Thursday, 22 August 2019

This Time Next Year - an excerpt

Today on the Blog Blitz I'm delighted to be given the opportunity to share two short excerpts from my first novel, This Time Next Year. Huge thanks to Claire Baldry, founder of Books For Older Readers for all her hard work in organising both the website and this Blog Blitz.

The novel's main character, Alison, is in her fifty-first year. She's recently divorced - her husband, Brian, left her for a younger woman - and she's not entirely enjoying life. Her two best friends, Pippa and Bev, feature in these two excerpts.

6th June, Thursday
I am good for my age. It’s official: I’ve been told by both dentist and optician. Despite getting long in the tooth I’m pleased to report that my teeth and eyesight are okay. Apart from needing a tiny filling and a slightly stronger pair of glasses. That aside, my teeth and eyesight have ‘not deteriorated more than would be expected’. 

Thinking about it, I seem to recall that both dentist and optician added ‘quite’ before the ‘good’. Still, that’s not a disaster; that is ‘quite good’. I can live with that. At least I’m not bad for my age. I would probably be incontinent as well if I were.

The nurse called me in to see the dentist just as I was engrossed in a fascinating article about ‘Your best friend’. According to the article, forget dogs, a woman’s best friend is her best friend i.e. another woman. ‘A woman’s best friend is her life support. She lifts you up when you are down, confirms that your ex is a total cad, and, in every way, is there for your benefit. In return, all she asks is that you do the same for her.’ I was tempted to tear the article out so I could show it to Bev and Pippa. I’m not sure they’re living up to the ideal. 


14th July (After Alison has been out on a date)
Bev & Pippa turned up at seven, Bev with wine and Pippa with little nibbles and dips from M&S. The trouble with little nibbles is their littleness. By 8 o'clock, we were scouring cupboards for suitable dipping items. I found crisps; Pippa peeled and sliced carrots, peppers and celery.
Then I filled them in on the events of Saturday night. It didn’t take long.
‘Oh,’ Bev said, when I’d finished.
‘Well,’ Pippa said, ‘just because he hasn’t phoned doesn’t mean he’s not interested. It’s only been two days, and, as you said, Alison, he’s probably been busy with patients all day.’
‘Huh,’ Bev grunted. ‘That’s a pretty crappy excuse.’
‘Well, I did make a bit of a fool of myself, one way and another.’
‘But that’s you, Alison.’
‘Yeah, and from what you’ve said before, he already knows what you’re like, so he should have been prepared.’
The words from magazine article I’d read in the dentist’s suddenly come back to me. ‘Your best friend always thinks well of you.’ I pointed this out to Bev and Pippa.
‘Oh, Aliss, we only ever say things because we love you.’
‘Yes, Alison, you know it’s your interests we have at heart.’
Pippa tried to reassure me by telling me about her first boyfriend. ‘He wasn’t really a rotter so much as thoughtless. Never thought to tell me that I looked nice or that he’d be late or that he liked being with me. It just didn’t occur to him.’
‘Huh, one of my boyfriends was a real sonofabitch,’ Bev joined in. ‘He was seeing three of us at the same time, but we found out and we got our revenge.’ 
‘We turned up at his regular pub, debagged him in front of his friends and made belittling comments about his equipment!’
‘Bev, that’s brilliant,’ Pippa said. ‘Men are so sensitive about their thing.’ 
‘And goodness knows why! Once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.’
They both screeched just as I said, ‘Why, how many have you seen?’
‘Oh, only...’ Pippa stopped and did a mental total, ‘three. No, four if you count Ian but that was only once and in the dark so it hardly counted. In more ways than one!’
Bev was still counting and appeared to have run out of fingers.
‘I didn’t realise you were both so experienced,’ I was shocked.
‘I don’t think three, or even four, would be counted as experienced these days,’ Pippa said.
‘Definitely not, kids today are into the tens before they’ve left uni.’ Seeing my face, Bev added, ‘Course that’s only some of them, not the ones like Chloe who have a steady boyfriend.’
‘Honestly, Alison, there’s no need to look so horrified. Don’t tell us you haven’t seen a few in your time.’
‘Yeah, come on, Aliss, confess, what’s your rating?’
They both stared at me.
‘You’re not serious?’ 
‘You mean just Brian?’
‘Yes, there’s only ever been Brian.’
‘But, but...’ Bev was stuck for words. 
‘I think what Bev’s trying to say, Alison, is that you’re not that much older than us. You grew up in the sixties and seventies. The permissive society had begun. How could you miss it?’
‘I was sixteen when I started going out with Brian, we got engaged before he went to university and then married straight after.’
‘Well,’ Bev said, ‘you’ve got some catching-up to do, girl. Here’s to you!’

