Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Just a snippet (comments welcome)



I thought I'd post the occasional excerpt from unpublished pieces.  It could be part of a work in progress or a snippet from one of the many 'ideas' I have for my next book.  Friends is the result of something my mother told me about the farm she grew up on in Shropshire in the 1930s.  It's also inspired by the feelings I have for friends I used to know and have lost contact with.  I've experimented with leaving out speech marks.  Hope you like it.



FRIENDS

'Dear Charlie'.  No.  'Dear Charlotte'. No. 'Hi Charlie'.  Maybe.

Two o'clock.  The afternoon seemed hollow.  The washing machine noise irritated her.  If she switched it off, what else would she hear?

Hi Charlie,

It's been a long time.  I was wondering how you were.

No.

Charlie, with red hair and eyes too big for her face.  Blue. She smelled of wood smoke and had dirt under her fingernails.  A fine seam of earth from potato picking, or stacking vegetables.

Dear Charlie,

I've been thinking of you.

The last time she'd seen Charlie was the day she'd left the farm.  There, in the corner of the open barn,the old trap stood, empty.  On the wall, the harness hung from a thick spike like an ornament, never to be attached to the pony and ridden down to the fields, carrying picnic baskets and flasks of cold orange squash.  Even at the last moment, she had hoped for a reprieve.  A miracle to give Charlie back her home.  But the van was filling up and Mrs. Churchyard was sweeping the kitchen, moving towards the door and finally propping the broom against the pale yellow stone wall.

Charlie ferried boxes and looked across the yard at her friend.

Dear Charlie,

I'm sending this to your aunt's address.

The fields on a summer's day were cut like butter into the land.  Like butter.  The corn fell and was collected by machine, with workers following behind and picking up the scattered heads that had gone astray.  At midday, Charlie said, come on! and laughed.  Charlie had known what to do.  There she stood, heaving the baskets and the boxes of fruit onto the cart, bringing the pony from the stables and slipping on it's harness.  I'm going down to the cows.  There's one not happy, said Mr. Churchyard, striding out in boots undone, tucking in his shirt. Bound to be the hornets, I should say.  Afternoon Jude, he called.  Having fun?  I nodded.

Dear Charlie,

We had some good times on the farm, didn't we?

He squeezes them. Said Charlie.  They burrow down into the cow's skin and can't be seen, but Dad finds them and pinches them.  They shoot out and drop down.  Mostly dead.  If not, he puts his boot on them.  Let's go.

She drove the cart.  I sat beside her.  Rocking, our heads full of horizons, we went down to the big field.  I never wanted to take the reins.  Scaredy-cat.  Charlie laughed, but in a kind way.

The day she left, she didn't laugh.  The van made dust rise like smoke and I saw her hanging out of the side window, her curls joggling.  We stared at each other for as long as we could see, and even after I stood and watched and waited for what would come next.

Dear Charlie,

When you went the farm was not the same.  I ran home and cried to think I'd never see you again.  I used all the tissues in my box of Kleenex.  Then I went down for tea with red eyes and my mother sat with me on the couch and we watched television.

I wanted to find out where you had gone.  But I didn't know how.







Sunday, 6 August 2017

Finding new readers

Last week I ran a promotion on One Summer in France in tandem with a Countdown Deal on the next two books in the series, Bunny on a Bike and Stranded in the Seychelles.
I didn’t pay for any marketing, just used the Amazon features. 
Before long, the free downloads were impressive.  In the end, after a five-day promo, I amassed eight hundred and seventy.  Almost double the number I was expecting.  I posted on Facebook and in We Love Memoirs and tweeted once or twice (don’t want to spam my non-writer friends).  Then I found out that BookSCREAM had included One Summer in France in their newsletter.  I found them on Twitter and they seem like a nice bunch of people. Thank you very much indeed for your help! 
Following the promotion, I’ve had modest but very welcome increases in downloads for all three Carol and Bev books and a couple of extras for my other titles, particularly my Memoir of An Overweight Schoolgirl.  Nothing to shout too loudly about – the royalties would have to roll in tsunami-like to change my financial situation.  But, like the majority of authors who take their art seriously, I’m happy to find new readers and get the occasional feedback in a review.

Happy Days


If you want to use BookScream, here’s a link to their Twitter page: BookSCREAM

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Bev's books - special offers


Want a free fun read this summer?  From 26th - 28th July you can download One Summer in France FREE.



I've also discounted the other books in the series. From 28th July - 4th August you can download Bunny on a Bike



for just 99p each.




Happy reading! 


