Monday 27 December 2010

Frozen sea to frozen fountain

This is the sea below Prince’s Quay shopping centre in Hull.

This is the frozen marina taken from the roof of Prince’s Quay.

The next sequence goes closer and closer to the semi-frozen fountain in Queen’s Gardens.

Monday 20 December 2010

Trees turned to into an ice forest

They are old enough to have seen this weather before but this close to the coast it’s unusual to have so much snow or such a hard frost.

Recognisable trees, but only a day ago, recognisable grass too. Snow smoothes it all out.


The pampas grass looks disgruntled but it's still standing.  The clumps at the end of the drive thwack the windscreens of any cars that pass and if anyone is careless enough to drive past with the window open, the grass arms reach inside and flap about releasing a shower of snow.  I'm yet to get a photo of that, but live in hope.

Friday 17 December 2010

How to run a successful book party that sells out of books

Using the model of 29 November 2010 and the Doll Makers, here are three key points:

1 Avoid a day when there is a Tube strike

2 Avoid a day when the city is brought to a halt by snow

3 Avoid a venue where the lift breaks down after the invitations have gone out

All in all, it wasn’t surprising the turnout was lower than expected, but enough people made it for a good time to be had by all. The members’ area at ALCS is a great venue and worth fighting through adversity to see.

Jason from Camden Lock Books struggled in (and up) and with sales on the night and some advance sales from people who hadn’t made the party, left without any books at all which is as it should be.

Two attendees, author Jan Jones and wild life photographer Sandbyte, took photos and blogged the event. Thank you to them.

Chances are we’ll be back for the next launch around June next year. The venue is too good not to take a risk with the lift. We’ll avoid tube-strike Mondays. And if it snows heavily enough in June in central London to bring the city to a standstill, the world will be facing larger problems than disruption to a book party so we’re not worrying about that.

Monday 13 December 2010

For short story fans of no particular genre

The anthology, a Sackful of Shorts, has no theme in the usually accepted sense. What holds it together as an anthology is the history of its group of authors. Most but not all the stories are published here for the second, third or fourth time, having originally been published or broadcast elsewhere. Many of them are prize-winners. The author bios at the end of each story provide more information about the writers and give links to their other work.

The plan was to offer this collection as a free e-book, but that would have prevented it being available in some key outlets, so it is offered at a minimal price of 99 cents. And half the book can be downloaded for free.

And now this blog becomes a bit of a cheat because author and reviewer, Stuart Aken, has written it up on his blog so I direct you to his excellent piece for more detail.

The anthology can be found, downloaded or bought on Smashwords.

Sunday 5 December 2010

How to keep your feet warm and dry whilst not allowing the animals to starve

When you need to go out in this

You should always keep these warm and dry

Heres how: first put on a those things like heavy-duty shower caps that medics put on over their shoes when they enter the OR suite. Heavy-duty shower caps would probably do the job too.

Then add a supermarket carrier bag to each foot.

Then a sturdy pair of boots

And you’re good to go.

Alternatively, get in a gang of kids to turn this

Into this

Wednesday 1 December 2010

Feeling bad at leaving husband and daughter-in-law stranded in the snow on an isolated country lane

The agreement was that whoever was behind the wheel at the point the others managed to push the car back into motion must continue going (if possible) until out of deep snow.

We thought we’d done the hard bit in getting up the hill so didn’t expect deep snow in the dip at the bottom. Daft really, where else would deep snow go? There was one spot 100 yards on where I could have stopped and waited but I thought they’d been picked up by the grain lorry now following and it wasn’t that secure a spot, just slightly shallower snow. By the time real traction on the wheels returned and I stopped to retrieve the family from the grain lorry, I was a mile or so further on. He hadn’t dared stop for them, he told me, or he’d have been in the deep snow too.

What could I do? I couldn’t leave the car in the middle of the road to go back for them; couldn’t drive back for them, so went home, picked up spare gloves and hats and things (would have included huskies and a hip flask but we have neither) and yomped back across country.

Trudged almost as far as the mill. No sign of anyone. Called out but the blizzard was against me. Then spied a lone figure. And here it gets into lucky-after-all territory. If I hadn’t driven off and left them or had realised they weren’t in the grain lorry and stopped sooner, then we might have made it home but Son would have ended up stranded with a much longer walk.

They spied him in the distance heading for home via the same route in the little car. Since the big car hadn’t made it, the little car hadn’t a hope, but luckily it gave up way before getting to the dip so they could push it back to the main road and try another route in.

