Monday, 29 August 2011

The Death of Common Sense

This has absolutely nothing to do with books; just life in general. If, like me, you mourn the death of common sense and lack of personal responsibility in today's society, this might interest you.

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:
- Knowing when to come in out of the rain;
- Why the early bird gets the worm;
- Life isn’t always fair;
- and Maybe it was my fault.
Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).
His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.
Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.
It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student, ADD pills became the way to treat bright and inquisitive students — and parents fell for it;but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.
Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses, corporations ruled the nightly news and lobbyists ruled the government; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.
Common Sense took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.
Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.
Common Sense was preceded in death, by his parents, Truth and Trust, by his wife, Discretion, by his daughter, Responsibility, and by his son, Reason.
He is survived by his 4 stepbrothers;
I Know My Rights
I Want It Now
Someone Else Is To Blame
I’m A Victim
His death, all the sadder, as it so closely followed the loss of Responsibility and his sister, Accountability.
Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone. If you still remember him, pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing.

I think this was first published in one of the Sunday papers but it bears repeating.

Monday, 22 August 2011

A Class Apart

I blame my background for the way my brain works. I was brought up on a diet of historic buildings and literature that had stood the test of time. Is it any wonder that when I picked up my pen I automatically wrote historical romance? Still, it paid off and I reeled off five novels set in the colourful Regency era that were accepted for publication. After that I  needed to spread my wings and try something different. How about a modern historical, I asked myself? You know what I mean. The aristocracy is still very much alive and kicking in England but quite often feeling the pinch.

That gave me the idea for A Class Apart, a contemporary novel featuring  Lady Octavia Radleigh and her antithesis, Jake Bentley, boy made good from the East End of London. Octavia doesn’t realise that her ancestral home, Radleigh Manor, is in danger of being sold to cover her grandfather’s debts but Jake does and he’s determined to purchase it to show the world at large that he’s ‘made it’. Octavia is equally determined that the house will remain within the family’s control and hatches a mad scheme to turn it into an upmarket hotel, catering to rich Americans. All she has to do now is convince Jake to finance her venture!

Sparks fly as opposites attract and forces beyond their control seek to scupper Octavia's efforts.

Here’s how Jake reactis when he first meets Octavia:

  Experience had taught Jake the value of patience, and he was content to bide his time. Besides, if it meant he could spend a little longer sitting in this neglected, but nevertheless magnificent, drawing room, who was he to complain? He savored the atmosphere of decayed elegance, and, in deference to his host’s feelings, concealed his anxiety to get down to the negotiations that would finally make it his.
A sound of screeching tires caused both men to stand and look out of the window in time to observe a Harley Davidson with a garish paint job skid to a halt, sending gravel showering everywhere. A long, shapely leg, leading to a slender leather-clad rear, swung over the saddle.
“Good God!” Jake said, surprise taking precedence over good manners.
“Ah, at last.” The marquis turned away from the window, an amused smile playing about his lips. “You’re about to endure the dubious pleasure of meeting my granddaughter, Mr. Bentley,” he said. “I do hope you have a strong constitution.”
Jake strolled into the far corner of the room, somewhat taken aback by the change in the marquis’s expression, which had gone from formally polite to indulgently affectionate. He wondered when the prodigal granddaughter had returned to the fold. And more to the point, why? He wondered a bit about that cute backside and those endless legs, too.
Octavia burst into the room like a tornado. She pulled off her full-face helmet and shook out a shiny curtain of brunette hair. Watching her from the depths of the room, Jake metaphorically whistled his appreciation. She was something else.
“Sorry, Gramps, there was an accident on the bridge, and I couldn’t even get past it on the bike. Still at least Bentley-the-Beast isn’t here yet. He must be stuck, too.”
Lord Radleigh failed to suppress a smile. “Octavia,” he said, “this is Mr. Bentley. Mr. Bentley, this is my very bad-mannered granddaughter, Octavia.”
Seemingly not the slightest bit put out by her faux pas, she turned to face him. She had obviously been about to say something, but, assessing him with her eyes, all that passed her lips was a strangled gasp. Jake waited her out in silence.
“Mr. Bentley, I didn’t see you lurking there.”
Her voice, when she finally found it, was accusatory, making it sound as though her rudeness had been his fault. She offered her hand but no apology. As Jake made contact with it he felt a sharp jolt of awareness rock his entire body. She felt it, too. He could tell that much from her stunned expression and guessed she wasn’t any happier about it than he was. He released her hand and strove to regain control of the situation.
“Glad to meet you. Sorry about the traffic. It must have been beastly for you.”
Touché,” she said, but her expression didn’t contain an ounce of penitence.
Jake eyed her dispassionately. Obviously the fact that she’d been deliberately impolite to someone of such social inconsequence didn’t even register on her radar. His expression hardened. If she thought to drive the price of Radleigh up by trying her upper-class antics with him, she had a lot to learn about business. The day when an arrogant socialite could get the better of him had yet to dawn.
More coffee was poured, and at last the matter of Radleigh was raised.
By Octavia.
She outlined her plans to Jake in a cut-glass accent laced with an unmistakable thread of condescension. Her attitude irritated him, and he was in no mood to listen to her impractical, half-cocked scheme to belatedly save her home. She must have known about her grandfather’s financial problems, and if she really cared about Radleigh, she should have done something about it long before now.
Jake humored her by hearing her out, his mind only half on what she was saying. Even so, he admitted to an element of surprise. He found it hard to believe she’d managed to come up with this scheme, accompanied by graphics, floor plans, and basic estimates in a little more than the week she said it had taken her. Grudgingly he afforded her some respect for her ingenuity.
He should turn the proposal down flat, of course. It would be madness to do anything else. She intimated she had other backers interested, but Jake wasn’t buying that. And he’d been able to ascertain from the brief look he’d taken at her figures that she was grossly underestimating the costs involved. Her plan was quite simply a non-starter. He’d turn her down and purchase Radleigh outright. It would be heartless to raise her grandfather’s hopes by doing anything else.
So why was he still hesitating? Perhaps because of the glimmer of hope he could see in the marquis’s eye. Or there again, perhaps it was because the man so clearly adored this wild, opinionated, selfish hoyden. She had instilled life into him since Jake’s last visit, that was for sure. The man looked ten years younger. The scheme was bound to fail anyway, and he’d get Radleigh in the end with a clear conscience. He was still working  all the hours God sent and wouldn’t be able to spend much time here for the next year or two, anyway. But still? Was he losing his mind even considering such a risky scheme?

