Thursday, 21 February 2019

BEST LOVED CHARACTERS

YOU'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO HAVE FAVOURITES


Giving birth to your books may not be quite as difficult as giving birth to your children, but, my God!, it's almost as hard work.
Naturally, once there you don't have favourites amongst your children, but it's a different story with your books.
Of my twelve published novels, THE MYSTERY OF CRAVEN MANOR (for middle range children) has been the most successful so far (around 13,000 sales),  but my softest spot is for Nick, the hero of CABBAGE BOY, a tragi-comedy for Teens and Young Adults.
Nick, going on sixteen, is a chronic worrier. He worries about his lack of height (sister Becca is already four inches taller), his cowardice, his virginity, his lack of friends, the fact that he's always the last to be chosen for anything - the list goes on and on. At last Nick finds a friend, an unusual one, and that's the biggest worry of all.
Not everything ends well. There's comedy and a touch of romance, but also sadness. Yet through it all Nick, despite his personal problems, behaves heroically.
I love him.


Tuesday, 19 February 2019

KEEPING SLIM WHILE WRITING FAT BOOKS


STAIRS ARE GOOD FOR YOU, CYCLING IS GOOD FOR YOU – BUT NOT DAYTIME TELLY


Writing is a sedentary unhealthy occupation. Bad for the eyes, bad for the heart, bad for the butt. They (the 'experts') say that having stairs in your house will give you an extra ten years of life. I hope it's true. I run up and down my stairs on average twenty or thirty times a day. I kid myself it's because I need the physical break from my writing, but it's usually because I've forgotten something that's at the top while I'm at the bottom, or vice versa.

However, it's not my only source for callisthenics. (That's a nice oldfashioned word. I don't think I've read it in a book dated later than the 1940s.) No, I also have an exercise bike (courtesy of a generous friend) and I do try to use it each day, although a little half-heartedly – meaning that I cycle until I've burned 10 calories (about 1 minute 4 seconds).

 However, I also have my old telly in the same room and I find now that if I switch on while I'm pedalling I'll cycle for much longer, and hence burn more calories. The problem is that daytime programmes are so banal I can't help feeling that while my muscles and my circulation are improving, my brain is turning to sludge.

Sunday, 17 February 2019

WHAT'S HEAVEN REALLY LIKE?


DOES IT EXIST?

Or is it all smoke and mirrors? Can you really get a Full English Breakfast> And how about shopping? And sex?
It's all a mystery to Zoe Harper. She's no idea how she got there, but she's sure of one thing. She has no intention of staying.

AFFAIR WITH AN ANGEL is a humorous but thought-provoking fantasy available on Amazon Kindle for just £1.29. To whet your appetite, here's how it begins:

PROLOGUE
I didn't believe him. Well, you wouldn't, would you?

A self important little shit with a clipboard tells you that you're dead, naturally you'd think you were dreaming. One of those weird but vivid early morning dreams you get after the alarm has gone off and you've hit the Snooze button. You know the sort. You're running down an empty street wearing nothing but a pair of skimpy knickers, or your bed is full of insects or you're snogging the Deputy Manager of Sainsburys. He's 40, balding and has the sex appeal of a lardy cake but hey, dreamers can't be choosers.

Or perhaps this was a monumentally cruel joke organised by a Channel 4 production company, a tasteless virtual reality programme.

But no, it had to be a dream, because it started in the middle, as dreams do.

I am poised on the gangplank of a cruise liner. Below is a quayside, seething with passengers. There are officials everywhere, ushering them into an enormous over-embellished building that looks like a movie star's wedding cake – or maybe the Scottish Parliament, except that it's pink. There's rather a lot of pink, more than one would expect, but then I am still dreaming. The blossom on the trees is pink, the mountains in the background are pink, even the open topped buses lined up alongside the wedding cake are pink, a bright strawberry shade, and the boiler suits worn by their drivers are a perfect match. Where am I? The Costa Brava? The Caribbean? Florida? It's hot enough for any of them. I can feel the heat of the sun on my bare head, smell the heavy scent of tropical flowers mixed with diesel, sweat and pine resin, hear a babel of languages from the crush of passengers at my back.

I'm not worried. A cruise? Enjoy it. I might never earn enough to afford the real thing, and any moment now Mum will be banging on my bedroom door. "Zoe, it's eight o'clock. You're going to be late again!"

Except that she doesn't.

"You there!"

Down below I see this little guy waving his clipboard as I hover on the gangplank, unsure whether to go down or to climb back up again. Not knowing where I am or why I'm there creates that sort of problem.

He's wearing a ridiculous pink boiler suit stretched tight over a short chubby body. It looks like a Babygro on an oversized baby but from the three stripes on his arm I guess he's the man in charge.

