Category Archives: stories

We Are All Sisters

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It’s been something of a roller coaster ride over the last few weeks, but we’re back with a new design and a new stronger focus for our documentary.

We are all sisters under the skin, but what does that really mean? Facebook has become more than just the place to share quirky cat photos and recipes. It’s about not being alone any more. It’s about sharing. And caring.

My own story has some complicated background, through Facebook I’ve found good friends. It’s become a place of safety, a place of relief from my situation. I’m lucky. Others are not as fortunate, and through the private groups, people are sharing deep personal feelings. Health, emotional difficulties, poverty, children, a thousand different troubles that can strike, and knowing that there will always be someone there to talk to, pretty much any hour of the day. Well that’s important.

Women over 45 are the fastest growing demographic on Facebook. We Are All Sisters is the story of some of those women and the challenges they are meeting and facing through shared experience in Groups. The good that such networking can do is incalculable.

We need your help to make this important documentary. Even $10 can help. Thank you.

http://igg.me/p/181603

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That’s what friends are for!

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My blog partner in “My Ink Project“, Mel Hagopian has just launched her Indiegogo campaign for her documentary, Operation Hello Kitty – The Documentary, something that has made me think a lot about the friends that I have. The friends that I have made over the last few years are very important to me, as well as the friends I have known for years.

Mel’s documentary is a journey, one that began in High School. Her story is one of faith, hope, perseverance and Facebook.

My own friendship journey has a lot to do with Facebook.

Four years ago, after certain events in my life, I joined a website. For fun. As you do. I had been through a very nervous period, my marriage had not so much broken down, as evaporated. There were certain elements that made me anxious. Not the least some of the problems I encountered using the internet. People knew who I was, and that wasn’t in a good way.

So, my new friends on this forum persuaded me that I would certainly be safe on Facebook, that the dodgy elements from my past ‘life’ were unlikely to follow me down the rabbit hole, and I should just cut loose and have fun. My scepticism was sizeable, but I decided that a leap of faith was in order. I leapt.

I should also mention that those friends, urged me to join Harper Collins’ website, Authonomy.

Facebook and Authonomy proved to be momentous decisions.

I joined my friends on Facebook, and Authonomy brought more friends. One of them turned out to be my best buddy, writing partner, keeper of my comma splices and honorary little brother… then Jason became my business partner, and the rest is well, a bit more than just history!

Through Authonomy and Facebook, I met so many amazing and talented people, that a couple of years ago, I did again. I joined another forum.

This turned out to be another one of the happiest accidents of my life. Through a friend I made on that site, I met my incredible blog partner and amazing friend, Mel.

Again, I met wonderful, talented, positive friendly people, some of whom have become true, close, lasting friends.

My home life situation can be stressful. There is no one I am that close to in the immediate vicinity. But my Facebook friends have made an incredible difference to my life. It makes dealing with all the petty irritations of life in suburbia with a very aged parent so much less stressful.

Facebook could even save a life. Mel and her friends banded together in a secret private group to get help to a friend alone in another country. This lady was dangerously ill, and in serious need of help. With love in their hearts, Mel and her high school friends put themselves to the difficult task of getting her that much needed aid, and bringing her home.

Facebook has got a lot of negative press, and there are plenty of people who are happy to run it, and its users down. It, and the friends I have met because of it, those two forums and Harper Collins’ attempt at a self-reading slush pile, have turned my life from near disaster to absolute triumph. I may be financially bumping along the bottom (again), but I am exceedingly rich in lovely friends.

Thank you, Facebook!

My Top 50 Films

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In no particular order, but purely for the emotions they stir up, and the artistic merit they have for me personally.

