EARLY WARNING

On Sunday 2nd April I’ve been invited ‘into the spotlight’ on the “We Love Memoirs” Facebook page where I will be revealing for THE VERY FIRST TIME the title, cover and publication date for MY NEW BOOK!

If you are a reader and don’t already belong to that page you may like to join it, because whatever your taste you will find something to enjoy. There are hundreds of titles from authors like NYT best-seller Victoria Twead, Joe Cawley, Jacky Donovan, Frank Kusy and Beth Haslem (and me!) and many, many more.

There are memoirs that will lift you up, shake you up, take your breath away, make you laugh and make you cry as authors open the curtains on their lives of adventure, misadventure, survival, laughter and joy, from dog lovers in Dubai to a dominatrix with her own London dungeon.

With almost 4,000 members it is a fun and sometimes rowdy but always super-friendly group, offering frequent giveaways, competitions and opportunities to relate directly with the authors.

I’ll be on-line from 11.00 am local (French) time to chat and answer questions about my books, thermodynamics and the meaning of life.

Click on image to go to the We Love Memoirs Facebook group.

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One swallow ………..

…. does not a summer make.

Neither do fourteen, it seems, as Midsummer day is almost upon us and the weather continues to be cool, damp and grey with frequent heavy downpours and occasional violent storms. This afternoon we are threatened with a hail storm. Given the choice of excessive heat, or excessive rain, I would choose the latter, but it really has been a dismal start to summer, and from the forecast it doesn’t look as if we can expect any improvement for another few days at least.

The garden is luxuriant both in terms of plants and weeds. The rose bushes are bent beneath their own weight, but the blooms are ragged and soggy. The lawn never dries out sufficiently for mowing.

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But on the bright side, the swallows are flourishing. The four who arrived in mid-March are now fourteen as far as I can count, all feathered and flying. Hopefully there will be more to come, as they often raise two broods before they migrate in the autumn.

A consequence of all the renovations that have taken place in rural areas is that swallows and owls have lost their ancestral family homes. All the barns and previously deserted houses in our hamlet have been converted into either permanent or holiday homes. It is really heart-breaking to see the swallows, when they arrive, flutter around windows that were once empty gaps, as they try in vain to reach the beams where they had nested for generations.

Although we renovated one tiny old house as a holiday home, several years ago we stopped using it for that purpose and instead use it for storage. I leave the upstairs windows open throughout the year for ventilation, and as soon as the swallows discovered that, they were in like Flynn and building their nests. They also established themselves in the little wooden chalet in the garden. We are able to watch at close quarters as they work through the daylight hours to fill the gaping mouths of their young. The birds are quite used to us being in close proximity.

Hungry swallows

Last year we met a couple who were temporarily without accommodation, and offered them the opportunity to ‘camp out’ in the small house, on the understanding that there would be birds swooping in and out and around the bedroom. They reported that as the young fledged and began practising flying, lying in bed was like being on the platform at Waterloo during rush hour. 😀

There is an obvious consequence of having birds living indoors, but clearing up their mess is a small price to pay for the pleasure of knowing we have given them space to raise their young in safety. Once they were a common sight here, but over the years their numbers have dropped alarmingly. We must help them in every way we can.

As I am writing this I can see a dozen or so swallows swooping around the garden, plus the goldfinches, blackbirds, wagtails and woodpeckers. None of them seem discouraged by the weather, although the swallows look rather soggy.

Soggy swallow-2

While discussing swallows, I thought I would mention for those who don’t know, that my book ‘Swallows and Robins – the Laughs and Tears of a Holiday Home Owner’ is a finalist in The People’s Book Prize 2016. The winner is chosen by public vote, and the award ceremony will be broadcast by Sky News on 12th July at 8.00 pm. If you would like to vote for me, here is the link to click. If you voted for me in the first round, thank you, please do continue to support me by voting again. Finalists are listed in alphabetical order, so you need to scroll down.

PBP Finalist
Click image to go to voting page.

I know that we are not alone in having unseasonable weather, and that while some are suffering floods others are suffering heatwaves. Here’s hoping that for all of us we soon have some relief and can get out of the house without being either drenched or baked. 🙂

 

 

 

Not yet a novelist

It doesn’t happen often, that I am left speechless. Even if it’s only a curse I can usually muster a couple of words.

Being unable to write is a new experience. Never have I stared blankly at a bare sheet of paper for ten minutes and failed to find a single word worth writing.

But on Wednesday  that’s what happened. Unnerving.

I’ve sometimes been called a novelist. The definition of a novel is a story invented by the writer – a tale about imaginary characters and events. In other words, fiction. The person who writes a novel is a novelist.

All my books so far have been non-fiction. They are about actual events, people and places. They are not novels, and I am not a novelist. I’m a writer, or author. However it is increasingly common to hear all writers referred to as novelists. Does it really matter except to the pedants?

But I have meandered away from the point.

Our guest speaker at the May literary luncheon hosted by Charroux Literary Festival was the effervescent Alison Morton, author of the Roma Nova novels. After lunch Alison held  a workshop on ‘character and setting.’ The first part of the exercise was to create a character. In ten minutes.

While the 17 other guests bent their heads and wrote diligently, my mind became a vacuum. The minutes ticked by. Alison called: “You have five minutes left!”

I felt a wave of panic. This is how Masterchef contestants must feel as the clock ticks down and their panna cotta hasn’t set. I quickly scribbled down the most clichéd character imaginable, and as quickly scribbled them out. When our ten minutes was over, my character was non-existent. It’s the hardest piece of writing I’ve never done. I could feel sweat trickling down my back, and my throat had dried up.

