Friday, 9 December 2016

NEW RELEASE

Available now - click to view on Amazon

'Memoir of an Overweight Schoolgirl' is set in the thriving market town of Bridgnorth and is anecdotal.  The author recounts memories of her early life and the time she spent as a student at Bridgnorth Grammar School (now Bridgnorth Endowed School).

Funny, unsentimental and totally immersed in the sixties and seventies - this memoir will take you back to lard-based products, Motown discos and the world of grammar school education.

Here's an excerpt during which Bev discovers that, despite her puppy fat and poor fashion choices, she has the power to attract BOYS:




...Whether these private musings had made me sway my hips more appealingly, and perhaps, who knows, appear on the verge of physical as well as intellectual ecstasy, I couldn’t say, but what happened next was confusing in the extreme and, at first, barely pleasant, despite its undeniable potency: I had attracted the attentions of a group of boys who had apparently camped out in the park and were gathering for a stroll around the town.  My radar told me they were not local.  They were of various heights, ages and beauty, but all equally terrifying to a girl who had been warned of the dangers of flesh-and-blood members of the opposite sex, who were to be viewed as predators, rapists and generally dirty buggers.  I had inadvertently strayed into their environment and set off a flurry of uncontrollable desire amongst them. Lordy!  What was a girl to do?
I walked on by, nonchalant and sweating, my eyes working overtime to gather essential detail.  Could it be that one of them looked like Davy Jones, afore-mentioned singer and Daydream Believer, with The Monkees?  I was prepared to believe.  Indeed, I needed to believe. 
Having circled away, I then cut back to return along the same path I had come. After all, I didn’t want to give them the slip too easily. They called out, whistling and complimenting me.  I flicked my hair, like the Sunsilk girl, and pretended to look the other way.  To my delighted horror, they followed.  What would my father say?  There was bound to be someone who knew him watching me from the bushes.  My tennis skirt seemed to shrink and my tiny bosom inflate.  My vest wasn’t thick enough. 
The boys followed at a distance. I was flattered beyond measure and yet inordinately unready.  In the absence of experience, I determined to remain aloof.  Quickening my step, I made it to the bridge, where, had I not looked back, I believe they would not have continued their pursuit.  As it was, one of them called out for me to wait and they showed no signs of giving up their romantic quest for my attention.  This was serious.  And amazing.  It involved real boys, who didn’t seem to be worried by my bulk.  What was more, one or two of them weren’t bad-looking!

Mandy was inside the house when I burst in, all blushes and giggles.  Instantly keen to collaborate, she joined me in a jumping dance, punctuated by girly squeals.  Soon we put a hastily conceived plan into action: we hid behind net curtains, watching as, to our stomach-twisting joy, five boys seated themselves more or less sexily on the garden wall at the front of our house.   Never had I taken in so many breaths without exhaling.  Mandy (my nine-year-old prettier sister) was impressed at my ability to lure such an impressive crowd to our lair.  Luckily, there was no imminent danger of my father arriving home to demand what on earth was going on, so we gasped and stared, and failed to take any kind of action.
“Who are they?” Mandy asked.  “I like the one with short dark hair best.  What’s his name?  Are they gypsies?”
I gaped.  I couldn't answer a single question.  Were they gypsies?  Did it matter?








Friday, 2 December 2016

Get Bev and Carol in Paperback for Christmas!

All three of my humorous memoirs (Bev and Carol adventures) are available in paperback format - perfect for a fun Christmas gift.








Click the links below to view on Amazon:






Happy Days!

Thursday, 24 November 2016

My French Life

This week it's been blustery.  Love that word.  I'm a windy kind of person (!) so I've been walking and remembering trying to fly when I was a child.  I used to be able to lean into the wind on top of the Long Mynd, anorak spread and open mouth ballooning, waiting for a gust to take me up, up and away (remember the Slimcea girl), and carry me along the ridge.

It's not so strong here in Charente Maritime, but it'll do.  The wide open views make up for it. Chocolate ploughed fields and clouds racing.  Wonderful.

Apart from walking, I've been faced with a few challenges this week: finding a costume for my son to do his sport baccalaureate test (in a surreal twist, he has to do an acrobatics performance as Super Mario's Luigi), getting my new Soft Touch music player to connect to my computer, or phone, or anything, and deciding what to get on with now my latest book is with my proof reader (it's like having a baby snatched).

I failed all three challenges. My friends will not be surprised.

Highlights have been: a speciality baguette (with chorizo and nuts) produced by the village baker and consumed with wine as an apero; a new window ledge put in by my husband, Al; not running over the cat next door; and seeing 'What I Did Not Say' on the shelves in Shrewsbury library.

Today, I'm going out to lunch at the restaurant next door.  If I remember, I intend to take a picture and add it later.  Bound to be fab.  One of the perks of living in France.

Happy Days


Here I am, back from lunch.  As promised, I took some pics, unfortunately (and unbelievably), I only remembered after I'd finished each course...

emincé de boeuf avec galettes de pommes de terre et un sauce Rochefort

mousse au chocolat avec poires et caramel

just a little breezy for the terrasse


It was a yummy lunch.  I'll try to do better with the pics next time...


Monday, 21 November 2016

'Thirteen' - a collection of short stories by B. A. Spicer

Dear blog visitors,

Thank you for popping over to see what's happening on my blog.  I'm amazed and delighted to have regular page views - sometimes over one hundred per day!  Most gratifying.

As you can see, 'Thirteen', my collection of short stories, is priced at 99p for a limited time.