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Library Love

I'm delighted to be taking part in the Books For Older Readers Blog Blitz this summer. My first offering is this post and on Thursday I'll be giving you a peek into the life of Alison who tells us her story in my first novel, This Time Next Year.

Library Love

There’s a challenge that I set myself every now and again. It’s called NaNoWriMo, the annual international write a novel in a month event. If you’ve ever attempted it you’ll know that what ‘seemed like a good idea at the time’ is, in truth, a ridiculous ordeal: trying to write 50,000 words in thirty days in between family life, preparing for Christmas, and, for me, numerous birthdays, is more burden than pleasure. Yet I’ve done it more than once!

One year there were several participants living locally and we decided to meet up. The main library in our city seemed a good meeting place and on the specified day we five gathered there.
‘I didn’t know this place existed,’ said one.
‘How long has this been here?’ said another.

I’m not convinced that we should but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and assume it was only the main library with which they were unfamiliar. To imagine there could be in existence a writer who has never used a library is too mind-blowingly awful to contemplate. Is it an age thing? Are we – those of us who make up the audience for Books For Older Readers - the last generation to appreciate the value of libraries?

As both a writer and a reader I love libraries. Even if I were neither and just a human being I still can’t imagine life without the safe stronghold, the receptacle of knowledge, that a library is.

I grew up living close to my local library and it became my second home. Indeed I often imagined which room would be my bedroom, living-room etc were I to move in. As a shy child reading was my escape, my hidey-hole, from the real world, and the library allowed me a constant supply of my drug of choice. From Pookie to The Secret Seven to Little Women I could explore lives and places very different from my own – and in safety.

I realise as I am writing that the word and idea of ‘safe’ keeps cropping up. I hadn’t thought of the association before but I believe that it is a valid one. In books, we can indulge in adventures far more dangerous, defiant, sexually explicit, crazy, than we would attempt - or want to try out - in real life. And in libraries we are physically protected from the elements, bullies, and loneliness. 

And another wonderful thing about libraries: they’re free! 

It still amazes me that I can walk into a huge room absolutely full of books and take home any I want. Just like that. Of course owning books is a wonderful feeling – and as a writer I say definitely one to be encouraged - but borrowing books brings its own freedom. It allows me to try out new – to me – authors and if I’m not enjoying a book I don’t feel the obligation to finish it that I would had I spent money on it.

Libraries are good places to speak to potential readers of your books

And, of course, libraries these days are far more than book repositories. They are lively community hubs and yet many are coming under threat of closure. Libraries can be seen as an easy target: no lives will be lost if we cut corners here, the councillors may tell themselves to justify their decisions, and that’s hard to argue against. Except to say ‘no lives lost maybe but many lessened.’ And not just intellectually or imaginatively. There’s the homeless man who spends his day sitting by the radiator reading newspapers to avoid freezing to death on the street. And the mother who relies on the free internet and computer service at the library to find out why her benefits have suddenly been cut leaving her unable to feed her children.

Records show that the elderly, the unemployed, those with a limiting disability, and those from the black and ethnic minority groups, all have higher rates of library attendance. The American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who founded over 2,500 free public libraries across the world, said, “A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in the desert.” 

