Thursday, 31 December 2015

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Essential Etiquette for Ladies and Gentlemen... 1800 style!

Hello, all! How was your Christmas? I hope it was as good as mine.

Well, in between all the seasonal fun and frolics, I finally managed to catch up on my reading. Among the other books I've devoured is this little gem:

Etiquette, Social Ethics and the Courtesies of Society.

Written in the 1800s, it's full of extremely "useful" advice for ladies of all ages, and provides a fascinating, often times amusing, glimpse into the lives of our ancestors. Enjoy!

My rating: ✯✯✯✯✯



Monday, 21 December 2015

ONLY 4 MORE SLEEPS!!!

Now that the kids are FINALLY asleep--before I lock myself away again in my writerly dungeon--I wanted to announce the winners of yesterday's Christmas subscriber give away:

1: D. Carl

2: Terry B.

3: Jennifer R.

4: Jillian G.

5: Marypres

Congratulations again, ladies! Check your in boxes 'cause there should be a $10 Amazon gift card waiting for each of you. Just make sure you spend it on something for yourself, okay?



Sunday, 20 December 2015

Psst!

If you've already subscribed to receive my monthly newsletters, go and check your in-boxes because there are FIVE winners this month.

Who knows? This time it could be YOU!




Friday, 18 December 2015

Truly Awesome...

This performance of an 800-year-old Icelandic Hymn gave me major goosebumps.



Enjoy!





n

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

It's a sign!

18 Signs You Were Destined To Be A Writer.

Most of these rang true for me. Well, apart from the Nancy Drew thing. I've always been more of a Famous Five girl. Oh, and I have no idea who Harriet the Spy is. But apart from that...


"...As soon as the movie was over you were frantically continuing the story in your own words. It usually involved you becoming best friends with the main character..."

Yep. I was also a HUGE Mary Sue!

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Festive Fun...

Just in case you haven't heard about Portable North Pole, here's the link.
I don't know about the kids, but I for one always look forward to receiving my annual Christmas video from Santa.
Best of all, not only can you personalise the two-minute video, but it's completely FREE!

Enjoy!

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Christmas distilled...

 ...into one magical song. Enjoy!



Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose
Yule-tide carols being sung by a choir
And folks dressed up like Eskimos

Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe
Help to make the season bright
Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow
Will find it hard to sleep tonight

They know that Santa's on his way
He's loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh
And every mother's child is gonna spy
To see if reindeer really know how to fly

And so I'm offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two
Although it's been said many times, many ways
Merry Christmas to you

(The Christmas Song. Lyrics: Bob Wells and Mel Torme.)

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Books Make The Best Gifts...

I don't know about you, but whenever anyone asks me to give them a few pointers as to what I might like to receive for my birthday and/or Christmas, my mind goes totally blank.

Wh...huh...huh?

I just stand there, gaping at them like a slack jawed goldfish, frantically hoping for inspiration to smite me, but there's usually nothing but the sound of white noise, punctuated by the gentle intermittent *thuds* of fluff as it drifts about my brain and bounces off the inner surface of my skull. (Or it maybe its tumble-weed. Who can say? )

Now you can call me a boring old fuddy-duddy if you like, but I honestly don't want/need anything. Well, nothing that money can buy, anyway. Generally speaking, I'm a fairly contented puss.

But...

Just occasionally I come across something like this little beauty. Now I wouldn't mind finding this precious wee book in my stocking come Christmas morning, that's for darn sure!

So, tell me. If money was no object, what would you like Santa to bring for you?

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Back to Black...

The madness of Black Friday is upon us once more (well, almost!) So in honour of all those retailers whose accounts will finally be 'back in black', I've slashed 25% off the price of 'Wolfsbane.'

(Anselm and His Evilness aren't too thrilled about it, but there you go!)

Enjoy!

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

The War Poets...

Hello again.

I'm not big on the old rhyming stuff. The truth is, I don't appreciate most poetry, probably because I can't understand 90% of it. (Maybe I'm too stupid?)

War poetry, however, specifically WW1 stuff, is the exception. There's a terrible, beautiful simplicity in the works of these long-dead soldier poets. Even now, a hundred years after they were written, their words are as raw and visceral as on the day they were first written.

For all their brutal honesty, these are poems that I can understand.

So, on this the eleventh day of the eleventh month, I'll leave you with one of my favourite poems. This one was written by Siegfried Sassoon. I hope you find it as moving as I do.

Dreamers

Soldiers are citizens of death's grey land,
Drawing no dividend from time's to-morrows.   
In the great hour of destiny they stand,
Each with his feuds, and jealousies, and sorrows.   
Soldiers are sworn to action; they must win   
Some flaming, fatal climax with their lives.
Soldiers are dreamers; when the guns begin
They think of firelit homes, clean beds and wives.

I see them in foul dug-outs, gnawed by rats,
And in the ruined trenches, lashed with rain,   
Dreaming of things they did with balls and bats,
And mocked by hopeless longing to regain   
Bank-holidays, and picture shows, and spats,
And going to the office in the train.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Remember, remember...

