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.

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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?