Father and Son headed off in the little car, leaving daughter-in-law to walk back. That’s not as heartless as it sounds. The little car won’t fit more than two and going the long way round they were in serious danger of ending up in a snow drift much further from home.

Neighbouring farmer with 4*4 picked us up and dropped us at the door. Thank you very much. Father and son arrived soon afterwards having made it all the way to the bottom of the drive before getting stuck.

Hot food and drinks all round and a happy ending. I’m due to go in for a Radio Humberside interview tomorrow. Not yet decided if I’ll brave it into town or sit tight and ask to do it by phone.

Pure coincidence that I took my phone out and snapped a pic of the road ahead just as we were gliding down towards the drift that caught us.

Tuesday 5 October 2010

Fay Weldon at the Pavilion Theatre yesterday

Novelist, screenwriter, playwright and the list could fill the page... Fay Weldon was in conversation with writer and journalist Andrew G Marshall.  The journey from East Yorkshire to Brighton doesn’t stand against the great journeys of the world, but was no picnic with there being a Tube strike in London.  None the less, it was well worth the struggle.  A great evening.

Sunday 3 October 2010

Where does such a level of optimism come from?

Sometimes it isn’t a matter of optimism, it’s just common sense. And where does that go when you need it most?

We said to each other only the other day the leak in the glass roof had cured itself. Cured itself, note. Not that we have done something to the roof that might have cured the leak.

And then we leave a heap of clean clothes on a chair right under where the leak used to be. We don’t even go and check until the downpour has been raging for a couple of hours.

Yeah, well... it's fairly obvious where this tale is heading.  And at least the grapevine is thriving.

Sunday 26 September 2010

Publication for short story competition winners

Publication wasn’t guaranteed as part of the deal for the winners of La Scala Studios’ first short story competition, but two people’s stories will now be published in a national magazine. This is an additional bonus to the £1500 in prizes already awarded.

The competition winners were announced at a prize presentation in July. Following this, the organisers were approached by Equestrian Plus (a national monthly magazine) who asked to see the winning stories in the Open and Yorkshire sections.

The result is that both winning stories will now be published.

Look out for The Final Chapter by Tereza Murphy, winner of the Open section, and Downstream by Richard Dixon, winner of the Yorkshire section.

Big cheers all round.

Monday 20 September 2010

A busy book launch (with unexpected sheep)

A very busy book launch for the Doll Makers on Saturday. The livestock in cars element was unplanned. Not everyone in the crowd bought the Doll Makers but enough did that the shop was left with only three copies after an hour. Huge thanks to those who came and I hope you find the book worth it. And huge thanks too to the team in the shop for their efforts and also for being a good book shop in these difficult times.

I had to fight my way into the shop at 11. I’d love to say it was through a crowd of people waiting for me to sign copies of the Doll Makers, but of course it wasn’t. It was just the usual Beverley book-buying public out in force.

What a change from a previous book-signing where the first question I fielded was ‘Which way to the maps section?’ This time, the first question was ‘Would you sign this to my wife?’ Music to any author’s ears.

Not only was the local book-buying public out in force, but also the local authors. The picture shows (left to right) Karen Wolfe, writer of comic fantasy, creator of Granny Beamish; Valerie Wood, award-winning author of historical romance who regularly keeps the big names off the best-seller top spots in the local charts; another Valerie – Stuart Aken’s wife. Stuart, a prolific and award-winning writer was behind the camera. His credits include TV and radio as well as his award-winning short stories and more recent foray into novels. Gemma Noon peeping round from the back, creator of the Literary Project, basking in her first publishing deal. Penny Grubb, with her best signing pen, author of the award-winning crime novel, the Doll Makers, and Avril Field-Taylor, crime writer and creator of Georgia the singing detective.

Post signing, we went to the pub to relax and chat. Those with further to travel left after a King’s Head Hotel lunch. Others returned with Penny to Lilac Tree. The general eating, drinking and merriment went on into the evening. The first of the livestock-in-cars stories was told to a small contingent as they made their way back to the farm. The full (fraught) tale will have to be told elsewhere, but it was interesting that it should be told at all, given that the recipients arrived back just in time to hear of another (completely independent) case of a sheep travelling in a family car. The driver this time was stopped by a motorway policeman. All the papers were in order and the driver was allowed to proceed, albeit after the sheep had been buckled into a seat belt. But the part that will always stick from this story is the policeman’s opening gambit. ‘Madam, are you aware there’s a sheep in your car?’

The odds against two independent sheep-in-car stories at a book signing for a crime novel with no livestock angle, have to be pretty high, so I take this as a good sign. The next time a good thing happens to me, I will be able say ‘I knew that would happen. That’s sheep in cars for you.’