Remember, remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
 I see no reason, why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes Guy Fawkes, guy, t'was his intent
 To blow up king and parliament.
 Three score barrels were laid below To prove old England's overthrow.
 By God's mercy he was catch'd With a darkened lantern and burning match.
 So, holler boys, holler boys,
Let the bells ring.
 Holler boys, holler boys,
God save the king.
 And what shall we do with him?
 Burn him!

Hope your bonfire night was better than  David Cameron's! :)

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

A Titanorak in Belfast...

Hello all.

Would you like to see where I've spent the last few days? You would! Excellent.


We had the most amazing time in beautiful Belfast. It's such a fabulous place, and inhabited by the friendliest people too!
As a birthday treat for our wee lad--the biggest Titanorak on the planet--we took him to the birthplace of the Titanic, which is currently in the throes of a HUGE regeneration.
Titanic Belfast is simply mind blowing. If you're planning a visit, be sure to allow a whole day rather than the recommended two hours. Oh, and wear a pair of comfortable shoes.
As an added bonus, we even got to see Titanic's little sister, the SS Nomadic, which is the closest you'll ever get to standing on the deck of the White Star Line's most famous ship.
SS Nomadic


White stars are everywhere.


Titanic in Airfix kit form.




Nomadic and her big sister!

Thursday, 8 October 2015

It's in the genes...

Take a look at this...

Two pages of Arthurian romance penned by my six-year-old daughter. I must admit, I was a little concerned when she went to 'arthers' chambers (that's King Arthur to you and me!) but it all ends well.

I can't believe her word count today is higher than mine!

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

The Randomizer Has Spoken...

 ... The winner of the $15 Amazon Gift Voucher is...

jillbaker***1

Congratulations, hon. If you send me your preferred email address I'll get your prize to you asap. Happy spending!



**Image: Frederick Waters Watts:The Old Mill Stream Cottage**

And the name of the next book is...

Word count today... 1534. (An enormous haul for a tortoise writer like me. :D )

I've been so wrapped up in my scribblings that I completely forgot to pick the winner of last month's subscriber give-away. See? I told you I wouldn't bombard you with lots of emails. 

Okay. Here's what I'll do. If you haven't already signed up for my (infrequent!) newsletters and you fancy the chance of winning yourself a $15 Amazon voucher, you have until MIDNIGHT tonight (Blighty time) to do so.  njlayouni.net

As an added incentive, I'll be revealing the official title of my next release (formerly known as the-book-with-no-name.) But keep it to yourselves because this is exclusive subscriber inside information. The rest of the world will have to wait a while longer. 

Keep an eye on those in-boxes (and  junk folders if you haven't added me to your address books) and I'll see you soon! 

Good luck!

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Today's word count: 1479


Good evening, all. How was your day? I've been super busy as always, and I've almost finished the second draft of Anselm's book, AND I have a title for it... at long last! The Book With No Name is nameless no more.

Not that I was really worried about it. Authors all work in very different ways. Some of them choose the title before they even begin work on their story. Others (like yours truly) wait for a title to come to them, and it always does--usually at the eleventh hour!

Fact: Right up until a couple of weeks before its publication, 'Tales of a Traveler:Hemlock' had the working title of 'Martha and the Goldilocks Man.' It's true!

In other news, my wee lad has a birthday at the end of this month and, as some of you may be aware, he is totally 'Titanic' crazy. (I now know 'that' song off by heart, and I can hear Celine Dion's gentle warbling even while I sleep.)

Anyway, when we asked our boy if he wanted a party to celebrate his special day he said 'No. I want to go to the Titanic exhibition... in Tennessee (!!!)'  Although it looks an amazing place, we eventually managed to talk him into somewhere a little closer to home.

Now all I have to do is book the flights and tickets and start preparing my purse for the 'Titanic Gift Shop Experience!'



Tuesday, 29 September 2015

I cannot tell a lie...

...from a lie!


I think I'm going to have to staple this handy wee guide to my forehead.

It's crazy. *sigh* Even after all these years, no matter what I do, I simple CANNOT get my poor old brain to assimilate the whole lay/lie/laid/lain thing. It makes about as much sense to me as algebra!

Here's something I've never admitted out loud: I regularly hit the on-line thesaurus in order to avoid having to use this troublesome word. So you might see my people 'reclining', or 'lounging', or even 'slumped', but you'll seldom see them actually lying... unless they're lying, of course!

How about you? Are there any words that get your synapses in a tangle?

Friday, 25 September 2015

The Book of Kells...

Today's wordcount is... 973. That'll do nicely, thanks!

Writing a book--any book--usually takes far longer than you might imagine. There are so many processes and stages to go through, you see, before it's fit for human consumption: all the various drafts; numerous revisions; the beta reading; edits; cover; proof reading... the list goes on and on.

As you might have already guessed, unlike so many of my writer buddies, I'm a particularly slow writer, a turtle of the book-writing world--mainly because I like to faff about fixing and rejigging stuff as I go, so I can't imagine how long it must have taken those marvellous monks to complete the gob-smackingly wonderful 'Book of Kells.'

"...The place of origin of the Book of Kells is generally attributed to the scriptorium of the monastery founded around 561 by St Colum Cille on Iona, an island off the west coast of Scotland. In 806, following a Viking raid on the island which left 68 of the community dead, the Columban monks took refuge in a new monastery at Kells, County Meath. It must have been close to the year 800 that the Book of Kells was written, although there is no way of knowing if the book was produced wholly at Iona or at Kells, or partially at each location..." 