Monday, 24 July 2017

I read, I write, I watch television, I grow stuff. Oh, and I live in France.


Just back from a holiday in Cap d’Agde (pronunciation varies but reminds Al and I of a song involving pushing a pineapple and shaking a tree…). It’s a jolly little resort made up of a million campsites one of which I chose more or less at random.  Yelloh Village – you may have had the pleasure, as it’s a chain.  Anyway, I foolishly took along and failed to read through the latest draft of my new DCI Alice Candy manuscript.  I got to page ten on the third day, hunched over in bed, trying to ignore the rave that was going on not far enough away from my open window, open due to the online misrepresentation of what was supposed to be ‘air-conditioning’ and which was in fact a wall-mounted fan.

Hot and bothered, I squinted at the bundle of A4 paper and blamed my husband for the print size and spacing.  All to no avail as he quoted my request for a font size of twelve and extra wide margins.  Double spacing hadn’t been specified, apparently.

Three days gone.  And editing barely begun.

We had neighbours with young children on either side of our mobile home.  (Mobile homes, or tin boxes with zero sound or heat insulating properties, are not recommended for authors wishing to add value to a manuscript.)  I wanted to make sure there was continuity and check detail.  My neighbours wanted to vie with each other in a ‘tolerant parents’ contest, calling to their children in increasingly harrassed tones, urging them to stop destroying various toys, washing lines, plastic chairs and wooden deckings.  In the end, with nerves frazzled and wanting to strangle someone, anyone, I knew that going to the beach was the only option.

Ah, the beach.  No, really.  The Mediterranean does it well.  Soft sand, blue skies and water heated to a temperature cool enough to make you squeal and yet just perfectly refreshing once you were ‘in’.  If I couldn’t write, I could read, stretched out on my mat, working on my tan.  What could be nicer?  A pleasant walk along the beach?  An enormous human turd in cross-section?  I stepped around it, wondering where the other half might be, still questioning how it had settled next to a group of oblivious tourists chomping on beignets.

Oh, well.

In a matter of what seemed like minutes, with a number of salads under my belt and a higher number of glasses of wine sloshed down in some of the most chilled out restaurants I’d ever eaten in, built on the beach, with the sea fifty metres away, I eventually forgot about the editing I hadn’t been able to do.  I’d had a great time.  And so had my sons and my husband.

The journey home was fabulous.  Our Peugeot 406 had developped alternator problems which had been easy to ignore until the day we left Cap d’Agde.  As we clanked to reception to hand in our signed inventory, pedestrians looked round in astonishment believing, no doubt, that they were moments away from being killed by a tractor with engine problems.

“It’ll be okay,” would be the mantra of the day.
And the magic of positive thought seemed to be working… 

Then, approaching Toulouse a message flashed up on the dashboard, ‘battery charging fault’.  It was the first of many, each one staying on for a little longer.  I diagnosed the problem, slowed down and it disappeared. 

We limped home, grafeful for every mile covered and momentarily appalled as we almost got taken out by a poids lourds pulling out in front of us at two miles an hour from the hard shoulder.  Al shouted, “go, go, go!” and I did.  Never had I been so focussed – I made for the gap with inches to spare.

We got home in one piece and lugged in the cases.

To celebrate, I went to the butcher's and bought entrecotes which we ate with jacket potatoes and butter.  Bye, bye Caesar salad and café liégeois.

Yesterday and today I’ve been putting the garden to rights.  Tomorrow my friends arrive for a week.  We have no car until Thursday.  Maybe I’ll wait until next week to get Alice Candy by the scruff of the neck and sort her out.

Or, I might get started right away… 


The first DCI Alice Candy book is available here.  It’s a dramatic tale that will have you guessing from the start.


Locked Away by B. A. Spicer








Friday, 7 July 2017

Living the dream is not quite so simple for Martha Burton.

My lovely house - a lifetime of renovation!

France is wonderful – the weather, the food, the pace of life.  I have a bakery on my doorstep and the beautiful town of Saintes with its majestic river and colourful cafes a short drive away.  In my garden there are tomatoes re-seeded from last year which will be small and sweet and delicious.  I have an olive tree and a ridiculous number of thriving rose bushes.  But the most precious commodity I have is time.  My children are grown and about to fly the nest.  My husband and I look forward to a simple life and a lot more travelling.  And, best of all, I will be able to devote even more time to my writing.

From 14th - 19th July I’m running a promotion on A Life Lived Twice. Although it is most definitely not autobiographical, it is set in France, with lots of authentic detail.  Of course my experiences here have fuelled the setting and the characters to some extent, although this is primarily a work of fiction - thank goodness.

