Tag Archive | books

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.

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My Next Big Thing

Having been double-tagged recently for the Next Big Thing by Gilli Allan and Joanne Lambert, I couldn’t really refuse, so hang to your hats and settle down to read about what’s simmering on the back burner of creation for Kit Domino.

The game plan is I answer a stack of questions about what I’m currently working on and tag five other friends to take part. The questions are easy to deal with, what isn’t is the sad fact I haven’t got five friends left to tag (Billy No Mates Left, me!) as most, it seems, have been tagged already. But what the heck, I’ll do it anyway. If you want to take part in next week’s bundle feel free. Let me know and I’ll add you as an official tag. Of course, you can just go ahead and tell us about your next big thing anyway. So… here goes mine.

Ten Interview Questions: The Next Big Thing

What is the working title of your book?  I’m currently working on Whitestones. The book is finished and has been for some time but is in the process of being reworked and updated.

Where did the idea come from for the book? The story was inspired from hearing a particular piece of classical music  for the first time. I’m a great lover of classical music but this is not one of those frequently played on radio, but the sort of tune that once you’ve heard it, you can’t help falling in love with it. I came cross it by chance on a complication CD. I thought it so beautiful, so dreamy and romantic I had to use it, even to the point of obtaining the sheet music and teaching myself to play it on the piano, and so plays an integral part to the plot.

What genre does your book fall under? That’s a difficult one to answer. I would class it as a romantic mystery, but because it has paranormal elements it’s been classed (by others) as a paranormal.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? There are four central characters within Whitestones. Keria Knightly would be brilliant Penny, the lead heroine, alongside Anna Friel. The jury’s still out over the male roles but I would love Kevin Costner to play Harry, the lead male, failing that, Patrick Demsey, with George Cloney playing the professor.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? A story of music and love that transcends the barriers of time.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? ThornBerry Publishing will be publishing the ebook, hopefully next year if I can pull my finger out.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? Probably about 12 months. It’s had many rewrites already as it was first drafted many years ago, long before Every Step of the Way.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? There is a touch of Rebecca in the beginning, and think Nicholas Sparks and Barbara Erskine and you would be on the right track, but because Whitestones is cross-genre, and has a story line that is, I have been told by “those in the know”, quite different to anything else around, I can’t think of a single book I could compare it with.

Widden Hill House. Picture courtesy of David Harper

Who or What inspired you to write this book? There were two inspirations. The first, a large mansion in the Cotswolds near Chipping Sodbury where I lived once upon a time (pictured). The other, the fact that I’ve always been fascinated by the unexplained, paranormal events, ghosts and hauntings etc. It was whilst watching a series on TV some years ago that explored many of the locations around Britain that were reportedly haunted, I realised that many of these occurrences had a familiar theme. I began to question what was behind these stories, delving and digging deeper and reaching my own conclusions in seeking to find an explanation. This is explored in Whitestones. 

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? Picture the scene: A lonely house overlooking the Severn valley on a stormy night during the wettest summer in recorded history, Penny alone inside. Cue music – making Penny think she’s left a radio on somewhere in the house. Okay, cut music. … I said CUT MUSIC! Oh, you have? Ah, now that really is a problem because Penny can still hear it. In her head, playing over and over again. Constantly playing, for days at a time, enough to drive her to the brink of insanity and headlong towards a breakdown. And so begins her and Harry’s journey to seek out the source and find answers. What they discover will astound them, and you.

Okay … now over to you.

(Read my recent interviews with Carol E Wyer   and Nicky Wells)

Fellow author at ThornBerry Publishing, Shirley Wright also talks about her Next Big Thing is too! Click here to read

Top Tips for Book Signings – A Light Hearted Look

Sunday saw me at my first (and only) book signing at my local Waterstones branch. I chose this one for two reasons: it’s in a humongous shopping mall that’s always busy, plenty of free parking and close to an intersection of two major motorways; and at the moment the store is promoting local authors and you don’t get much more local than me at only 10 minutes’ walk away! The staff were wonderful, so friendly and helpful but it took a great deal of courage for me to go in and ask if I could use the store for my debut! I like to learn something new each day and having gone through the experience, thought I would pass on my top tips, the do’s and the don’ts for book signings.

1) Don’t pick a day when major sporting events are on television. In my case, the Wimbledon final and the British Grand Prix. The first couple of hours were busy, time flew by and books sold. Come 2 o’clock, the store was pretty much deserted.

