Brainstorming Sisters!

 

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Have you ever noticed that when something stalls in one area of your life, it affects everything else?

This was what had been happening in our house for over a week, so my sister, Anita decided that we should have one of our brainstorming sessions this morning. Something we do now and then which usually benefits either my book or hers.

Only this time, it was me, the writer, that was being brainstormed because I was on the verge of a major meltdown over my current WIP.

Somehow, the conversation became all about how I write. The genre, the characters and the way I think about everything. She knew I had been having trouble and had some definite ideas about improving it.

Now, although I usually hate my work being criticised, I have to bow to her greater ability as a writer. She never struggles with plots or character problems, just gets on with it. Her characters don’t argue with her either, and I have always considered that a good sign! She can write more in one day than I can in a week.

So I allow her to say what’s on her mind, not that I have ever been able to stop her! But, all joking aside, she has been a great help to me over the years. The reason I can call myself a writer has a lot to do with the example she sets.

I think she is a natural writer. She doesn’t have to think about it or worry constantly about the plot. Whereas I do. I don’t find the writing process easy at all and this morning I may have discovered why.

I hadn’t really thought about my protagonist at all, thinking the antagonist, or serial killer was all important. That somehow everything would simply revolve around him, which I now realise is not the way to go about it.

I had been digging myself into a dark hole, trying to figure out what I was doing wrong, so I needed to sort the problem out, and fast!

Brainstorming with Anita can be a dangerous venture, as neither of us accepts criticism well. But when you are wedged between the proverbial rock and a hard place, you have to do something about it…

Sometime later, after harsh words, temper, tears and finally realisation, (all from me, BTW ) it was agreed that I hadn’t lost the magic, it was a temporary lapse, something that could be fixed. Finding another way of approaching the problem may be the way to go, and maybe a rewrite. Or another story all together…

 

If you don’t hear from me again, it means I have walked into the sea…

 

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The Final Straw…

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The bay windows in our living room have long been a source of annoyance. Over the years, we have had an assortment of curtains and blinds, but none were good enough to pass muster. Every time we walk into the room, our eyes are drawn to the awfulness of it all and the long-standing conversation argument begins again.

Every now and then, we try something new, desperately hoping that this time we will love the result. Personally, I have long given up hoping for a miracle, but have to at least appear enthusiastic and go along with whatever is suggested. After all, I share this house, so don’t always get what I want, even if this is just the semblance of a quiet life!

The first experiment was Venetian blinds in a lovely turquoise colour. As I seem to be the only one in our house that knows which end of a screwdriver to use, it fell to me to install them. This was reasonably difficult and took a while, but eventually, the blinds were installed and in working order.

Trouble was, no one liked them.

It was discovered that an unpleasant optical effect occurred every time you tried to look through them, this effect caused nausea and giddiness so they had to be removed, and in a hurry!

The next exercise in futility was roller blinds. The windows are an odd shape, so buying ready- made blinds were out of the question, and suitable kits were purchased from Amazon, along with spray stiffener for the fabric. We used an old pair of expensive curtains to create the blinds and eventually, after much swearing by yours truly, we had a set of blinds to install.

They had barely been up to the window when we knew we hated them. Probably because I have a wonky eye and can’t cut straight to save my life!

Our next idea involved installing these curtain poles, so we could have eyelet curtains. These always hang so well, so we thought we were on to a winner this time.

I quite liked the first pair we bought, but Anita didn’t. She complained bitterly about the colour/pattern for weeks until I gave in an ordered another pair. When they arrived they were approved of, but the trouble started when I hung them up. One curtain was several inches longer than the other!

If this wasn’t so funny, I would have screamed.

Not a problem, I said… the shop will change them.

But they were temporarily out of stock. We waited patiently, but they didn’t get any more. We talked about lengthening one and shortening the other. Guess who gets that job!

Then I had an idea. I would look elsewhere. And I did. Found a lovely pair online, had them sanctioned by Anita and sent for.

The day they arrived, I carefully ironed them, ready to hang, confident that we had finally nailed the curtain problem. Seconds later, an ear-piercing shriek rents the air, and Anita pointed at the bottom of the curtain, which was floating a good four inches above the window ledge.

My temper lets go and I wanted to rip them to bits. Why was it so ********* difficult to buy a pair of curtains that actually fit?

To cut a long story short, our money was refunded and we could keep the curtains…

Not sure what they thought we could do with them!

