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Summer Treat

It’s August, the sun is shining, and I’m over in Kit’s Kitchen today, stirring up a deliciously cool summer drink to enjoy in the garden whilst reading a book or on holiday around the pool. Yes, folks, it’s that time of year again to make Sangria. Click here to pop into Kit Kitchen’s to see how it’s made.

Do you have a favourite summertime drink? What’s yours?

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FREE FOR 5 DAYS ONLY

EVERY STEP OF THE WAY – FREE FOR 5 DAYS ONLY ON KINDLE!!!!

In celebration of my new novel White Stones, my previous novel Every Step of the Way is for 5 days only available to download on Kindle for free.

This book was shortlisted in 2004 for the Harry Bowling Prize for a London novel. It tells the story of Beth, a young teenager whose world is thrown into darkness and chaos when London is hit by the 1952 Great Smog, leaving in its wake a trail of death and disruption, and changing her life in ways she never thought possible. In the emerging teenager culture of juke boxes and coffee bars, Teddy Boys and gang fights, Every Step of the Way envelops much of the social history of the 1950s.

 

In February 2019, Every Step of the Way was awarded a Chill with a Book Award, as recommended by its readers.

 

A few of the reviews for Every Step of the Way

“…brilliant depiction of early 50s culture, complete with quiffs, drainpipes and juke-boxes, set against the moral as well as economic austerity of the post-war years. The other is the spirited and engaging heroine who for much of the book is alone against the world. …I was rooting for Beth from page one and could not have left without knowing the outcome of her dramatic story. It’s no surprise that this book just missed the Harry Bowling Prize for a novel set in London and if you fancy a warm-hearted read and a touch of nostalgia this is for you.”

“This novel, set in London and Gloucestershire in the aftermath of WWII, gave me a real sense of what life was like in the 1950s, when rationing was still in place and the women who had kept the country going in the fields and in the factories during wartime, were all back at the kitchen sink. It must have been a difficult time for teenagers to grow up in and Kit Domino captures the essence of the 1950’s era exceptionally well. The depiction of the London smog and its effects on the population is particularly harrowing and poignant and this is where this story begins. We follow the life of Beth, a 16-year-old girl living in 1950’s London, who through experiencing love, life and loss, becomes a grown woman by the end of the novel. It’s a coming of age story that is beautifully written, expertly told, and one I simply couldn’t put down. Highly recommended.”

Available on Amazon Kindle: https://amzn.to/2Jg7ThD   https://amzn.to/2YgxVY1

Life Playlists Replayed

A few weeks ago author Jo Lambert invited me to talk about the music of my life, which I have to admit was a hard task to pick out 5 songs that had special meaning or memory for me and so thank you, Jo, for inviting me to take part on your blog, which I’ve reblogged here in case anyone missed it. (To read more about Jo Lambert and her books, click here.)

Music, as well as books, has always played a major part in my life: from growing up with German folk songs and classical music to marrying a part-time DJ. From Saturday mornings listening to Children’s Favourites and Sunday lunch over Family Favourites on the radio and teenage years those of the 1960s and 70s, to right up to this very day. Thus love, life, family and memories are sealed by music – the happy and the sad. So, where to begin? A German song or the first 45 single I bought (Adam Faith)? The Beach Boys, Moody Blues, The Faces, or Keith Relf’s Renaissance? …The list is endless.

For my first choice, I’ve picked music from the late 1960s. What an era it that was with so many fantastic songs and bands out there. Living in London and having a music-mad boyfriend who became a part-time DJ, I was spoilt with shows, nightclubs and concerts and discos a constant happening. One big favourite was Fleetwood Mac. I’ve chosen the instrumental Albatross because it brings back happy, memories of warm summer days and sultry nights, of being allowed to stay out all night for the first time to attend a midnight concert at the Lyceum Ballroom, London where Fleetwood Mac, among many others were playing that night.

It was also back in the 1960s I came across folk singer Ralph McTell, a prolific and gifted songwriter whose style invites you into a unique world, weaving words that can tug on your heartstrings with songs and music that are significant, poignant and sometimes amusing. It’s impossible for me to pick a favourite but this one, Let Me Down Easy, holds particular meaning from when my first marriage broke apart. However, Ralph’s music and songs have always been there for me, and always will be.