Short stories are not everyone's first choice, but they really do have a lot to offer.  It might be tempting to think that because they do not have the word count of a novel, they are simply dashed off in an hour or so and do not have much to offer in the way of character or plot development.

In fact, short stories take months or even years to develop and polish.  The story may take place over a few minutes or a lifetime, the characters may be many or few, nevertheless the end product must have an emotional effect, and leave the reader changed in some way. With a limited word count, there must be a potency of expression that is not present in longer works.  I always know when I've read a good short story because I think about it for days afterwards.

I recently read and reviewed a wonderful short story by Alice Munro entitled 'Queenie'.  I still recall the power of the last sentence.  It's a story that I know I will go back to. You can read my review on this blog by clicking on 'Books I've Read'.

Of course, I do not dare to compare my stories with this great writer's masterpieces, but I do hope that I can hold my reader's attention and perhaps, just perhaps, as the last page is turned, make an impression on him or her...












Monday, 7 November 2016

Win a copy of my new book, 'Locked Away'

Good morning from France!

I'm posting today to tell you about your chance to win a free paperback copy of  'Locked Away'.

It's book one of my new DCI Alice Candy series – don’t worry, it’s a stand alone book with a proper ending.  The subsequent stories will be too (book two will be out in April next year).  You’ll simply get to know Alice Candy better as the series develops – she has a few secrets of her own to reveal along the way.

I have two paperback copies to give away – all you have to do is to follow this blog, or Bev Spicer's Facebook Author Page and say: I’d like to win a free paperback version of Locked Away.  Alternatively, you can simply retweet the appropriate tweet which will appear at the top of my Twitter page - no need to add anything.
The deadline is 30th November at midnight.  After that, I’ll select two names at random and make contact to find out where to send your free copy.



Here’s a quick synopsis:


Ellie Braintree wakes to find herself in darkness, lying on bare earth with her mouth taped and her hands tied.  DCI Alice Candy takes on the case and uses an uncanny knack she has to tune in to the emotions and perceptions of both victim and abductor – her methods are unorthodox, but her impressive record of success is enough to earn the respect of her colleagues.  Convinced that Ellie is alive and stronger than ever, Alice Candy and her team set out to track down the young woman’s elusive captor.


Thanks for visiting my blog and good luck!

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Bev and Carol on DHL and prime numbers.


(Bev and Carol are best friends.  They have very different attitudes to life.  It's all a dream anyway, isn't it?)



I was considering killing the delivery man.  There he stood, holding a parcel addressed to me.

When he’d first arrived, he’d handed it to me, before surreptitiously involving me in what I could only imagine was a blatant sting.

Man: There’s a customs’ charge.
I wasn't that stupid!
Bev:  I’ve already paid.
Man:  I’m sorry, there are TVA (I live in France) charges and a service charge from DHL.
I wanted my parcel.
Bev:  How much is it all together?
I had two possible reactions planned: If it was less than five euros, I’d hand over the cash.  On the other hand, I might take a moral stand, in which case, the sum would be unimportant.  I would stick to my guns.
Man: Twenty-one euros.
This is outrageous!
Bev:   I’m not paying.
Man:  I understand.
Bev:   Can I have my parcel?
Man:  I’m afraid not.
Having explained to a hysterical friend, earlier that morning, that giving in to a tantrum about something as trivial as a bounced cheque was a waste of energy, I imagined lunging forward, knocking the delivery man off balance, snatching the parcel and locking the door.  What would he be able to do about it?
He looked distinctly unaware of my violent intentions.
Man:  Could you hurry up.
This was a red rag.
Bev:  I’ve already paid.  This kind of thing has never happened before.  Give me my parcel.
Man:  I understand how you feel, but I can’t.  Please sign here.
I seethed.
Man:  I’m sorry.  I’m just doing my job.
I melted just a little and filled in the dratted form, adding my signature.  It was all over too soon.  I needed more time to be indecisive.  I stalled a little.  He told me I should contact DHL and sort it out with them.
As I closed the door, I died inside.  What had I done?  I’d made my life more complicated.  I’d added to the list of bureaucratic nonsense that arrived too frequently on my French doormat.  My stress levels rose and I almost gave in - I could still catch him.
A voice called from the kitchen.
Carol:  What was that all about?
I came back and I told her.
Carol:  You’ll have to pay it.  It’s customs’ duty.
Bev:      But I never have before.
Carol:   You’ve been lucky then.  They don’t pick up every parcel.
I considered this very unsatisfactory take on my very emotionally disturbing situation and imagined the DHL delivery man driving away, saw myself running after him.  I listened for his van.  Silence.
Bev:    Oh, God.
Carol:  He won’t help you.
I saw my parcel arriving back at a customs’ house by the sea and pictured a pile of rejected parcels being tossed into the Atlantic, where they would dissolve and be eaten by shrimp.
Carol:  Did he give you a receipt or something?
Bev:   Yes.
I handed it to Carol.
Outside, the sky was blue and the sun was shining.  Such meteorological perfection failed to lift my mood. I spiralled down like a broken-winged bird into a world where there were two sorts of problems: those that were concrete and could be solved by action, and those that were metaphysical and could be pondered for eternity without coming to a satisfactory conclusion.
I noticed the book that Carol had been reading, before she’d opened up her laptop.  Prime Numbers and the Reimann Hypothesis.  A choice presented itself to me:  I could sort out my parcel problem or talk about pure maths.
Bev:  Prime numbers?  They’re the ones that can only be divided by themselves, aren’t they?
Carol:  Or one.
She didn’t look up.
Bev:  So, apart from that, what’s the point of writing a book about them?
Carol:  You wouldn’t understand.
She carried on doing what she was doing on the computer.
Bev:  Tell me something interesting about them.
Carol: Nobody knows how many there are.
Bev:    And…
Carol:  Nobody knows how to predict which numbers will be primes.
Bev:    But what use are they?
Carol closed the laptop.
Carol:  You hate maths.  You don’t understand equations or basic calculus.  You think graphs are irritating.
She was right.  But I still wanted to know.  I wanted to be given a pill that would light up my maths neurons and enable me to shock Carol with my insights into her world.
I heard the printer start up in the other room.
Bev:  What’s that?
Carol:  Your receipt for twenty-one euros paid to DHL, together with the new delivery date.
Bev:  I hate you.
She grinned.
Carol:  You’ll like the flowery crap I’ve added at the bottom.
I scowled.  But curiosity always gets the better of me.  I whistled a random tune and pretended to be filling the kettle.
I was secretly pleased the parcel thing was fixed and at the same time put out that Carol had done it all in minutes. 
I slipped away. There was the receipt and, at the bottom, there was a short, very twee quotation:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