Big thank yous to Danny and Gabi for their superb hospitality; also to Jennifer and Suzanne for mouth-wateringly delicious cakes.

It was great to see everyone. Thanks for coming.

Tuesday 14 September 2010

World Peace Day-Reading, 21st September: live – online – 24 hours

Last year there were 365 political conflicts around the world. Of these, states the Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research, seven were wars, and twenty-four were severe conflicts – all characterized by the use of massive violence. Certainly, it is a coincidence that the researchers counted 365 conflicts. Nevertheless, it means that each day in 2009 we’d have had a chance to look at a map of the world, and point at a different troubled spot.

The UN has designated 21st September to be the world’s official Peace Day. It is a day of global ceasefire and non-violence.

To honour this day the international literature festival berlin, in cooperation with LiteraturRaum by Bleibtreu Berlin, Cisco Systems and eGamesMedia, will host Authors for Peace: a 24-hour, global, live online reading to mark International Peace Day. Authors who are guests of the international literature festival berlin, and many others from all over the world, will read from their work in a gesture of solidarity with those who are oppressed or caught in conflict. Autoren aus der ganzen Welt werden als Geste der Solidarität mit den durch Kriege und Konflikte Betroffenen aus ihren Werken lesen. Wir wollen mit der Aktion einen Guinness World Record™ aufzustellen – und damit nachhaltige Aufmerksamkeit für den World Peace Day zu bekommen, denn natürlich reicht es nicht, nur an einem Tag etwas für den Frieden zu tun.

This is the first time that so many authors will read live online successively, and we hope to set a Guinness World Record™ with this event – and therefore to win some more lasting attention for World Peace Day, because it’s certainly not enough to do something for peace just for one day.

The readings can be followed live on the internet by the general public. The essence of Authors for Peace lies in citizens worldwide joining in to watch, and share in the spirit of Peace Day.

Authors confirmed so far include amongst others: Joanne Harris (UK), Kamila Shamsie (Pakistan), Eliot Weinberger (USA), Hans Christoph Buch (Germany), Tahmima Anam (Bangladesh), Gail Jones (Australia), and Nuruddin Farah (Somalia/South Africa).

The event will start on 21st September 2010 at 00:00 CET (GMT+1). The British author, Priya Basil, who initiated the idea, will host the event throughout the 24-hour-program.

Further information about the participating authors, and the weblink at which the event can be viewed, are available at: and

press contact: Joëlle Jobin

Partners of the World Peace Day Reading by Authors for Peace are:

Cisco Systems
Cisco Systems, Inc. is the worldwide leader in networking for the Internet. Today, networks are an essential part of business, education, government and home communications, and Cisco Internet Protocol-based (IP) networking solutions are the foundation of these networks.

Cisco hardware, software, and service offerings are used to create Internet solutions that allow individuals, companies, and countries to increase productivity, improve customer satisfaction and strengthen competitive advantage. The Cisco name has become synonymous with the Internet, as well as with the productivity improvements that Internet business solutions provide. At Cisco, our vision is to change the way people work, live, play and learn.

press contact: Cisco Systems GmbH, Sabine Lobmeier, Am Söldnermoos 17, 85399 Hallbergmoos
Phone: +49 0800 – 187 36 52

Fink & Fuchs Public Relations AG
Susanne Ugarte
Phone: +49 0611 – 74 131 921

eGames Media
Co-initiator eGames Media is a consulting and marketing company, focussed on the development and roll-out of new ways of digital marketing, communication concepts and strategies in growing markets like electronic gaming.

eGames Media's partner are e.g. CISCO, Sport1 and Plantronics.

press contact: Jan Oesterlin

LiteraturRaum by Bleibtreu Berlin
Hotel Bleibtreu Berlin and the internationale literaturfestival berlin (ilb) started the authors residency LiteraturRaum in September 2009. Since then, eleven writers have stayed at the hotel in Bleibtreustraße: Robert Grey (Australia), Elsa Osorio (Argentina), László Végel (Hungary/Serbia), Yang Lian (China/GB), Artur Becker (Polonia/Germany), Samuel Shimon (Iraq/GB), László Darvasi (Hungary), Bei Dao (China), Naomi Shihab Nye (Palestine/USA) and the current author Israel Bar Kohav (Israel). The next authors in the LiteraturRaum will be Liao Yiwu (China) and Colin McAdam (Canada). The public can follow the project on the blog, come to one of the readings at Bleibtreu or read selected blog entries in the printed collection „Dear Frau Bleibtreu“.