When I moved to Gloucestershire in the mid 1970s, I thought I would lose the concerts I habitually frequented in London. Thankfully, I was wrong. Bristol has two fantastic concert venues, the Colston Hall and the Hippodrome, and I was fortunate to attend both many times to see and hear Ralph McTell, Status Quo, Queen, Stevie Millar Band, Rod Stewart and the Faces, Mike Harding, Inspirational Choir and many, many more. It was at this time I also met (at a dance) the man who is my husband now for 40+ years, and no playlist would be complete without “Our Song”. For us, it’s Just the Way You Are by Barry White. I was never a great fan of Barry’s but this song says it all. It has to be his version, mind. The original and other covers don’t do it for us.

The 1970s and beyond has been filled with wonderful singers, bands and music. George Michael, Billy Joel, Pink Floyd, the Eagles, ELO, Stevie Wonder, Abba and so much more. Amongst all of these the passion for classical music held strong, with many a summer evening enjoying what became a family tradition of open-air classical picnic concerts. Milton Keyes Bowl provided a regular location for music, song and fireworks. From Duxford airfield to the majestic grounds of Berkeley Castle, we much preferred listening to the Three Tenors than the Three Degrees. One piece in particular was a firm favourite of my family, one which we also played at my father’s funeral: the Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana by Mascagni. From its melancholy start to the heart-tugging end, it took many years before I was able to listen to this again without the tears welling. But time heals.

Throughout all of the music world there is but one singer who can make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. He came to the fore about 20 years ago with a voice often described as “The voice of an angel” and “If God could sing, he would sound like this.” Who? The one and only Andrea Bocelli, of course. His songs helped me through long convalescence when I was first struck down with a now life-long medical condition. His songs also bring back wonderful memories of holidays shared with my mother and two beloved sisters, of lying on sun-drenched Greek beaches with the beach bars close by playing his CDs. Utter bliss. Again, it difficult to choose which song from the many. Bocelli often duets with other singers, ie Celine Dion, Sarah Brightman, John Miles, his wife and even his son, but last year he duetted with another of my favourites: Ed Sheeran. A double whammy! Thus for my last shout I have included Perfect Symphony. Oh my, those hairs are on end again.

Music, in particular, classical music, is also at the heart of my recently released novel: White Stones, a haunting story of love and music transcending the barriers of time, featuring a relatively unknown real-life composer and one of his works rarely heard in the UK. In no way a frightening read, this novel may change your mind about the supernatural and how the world around us works. It’s not your average usual ghost story – it won’t give you nightmares, it won’t make you scared to sleep with the light off, but it is a thought-provoking romantic mystery full of music, intrigue and a few things that go “daa dee dee, dee da da” in the night!

Available worldwide on Kindle and soon to be released in paperback and other e-formats.

 

To obtain the book: White Stones

5.0 out of 5 stars “Loved the setting, the emotion, and the cadence of this story “…”I couldn’t put this book down…”

Talking about Tricia Jones….

tricia jonesOne of the most popular genres in reading matter for women is Contemporary Romance, and one author whose work I always enjoy is multi-published Tricia Jones.If you’ve never read her books, you are missing a real treat, for she writes with flair, style and plenty of dry humour in characters that will hold you captive to the end – by which time you can’t help but want to fall into bed with … click here to read on…9781909734043

An Amazing Lady

Many may recall how last year, I set about losing weight in a sponsored slim to help send my little great-nephew, George, to America for a life-changing operation to help him cope with cerebral palsy. The operation was a major success and I will bring you an update on his progress very soon. I managed to lose 2 stones. It wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination, particularly as there are many food groups I cannot eat a lot of, and some I have to avoid altogether. I’m still very much overweight. I never used to be, I was a skinny child, as my family can testify; I only had issues with my weight following the birth of my daughter some 40+ years ago. But this post isn’t about me; it’s about someone I wish I had met twelve months ago, if not before.