The good news is, instead of having to queue up for hours to glimpse a couple of pages of this amazing book, it's now available to view online in all its magnificent entirety. Best of all, it's absolutely FREE.

Enjoy!



Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Testing Times...

Good evening, campers! How was your day? I hope it was full of fabulousity... is that even a word? :)

Okay, brace yourselves. Without further ado, here it comes, today's daily word count result. *drum roll*

**1500 words!**

Not bad. then again, I am playing catch up due to spending much of yesterday attending various appointments... one of them being my annual eye exam. Only twelve years overdue, but who's counting?

The good news is my vision is pretty much the same as it was over a decade ago. The bad news is the muscles supporting my ancient orbs are beginning to feel the strain. Probably because of all the hours I spend staring at a computer screen. Guess that would explain all the blinding headaches I've been having. Definitely time for some computer specs.

Speaking of computers, while I was out and about, I took my poorly Vaio to the local computer hospital. Guess what? Dr. Computerwhizz says the crash might not prove fatal after all, and a few new/old parts may well revive the patient, fingers crossed. :)

Oh, and btw, Dr. Microchip and his learned colleague Dr, Backup were most interested to hear about the various resuscitation methods I adopted while trying to save the life of my dear old friend. Yep. You guessed it. In other words, they both laughed and exchanged one of those superior 'women!' glances with one another, but who cares? They can be as superior as they like just as long as they save my precious Vaio.

Watch this space!

Toodles! <3



(PS: I'm an Einstein girl, btw,  just in case anyone's interested. Who do you see?)

Saturday, 19 September 2015

SALE!!!

Ah! Those four little letters we love so well. Who doesn't like a sale? Well hold on to your hosiery, friends. 'cause I have BIG surprise for you. :)

From now until Sunday, 'Wolfsbane' (book two in the 'Traveler' series) is just HALF PRICE. Yes, that's a MASSIVE 50% off (give or take a cent or two.)

If you haven't read it yet, there's no better time than right now. Spread the word. Tell your friends. (If you hated it, tell your enemies!  ) Don't miss out on this AMAZING OFFER!!!

Available for download from your friendly neighbourhood Amazon store:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wolfsbane-Tales-Traveler-Book-Travel-ebook/dp/B00NC90MK4/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

http://www.amazon.com/Wolfsbane-Tales-Traveler-Book-Travel-ebook/dp/B00NC90MK4/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

*exhales* Phew! Trumpet blowing is such hard work. How did I do? Am I improving yet? Naw. Didn't think so either.

*** At the time of posting, Nook, Kobo and the other outlets still haven't adjusted their prices. Be patient, my pretties. I'm sure it won't be too long now.***

Friday, 18 September 2015

Welcome to Electronica...

Yesterday's wordcount => 0
Today's wordcount => 650

Yes. It's pitiful. What can I say? The last couple of days have been particularly... challenging.

Visitors to my Facebook page are probably aware of my recent laptop woes, but for anyone who didn't happen to hear me sobbing and cussing, here's a quick recap...my faithful laptop died and tried to take my current manuscript as company on its final journey... A fierce battle ensues, and our heroine (ie: yours truly) somehow manages to save Anselm from permanent deletion at the eleventh hour... or it might have been earlier on in the evening, I forget.

There. You're all caught up.

So here's the next instalment:

We rejoin our intrepid heroine (ie: me!) as she and her trusty sidekick, Hubster, venture into the terrifying Realm of Electronica (aka our local Currys store) in search of the Holy Grail of laptop tappers everywhere. (Cover your ears, Si!) Yes. The sacred, and incredibly elusive, Macbook of Pro.

After spending half an hour conversing with the Gatekeeper (aka Currys employee), our heroine decides to part with an obscene amount of gold in order to get her sweaty mitts on the valuable, credit-card slender grail. But, alas, when the Gatekeeper goes to retrieve the sacred Mac, he discovers it is.... gone! (Dun, dun, duuuuunnnn!)

Undeterred, our laptop-lacking heroine and her ever-faithful sidekick scrape together even more gold bullion, just enough to secure the Bigger Daddy of the original Grail, but once again their quest is thwarted. In short, there is not a Macbook of Pro to be had anywhere in the Realm... not even in Preston. :( (Cue heroine stomping away muttering increasingly colorful words)

On returning home, our heroine attempts to use Hubster's laptop, but the Tosh of Iba is as ancient as it is slow. It also lacks a functioning word processor or sufficient memory to download one!

Weeping, but undeterred, heroine dispatches Hubster back to the Gatekeeper of Electronica with instructions to, "Buy me anything with a flipping disc drive! I don't flipping care what flipping model it is, just get me a f...f... flipping laptop!" (Or words to that effect.)

Stalwart and true as always, Hubster returns to Electronica and finally brings home another, lesser, but physically chunkier grail. But for all that it is hefty, the HP (which the heroine promptly dubs "Harry") proves difficult to master. Eventually (today!), Harry finally surrenders to his new mistress, and six hundred and odd words were our heroine's just reward...