2) Although very much out of our hands, try to pick a day that you know will be wet. The shopping malls and stores are always much busier at weekends when it’s raining. Or in my case, rain was forecast but they got it wrong again – the afternoon was bright and dry and mild.

3) Wait until all the furore over the latest current best seller has died down or else you won’t get so much as a glance. In my case, the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy at discount was flying off the shelves, stacked at the entrance to the store, thus few ventured deeper into the bowels of the shop where my table was in the fiction section. I should have written a sex novel, even badly, and had a husband who was a PR manager. My book, Every Step of the Way, is set in West London in the locations where I grew up. Guess what? The author of Fifty Shades also comes from West London apparently. From my home town! Perhaps we know each other? I will have to find out… I wonder if her husband would be my PR manager too if I ask.

4) Don’t stagger in with extra copies of your book in case the store run out of stock. Be realistic. I didn’t and I was. I left my extra copies in the boot of the car, just in case some miracle might happen. It didn’t.

5) Do rally the troups, cajole, plead, beg and persuade, or in my case bribe with offers of a free lunch, family and friends to come into the store, preferably all at the same time. This creates a queue at your table and a crowd gathered around you. Great stuff – people are always curious and nosey and want to see what is going on, see what they are missing. Worked a treat. Thank you everyone who came in to say hello, take photos, buy the book. I love you dearly. Family – where the hell were you? Oh yes, I forgot. Most of  mine live 80 or more miles away, some even further afield, abroad. So, dear family in Spain. I am in need of a holiday and some sun. Can you arrange a book signing for me there? P…l…e…a…s…e…

6) Do contact your local paper in advance to tell them, particularly if they have previously covered you writing the book. They love a follow on story. … Except in my case. They didn’t and still haven’t returned my calls or emails. Shame on you.

7) Do approach people in the store with your book, it creates more sales and interest. Oh heck! When the manager told me this, I nearly fainted and backed out. You see, I’m a shy, nervous person who finds it exceedingly difficult to strike up a conversation with a stranger. My mum told me never to talk to strangers and it’s sort of inbred in me. The crowd around the table helped to spark interest. One or two did approach me later. The rest, I plucked up the courage and approached. “Hey, I love  your dress, where did you get it from?” “Are you here to buy anything specific or just browsing?” “Do you read historical fiction?” “Interested in the 1950s?” “Have you read this great book set in London and the West Country?” I felt like a shop assistant, particularly when someone approached me (smile, Kit, here comes another sale…) and asked if I worked there and could I tell them where they could find a book about some Russian or other. A teddy bear was thrown at my feet by a child in a pushchair. A friendly smile from me as I gracefully bent to retrieve and hand back the discarded toy, all the while thinking this is a good way to begin talking to the parent about my book. Well, it would have been if it had been a woman. “No sorry, love, I don’t do books. I’m here with the wife. She’s at the till buying Fifty Shades of Sex or whatever it is. I keep telling her she spends too much on books.” Oh well, foiled again.

8) Don’t drink copious amounts of tea or coffee or gin beforehand to calm the nerves else you’ll need to leave your table at frequent intervals and miss potential sales.  A swift coffee when I arrived and no food passed my lips all morning because I know what my body is like under stress. Too much detail? Okay, I’ll move on.

9) Don’t get your hair stylist to cut your hair a few days before the big day, particularly if they are zealous with the scissors. I looked like Ellie from Ice Age… still, I suppose I am that old. A bit of a relic, or is that wreck?

10) Whatever you do, enjoy yourself. It was a great experience, and as a writer, there was plenty to observe and note mentally. All good research material to use in a book one day. And you never know, I might one day be back there signing another new novel.

SLIMMING FOR GEORGE

WILL YOU SPONSOR ME TO SLIM FOR GEORGE? YOU COULD WIN A COPY OF MY LATEST NOVEL OR A PAINTING! (SEE BELOW!)

With the fundraising well underway for George’s First Steps to get my great nephew George to the USA for a life-changing SDR operation (read about George), I have been racking my brains as to what I could do to help reach our target of £55,000. I had planned various bucket collections in a large shopping mall close to where I live. This has proved negative, as there is already a huge campaign in the region for a little girl for the self same thing as George.