JUSTINE FORREST (PROMO SHOOT 07.02.2013)

Four years ago she was morbidly obese, barely able to walk a few yards, and experienced many indignities only us big people can. She’s happily married with three lovely children, two of whom have serious medical conditions. It was her love and concern about them that finally persuaded her to do something about her weight once and for all, otherwise she wouldn’t be about much longer to care for them.

So she devised an eating plan, something that was easy to follow, didn’t cost a fortune in expensive or special foods, with recipes which provided nourishing home-cooked meals that all the family can enjoy. And the weight started to fall away. It was only after having lost a considerable amount of weight that Justine could start to exercise, mainly walking the family dog regularly. But what a difference now – Justine now does regular exercise and with her husband runs marathons, fundraising to support the two charities that have helped her in the care of her children, and are running in the London Marathon this April. I certainly will be supporting and sponsoring them.

Justine loves to cook and bake cakes, something that doesn’t help when trying to lose weight. As the weigh fell, her confidence and courage grew, so much so she applied to appear on one of the reality cookery shows on TV, taking part in and going on to win Michael Winner’s Dining Stars in 2010, culminating in cooking a dinner party in Michael Winner’s home for guests Sir Roger Moore and Lady Moore, Andrew Neil, Giorgio Locatelli, Christine Bleakley and Kym Marsh. Wow! This led to several further TV appearances on Harry Hill’s TV Burp and on GMTV.

JUSTINE FORREST (PROMO SHOOT 07.02.2013)

Spurred on by this and praise for her chocolate brownies, Justine set up her own bakery business online (Brownies by Justine Forrest)and supplying outlets and restaurants in her region. Having tasted these brownies, I can assure you they are heaven. My husband’s comment after eating one was, “Tell her she should sell them online, they’re fantastic. Best I’ve ever eaten!”  They are. You simply must try them! Justine now gives regular talks at food shows and on radio and demonstrates regularly – just this week appearing at the Ideal Home Show in London. She also appears regularly at the Wellbeing Farm in her home region.

Justine is so full of enthusiasum for what she does, it rubs off; it certainly has on me, with a JJ Final Cover Smallzest for life she wants to help others in the position she was in. In her own words (no ghost writer for Justine!) she has written an honest, moving and heart-warming account – Justine’s Journey – of how and why she achieved such a weight loss, as well as telling what goes on behind the scenes of a reality TV show. She tells of the many heartbreaking moments in her life, told with such open passion and raw emotion, it made me cry in places, along with many ups and the downs along the way. In the book shares her “Plan”.

Hear why Justine wrote her book

This isn’t just another diet book, it’s a way of life full of tasty, easy to follow recipes, lots of tips and hints, and so full motivation and inspiration it can help anyone achieve a complete change in their life. It’s certainly encouragement enough for me to lose some more weight. If Justine can do it, so can I.

But you know what is even more encouraging in all this, Justine’s Plan allows for cake. Yes, cake! What’s not to like about following her Plan? Give it a try. I’m on it now!
Buy Justine’s Journey (available at all Amazon sites)

Website: www.justineforrest.co.uk

Facebook www.facebook.com/justine.b.forrest

Twitter https://twitter.com/JustineForrest

Introducing Author Gina Rossi and Her New Novel

Gina Rossi 3

Over on ShowCase today, I’m delighted to introduce the lovely Gina Rossi, and talk about her fabulous new novel published recently on Kindle by ThornBerry Publishing. First, a few words from Gina herself.

“Originally from South Africa, I am lucky now to live and write full-time on the French Riviera – not as glamorous as it sounds in the rain-lashed, gale-thrashed month of March.  Read more…

Final Cover LA6R with frame

Showcase: Simon Hacker

Simon HackerToday on Showcase, I am delighted to introduce fellow Thornberry author Simon Hacker with his recently released debut novel, an exciting thriller set in Scotland.  Polar Nights.

Simon cut his teeth as a cub reporter with the Gloucestershire Gazette but soon sped off at full throttle for a life as a motoring and travel writer, working for the Sunday Times, the Guardian and a broad spread of magazines. Read more…

Looking Back at 2012

Well, here we are again, another full year at home since being made redundant two years ago. And what a difference a year has made.

