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.

IF

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. 🙂

 

 

 

Past, present, future

So it’s over for another year, and time to move on.

2015 was for us a year of contrasting fortunes, from the lowest low, to the highest highs.

The low

My blog stats show that views had declined from 40,471 in 2010 to 8,243 in 2015. Maybe because I blogged far more back then than I have done since.

The most views on a post in 2015 were during May, when this post had 365 views, and this one 176 views. It’s often said that bad news attracts more interest than good news, and those viewing figures bear that out.

The highs

First high was meeting wildlife photographer and animal portraitist Marian Brickner.  Her particular passion is the bonobo chimpanzee. 

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Copyright Marian Brickner

She documents these amazingly human apes from birth through adulthood and to parenthood. Her knowledge and love of them is profound, as is her ability to capture the soul of all the animals she photographs. I spent a day with her at our local primate centre. I hope she will forgive me when I say that I took her to be in her early-60s, but subsequently discovered that I had underestimated by almost 20 years. She had one lens with her that is so large and heavy (almost 9 lbs!) that she towed it around in a wheeled tartan shopping trolley. 🙂

Such energy, dedication and determination. I feel most privileged to know her and have been inspired by her.

Second high was our Kenyan safari, when I went back to the country that in my heart I still regard as ‘home’ although I left so long ago. Not only the thrill of all the amazing sights we saw, and the joy of being there, but also meeting and making new friends among our fellow safarians and guides, as well as catching up with my old friend, Vivien. We have been close friends since we were both pony-mad 14-year-olds. The whole experience was magical, and I’m currently working on the book, although it’s taking longer than I anticipated because my mind keeps drifting away back to the Kenyan plains ……….

IF

Reticulated giraffe at sunset

Conflicts

I was more flattered than I can say when I was asked to be patron of the 3-day 2015 Charroux Literary Festival. It was unfortunate that the date conflicted with our safari, which had been booked a year earlier, and the dates could not be changed, so I was the invisible patron.

However, the festival managed very well without me, and attracted a host of stellar authors and was an outstanding success with glowing feedback from both authors and visitors.  The next festival is scheduled for 2017 and planning is already under way.

Another conflict is between writing and social media, and in particular Facebook. There is no question that it is the place to keep up with friends and family. We all lead hectic lives that leave little time for individual letter writing, but through Facebook we can let each other know what is happening.

But ….. it becomes SO time-consuming, and by the time I’ve read through the stream of posts while eating breakfast, it’s lunchtime, then another stream arrives, and then it’s bedtime…….

So, at least until I’ve finished my current writing project, I’m going to limit the time spent on Facebook to two groups – Kenya Friends Reunited where I link up with old friends and keep up with current events, and We Love Memoirs, a self-explanatory title for a lively and friendly group of readers and writers united by their passion for biographies and memoirs. It’s the best resource on the web for finding those titles you may otherwise never come across, as they regularly post giveaways, run competitions, flag up all freebies on Amazon and interview authors. The one rule of the group is ‘No Self-promotion’, so you won’t find authors there screaming out for you to buy their titles. 🙂

The future

The next big event we are looking forward to is the wedding of our second eldest granddaughter, Catherine.

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The last few months have been hard for her, as her fiancé has been on exercise for with the British Army, in Kenya. But he’ll be back soon – in good time for the wedding :), and Catherine knows what to expect as a military wife, because when her father was in the Royal Air Force he was often posted abroad for long periods. She was always a tough little lady, and that hasn’t changed. 🙂

Life’s a roller coaster, isn’t it?

Wishing and hoping that all our lives will run smoothly in 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

No. 1

The kind people at Amazon in Australia chose to feature my memoir as a Kindle Monthly Deal for December. Amazon rankings are ephemeral and change hourly; blink and you can miss them, so I snatched and grabbed a screenshot this morning.

That’s me at No. 1 in the Biographies and Memoirs category, and at No. 21 in the top 100 paid, at the time I made the snatch and grab.

Thank you Australia!

Overall 2015 has been a good year for my titles, and for that huge thanks is due to Stephanie at Blackbird Books for her faith in me, her gentle guidance and encouragement, and total support.

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There’s more good news, too, as another of my books is longlisted for the 2016 People’s Book Prize. But more about that another day.