Libraries in some form or another date back more than 5,000 years and the oldest surviving public library in Britain was founded in Manchester in 1653 at the bequest of a local merchant, Henry Chetham who specified that the librarian ‘require nothing of any man that cometh into the library.’ Books, however, were originally chained to the bookshelves so I’m not sure how easy it was to borrow one … Chetham Library is still in existence today and is a significant centre for study and research.

But the free public lending library with which most of us are familiar didn’t come into being in the UK until the second half of the 19th century when the Public Libraries Act was passed in 1850. The Act allowed any municipal borough of 100,000 souls to introduce a halfpenny rate to establish public libraries - although not to buy books - as part of a movement to improve educational opportunities and facilities.

It's worth noting that during the debates on the Act members of the Conservative party, concerned about the cost of the scheme and the social transformation it could bring about, argued strongly against free public libraries.

That the Act finally became law was down to the persistence of a few men determined to see free public libraries introduced for the benefit and improvement of the working classes and in 1852 the first such library opened in Manchester.

Now, since 2010, at least 478 libraries have closed in England, Wales and Scotland, and the number of full-time posts has dropped significantly with volunteers taking up the baton. You’ll find more than three times as many volunteers in libraries as full-time staff which is fantastic on the part of the volunteers but many may not have the expert knowledge or experience of the professionals.

Will we still have libraries as we know them in twenty years? Will it still be the case that the librarian ‘require nothing of any man that cometh into the library’? I certainly hope so but I’m not holding my breath.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

August is for Authors

While in the library on Tuesday I noticed an advert for a series of author talks. I'd missed the first one but the second was yesterday evening so I decided to pop along.

Dr Emma Kavanagh
Dr Emma Kavanagh is a cognitive psychologist who trained armed forces and the police before turning to writing and she's a now a successful author of crime novels. I have to admit I've not read any of her work but I will do now I've heard her speaking.

I assumed it was going to be a talk but it turned out to be a Q&A session. Dr Kavanagh was lovely and very inspirational. She is a real author, with a real agent and publisher and even with a film and television agent! Unwittingly and unintentionally she made me feel like an amateur, which is what I am really. But she was also encouraging saying, 'Don't give up.' She maintains it's the only thing that makes the difference between unpublished and published. I'm not so sure.

One very interesting thing she said was, 'Many teachers will tell you to write what you know; I suggest you write what you want to know.'

There are two more talks in the series. I hope to go along to one at least.
Talks at Swansea Central Library 5.30 pm - 6.30 pm
August 21st   Kate Hamer
August 28th   Rebecca Tope

Monday, 5 August 2019

Blog Blitz

Books for older readers
Today sees the start of a Blog Blitz organised by Claire Baldry, founder of the Books for Older Readers website.

For a month contributors will be posting articles, reviews, and extracts, and in the first post Claire writes about how BFOR began.

I'll be adding my own post and extract later on in the month. 

Monday, 29 July 2019

And the winner is ...

I'm delighted to announce that the winner of the blog tour giveaway is:
Kelly Disley!

I'm sorry it's taken me so long to make this announcement but Husband went and had a heart attack and ended up in hospital - where he still awaits tests. Talk about real life getting in the way!

Anyway I've been in touch with Kelly now and will soon be sending her prize off to her. 

Thanks again to everyone who took part in the blog tour and/or entered the giveaway.

Monday, 22 July 2019

Blog tour = royalties

An email from Amazon alerted me to the fact that I'd received royalty payments. Ever on the ball I hadn't thought to check if there'd been any sales during the blog tour but now, certain there had, I scurried over to the site.

It turns out that the roughly £80 I invested in a blog tour brought in £2.62 in royalties.

I tell myself that at least The Dog-walking Club has been brought to people's attention and that it may well be on any number of Must Read lists all over the world. Also it's a well-known fact that you have to accumulate in order to speculate. No wait, that's wrong.

What is the secret, people? To getting your title out there?

I tried emailing a doggy magazine that did book reviews but had no reply. Perhaps I should send them a copy anyway, with some of the reviews already received. What do you think? Is that a good idea?

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Huge thanks to ... everyone!

Well, the blog tour for The Dog-walking Club finished on Tuesday. I've been away since and haven't had a chance to round it all off nicely until today.