That first year I achieved exceedingly little, spending most of my time feeling guilty and unsettled, uncertain and unsure what to do with my life, knowing I was too old to find a good job again and, thanks to the Government, my pension pushed back even further to when I’m 65, which I’m not, not yet, I’m still in my fifties, all be it late.

So what has happened during 2012? Lots. Mega lots. The year started with my husband having his hip replaced, a long 14-week recovery at home with me wearing my matron’s hat. He’s made a complete and full recovery – a new man! Then there was the birth of another great niece, little Evie, such a cheerful, cute little soul and an absolute delight to her parents and grandparents.

I suppose the biggest change has been that I have set up a small business, working from home dealing with books, editing and publishing and creating book covers. It keeps me busy, and although I’m not showing any profit yet, that will hopefully come in time. I don’t want it too big anyway; my days as the dynamic business woman are long gone – I’ve been down that route before in a past life and much prefer to keep things small. At least for the moment.

What didn’t help was the dreadful, bad blip, when we were defrauded out of almost £10,000 in a car buying scam. Oh, the police and fraud squad were very helpful and supportive but I will never get my money back, the fraud squad deeming it was too little a sum to warrant them spending further resources on. Still, once bitten… and we have moved on from it, can even laugh about it now, at how my husband had been so gullible, and at how I should have done all the checks I normally do before handing over money. What it did mean was that I couldn’t invest more in my new business, unable to do all the advertising I’d intended, but hey ho, that will rectify itself as the business progresses and grows, which it is doing. And more to the point, I’m loving every moment of it.

April saw the publication of my novel, Every Step of the Way, both in paperback and on Kindle, and a booksigning in our local Waterstones. Not sure I would do it again, though. I plan to see at least another published this year, if not two. They are written, complete, it’s now a matter of finding time to work on them, what with the business.

The Bridge (1)In June, I took part in the Loveahappyending.com Summer Audience held in Tetbury, where I hosted two writing workshops and held my first “public” art exhibition, selling two paintings (surprise!). Everyone who came enjoyed the day and hopefully another will be planned. I’ve not done a lot of paintings this year, time is in short supply but I’ve managed a few, including this one, completed over the Christmas break.

view from villaAugust saw me take my last villa holiday with my sisters and our mum, going to Corfu. Mum has decided she won’t come away again due to her age (87 coming up) and the fact that both my sisters have retired (well, one has, the other twin finishes in this July), so our finances will no longer stretch to the expense of hiring a private villa abroad, although us three sisters do hope we will get away again sometime, whether to a hotel or descend upon my brother and sister-in-law in Spain. Who knows? Of course, if we win the lottery, then it’s a different matter … (Hope, Pray, Beg). Of course, nothing can match the beautiful view we had from the villa this year at Kassiopi. Pure Bliss

The King (1)Of course, there was one thing that virtually dominated all of last year­ – that was the massive George’s First Steps campaign to raise funds to send my great nephew to America for a lifechanging operation to treat his cerebral palsy to get him walking. We succeeded, and some, the £55,000 needed surpassed to the sum of £80,000, enough to look after his needs for many years and to allow his parents time now to enjoy life doing normal things a family does now the worry and pressure has gone. The operation was sucessful and George is progressing daily. One highlight this Christmas was George being a king in his school’s nativity play. He loved every moment!

So, all in all, it’s been a good year. A wet one, yes, but a good one nonetheless. Quite how 2013 will pan out is anyone’s guess but I think it’s safe to say I have moved on from the woman I was back at the beginning of 2011.

END OF A YEAR

So, here we are at the end of another year. It’s gone too quick. It doesn’t seem real that I have been home from work for almost 12 months following redundancy, and what have I achieved in that time? Nothing and yet lots. A big family wedding, a successful Walk for George and George making great progress, and following in artistic footsteps, two lovely trips abroad, read some great books, editing and proofing work coming in.

Yet, as an author, it’s scary to think I haven’t written one word of a novel although I have spent many hours editing and checking several works. Back last January I started writing a new novel with plans to do a lot of research and visiting the places I use in the book, but none of that has happened. Not because I didn’t want to, but last Christmas after my husband’s car let us down very badly on Christmas Eve, leaving us stuck in the perishing cold and snow on the M4, we decided to trade both his and mine in for another as we don’t need two cars now I am at home all day.