The End.

Tune in next time when Heroine and Hubster attempt to track down the child responsible for tipping a cup of tea over the unreliable Tosh of Iba's icky keyboard, rendering several keys completely useless.

So that's me. How was your week? :) <3


Monday, 14 September 2015

Today's word count is...

1500 words of Anselm-y goodness... or badness, depending on your point of view! 

Do you fancy a sneak peek? Here you go!



What? Don't you like clouds? I do. They're purdy!

Have a great evening, friends. :)

Thursday, 10 September 2015

When vamps were vamps...

Vampires, that is!

Well the kids are finally back at school and after barely a week, right on cue, I've come down with an absolute honker of a cold. Yep, summer has officially gone bye-bye.

In an effort to cheer myself up, I watched the last ever episode of 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer.' (Regular visitors might recall that I embarked on the entire seven season marathon during the summer as part of my 'find my happy' campaign.)  You know what? I've so enjoyed watching it all over again. It's been like catching up with old friends, and I'm missing them all over again... especially Spike. <3

Which of Buffy's leading men do YOU prefer, Angel or Spike?



Sunday, 6 September 2015

We have another winner...

Good evening all!

Just popped in the announce the winner of last month's newsletter subscriber giveaway.

Congratulations to...

**elainemc1982**



Saturday, 15 August 2015

Back in the saddle again...

I came across an interesting blog post yesterday How To Get Back Into Writing (Once You’ve Lost Your Groove), and it struck a chord with me. (Okay, so it's about writing, but the principles could be applied to many other things.)

I'm lucky. I've had masses of support - much of it from 'stranger friends', people I've never met - and am never likely to. Kind, supportive, beautiful souls who had no reason in the world to reach out to me. But they did. And I love them for it.

So, what do you do when you've lost that loving feeling for whatever reason? For anyone who'd care to 'peep beneath the hood' as it were, here's my answer...

My dad died in March and ever since then I've been... floundering. Mired down in a mass of grief, family discord, and all the paperwork that accompanies a death.

Back when life was dandy I (foolishly!) promised my readers I'd have another two books out this year, so I tried to keep going, to keep on writing, flogging myself with guilt to write a page or two a day of my second draft. But everything I wrote came out bleak and hollow. (I suppose it doesn't help that some of the subject matter of my third book deals with some dark topics. Not the right time to write that, I guess.) 

But it didn't end there. Ever since I learned that joined up letters formed words, writing has been my escape, my safe place. Suddenly, there I was, locked out of my sanctuary at the time I most needed it. Even writing Facebook comment became a Herculean effort. Tbh, it still is. I can't seem to string two sentences together without huge effort, and a shedload of editing! 

Q: Has grief short-circuited me, or have I simply lost the precious 'gift' I've always taken for granted? Answers on a post-it please. :)

Know what I did? I gave myself permission to take the rest of the summer off. To be with my kids, watch old movies, to re-read all my favorite keeper-shelf books (because reading new stuff can be difficult now. Don't know why.) In short, to 'find my happy' again.

Has it helped? Who knows? It's too soon to say. Ask me again in November(ish!)'

Friday, 14 August 2015

Hello again!

Just back from a fabulous holiday on the east coast of Blighty. While we were visiting Scarborough, we found one of those photography studios that specialize in recreating pictures of bygone times.

Well, my kids are currently in the grip of 'Titanic' mania, so how could I resist when they asked if they could pose for a picture on the famous ship's most beautiful staircase?


It was quite spooky how my normally boisterous chicks, once their costumes were on, immediately slipped into their roles with very little prompting from the photographer lady. And look! See how my boy's hand rests so lightly on his cane while his little sis stands so demurely at his side.

So glad they talked me into this.


Tuesday, 21 July 2015

I'm chuffed to bits...


 'Hemlock', book one in the 'Tales of a Traveler' series has just received its 100th review, and 69% of those were five star.  Somebody pinch me because I feel like I'm dreaming.

It seems like only yesterday that I launched my precious 'first born' into the world. I never imagined it would do this well. Thank you all so much for helping me hit this amazing milestone. Today is a day I'll never forget.

<3

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Nursery Crimes...

Despite their tender years, my kids, like most children nowadays, are extremely cyber savvy. They negotiate the internet and various phone  apps like seasoned pro's, and they'll even help out their aged parents on occasion!

But beyond the funny YouTube videos and exciting games, and the vast diversion of Netflix/Lovefilm lurks a shadowy underworld, lying in wait to ensnare the unwitting. We've had 'the talk', of course, and discussed various aspects of internet safety, but I still keep a very close eye on the stuff my kids watch.

The other day, I was telling the kidlets about my own childhood, and I'm sure you can imagine the horror on their faces when they learned there was no internet back then. Not only that, but we only had three TV channels, none of them kiddie friendly - with the exception of the BBC which had a few programmes scheduled at lunchtime and teatime. (Brits of a certain age will remember BBC 1 & 2 ended at midnight with a rousing rendition of 'God Save the Queen.' Happy days! :) )

Anyway, somehow or other, my son and I began discussing the nursery rhymes of those long ago days of my youth, back when God was nowt but a lad. As we were reciting these rhymes, however, a terrible realization struck me. Have you any idea just how gruesome and violent these things really are?