Things looked up when we went on to the second element of the exercise,  creating a setting. From nowhere came a muse who settled on my shoulder and helped squeeze out a couple of hundred words.

The final part of the exercise was to swap all our characters and settings around anonymously, and create a story from them. Pity the poor person who was landed with my non-character.

I landed on my feet, as the character and setting, although devised by two different people, could have been written for each other, and I regained my writing mojo, for the first time actually writing fiction. And loving it. Something I have never believed I am capable of. That doesn’t mean I’ve become a novelist – 200 words do not a novel make, but I can see a glimmer of light beckoning from the end of a previously unknown tunnel.

Since then I have been creating characters in my head, and without the pressure of the ticking clock have found it addictive and fascinating.

Alison is – forgive the cliché – a prolific author with a huge fan base, and has written five novels in the Roma Nova series in three years. She also blogs energetically and offers advice and help for writers. I bought her book The 500 Word Writing Buddy which contains  no-nonsense, succinct advice delivered with a generous dollop of humour. It has motivated me to hope that one day I will deserve the title of novelist.

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First, however, I must finish the current non-fiction book I am working on. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The People’s Book Prize

Thanks to all those who were kind enough to vote for Swallows and Robins, I’m thrilled to say it is a finalist in the People’s Book Prize. 🙂

The winner will be chosen, again by public vote, from the twelve finalists in the non-fiction category. The next round of voting starts in May – I’ll take the liberty of reminding you when the time comes. 🙂

I am so grateful for all your support. download.png

 

Thank you

I haven’t been active on social media for the last three weeks, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been active. There’s a load of stuff going on that is taking up my time and which has to take priority, so I’ll keep this short and sweet.

To all those people who have already voted for me in The People’s Book Prize –

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For anybody who would like to, there is just one week remaining before voting closes, so if you can spare a moment I’d be very grateful. 🙂

Click the link below to go to the voting page.

Vote

 

Three Johns and a Rosie

Reblogged from https://harrietspringbett.wordpress.com

Interesting. Ourselves as others see us. I think Eric has the English fairly well worked out. But will we ever fully understand them?

Harriet Springbett's playground

I knew that Cognac’s European Literature festival wasn’t a literary festival. Not a writers’ literary festival, in any case. I knew it would be nothing like the intimate meeting place for writers and readers you’ll find at the St.Clementin and Charroux lit fests.

But it was happening close to home. There would be books and authors. And I was intrigued because the European country selected as the theme of the festival wasn’t a country. It was a city. The city of London.

Aha, I thought, as I looked through the programme. Now I’ll understand how the French see the English.

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The inauguration event – a discussion between two journalists about their visions of London – came halfway through the festival (I haven’t worked that one out yet. Perhaps I’ll have to wait until France is the theme country to understand this logic).

But Jon Henley, a journalist from The Guardian…

View original post 1,108 more words

Vive la différence, or the weight of words

Last week I had three identical books to post to the United States. They are quite heavy, so I wanted to post them by the most economical means.

The French postal system has a special book rate. You have to write on the packet ‘livre‘ to indicate that it contains a book, which I did.

There was until fairly recently a rarity in our nearest post office – a thoroughly miserable and difficult little woman who was as awkward as she was able to be within the remit of her job.images

At the time there were two adjacent cashiers. People queued in a single queue and moved to the first cashier to become vacant. From long and depressing experience, if we saw that we were going to have to do the wearisome battle with Mrs Sourlemon-Face, as we called her, we would allow the person behind us in the queue to leapfrog us. I don’t think she was so difficult with French people.

Anyway, the good news is that following a revamp of the post office, she has now been relegated to a back room where she hands out parcels through a small window, and there is a new friendly lady dealing with the post section.

I handed her the three books, said that they were for the United States and that they were to go by the least expensive means.

After she had weighed them, she asked if they were French books. I said that they were about France, but written in English.

Then they could not go by book rate, she said. Only books written in the French language qualified.

But how would anybody know what language they were written in, I asked.

Well, the Customs might open them, she replied.

Why does the language matter, I asked.

Because the special book rate is to promote French culture.

But these books are all about France. They are about champagne, history, the French Revolution, French food ….. it is just the words that are in English. Why can’t they go by book rate?

She shrugged. Because it says so, she replied.ticket-rules-and-regulations1.jpg

The cost of posting each book – €10 – was more than the value of the book. I said I wouldn’t pay that, it was ridiculous.

Ah yes, she sighed. It’s a shame.

But she wanted to be helpful, and after a moment she had a bright idea:

If I went home and put all the books in the same parcel, and sent them to one of the recipients as a parcel, it would cost less.

But then how would the other two recipients get their books?

The first recipient would deliver them.

One lives in Texas, one in Massachusetts and one in Oregon. The first recipient would have to pay to post the books to these people.images (1).jpg

We both agreed that her bright idea wouldn’t work. She looked up what it would cost if the books went by book-rate. Less than one-quarter of the non-book-rate. Oh la, she said, there is a big difference. But, still, it says ……………….

I said to her, this is the first time I have ever been asked what language the book is written in. It has never happened in any other post office, or indeed in this very same post office, even by Mrs Sourlemon-Face.

Which other post offices had I used, she asked.

I named the one I frequently used.

Well, she said, I think it would be better for you to go to that one. It will cost you much less.

So I went to another post office, where the lady didn’t ask what
language the books were printed in, and they cost precisely €2.13 each to post.

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Of course it did take an extra two hours out of my life, and thirty miles of fuel.

There’s a moral here in case you need to post books abroad from France. 🙂 download (3).jpg

 

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Lou Messugo