I have a feeling that this story will go on forever, or until I lose my mind or move house…

Only you have no idea how hard THAT is!

Release day for Lazy Days is nearly here!

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The nerves are setting in and I will probably be a wreck by Monday.

I just hope I have done this amazing (and illustrated) little book justice and that I haven’t forgotten anything crucial!

Have I mentioned that we are having a party over on Facebook for the length of the tour?

There will be all the usual refreshments for our visitors, plenty of free books and a book quiz to test your memory. Finishing up with a £5 gift voucher for the best participant!

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A quote every day, both on Facebookand this blog… get it right and win a digital copy of Lazy Days!


Book Description

This travelogue is the true story of our family’s first proper holiday back in the Seventies. Looking back, I wonder what made us think it was a good idea, but despite all the things that could have gone wrong, we had a fantastic time. I was the Skipper most of the time, and for some reason decided to record our adventures in a small notebook. We were young and without husbands, Anita was a widow, and I was glad to be rid of mine. (and that is another story) Money was precious and scarce back then, but all the saving and sacrifice turned out to be worth every single memory we all cherish.

This notebook has been treasured and kept safe, despite numerous house moves and family disasters, as a symbol of our courage and determination. Renting a boat on the Norfolk Broads could so easily have been one of the stupidest things we had ever done, but even after 40 years, we have such good memories of that time.

Over the years, we often thought of making it into a proper book, but along with everything else in our often-complicated family life, it was something we never got around to. Until just recently, when I was looking for some old photographs, found the now fragile notebook and knew it was time.

It wasn’t as easy as we imagined it would be either, for our logbook writing skills left a lot to be desired, but there was just enough information entered on those pages to get us started.

Hope to see you all on Monday!

Remembering…

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This is the time of year when I remember my father, thinking of what could have been if the second World War hadn’t taken him from me.

I pay tribute to the man who gave me my height, my patience, my creative streak and my weird sense of humour all the time, but especially on Remembrance Sunday.

I know all of these things about him because people have told me what he was like. How he looked and sounded when he sat at the piano, belting out popular ragtime melodies.

They laugh when they tell me how funny he looked, stomping out the beat in his huge army boots.

I have lived all my life with these images, but have no way of knowing if they are true because I never met him. He didn’t return from the war and never met me.

I like to think that my life would have been so much better if he had come home, for my mother never got over losing him.

People say I shouldn’t feel sad for someone I didn’t know, but in a way, I do know him. He is a part of me and it certainly feels as though I knew him well. As well as I know myself.

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I wrote a post last year about these ice soldiers, and you can read it here.

 

When we moved to Hampshire, one of the first things I wanted to do was visit the coast. Something I have done many times since, but on that very first time, we walked past the D-day Museum on the seafront. There was a huge tank outside and this bronze statue of the Unknown Soldier. As I studied the soldier, something about his posture and bearing had me imagining that this is what my father would have looked like.

To me, my father is the Unknown Soldier, and I like to think I will get to meet him, one of these days…

Pistols at Dawn!

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I was alone in my office, head down, trying to catch up on the editing for Lazy Days, when I became aware of someone watching me from the doorway.

I looked up to find DI David Snow, Kate’s Snowman, standing there looking very fit and well. His retirement/holiday had done him the world of good.

“Hi, Jaye…”

The sound of his voice sliding over my name caused the usual flutter in my stomach, something I was delighted hadn’t changed a bit. “Hi to you too…what are you doing here? I thought you had retired or something.”

“No, I know that was your plan, but I had other ideas.”

I really should ask him in, make him sit down, but that could wait. I was enjoying the view far too much. I could tell he had something else on his mind, so I pushed aside the editing and reluctantly indicated the empty chair beside me.

Before he lowered himself slowly to the chair, someone else arrived and my heart sank when I realised it was my newest character, DS Mallory Davis. He had the lead role in my WIP Payback and was as different a character to David Snow as chalk from cheese. Undeniably sexy, though.

I must have looked surprised, maybe even a bit annoyed, for he began to apologise. “I can always come back later if you’re busy…”

Before I could speak, David turned to face him and invited him to stay. “What I have to say involves you too, so it’s just as well you’ve turned up.”

The atmosphere and testosterone levels in my office had reached dangerous levels, raising the hairs on the back of my neck. This was every author’s nightmare.