But my time home hasn’t been idle. I began blogging. If nothing else it has kept me writing and now I am ready to pick up the novels again and ensure that 2012 is the year hopefully I am published and in print.

I also met the lovely Linn B Halton, and helped her get loveahappyending.com up and running and editing Kit’s Corner and through the group, have made lots of new friends and colleagues who share the same passion for writing and books.

And for the first time in eight years I was able to host the writing group I belong to (the Ivy Writers) at my home. We meet one evening a month in one another’s home. Whilst I was working and with my husband working late shifts it was impossible for me to host this. Instead of meeting of an evening, we were able to meet of an afternoon.

I had planned to paint more pictures with so much free time, but that hasn’t materialised either. But I have been able to sell several, one before the paint even had time to dry! I had been offered a place at an exhibition but had to decline as I could not get to the venue on the required dates to deliver and collect.

So, what will 2012 bring? A hard, difficult few months ahead, that’s for sure. In a fortnight’s time my husband goes into hospital for a hip replacement, which isn’t as straightforward as it sounds as he has a spinal problem. The equipment needed at home to help in his rehabilitation and recuperation has been installed: the toilet seat has been raised and a frame around it so he can lower and raise himself properly.  I have to use this too and feel like a little schoolgirl again as my feet don’t touch the floor when sitting on this. His armchair has been raised on blocks, the walking sticks and knicker-puller-on tool, his gadget for pulling on his socks and a very long shoe horn delivered.  He won’t be able to drive for at least 8 weeks and it will be probably 3 months before he will be able to return to work.  So all in all, a good thing I am at home all day to help him. We will have lots of laughs and no doubt a few frayed tempers and tears, his and mine. But we will manage. And hopefully, once he is back in his workboots, out of pain and fit again, we will see our garden blossom even if it is me having to do all the backbreaking planting.

In 2012 I have the opportunity to exhibit art at two venues and, with many fingers crossed, will see my novel Every Step of the Way finally published. There’s a new birth imminent in the family which will bring much joy to all of us, a summer holiday already booked and no doubt a trip to Spain to visit my brother and his wife. And one or two other irons in the fire that need a bit of prodding to mould into what I know will be a great, happy and successful year. One I am looking forward to as I raise a glass to the midnight chimes and fireworks and say:

“HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS                                                AND WISH YOU ALL A SUCCESSFUL YEAR TOO!”

Wish I Were Here!

The north wind doth blow and we shall have snow … and wind and rain and hail and thunder and lightening. Yesterday, here where I live we’ve had the lot thrown at us. And that was just for starters! This morning, a light dusting of icing snow covers the rooftops and ground. The forecast this week is for more lousy winter weather to come. I hate the winter and the cold and wish I could escape it, just for the season, or better still, for good. Oh, what I’d give to be able to run away and hide away from it all. Given the opportunity (and the money) I would leave cold windy England and head to the sun.

So here’s where I would much rather be:

It’s a beautiful villa nestled right at the edge of the sea in Corfu, Greece.  I love the Greek islands and all things Greek. Sadly, I have to wait eight months before I will be there again. Meanwhile, there’s not a lot I can do but curl up by the fire, open a bottle of champagne, and read a book.

But not just any book! Today sees the launch of one I know is a cracker, and I’m not talking Christmas cracker here. I’m talking about REACHING FOR THE STARS, the new novel by writer Janice Horton. A fun read concerning a celebrity chef determined to throw it all away for the love of a woman. I’ve been lucky in being able to read this book prelaunch, in its raw state, before the ingredients were well mixed, left to rise, stirred with many emotions and seasoned with the lovely humour Ms Horton writes so well into her novels. And now, the book having been baked to perfection, I can read it in its mature, lovingly crafted state. And there’s no need to wait for it to cool before opening that first page.

So good luck, Janice Horton. This book deserves to take off with a bang and reach the zenith, if not in the stars, certainly in the book charts.

Buy Reaching for the Stars