  • Pepe Le Moko (1937)
  • The House on 92nd Street (1945)
  • One of our Aircraft is Missing (1942)
  • Operation Amsterdam (1958)
  • Went The Day Well (1942)
  • The Battle of the River Plate (1956)
  • Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
  • Sanjuro (1962)
  • Les Enfants du Paradis (1945)
  • The Boy on the Dolphin (1957)
  • Mayerling (1968) – for Omar Sharif I stood in a ploughed field in Austria. In the pouring rain, wearing only a tee shirt, shorts and leather sandals. The family dog was called Rudolf after the Crown Prince too!
  • Five Graves to Cairo (1941) – my obsession with this film began when I was a child!
  • Gaslight (1940)
  • Dangerous Moonlight (1944) (also known as Suicide Squadron, ghastly name which utterly destroys the dark romantic premise)
  • The Red Shoes (1948) – my trio of Anton Walbrook, authoritative, Austrian, intense and deliciously dark.
  • Night Train to Munich (1940) – Sexy Rexy and Paul Henreid playing the polar opposite of his Casablanca character.
  • The Third Man (1949) – Orson Welles is only on screen for ten minutes, but he really makes it count.
  • Seven Samurai (1954)
  • Y0jimbo (1961)
  • Laura (1944) – This film is pure genius. The casting is perfect. Everything about it is perfect.
  • Leave Her to Heaven (1945) – Gene Tierney was never better (except perhaps in Laura)
  • Sealed Cargo (1951)
  • The Silent Enemy (1958)
  • The Letter (1940) – Somerset Maughan and Bette Davis, fabulous combination.
  • All About Eve (1950) – Davis again, at her brittle, brilliant best
  • Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) – Davis genius.
  • June Bride (1948) – Davis does comedy.
  • The Man Who Came To Dinner (1942) – Monty Woolley, Bette Davis and Jimmy Durante. Mary Wickes as the nurse. As comedies go, this is about as perfect as it comes.
  • Cover Girl (1944) – Gene Kelly, Rita Hayworth, Phil Silvers
  • I married a Witch (1942) – Veronica Lake and Frederic March
  • Charade (1963) – Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, effortless charm.
  • Bringing Up Baby (1938) – Miss Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant, doing what they do best.
  • Keeper of the Flame (1942) – Hepburn and Tracey
  • The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952) – The first Hemingway book I ever read.
  • The Guns of Navarone (1961) – Good old fashioned adventure.
  • To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)
  • She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1949) – John Ford and John Wayne
  • To Be or Not To Be (1942)
  • The Mummy (1959)
  • The Thin Man (1934)

Now comes the slightly more controversial bit. Films made after 1965.

  • Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) – Harrison Ford made me want to go and dig great big holes all over Egypt.
  • Alien (1979) – In space there is no one to hear you scream!
  • Aliens (1986)
  • Jaws (1975)
  • Koi Mil Gaya (2003) – For the dance in the rain sequence alone… Hrithik Roshan is incredible in this film.
  • Amelie (2001) – charming, crazy, funny and the epitome of French.
  • The Fifth Element (1997) – bonkers, but pure escapism.
  • Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
  • The Presence (2010)
  • Pig (2011)

The last two, I actually know the film-makers. So yeah, I feel a close personal connection to these films, and in both cases, I love the stories, so they both make my top fifty.

Announcement

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Just so I cannot possibly chicken out.

Next year is just around the corner. Seven days to be exact. I announce that at least two of my manuscripts, currently languishing in various stages of undress, like the changing room at Harvey Nicks, will be completed, polished and put out there for sale.

The first of the trio that I simply must finish and stop messing about: Custard, Cats and Consequences. This has been hanging around for three years and eleven months at this time of writing. I have friends waiting for it. Some of whom have been patiently waiting for at least three years and eight months. Especially Pam, who helped me nail down the title.

Next up will be Nine Lives, a small cautionary tale about being very careful about what one decides one doesn’t believe in, because one’s disbelief might just come back and bite one on the butt.

The Siren’s Guide To Sushi is all about how life takes one by surprise, and serendipity rules!! Siren is dedicated to the amazing guy who gave me the glue to stick my two main characters together. Entirely unintentionally I might add.

Two others will be a big part of next year, although when they are published is in the lap of the gods. It’s all about timing.