Thus I have decided to do a sponsored slim, my “SLIMMING FOR GEORGE”. This is over a 3-month period, 5 May to 5 August 2012. I need to do this for George, and for me. For those that don’t know me, I am a very large lady, as those that do can vouch. I never used to be like this. Believe it or not, as a child I was skinny. Really skinny. The sort of child who, if she stepped on a kerb drain, would fall between the grilles. But years of good living, poor health and steroids, and a sedentary lifestyle have led to me being almost twice the woman my husband married (his words though he is inclined to exaggerate) some 30 odd years ago. You don’t get many chances in life to change things. This is my last chance to change me and help change George’s life too. That’s got to be good!

So how will I be doing this? Over the years I’ve tried WeightWatchers, Slimming Worlds, the Cambridge diet, the seefood diet (yes, see food and eat it – joke). I’ve been there, done that, and got the T-shirt a size larger each time for my efforts. Doesn’t leave me much hope, does it? I will be doing this alone, at home, on my own, which makes the task even harder. You see I have so much to lose, and in return, little George has so much to gain – being able to walk.  Which is why am asking if you would sponsor me, even just a small amount, a pound even, it would help. Every pound helps us to reach our target. If you would like to sponsor Slimming For George please email mail@kit-domino.com with how much you would like to contribute, your details so I can add you to the official sponsorship form, and if needed an official  form for your use too. Perhaps you might even want to join me in Slimming for George? Now, that would be really marvellous.

Many of you have already contributed to helping George over the past few years by sponsoring me on our Walks for George each summer – which we are doing again this year – and many of you have this year donated direct to George’s First Steps, for which George and all the family are exceedingly grateful. So I’m not asking you for more, but perhaps you could still help me by asking your friends or family to sponsor me? It’s a big ask, I know, but George is unable to ask for himself so we have to do this for him.

My weight will be officially recorded at the start and finish and as I’m feeling brave, there will be photographic evidence of before and after. Don’t panic, you won’t be seeing me in a bikini, perish the thought. That would put you right off your breakfast! Nor will I be telling what my actual starting weight is; although for a donation to George’s First Steps, I will! (See Competition below) I will also be keeping a Diary on this blog site to track my progress.

Again, if you could sponsor me I will love you forever, and George will love you for even longer. Thank you.

Guess Kit Domino’s Starting Weight Competition

For a donation to George’s First Step, a prize of either a copy of my recently published novel Every Step of the Way (worldwide) or a Kit Domino painting (UK only) will be given to whoever correctly guesses my starting weight, chosen at random. To enter, make a donation to Georges’s First Steps (click here), ensuring to leave your name, then leave a comment below or on my Diary page with your guess weight, again saying who your are and your choice of prize. Note, your comment will not be visible immediately as all comments need to be authorised to avoid spam). If you have already donated and your name appears on the Thank You page (Click here), you are already entitled to enter Guess My Weight. A clue to help you: When I married my husband in 1979, I weighed 9 stone. Good Luck!

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!”

Fruit Cake and A Good Book – A Wonderful Combination!

As promised, I have included my recipe for fruitcake. Or Easy Peasy Fruitcake, as I call it. As it is just that: so easy peasy to make, keeps wonderfully, and is my husband’s favourite. The reason I like this recipe is that it is easily adaptable to what’s in the storecupboard, weights don’t have to be too precise, the ingredients can and be chopped and changed to suit, it makes a fabulous Christmas cake and doesn’t call for any fancy equipment or culinary skills to make. So … aprons and wooden spoons at the ready, here we go! Click this link to take you to the recipe!

And what goes well with a slice of cake especially on a chilly, wet afternoon? Yes, tea or coffee, that’s obvious. But what about a good book? Last week saw the release of one I know is a brilliant read:  Tricia Jones’s seventh novel Bull At The Gate, a contemporary romance with a hint of the paranormal.

Alexander “Bull” McKinley’s reputation as a hard-nosed businessman is tested when an old Fairy Gate and local superstition stand in the way of a lucrative development contract. But then, he hadn’t had to deal with a woman like Dee Ashman before. A woman who detests those who put profit before people, and she’s damned if an arrogant, insensitive and, okay, wildly attractive capitalist is going to destroy the symbolic heart of the village and break her beloved grandmother’s heart.