They were both looking at me expectantly, waiting for me to say something. In an effort to at least look as though I was in charge, I offered coffee, mainly to give me some thinking time.

“No, we won’t, if you don’t mind. This isn’t a social visit. What I have to say will probably cause you both trouble, but I have to get it off my chest.”

As I listened to David, it occurred to me that Mallory knew all about this, whatever it was. How was that even possible? Knowing I wasn’t going to like any of it, I asked, “Sounds like you both want something, so you had better just tell me.”

David began to speak, quietly and seriously about my WIP Payback. How it should have been his story. That he was my detective and the story was rightfully his.

Mallory listened patiently, his face giving nothing away, but I had the feeling he didn’t like what he was hearing. When David finished speaking, he stood up and walked around the room, and I was reminded again of a tiger stalking his prey. “Payback was never meant to be for you, David. It is a new concept with younger characters…”

David didn’t miss the emphasis on the word ‘younger’ and promptly stood up too. Both men circled around each other, making my office seem smaller by the minute.

I had a decision to make, and quickly before the situation got out of hand. The problem was even bigger than I first thought. Although I loved David, I couldn’t allow him to commandeer the lead in Payback. I had invested a lot of time and emotion creating Mallory, determined he would be a completely different character to David.

Before I could speak, David turned to Mallory. “I don’t mean that you should be deleted. I could never wish that on anyone. It’s just that I don’t want to be retired… and you…” turning to me, “have the power to do something about it!”

I had missed writing about David, but I was enjoying writing about Mallory. There had to be a solution that worked for all of us… and I had to come up with one fast.

Both men were watching me intently and it was important that my next words were the right ones. Thinking on my feet, I took a deep breath and ordered the pair of them to sit down.

“Right… Payback is Mallory’s story, and I will not change that. But there will be a new Snowman story. Not because you demand it David, but because I want to write it.”

I knew David would be the one to ask the question.

“When?”

I had my answer ready. “Give me a hand with the plot and I’ll write both stories in tandem. Should be fun, don’t you think?”

After they both left, I realised that I hadn’t actually solved anything… just made my life even more complicated, if that was possible. It might be fun, though…

 

 

 

Happy Birthday!

 

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Merlin, this fine specimen of cat hood is 13 years old today.

It sounds quite old but seems like only yesterday, we peeked inside a cardboard box to see the cutest bundle of black and white fur looking back at us.

Right from the beginning, Merlin has known exactly what he wanted and the best way of getting it.

We called him Merlin for his arrival was completely unexpected, and seems to have magical powers sometimes, and the longest white whiskers.

He would never use a litter tray, even as a small kitten. He insisted on exploring the garden, and that was that. We lived in a caravan at that time, and he was in his element, enjoying the fields that surrounded us. He would make these round nests in the long grass, and God knows what the sheep made of him.

He is such a good cat, but he has one habit. Although it is rather sweet, we wish he didn’t. He likes to bring us gifts, frogs, mice, and once a butterfly. Not unusual, I hear you say, but all of these things were unharmed. The butterfly actually flew away, once he opened his mouth. He is not very good at catching things though, leaving us to evict the majority of his presents.

Then one day, he didn’t come home. We worried and hunted for him, and thought he would turn up eventually. Only he didn’t.

The weeks went by, and nothing happened. The weather grew colder, and it broke our hearts to think of him out there, cold and alone. We travelled all over Petersfield trying to find him, but no one had seen him.

Then, months later, we had a call from our local vet, wondering if the cat that had just been brought in could be Merlin. It was, but a very different Merlin from the one we remembered. He was thin and nervous, and although he seemed to remember us, we could tell he had been through a lot since the last time we saw him.

It was a long time before he regained some of his adventurous spirits, but even now, we worry every time he goes out. Especially now his is such an old man. He can’t jump as well as before and his muscles are stiff, but he is as beautiful as ever…

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Many Happy Returns, Merlin!

Our Cornish Book…

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An excerpt from Let it Go…

My footsteps felt lighter once we were inside. I was surprised by what I saw. The room was small but clean and tidy. Dried herbs hung over the fireplace, and there were several pieces of strong wooden furniture. One soft armchair stood next to the hearth. There were no ornaments, and no dust or cobwebs to be seen. I had the feeling they wouldn’t be allowed in here. The air itself didn’t seem to move as if time stood still.

Samuel asked us to sit down. ‘I have been expecting you.’