And in case you’re wondering, that confounded dog of mine is named Jake Bentley after the hero in this book on the basis that they’re both good looking mongrels with independent spirits and naughty streaks!

A Class Apart will be available from SirenBookStrand or from September 20th. Go to my website at for a sneak preview of the first chapter. This book is a particular favourite of mine and I hope you enjoy it.


Monday, 15 August 2011

What Makes a Rescued Dog Tick?

Those of you who follow me on twitter will know all about my traumatic weekend—whether you wanted to or not! Jake, our beloved rescued mongrel gave us a terrible scare. We’re at home in Andorra right now. I let Jake out the front door last thing Friday evening. He runs across the road, lifts his leg against the growing tobacco, (whoops, that’s between us; don’t tell the farmer!), and comes straight back in again for his bedtime biscuit.

Only this time he didn’t. We assumed he’d picked up the scent of a cat, rabbit or whatever and would soon be back. Two hours later, still no sign of him. In the end we went to bed but didn’t sleep very well. Every hour one of us got up and opened the front door, expecting a repentant dog to be waiting there. We were up at first light, searching everywhere we could think of. By then I was convinced that he was either dead, badly injured or stuck somewhere. We’re in the mountains, remember, and there’s lots of places waiting to catch the unwary dog out. Saturday’s a day I’ll never forget. I received offers to publish two of my books in the same morning email inbox, a situation which ought to have filled me with joy. It barely registered and I would have gladly foregone those contracts in return for having my dog restored to me.

Twenty-three hours later I got my wish, without giving up the contracts. Jake was brought back by the local comú with not a scratch on him. The relief was palpable. I’m still at a loss to explain his prolonged absence. I keep asking him where he went but he’s not saying. Here he is, looking like butter wouldn’t melt—the little monster!

The downside of having a rescued dog, especially a non-pedigree, is that you don’t know what’s in their genes. When the hunting ban came into force some years back in England I recall reading that the hounds would most likely be put down because they couldn’t be domesticated. For most of the year they’re fine but come the hunting season their instinct to go out and…well, hunt overcomes everything else.

Jake’s a bit like that. When we first got him he scaled six foot wire fences to get out. He’d only just been ‘done’ and we attributed his actions to the residue of testosterone—boys will be boys, after all—but that can’t still be the case. Can anyone explain this annual determination in a much loved, well-domesticated dog to make a frantic big for freedom? I’d value your views because, frankly, I’m baffled. 

For those of you who read last week's blog, here are the answers to the famous first lines I posted.
1. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking 13. George Orwell - 1984
2.  He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream. Ernest Hemingway - Old Man of the Sea
3.  It was the day my grandmother exploded. Ian M. Banks - the Crow Road
4.  Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by a poor dress. George Eliot - Middlemarch
5.  In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since. F. Scott Fitzgerald - The great Gatsby
6.  You better not tell nobody but God. Alice Walker - The Color Purple.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Name that Book

Have you always been a bookworm or did you discover the joys of escapism through the written word later in life? Me, I can't remember a time when I didn't have my nose stuck in a book, or when I didn't hanker after writing one, come to that. I turned out my first, truly awful, effort when I was in my twenties. Stop it! I'm not going to tell you how long ago that was. Didn't your mother teach you that it's rude to ask a lady her age?

Are you attracted to a book by its first page? As authors we're always told about the importance of the first line and we all know the famous ones:

It is a truth universally acknowledged...blah, blah

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again

But perhaps the following ones aren't quite so easy to place. See how many you know. I've posted a picture to help but I'm not telling you which one it applies to.

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking 13.

He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream...

It was the day my grandmother exploded

Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by a poor dress

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.

You better not tell nobody but God.

I'll be interested to see how many you get. Oh, and just so you know, I wouldn't have done too well. I cheated and looked them up!

Good luck.