My Time on Meet the Author: Judith Barrow With Michelle Whitham

Good evening my lovelies.  I hope you’re all well and finding plenty to amuse you and any children you may have during lockdown!  Today I’m delighted to welcome the lovely Judith Barrow on to my blog with a wonderful interview.  She’s is talking to us about writing as an escape, connecting with others through her love of walking, the hilarious tale of Mr & Mrs Wilson (don’t miss it!) and her most recent book, The Memory……

GENRE(S):

Cross Genres: Mainly Family Saga/ but also includes Historic Fiction/ Crime Fiction

TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF:

I’m originally from Saddleworth, a group of villages at the foot of the Pennines in the North of England but have lived in Pembrokeshire, Wales, for forty years with my family.

I have an MA in Creative Writing with Trinity College, a BA (Hons) in Literature with the Open University, a Diploma in Drama from Swansea University. I’ve had short stories, plays, reviews and articles, published throughout the British Isles and have won several poetry competitions. I’ve also completed three children’s books but done nothing with them as far as publishing goes.

I’m a Creative Writing tutor for Pembrokeshire County Council and I also hold private one-to-one creative writing workshops.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START WRITING AND WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR IDEAS?

I’ve written since I was a child; it was a way to escape. My father was the head of the household; what he said was the rule. I didn’t always like it and hid in my writing.

HOW MANY BOOKS HAVE YOU WRITTEN AND PUBLISHED?

Three books (appallingly) written; never to see the light of day again! Five books, if we include this year’s one, so far, with Honno Press (https://www.honno.co.uk/): Pattern of Shadows, Changing Patterns and Living in the Shadows; a trilogy but also stand-alone books. The prequel to the trilogy, A Hundred Tiny Threads (written because the parents of the protagonist, Mary Haworth, Bill and Winifred, kept mithering me to tell their story). And, in March this year, Honno have published my most recent book, The Memory.

Different from the last four in that it’s more contemporary but still a family saga and written in two time-lines. I’ve also signed the contract with them for another book I’ve already written, which will be published in February 2021. There is another book that I Indie published in 2012, Silent Trauma: its fiction built on fact and a bit of a long story how this came about. It’s the story of Diethylstilboestrol; a drug; an artificial oestrogen, given to women, approximately between the years 1947 – 1975 in the UK, to prevent miscarriages. In short, I became involved in the charity because a relative of mine was affected by it. I was asked to write an article for their monthly magazine. After that, women began to contact me and the article turned into a story, then into a book. The charity was closed in the UK due to lack of funds and lack of interest by the British Government. I’d already had contact with many women and the charity in America: https://desaction.org/ through researching and getting quotes so, when the book was finished, I sent the manuscript to the committee of the charity. I needed to know that they approved of it, that it told their story honestly and that there was nothing in it that would offend or upset anyone. They answered and said I’d told the story as they wanted.

WHICH OF YOUR CHARACTERS WOULD YOU WANT TO BE STRANDED ON AN ISLAND WITH, AND WHY?

Mary Haworth, the protagonist of my Haworth trilogy. She’s strong-willed, so, whatever we’d need, whether it was food, water, some sort of shelter, or a boost to morale, I know I could rely on her. She makes the best of any situation and isn’t thwarted by obvious difficulties. She is tolerant, so would put up with any whinging (which no doubt I would do if too hot, too cold, hungry, thirsty, or bored). But can also be quite frightening when her temper’s up – so she would scare away any wild animals that threatened us. She’s an empathetic and good listener and can also tell a great story, which we would both need to help pass the time until we were rescued… hopefully by my husband who had missed me.

WHAT OTHER JOBS HAVE YOU DONE OTHER THAN BEING AN AUTHOR?

For years I worked in various departments of the Civil Service. But in my time as a stay-at-home mum with the children I had various part-time work: teaching swimming, hotel receptionist, cleaner on a caravan site, sewing slippers, making novelty cakes from home, working in a play school/nursery, working in a youth club. Would being on seven committees at various clubs (swimming, badminton, Scouts, Playgroup, PTA, athletics, gymnastics etc. etc.) that the children were involved in, be counted. I wonder? It felt like work at the time!

OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU ENJOY DOING?

Walking. I walk the Pembrokeshire coast with husband, David. There are a hundred and eighty-six miles of paths and we’ve covered a lot of them but only in stretches. Pembrokeshire is a glorious place to live. I sometimes write about the walks on my blog – and, through that, have made friends with many other walkers from all over the country who pass on their favourite places as well. And David takes the most stunning photographs (though he’s too modest to say so himself), so we always have memories to look back on when he uploads them onto the TV. And I have the most wonderful screen savers!

NAME ONE BOOK YOU THINK EVERYONE SHOULD READ AND TELL US WHY?

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. As the write-up says: “Part memoir, part master class; a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft. It comprises the basic tools of the trade every writer must have”.  I couldn’t say it in a better way. This is a book I read a long time ago and it spurred me on when I was in the doldrums of the second book syndrome.

WHAT IS THE BEST THING YOU’VE DONE IN YOUR LIFE SO FAR?

Get married. I wrote a post about it; says it all! http://bit.ly/39h9ajW.

YOU WIN A MILLION POUNDS – YOU GIVE HALF TO CHARITY.  WHICH CHARITY DO YOU PICK AND WHY? WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH THE REST OF THE MONEY?

A cancer charity because I was so well looked after when I had breast cancer and, also, because it’s affected many others in my family. I’d put money on one side and persuade my husband to hire a gardener (it’s an acre of land around the house and, though he wouldn’t agree, is too much for him). I’d have a cleaner so I wouldn’t have to do domestic trivia and could have more time to write. I’d give some money to the local animal rescue centre. (Can we get away with not counting that as a charity?) The rest of the money would be shared between my children and grandchildren.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE TIME TO WRITE, AND WHY?

I’m usually up at five because that’s when my brain works. I try to resist looking at any social media until I’ve put 1000 words on the page or when two hours has passed. If I don’t have any classes to run later I’ll carry on writing. Otherwise it’s time to start on the domestic trivia of the day and hope to get back to writing later. I always try to get an hour in at my desk in the late evening but, usually, that’s a mistake because if I get carried away I lose track of time and, before I know it, I’m almost catching up to the next day’s writing time. Hmm, does that make any sense at all? Perhaps I should say, I write until I stop! Anytime – but sometimes it turns out to be rubbish.

WHAT WAS THE STRANGEST, FUNNIEST, FULFILLING TIME OF YOUR LIFE THAT INSPIRED YOUR WRITING?

I have to say it was when we let the apartment attached to our home, as a holiday let during the summer months. Though hard work it provided me with a wealth of stories. People are a mystery to me most of the time. I’ve added one here:

The Naturists

 They must have been in their eighties. Mr and Mrs Wilson from Wigan

 Dilapidated car

 ‘Would you mind if we practiced our Tai Chi on the lawn?’

 I sense Husband’s alarm. When I glanced at him I saw he was breathing rapidly and his eyes were bulging a bit. But his ears were still their usual pink; bright redness is the usual signal of him being overly upset.

We’d had a couple who had stayed with us before and practised their judo on the front lawn. It had been quite entertaining until the man did his back in (or should I say his wife did his back in for him with a particular enthusiastic throw). They’d had to leave early with the man lying across the lowered back seat with his feet pointing towards the boot and surrounded by suitcases.  ‘Good job it’s an estate car’ Husband said in a casual way turning back to tend to his lawn where the husband had made a dent.

 I digress.

‘Tai Chi links deep breathing and relaxation with slow and gentle movements. See… ‘ the wife explained, taking in one long breath that made her nostrils flare alarmingly as, at the same time, she stretched out both arms. She felled Mr Wilson with one blow. I remember thinking at the time when her husband was smacked on the nose, that he should have known better than to stand so close. After all he must have realised she was going to demonstrate. ‘It’s a health-promoting form of exercise, Mrs Wilson said, cheerfully, as we all helped her husband back on his feet. ‘Sorry, love.’ She dusted him down. ‘It’s like a form of meditation, you know, exercises the whole of you, not just your body. Helps you to stay calm and gives you peace of mind, like.’

‘You didn’t do it right,’ Mr Wilson muttered.

 She ignored him. ‘We only took it up a month or two back,’ she said to us.

Husband carried their two small suitcases into the apartment, his shoulders shaking.

I clamped my teeth together. When I spoke I knew my voice was a couple of pitches higher than normal but there was nothing I could do about it.  ‘Is that all you’ve brought?’ I peered into the boot of the car.

‘Oh, yes, just the two bags. ‘Mrs Wilson linked her husband. ‘We travel light, don’t we Sidney?’

He nodded but said nothing.

There are two things I should mention at this point.

One, my mother was staying with us and her bedroom window looked out onto the front lawn.

 And two, we quickly discovered that this wobbly (no, I’ll rephrase that); this elderly couple were Naturists.

On the second morning after they’d arrived I drew back the curtains of my mother’s bedroom to see the two of them on the lawn, practicing their Tai Chi.  Despite their years their movements were graceful, there was no doubt about that. They moved forward in one continuous action, their hands held out in front of them.  But it wasn’t with admiration but in alarm that I watched them. Because they were completely naked. And I was standing side by side with my mother.

 It was when he turned towards the house and bent his knees and squatted that my mother made a choking noise and fell back onto the bed.

 Now I know this is totally out of context and misquoted (and I apologize wholeheartedly to Shakespeare) … but the words that sprang to mind when I gazed at him, were ‘…age shall not wither…

Well it was a very warm morning

Mum kept her curtains drawn for the rest of the week

AND FINALLY, TELL US ABOUT YOUR MOST RECENT BOOK AND WHERE WE CAN FIND IT?

Irene Hargreaves lives with her husband, Sam, and her mother, Lilian, who has dementia. It has, for a long time, been a difficult relationship between the two women and, over the last few years made worse by Irene’s mother’s illness. Irene is trapped by the love she has for Lillian which vies with the hatred she feels because of something she saw many years ago.

The book runs on two timelines: Irene’s life from the age of eight, after her sister, Rose, is born and her grandmother comes to live with the family, with flashbacks to happier times with Sam, and in present tense, over the last twenty-four hours when Irene knows she needs to make a decision.

The book. published 19th March 2020 by Honno>. Purchase here: Honno ~ Amazon

Where to find Judith online: Website ~ Blog ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

FINAL WORDS FROM CHELLE…

Thank you Judith for this wonderful interview.  I think we’ll all agree that the story of Mr & Mrs Wilson is quite hilarious – what a shock it must have been for your Mother!! I definitely think we can get away with not including the local animal rescue as a charity – I’d be donating my money them too.  A cancer charity is always a good cause that is close to so many people’s hearts and I’m glad that you were well looked after.

I’m also lucky enough to have been gifted with a copy of The Memory by Judith and Honno so keep an eye out as there will be a review up in the coming months! (Thank you Judith!).

I hope you’ve all had a good day and stayed in and safe.

Any comments for Judith, just drop us a comment or contact her using the links above.

Chelle x

My Series of Author & Poet Interviews who will be at Narberth Book Fair. #BookFair. Today with Kate Murray

Titleband for Narberth Book FairThroughout this months I ’ll be posting interviews with the authors and poets who will be taking part in our Book Fair:  http://www.narberthbookfair.co.uk/.

There are forty authors, so, obviously, there are many genres for both adults and children. There will be talks an writing and books, creative writing workshops for adults  workshops & talks and fun workshops for children, activities for the children  Children’s Page and a fun book trail through Narberth, the gorgeous little market town in Pembrokeshire.  Location.

All free!!

And, of course, there will be the chance to chat with all the authors and to pick their brains on all aspects of writing. Even to buy their books and have them personally signed.

And, as usual, there will also be the writing competition: this year is a poetry competition:  competition . Submit a poem, in any form, of 20 lines or less, on the subject of : –

BOOKS AND READING.

Having outgrown our previous venue we have been lucky to hire the Queens Hall: https://www.thequeenshall.org.uk/ who have been very generous in their support of the event.