"Me?"

"Yes, you. You're blocking the way."

"Sorry. But what am I doing – am I supposed to be embarking or disembarking?"

"You are coming down, madam. Down. Now, hurry along please, you're holding up the queue."

Behind me there is a great forward surge and I'm jostled down the gangplank, almost into the arms of the man in the Babygro. The Boss Man.

"Follow me," he says, striding off towards the wedding cake. Inside I can see rows of chairs facing tables stacked high with folders, and behind the tables open shelves stuffed with what look like more boiler suits in a rainbow of colours. People everywhere, of all ages and nationalities, a clamour of voices, officials checking off lists, trying to create order out of chaos.

"Sit there until you're processed," orders the little guy. "Oh, and welcome."

Well, about time. I've had warmer receptions from the bouncers at our down town night club. What's biting him? If I'm going to be 'processed' I'd prefer one of his underlings. There's a guy a couple of tables away who looks pretty hot. Dark Mediterranean good looks and a flashing smile that gives the impression that he's taken the Customer Care course and is doing his best to be helpful. But as luck would have it, when my turn comes it's the Boss Man himself who takes the other side of the table.

"Name?" he asks, snapping open a file and scarcely glancing at me.

"Zoe Harper."

"Age?"

"Why d'you want to know?"

He points silently to the blank line on his form.

"OK, I'm twenty, although I don't see it's any of your business."

"Occupation?"

"I'm a journalist." I'm cheating a bit here, but the fact that I'm only three weeks into my training isn't his business either.

His pen hovers above the form. "Hmmm. Unfortunate. Still, you'll be in one of our holding camps."

"I beg your pardon! What's wrong with journalists? And what d'you mean, a holding camp? What d'you think I am? An illegal immigrant?"

Ignoring my questions he pulls another form towards him and pores over it for so long I wonder if he's nodded off. I'm pretty good with faces – which I know is going to give me a head start in my career - and as I study the Boss Man's face I decide he's a miserable bitter old bastard. The small suspicious eyes, the deeply etched frown, the downturned mouth are dead giveaways.

I'm beginning to feel this isn't such a pleasant dream after all. I take the opportunity to look around. I'm guessing there must be several hundred people here, and none of them look as you'd expect holidaymakers at the mercy of bureaucrats to look. Anxious, frightened, confused, yes. But bored out of their minds, no. In fact, there's definitely a hint of hysteria. And their clothes are strangely varied. Business suits, bikinis, pyjamas, leotards, even a few hospital gowns. I glance down to see what I myself am wearing. My navy blue office suit, and very hot it is too. If I'd been awake I would have been searching for reasons. A practice fire drill? An evaccuation following an epidemic on board? But as I'm dreaming I accept the strangeness. For the time being.

At the table on my right the interviewer is a young woman, pleasant faced and smiling, but at the moment she's trying to pacify the traveller sitting opposite. He's about fifty, overweight, flushed to the colour of a cranberry and in danger of exploding like a shaken up bottle of fizz. He's dressed as I'd imagine an affluent middle-aged middle-class guest on a cruise to dress: a navy blazer, cream trousers pressed to a knife edge crease, a blue and white striped shirt. And a cravat. His wife, quiet but obviously tense, wears a button-through beige linen dress, with hair and complexion to match.

"Now look here, young lady!" The man is practically spitting at the interviewer "I don't know what this is about but if it's part of the holiday cruise I shall be demanding a refund. This is disgraceful treatment. Wherever this is, it's not on our schedule and -"

The Boss Man's harsh voice makes me jump. "You''ll need to change," he says. He turns to the shelves behind him and moves a slow finger over the stacks, stopping at a hideous blob of dull reddish purple.

"This will do." He pulls out a boiler suit and shakes it open.

"What? If you think I'm going to wear a boiler suit you're very mistaken – and if I did, that's the last one I'd choose. What sort of colour d'you call that?"

He studies the label. "Puce," he says.

"Well, I'd call it puke and you can put it straight back on the shelf! And now I've answered all your questions, how about giving me some answers? For a start, where am I? What is this place? Not exactly welcoming, is it?"

He sighs. "All your questions will be answered by the proper personnel in due course. My job is simply to get you through here as quickly and efficiently as possible. Now, if you please, go and change your clothes." He shoves the boiler suit towards me and I shove it back.

"You know what you can do with that! It's revolting. I wouldn't be seen dead in it".

And then he leans forward. At last he smiles.

"But, my dear young lady, you are dead."



