Chattering parrots – inspiration for Mimic

Chattering parrots – inspiration for Mimic

I spent a lovely couple of days with my fiance (and dog!) at a fabulous guest house in Wales last week. It is called, appropriately-enough, The Guest House, and it was a wonderful find. Great food, lovely hosts, and comfortable beds. What more can you ask? Well … parrots! There were 3 resident African Grey parrots – the same breed as Mimic in my book, ‘Mo – The Talking Dog’. I’m writing the follow-up at the moment (the trip was part work as I like to get away to write sometimes). Jenny, one of the owners of  The Guest House, was able to give me lots of stories about her parrots. They really do converse, not just repeat things. We heard them talking to each other, and Jenny told us that they request certain items of food. She offered one a grape and he said he didn’t want that, he wanted a biscuit. She insisted on the grape, not the biscuit – and he insisted on the biscuit, not the grape! I read an article this morning about a 2011 study using African Grey parrots (they seem to be the smartest). The scientists have proven that the parrots use reasoning. I think Mimic needs to feature more in the next ‘Mo’ book, he obviously has a lot of potential for character development! If anyone has any parrot stories they would be willing to share, I’d love to hear them. If you would like to get to know some parrots, I highly recommend The Guest House Abergavenny – and the food! You may also like:Are You An Expert?Interview with Cherie Kephart author of memoir A Few Minor...

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Book Review: Under The Dome

I really am not a horror fan so not an expert on Stephen King but I read that this book is different to his usual. I gave it a chance because I loved his non-fiction book ‘On Writing’, which is a must-read for all writers. I also met his UK editor at a writing conference. She was a charming, slender woman who turned into a fiery tiger when anyone tried to belittle Stephen’s writing. She said no matter what your personal reading preferences are, you should be intelligent enough to appreciate a guy who has stayed at the top of his game for decades, writes books that millions of people want to read, creates characters that become nationally-known (Annie Wilkes from ‘Misery) and plots that keep people guessing. She went on to say that she also defends him because he is a really lovely man. So I was convinced enough to give him a try! As a ‘Simpsons’ fan, I Googled to see which came first – ‘Under The Dome’ or ‘The Simpsons Movie’. Both feature a town which is trapped when a giant dome appears overnight. Apparently it is a coincidence. Stephen started writing this years ago as ‘The Cannibals‘. From the first couple of pages I was hooked. His descriptions – particularly of gory stuff, his forte! – are amazing. The dome is see-through so people driving or flying towards it have no idea it’s there until they are mincemeat on the floor. He doesn’t go into so much detail that it puts you off your dinner (it takes a lot to put me off mine) but enough to be realistic and eye-popping. This is a brick of a book – heavy to hold up in bed – but there are no wasted words. It kept me reading furiously until almost the end, where I felt it lost its way just a little. I was disappointed with te ending but not so much that I regretted reading it (which has happened with other books). Interestingly, this is the only novel in our house that has been read and thoroughly enjoyed by me, my son and my fiance. Is that Stephen’s secret? Being able to appeal to men, women and numerous age groups takes massive talent.     You may also like:Do You Struggle To Get Up In The Mornings?Do reviews have to be either honest OR...

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Book Review: Homing Instinct

