A is for Award #AgghStopThat

The best thing about the A-Z Challenge is finding new blogging pals, such as Outside Perception who has nominated me for the Mystery Blogger Award. Thanks very much ☺

As part of the award, first I have to reveal three things about myself:

  1. I was part of the team who developed the Poking Tunnel™
  2. My favourite breakfast is cold pizza with a cup of tea (PG Tips/Redbush blend)
  3. I suffer from misophonia so there’ll be no apple eating in my vicinity

Then answer five questions set by Outside Perception:

Tell us about something that you used to believe only to find out it was incorrect? I thought that guerrilla warfare was gorilla warfare.

If given the choice between Cake or Deathwhat would it be?  Ooh, death please. No, no, I meant cake. Definitely cake.

What was your imaginary friend’s name and what special skills did they have? I already had two brothers, a sister, a dog, cats and a rabbit. There wasn’t room for anyone else to move in, imaginary or otherwise.

What is your all time most watched movie? Those Glory Glory Days’. It’s about a group of teenage girls growing up in London in 1961 who are obsessed with Spurs as they become the first team to win both the League and the FA Cup. My sister and I watched it almost every day during the summer holiday of 1984. I’m not into football at all but that doesn’t matter. ‘Those Glory Glory Days’ is a funny, sweet film about the friendships and frustrations of growing up.

When you have downtime…(Laugh.. yah I know) Ok, If you ever had downtime… What would you do?  Drink prosecco/G&T/beer with a huge bowl of crisps/nuts/antipasti (yes, it’s pretentious but I lived in Rome for three years…and saying that probably makes me even more pretentious ☺) whilst flicking through aspirational magazines, with articles such as How to Enjoy A Walk in the Rain, Discover Your Dosha (no, not, as I thought, how to locate coins you’ve dropped down the side of the sofa but body-mind type) and Look at Us With Our Perfect Life ‘Interior designer Arabella – ‘Well, I picked out the drapes for my friend Figgy’s study’- and banker Flynn invite us into their beautiful beachside home, full of treasures they’ve picked up on their travels.  What is their secret?  Flynn: I get paid £250k a year.  Look, here’s a picture of them with their children, Bobby and Fisher, enjoying a trip to the local organic/gluten free/mercury laden fish stall.  ‘Oh mother, how scrummy!’ says Bobby’) where I hate literally everyone in there whilst secretly envying them and wondering why I don’t commute to my garden studio each morning to create artisan pottery for two hours before taking a break to drink herbal tea as I walk my French bulldog along the beach.  Yes, I am bitter.

Favourite post of mine?  Hmmm. Either this story based on the lyrics to Hotel California or this post about the time my friend and I had our clothes stolen during a illicit midnight skinny dip. Funnily enough, the only time I’d venture into a swimming pool now (naked or otherwise) is at midnight.

Next I have to nominate other bloggers (Jeez, there’s actually quite a lot to do for this award…) I’m going to choose some of the new bloggers that I met as part of the A-Z Challenge:

Baby Gates Down Working full-time with two girls, Louise moved online because there was no space left at home.  Intelligent, funny and thoughtful – what more could you ask for??
Iain Kelly works as an TV editor and has hundreds of short stories under his belt.  His A-Z was particularly creative, utilising a children’s poster as the basis for an exciting 26-part thriller.
Ramblings of K writes about her experiences of new countries and cultures.  I’m impressed with how many countries she’s ticked off on her world A-Z list.
Weekends in Maine Activities, tips and trivia about life in Maine; from childhood memories and spontaneous trips to adventures and family life.
Rochelle Wisoff-Fields An published author and illustrator, Rochelle is also the host for Friday Fictioneers, where a picture prompt inspires bloggers to create a complete story in 100 words or less.

And here are my five questions for them:

1 Happiest childhood memory?
2 Tea or coffee?
3 Which ‘Friends’ character would you be and why?
4 If you could go back in time, what would you do differently?
5 Summer or winter?