(from The Serenity Prayer, by Reinhold Niebuhr)


Carol:  In other words:  don’t be a dunderhead.
I tried not to sulk.  Carol was so logical.  And Carol was always right.  
What was this?  She was looking at me in a caring way.
Carol:  Prime numbers are useful because, for example, without them, there would be no way to protect information, like bank account details. Hackers hate primes.
I was hooked.
Bev:  Can I borrow it?
Carol:  Sure.
I would prove my mathematical friend wrong.  I would come up with a solution much better than the Riemann Hypothesis, whatever that was, and, in the meantime, I’d make a nice cup of tea.


Happy Days!



More Bev and Carol available here:









I

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Tales from Charente Maritime - My Terra Cotta Floor







I went to the local abbey at Sablonceaux yesterday.  Got there at just after two and read the notice on the door.  Beautiful hobbit door.  The shop would open at three.



Time to look around - it's a nice place.  Very tranquil and open to people with picnics in the summer. Today, there were a few people gathered at the archway, presumably on a visit.  I said hello then took some pics of the pretty bits of the abbey and the river.  I love rivers.



It was still early and so I strolled into the village, feeling as though I were the only person on the road.  I counted my steps, even though I told myself not to.  And when a vehicle passed by I told myself that the driver was not on the lookout for stray dozy tourists wearing silver sandals and garish nail varnish in October.



The village was deserted.  I wondered where everyone was - I often wonder that in France.  But it was relaxing to listen to the birds and the breeze in the trees and to look at the beautiful white stone buildings - the school, the mairie, the few houses.  What quiet lives the people here must live.

Back at the abbey, the shop was open.  I always think I won't be interested in gift shops - but I found myself paying attention to the biscuits and the herbal teas, then I saw a very beautiful figure of an alternative Jesus on the cross - he looked like a character out of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, wearing a long robe - his bare feet beautifully carved, his bearded face serene.  The price was reasonable, but I don't have that kind of money to spend on religious artefacts.  I was too polite to take a picture, but it was similar in style to this one, although far nicer:



I made my way around the shop, listening to a man humming hymns, apparently oblivious to how well his voice carried inside the vaulted building.

I found what I'd come for and took my purchase up to the lady at the counter.  She told me what I already knew about the wax I was about to buy.  I let her tell me, even asking questions to which I knew the answers.  It was a pleasant thing to do.

Home again and on my hands and knees to wax the grouting between my terra cotta tiles.  Whoever would have said I would be doing this one day?   I had doubts about whether the whole idea of waxing a kitchen floor would work.  After all, it was largely guesswork, based on a quick experiment - give a single tile three coats then pour red wine over it, leave in the garden for twenty minutes and see if it leaves a stain.  It didn't.

So now I have a terra cotta kitchen floor that shines and smells of wax made by the monks of Sablonceaux.



Happy Days

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Want to make the summer last a bit longer?







Just £2.99 for all three books until 2nd October!


(The Bev and Carol books are also available in paperback.)


From Book 1: The summer of 1979 was the best summer ever! Pretty, blonde and dangerously impetuous, Bev and Carol head for the sun, lucky beneficiaries of a generous university grant. 
They are full of enthusiasm and the dazzling spirit of adventure that only seems possible when we are young. Essential swimwear is selected and Lipton’s vegetable oil is perfumed with patchouli for the perfect tan. 
They end up in Argelès-sur-mer, on a campsite close to the coast and not far from the border with Spain. Every day brings new challenges: how to hold a meaningful conversation on a naturist beach, what to do about a precocious teenage stalker, how to transport a gallon of port on a moped… all of which they meet head-on, with dubious philosophy and irrepressible optimism. 
'One Summer in France' is a humorous tale based on a three-month study break the author took as part of her languages degree course at Keele University in 1979. 
‘Would you do it all again?’ asked Carol.
‘Like a shot!’ I said.
And I would. 

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Review: Silas Marner by George Eliot



England in the early 19th century, where folklore and religious belief shape people’s lives.  Silas Marner, a trusting soul and master weaver, begins a new life after he is betrayed by his best friend and is forced to leave the village and church he has grown up with.

A victim of his deteriorating appearance, unsociable attitude and growing cynicism, he lives as a hermit and collects his gold as though there were nothing else of value in the world.

One day, the unthinkable happens – he is robbed – and he is left distraught.  But, as in every fairytale, there is a turn in his luck and with the arrival of a child, orphaned on the road side, he begins to feel the love and joy that have been missing from his life.

