Spring silliness…

In my other life, I began working in stage management in the theatre. Got my Equity card for doing a season at Butlin’s Rep. Clacton – of which more another time. This particular gem comes from the Connaught Theatre, Worthing where I started as Deputy Stage Manager and rose to the dizzy heights of Stage Manager.

As a joke, in a 1973 production of Rookery Nook, the director decided that the offstage dog and cat would be played by members of the stage management team. Andy Wilkinson was the Conrad the Dog, and Tiddles the Cat – who was trodden upon regularly – was…

       

Me, in case you can’t read it. Sorry, the lettering’s rather blurry. It wasn’t all glamour – but it was a very jolly repertory company down by the seaside. Sadly, at least two of the company are no longer with us, Christopher Scoular and David Beale. Everyone was in love with Christopher, who was a very handsome young man, a great comic actor and a lovely company member. David Beale was a very special friend – I still have the beautiful crystal goblets he gave me for my 21st birthday. Later, he nursed me through my first main house production as a director in 1975, Absurd Person Singular at The Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch, in which he appeared. I loved him dearly and miss his gentle spirit, his wisdom and his dry sense of humour. Wish he’d known I went on to be a writer.

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Four stars over five?

Welsh Annie
TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE

26 August 2016

There was a lot I really liked about this book. I took to Clair immediately – much of the book’s story is told from her perspective, and in her voice, so it’s really quite important that you’re in her corner. She’s very real – faults and all, but they’re failings that any woman of a similar age will immediately recognise. Some of her internal dialogue really made me laugh, out of recognition and identification.

The first part of the book is all about the holiday in Symi to escape the dreaded birthday – the setting vividly described and its quirks and detail immediately recognisable to any fan of the Greek islands (I particularly liked The Shop of the Sullen Adolescents, and I swear I’ve met the boat driver with the monobrow and bad breath…and who hasn’t searched for a single pack of Silk Cut amid a sea of Marlboro?). It’s a great romp (Clair’s cabaret performance and the octopus incident will long linger in the memory), but also something rather more than that – there’s a real poignancy in Clair’s efforts to move on and excellent handling of her relationship with her teenage daughter, but the smile is never far away. I thought hearing the voices of Fraser and Howard worked really well too – sometimes telling the same story from their own very different perspectives. Was I convinced by Clair’s love interest? Yes, very much so – and hearing his internal dialogue really helped with that.

Returning home, the story changes quite considerably as Clair faces up to the realities of life – and there’s a lot there to handle. Her mother is a real piece of work, and having met her I could immediately understand why Clair found keeping in contact such a chore – the action moves to Florida for a while with a lovely mix of slapstick farce and a very touching examination of the fraught mother-daughter relationship. The developments with her daughter, however, didn’t entirely convince me – I think it might just have been one story line too many. Friend Sonn, though, was a great character – a bit Ab Fab Patsy, and a wonderful source for humour.

And talking about characters, I have to pay tribute to Old Gluefeatures Howard – he was simply wonderful, and reminded me so much of men I’ve (rather sadly) also known. I loved his take on things, and his distinctive pontificating voice – from the viewpoint of desperate old fart and Education Authority administrator – and, quite absurdly, grew to really like him and to wish him well with whatever life may bring.

I must say though that the storyline that enchanted me the most was that of Maggie – Clair’s aunt – in her Scottish croft. Her voice was crystal clear throughout, her story beautifully moving, and her interactions with local characters and family perfectly drawn. She moves into the forefront a little more later in the book, and I was delighted to see it and to learn more about her fascinating life story. The displaying of hidden pictures telling of a long-hidden past brought a little tear to my eye.

Do I have any criticisms? Yes, just a few. I thought the book was maybe a tad too long, with slightly more themes and back stories than were strictly necessary. The writing is strong, and the dialogue excellent – but the absence of attribution and quotation marks does sometimes make it difficult for the reader, with the need to flip back to see who’s talking. But overall I really did enjoy this one – and look forward to seeing what the author does next.

Posted in Contemporary Women's Fiction, Fiction, Gay interest, Greek Islands, Humour, Lesbian interest, Writers, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Putting out The Ritz

When I was writing an early draft of JIGSAW ISLAND, I wanted Annie to meet her friend Shona in a setting that highlighted the difference between them. Annie had just come off the bus from Glasgow so looked a wreck – Shona was just departing The Ritz to go to the theatre. I have had tea at The Ritz (my Grandma’s 80th birthday treat) and the staff were charming.  I wasn’t going to write anything unpleasant but decided to run it past them. This is what I sent them:-

ANNIE London. Late June 2002

If I were to say I first met Shona when I was thrown out of The Ritz Hotel, it would make quite an eye-opener of an introduction, wouldn’t it?