Don’t worry if you don’t have time/don’t want to participate.  I’m free and easy like that 🙂

Rules: 1. Put the award logo in your post and link back to the creator of the award. 2. List all the rules. 3. Thank whoever nominated you and leave a link to their blog. 4. Tell your readers three things about yourself and answer the questions set by your nominator. 5. Nominate readers and notify them. 6. Ask your nominees any five questions of your choice.  7. Share the link to your best/favourite post of yours.

Q is for Quiz Night #AtoZChallenge

Second place. Again. Bloody Pete. Again.

‘Nice going, Pete, you twat.’

‘What?  I got the names muddled up.’

‘Oh yeah, easily done.  Oooh, look, it’s Tim from The Office driving bloody Miss Daisy. Oy, Hobbit, when you getting out of jail?’

‘Alright, Dave. It was an honest mistake.’

‘Bonus question, ladies and gents, for a bottle of bubbly; Poland’s finest.  First team to shout out the correct answer wins.’

‘Right, this is our chance to redeem ourselves.’

‘Who starred in The King’s Speech?’

‘It’s Colin Farrell.’

‘Pete, are you sure?’

‘Yep, 100%. COLIN FARRELL!’

‘COLIN FIRTH!’

‘Well done, ladies, don’t drink it all at once.’

‘Oh, sorry, mate.  I meant Colin Firth.’

This wasn’t just an excuse to use a lovely picture of yummy Colin.  I’m practising my flash fiction skills…

 

From Writing 101 to 50,000 words #NaNoWriMo

mince-pies-and-murders

Inheriting a country hotel just in time for Christmas turned out to be more of a turkey than a cracker for Jane, especially when one of the guests is murdered… Will she find the killer in time for the traditional family Christmas she’s always dreamed of?

Well, I’m feeling pretty chuffed with myself.

From not having a plot 30 days ago, apart from the vague idea that my main character would inherit a country house and a murder would happen, I’ve finished a rough draft that has a storyline that just about makes sense, a bunch of red herrings and a plot twist at the end.   There’s a bit of sex, plenty of Baileys and a few mince pies thrown in.

I haven’t done much housework (alright, any), meals have been a bit random (‘Oh, just eat those sausages with a bowl of cereal if you’re hungry’) and Christmas is quickly looming with no presents, cards or decorations organised but I don’t care.

I wanted to do NaNoWriMo to get me back into writing and hopefully get something to the stage where I can follow the example of friends such as Suzanne and actually publish it.

I’ve got three novels figuratively tucked in a drawer, at various stages of editing and I would like to actually put one out there. For public consumption. And public criticism – which is the scary part.  At the moment, it’s the literary version of Schrödinger’s cat: it could be be best book in the world or it could be the worst. I could always publish under the pseudonym Barbara Wordington and then no one will know it’s me so they’ll never know if I’ve written a book to rival To Kill A Mockingbird or one that ranks with Fifty Shades of Grey (just how many times can one person bite their lip?? 28 apparently). Except that I’ve told you now so I’ll have to come up with a different alias. Babbington Wordle??

NaNo – I feel like we’re on first name terms now – has got me excited about writing again and I really want to get this latest story polished enough to publish for next Christmas.

I love Christmas books; I have two shelves full of them and reread most of them every year. From ones I had when the kids were small like Merry Christmas Maisy and Richard Scarry’s The Night Before The Night Before Christmas to Letters from Father Christmas by JRR Tolkien and The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder. The thought that I could publish a Noel novel is very motivational.

Right, I’m off to edit. Obviously it’s not my favourite part of writing but I will deny myself any mince pies until it’s done.*

*Oh, who am I kidding?  Brandy butter anyone?

Keeping it 100

So, it’s my 100th post.  Woohoo. Yay. Etc. It’s only taken me five years to get here so that’s a grand total of 20 posts a year.  Wow.  I’m really not sure why I’m not competing for readers and sponsorship deals with the likes of Zoella or Perez Hilton.

I’m obviously the opposite of Adrian Mole, who said that: ‘Happy people don’t keep a diary’. In my case, unhappy people don’t keep a blog. It’s not so much that I’m depressed but after three years in Rome, life doesn’t seem quite so exciting anymore. It’s back to the drudgery of work, fighting with the self-service tills at Sainsburys, making small talk about the Apprentice and Donald Trump, and dull drizzly days.