Don't believe me? Okay. May I present exhibit one:

'Goosey Goosey Gander where shall I wander,
Upstairs, downstairs and in my lady's chamber
There I met an old man who wouldn't say his prayers,
I took him by the left leg and threw him down the stairs...'

See? Gruesome! I'll spare you the next verse where the unfortunate old fellow suffers a broken back as a result of his fall and the subsequent glee of those twisted birds.

How about a lullaby? Surely there's nothing violent about one of those? Ahem. Exhibit two, m'lord: Rock a bye baby.

'Rock a bye baby on the tree top,
When the wind blows the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.'(WTF?!*)

Moving on...

Exhibit three:

'Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water
Jack fell down and broke his crown(!)
And Jill came tumbling after....'

Can you see a theme developing here? Here's another:

'Mary Mary quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells
And pretty maids all in a row...'

That last one seems innocent enough doesn't it? Wrong! Take a look at the origins of this lovely little rhyme: '...The silver bells and cockle shells referred to in the Nursery Rhyme were colloquialisms for instruments of torture. The 'silver bells' were thumbscrews which crushed the thumb between two hard surfaces by the tightening of a screw. The 'cockleshells' were believed to be instruments of torture which were attached to the genitals!'

And the list goes on. (http://www.rhymes.org.uk/)

S'funny, but suddenly the internet seems a much gentler place.
Bye! Have a great day.






Friday, 10 July 2015

Big Girl Panties Are Gooooo!

Welcome to Friday!

Okay. *takes big breath* This is a difficult post for me to write, but you've all been so lovely to me, so write it I must. You deserve to know. I've put this off long enough already.

As you probably know, I was hoping to release the third book in spring. Spring came and went then I moved the publication date to the summer. Well the truth is, I'm not sure I'll even be ready by the end of the year.

There. I said it. *exhales*

Ever since Dad died last March, I've been kidding myself it's business as usual, trying to do all the things I usually do. I'm not going to burden you with my woes - you probably have more than  enough of your own - so I'll try to keep this brief.

Losing dad has been bad enough, but on top of that I'm trying to cope with the inevitable paper mountain that accompanies a death. Every time a letter addressed to my dad comes through the letter box, each time I have to inform some faceless person of his passing, I feel as though the fragile scab on my heart has been ripped off and I start bleeding again.

Needless to say, writing anything has proved... a major challenge. Although I show up at the keyboard every day the words aren't what they should be, and I'll be damned if I'll publish a substandard book in order to hit a self-imposed deadline. Nope. That's never going to happen.

So here's what I propose: I'm going to take a break, give myself the summer off to read my teetering tbr pile, to relax, and to have fun with my kids. When they return to school in September - all being well - I should, hopefully, be myself again, all fired up to hammer the second draft of Anselm's book into shape. That's the plan, anyway.

Don't worry. I'm not vanishing. I'll still be around online, hanging out with all my favourite peeps. I just won't be flogging myself to death, forcing myself to perform.

I really hope you understand. Love to you all. <3


Saturday, 4 July 2015

Thursday, 2 July 2015

The Trouble with Tiddles...

I bet all the cat lovers can relate to this one. :)


Whether it's the 14th century or the 21st century, some things remain constant. When I saw this image, the years separating me and this unknown author simply slipped away. The only difference is, s/he got puddy prints on her/his manuscript, and I get this kind of thing: shdgusssssrWSGnfskbnpoifxgjvmWEFNIK, as our cat tromps across the old keyboard for the umpteenth time. 

Have a great day!

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Scroll on by...

Happy Father's Day to all our dads... wherever they might be.

Sorry, my lovelies. This is a sad post I wrote for my dad. Please feel free to scroll on by. I really won't mind. I don't want to bring you down because, after all, this is supposed to be a happy day.

But for those who of us who have lost someone close, those 'first' milestones are brutally hard. Well today happens to be one of mine: for the first time ever, I didn't get my dad a card or pressie.

I used to think Father's Day/Mothers Day and the like were nothing but money making schemes manufactured by the card companies. I dunno. Perhaps they are. But it's funny how I wish I could waste some cash now there's no longer reason to do so.

Not sure if they get FB in the afterlife, but we're thinking of you Dad/ Grandad, and we miss you. <3

For those of you who are still reading this, here's an excerpt of something I wrote for the funeral which I hope gives a glimpse of the man Dad was. Not a hero. Not an angel. He was a long way from perfect - death hasn't made him into a saint! Even so, he was ours, and we loved him.

"...Dad never gave up on life. It never grew stale for him. He was extremely attached to his life and to all the people in it - people who loved him dearly. In his final week of life, he was busily preparing his camper van for a trip he planned to make. Sadly, he never got there, but I'm sure he had a lot of fun planning for all the places he wanted to visit. 

He was a big daft bugger who never gave up or grew truly old, and his big, generous heart was as young as that of any of his grandchildren. Not many people of 72 can say that, I guess..."


Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Writerly Vices...

We were talking about book-sniffing over at one of my favorite FB groups earlier, and it seems I'm not the only sniffer in the village. Not by a looooong way.