If only it were true. That I met Shona at The Ritz Hotel is a fact. That I was thrown out is not. I deserved to be, and a lesser hotel would have done so. But The Ritz has class, it has style. Hence ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz’. And, consequently, when I turned up at The Ritz Hotel’s Reception desk, wearing scruffy jeans, a slept-in shirt and hefting a backpack and a guitar, the receptionist was absolute charm. The only hiccup was, initially, being called ‘sir’; understandable as I was five foot one and fairly skinny, with cropped hair. At sixteen, I must have looked like a boy of twelve. When I put her straight and explained what I wanted, she was extremely apologetic and keen to help me. Yes, they did have availability and, while it was helpful to know I that wouldn’t mind sharing with a stranger, the hotel didn’t operate that policy. She handed me a sheet of rates, invited me to scan it and let her know whether I thought the hotel could fulfill my requirements.

I wandered to the middle of the hotel lobby, looked at the price list and felt a right eejit. Sure I wanted a room for the night, but I didn’t want to buy the hotel. I stood there for a while, not knowing whether to brazen it out and tell her that the hotel did not cater for my needs – or run away. Then a man in hotel uniform came up to me and handed me another sheet of paper, a map on one side, handwritten on the other:

‘You may find the Central London YHA useful. It’s marked on the map. Hope you enjoy your stay in London. Kind regards.’

Trying to maintain face, I mumbled my thanks to the man and wandered towards the front door. Then someone else stopped me, a woman in evening dress, smelling like she’d just broken out of a perfume shop.

“You’re looking a bit lost. If you get stuck, give me a call.”
And she wrote a phone number on my piece of paper, and her name – Shona. Then she hurried away. I turned to see her join a man standing with some other people. They were all dressed up. The man looked pretty peeved with her. I thought I’d better go. There wouldn’t be much point ringing her if he answered the phone. I folded both sheets of paper and put them in my back pocket. On my way out, another man in hotel uniform opened the door for me and said:

“Goodnight, sir, have a pleasant evening”.

Ach, well.

Outside it was still a warm evening. I walked back down to Piccadilly Circus.

END OF EXCERPT

Fairly innocuous, wouldn’t you think? This is the reply I got from The Ritz:

Dear Lynne

Thank you for your email to Jackie, which she has passed onto me.

Your novel sounds like it is going to be very interesting but unfortunately The Ritz will not be able to participate it in.  We do not want our brand to be presented as snotty or turning people away, no matter how politely.

We do wish you the best of luck in your endeavours and we are sorry we cannot assist you with this.

Kind regards

Joi

Joi Izilein  l Head of Marketing

SO I REWROTE IT. Changed it to The Langham Hotel. On the pavement outside.

No argument.

Did you notice anything in the excerpt that suggested that The Ritz ‘turned people away’ or were ‘snotty’? (Not the word I would expect an employee of The Ritz to use, BTW.)

Posted in Contemporary Women's Fiction, Fiction, Greek Islands, Humour, new writing, Personal, Writers, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Guest Writer Margaret Barnes

Margaret and I met at a ‘Writers Hub’ in Exeter two years ago and found we had enough in common to stay in touch and become friends. I’m delighted to welcome her as a guest writer today.

Margaret, please would you introduce yourself to the blog… I’m a Lancastrian Londoner living in exile in Devon. I am a barrister now retired and spent my working life in the Criminal Justice System, defending the indefensible. Married but no children only a mad Springer Spaniel.  I’m a Francophile. I love the theatre and the arts.

What first inspired you to write?   I’m not sure I was inspired to write, but I am fascinated by words and narrative Some of best pieces of writing were jury speeches. Good stories are persuasive.

What was your first piece of creative writing? How old were you?   I had a poem published in the school magazine when I was about twelve. My aunt was so impressed she bought me a rhyming dictionary.

Which writers do you particularly admire?   So many, Dickens and the Brontes. Muriel Spark, Ian McEwan, William Boyd

What do you love about writing?   Creating characters.

What do you hate about writing?   Never being satisfied with the last paragraph

Describe your ‘portfolio’ of writing…   I’ve written two novelS, CRUCIAL EVIDENCE and RELUCTANT CONSENT, a book of memoirs TRIALS, ERRORS AND MISDEMEANOURSand a thin volume of poetry NOTES FROM OLD VENN.