press contact: COR!Berlin. Agentur für Kommunikation
Kristina Deppe, Anklamer Str. 1A; D-10115 Berlin,
Phone: + 49 (0)30 398 20 68 - 20; Fax: +49 (0)30 398 20 68 - 29

GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ is the universally recognized authority on record-breaking achievement. First published in 1955, the annual GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS book is published in more than 100 countries and 25 languages and is the highest-selling books under copyright of all time with more than 3 million copies sold annually across the globe. GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS celebrated its 50th anniversary edition in 2004, a year after the sale of its 100 millionth copy. Guinness World Records is part of the Jim Pattison Group, one of Canada’s largest privately owned companies which is a conglomerate of interests, including advertising, broadcasting, grocery stores and automotive retailing.


UK Media Enquiries:
Amarilis Espinoza or Karolina Thelin: +44 (0)207 891 4516
US Media Enquiries: Jamie Panas: +1 (0)718.513.7263
GER Media Enquiries: Olaf Kuchenbecker: +49 (0)40 879 757 60

Saturday 11 September 2010

Author event next Saturday Beverley East Yorkshire

Saturday 18 Sept 11 am to 12 pm. WH Smith Books, Toll Gavel, Beverley. Meet the author of the award-winning crime novel, the Doll Makers.

Beverley is a great setting for any event and well worth a visit. If you're in the area, please call in and say hello.  Click here for more directions.  After the signing, we’re going to the King's Head Hotel (Saturday Market, Beverley) for a drink.  

Saturday 4 September 2010

Serial killers coming to Scarborough for a bit of a crime fest

On Friday, 10 September from 1 pm local crime writers Bill Kitson and Penny Grubb will be in WHSmith, Westborough, Scarborough surrounded by a lot of books, some of which they’ve written. Between them, they have a Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger and two nominations for the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger. They will be there with their daggers to answer questions, sign books or just to chat to anyone who wants to call in and see what all the fuss is about.

Find out more at and

Call in and say hello if you’re passing.

Thursday 2 September 2010

Book signing event in the historic market town of Beverley

Saturday 18 Sept 11 am to 12 pm. WH Smith Books, Toll Gavel, Beverley. Meet the author of the award-winning crime novel, the Doll Makers.
Beverley is a great setting for any event and well worth a visit. If you're in the area, please call in and say hello.  Click here for more detail.
After the signing, we’re going off to the King's Head Hotel (Saturday Market, Beverley).

Tuesday 31 August 2010

An amazing close up encounter with a sparrow hawk

It came in low and fast, over the Indian bean tree, between the pear and the honeysuckle and straight at the window of the study where I was sitting looking out. I’m on the ground floor. This is not an obvious flight path for any bird. Clearly after prey, or whatever it saw that it thought was prey, it screamed in and stopped a millimetre from the glass in a deafening clapping of wings, did a lightning midair reverse manoeuvre and sped off. For a fraction of a second we were eyeball to eyeball.

My camera was right beside me. Did I get a shot of it? Not a chance. It was on the return flight over the Indian bean before I got it together to leap up crying, ‘Aagh!’ In that fraction of a second, I really thought it was about to crash through the glass into my face.

Lame I know but I took a photo of the window. You have to imagine the alarmed ball of feathers, beak and talons mid-shot.

I wonder if this was the same bird that alarmed me the other night by crashing into the window of the lounge as I was watching TV. It lay stunned on the ground under the window, so I raced round to help, but the moment it saw me, it took off like a surface to air missile. Maybe just now, at that moment we stared into each other’s eyes, it was thinking ‘Not you again.’

Saturday 21 August 2010

The Yorkshire coast is amazing

We went to Scarborough on Thursday.  Just look how packed it is.  The town is a wonderful mix of old and new, with a vibrant shopping centre.

The sea front was packed too, though the crowds thinned out a bit towards the far end of the north bay.

And if you don't like crowds, just climb.  We went up to the castle and ate lunch looking out over the bay. 

On the way back down, we visited Ann Bronte's grave.  The grave stones are not in bad shape considering the battering they must get in the sea air.  It's a lovely hillside setting.

My kingdom for a horse?

Friday 20 August 2010

The fruit harvest

Looks like it’ll be an apple event this year, with walk on parts for damsons, pears, figs, blackberries and plums.

And some non-apples: Firstly the blackberries. We fight the blackbirds for these




Plums, with one or two just beginning to ripen

And we just love tomatoes and basil.

And apart from the nasturtium leaves there's nothing edible in this last one, unless you have three pairs of legs and two pairs of wings.

And that's it for this harvest bulletin.