I need a kick up the backside and to focus on the great things about Britain. Hilarious comedy series like Drifters, The Detectorists or Cuckoo. Fish and chips. M&S. Wilko (nothing like that in Rome!) Libraries. Cadburys. Knickers big enough to cover fat arses.crest-05e1a637392425b4d5225780797e5a76

Ok, I’m starting to feel better. And I have managed a bit of writing, just not blogging. For this momentous post, I’m right back to where I started this blog in November 2011. #NaNoWriMo.  50,000 words in one month.  Twelve days in and 20,000 words done so I’m on track.

I decided to join in late on the 1st November, and had no plot, characters or idea of what to write so I’m quite impressed with myself that I’ve managed to keep going.   It’s a Christmas Chick-Lit Murder Mystery, set in a Cotswold country house. Very light-hearted, humorous (hopefully) and festive. It won’t be winning any Booker Prizes, put it like that, but it might be entertaining.  I don’t actually read much chick-lit but I’m a sucker for any stories set at Christmas so my literary standards drop quite considerably during the festive season.   Hopefully, other people’s do too…

06d0674aa9d3de47817d48245083b8a3
Behind this peaceful festive scene, a murder is taking place…oh, and plenty of gratuitous sex, drinking and baking

Only another 30,000 words to go.  I’ve had complaints from family members that mealtimes are running late, housework is not being done [nothing new there – Ed] and there’s no food in the fridge, but that’s a small price to pay for getting my creative juices flowing again.  And I promise I’ll clean them up on the 1st December.

 

Visions of Zarua #bookreview and Honey Cake recipe

So today we have a guest post from the lovely Suzanne Rogerson as part of her World Blog Tour to promote her epic fantasy book, Visions of Zarua.

Visions of Zarua 2016 Blog Tour Schedule
Suzanne is a real life friend of mine (I do have some…) We met at a Creative Writing course about five years ago. But whilst I’ve been scratching my arse and talking about finishing my novel (with a brief move to Italy in-between), she actually got off her backside and published a fabulous book.

I’m not usually a fantasy reader but I enjoyed reading about wizards and magical kingdoms. I thought it would be rather hard going but it was actually very easy to read with some light-hearted moments. The writing was very strong, the characters likeable and the intertwined stories kept me gripped until the end. I recommend, even if you’re not a fantasy fan.

Now then, onto Suzanne’s post.  Yay – finally a new post…and I didn’t even have to write it!

Visions of Zarua by Suzanne Rogerson:

visions-of-zarua-book-coverTwo wizards, 350 years apart. Together they must save the realm of Paltria from Zarua’s dark past.

An ancient darkness haunts the realm of Paltria.
Apprentice wizard Paddren is plagued by visions of a city on the brink of annihilation. When his master Kalesh dies in mysterious circumstances, the Royal Order of Wizards refuses to investigate.
Helped by his childhood friend, the skilled tracker Varnia, and her lover Leyoch, Paddren vows to find the killer.

The investigation leads Paddren down a sinister path of assassins, secret sects and creatures conjured by blood magic. But he is guided by a connection with a wizard from centuries ago – a wizard whose history holds the key to the horror at the heart of the abandoned city of Zarua. Can Paddren decipher his visions in time to save the Paltrian people from the dark menace of Zarua’s past?

The female lead character of Varnia is often misunderstood. She is a hunt mistress, stuck in a man’s world with no family but her surrogate uncle, Reaun, to rely on.
A strong willed woman, who doesn’t let anything get in her way…but can also be prone to sulking. However, one thing guaranteed to get her out of a sulk is the Honey Cake at Redstone Manor.

I thought it would be fun to recreate the cake using a traditional recipe I found in ‘A Taste of the Border Country’ cookbook. I’ve given it my own tweaks as I always try to use gluten free flour and prefer self-raising to plain flour & baking powder. I’ve also added fresh ginger, which I believe complements the honey and lemon flavour.


Ingredients
8fl oz clear honey
3 oz butter
12oz self-raising flour (gluten free)
Pinch of salt
1 tsp cinnamon
3 eggs
3 tbsp milk
Grated rind of a lemon
Grated fresh ginger
(I omitted from the original recipe the mixed peel and didn’t add the flaked almonds on the top, but I can see they would work well with the rest of these ingredients).