The plot is balanced and satisfying without being sentimental.  The characters are portrayed convincingly – there are those we can detest and those we can admire.  But what I enjoyed too was the historical aspect of the story.  The setting is rural England, in the Midlands and the harsh climate and rugged scenery bring out the empathy we develop for Silas Marner as he struggles to escape his cloistered existence and find a reason to live.

Raveloe is peopled with an authentic mix of landowners, farmers and trades folk.  It’s fascinating to follow the various social workings of a small and largely principled village community.  What strikes the reader is the pleasing simplicity of the work/life ethic by which inhabitants are judged and valued.  Religion is the guiding star, of course, closely followed by superstition and folklore.  Life in Raveloe is hard, but there is an interdependence between the villagers and a generosity that would be difficult to find in a more modern society.

What I enjoy most about George Eliot’s very accomplished work is a feeling of proximity to the characters and their environment, both physical and philosophical. I sit by the fire with the protagonist and accompany him along the difficult road to his personal epiphany.  And this, without undue sentimentality.

The workings of the early 19th century mind are uncluttered by technology, travel or consumerism.  The people of Raveloe spend their time in search of a life that is both rewarding and, it seems to me, ethically justifiable.  Apart, of course, from Dunstan Cass – there has to be a fiend in a story worth reading, after all.


To finish, I have to say that the language of Silas Marner is at times a challenge.  As a linguist, I welcome the challenge of a syntax and vocabulary which is of the story’s era.  Reminiscent of Shakespeare at times, the proverbs and sayings are clichéd, but apt.  There are words that are no longer in use, although it is perfectly possible to infer meaning.  There is, as so often is the case with writers of this time, a fashion for writing in dialect to add colour and authenticity to the divisions in society.  All this, in my opinion, makes Silas Marner even more of a pleasure to explore.  

Monday, 29 August 2016

My French Life - A Bit of a Rant

I don't usually complain, but...

Last week we went out to eat at a local restaurant whilst holidaying in the family mobile home.  It’s always a gamble, especially in a holiday resort, where tourists line up to be disappointed by mediocre food and disaffected kitchen staff, and owners lose sleep over rents and retirement funds, vying with other eateries for customers.  Of course, bad experiences are rare in France – we were just unlucky I suppose.

It was to be primarily a social occasion. The meal would be of secondary importance.  There was Al, my husband, Alfie, my son, Sally and Paul, two friends, Ollie, Sam and Tom, their teenage sons. 

Someone had recommended a place. Sally checked out the menu in advance and judging it to be refreshingly different from the ubiquitous pizza or hamburger restaurants, booked a table for eight thirty.

I’ll admit, I’m always a bit nervous about eating out at the best of times – home cooking is generally so much better.  And, although French cuisine is more exciting than the local Beefeater Pub fare in England, one tourist resort is very much like another no matter where you are. You never know what you’re going to get, who will be preparing it, or whether it will provoke a violent reaction later.  But, as I say, it was all about the company.

The menu was ominously prolific.  Gordon Ramsay would have given it a severe edit.  We made our selections, some of us ordering a starter and all of us carefully selecting a main course from the modern wipe-down menu.  If only I had ventured into the back of the restaurant before the waitress came to take our orders.

Tom and I ordered cod in a sauce (unspecified, but which turned out to be largely flour and water), served with summer vegetables (cold sweet peppers tainted with curry powder).  Four of our party went for the notorious French entrecote and chips, Sally had moules mariniere, Al had sole.  The starters arrived and were eaten:  A few prawns served with a dollop of mayonnaise, a meagre fruits de mer platter that looked as though it had been in a can moments earlier, an underwhelming ‘chiffonade’ of ham for Tom, fish soup for Alfie (straight from a jar, complete with sludge), and enormous salads for Paul, Ollie and Sam (mostly lettuce, decorated with cheese, fish and ham respectively). We were struck by the variations in portion size and nervously fascinated by the oddity of the dishes. 

My piece of cod came skin-up.  It measured less than the size of a small bar of soap and had rather less to recommend it in terms of flavour (I imagine).  The chef had lavished four potato wedges on me and the afore-mentioned summer vegetables sat in a one-person earthenware dish, shivering.  I exchanged more than glances with the waitress, who offered to bring me another piece of fish, and vanished before I could stop her.

I apologised to the party, feeling churlish for being so negative.  This was no beachside café, however, and the prices had hinted at some element of quality, not to mention a warm plate and a few therms running through the food upon it. 

We drank more wine, tried to find something positive to say, but Alfie reluctantly admitted that his steak was mostly fat, as was Sam’s, Ollie's and Paul’s.  They ate the parts that were edible and looked miserable.  Al, affable and uncomplaining, had eaten half his sole before asking me whether it should be pink and frozen in the middle.  

In the meantime, our waitress returned with another miniscule piece of cod in a microwave-safe dish, only to meet my eye and hear that I would not eat it, neither would I pay for my meal, adding that Al’s fish was raw.  

His second sole was hot and delicious.   

By this time, the simple act of eating had become surreal.

The waitress placed her hands on her hips and adopted a conspiratorial air. Over the course of the next few minutes, various discoveries were made to explain her pained yet strangely gleeful expression:  The owner, she said, was not himself.  He was standing in for the washer-upper and, as a result, the ‘chef’ had been left unsupervised in the kitchen with his lack of passion running wild.  This meant, our waitress told us, that he was serving ‘n’importe quoi’ to the diners.  I asked my son what this meant (he’s fluent in conversational derogatory French, whereas I am more at home reading Moliere) and he told me that it meant the food was basically ‘bollocks’.  I could only agree.  As could the waitress.