The novels are part of a trilogy about the criminal justice system and revolve around the life of a barrister Cassie Hardman. They draw on my experience of how the courts work and the emotions of the participants in a trial.

What is your proudest achievement?   In my writing life, just finishing my first novel.

What is your current project?   I’m writing the third novel in the Cassie Hardman series

Anything you’d like to add?   I think I have been very lucky to do a job I enjoyed and writing gives me the same sort of pleasure I got from being an advocate. They couldn’t be more different; writing is a solitary business whereas an advocate tells her stories in the glare of a courtroom and with the responsibilities of someone’s future in her hands.

Margaret’s Links

www.scribblingadvocate.com

CRUCIAL EVIDENCE

RELUCTANT CONSENT

TRIALS, ERRORS AND MISDEMEANOURS

 

 

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Guest Writer Elizabeth Ducie

Elizabeth and I have known one another for four years through membership of Exeter Writers. She is a constant source of amazement to me with her boundless enthusiasm for writing and stamina enough for three in all the writing and related enterprises in which she’s involved such as Chudleigh and Exeter Literary Festivals and myriad conferences and writers’ events.

Elizabeth, so glad you’ve made the time to tell us us about yourself and your writing… Educated as a scientist, I worked for more than thirty years as a pharmaceutical manufacturing consultant and technical writer. In 2006, I began writing creatively and in 2012, I gave up the day job to write full-time. I write both fiction and non-fiction. I am proud to be independently published.

What first inspired you to write?  I was always good at English and loved crafting precise, well-formed sentences. During my first career, I wrote millions of words in the form of reports, training modules, articles and text books. But it was my huge stock of travel experiences that inspired me to start writing creatively. Even now, I tend to start from a location and work outwards to characters and a plot.

What was your first piece of creative writing? How old were you?  I wrote a short story and a poem as part of a four-week competition in one of the Sunday newspapers, at the age of fourteen. I won a ten day holiday to France, Spain and Portugal as a result.

Which writers do you particularly admire?  Fantasy writers Robert Jordan and Brendon Sanderson for their breadth of vision and complexity; Robert Macfarlane for beautiful prose; and Stephen King for every word he writes.

What do you love about writing?  That moment when the characters take over and do something completely unexpected but, on reflection, completely appropriate.

What do you hate about writing?  Staring at an empty page, waiting for the words to start flowing.

Describe your ‘portfolio’ of writing…  In fiction, I have one stand-alone novel, GORGITO’S ICE RINK, which I describe as a tale of love, loss and broken promise; the Suzanne Jones trilogy of thrillers: COUNTERFEIT, DECEPTION and CORRUPTION, all set in the sometimes murky world of international pharmaceuticals; and three collections of short stories (one of my own and two co-authored with a friend). In non-fiction, THE BUSINESS OF WRITING is a series on writing skills for authors. Parts 1-3 are about setting up and running a writing business; Part 4, which is due out this summer, is about Independent Publishing; and Part 5 will be a workbook associated with the series. I also have a few other oddments that I have published over the years, but this is my main portfolio.

What is your proudest achievement?   GORGITO’S ICE RINK was Runner Up in the 2015 Self-Published Book of the Year Awards, run by Writing Magazine.

What is your current project?  On the non-fiction side, I’m editing Parts 4 and 5 of THE BUSINESS OF WRITING, ready for launching in the summer. On the fiction side, I am taking a year off to research the history of the Romanovs, in preparation for novel #5, a time-slip set in Russia, which I will start writing during November.

Anything you’d like to add?  I’m really excited about being an author at this time in the industry’s history. Being an indie is no longer the route of last resort for authors who can’t get a traditional publisher or agent. It is a positive choice, a realistic option, and there are a number of highly successful authors out there who have gone down this path. I’m delighted to be following in their wake.

Elizabeth’s links

My website: http://elizabethducieauthor.co.uk/

My blog: http://elizabethducieauthor.co.uk/category/my-blog/

My books: http://elizabethducieauthor.co.uk/my-books/

FB page: https://www.facebook.com/Elizabeth-Ducie-Author-312553422131146/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ElizabethDucie

 

 

 

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Guest Writer Kathryn Gauci

Kathryn and I have come to know one another through various writers’ groups on Facebook. I was immediately attracted to her work by her interest in Greece and by the beautiful images of textiles and historical fashion and artefacts that she posts almost daily. I love her eye for style and am intrigued by her subject matter. I was in Melbourne on and off for six weeks in 2017/18 but didn’t know her, then. What a shame – I would have loved to meet her.