Book Review: Homing Instinct

The cover of this book shows a business-suited woman heading off to work with a baby in her backpack. It reminded me so much of my reasons for wanting to be a stay-at-home mother that I had to read it. I wasn’t disappointed. It is an excellent read with good, strong plotlines, humour and more than a dash of womanly wisdom (but not the rammed-down-your-throat type). It is written in diary format – which usually irritates me, but this didn’t – and is about a successful newswoman. She has a high-powered job, a high-powered, handsome husband, a school-age daughter and a baby. She even manages to find a perfect nanny, who loves her children as if they were her own – and that becomes a problem. Leaving her children each morning becomes harder and harder – and coming home to the housework while her husband puts his feet up with a cold beer gets downright infuriating. There are some lovely little scenes. I particularly enjoyed the bit when the heroine’s mother comes to stay and disapproves of baby Tom being given tinned baby food: “‘What that child needs is a bit of mashed parsnip and some stewed apple,’ she said, brushing me out of the way and hurling the offending jar in the bin. Tom’s eyes followed its trajectory sadly. He loved that one.” … “Tom meanwhile was beginning to howl with hunger, because preparing his lunch normally takes me about five minutes, and he’s not used to waiting for all this cooking nonsense.” I won’t spoil the book by giving too much away here but I will say this: It has changed my attitude to sex. Women appreciate that they have uncontrollable hormones that make them feel suicidal before their period, and then there is the ten-odd years of hell around the menopause. We don’t like it, but we understand and put up with it. But do we even TRY to understand men’s hormones? Men produce testosterone, which makes them muscley, gives them energy and stops them turning into weedy wimps. The side-effect of testosterone is that it makes them want sex. And, all things being well, preferably with a willing partner, not a limp dishrag. But if they do make this clear, we tend to label them as just a randy bloke and don’t show an ounce of understanding. Diana Appleyard has seamlessly funnelled her own experience as well as that gleaned from a career of listening to others into this book. It is one I will be buying for several friends and I highly recommend it to both working and stay-at-home mothers and fathers. Homing Instinct was her first book and she has since produced more – Out Of Love and A Class Apart. I will be ordering them as soon as my bank balance has recovered from my last splurge. The book is available in paperback format from Amazon. Unfortunately, for those of us who love our Kindles, this book isn’t (yet) available in Kindle format. In addition to writing novels, the author is a feature writer for national UK newspapers and also helps her husband run Kirnan Holiday Cottages and Bed & Breakfast in Scotland. I can’t think of a better place for a writing holiday!   You may also like:Welcome!Doesn't a bargain make your...

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Mo The Talking Dog Is Live!

Mo The Talking Dog Is Live!

My children’s novel, Mo, was finally published this week. I started it about 6 years ago – so it’s been quite a wait! It has gone through a few changes and development from the original plot I had in mind and there was a lot of red pen involved when it was being edited and proof-read!   Mo himself was brought to life by my brilliant illustrator Sam, of SpeelioDesign. He went through a few design changes:  The scene being pictured is when Mo, led by his friend the African Grey parrot Mimic, raid the ‘fridge. So we wanted to show the items in the ‘fridge. The bottles and cartons in the door didn’t have colour at first, so the emphasis would be on the characters, but we decided to give the door contents some colour. We also got rid of the cheese and replace it with a pear. After consulting with children, we learned that Mo’s teeth were a bit scary, so we lost those! Sam made his eyes a bit more appealing too and gave Mimic more colour and less beady eyes. We decided to put the book’s title in Mimic’s wings, lighten Mo’s fur a little and make his eyes softer and just a little cross-eyed as he is looking up at his name. Sam went for bolder, brighter primary colours as, of the different options we showed the children we surveyed, the brighter colours were considered much more appealing. The children commented that they would be more likely to pick up a book with a cover like this, the colours draw them in. Once the book was live on Amazon, the hard work really began! It’s been a mad round of press releases, social media, registering for Amazon promotions, submitting the book to book reviewers and sites and much more. And there was me thinking that the writing would be the hard part of the publishing process! One of the things I have done is joined the Author Marketing Club. They provide training to teach hapless authors the ins and outs of promoting themselves. No mean feat considering the fact that most authors would rather hide in a dark room with a laptop than tell the world about their work!   You may also like:A Sneak Peak ...Guest interview with Paula Margulies author of The Tao of Book...

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Writing Software

Writing Software

I’ve been using some free software for converting my books into the format required to publish them on Amazon Kindle. It’s called Sigil and it’s very good. I wrote an article about it on HubPages and there was a ton of interest so I thought I’d go into a bit more detail about what I use to write.

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