Although, five years ago,  I started organising the book fairs on my own I was soon joined by Alex Martin: http://amzn.to/2hZCgt2  and Thorne Moore: http://bit.ly/2rc5qyA. Unfortunately Alex has moved on to pastures new  (although is still a great supporter), so Thorne and I have been joined by Elizabeth Sleight. Elizabeth is involved in the charity we are supporting through our raffle; The Harriet Davis Seaside Holiday Trust For Disabled Children: http://bit.ly/2sNyeKQ . 

Today I’m pleased to say it’s the turn of author and illustrator, Kate Murray

Kate Murray

 

To start, Kate. tell us why you write?

Because if I didn’t the voices in my head would get too loud. Sounds odd? Well, it sort of is. I hear my characters all the time. In order to make them quiet I have got to write them down.

What do you love most about the writing process?

Getting the ideas. I love sitting down with a blank page and creating a new story or idea. It’s so much fun!

What is the ultimate goal you hope to achieve with your writing?

One of my goals was to have a child dress as a character for world book day, and it was achieved this year! I just want people to read my books and enjoy them.

 

What book that you have read has most influenced your life?

This is a little odd, but it has to be ‘101 Dalmatians’ by Dodie Smith. I was not a great student as a child. In fact, there was something wrong. At the age of ten my parents were told I was subnormal and ought to go into the ‘special’ group. They argued. Not least because I had perfect recall. I could understand and problem solve, but I couldn’t read. At all…

So that year they cancelled the holiday and we started to learn to read. At the same time I asked to be taught how to ride a bike. My dad went to the local tip and got a bike that was being thrown out. It was a heavy ladies bike, but strong. And it had to be. You see, I couldn’t balance at all. So that summer I rode on the hand painted purple and silver bike with my mum holding on the back. Up and down the green in front of the house, then inside to try to read.

The one day I rode that bike. I stayed upright. There was only a week until we went back to school. Mum handed me ‘101 Dalmatians’ and a switch flicked. I was reading. Even now I don’t know what happened. But the book that has most influence my life and let me read is ‘101 Dalmatians’…

 

How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?

I have 3 short story collections, one novella, three novels, three children’s books for ages 7-10 and a picture book. My favourite has to be ‘Tunnels’

Tunnels: Volume 1

–  Many years ago a band of people were walled up in an underground city. They are still thriving and using the modern world to help their community. None more so than Heather who is determined to use the Upworld to save her mother’s life and give herself a future, though she is forbidden to go. Heather must travel to Upworld and brave modern day Edinburgh.

What genre do you consider your books? Have you considered writing in another genre?

The genre I write in is horror but I have been considering moving into murder mysteries… The multi-layer plots are something that I find ultimately interesting. As well as the character development and effectively creating a puzzle that you don’t want readers to solve until the end of the book.

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In three words, can you describe your latest book?

Dragons, Acceptance, Family

Does your book have a lesson? Moral?

I’m not sure there is a moral as such but the ‘Here Be Dragons’ series is about acceptance and racism. The book deals with dragons, werewolves and other supernatural creatures, but it is actually dealing with different races and how there is elitism and racism. The book is about accepting yourself and others who are different to you.

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Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reins of the story?

My characters always hijack my stories. They go off at tangents and don’t always react the way I want them to. But it always works out for the best.

 When did you write your first book and how old were you?

I wrote my first book, as in a novel, two years ago. I was 39 when it was published.

Do you have any hidden or uncommon talents?

I’m an artist. I design and draw every cover and illustration.

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What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I do a lot of my writing at Trinity Saint David University, Carmarthen, where there is an armchair that people have become so used to me sitting in that it has begun to be called ‘Kate’s Chair’.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

If I’m not writing then I am drawing… Or doing some crochet, or even making clothes. I’m rarely able to say I have any free time.

Give us a random fact about yourself.

I love to swim, in the sea, in a pool, or in any body of water.

What is the most amusing thing that has ever happened to you? Not particularly to do with your writing

Because of my dyspraxia I fall over a lot. But I love to walk. On one particular day I was walking my dog in the forest commission above a village called Cilcennin. If you go to the top of the near hill it looks down one a lovely Iron Age Hillfort. It’s a beautiful spot.

Anyway, if I concentrate on where I’m going then I can keep track of my feet and I don’t fall. In fact, half the time I am at more danger of falling in the street rather than on a walk, because I pay attention. On that day I was with a friend. We were chatting.

I put my foot down and there was nothing there. Basically, I’d fallen into a rabbit hole.

“I’m okay,” I said pulling myself out and realising that from the knee down I was now covered in mud.

I put my foot down and limped forward, I’d sprained something but nothing was broken. I gave a massive grin and look up.

“I’m good. Nothing…” what I meant to say was nothing broken. But what came out was a strangled cry as I put my good foot down another rabbit hole and ended up face first in the mud. Luckily I bounce, I have to. I fall over too much not to.

But I did end up in A&E, with two sprained ankles and a load of nurses laughing at my ‘2 rabbit hole’ accident

Kate’s Links:

Blog
Wesite

My Series of #FamilySaga Authors. Today with Margaret Kaine#MondayBlogs

Over the next few months I’ll be chatting with authors who, like me, write Family Sagas, (#familysaga) a genre that can cover many countries, years  and cultures.I am thrilled that so many excellent writers have agreed to meet here with me. I’m sure you’ll find them as fascinating as I do. All I can say is watch this space. Your TBR list of books will be toppling over!!

margaret

Today I’m chatting with Margaret Kaine. Margaret was born and educated in the Potteries and now lives in Eastbourne. Her short stories have been published widely in women’s magazines in the UK, and also in Australia, Norway, South Africa and Ireland. Ring of Clay, her debut novel, won both the RNA’s New Writer’s Award in 2002 and the Society of Authors’ Sagittarius Prize in 2003. She has written several romantic sagas about life in the Potteries between the 50’s and 70’s,and translations include German and French. All are published as eBooks, paperbacks and hardbacks, also Large Print and Audio – cassette and CD. I’m thrilled to have Margaret here.

Welcome, Margaret, lovely to see you here today.

Good to be here, Judith 

Tell us, what made you decide to write in your genre?