Saturday, 16 February 2019

POST-ITS - A GREAT INVENTI0N FOR AUTHORS


HURRAY FOR POST-ITS!
Arthur Fry, a retired American inventor and scientist, conceived the idea for the Post-it note in 1974 as a way of holding bookmarks in his hymnal while singing in the church choir. Now they are used by millions/billions of peope for a multitude of purposes.
Right now, as I'm struggling to finish my book GIRL IN THE ATTIC, which is proving more complex than anticipated, I'm using Post-it notes to record ideas and fleeting thoughts that I might include in later chapters.
They're so easy to juggle/re-position as my plot thickens. I can pop them on to a wall, a page, the corner of my laptop, along the top of a chair - what would I do without them? Thank you, Mr Fry!
I'm sure you all use Post-its. What's YOUR favourite use?

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

FATHERS AND STRANGE MEN

THAT'S NOT MY DADDY

(WRITING WITH SOMEONE ELSE'S VOICE)

I asked my Writers Group to compose a very short piece using the 'voice' of another character, for example, an old person, a teenager, a drug addict, a child, a harassed mother - the choice is endless. I chose the voice of a 5 year old child. Afterwards it struck me that the emotions involved in the piece must have been echoed in many other situations where a soldier has come home from the fighting to greet his children again.Here it is:
That's not my Daddy.
Miss Haynes said he was waiting outside to take me home, and I got so excited. I haven't seen him for a long long time. Not since he was sent to be a soldier in Af – Af – that place with all the sand and the bombs. I peed my pants a bit, just a little, when Miss Haynes told me he was there, waiting by the gates. I hope they'll be dry by the time I get home so Mummy won't be cross.
But – That's not my Daddy. My Daddy is very tall and he stands straight up and he has a big shiny, smiley face and . . .
I take a step backwards into the hall.
My Daddy has two arms and two legs. The man by the gates has only one of each and his face is sort of squashed up and crunched, like a paper bag that's got nothing in it. He's pretending to smile, but it's not a proper smile.
No, that's not my Daddy.
He's calling to me now. He knows my name. Lukey, he's calling. His voice is different. Sort of shaky and whispery. And then he raises his arm, the one that's got a hand on the end, and waves.
Come here, son.
I'm not supposed to speak to strange men. If one speaks to you, my Mummy says, don't answer them, just run back to where there are other people.
There are other people in the hall and the cloakroom. Miss Haynes and Mrs Batsby the Head, and Alfie and his Mummy. I can hear them laughing.
'Lukey,' says the man. 'Don't you remember me?'
I think he's crying, and I want to cry too, I can feel the crying coming up in my chest in big hard lumps.
But he's not my Daddy.
I turn around and run back into the hall.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

AN UNLIKELY HERO

TEENS! NOW THE RESULTS ARE IN, TREAT YOURSELF TO A FUN READ.

CABBAGE BOY by local autrhor Joy Wodhams, is set in Swindon. Nick, its unlikely hero, is almost sixteen and longs to be taller, braver, more athletic, more popular with the girls, more one of the guys. He also suspects that he's the only one in the class who's still a virgin.
Let's face it, he's a worrier, with more than a dash of OCD. At home he cleans up his messy sister's bedroom, colour codes his Mum's spice jars and his Dad's garden equipment, measures various parts of his anatomy every Sunday morning and has to have his Full English Breakfast arranged in the same order each week.
Life brightens when he finds a girlfriend and falls in love with her. They've been together for four weeks and he's kissed her eighteen times, according to his notebook.
But when Nick meets a strange and scary mutant and is forced to protect and hide him, his life becomes unbearable. Who can he turn to for help?
Mum and Dad are busy line dancing, big sister Becca has lost interest and his girlfriend Chloe has moved on to a handsome six-footer who's captain of the school football team. As for friends, Nick doesn't 'do' friends. Or rather, they don't do him.
This is a story about beauty and ugliness, about kindness and cruelty, about prejudice and understanding, about self-doubt and courage. Full of humour, warmth and tragedy, CABBAGE BOY can be enjoyed by teens, young adults and is available at £1.99 on Amazon Kindle, £4.99 in paperback

Saturday, 28 July 2018

FREE EBOOK OFFER SATURDAY JULY 28

THE BOY WHO COULD FLY - TODAY, SATURDAY 28 JULY - FREE OFFER


The photograph below is of my past relative, aerialist Sydney Bird, who was born in 1875 and died tragically in 1891 while performing at the Prince of Wales Theatre, Grimsby (now a cinema!). Sydney (billed as 'Una The Human Fly') was the inspiration for my latest novel THE BOY WHO COULD FLY, which unites him supernaturally with a fictitious descendant, Jamie Bird, during WW2.An exciting tale for kids, teens and anyone who's interested in the circus, today is the last day to order a FREE ebook from Amazon (also available as a paperback at £6.75). I hope you enjoy it - and if you do, I'd really appreciate a short review on the Amazon site,