Rain Falls is the first in a series of four serious and not so serious thrillers, starring my main character Rainer Hartmann. Whilst they are four novels that follow each other chronologically speaking, they are something of an experiment. In the normal course of events a series of stories follows a pattern, I am hoping that these four novels will be part of a whole, but each have their own distinctive pattern. The series is Captured By The Game, with luck the first novel will be out this year.

The other entrant in this game of numbers will be Lupus Rex. Lupus is a very different proposition from the others. Lupus is an experiment in Transmedia.

Yes. That’s right. Transmedia. It isn’t some sort of strange disease, more an exercise in co-operation. It requires me learning new skills. There will be more cheery self-promotion coming up soon.

Which brings me to the publishing side of things. My other business, is the business of bringing good reads to the paying public. We have two books out right now, in download format, Jessie B Powell’s Divorce: A Love Story and my business partner, Jason Horger’s book Whom Must I Kill To Get Published?; paperbacks will follow shortly. Jason’s eagerly anticipated jazz thriller, Requiem For Davey Post will follow in the Spring.

There is also the matter of Jason and my joint thriller, Thames For The Memories. This is a tongue-in-cheek spy story, where we defy authority, destroy property and occasionally get our kit off…  metaphorically speaking.

Nano Struggle

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Chapter four was something of an uphill battle.

First of all, I have committed some jiggery-pokery with the Chapter titles. This may seem unimportant, but the chapter titles are part of the inspiration process.

Chapter 3 is now Small Town Boy –  David Parker, and whatever he may have been running away from are sketched out. Rain and Siggy return to LA to a personal tragedy that is going to have considerable bearing on them personally and professionally.

Chapter 4 is The Dutiful Son Blues – how do you tell a family that their loved one is dead? What do you do if that loved one is a member of your own family? How trite does it seem to say the words you have said and heard a thousand times, and know in your heart that words can do immense damage but may not heal.

I struggled. This is going to need work and refinement. But since the whole point of Nanowrimo is to throw down words and worry about refinement afterwards I am moving on. Today has to be another mammoth session. Today is Chapter 5.

Chapter 5 is The Cascades in My Soul – we see more of SK, he is still sketchy, we know that he is a planner, and that he studies hard to enter the donor’s life and psyche; this time, he has entered a life in uniform. At this point we leave SK to see Siggy at the gun range. Siggy is a better than average shot, but his mind is not on his groupings, and he becomes frustrated at his own sloppy performance. He feels shut out by Rain, and the pressures get to him, so Siggy goes to the one person he trusts other than Rain.

Arabella.

Arabella Winter is my mystery character. She’s older than Siggy, in her late forties, she isn’t particularly beautiful and she certainly isn’t slim. Nobody is too certain what Arabella is, something that she cultivates, she knows a great many people and she may have a great many secrets. She is independent, intellectual and people are scared of her. Siggy has known her a very long time. They have been lovers on and off for years, and she protects him. She even challenges Rain on occasion. Rain is not scared of her per se, but he is unnerved by her and her level of knowledge and the hints that she might be a ‘sex worker’.

Pianos have played a large role in my life one way or another, I have a love/hate relationship with the piano even now. I was never very good at playing it, but the family business is piano parts. Founded in Camden Town in 1883 by my great-grandfather, Siegmund. The business still survives to this day, run by my cousin Martin. Anyway, I love the piano as an instrument, and I’ve loved Scott Joplin since I was a child.

I knew that Siggy was going to be a rather different character than my usual protagonists. He’s single, he can be quite arrogant, but he had a tragic childhood and was destined for a very different life before his mother’s death. It seemed natural that he should play the piano, and that would have been his intended career. Joplin is not easy, you need quite a high skill level to play Joplin’s pieces.

So Siggy gets drunk and plays hours of Joplin.

Nanowrimo: Chapter 2

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“Raining in my heart”

In Chapter two we meet Rain’s 18-year-old daughter, Freya. We learn that she has a boyfriend called Dilip and a very vivid taste for colour. She is also inclined to drop things and leave them where they lay. Rain adores his child, he never has difficulty expressing his love for her, but curiously blind to the fact that his wife needed that reassurance too.

