without the wisdom and experience of the old, we would be a little lost, I feel.
In my latest book, Mavis embraces life. She has a bucket list of things she wants to do. She confuses her words sometimes, but we sense what she is trying to tell her new friend, Dot, as they share tea and cake.

“‘There’s no excuse for boredom here in Worthington-on-Sea. I’ve decided to tick off a list of activities in alphabetical order. Archery appeals — but that doesn’t start until early summer. Athletics is just not for me. I’m not into Agoraphobics and now I’ve decided Bridge is definitely off the list for good. Belly dancing next, I think.’
Dot spluttered into her teacup, ‘Belly dancing? Are you serious?’
‘Perfectly. Life’s too short not to try these things, don’t you think?’
‘Well, that certainly does not appeal to me one iota. But you have a point about the brevity of life. Agoraphobics, you say. I’ve never heard of those.’
‘You know. People in leotards leaping around in a gym, all hot and bothered,’ Mavis said, speaking with her mouth full of cake.
Dot laughed, ‘I think perhaps, you mean aerobics.’”
Love and romance are not off Mavis’ agenda either. And why should they be? She’s prone to Italian men and there are a couple of dalliances with Latin lovers, including a brief encounter with an Italian gentleman in Arezzo. Mavis returns to the small hotel after an evening out. Dot is reading in bed and interrogates her tipsy friend.

endearments
“’Signor Martelli took me to the concerto,’ Mavis said, pulling a scarf from her neck and performing a deep curtsey, from which she struggled to rise.
Dot raised her eyebrows. ‘Did you have more Camparis?’ she asked.
‘Si, si, si,’ Mavis replied. ‘And they were all delicious – especially the one with a dash or two of Prosecco and an olive on a stick,’ she added, with a hiccough.
‘New scarf?’ asked Dot, peering over the top of her glasses.
‘Si, si…’ Mavis aid. ‘A little gifty-woo from Signor Martelli. He owns a shop in the piazza and he opened it up, so I could choose this.’ She held up the scarf that depicted the most visited spots of Arezzo. ‘I chose this as a souvenir of tonight,’ she explained.
‘Why did he give you that?’
‘Why not?’ said Mavis, plonking herself down on Dot’s bed. ‘You sound just like my horrible foster mother with all your questions.’”
I’ll stop there and leave you to imagine the rest of the scene, especially when Mavis jokes with her friend that ‘[she] had wild, rampant sex with him under the table in the loggia, while nobody was looking.’

Dot is not beyond romance either. She confides in Mavis about a tragedy she endured as a teenager, when she fell in love with the wrong boy. Prickly and eccentric, she presents a peculiar figure to the looker-on: tall and stringy, usually dressed in baggy, seated trousers and a smelly Afghan coat. But inside is a heart of gold. And there is a certain gentleman who becomes very fond of her by the end of the book. No spoilers.
The point is we all (hopefully) grow old and it is too easy to be ageist and non-inclusive of our elderly. I myself am in my sixth decade. How I suddenly arrived her so quickly, is beyond me. But I’m welcoming it, loving it in fact. My best friend passed away too early from ovarian cancer in her mid-fifties and I wrote Mavis and Dot in her memory. All profits from sales are for Cancer Research.
As Mavis walks along the promenade, she thinks back to Dot’s sad, teenage story. She’s begun to understand why lonely Dot had given up on ever finding happiness.
“This retirement town was probably brimming with sad stories, but life had to go on and most people of her generation had learned to keep feelings buttoned up. It was very easy to be judgmental of folk…Life was very short and she and Dot both needed to get on with the rest of it. They could both do with a large helping of happiness. They deserved it…”

So, on this Valentine’s Day, buy roses, wine and chocolate for your elderly friends and tell them you love them. Spend time listening to their stories, be patient and celebrate them.
Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

grow old

“I loved the two characters and hope to be half as adventurous as the at their age.” {The Spoonie Mummy – Amazon reviewer}

“I loved Mavis, I want to be her when I grow up…” {The Midnight Review}

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Beach hut escapades

Thinking about acts of kindness… and Mavis and Dot. Thanks to Lexi Rees for inviting me to chat on her blog.

Lexi Rees

Every time I walk my dog past the cute wooden huts on West Wittering beach, I dream of owning one. I’ve even got a shortlist of my favourites. I chat to the owners of several regularly and they tend to be passed down the generations, and every hut has a story to tell. So fellow Chindi author Angela Petch’s latest book, Mavis & Dot, totally appeals. For the avoidance of doubt – this is a grown up book not a kids book! It was written in memory of a friend who passed away from ovarian cancer, and the icing on the cake is that all profits from Mavis and Dot will go towards cancer research, so I’m adding this to my “to be read pile”. Now I just need the weather to warm up a bit – deck chair and thermos at the ready, since we’re going a bit retro.

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