Come on, 'fess up, ladies. Raise your hand if you can't resist the temptation of sticking your nose between the pages of a shiny new book.

What do you mean, you've never done it? Hah! Still deep in the denial stage, eh? O-kay! :)

Since confession is reputedly good for the soul, here's another long-standing, lesser-known vice of mine... Stationery! (Cue visual aid, aaaand cue harp music and angelic host.)



Just take a look at this picture. *sighs* The sight of all those neatly stacked notebooks makes my heart race. I have a terrible weakness for stationery stores and office suppliers. The slightest excuse and I'm through those doors faster than a rabbit down a hole. It doesn't matter how many narrow feint notebooks and black Bic pens I have, I always NEED MORE.

I like to think of myself as Smaug, but sans all the gold, jewels, and other dragon bait. Actually, no. Forget I said that.

If, like me,  you're addicted to stationery, take a look at this link, it's a veritable drool-fest.

How about you. Do you have any secret vices you want to share with the group? Preferably of the non-naked variety please! :)

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Pants and Planets...

Hello campers! How's retrograding Mercury treating you all today?

Me? I'm doing great, thanks. (Then again, my entire life has been in retrograde since March, so anything's an improvement!)

Book news: the second draft of Anselm's tale (a.k.a. the book with no name!) is coming along nicely. Lots of coloring in and filling out done today, and one extremely sketchy section is now all ironed out. Oh, by the by, Anselm and Vadim had a very interesting conversation earlier on today. Most... illuminating.

*sigh*

Sometimes the state of my mental health troubles me. I mean, I'm supposed to be the author here but, even at this stage, I have absolutely no idea what's going to happen next!

What can I say? Some writers plot, others pants. As for myself, I have the great misfortune to be a true-blue, Bridget-Jones-full-knickered pantser.

Anyway, I'll leave you all with a little 'pome' I found on my newsfeed today. Enjoy! <3


Saturday, 6 June 2015

Congratulations to...

 "extendedmoss8 (US)"

Random.org has spoken. As the lucky winner of last month's newsletter subscriber giveaway you've just won yourself a $25 Amazon giftcard!

Check your inbox and let me know you got it.

njlayouni.net


Friday, 5 June 2015

I have a couple of questions for you...

Hello, lovelies. Happy Friday! :)

I arrived home today to find a negative review of 'Hemlock,' and I wanted to ask your opinion on something.

As you're probably aware, bad reviews don't tend to trouble me that much. Horses for courses, to each their own, and all that jazz. But what bothered me about this one is that the reader states he/she was enjoying the story until s/he reached that cliff-hanger ending. As a result, I've lost him/her forever. Sadly, they'll definitely never be darkening my door again.

Q: Are cliffies really such a deal breaker?

Now I was raised on 'Lord of the Rings.' It didn't bother me in the slightest that the book was published in three installments. Maybe because I didn't have to wait for my next 'fix'? (Not that I'm comparing myself in any way to the fabulous Prof' Tollers--I'm not worthy to stuff the man's pipe, let alone anything else--but the arrangement of the 'Traveler' series is much like LOTR. Multiple books = one story.)

The thing is, from the very beginning, I knew 'Traveler' was going to be a hefty book. That's the only reason I decided to break it down into more manageable chunks. Profit was NEVER a consideration. After all, when I set out, I had no idea if anyone would want to read my scribblings, so my decision definitely wasn't based on money. It was this: would anyone want to take a chance on a 1,000 page epic, penned by an unknown author? I probably wouldn't, but that's just me.

And still 'Traveler' keeps on growing. The story cannot be resolved in just one book. I can give you a 'happy for now', but that 'happily ever after' is still a long way off.

So here's my question: I've always had a disclaimer on my Amazon author page advising readers to steer clear if they hate cliffie endings. Should I place this disclaimer in the product description (in bold lettering?) instead?

What do you think? I'm listening.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Never Forgotten...


Teaser Time...

I'm late. Sorry. But here he is at last, Anselm, in all his unedited glory.

  "...Pain. Such pain. A deep, throbbing heat that pulsed in his side like another heart beat. Something wet and almost intolerably cold touched his forehead. A cloth? He moaned in discomfort and tried to move his head away, but a female voice shushed him and held the instrument of torture more firmly in place. 

 “Ssh! Be still. You have a fever.” 

 Not the old woman this time. Someone different. Her voice was familiar. What was her name? But the thread of memory was too thin and slipped away before he could grasp it. The touch of the cold cloth against his skin was excruciating, almost as unbearable as the pounding ache in his side. Bidding his heavy limbs to obey him, with supreme effort, he managed to fling out an arm. 

“Oh!” The woman tutted. “Keep still, you fuckwit.” Then, in a softer voice she added, “Anselm? Are you awake?” Memory returned in a sudden, blinding flash, bringing with it the woman's name. Now he knew who she was...

I've already planned some changes based on feedback from my Newsletter Subscribers. Now it's your turn to tell me what you think. Thank you!

Saturday, 23 May 2015

This message will self destruct in ten seconds...

Calling all Newsletter subscribers. Check your in-boxes, my lovelies, because there's an exclusive, embarrassingly unedited, snippet from Anselm's new book waiting for you.