Simply because I always loved to read family sagas. Born and educated in Stoke-on-Trent, the area known as the Potteries, I always had a dream of becoming a writer. But once married and with a family, two dogs and a career as a lecturer in further education, there never seemed to be any me time. It wasnt until I had an empty nest, that I came to this wonderful world of writing fiction. I attempted short stories at first, gaining encouragement and constructive critiques from a writers workshop – Id advise anyone to join a good one – and had my share of rejections, but eventually became published widely in womens magazines in the UK, and also in Australia, Norway, South Africa and Ireland. Then obeying the maxim to write about what you know, I wrote and finished my first novel, Ring of Clay, set in the Potteries after WW2. Published by Poolbeg in Ireland, I was thrilled when it won the RNA New Writers Award in 2002. The following year, the same novel won the Society of Authors Sagittarius Prize, sponsored by Terry Pratchett. Hodder & Stoughton bought the UK & Commonwealth rights and I continued to write six more romantic sagas about life in the Potteries between the 50s and 70s. It was a nostalgia trip for me really, but I enjoyed so much describing life as I remembered it in this distinctive industrial area.

Ring Of Clay by [Kaine, Margaret]

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

This is an unusual question, and my answer is that I would doubt it. Even literary writing needs emotion and imagination.

Do you want each book to stand-alone or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

All of my books are stand-alone, even Ring of Clay and Rosemary, although they are connected with the latter being a sequel.

Rosemary by [Kaine, Margaret]

How do you select the names of your characters?

Oh, names! I cant continue until I have my main characters names. I will try several as I begin a novel, and know within a page or two whether one strikes a chord with me. And then it becomes a challenge, as I know I wont be able to write a word until Ive found the right one, otherwise I cant seem to see the person. The internet is a wonderful tool for this, especially for checking whether a name is correct for the era.

Does writing energise or exhaust you?

When the writing is going well, nothing has ever given me such a buzz, so I suppose at the time it gives me energy. But I admit that later – usually in the evening – I can feel quite tired. This happens especially if Ive been writing an emotionally draining scene, or if Ive been in what I call full flow, and forgotten how long Ive been sitting at the computer. But writing has enriched my life in so many ways, that I cant imagine not having it in my life.

Ribbon of Moonlight by [Kaine, Margaret]

What would be the advice you would give to your younger writing self?

One of my biggest regrets is not to have begun writing at a much earlier age. With hindsight, I should have made the time to creatively express myself. And yet, somehow it wasnt in my mindset. I admire so much young women who manage to write successful novels while bringing up a family.

Friends and Families by [Kaine, Margaret]

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

My subscription to join the Romantic Novelists Association. Its a wonderful organisation offering encouragement, support and friendship. I have learned much about my craft from attending the annual conferences they hold in different parts of the country. They also provide several glittering occasions to socialise with other authors, many of whom become good friends.

Song for a Butterfly by [Kaine, Margaret]

Have you ever had reader’s block?

Im afraid I just cant get into any books about vampires or zombies.

What is the first book that made you cry?

Now was it Little Women or Black Beauty? I read both as a child and dont think any books since have moved me more.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

Yes, I do read them, I cant resist it. Besides one can learn much from perceptive comments. Naturally the good ones are my favourites and can put a spring in my step all day, and eventually one learns to expect that not everyone will like your book and to accept negative reviews. What does annoy me is when people put reviews on Amazon, lowering the average star rating with such trite  remarks as I havent read it yet, or the cover was damaged when it arrived. I mentally scream.

Would you like to talk about your latest book here?

The last of my Potteries family sagas, was Song for a Butterfly, but after 7 books in the same genre, I felt I needed a challenge. I decided to write an Edwardian romantic historical suspense set against a more cosmopolitan background, and Dangerous Decisions was published by Choc Lit. I loved doing the research, describing the elegant fashions, the beautiful great houses. The aristocracy certainly knew how to live in style. But supporting that lifestyle would be a veritable army of servants, domestic service then being the main employment and these were often exploited. I have also set my recently completed 9th novel in the same era. With a working title of The Black Silk Purse, the story begins with a young girl being harshly treated in a workhouse, and the way her life becomes intertwined with that of a wealthy spinster. My agent loves it (always a huge sigh of relief), its out with publishers and so Im currently in that period authors know well, of waiting.

 Dangerous Decisions (Choc Lit) by [Kaine, Margaret]

Please supply links to all your social media including websites.

website – http://www.margaretkaine.com

Twitter – @MargaretKaine 

Facebook – Margaret Kaine

Goodreads – Margaret Kaine

Instagram –  Margaret_Kaine

Brexitania (or Alan in Wonderland) by Alan A Roberts.   

Another gem from Alan Roberts, student of one of my creative writing classes. His last post was  here: http://bit.ly/29u7vui.  And then there was:  http://bit.ly/20Gvbh6 where he battles with the self service supermarket check-out

Here Alan finds himself in yet another quandary. But somehow he has returned to being a young lad. Well, with Alan, anything can happen… as we well know! 

alan in wonderland

Cleaning his large bedroom frustrated Alan and he lacked concentration, making the task long and boring.  His mind wandered until noticing the dust-laden air being sucked towards the bottom of the wall alongside the old wardrobe.  Perplexed he investigated, holding his hand near the wall feeling the air going in, slightly yet in.  He held his breath before deciding to gingerly peel away the wallpaper until a huge wrought iron door stood before him.  Where it might lead he couldn’t comprehend.

He lifted the handle, pushed the door, which opened slowly, its creaking hinges adding to Alan’s apprehension.  Although the inside was dark, he stepped timidly into the black void without considering where or what he had entered or whether he might get out again.  Powerful lights blazed into life but Alan had no time to think about stopping himself for he felt himself falling and whatever he had fallen into was either very deep or he was falling very slowly, for he had time to look about and wonder what might happen next.  He tried to look down but it was too dark to see what was below so he looked at the sides of the hole and noticed there were maps of European countries – in fact he counted twenty-seven maps and alongside each was a photograph.  Recognising the faces of Hollande and Merkel, Alan assumed every photo was of the Country’s political leader.  All poked their tongues out as he passed.

Down, down, down. 

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He thought the fall would never end.  Suddenly, thump! thump! he landed upon a pile of papers.  His fall was over and amazingly he was unhurt.  As he steadied himself he saw the papers were hundreds of thousands of the recent referendum ballot papers, each marked with an X alongside the ‘Leave the European Union’ statement.  Alan looked up from where he had fallen but all was in darkness overhead.  In front of him was a long passage and from there he saw a White Rabbit hurrying toward him.  Alan couldn’t believe his eyes; the Rabbit’s white fur was unkempt and had the face of Boris Johnston.

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“Welcome, Alan,” the White Rabbit joyously proclaimed, “you’re our first visitor since the victory.”  He grabbed Alan’s hand and continued to shake it until Alan’s arm ached.

“Where am I?” Alan asked.

“Why my lad, you’re in Brexitania.  It’s the Country’s new name – Britain sounds too much like Brittany and we can’t have any confusion with them lot over the Channel.  Do you like the new name?”

“It sounds stupid”, Alan responded.

“Sorry old boy, can’t change it now – registered it with the Copyright Office straight away.  Anyway, tell me what brings you here?”

“I found a secret door in my bedroom then fell into a hole that seemed to go on forever and landed here: I’ve no idea what’s happening.  It’s all a bit weird and a little exciting, if I’m honest.”

“Ah, that’s what we like to hear – yes – a bit weird and a little exciting – good combination of words – might put them in our manifesto when we get round to it,” Rabbit exclaimed.

White Rabbit struggled to pull a large pocket watch from a small pocket, looked at its face on which Alan noticed it had neither hands nor numbers and exclaimed,

“Oh my ears and whiskers, how late it’s getting! I have to be off to trigger article 50. We always knew Jean-Claude Junker would prove troublesome.  Anyway, follow me and meet the rest of the gang. This way, follow the path: hurry, there’s a good chap.”

Alan followed close behind but when he turned a corner marked, ‘Brexit Triumph’, the White Rabbit had disappeared.  He now found himself in a long, low hall that was lit by a row of lamps hanging from the roof.  There were doors round the hall, but all were locked; and when Alan had been all the way down one side and up the other, trying every one of the twenty-seven doors he walked sadly down the middle, wondering how he was ever to get out. Suddenly he came upon a little three-legged party table on which was placed a tiny golden key and Alan hoped it might unlock one of the doors; but as he tried each one their locks proved either too large or the key too small and none of them could be opened.  He tried a second time, hoping he might have missed one door on his initial round and he came to a low curtain that he hadn’t previously noticed.  Pulling the curtain aside he found a small door on which a sign declared, ‘BREXITANIA – ‘IN AND OUT’.  He tried the key and to his good fortune it fitted!

Opening the door, Alan found himself completely in the dark.  Adjusting his eyes, he saw two paths marked, ‘OUT’ and ‘IN’ but no instruction as to which of the two pathways should be taken or why.  He opted for the ‘IN’ path and walked its length, finally emerging into the light, into a place Alan recognised as Parliament Green.  He walked forward, becoming aware of a figure standing nearby, whose back was turned to him.  The figure wore a natty suit with a large stove-pipe hat perched precariously on its head.  As the figure turned he noticed a handwritten note pinned to the brim on which was printed in bold purple ink the words, ‘VOTE UKIP’.  Bizarrely, from beneath the rim the grinning face of Nigel Farage peered out; in his right hand he clutched a full pint of what Alan assumed to be froth-topped ale, which he instantly drank.  The Mad Hatter approached with his right hand extended.  Expecting to shake hands, Alan extended his but the Mad Hatter placed his thumb on his nose and wiggled his fingers, mockingly.

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“That had you,” the Mad Hatter gleefully spluttered before continuing, “hope you haven’t come for your share of the three hundred and fifty million quid we said we’d share out.” Bit of a porky but it helped get us OUT.  So, welcome to Brexitania – White Rabbit says you just dropped in. If you need a drink I’ll get Mock Chancellor Osborne over there to get you a glass of his ‘grumpy’.  Sorry, couldn’t resist that; cloudy lemonade’s your tipple, I believe?”

Carrying his lemonade, Alan wandered into the crowd gathered on the far side of the Green. A resplendent footman told him that a Cheshire Cat was due to make a speech.  Alan decided to wait and a few moments later the Cheshire Cat with Michael Gove’s grinning face jumped onto the dais and began addressing those assembled.

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“Welcome everybody – I’ve some announcements to make following our landslide victory.  First, Mr Justice Gums will be Lord Chancellor – boom! boom!; secondly we are banning the letters I and N appearing together and following Royal Assent words like ‘spin’ will become ‘spOUT’ and Cheshire Cat’s grin will become a ‘grOUT’; pubs called Inn’s will become OUT’s; legal terms will also change with Inns of Court becoming OUTS of Court and even Her Majesty’s family name will change from Windsor to WOUTdsor, difficult to pronounce but we’re certain you’ll get used to it.  Any questions?”

Alan raised his arm.

“And what’s your question, young man?”

“I can’t remain in such madness and I don’t want to be among all you mad people”.

Cheshire Cat Gove grinned from ear to ear.  “Oh no, you can’t REMAIN because we’re now OUT but also IN, if you get my drift. And anyway, we’re all mad here.  I’m mad, they’re mad and you’re mad.”

Alan indignantly responded, “You can’t say I’m mad, you don’t know me?”

“You must be mad,” grinned the Cheshire Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.” He paused for a moment, then continued, “No further questions? Then everybody OUT, quick as you can, there’s good fellows.”

Alan watched as Cheshire Cat jumped from the stage leaving behind his still wide grin.  From the Green he kept running until coming to a sign saying, ‘THIS WAY TO SEE ELIZABETH, QUEEN OF HEARTS’.  Alan took the path indicated and found himself standing outside a building resembling Buckingham Palace where a further sign proclaimed: ‘THE BREXITANIA GOVERNMENT GIVES NOTICE THAT BUCKINGHAM PALACE WILL BECOME BUCKOUTGHAM PALACE AND HRH THE DUKE OF EDINBURGH WILL BECOME THE DUKE OF EDOUTBURGH’.  Seeing another of the footmen, Alan asked if he might speak with the Queen.  With his request granted, Alan was ushered inside and approached the Royal couple seated on their thrones.  Alan thought they both looked decidedly sad although the Duke was making a valiant attempt to wave his EU flag, much to the annoyance of the courtiers.  The Queen wore a dress on which red hearts were sewn over its entire surface whilst the Duke had on his ceremonial uniform with plastic medals across the jacket, brown suede shoes and from his red tricorne hat a plume of feathers drooped over his face.  Alan forced himself not to laugh.  Advised to kneel before the Queen, announce his name loudly and tell Her Majesty why he needed the audience, Alan nervously approached the Queen’s throne, kneeled, cleared his throat and in a loud voice said:

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“Your Majesty, my name is Alan and I ask if you can please arrange for me to return home as soon as possible.”