******

Martha Burton is relatively young and attractive, values her newfound independence, has a very healthy bank balance and, although she wouldn’t admit it, is on the lookout for a new man. She leaves behind a faithless husband and a life that has become routine.  When she moves in to a charming Charentaise house and later meets the handsome and enigmatic Clement Berger it's easy to believe that a new and vibrant future beckons.

But the world is inhabited by all kinds of people, some of whom follow imperatives that are too dark to contemplate.  How could Martha have known the dramatic turn her new life would take?




Sunday, 18 June 2017

At the Beach with Bev and Carol


Bev and Carol are graduates, spending three months in France as part of their degree course.  They are young and frivolous, unfettered by preconceptions or mortgage payments. Bev is bookish, a bit of a dreamer, and Carol is down-to-earth, unafraid to say what she thinks.  In this (exceptionally frank) excerpt, they experience the challenges of their very first nudist beach.








‘Does ‘Naturiste’ mean what I think it means?’ asked Carol, standing in front of a very large sign with a very large arrow on it.

I wasn’t sure, but I thought so.

‘I don’t mind getting my baps out if you don’t!’  she reasoned.

The beach was coming up fast and we clutched at each other, controlling our giggles as best we could.  We might have made it, had we not heard men’s voices behind us and looked round to see two bronzed gods swinging up fast.

‘Christ on a bike!’ said Carol, stepping aside and staring rudely.

‘Guten Tag!’ 

Please don’t stop and have a conversation with us!  I thought.

They passed in front of us and we watched their perfect asses for a while, breathing in for what seemed to be a very long time and, eventually, remembering to breathe out.

‘Did you see the size of his cock?’ asked my gobsmacked friend.

 ‘Well, yes.  I didn’t have much choice in the matter, did I?’

‘Come on!  There must be loads more on the beach…’

 I wasn’t sure that I fancied the idea of so much nudity all in one place, but I had never sunbathed topless before, so I was keen to give it a go in an environment where one extra set of, admittedly, perfect breasts would not cause too much of a stir.

To my horror, Carol was untying her bikini top before we even got there and soon it was difficult for me to concentrate on what she was saying as I felt a little sea-sick in the face of so much uncontrolled bouncing.

‘God!  Your tits are enormous!’ I said.

‘Pretty good, eh?  Aren’t you getting yours out?’ 

'All in good time, all in good time, my little Devonshire divvy,' I said.

It was a beautiful beach and there were a fair number of people, mostly couples or small groups, generally without a stitch on.  This was a whole new experience for me.  The German gods we had come across on the path had set up camp near the sea and looked over to us, waving.  Carol was all for joining them, but I suggested that we should keep our options open for the time being, not mentioning that I was rather uneasy about diving into a conversation with a couple of blokes with their willies out.

So we put our towels out about thirty feet from the dunes and sat down.  It wasn’t that easy pretending that it was perfectly normal to be sitting with a load of people we’d never met before who seemed very pleased to see us.  I was aware of my breasts in a way that I had never been aware of them before.  I wished they would just shut up (metaphorically speaking) instead of pertly announcing themselves to all and sundry.

‘Shall we whip off our pants, too?’ said Carol, as she was actually whipping off her bikini bottoms.

‘Really?’ I replied, ‘I don’t know whether-’

‘Don’t be such a prude!  No other bugger’s wearing any.’

She was right.  So I did.

Having no clothes on in public was an altogether liberating experience.  I got used to it quickly and was soon stretching out in various poses, sighing nonchalantly and acting as though it was all terribly normal.  I got out my latest find and started to read. I had brought l’Etranger to the beach and made sure that the cover of the book was visible to others as I read. In those days I was deeply proud of my literary pretensions.  I breathed in the ozone and tried to remember what my French tutor had said about Camus, but I kept hearing the Cure singing ‘Killing an Arab’ instead.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Bonjour tout le monde!
Sunny again this morning in Charente Maritime. Difficult to stay indoors and write, but I shall get to the garden this afternoon. With two huge sons and a husband to cook for, I'll have to pop out to the market at some point too. Luckily, we have one in the village on a Thursday - fifty metres from my door. Just a little further away than the boulangerie...

In other news - I just wanted to let you know that Bunny on a Bike is free today and tomorrow (13 - 14 April) so if you're looking for something lighthearted and fun you've come to the right place! If you do download and enjoy it, please consider leaving a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads - potential readers prefer to choose books with lots of reviews. Thanks a million, and happy reading x