The shoes this time were a particularly florid pair of blue and white striped high-heeled brogue style lace ups, with a flamboyant bow. “Freya!” he scooped the offending footwear off the floor, “shoes, shoes, shoes… what are you? A centipede?” Pulling the shoe tidy open, Rain dropped the brogues inside, to the accompaniment of giggling from the bed.

“Up and at ‘em young lady… breakfast is about to be served.”

 She emerged, brown hair tousled, grey tee shirt rumpled, her cheeky grin in place, patting the bed “Dad…” Rain sat.

Maggie pops into the story, she has known Rain since he was a child, and she used to babysit him when he was very young. Maggie becomes more significant a bit later on, as she is Rain’s emotional support.

The chapter title is indicative of Rain’s feelings of confusion and loss, and the very awkward moment that he has to face, telling his parents to cool it in public.

The Buddy System

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In a few short hours the insanity will begin. On the stroke of one minute past midnight Tuesday, I plan to break ground. I have been waiting this long, and I can literally wait no longer.

Many folk land running, and then about day five start to struggle a bit. This is where the buddy system comes in. It’s like school trips, although what happens when both buddies get lost is a bit of a mystery. This is one of the reasons why you never just stop at two buddies.

Part of the joy of being involved in Nanowrimo is the clannish feeling you get from sharing all this with your buddies.

Haven’t done Nanowrimo? You haven’t lived yet?

Of course, there is the inevitable comedy attached to my participation in the event. My clothing becomes even louder and more mismatched than usual. I have my writing hat, I have my tee-shirt with the inexplicable red stain on it (some sort of curry sauce) which has proved to be very lucky in the past, and my purple skirt with the very torn hem (rose bushes are not very good for your clothes) and my Converse boots (the black ones with the loud fluorescent pattern). I look like nothing on earth (according to my mother)… but somehow this shambolic approach works.

When I’m struggling with the pacing, or something isn’t panning out as I thought it would, that is the time to hit up my buddies list and communicate, and find out how other people are doing. Encouragement is an almost essential ingredient of Nano.

There will always be someone who is flying ahead, there will always be the odd one or two who drop out, but many will struggle on until they hit the end. It is doable. It is only 1667 words a day.

Roll on Tuesday!

Organisationally speaking!

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I have never been more prepared to write something in my life.

It is the holding back from getting going that is killing me!

I am not a patient person, I want everything yesterday (if not sooner) and as you can see (excuse the really horrible handwriting) I’ve got my corkboard and cue cards up already.

I have my Moleskine, crammed with random scribblings and thoughts both coherent and somewhat mixed up.

And SK has matured quite nicely. In Whisky terms, he ready to be bottled.

Six days.

Not that I am counting.

Or anything.

6…

 

The Birth of a Story

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The origins of Rain Falls date back to the summer of 1981. I had just sat my last O Level, instinct told me that my grades would not be up to much. I started thinking about things. As you do.

School bored me rigid.

I am not a patient person. I want it all yesterday. School was dull, everything was in slow motion. I swear they sucked the life and pleasure out of everything.

I was also a misfit. Older and eccentric parents, pretty eccentric myself. I did not fit in, and apart from the occasional bout of self-pity, I really didn’t actually care if I fitted in or not. By 1981, I knew the legal end was in sight, so school became a lot less relevant to my life. (Hot tip: Five years after you leave, school will be so irrelevant as to be a distant memory, it will be like it never happened!!).

However, my very misfit-ness worked in my favour. Or rather in SK’s favour.

SK. My serial killer. Yes. He’s a serial killer. He is a monster. His monstrous nature is not immediately apparent. He could be the guy in front of you in the supermarket queue. There is no sign above his head that says here stands a monster.

I have been consciously or unconsciously brooding over SK for three decades. He’s a man. He’s in his forties. He is clever. He has an eye for detail. He is not a torturer, he does not do the things he does for the thrill of the kill. He has been doing the things that he does, unnoticed, for a very long time.

He is a human being.