The Duke looked down and simply muttered,

“Oh Gawd, not another bloody simpleton”.

The Queen, unfased by the Duke’s rude aside, looked over her bifocals,

“And where would one’s home be?”

Alan, stuck for a meaningful response, thought if he gave his address at 23 Alder Gardens the Queen would have no idea where that was or how he could get there, so answered,

“Back up the long hole, your Majesty.”

The ensuing momentary silence was broken when the Duke shouted,

“Back up whose long hole, you cheeky little bugger?”

“Off with his head,” the Queen commanded.  Attendants grabbed Alan and hauled him into a side-room where he was padlocked inside a small wooden cage.  Panicking, he closed his eyes to stop himself crying. He was, he thought, far too young to die.

Suddenly, loud knocking accompanied by his mother’s voice startled Alan back to the reality of his bedroom,

“Alan, Benny’s here and wants to know if you’re coming out?”

Staring at the ripped wallpaper, he wailed, “Mum, tell him I’m staying in,” and pulled the duvet over his head and thanked God he was safely back home.

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Today With Lisa Shambrook

Introducing the authors who will be at the Tenby Book Fair, http://bit.ly/27XORTh, the first event of the Tenby Arts Festival http://bit.ly/24eOVtl .  I’m looking forward to having many more such chats over the next couple of months.

So far I’ve interrogated interviewed Rebecca Bryn: http://bit.ly/1XYWbtF, Thorne Moore: http://bit.ly/1P6zDQh , Matt Johnson: http://bit.ly/1RUqJFg , Christoph Fischer: http://bit.ly/1svniAr , Sally Spedding: http://bit.ly/1VNRQci, Wendy Steele http://bit.ly/1PMoF8i  and Kathy MIles:  http://bit.ly/1twN3Bg , Carol Lovekin: http://bit.ly/1V4Yupr  and Colin R  Parsons: http://bit.ly/1tvBc5G:  And thanks to Thorne Moore for interviewing me: http://bit.ly/1VTvqGq  Over the next few weeks I’ll be introducing the rest of the authors and I’ll also be showcasing the publishers who will be in attendance. There may also be a short chat with John and Fiona of http://showboat.tv/ who, as usual, will be filming the event.

Today I’m delighted to introduce inspirational author, Lisa Shambrook, who recently has launched a lovely new book.

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Hi, Lisa, so good to have you here today to talk abouit your work.

 Hi Judith, Good to be here.

Please explain how you came to be a writer, what inspired you to write your book (s) and how long it took.

 

Writing, along with reading and art, was always part of my life. When I was young I wanted to be an author and illustrator, but my words came faster and stronger than my art, and writing became my passion.

It was after reading the first Harry Potter book that I thought I could do this for real, and with the birth of my youngest sixteen years ago I began to write. Within a decade I had a fantasy trilogy and one and a half more books written. After querying I realised the books were woefully inadequate and I set about learning and improving my craft. A few years of education and flash fiction really honed my words and skills, and I set about writing a new series. In 2013, 14 and 15 I released The Hope Within novels, very different from my first forays into writing, but they have been well received and taught me much.

What facets of your life, both personal and professional, are woven into your book, if any?

Beneath the Rainbow (A Hope Within Novel Book 1)

Beneath the Old Oak (A Hope Within Novel Book 2)Beneath the Distant Star (A Hope Within Novel Book 3)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hope Within books: ‘Beneath the Rainbow’, ‘Beneath the Old Oak’, and ‘Beneath the Distant Star’ have dealt with difficult subjects. These books cover grief, depression, self-harm, anger issues and bullying. It’s heavy stuff, but essential to understand the human condition. I have suffered anxiety and depression for most of my life and so the themes have been woven easily into the books with compassion and empathy. I am also a big dreamer and my imagination soars. The main theme of Beneath the Rainbow is living life to the full and reaching for those so called impossible dreams. The book’s tagline reads “It’s those silly dreams that keep us alive.” And sometimes they really do. Reach for those distant stars!

Are you like any of the characters (and how so)?

I am very much like both Meg, and her mum Martha, in ‘Beneath the Old Oak’. Meg suffers anxiety and a desire to be there for her mum, but just isn’t able to cope with her mother’s deep depression. Having been clinically depressed and a regular self-harmer I am well qualified to write about them and their effects. I am an advocate for mental health awareness and blog regularly about mental health issues alongside positivity and reaching for your dreams.

When did you decide to write in your chosen genre(s)

The Hope Within novels are contemporary and fit well into the Young Adult genre, but I have had lovely feedback and reviews from all ages and genders. I don’t think I decided to write for a particular genre at first, ‘Beneath the Rainbow’ doesn’t fit clearly, but the subsequent books do, and I feel comfortable with the YA placing. I am currently working on a Post-Apocalyptic/Fantasy series set in Wales, far, far in the future, which will be aimed at the YA market, and the wonderful thing about YA is that we’re all young at heart, so the genre is very accessible to all.

Describe where you do most of your writing. What would I see if I was sitting beside you?

I write in my living room on my laptop on my sofa with my German Shepherd close by. Though, amusingly, if I write a sad scene and weep, she wanders over and rests her head on my lap. She’s as empathetic as I am! One day when my children have left home, I plan to take over one of their bedrooms and write at a desk overlooking the garden, though I might end up procrastinating as I stare out into the wilds…

What are the best and the worst aspects of writing?

The best is allowing my imagination free reign. I write to escape. The worst is finding time. Right now both my parents are fragile and ill, and need a lot of my time, so finding those moments to write are precious. I used to love sitting and writing all day, but currently, that’s just not possible.

Tell us one odd thing about you and one really mundane thing.