Grumblings began to turn to calls for action and as the rest of the party had little French (my son was not confident enough to rise to the challenge), I asked the waitress to take me to the ‘patron’.  A light flickered in her eye and she led me to the open kitchen where I was met by two young men (one no more than a teenager) both evidently brimming with pent up emotion and unused to being caught out.  I told them that they should be ashamed to serve such food to their customers.  This seemed to hit home – they had been expecting a rather more aggressive attack, I think.  I felt no remorse for their embarrassment.  The food had been exceptionally inedible.

The waitress, who was now unabashedly delighting in the spectacle of their maroon faces, led me further into the restaurant to speak to the patron, who was hosing down plates and looking shifty.  On the counter, were the remnants of four entrecotes.  His first defence was to point out the edible bits, sorting through the leftovers with a fork, oblivious to my incredulity. I said that the meal had been awful and that our evening had been ruined.  What was he going to do about it?  I would have been satisfied with an apology, a reduction in the bill and a quick getaway.

To my surprise, he responded that his evening had also been ruined, adding with a petulant flourish, as though I should be pleased, that he had sacked the chef with immediate effect.  In a gesture of magnanimity he had removed the price of the meal I hadn’t eaten from the bill and offered to do the same for one of the steak and chips.

Paul was all for walking out.

I negotiated further, amazed that the man in charge could miss the point so completely. 

In the end, the bill was adjusted a little more in our favour, but the evening still cost us far too much.  Al and I went on the big wheel, just to add some frivolity to an otherwise sober evening, and because he had drunk too much wine.  After that, we went home and Al had cheese and biscuits while I made myself a lovely tomato sandwich.

Happy Days

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Bev Spicer's Novels

I have written a number of novels, all of which are character-driven and involve intricate plots that will hopefully keep you guessing.

My Grandfather's Eyes is my first published novel, although it was not the first I wrote.
I tend to enjoy creating flawed characters, and Alex is probably one of my most complex.  There isn't much to like about her, it's true, but she does have some serious issues to deal with.  Her single-minded approach to investigating the past so that she can move on with her life often has shocking consequences.  What has she done and what will she do next?  These are the questions that drive the story forward.
You can download a free sample of My Grandfather's Eyes to find out whether Alex is the type of character you might enjoy.  Just click on the link below:





A Good Day for Jumping follows the lives of Stephen Firth, a handsome, rich, promiscuous young man and Joyce Shackleton, a deeply surprising middle-aged woman. (No, they are not going to have a torrid affair - sorry to disappoint!  Their stories are linked in a much more subtle and interesting way.)
Set in Greece, where I lived for two years, there is a many-layered plot involving characters whose worlds collide in the most disturbing ways.  
There are characters you can really care about and others you may despise.  The world is not full of perfect people, after all.
Follow the link below and look inside - you will find yourself in the small town of Rethymnon on the island of Crete, where Stephen Firth is considering his options.






A Life Lived Twice is quite different in format to my first two novels, with shorter chapters and rather more well-balanced characters, who lead normal lives and whose interactions do not always lead to disaster!  However, there are the usual scandals associated with a close-knit society and there is also Claude Cousteau (the undertaker's son) to add a touch of evil that will undermine the pleasant comings and goings in the small French village of St. Martin le Vieux, where our heroine, Martha Burton, has bought a traditional Charentaise house, and has attracted the attentions of her handsome neighbour.

Follow the link and download a free sample to find out how the idyll of everyday life in a French setting has no bearing on a man who has grown up in an altogether more disturbing environment.








What I Did Not Say is my most recent novel.  Jessica Morley is on her way to meet with a man she hasn't seen for fifteen years.  In her bag there is a package she must deliver.  As she travels south, she remembers Jack Banford, a boy who captured her imagination as a child and made her believe in a future that could never happen.  Now it is time for her to set the record straight and finally put the past behind her.  If you like a good courtroom drama, you'll love part two of this well-received story of love and cruelty in all its forms.







 


Thursday, 9 June 2016

FIVE READS

FIVE AUTHORS

FIVE GENRES

99p/99c

FIVE DAYS ONLY


Discover a new author? Try something different? All of the authors below are offering readers the chance to download one of their ebooks that has received great reviews and has a high star rating. For the next five days you can download and enjoy any of these titles for just 99p or 99c (from 10th–15th June). Just click on the links to view any book on Amazon.






What I Did Not Say
Mystery/thriller 

"Outstanding mystery/thriller. I was blown away by this novel…" ~ Babus Ahmed, Amazon Top 1000 reviewer and prolific book blogger.

"Part 2 was the trial, where the pace and tension were excellent. The pages seemed to turn themselves." ~ Amazon reviewer. 

Jessica Morley is on her way to meet with a man she has not seen for fifteen years. In her bag there is a package she must deliver.

Click to view on Amazon





The House of York
Contemporary family drama



"The ending to the story kept me thinking for days." ~ Shaz Goodwin, book blogger and Amazon Top 100 reviewer.

"Best book I've read this year." ~ Joanne Phillips, top selling women's fiction author.


Love, loss, jealousy, abduction and murderous intent form the basis of this highly acclaimed, complex family saga spanning the years 1993  2014.

Click to view on Amazon









The Sickness
Supernatural horror


"If you like your supernatural horror to be dark, gruesome and unequivocally gory, then this is the book for you. It is explosive, expertly written and riveting." ~ Shelley Wilson, author of The Guardians, YA fiction novels.