Available from Wild Rose Press and Amazon

 

Almost There with Harry Bowling

Novel competitions are rare compared with the plethora for short stories and poetry so last week’s announcement calling for submissions to the 2012 Harry Bowling Prize for unpublished novelists is most welcome. It also prompted my first blog proper. I want to tell you a little story. Sitting comfortably? Coffee at hand?  Good, I’ll begin.

 

Every Step of the Way
Once upon a time, not so very long ago, a wannabe writer worked for 10 years alone in her ivory bedroom writing and dreaming of being a published author. A fairy godmother appeared in the guise of the Artists’ & Writer’s Yearbook telling her of the Harry Bowling Prize. But there were strict rules to follow: 10,000 words plus synopsis. Unpublished. Any genre. Must be set in London. Our heroine had written two and a bit books. None fitted the last criteria. Undaunted, knowing London well, she set about writing another, centring on something unique to that city. The task complete, she sent off her entry. And waited. And waited. Waited until the day a buff-coloured envelope arrived. Excited, she ripped it open. The dreaded word “Unfortunately” leapt out at her. Disappointed but not disheartened, she began to write another book, a ghost story. Woooo oooo. Spooky.

Two years passed. 2004 arrived. The next HB competition opened. The same rules applied. This time her book was set in London. Well, partly. And it still needed a synopsis. Arrrgh the dreaded synopsis, she thought, almost giving up then and there. Harry Bowling, she learnt, wrote London sagas. Ah ha, was that the magic formula needed? If she turned hers into a saga would it stand more of a chance? After all, that’s what he wrote. So, waving a magic pen, she switched genres, the Goldington Ghost changing into Every Step of the Way. She kissed her entry goodbye, sending it far, far away to the land of the MBA Agency.

Each day she anticipated the coming again of the buff envelope. It never arrived. August almost ended, two days to go before she was to fly away on holiday, the telephone rang. Oh how her heart somersaulted hearing those wonderful words, “I’m delighted to tell you, you have been shortlisted.” She screamed. She cried. She laughed all the way to cloud nine with no aeroplane wings to get there, her feet never touching the ground for months after.

An invitation arrived requesting her presence at the presentation party where the winner would be announced. In an upstairs room of a little French restaurant in London, accompanied by her two ugly (sorry) beautiful twin sisters, she ate delicious canapés, drank copious wine, and met friends she knew from the RNA and many more besides. Such fun, such laughter. Such tension.

Every Step of the Way didn’t win but our heroine was far from sad. For her, being shortlisted was happiness enough. The runner-up prize money enough to buy a flat screen for her computer, the box of chocolates greedily scoffed on the train ride home, the HB book indeed a great read, these things were insignificant to the real treasures received that day. These were the gifts of acknowledgement and recognition she could write good, proof she had something valuable to say. People finally sitting up, taking notice, saying, “Here is a serious writer”. A giant kick to boost her ego, a foot through agents’ doors and a springboard over the slush piles. And finally, joy of joys, she found a top London agent.

(Pssst: This is the part where you grab a tissue) Unfortunately (why is there always an unfortunately?) the agent didn’t find a publisher. “The market’s flooded with sagas at the moment.” “Sagas aren’t popular any more.” “We can’t take a gamble on an unknown in today’s financial market.” Horrible words our heroine didn’twant to hear. But despite all, she never gave up trying to change from a wannabe into a real published author.

A happy ending to my story hasn’t been written. There isn’t one. Not yet.

However, it is certainly not a tale of misery or woe. On the contrary. It’s one of determination and encouragement, of not giving up, of wanting to live the dream and trying one’s damnedest to make wishes come true. For our heroine, entering the fabulous Harry Bowling competition was one of the best things she ever did, from the valuable lessons learned, the tantalizing glimpse of what can be achieved, to all the marvellous, supportive and close friends made along the way.

And friends, this isn’t a fairy story.  It’s true. I know. I am that heroine.

So go on, give the Harry Bowling a go. It’s worth it. And Good luck.  I might even try again. Who knows?

Every Step of the Way, a 1950s London saga, is scheduled to be released on Kindle during 2011.

Kitchen Tip of the Day:
Fed up with cleaning the oven floor? All those horrible burnt on bits? The smoke? The spray cleaner fumes? A pain in the proverbial to kneel on floor to clean, even worse trying to get back up? Do what I do. Place a large, cheap or past-its-best baking tray on the oven floor and leave there. Take out and wash occasionally or chuck in dishwasher every now and again. When it gets really bad, place in dustbin and buy another tray. Sorted.