For everyone else, I'll post it here some time tomorrow, okay? Love it or hate it, please let me know what you think. And don't be shy. I can take a fair few punches.

Enjoy the sunshine!

... three... two... BOOM!!! 

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Anselm speaks...

Hello, my lovelies! Sorry for going awol again, but life's super busy at the moment. I'll be posting a teaser to my newsletter subscribers very soon. Keep an eye on your mailbox!

Hey, guess what? I entered Anna Belfrage's recent giveaway and I won myself an e-book. Isn't that great? I'm chuffed to bits. (Yep! Authors love free books too. :D )



Are any of you guys Anna Belfrage fans? I'm ashamed to say that I've never read any of her work before, so I'm really looking forward to starting this book.

Hey, Anselm? My reading tank's flashing on empty, and I'm in desperate need of a top up. How about giving me the rest of the night off, hmm?

Anselm: Absolutely not.

Me: [whiny voice] But I wanna read!

Anselm: Then might I suggest that you apply more finger speed to the little lettered buttons on your writing implement, dear lady?

Me: You're telling me to type faster?

Anselm: Indeed I am. Oh, and unless you wish to experience first-hand what a direct hit from a trebuchet feels like, you had better make me look good.

Me: [mutters] There's a name for people like you, and it rhymes with 'plastered.'

A: Hmm? Did you say say something, my sweet?

Me: I said I'm heading back to work, I think I've finally mastered it. *sigh* Good night all. <3 <3 <3

Friday, 8 May 2015

Draft Two Update...

Hello, all!

I haven't been about much this week because I'm currently neck deep in the second draft of Anselm's tale, (No. I haven't decided on a title yet!) and it's shaping up nicely.

Er, you know how I said this book would be a novella (aka a skinny book)? Well it looks like I was wrong. At this rate, by the time I hit 'The End',  it's going to be positively hefty.

Anyway, here's a link to my 'Anselm's tale' Pinterest board , just in case anyone's interested... or Pinterested, even! Check it out and let me know what you think.

Enjoy the weekend!

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Guess what happened?

This...


Yes, my friends, the first draft of book three is finally D.O.N.E.

Okay, so it's not pretty. In fact, it's the Frankenstein's monster of first drafts. But that's just fine. After I type it up, hose it down, color it in, prune, chop, and polish, it'll be transformed from lead into... something else, hopefully!

Watch this space.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

The winner of the $25 Gift Voucher is...

JO WALKER!!! (Aus)


Congratulations!

If you haven't received by this time tomorrow, let me know. (I haven't sent a gift voucher by email before, so it's quite possible that I will muck things up!)

Have a great day. Another subscriber giveaway next month. 




Saturday, 25 April 2015

One Year Author-versary!!!



Hey, lovelies. :)

On 27 April I'll be celebrating my one year author-versary. That's the day I first launched Vadim and Martha into the unsuspecting world. :)

Twelve months already, and what a ride it's been! Two books out, and during that time, not only have I sold, loaned, and gifted literally thousands of copies of my books, far exceeding my humble expectations, but I've made some wonderful friends from all over the world too.

To celebrate this special day, I'll be giving away a $25 Amazon gift card to one lucky newsletter subscriber (on the morning of the 28th GMT to avoid any time zone confusion.) Spread the word because if I hit 100 newsletter subscribers before the end of this month, I'll give away another $25 gift card during the first week of May. How does that sound? :)

Thank you all SO much for the support and friendship you've given me during the past twelve months. I appreciate each and every one of you. After all, what's an author without readers?

Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor. <3

Sign up HERE...

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Book Three Update...

Hello campers! How's the weekend treating you all so far? What have you been up to?

It's been an absolute belter of a day here in Blighty. Nothing but blue sky, and wall-to-wall sunshine. Even better, I cracked on with the first draft of book three, and the finish line is finally in sight. And about flamin' time too!

I can't remember if I've mentioned this before, but I'm what's known in the trade as a bit of a pantser (ie: a non-plotting writer.) What this means is that when I start writing, apart from a rather vague general heading heading, I have absolutely no idea where the story will take me.

My writing day mainly consists of me bimbling about and taking notes as I follow my characters around their lives inside my mind.

This may sound rather odd but the story is frequently as much a surprise to me as it is to you. Yes, really!

Take Anselm, for instance. I thought I knew him inside out and back to front, but it turns out I was wrong. So very wrong. That guy has depths that I never imagined. As a result, his story has been much more difficult to write than I anticipated. And to think, I once considered him shallow. My mistake.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend, lovelies. But before I go, here's a piece of music that always summons my wandering muse - although it does date me a bit! :)




Friday, 17 April 2015

A CAUTIONARY TALE...

For all the writers out there. (Or should that be 'righters?' Lol!)


Tuesday, 14 April 2015

I'm so chuffed...

... which is a good thing, btw!

Hemlock the first book in the Tales of a Traveler series is currently in the number one spot in it's category in the FREE Kindle store both in the UK and in Australia.

Okay, so it's a free book, therefore it doesn't really count, but I don't care. I've never hit number one before, Not ever.

Anyway, a huge thank you to everyone who has downloaded it so far. After recent events, I really needed a moral boost.

Here's a little bookish something I pinched from one of my FB groups, just for you.