First of all, huge thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel's Random Resources for organising the tour. When I decided I should be proactive in my marketing - for a change - and began investigating blog tours I considered doing it all myself. I am so glad I didn't! Apart from all the planning, contacting bloggers, arranging dates, producing promotion material, and basically doing a huge amount of work, Rachel also provided good advice and reassurance, especially at the last minute when I began to panic about possible reactions. So thank you, Rachel!

Next, big thanks to all 21 bloggers who took part in the tour. They don't have to do it, they don't get paid, and they sometimes seem to be victims of abuse. I have nothing but praise for all the book bloggers, who made the effort, who read and reviewed or featured me on their blogs, and who, I have to say, gave me some gorgeous reviews. So thank you all.

Now for the links and snippets of the reviews.
From Dash Fan Book Reviews
The Dog-walking Club is an Endearing, Feel Good, Light Hearted read that melted my heart, was highly relatable, Funny, fantastic quirky loveable characters of all ages and breeds and I found time whisked by as I became engrossed in the lives of The Dog-walking Club!

From Grace J Reviewerlady
This is a really lovely book; with a range of differing ages and personalities, the reader gets an insight into the life of each. This is one which will gladden your heart and make you so happy you picked it up. Definitely a feel-good read and one I enjoyed immensely. Four stars!

From Books Are Cool
This is a really delightful book: it’s uplifting, moving and friendly. That may sound an odd adjective to use but it is. It exudes such a sense of comradeship, loyalty and caring for others that it really warms the cockles of your heart! There’s humour, some suspense, things to think about and a wonderful story to enjoy within the pages.

From Sibzzreads
I love any book with dogs in it, but this one in particular is fabulous. Not only does it have lots of dogs, but the human characters are superb!

From Splashes into books
There are shocks, surprises, temptations, new starts, romance and more in this, making it a lovely story to escape into – I thoroughly enjoyed reading it!

From Carla Loves to Read
It was heartwarming and delightful to read about the support people get from their fur-babies, as well to see how friendships develop because of the love of dogs. I read this book in one day as I wanted to find out what would happen next, in fact, I wanted to grab a leash and a dog and join them.  I definitely recommend this heartfelt and inspirational book to anyone who loves a nice character driven story (human and canine), especially one about friendship, life’s struggles and moving on.

From Devilishly Delicious Book Reviews
This is one of my top 10 reads of 2019! There really is no huge overwhelming plot, yet it is full of such emotion, both sadness and joy. It is a beautiful testament to friendship and the relationships between humans and dogs. 

From Waggy Tales Blog
The book shows that small thoughtful gestures can mean the world to someone and that anything is possible. 

From Books, Life and Everything
For a life affirming, heartwarming story, you cannot go far. There are moments of humour amongst the sadder times and it is a well paced tale which leads you on. The author has a lot to say about friendship and companionship. Simple routines and being there are shown to have a profound effect on everyday lives.

From Lis Carey's Library
This isn't a story with a lot of plot or overtly exciting events. It's a story of people and dogs and friendship, and the big difference the most unlikely friendships and odd assortments of interests and skills and connections can make in people's lives.
I really thoroughly enjoyed this. Recommended.

From Jena Books
I highly recommend The Dog-Walking club. This book is a big hug of friendship and a cuddly dog by your side and I want you to love it as much as I did.

From Babydolls and Razorblades
The Dog Walking club was an absolute joy to read, definitely put a smile on my face.

From Just4MyBooks
A truly gentle read that drew me in completely; relating to and caring for these people and their dogs was easy. Now, don’t get me wrong, this story has so much more to offer than you might think.

Now can there be anyone who wouldn't want to read The Dog-walking Club after all those wonderful words?!

During the blog tour I also did two guest posts - for Being Anne and  Audio Killed the Bookmark, as well as interviews for Jane Hunt Writer, Jazzy Book Reviews, The Magic of Wor(l)ds, B for Book Review, and Celticlady's Reviews.

Once again a huge thank you to all involved. And here's to the next one ...