"A captivating and suspenseful read . . . a story-telling standard equal to some of the biggest names out there in horror today." ~ Sharon Stevenson, author of The Gallows Novels and the After Death Series.


Forced home to attend his parents' funeral, 
James Harris returns to a place of childhood torment and gruesome horror.







Death Times Three
Cosy mystery


 "Elinor (Gray) is a wonderful amateur sleuth—she's whip-smart and determined without coming across as nosy or arrogant." ~ Elizabeth Maria Naranjo. 

"I'm a sucker for stories involving a female who can't resist sticking her nose into a curious puzzle and the attractive man who can't stop her." ~ Terri Case.



A Las Vegas librarian trips over a murdered artist and an amateur sleuth is born. 
Two short stories and a novella.






What Jennifer Knows
Contemporary women's fiction


"I started off liking What Jennifer Knows...I finished the novel loving it." ~ Judith Barrow, author and creative writing tutor.

"Sensitively drawn characters charm us… The shifting nature of loyalty and love is portrayed through searingly honest glimpses into the characters' lives, both past and present." ~ Jenny Worstall, author and musician.


Jennifer Jacobs unwittingly discovers a link between two of her friends. 
Should she speak out or stay silent?
  

Monday, 23 May 2016

Life in a French Village

 Excerpt Six from 'A Life Lived Twice' by B A Spicer 

(Click on the title to go to Amazon and download Martha's story for 99p/99c 24th - 30th May.)  Offer now ended.



After two years, Claude had reluctantly left his apprenticeship under the guidance of Felix Dumas, to return to his father, who could no longer fulfil the occasional contracts required of him.  The time had come when he did not have the stomach for his trade and preferred to busy himself with his undertaking business, making arrangements for the dead instead of providing new corpses for the coffins he sold.  So, despite an overwhelming wish for his son to qualify as a lawyer, he sent for Claude one cold afternoon, when his heart had been touched by ice for the last time.
Claude had not hesitated. He would not have said so for the world, but he knew fundamentally and categorically that Felix Dumas would never make anything of him.  The former was restricted by the law he served, despite his undeniable intelligence.  The law was a prison.  Claude coveted his freedom, both physical and spiritual – he would never be able to abide by such petty rules.

And now, his father was dead.

Rosa Cousteau had grown older and fatter, her expression set and sullen.  She worried about the past and the future, leaving no time for the present.  She had no love for her son, but grieved still for the daughter she had lost years ago to a cruel virus.  Claude was no substitute, with his cadaverous features, his sunken eyes and his untidy, mouse-coloured hair. 
She could not bring herself to kiss her son when he came to visit, but listened politely to his descriptions of the places he had been.  It was always places that he spoke of and never people.  Almost never.  Only one name came up in conversation: Felix Dumas was a paragon of virtue, selfless and generous to a fault.  She was sick of hearing about him.  His father had been a constant drain on her husband.  Such a big man!  Wealthy and educated.  Pah!  Her husband had been caught in his flame, like a moth, bobbing and blundering to remain in the circle of light, just as her son now did, a generation on. 
The life had been sucked out of her husband slowly but surely, until his heart had given out one day during dinner and he had died in front of her, the agony on his face a memory she could not forget, his love for her too tragic to be savoured.  Dumas had not attended the funeral but his son had sent a message – she remembered how Claude had read it out to her.  It had made her sick to her stomach.
Rosa Cousteau’s bills were paid, and food was put before her.  She lived on, cared for by servants who whispered behind her back, and a son who fulfilled his professional obligations with a sang froid that her husband had lacked. 
      The sun rose each morning and lit the room where she slept, but could not warm her heart.  And when Claude came to visit, it was without love that she surveyed the dull features of a man who killed, she suspected, without conscience.  More than once, she had considered taking the shotgun from the cabinet and pretending that she had mistaken him for an intruder, for, the thought that she had brought such a monster into the world was, at times, unbearable.  

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Don't Judge a Book by its Cover!

Review: 'Jessica Lost her Wobble' by J. Schlenker






Both the cover (which shows a bicycle on a bridge), and the author’s plot summary set me on course for the tale of a ‘damaged’ woman who had moved to an island to begin a new life and who, metaphorically speaking, might lose her ‘wobble’.  It was a fairly under-whelming premise.

The style of writing is explicit - there were no real surprises.  I must admit that although the story of Jessie’s life on the island and her memories of when she moved to New York from England as a young girl are well-written and engaging, the candid nostalgia of a woman writing about life in the mid-nineteen hundreds was not ringing my bell.  Strange then, how comfortable it felt to pick up my kindle and retrieve Jessie where I had left her.  Strange, the vague affinity I had with this woman who seemed to be working through a tragic history and searching for a new interest: yoga, cooking Indian food, opening a tea shop… 

The people she meets are interesting and well-developed characters, the stories of her past are from another era, and demonstrate a shocking naivety and a touching vulnerability.  Jessie is nice, with a capital ‘N’.  But ‘nice’ just doesn’t cut it in the real world.  Not for me, at least.  Lots of people will enjoy the life and times of a woman like Jessie, who has lived a varied and interesting life.  A woman who it’s easy to like and for whom we wish at least some happiness in her new life on the island.  But I couldn’t quite understand why this book was a finalist in the 2014 William Faulkner – William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition.

Then comes the twist.  Exquisite!

I wanted to know more about the author.  The only thing I could find was a single photograph on Amazon India.  In it, she’s wearing a huge grin.  How appropriate!

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Life in a French village...