Friday, 10 April 2015

My kind of mood Music...

 "Ja Nus Hons Pris." Written by Richard the Lionheart, and performed by Owaine Phyfe. Enjoy!


   

Poetry Corner...

I don't usually "do" poetry, but  some of these are just lovely. "Funeral Blues" by WH Auden is one of my all-time favorites. (Who can forget THAT scene in "Four Weddings and a Funeral"?) I particularly love this section:

"He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong."



*sniff* But not all rhyming stuff is about death and misery. Here's another favorite of mine: "Warning Poem" by Jenny Joseph. Here's a wee taster:

"When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit..."

S'funny. It's almost exactly how I see myself in a few decades from now!

Do you have a favorite poem? :)

Monday, 6 April 2015

Newsletter Subscriber Competition Winner...

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a WINNER! 

*drum roll*

***Congratulations to... ANNE SELLIN!***

Message me your home address, hon, and I'll get that cute little library kit in the post to you asap! :)

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Freebies!

Hello lovelies! Guess what the Easter Bunny brought me?

A Kindle Paperwhite!!! Yay! Twenty-first century here I come!

I've been having a real blast downloading lots of lovely free e-books (because authors love free stuff too!) Here are a couple of the freebies I've grabbed so far:

Daughter of Time by Sarah Woodbury

Love Beyond Time by Bethany Claire

[Are you already seeing a theme here? :D]

They look very nice, sitting alongside my own free book Tales of a Traveler (Hemlock)!

Do you have any book recommendations for me? If so, don't be shy. Please leave me a link in the comments. Let's share the freebie love.

Monday, 30 March 2015

How precious is this?


How do you fancy winning your own personal library set? Imagine being able to keep tabs on all those books you've loaned to (forgetful!) friends. 

Do you fancy it?

To be in with a chance - if you haven't already done so - simply sign up to receive my newsletter.
(Either here or here.) I'll be announcing the winner next Monday.

Good luck!

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Author Problem 267...

... So Amazon sites, so little time.

I love Amazon. I do. Ever since I first hit the 'publish' button it's been really good to me.

However...

(and you knew there was one of those coming, right?)

... it irritates the heck out of me that I can't see all of my reviews or update my author profile on a SINGLE, convenient Amazon author site. Instead, I have to visit the Amazon site of each individual country in turn to see how things are cooking. As a result, I've only just seen the gorgeous reviews some beautiful people left for me.

Guys? <3 "THANK YOU!!!" <3

To illustrate my problem, here's the 'Hemlock' buyer page on just a few Amazon sites:

Amazon.fr: http://www.amazon.fr/Tales-Traveler-Hemlock-Romance-English-ebook/dp/B00JZK3VLQ/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Amazon.de:http://www.amazon.de/Tales-Traveler-Hemlock-Romance-English-ebook/dp/B00JZK3VLQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1427015562&sr=1-1&keywords=nj+layouni

Amazon.aus:http://www.amazon.com.au/Tales-Traveler-Hemlock-Travel-Romance-ebook/dp/B00JZK3VLQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1427015642&sr=8-1&keywords=nj+layouni

Amazon.uk:http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tales-Traveler-Hemlock-Travel-Romance-ebook/dp/B00JZK3VLQ

Amazon.com:http://www.amazon.com/Tales-Traveler-Hemlock-Travel-Romance-ebook/dp/B00JZK3VLQ

(Author friends? If there's an easier way of doing the housekeeping, please let me know!)

Okay, I'm now off to visit Amazon.co.jp. Have a great Sunday, lovelies! :)



Thursday, 19 March 2015

His turgid WHAT???

Oh, heck! Brace yourselves, my lovelies. This is just B.A.D.
I hope one of your 'favorites' makes it onto this particularly revolting list.

You may have noticed, but I tend not to name 'anything' if I can help it. But if I ever lapse and use words like these in an intimate scene, please feel free to whack me over the head with a piece of 2 x 4 and then smash my laptop into little pieces. I'd deserve it.

(Fyi, one of the worst euphemisms I ever read was '...his turgid, tumescent sex...' Ugh!!! :( )

What's the worst euphemism you've come across - no pun intended. Lol! :)

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Here comes the sun...

Good evening, lovelies! Did you have a good weekend? What did you all get up to? C'mon, make me envious. :)

Well, it's been a cracking day here in Blighty. The sun came out to play, and the daffodowndillies looked just gorgeous, golden trumpet heads bobbing in the light sea breeze. Is it too early to hope that spring has finally sprung? Fingers crossed, eh? I'll certainly not be sorry to say 'good riddance'  to winter.

My week got off to a great start when two old friends (old as in, known-them-for-a-long-time, not 'elderly!') dropped by for a visit. *waves to Si and John*

I've known these boys since I was in my early teens, and the three of us were pretty inseparable back then, getting into all kinds of scrapes and mischief. Fast forward a couple (or three!) decades and we're still very much the three amigos, despite the miles that have kept us apart for so long.

Before I shuffle off to my bed, Laura and Iza? Are you about? Good news, girls. Your books are FINALLY in the post. :) Sorry for the delay, but hopefully the postie will soon be a-knocking at your door bearing a hefty parcel for you.

Toodles! <3



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