Let’s go mundane first – I’m an introvert, a lot of writers are, we like to hide away and we value our own company. And the odd thing – my children joke that I’m a squirrel as I seek out acorn cups and hazelnut shells. There is a reason. I suffer anxiety and panic, and I use these cups and hollowed shells as anchors and stims. I’ve written about it on my blog as they also work as a preventative for self-harm too. When panic rises and I feel the urge to run or escape, particularly in social situations, I smooth my thumb across the acorn cup or hazelnut shell and it calms me. I carry a multitude of them, in all my pockets, and it makes my family smile.

Lastly, what are you up to right now?

I am currently releasing a Post-Apocalyptic collection with a wonderful group of authors. It began when my family did a post-apocalyptic family photoshoot and one of my daughter’s pictures garnered a lot of attention. My writing community wanted to write for her character, so we gave her a name, and a world, and something to fight for. Then we instructed those involved to write for their own characters, but somewhere in their stories they had to meet Ghabrie, our main character. The stories are amazing and the book very different to usual collaborations and anthologies out there. You get a full length epic book with stories by fourteen very different authors, which all tie together in the most unexpected ways. It’s available now in Lulu and will soon be available on Amazon too. Look out for ‘Human 76’.

Human 76 - An Unprecendted collection of Post Apocalyptic  Stories - Ghabrie

My Links: Facebook Author Page: www.facebook.com/LisaShambrookAuthor

Twitter: twitter.com/LisaShambrook

Blog: www.thelastkrystallos.wordpress.com

Website: www.lisashambrook.com

Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B005AV9M8K/ref=dp_byline_sr_ebooks_1?ie=UTF8&text=Lisa+Shambrook

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+LisaShambrook

Human 76 Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/Human76

Today With Christoph Fischer

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Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been be chatting with authors who will be at the Tenby Book Fair, http://bit.ly/27XORTh, the first event of the Tenby Arts Festival http://bit.ly/24eOVtl .  I’m looking forward to having many more such chats over the next couple of months. 

So far I’ve interviewed Rebecca Bryn: http://bit.ly/1XYWbtF, Thorne Moore:  http://bit.ly/1P6zDQh  and Matt Johnson: http://bit.ly/1RUqJFg  . Over the next few weeks I’ll be introducing them all and I’ll also be showcasing the publishers who will be in attendance. There may also be a short chat with John and Fiona of http://showboat.tv/ who, as usual, will be filming the event.

Today’s guest need little introduction.  I’m really pleased to be chatting with my  friend, Christoph Fisher. Christoph organised the first Llandeilo Book Fair this year and is now in the process of setting up another: http://llandeilobookfair.blogspot.co.uk/

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Hi Christoph and welcome. Let’s start by asking you what books have most influenced your life?
I’m not sure which ones influenced me the most but here are some books that triggered big events in my life:
After reading “The Idiot” by Dostoevsky I became a true literary addict. Before then I liked reading, now I was hooked. I read all of his work and decided to find a way of living by working with books. I became a librarian.
I switched over to the travel industry after reading “Backpack” by Emily Barr. It is a thriller set in Asia but it is as much about finding yourself as ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ – only with more bite.

  1. How do you develop your plots and characters?

I have basic plans for the story and the characters but I allow them to change as the story moves along. I often find that the great scene in Chapter 13, which I had built up to from the start, doesn’t feel right any more. I allow chaos during the first drafts and then iron things out in the re-writes.

  1. Tell us about your latest book?

Ludwika is about a Polish woman forced to work in Germany to fill the labour shortage during WW2. Although she is better off than other victims of the Nazi regime, her life gets disrupted beyond repair.

Ludwika: A Polish Woman's Struggle To Survive In Nazi Germany by [Fischer, Christoph]

  1. We all need a hero! Tell us about your protagonist(s)? Was there a real-life inspiration behind him or her?

In Ludwika’s case there is real-life inspiration. She was the mother of a friend of mine and I started writing her story after helping them find out more about their mother’s time in Germany.

  1. A good villain is hard to write. How did you get in touch with your inner villain(s) to write this book. Was there a real-life inspiration for him/her/it?

I usually have a real villain in mind. One in particular found her way into two of my books. I imagine what they would say or do and then the writing comes to me very easily. In the re-writing process I make sure I change enough not to get sued.

  1. What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the world-building within your book?

I used my grandparents as inspiration for two of my books. Their marriage was difficult for various reasons. In “The Luck of the Weissensteiners” I focus on the political circumstances and their life in Slovakia during WW2. In “Sebastian” I write about my grandfather and his disability.

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Did you research for your book?

Yes. I think especially in historical fiction you need to get your facts right. In many cases the research came long before I had the idea for the book, so it wasn’t too arduous during the writing.

  1. What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Letting Ludwika go through her ordeals, knowing she was a real person and only in part product of my imagination.

  1. What was your favourite part to write and why?

One chapter in which Ludwika makes a new friend. I wanted to show how even in the darkest hours there can be hope, friendly encounters and a little joy.

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  1. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

Yes, I learned that odd choices can make a lot of sense when you look at them closely and know the context. There are often good reasons for what appears irrational or risky.

  1. Is there a message in your novel that you hope readers will grasp?

I hope people will see that there were many heart-breaking tragedies and stories during that time. In comparison they may pale but for the individual they were still catastrophic.

  1. What are your future project(s)?

I am currently working on the sequel to my medical thriller “The Healer” and also on a humorous murder mystery.

Product Details

  1. If you couldn’t be an author, what would your ideal career be?

Film and book critic.

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  1. What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, here on Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?

Website: http://www.christophfischerbooks.com/

Blog: http://writerchristophfischer.wordpress.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6590171.Christoph_Fischer

Amazon: http://ow.ly/BtveY

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CFFBooks

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/christophffisch/

Google +: https://plus.google.com/u/0/106213860775307052243

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=241333846

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/WriterChristophFischer?ref=hl

  1. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers/ new writers

Yes. Readers, please leave reviews for the books and recommend them to your friends. Your support is very important.
To new writers: Be true to yourself and don’t let yourself be discouraged.

Our Holiday in Ciovo, Croatia – and ‘I Like Your Writing.’