Excerpt Four from  'A Life Lived Twice'

Angeline had taken on one of the local girls and she had made a good choice.  Alicia was fast and careful, only needing the company of the radio to keep her amused.  In the three hours that she worked, she got through more or less all the ironing from five large loads of washing.  What was more, she folded the clothes beautifully and packed them neatly into bags so that, when Angeline returned at eleven thirty with more laundry, Alicia had done everything she had asked of her and more.
Adrian was booked in at summer school, so his mother took on more clients and made deliveries in the mornings, washing the next loads in the afternoons, ready for Alicia to iron, going out with a second delivery when she had finished. 
At first, the girl came three times a week, just in the mornings, but soon she was there four full days a week, working flat out.  The laundry room was large and light, with plenty of space for the extra business, but Angeline wanted to have sturdy shelves built to store the bags of laundry safely and neatly so she called in a neighbour and paid him to build some.  She bought a new washing machine to add to the one she already had, choosing one that took almost twice as many kilos and which spun the clothes so well that they did not need to be hung out, but could be tumble dried for a few minutes and ironed straight away.
The mornings were the busiest time for Angeline; she got Adrian off to school and loaded the van for her deliveries.  There was little time to spare, although she always made her clients feel as though she had all the time in the world to give them the best possible service.  In the afternoons, as the machines whirred, she sometimes slept and sometimes did the mounting paperwork that came with the new business.  This, she was good at.  Then, she went out with her afternoon deliveries, making twice as many as the previous month, sometimes coming home with more than twenty envelopes containing various amounts of cash.  She ran her affairs efficiently and profits were increasing.  As a result, her savings account was growing fast.
On Wednesday mornings, Alicia had said she could not come and so Angeline made herself beautiful, loading the van with a few bags and setting out early, as soon as she had dropped her son off at his school.
‘I will be here at midi, my darling.  Work hard and do your lessons well,’ she said.
Then, after making a few deliveries that would not wait until the afternoon, she would drive to the large house on the outskirts of the next village and pull off the road out of sight, taking two medium-sized bags to the door and knocking gently.
‘You look beautiful! I have missed you!  So much time to wait!’  he said, as she skipped into the hall and teased him with her carefree attitude.
‘I am busy.  I have to work.  I am not rich like you, and I need new shoes.  Look at these!  I would like to come with beautiful shoes to see you, but there are too many bills to pay and there is no money left for me,’ she simpered.
And afterwards, when they had made love and he had told her he would do anything for her, he gave her money and she laughed, saying she could earn more in an hour, that she would not have time to come every week to see him.  Then he would hand her his wallet and watch her dance down the steps, back to her husband and child, until the following Wednesday.  And the next time, he would make more of a fuss of her – telling her that he loved her and could not be without her.
Angeline Roche was a businesswoman.  She did not consider that she was being unfaithful to her husband, because she did not love Felix Dumas.  His love making was quick and gentle, almost as though he made no effort at all to arrive at his pleasure.  Then he would stare at her and say that she was beautiful and that he wished they could marry and move away to an island somewhere, where people would not know them and they could live a simple life.  She would listen and think to herself that he was mad to believe she would go away with him, unless it were to live in a palace with servants and money to spend on the high life she desired.  And, at the same time, she knew that he did not mean any of it, any more than she did.  He was happy with the arrangement they had and so was she.  Of course, now that the business was going so well and Guy had started at the hotel, there was plenty of money coming into her home and it would have been easy to put a halt to her affair.  But she saw no harm in it and always thought of the fatness of her lover’s wallet, as he handed it to her at the end of her visit.  She never took all of the notes; the most she had taken in the past had been the two hundred euros for the van repair.  Usually she had taken one hundred euros, estimating that there were always at least five hundred left.  Now she took two hundred, sometimes three.  She thought this was reasonable and supposed that he did too.
After she had showered and tidied her hair and make-up, Angeline left, never forgetting to take his laundry, pulling out onto the deserted country lane and sticking to the back roads, avoiding the village. 
Adrian would come out and wave to her as he said goodbye to his friends and chattered like a bird, throwing his arms around her neck, kissing her and telling her about his day.  Angeline rarely spoke to the other mothers, who, it was rumoured, thought her stuck up.  Of course, they were envious of her success.  She did not care.  Let them stare.  She had a few good friends in the village and that was all she needed.  If the others wanted to gossip about her and stick knives in her back, it was of no consequence to her whatsoever.
At home, Angeline would get lunch and wait for her husband to come in from work.  Wednesday afternoons were leisurely and she loved to watch Guy playing with their son, while she tidied away the dishes and straightened the kitchen.  It occurred to her that it had been over three weeks since she had seen her husband with a cigarette in his mouth and, although she could not be sure, she thought that he might have stopped altogether.  Certainly, when Adrian put a hand into his work jacket these days, there was nothing to steal.

 She would not ask him about it so soon.  It would be better to wait for him to tell her.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Life in a French village

Excerpt Three from 'A Life Lived Twice'by B A Spicer





Angeline Roche stood at her ironing board, steam rising, moving her hips to the music of her favourite band.  She liked British and American music.  Something with a beat, with a little life.  Something to make her dream. 
Adrian was visible in the lounge, playing FIFA on his Playstation.  She whizzed the iron efficiently over her customers’ shirts, trousers, jackets and dresses; folded them quickly and placed them into the special bags she provided, labelled with the appropriate names.  She never got the clothes mixed up, never had any complaints about her work or her prices, which were higher than they should be, her friends told her.  Her customers were wealthy, they could afford to pay more, and they were grateful for her service, always complimenting her and tipping her generously when she dropped the clothes off and collected a new load. 
Angeline Roche was a businesswoman, registered as self employed and paying enough of her taxes to escape scrutiny. 
By lunchtime, she had finished.  Guy arrived home at twelve fifteen as a rule, but today it was after twelve thirty when he came in whistling, shouting out to her that he was home, as though she may not have heard him.  The table was set and Adrian carried the dishes, setting them down on the mats. 
‘What’s up, you terror?’ 
‘I beat PSG!  And I bought Ronaldo!’
‘What! Spending again?  How much?’
‘Fifty million euros!’
‘Sit down, Adrian.  The food is ready,’ said his mother.
Guy winked, and the boy did as his mother asked.
‘How is the washer-woman today?’  He came up behind her and put his arms around her waist.
‘Be careful!’
‘Mmmm! Smells good.  What is it?’
Angeline swiped at him with the teacloth then passed him the fish to take to the table.
When they were seated, she asked him where he had been to make him late. 
‘Eat your salad, Adrian!’ she said, waiting for her husband’s response.
‘I went to see the Englishwoman, about lessons.’
‘Oh!’
‘She said she would teach me, so I took her up on it.  The hotel Bellevue is advertising for a groundsman.’ 
Guy’s non sequitur hung in the air as his wife finished her salad and served out the fish with peas.
‘Have you got time to play a match, Papa?  Before you go back?’  Adrian took the plate his mother offered him and, because he was looking at his father, knocked over his water.
‘Look what you have done!  Get a cloth, quickly!’  His mother stood and moved the plate of fish, waiting for her son to bring a cloth.  She could not hide her irritation.  Why should her husband want the Englishwoman to teach him!
‘How much are these English lessons going to cost?’  She started mopping up the water.
‘She said she would do them for free.  She has no need of my money.’
Angeline looked at him and he looked back at her. 
Adrian took the cloth to the sink and squeezed it dry before returning with it for his mother to finish wiping up the mess. The boy hid his disappointment.  He knew now that his father would not play a match.  It was no good asking again.
At just before two o’clock Guy returned to the garden centre, leaving his wife and child for the afternoon.  As he drove, he wished that he had not told his wife about the lessons and that he had had time to play a match with Adrian.  He put his hand in his pocket to take out a cigarette and found that they were not there.  She had taken them again.  He took out the packet he kept in the glove compartment and lit up.
Adrian had remained at the door as it closed and handed the packet of cigarettes to his mother, a solemn look on his face.
‘Don’t worry, darling.  We will make him stop.’
Later, Angeline carried the laundry out to her van and the smell of the fresh clothes made her smile.  She was careful to keep them in the chai – where the smell of smoke would not taint them. There were six large bags of beautifully clean and fragrant washing, expertly folded and packed so that her customers would be delighted with her excellent work. 
Adrian did not accompany her on her deliveries.  He was seven, he did not want to come with her, preferring to stay in the house and play on his computer games.  At least he didn’t play war games, like his friends.  He loved football.  It was the most important thing in his life.  On training nights he was happy and, one day, he would play for a team like Paris Saint-Germain – there was not a single doubt in his mind.
Angeline went in to say goodbye, reminding him to call her on her mobile if he needed her, but he barely heard her and she closed the door, wondering once more whether she should force him to accompany her, just to get him out of the house.  But what would that accomplish?  Her son would be miserable and her afternoon would be ruined.  So she got into her van and drove off to her first customer.  She would be finished by four thirty and then she could have some time with her son. 
The first house came into view, its enormous façade newly painted, its windows pristine and its shutters flawless.  When she rang the bell, the owner’s young daughter opened it and stood on the threshold, uncertain what to do.
‘Maman!’ she called, still staring at Angeline, who met her gaze with a cool expression.
She set the heavy bag down on the step and the girl ran off as her mother came down the stairs carrying a vase of flowers that had wilted.
‘Oh, Angeline!  Is it that time already?  Thank you so much.’
‘It’s just after two-thirty, Madame Fournier.  I’ll get the other bag from the van for you.’
The lady of the house handed over an envelope after Angeline had left the bags inside the door for her home help to put away.  As always, Madame Fournier had not brought down the new laundry and Angeline went up to the landing to look for it, while her client complained that she was sure she had asked Christine to bring the bag down.
‘I don’t think Christine does it on a Tuesday,’ said Angeline, as she went up the stairs.
‘Oh, yes!  You’re probably right, my dear.  Yes.  That’s right.  I think…’ Madame Fournier stood as though marooned, at the bottom of the stairs, not knowing where the bag might be, even after all these weeks.
As Angeline Roche drove away to her next customer, she dreamed that, one day, she would live in such a house and have servants of her own.  In fact, she did not regard her future success in terms of a dream.  A dream suggested that it might be unattainable in some way.  No, it was a plan; something she would engineer by using her genius for making her service second to none and therefore indispensable. Her client-base would grow and she would expand her business, taking on staff, assuming a strictly managerial role, conversing with her customers as a professional, no longer at their beck and call, but on an equal footing.  Yes.  This was what she would achieve.  And soon.
 She finished her rounds and went back to the house, where, after she had counted her money and recorded it in her accounts, she coaxed Adrian into the kitchen to help her make a cake for his father.  While they chatted, she glanced at the clock and wondered about her husband, sitting with the Englishwoman, learning a language he would never need.  It was doubtful whether a hotel groundsman would ever use such a skill, but, Angeline reminded herself, it was Guy who must choose the things he did in his life, just as she did in her own.

View book on Amazon