Instructions
1. Melt the butter and honey over a low heat.
2. Beat the eggs and milk. Add it to the cool melted butter and honey, along with the ginger.
3. Mix the flour, salt, lemon peel and cinnamon in a separate bowl.
4. Add the melted ingredients to the dry, a bit at a time and mix well. It has quite a liquid consistency.
5. Pour into an 8-inch square greased baking tin. Cook for about an hour on 150 fan.

The old recipe suggests poking holes in the cooked cake and adding another 3 tablespoons of honey over the top. I experimented with and without the extra honey, and found the cake quite dry without it. However, the flavour was good and tasty, and surprisingly it wasn’t too sweet.

I wonder if Varnia would like my version of Honey Cake?  Maybe she would wash it down with a goblet or two of mead.

Find out more about Suzanne:2015 author photo 2015
Website
Twitter
Facebook
Goodreads

Buy Visons of Zarua now!!
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Smashwords
Kobo

R is for Renegade Writer

Another story (well, the first chapter) for today’s A-Z Challenge or rather #atozchallenge – I’m trying out Twitter…

Typewriter-730x364

Renegade Writer

Arnold took the final sheet of his 90,000-word novel, Strike Hard, from the printer and added it to the rather impressive looking stack of pages on his desk.

It had taken over eight months of trying to fit in writing around his full time job. Eight months of getting up at 5.30am, turning down social invitations and letting the house fall apart around him – all of which caused his wife, Jen, to constantly nag at him. He’d become adept at letting her discontented voice drift around him like spring blossom dropping from the trees, gently blowing in the breeze, occasionally landing on ones shoulder before falling to the ground, not making any impact on anyone or anything who lay in its path.

‘You’ll never finish it, Arnold.’

‘Don’t know why you’re bothering, Arnold.’

‘It’s all about who you know, Arnold. You won’t be able to find a publisher for it.’

Well, she could stick the proverbial pipe in it now.

Because, finally, he’d finished. And, if he said so himself, it was rather good. A twisted thriller in the style of Harlen Coban or James Patterson. Ok, so it wasn’t a great literary novel or one that was going to be up for the Booker Prize. But he was pretty confident that it was gripping story that could keep the reader up late at night; desperate to find out what happens next to the hero, George Striker, who is forced to become a vigilante after the police refuse to take the disappearance of his wife seriously.   Arnold had put in plenty of twists and turns, a few red herrings and a surprise ending.

Arnold glanced at the clock. Almost 7pm. Jen should be back from work at any moment and – damn! He’d just remembered that she’d asked him if he could have dinner ready for when she returned. Stuff it. He’d get a takeaway to celebrate and open a bottle of wine. She’d stop complaining once she saw the completed book. He’d do one more back up onto his USB stick and then he’d ring for a curry.

Back up done, Arnold whistled merrily as he perused the Indian takeaway menu. Mmm, chicken jalfrezi with saag aloo or maybe a prawn balti? So many delicious choices.   Jen, of course, would just have a korma, as usual. She didn’t like to try anything new when it came to food. Or, indeed, life, now that he thought about it. She was still working at the same branch of solicitors where she started as an office junior at 16. Office junior: did they even exist anymore? He couldn’t see some stroppy school-leaver being happy with that title nowadays. They were probably called administrative executives now.

He phoned through the order and opened a bottle of white wine.   Just a small glass before Jen got back. Flicking on the TV, he distractedly took in the tiny portions and ridiculously fancy food on some cookery show as he pottered about, getting out cutlery and setting the table.  He topped up his glass and put the wine back in the fridge. No more until Jen came in. Where was she? It was 7.30 and the curry would be here any minute.

Arnold texted her mobile: Curry on way. Wine open!

The cookery show finished to be replaced by a DIY show. What was it with modern TV? Where were the decent dramas and comedy shows of his youth? Maybe Strike Hard could be made into a three-part drama? Now there’s a thought. He pondered who could play the lead role as he took the wine out of the fridge and added a splash more to his glass.