All the world appears to mill around Gatwick. The stress is obvious, the security a necessity, the patience of everyone varied, the wait tedious.

It’s with great relief we settle into our seats on the plane knowing that, on our arrival in Split, we will be met by Mr V, the taxi driver, kindly arranged for us by the owners of  the apartment where we will be staying in Okrug Gornji: https://www.homeaway.co.uk/p443630

We are met there by Bozena, the owner’s representative who, despite having to wait for us to arrive over an hour late, due to the delay of the flight (it is past eleven at night), greets us with a wide smile, picks up my suitcase and almost runs up the thirty-two stairs to our pent house apartment. A quick tour around, helpfully explaining the air conditioning, shutters and lights and off she goes. We go out onto the balcony and wonder at the vast expanse of lights reflecting on the sea below us.

 - Night view

 

The sun, pouring through the window, wakes me at 5.30am.

I pull up the shutters in the living area and go out onto the balcony. Below, the red roofs of the houses contrast with the stark white walls. The clumps of trees that intersperse them, soften the lines of the whole village.The sun lights up the sea, revealing the shifts, the currents,  in the expanse of  water. In the distance I can see the mainland and the various blue-grey hills of the islands around us with the stretches of dark trees and pale shingle-edged inlets. Too much beauty not to share. I wake my husband.

 - Main balcony with 3 seater swing and sun lounger

 - Light airy lounge with satellite TV/DVD/CD player

 - View from bedroom balcony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our holiday begins with a stroll down through the narrow streets to the Mali Raj restaurant for a  tasty and  nutritious  breakfast  (this is a restaurant recommended many times in the apartments’ visitors book and we are to have most meals here throughout the week. None disappoint.)

Then a short stroll down to the harbour and a walk along the beach path. people smile, greet us, are friendly.

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A lazy day that ends with a glass of wine and a glorious sunset.

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On the second day we walk to Trogir; a walk along a busy road but with interesting sights to see; the buildings, the wild flowers, the gardens, the houses. It takes us thirty minutes and we’re glad to be walking on the long bridge over the water to the town to search out a refreshing drink in a cafe on the wide promenade.

Trogir is set within medieval walls.. The cobbled streets are fascinating; narrow, old buildings with Romanesque and Renaissance architecture  including a magnificent cathedral and castle.

Since 1997 Trogir has had World Heritage status.

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Later, before setting off on our walk back to  Okrug Gornji, we sit and enjoy a local beer at a bar by the water and near the busy, fascinating market.

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But before leaving, we stand and admire the yachts … and dream of winning the Lottery!
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The next day we go on a route march to Dango

The photos speak for themselves

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And we have a wonderful lunch at the Konoba Duga restaurant there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

At night the heavens open… we have a glorious storm that lasts until the following morning

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The rain stops and we’re off walking again.

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Over the next three days  we explore the area in the daytime. At night we sit together on the swinging hammock on the balcony, reading and enjoying a glass (or two)  of wine until the light goes

It’s our last night. We enjoy the final sunset of our holiday

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Then:

‘I like your writing.’ he says.

We’ve known one another for almost fifty years, been married for forty-six.  But he’s looking at me as though he’s never seen me before.

He’s just finished the last book of my trilogy, Living in the Shadows. He sits back and says it again. ‘I do, I like your writing.’

I want to ask why but I know he thinks he’s said enough. And it is. He’s read all three books over the last week. I’ve not known him do that before, he’s a man who barely sits still, who loves being outdoors, loves walking. But we’re on holiday and we’ve walked during the day. In the evenings we sit and read on the balcony of this lovely apartment.

I hadn’t realise he’d brought the books with him; they’re the ones I’ve used when I give talks and readings and the first, Pattern of Shadows, is, after five years, looking distinctly tatty. I’ve said nothing about it even though it’s been hard not to watch him while he’s read; tried to figure out his expressions.

Pondering on his words later I realize why I didn’t ask him why he liked the books.  It’s enough he told me. There are times when we’ve been walking, or watching a programme on the television when he’s said,’you’ve gone again… you’re thinking.’ And he’s been right; I was writing in my head. And times when I have actually sat in front of the computer writing and before I’ve known it hours have passed. I’ve dragged myself away to make a meal, to see if he wants a coffee, to flick a duster around the rooms to salve my conscience. And I see him watching me as though puzzled.

The expression on his face makes me feel guilty sometimes. But not often. I wrote in secret for years. Sometimes for long stretches of time – but mostly – when life takes over ( work, moving houses, illness, the family, other commitments) – sporadically.

I’ve loved our life together. There have been many ups and downs, celebrations, disappointments, exciting times. There are not many things I would have changed – perhaps the petty arguments, the struggles in our early years when we fought to find our places in this thing we call our marriage. But those times passed and we made this ‘thing’ our own, learning from mistakes ( or making the same ones over and over again until they became a family joke/tradition/ something to be sighed over in resignation).

I know this man I met so many years ago. We were both hesitant in commitment, both lacking in confidence, both coming from parents whose marriages were acrimonious, where quarrels were never resolved.

I’ve seen him grow into the man he is and I know – I’ve always assumed – he knows me. We finish sentences for one another, I can be thinking, planning something we should do, and the next moment he says the words. We share the same sense of humour, laugh often. We make love – okay, not as often as thirty years ago but it’s not a bad record. (I’m hoping he never reads this post, by the way!). We hold hands when we walk, when we sit together. We know each other’s needs: a touch of empathy, comfort, sympathy, reassurance.We know one another better than we know anyone else in this world.

Yet, never before having read anything I’ve written, he’s now looking at me  as though he’s just had the answer to a question  that’s been hovering in his mind forever.

I like your writing ,’ he says again. He leans towards me and we kiss.

It’s enough. I know he understands why I need to write.

 

Links:

Amazon. co.uk

Pattern of Shadows: http://amzn.to/1OpM6TI

Changing Patterns: http://amzn.to/1PPmzki

Living in the Shadows:  http://amzn.to/1PWBLiV

Amazon.com:

Pattern of Shadows: http://amzn.to/1QyPHN6

Changing Patterns: http://amzn.to/1JOTMxc

Living in the Shadows: http://amzn.to/1PGK108