I chose one of the wooden chairs that stood around the table, and as I sat down, a strong feeling of peace enveloped me, like being inside an empty church. My romantic side would describe it as a feeling of coming home. Mark, with his Sixties kind of mind, probably noticed it before we came in.

He sat down at the table, on the chair nearest to me. Samuel reappeared with a tray. He hadn’t asked if we wanted tea and I hadn’t even noticed him move to make it. I was too busy looking around the place like a local tourist. He put bone china cups and saucers in front of us. The orange liquid smelled slightly perfumed, a pleasant smell.

Mark noticed me wrinkling my nose.

‘Cinnamon,’ he said. ‘Drink it, it’s good.’

I took a sip, and it was spicy on my tongue. I put it down, rather too quickly.

‘No thanks.’

Samuel had sat himself down in the armchair. It was strange, but seeing him sitting down, I noticed how long his legs were. His clothes were almost threadbare, but his large black boots had a shine on them. When he spoke again all the fear in me slipped away. There was no harm in this man, this man born of fire. He must have heard the stories as he grew up but they hadn’t left their mark on him. Was it Ruth who had done such a good job of mothering, or was it Martha’s genes he carried into the Despite the fact, she had been playing with the fire, which eventually took her life.

He spoke without looking at us. Mark reached across the table and laid his hand over mine. I didn’t need the reassurance he offered, but I didn’t move my hand or look at him. My eyes were on Samuel, ears at attention.

‘You found Morgan’s diary, been letting the writing get to you. Asking too many questions and spending long hours in the house of books. There’s nothing in there to help, should have come to see me sooner. Save time and a lot of mixed up feelings.’

I found enough air in my lungs to speak and said I had plenty of time to spare, that my feelings were fine. ‘But I do believe someone should be held accountable for what happened to Martha,’

The sound of her name didn’t seem to mean anything to him. I saw no change in his face or voice.

‘Why?’ He said. It didn’t appear to be a question. ‘Keep pain alive, when living is pain enough for far too many people? I know the story of my birth and the things they have said about the mother who bore me. Of Ruth, who fed and clothed me and taught me how to help even when help was not asked for.’

Mark had told me all about the herbs being left on people’s doorsteps when they were needed. About one young girl who might have died had Samuel not helped her. They actually used these herbs while speaking so ill of him, yet leaving food outside his door as payment.

‘There are many good stories in the Bible. I will tell you something from it. Look to the living, leave the dead to take care of the dead.’

As he spoke these words, looking directly at me for the first time, I felt strange, all empty inside, as if some part of me had been scooped out. I knew what it was without him saying it. My need to punish them had simply left me. But what did ‘look to the living’ mean?

He looked at me with those pale grey eyes that darkened with the words he spoke next.

‘You have a sister, a small part of yourself.’

God, I had never thought of Sally like that, nor would she like me to. He was right though, she was a part of me.

‘You need to watch over her, keep her close to you.’

I told him then this wasn’t something Sally would let me do.

‘No matter. It’s to her you need to give your concern.’

Then I asked him why to say what was in his mind in plain English.

‘Sally appears to have been marked by an early death, one of her own making.’

This reminded me of something Nan had said, about Sally drowning in a storm of her own making.

Samuel couldn’t explain what he felt. ‘The visions are too vague as yet. They will come, and then I will find a way to let you know.’

It didn’t help me much. He had just told me Sally would die as if the Mafia had a contract out on her, and I had to wait?

I was getting more than a little annoyed at his Bible prophecies, as good as double Dutch when there was nothing you could do about them. My initial instinct had been right. I should have walked away. I shouldn’t have come here, shouldn’t have let Mark lead me through the door.

I knew Martha and the diary would all take a back seat now. That my stupid mind would play tricks on me, waking and sleeping about Sally. The hands of death reaching far too early for her immortal soul.

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People often ask us if we have a competitive partnership, and to be honest, I don’t think we do. So far, our achievements have been pretty equal, although I will always admit that Anita is the far better writer.

So, it came as a bit of a surprise, that when I mentioned how many hits my book The Last Life had just received on Amazon’s KDP, (137 plus one print copy) Anita came back with “I don’t usually get that many, do I?”

Not really a question I could answer, but it will really be interesting to see how many Let it Go gets as it is now #Free on Amazon for the next five days.

Will you make her day and prove my theory?

Universal Amazon Link:      myBook.to/LetGo