The doorbell rang as he was deliberating between Colin Farrell or Ross Kemp for the role of George Striker. Nope, definitely Colin Farrell. He paid for the curry and carried the plastic bag into the kitchen. The spicy aroma smelt good and his stomach rumbled hungrily.   Come on, Jen.

Arnold rang her phone but it went to voice mail. He left a message, checking that she was on her way. He’d just have a couple of poppadums to tide him over.

Twenty minutes later, the DIY programme had finished and Arnold had eaten most of his jalfrezi, half of the rice and all of the saag aloo.   The bottle of wine was almost gone and Jen still hadn’t returned.  This wasn’t like her at all. She had a set routine on a Friday.   She finished work at 5pm, went to her aerobics class for an hour and was back just after 7pm. Regular as clockwork for the last twelve years.   Arnold’s stomach felt slightly queasy and he didn’t think it was just down to the wine and curry. Should he be worried about Jen’s lateness?   He rang her number again.   Still no reply. Who did she do aerobics with? Was it Sandy? Did he have her number? He looked in the leather address book that Jen kept by the phone. Yep, there it was, trust Jen to keep the book up to date.

‘Hi, Sandy, it’s Arnold. Jen’s husband.’

‘Oh, hey Arnold. Hope Jen’s ok? Not like her to miss the class.’

‘She didn’t go to aerobics?’

‘No, I rang her phone but she didn’t reply. Is she ok?’

‘Um, I’m not sure, to tell you the truth. She hasn’t come back from work yet. I assumed she’d gone to her class as normal.’   Ok, it was official. Arnold could start to worry.

‘Maybe she went round to Pam’s?’ said Sandy. ‘You know Simon’s had some sort of fling at work? Pam was trying to get me to go around tonight but I’m off out in a minute. She probably rang Jen too.’

Of course. Pam had rung Jen two or three times last night, in tears about Simon’s affair. That’s where Jen would be.

‘Cheers, Sandy. I’ll give her a ring.’

Pam hadn’t heard from Jen since last night, but had Arnold heard what a bastard Simon had been? It had been going on for months, some medical rep tart, apparently, all short skirts and too much make-up…Arnold tried to extricate himself from the conversation several times before successfully managing to hang up on Pam.

Should he start calling all of her friends? Was it silly to think about calling the police?   Oh, come on, Arnold, she’s only an hour late. Probably got caught up at work and then stuck in traffic.   Work: of course, Rita! She and Jen shared an office so she’d know if Jen was late leaving work.

‘Rita, it’s Arnold Cooper, Jen’s husband. I just wondered if she was working late tonight?’

‘Jen? She didn’t come in today. She sent a text this morning to say she had flu and wouldn’t be in until Monday.   Where are you? Aren’t you with her?’

‘I’m at home. She’s not here.’ Arnold was now having a major panic attack. ‘She left for work at the usual time this morning.’

‘Oh my god. Have you checked the hospitals? Maybe she fell ill on the way to work and texted me from a hospital?’

‘I’ll call them now. Gotta go, Rita.’

What the hell was going on? Jen had left for work at 8.15, the same time as she did everyday. She’d followed the exact routine as usual. Up at 7am, shower, dressed, breakfast (two Weetabix and a cup of tea) whilst listening to Radio Two.   Then they’d left the house together, before getting into their separate cars and driving to work.   Nothing out of the ordinary at all.

He opened up his laptop and googled local hospitals.

To be continued…

K is for Kat

cat2-1200x330

Another 100 word story for today’s A-Z Challenge.  And, no, this one didn’t win any prizes either…

Kitekat Bob

“You love that bloody cat more than me,” moaned Ian.

“That’s not true,” I said, filling Bob’s bowl with organic double cream and rubbing his head.

“It’s him or me,” said Ian, as he headed up to the loo.

Tears came to my eyes; how could I choose between Ian and Bob?

There was a huge thud from upstairs, followed by series of bumps and a loud meow.  I ran into the hallway. Ian was sprawled motionless across the bottom steps, blood pooling under his head.

Bob peered down from the top step.

I smiled.  “Extra Kitekat for you, Bob.”