Kathryn, please tell us about your path to writing… I was born in the UK and after graduating as a textile/carpet designer, worked in Vienna and Athens for a while as a designer before moving to Melbourne, Australia, where I ran my own textile design studio for many years before giving it up to write.

What first inspired you to write?  After so many years as a designer, I felt I wanted a change of direction but I still wanted to do something creative. I’d thought about writing a book for about four years before actually doing it. A part of my work as a designer was to put trend directions out for customers. Much of that entailed transporting the clients into another world for the mood, designs and colours. This covered many periods and places. It could be anything from Classical Greece, the Renaissance, Art Deco, Modernism, to North African inspired looks, the spice bazaars of India and Islamic countries, to Scandinavian winters. All involved setting a mood. I loved this work and soon realised I could take it further as an author. It also meant I would still be able to utilise my love of history, art and travel.

What was your first piece of creative writing? How old were you?  You are going to laugh but my first piece was a short story called Adventure in Spain. I was in the first year at secondary school, so about eleven years old. I still have it. Reading it now always makes me laugh, but it does show that even at that age, I had a desire for adventure and travel. My first serious piece was my novel, THE EMBROIDERER. That was published in 2014.

Which writers do you particularly admire?  There’s too many to mention here, but I’ll try. Nikos Kazantzakis, Orhan Pamuk, Louis de Bernieres, Ivo Andric, Henry Miller, Giles Milton, Sebastian Faulks, Philip Kerr, Alan Furst, Vikram Seth, Khaled Hosseini, Peter Mayle, Ayse Kulin.

What do you love about writing?  Immersing myself in another time and place. I also enjoy the solitude of writing and the research.

What do you hate about writing?  The time it takes to come to fruition. I always wish I could write faster. I don’t particularly like the editing part either but it comes with the territory.

Describe your ‘portfolio’ of writing… THE EMBROIDERER, SERAPHINA’S SONG, THE CARPET WEAVER OF USAK, (all standalone books but part of The Asia Minor Trilogy), CONSPIRACY OF LIES, CODE NAME CAMILLE, a novella which was originally published as part of THE DARKEST HOUR ANTHOLOGY: WWII TALES OF RESISTANCE with nine other authors and which hit the USA TODAY Best Seller list in the first week of publication.

What is your proudest achievement?  Being picked up by a Greek publisher with THE EMBROIDERER and having it translated into Greek. The other novels will also be out in Greek, in Greece, hopefully this year. I was also thrilled when THE DARKEST HOUR ANTHOLOGY hit the USA TODAY Best Seller charts.

What is your current project?  A WWII novel set in Greece. The beginning is set in Cairo. I am half way through and it’s turning out to be more of a spy/thriller than just a Resistance novel.

Thank you for hosting me on your blog, Lynne. It’s been a pleasure to talk with you.

Kathryn’s links

THE EMBROIDERER

SERAPHINA’S SONG

THE CARPET WEAVER OF USAK

CONSPIRACY OF LIES

CODE NAME CAMILLE: A STORY OF TRUST, LOVE AND BETRAYAL 

 

Website: www.kathryngauci.com

Blog: http://www.kathryngauci.com/blog/

Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/KGauciAuthor/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9840358.Kathryn_Gauci

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00OPW68SM

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/kathryn-gauci

Twitter: @KathrynGauci

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathryn-gauci-409a638b/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kathryngauci/

 

 

 

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TERRIBLE WITH RAISINS…

“… there was something, something pretty terrible… Not just plain terrible. This was fancy terrible. This was terrible with raisins in it…” – Dorothy Parker (on turning fifty), The Middle or Blue Period. I thought TERRIBLE WITH RAISINS would be a fabulous title for my first novel. I still do.

Terrible With RaisinsSo do other people – although I’ve had one or two cavils about the cover (someone thought it was a cookery book). Thoughts?

It’s about turning fifty years old – although you can be any age either side of fifty to read it. It’s more about a love affair with a Greek Island and a life lived intensely between mothers, daughters, lovers and loved ones… Take a little look at this somewhat brashly coloured video by clicking on it…

A minor character from TERRIBLE WITH RAISINS is the lead in JIGSAW ISLAND, the novel due to be released this summer.

TERRIBLE WITH RAISINS is available in paperback only from AMAZON until July, when the e-Book will be available from Unbound Publishing. For a taster, go to tab on the menu above – and some reviews for it here: REVIEWS TWR

 

Posted in Contemporary Women's Fiction, Greek Islands, new writing, Writers, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment