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: