My Latest Cover Up …

The saying goes ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ … but we all do, don’t we? And that goes for real books as much as new people and situations that the saying is really about.

So choosing a new cover for a book is one of the hardest non-writing things I have had to do as an Author. After all, I know the whole story inside the book, all the nuances that I would like to hint at, the twists and turns. A cover is just a snapshot of the idea, but it’s an image that has to do a great deal of work.

I have been reminded that I really can’t ‘tell the story’ through this one image, that it has also has to be ‘eye-catching’, ‘look right at the thumbnail size’ that many (most even?) people see a book as when looking for it (ie online) as well as interesting full size (ie on the shelf), ‘be alluring to pick-up’ to scroll down, or actually turn over, to read the back-blurb, and that has to ‘be informative but raise questions’ to instigate the flick through (or open the see-inside feature)

All this from the cover! No wonder it is so difficult.

Now when I placed my books online, before I even dreamt of paperback, when Amazon’s Kindle publishing was the only avenue open to me and they hadn’t got their ‘cover help’ going at all, I got my eldest son to help create the right (pixel) sized covers. He was only over from Malaysia for a short time and we had to work fast. I had a perfect picture for one of them, Nothing Ever Happenes Here, but the others had to be created.

So create we did …. We decided that as the one picture I was happy with had view through a gap between rocks we’d keep that sort of theme. So for Divining the Line I took a photograph between two standing stones and for Some Kind of Synchrony we took a picture of a skyscraper, reflected it and manipulated the second tower to look as if it were wavering, as if seen through rippled water. Well that was the idea… it never did look quite right and was certainly too clear and clean a picture for the type of book. Time ran out and Some Kind of Synchrony stayed under that cover.

It has now become the latest of my novels to move into paperback. I know I have been lapse with the blogging but I have been totally immersed in the world of Faith, Diane and The Story within Some Kind of Synchrony. Once bonus is that I’ve had the opportunity to finesse the ending. At this time space from my original I was able to choose a better arrangement of words to show what I saw in the end scene. That felt good. Then I had to work with my cover designer to create the cover that would do everything asked of it.

The paperback goes into print this week! I am really excited about this, it feels like a having a new release, that I’ve done the story justice at last by giving it a proper working cover and I hope readers, previously put off by the old cover, will be tempted by the new.

Here is the old one  cover

SKOS

 

 

…… and here is the new!  (looks fuzzy here – just click on it to see it clearly)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I feel we’ve hit the nail on the head … there’s gritty … there’s the element of real life and reflection … there’s a slightly retro feel, there’s … well you tell me! Whether you have read it already or not!

You know I love to hear from you!

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Cover Reveal, Blurb and last chance ….

Well, here we are …………….

The cover can now be revealed …………… roll on the drums …………..

BUT FIRST … The BLURB!

The Angel Bug (blurb)

‘These memoirs may be the only evidence left of what really happened, where it came from and how it spread.’ 

When Gabbi Johnston, a quiet, fifty-something botanist at Eden, was shown the unusual red leaves on the Moringa tree, she had no idea what was wrong. What she did know was that the legendary Dr Luke Adamson was arriving soon – and that he would insist on investigating it.

This is the unassuming start to a maelstrom of discovery and change – with Gabbi swept up in it. What starts out as an accident turns into something illicit, clandestine and unethical – but is it, as Adamson claims, really all for the best?

*

‘The Angel Bug’, Ann Foweraker’s fourth novel, is set at the Eden Project in Cornwall, UK. This is a contemporary novel combining science fact and fiction, told by the people at the heart of the discovery.

*

more drums …………………..

TA-DA!!!

Angel Bug Cover Ultimate

And DON’T MISS your LAST CHANCE to grab one of my previous novels .. sorry you still have to enter the competitionbut now EVERYONE WHO ENTERS WILL WIN!!! click here!

SO… What do you think of the final cover choice?

Does the Blurb make you want to find out more?

Are you enjoying the excerpts?

Do share ( even if it’s a no – I’d like to know why) … You know I love to hear from you!

 

NOW… the penultimate excerpt from THE ANGEL BUG – released 1st July on AnnMadeBooks

(from Ch 2 Luke – Oct 18th – 19th)  Dr Luke Adamson has woken after a bad night’s sleep following the lecture he gave at Cambridge University ……………….

My departure from the hall had meant fewer book sales than were usual, according to Kayleigh, so it had hit my Rainforest Foundation, and for that I was annoyed with just about everybody who’d had anything to do with the set-up for the lecture. I was lying there blaming them all for how it went wrong, and that included the pretty airhead, Kayleigh, lying beside me.

I slid from bed finding the floor cool beneath my feet, and padded through to the bathroom. On my way back I grabbed a towel and wrapped it round my waist.  A quick glance told me that Kayleigh was still asleep as I turned to stand at the un-curtained window, drinking in the ancient city as it came sleepily awake in a misty morning. After a few moments my perceptions shifted, the window replaced by a movie screen as memories came flooding through.  God! They had been electrifying times. I felt my blood stir as I thought of those years.

I saw my first immature awareness of the place, soon subsumed into an overpowering urge to beat it and everyone else at their own game. This place was supposed to be the best in the world; then I would be the best in it, no matter how I achieved it. I felt a smile touch my lips as I thought of the non-academic goals I’d set myself. Every one of them achieved, well very nearly, even if I’d had an advantage over the competition in both looks and provenance.

Rowing had been a first love from my early days on the New Hampshire lakes and later at Johns Hopkins, but at Cambridge the competitive edge took me over. There weren’t many other scientists on the crews and I worked really hard to dispel the ‘weak scientist’ prejudice that some of the crew members had. It meant being harder and meaner than they were. Harder meant I’d trained twice as much, meaner meant that at the crucial team-choosing time I’d zeroed in on a guy who’d been hassling me from day one. If he wasn’t calling me a ‘Yank’ then it was the science thing or because my hair was long and blond. So when he’d called out ‘Hey Blondie, did you forget your handbag?’ I’d walked over, punched him out and then turned away. He’d come up fighting mad and launched himself at my back, whereupon I’d grabbed his arm and folded forward tipping him over my back to land flat on the floor at my feet, only I didn’t let go of the arm, feeling something give as his body cracked down. Others had caught up with us by then; I shook my hand free of his and stepped back. He clambered up but the rest of the team held him back, and plenty said he’d asked for it.  The fractured wrist put him out of the running, and me firmly into a place on the winning team for that most prestigious of races – the Oxford and Cambridge boat race.

I had worked all hours on the first piece of ‘competitive’ work and still found time to sweet-talk and bed the girlfriend of my main rival. That was the way I found out about the progress he was making, and how I came to the conclusion I’d have to upset the other guy’s experiments somehow, as they were proving too successful. In the end it was nothing to get into the other lab at the end of the day and turn off a switch. It could have been anybody that turned off the wrong switch, easily done, and weeks of preparation and incubation were wrecked in a single night of cold. It was all I needed to get the edge to complete and write up my work successfully by the deadline, whereas my competitor struggled to get to the end of his experiments. I took the girlfriend too, for a time, not for long, just about the length of time it took her to find out about the others.

For intelligent women they weren’t that good at working out my game, and boy were they intelligent! Just chatting to them was an intellectual sparring match in itself, and remembering that sent a shiver through me. That Kayleigh had to go, a PA from the publishing house, supposedly organising my tour, she was attractive in just the way I liked, and fell readily into bed, but talking to her was like conversing with a TV guide. If it wasn’t on the TV, then she didn’t know anything about it. She seemed to live in a reality show and knew all about the goings on in the soaps almost before they did, but intellectual conversation, even about books or publishing, seemed completely beyond her.

‘Hey!’ I shouted close to her ear. ‘Are you going to get that useless head of yours off the pillow or what?’

‘What?’

‘Yeah, right, listen up, I’m not intending to hang around here to be quizzed. I want transport out booked, pronto, I’m out of here by ten at the latest.’

‘Oh right,’ she glanced at her watch. ‘I’ll just grab a shower.’

‘No! I want that transport arranged first – then you can do what you like because I’m going to do this last tour date on my own.’

‘But Luke,’ she started her voice almost a whine. ‘I’m coming too, aren’t I?’

‘Don’t you ever listen? No, I’m going alone. You were great. I was glad to know you, but this is it, goodbye. Got it?’

Kayleigh pulled the sheet up over her breasts, her eyes wide, shaking her head slightly. ‘Just like that? You cold bastard, just like that?’

I shrugged and started to pick out clothes to dress in, then realised she hadn’t moved. ‘Phone! Now!’  Kayleigh jumped and, still clutching the sheet to herself, wriggled across the bed to the phone.

‘Okay, Luke  – er Dr Adamson? I’ve booked you a taxi, but where will you want to go, like, your flight to Newquay isn’t until tomorrow, and you were supposed to be a guest of the University until then.’

‘Screw that, can’t you get me down there today?’

‘Well, I don’t know – I’ll see, it might not be easy, being a small airport, and I don’t know how many flights there …’

I cut in ‘Find out then! And if it’s an okay then get the hotel booking moved up a day too.’

‘Sure, fine, right away.’

I was pacing the room, wondering if even going to this last venue was worth it and why on earth had I allowed myself to get worked up over nothing. It was this place. I’d had come out top in everything; academic, sport and personal ambitions were all met, yet I’d never felt accepted, and I realised that still bugged me.

………………..

Sharing:

Darn it!

HaHa! No, I’ve not reverted to darning socks this week, I’ve been far too busy with my Americanisms.

My new novel, The Angel Bug, is told by two people in the first person. One of these is a quiet, fifty-something widowed botanist working at the Eden Project in Cornwall, the other is her contemporary. However, that is where the comparison ends. HE is a famous ethnobotanist. He has a block-buster movie to his name. And he is an American.

two flags by Wordshore
Photo courtesy CC WordShore

It is that last bit that has caused me linguistic problems!  As George Bernard Shaw said: “England and America are two countries separated by a common language”

So it is my good fortune and with grateful thanks that I found a Beta-reader in the USA. This kind and diligent lady has read through and sorted out my American’s language.

I thought I’d avoided the obvious – careful not to have him talk of trousers, pavements, underground (for the tube) bonnets and boots (as in parts of the car) – but find I had missed out on quite a few. Now windscreen has been replaced with windshield, queues with lines, nitty-gritty with nuts and bolts and crunch with kicker.

This is to say nothing of the changes to the expletives I had my man saying. Apparently it wouldn’t be right for him to think something was ‘bloody’ good, or to use this term in anger either – hence DARN IT! (still looking for a suitable expletive to fit the ‘good’ version – though at the moment I have just removed it)

In The Canterville Ghost (1887), Oscar Wilde wrote: “We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language.”

Then there are the misunderstandings that can come from using words that have slightly different meanings in the US.

I had a nice girl being referred to by my American as a ‘some personnel bimbo’. I meant that he thought she was ‘a girl from personnel and was pretty, blonde and not very bright’  …. It appears that in the US  ‘bimbo’ also has unfortunate connotations referring to a woman of loose morals!

Then there’s the untranslatable – such as phrases that we use but don’t seem to have an easily recognisable match in the US – like ‘spanner in the works’

All in all  it has been so useful – I could just imagine my US readers wincing and cringing  if I hadn’t gotten this done 😉

Have you ever had a odd misunderstanding when talking to an American, or vice versa?

What is your favourite ‘different’ word that they have or that we have for something?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you !

and talking of sharing- the next set of winners will have received their chosen copies of my previous ebooks – and I have to say that there are not even 7 entries left for the next draw – so if you enter you are almost guaranteed to WIN! See details here !     Do share the link with friends and family 🙂

and MORE SHARING …..  here it is –  the next instalment of The Angel Bug – and the first time you will meet this American!

Gabbi was driving home from Eden……

Within fifteen minutes I pulled into my own drive. The sight of the house, low-browed over heavy granite with the sea glinting in the distance, as always, gave me first that surge of joy, now followed by a tang of sorrow. Sometimes, like today, I thought about selling, but I truly doubted I’d find another that gave me that delight on seeing it and there would always be the sorrow of James’ absence wherever I lived. The house had been my choice anyway, that sort of thing not being of interest to James, he’d just asked that the place should have a good sized garden. The garden was now a bit of a problem to manage. It was getting on for an acre and James had only just about got his vegetable garden going and an enormous herbaceous border planted when he collapsed with a massive heart attack whilst digging.

While I unlocked the door and went straight through to the kitchen, automatically putting the kettle on and flicking the answerphone off, I allowed myself to think about James. So often I had to stop myself thinking about him when I was alone, as the pain seemed to overwhelm me too easily when I had nothing else to think about. At work I could allow myself to think of him, knowing that I would be shaken out of my reverie by something going on, someone talking to me.

I’d been with James for over thirty years, he’d just started his PhD in Botanical Science and I was a second year student in the same subject when we met. I was working in the labs he used for his studies, and we got talking. He wasn’t the tall, dark and dashing type, more the tall, intellectual and serious type, but above all he was a really good person; kind, helpful, generous with his time, honest and dedicated. As I got to know him I found that I not only admired him but missed his presence when he was not working in the labs.

It took him a couple of months to ask me out. I recalled with a small smile his later confession that he’d been trying to make himself ask me out for all of one of those months at least, terrified that this ‘exotic creature’, as he called me, would laugh at him. Little did he know at the time that I was as shy as they come, and had it not been for the fact that we could talk in a detached, professionally scientific way to each other I probably wouldn’t have spoken to him at all.

People said we made an interesting couple, he at over six foot, alabaster skin, blue eyes, auburn hair, and me, a foot shorter, with a mass of unruly ebony hair, slightly olive skin that tanned easily and dark almond-shaped eyes.

I poured my tea and wandered into the open-plan dining area; as I did so I caught sight of myself in the mirror and stepped closer. That ebony hair was now tempered with what would be a sprinkling of grey if I didn’t disguise it with a chestnut dye, giving my hair instant highlights, and was far more controlled and controllable than it used to be by being well cut and twisted back into a knot held fast by one of my collection of unusual clips. The skin still looked good all things considered, but there was no hiding the lines round the eyes, so called laughter lines. If only.

With a blush I suddenly realised I was looking at myself and wondering what Luke would see.

The Angel Bug  2

Luke  October 18th – 19th

The Great Hall was packed, the front rows were loaded with the elite of the university but, as far as I could see, the rest of the audience were the well-heeled environmentally-conscious middle-classes that I’d grown used to over the month of the tour in Europe.

I was prepared, hell, I knew my script off pat so that I spoke without notes. The lecture was carefully tuned to keep the audience awake, smiling, nodding at the wisdom pieces, anxious where they needed to be and enthusing just at the point where the talk finished and the book signings began. I’d worked out what I wanted to say and then, ignoring the publisher’s suggestion to ‘just be yourself’, I’d turned to the guy who’d worked the script for the narration on the film, a guy who could work magic with words. It was well worth it.  Every time I spoke the audience was spellbound.

The Dean was at the lectern, giving me the ‘big build up’, Cambridge-style, almost off-handedly, reminding the assembly that ‘our speaker this evening’ was also a product of their own hallowed halls. It made me think for a moment on the difference between countries. Back home at Harvard I’d had a much better introduction, and I’d not even attended that university. The Dean, turned hand outstretched – my cue – and with a smile I stepped out onto the stage. The Dean waited near the lectern, so I had to cross most of the stage to get to him.  He shook my hand, faced the audience and, with a turn of his hand towards the lectern, left the stage.

So there I was at the lectern but with no notes to put down on it. I still stood there, just to start off, I told myself.  I gripped both sides of the lectern like a drowning man clutching a plank; I couldn’t let go of the damned thing. My fingers felt slippery and I was suddenly aware that my heart was beating faster than normal.  This was ridiculous – I’d given this talk so many times and to so many illustrious groups. I mentally shook myself, smiled at the audience and began.

‘Good evening,’ I coughed and then continued, ‘this evening I want to take you on a journey, a journey that will lead you to stand beside me in a fight to save one of the worlds most valuable resources…..’

I found myself rushing my words, and I kept returning to the damned lectern as if it really did hold a set of notes. A part of my mind, not occupied with delivering the speech, realised what was wrong; every other time I’d felt totally relaxed, the audience with me – this lot were not playing the game. In the first few rows there were many with pursed lips and raised eyebrows. For the first time the carefully planned script sounded too much like entertainment and not enough about the real issues and the concrete science behind it.

‘….. so this is where we come to, could it possibly be true, as the indigenous peoples believe, that the mother forest has everything to cure all man’s ills? That it is part of God’s care, if you will, to provide our redemption from all the ailments man is heir to? Our journey has demonstrated how we live only by the grace of plant life. Could it be that we may live even healthier, even longer, without pain or disability, if we can only understand the gifts that are provided? And here’s the bottom line. To understand such things, then we need to be able to find and test them. This takes time, time that is running out as six percent of the rainforest is destroyed every year, meaning that your cure for cancer, your cure for Alzheimer’s, your cure for infertility, your cure for arthritis, may be lost forever. Thank you.’

The applause started and grew; I gave a small bow and turned to leave the stage.  There, hurrying onto the stage was the Dean, florid faced with hand outstretched. What the hell?

‘Wonderful, wonderful,’ the Dean pumped my hand and turned out towards the audience, the clapping dying quickly. Only then did he drop my hand. It was all I could do not to wipe the clamminess off onto his suit jacket.

‘I’m sure we were all fascinated by Dr Adamson’s talk, and I’m sure that some of you will have questions,’

I felt a flush of annoyance, it was explicit in the contract that there would be no question time, but I was trapped, and looking round I could see at least half a dozen of the audience indicated questions by a discretely half-raised hand. I smiled grimly and walked back to the lectern, the beaming Dean in tow.

I scraped up a decent answer for the first and second questions, and headed off the third as I could see I was going to screw it up if I tried to answer properly, the figures were just not there at my fingertips. Their questions were pointed and deeply scientific, in every posh-brit syllable I felt an underlying criticism of the popular appeal of the book and the film and it was unnerving. It had been a long time since I’d been dealing with the nuts and bolts of the work that they were asking about. The past four years had been spent either in the jungle, doing bits for the film, editing or writing the book.

The fourth question was not much better and I knew my answer did not carry the required scientific rigour. Ridiculously, I began to feel out of my depth, as if, out there, were my former professors scrutinising me and my work. Indeed, from the number of white and balding heads I could see they probably were sitting out there.

More hands were raised.  At that point, feeling sick, I leant over towards the Dean and said just that. The Dean, all hesitant and bluff at the same time, waved both his hands at the same time as if to ward of a host of mosquitoes, and then patting the air, apologised that ‘Dr Adamson will not be able to answer any more questions this evening as he is feeling under-the-weather’. He added that he was ‘sure that Dr Adamson would be glad to discuss matters of interest tomorrow as he was staying for another day’. He turned to me, beaming and nodding, at which I found myself nodding back.

*

    Next morning, I lay awake listening to the breathing of the young woman lying beside me. I’d not had such a disturbed night since I left the jungle. Was it just being back here at Cambridge or was it the debacle last night?  Well it was a new day and, as far as I was concerned, I was not going to be available to discuss anything.

Sharing:

Celebrating small things – country life

Today, yes, today, I was at a village celebration!     …..    Excited? 

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People gathering before the start

Well, if I told you this was a celebration for the opening ceremony of a LAY-BY – would you still be excited?

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Getting the new lay-by ready for the ribbon cutting

Yeah – I know it sounds weird … but this is country life… and when they say things move slowly in the country this lay-by is a prime example.  The post-office corner is a good right-angled bend and the road is just wide enough for two cars to go round it carefully. Opposite the post-office village shop used to be a fairly high bank, seemingly grassed, but as we all know, grass banks in Cornwall hide a slate and granite hedge! There has always been a bit of roadside parking up the little lane leading down towards the ‘main’ road through the village, but not much, and you were always aware that tarrying too long meant others could not park. Then there are the Mobile Library days, when all that space it taken by the Mobile library for half an hour. Or deliveries to the shop, or the postman collecting the mail.

All in all, many would stop on the corner, against that high bank… and thus prevent the bus getting round the corner much to the consternation of the bus drivers ( Yes we are lucky enough to still be on a regular bus route – and I imagine each time the bus is prevented from keeping to schedule the likelihood of keeping the service diminishes)

So, for years … and I mean Y E A R S …….. the idea of having a small carpark opposite the post office village shop has been mooted.  However, up until now, nothing has ever come of the ‘idea’. It has taken a savvy person on the parish council to work though the ever tricky procedure of applying for grants and permissions, others to plan and oversee the works, for a community group to put forward some of the funds to show willing and for the grants to be actually awarded and in the end we have it!

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Two, of the three, vintage cars, parked in the lay-by

It was part of the stipulation of the largest funding body that there should be a formal opening ceremony with press – so it became an event – with posters drawn by children from the village primary school, with official ribbon cutting, with tea and cake, with a procession of vintage cars, one carrying the oldest village resident at 101, and a vintage bike against the bike rack with its basket filled with bunches of flowers for various people handed out by children from the village school and with speeches (short ones!) of thanks to all involved!

And so, it turned out to be a really nice country-style village celebration of something both very small and significant at the same time.  There is now room for 5 cars ( if they park tidily) plus the space for three up the side lane remains, and no excuse to block the path of the bus (or any other large vehicle that needs to turn the ‘post-office’ corner).

We all hope it makes a difference inside the shop too, with more people using it – as we are also very lucky to still have a post office and village shop and that needs the village people to use it and buy a significant amount every week to keep it going.

Lucky people!

The first lucky seven people will be getting their choice of my already published novels arriving in their email inbox on Friday!! There is still a chance to get in on the first draw if you enter before noon on Friday 7th June… but even if you enter afterwards you will be in the draw for the next three weeks draws. If you’re not sure what this is about .. just click on the link to go to my   **Pre-Launch Party** where YOU CAN WIN a copy of one of my novels. (if you haven’t got an ereader these are available as pdf – or download kindle for pc and ask for a mobi version – to read them on your computer) 

I’M GIVING AWAY ONE eNOVEL A DAY ALL THROUGH JUNE!!

Do you live in a village or tight-knit community?

What makes your community special?

Do you find pleasure in these ‘small things’?

You know I love to hear from you – do share 🙂

 

AND NOW.. the next excerpt from THE ANGEL BUG ……

Gabbi has returned to the Foundation building…

   Andy and Naomi were heralded by their voices, obviously in heated discussion, followed by their persons as they came up the central staircase into the light and airy office space.

‘But it could be Thrips Palmi,’ Andy was saying.

‘What, with the quarantine measures all in place? Besides it isn’t as if it came from some dodgy place.’

‘Well, Kew has been known to have its own problems with diseases and vectors.’

‘Do we have a new problem?’ I cut in.

‘W04, some die-back co-incidentally right beside the new introductions.’

‘Which were quarantined for three months as usual!’ Naomi retorted.

‘Anyhow, we’ll know soon, samples coming over pronto.’

‘Well we’re going to be busy then, I’ve asked for you to see some from the Moringa as soon as they come in. It’s a bit tricky, it’s the last tree we want to have a problem with just now,’

‘Why? Any time is bad for any of them isn’t it?’ Naomi said, shrugging.

‘Ah, but Luke Adamson’s coming and he’s sure to make a bee-line for it.’

‘Why’s that?’ Andy said as he sat down.

I looked at Andy and Naomi, both of them looked puzzled, and young all of a sudden. I smiled, ‘Well back when you two were in nursery school, Luke made his name with the first comprehensive ethnobotanical study of the Moringa.’

‘Oh dear!’ Andy pulled a mournful face, waggling his head in a mocking way.

‘Oh dear, indeed,’ I almost laughed, Andy, at least didn’t seem in awe of the superstar.

The three of us busied ourselves in the portacabin laboratory at Watering Lane, Eden’s nursery a few miles west of the main site, each wearing the standard kit, lab coat, latex gloves, and, when we were cutting, goggles.

‘So,’ I said firmly, looking up from my microscope, ‘it’s definitely not a dehydration problem, these cells are as turgid as we could wish for.’

‘And so far I have found no signs of microbacterial infection,’ added Andy. ‘So I’m going to culture some sections, especially of the red cells.’

‘You just do that!’ Naomi said to his back as he went into the second half of the lab.

‘Nothing?’ I asked, looking across to her. There was an atmosphere between them that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, though it might have just been the cross accusations over the source of the plant infections.

‘Nothing, certainly on this sample, I’m off to take a good look at that tree and the area, put down a few sticky pads to see what insect vectors I catch.’

‘Okay. I have to admit I’d rather we found something concrete before Adamson turns up.’

Naomi turned and gave me a quizzical look as she hung up her lab coat. ‘I don’t know why you’re worrying, Gabbi, that new senior botanist will be here tomorrow and she can talk herself out of any hang-ups Dr Adamson has about our trees.’

Naomi just about slammed the door behind her, leaving me wondering what had ruffled her feathers. There was something in the way that she had said ‘senior botanist’ that suggested that the new boss was a problem, but, as I had not been in on the day of the appointment I’d not met Dr. Ananias. I had heard that she had made an impact on all of them in different ways, some by her looks, some by her ‘air’ and some by her obvious intelligence, however, perhaps not all opinions were favourable. I recalled that Naomi had been unusually reticent at the time.

I turned the leaf over again; the under side was a definite red, not unlike many plants that have a red underside to reflect light back through to the chlorophyll-bearing leaf tissues. I began to wonder whether the Moringa had the ability to adopt this red pigment in reduced-light circumstances. After all the ETFE bubbles of the domes did not allow a hundred percent light through them, then add to that, the fact that many of the largest of the trees in the tropical biome had grown so fast, faster than had been expected, that they had already needed pruning to prevent them reaching the skin of the dome, and so they were cutting out even more light.

‘Hey, Andy,’ I called. ‘I’m going over to reception to see if I can chase up anything on Moringa and low light levels.’

‘Okay, catch you up later.’

I cleared and washed up, then hung up my lab gear and left the laboratory. I glanced up at the vast range of glasshouses that had brought on the bulk of the trees and plants needed to create Eden, and now continued that work, with the sideline of producing plants for sale in the shop. Reception was a building that looked, appropriately, like an overgrown garden shed. Inside, it had the appearance of belonging to a set of artistic hippies; six foot butterflies hung lazily on fine threads from the ceiling, a foam rubber and papier-mâché tree wound itself around a central pillar, and collection boxes for all kinds of recyclable stuff were everywhere. The reception desk itself was little more than a bare board and unmanned as usual, yet above it hung the ubiquitous picture of Luke.

‘Hiya, Jim,’ I called as I circled round to a spare computer.

‘All right?’

‘Will be if we can sort out this blessed Moringa before he comes.’ I nodded to the picture.

‘Yeah, I heard you had a problem. Anything I can help with?’

Jim was one of those truly green-fingered horticulturalists that make you believe in such things; anything he touched grew.

‘Not unless you can tell me why these Moringa leaves should turn red with no obvious reason. I’m just looking up the likelihood of a change to utilise reflected light, though there was nothing in the Forestry guide’

‘No watering problems?’

‘Nope.’

‘Hmm, light sounds like a possibility then, and that guide’s not infallible. I’ll leave you to it,’ he added as he left the building.

Half an hour later Andy broke through the trance that I’d sunk into as I flicked from article to article dealing with plants that utilised the red underside of their leaves. There were no cases where Moringa had exhibited this pattern of adaptation and the only plants where the colour changed, as opposed to always being red, had a well documented histology that demonstrated that they were always ready and willing to change as soon as the light levels decreed it.

‘Ready to go back?’ he asked.

‘Yep, might as well, not getting anything useful here. Of course I might be on to a new research paper,’ I grinned. ‘The adaptation of Moringa to life under ETFE.’

   Andy grinned back; he knew how little I wanted to do any such thing, even though progress in the scientific world was made just that way. I’d said often enough that I was so glad I didn’t have to jump through those hoops as I had no ambition now to be a botanical high-flyer. After all I’d seen at first-hand what it meant. James had been at the top of his field for decades and it had driven him to despair at times, especially when out ‘scrounging’ for research funds, yet it still amazed me when he threw it all in and retired at fifty, many of his colleagues were just getting into their stride at that age.

   We were no further on when I left for home. I drove my mini quite sedately, there being no need to hurry home, and the twists and turns of the high-banked hedges and the road between them meant that being ready and able to stop within a few yards of spying another vehicle was a distinct advantage. My mind wasn’t on my driving however; it was still on the problem of the Moringa.

 ….. to be continued

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Baby, you can drive my car …

 … except, no one drove my first car but me – I was very possessive about my first car!

This week we have been looking for a new car. Not NEW as in NEW NEW – just new to us.

Anyway, we swanned off to Totnes to look at and test drive this car. The salesman lifted the bonnet and there was this shiny looking engine squeezed into the space.  There was no space around the engine whatsoever and, as I understand it, no home-maintenance can be done to this car without upsetting the  all computer controlled, and diagnosed, electronics.

It made me yearn for the simplicity of my very first car – a Morris 1000 Traveller.

This isn’t the photo I was actually looking for, that one has JUST me and my car, without the current boyfriend getting in on the picture – and shows the iconic wood-framed back to the Morris 1,000 Traveller. The wood frame that had to be rubbed down, scraped out and filled if there was any rot, and re-varnished every summer!

The ‘Traveller’ was an estate car – and was great for cramming loads of stuff into the back, often extra friends.  This at a time when seat belts in the front had only just become mandatory (that is to have them at all – let alone mandatory to wear them).  When the seats were all full, to have a couple of extra lads rattling around in the back was commonplace, after all, not many of us had cars at all and we lived in a village!

 Beep beep’m beep beep yeah

Not only did it have woodwork that you had to care for, but it also had a ‘choke’ you had to pull out before you tried to start the engine. If the battery wasn’t too good it had a handle you could insert into the front and crank the engine with. You sometimes had to double de-clutch to get it to change gear. It rattled alarmingly when it went over 60 (which wasn’t often as you could only do that if you went up the motorway – and I didn’t need to go that way very much) And there was so much room around the engine it felt like you could reach every part with no problem.

I have fond memories of that car! It is there in the background of  my social life from seventeen to twenty two – it is just as well it couldn’t talk 😉

 Beep beep’m beep beep yeah

It scared the life out of me once, when the brakes failed as I came up to a huge busy roundabout near Staines, a nifty bit of double-de-clutching slowed me enough to tuck behind a lorry (rather than going into the side of it) and I completed my journey using the gears and the handbrake until got home safely. It took me to my teacher training college everyday for the first year (while I still lived at home) and saw me right through the following three years of my training and degree.  And I still prefer to drive estate versions. Ahh! Memories!

Despite this fondness for my first car I have not been particularly attached to any of my other cars, or interested in makes and models, and I notice that even when cars appear in my novels they are barely described. Even in Some Kind of Synchrony, when the story within the story is told whilst driving back and forth to work, the type of car is never discussed. Interestingly, other novelists, perhaps ones more fixated on cars, often go into fine detail over the vehicles their protagonists drive. I can see the value in that and it is something that I shall think about when I start my next novel.

Do you have fond memories of your first car?  What make and model was it?

What do you remember most about cars you have owned?  What does the car a character drives, say about them to you?

Join in the conversation – you know I love to hear from you.

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How to Open a book?

It is one of those questions that writers worry at for ages. How to start your novel so that the reader is drawn into the story from the beginning.

This is the question that has been troubling me at the moment. I finished my new novel  ‘The Angel Bug’ last year.  I then spent considerable time editing it and it has been to my proof reader. I have it back now and I must now put in the time to make the corrections and contemplate any other changes I need to make before it is published.

In this case I am not only worrying over that crucial first line – but also where in the story I should start? At the beginning – is the usual answer, but the end (or should I say the bit just before the end) seems to be calling to me as it helps put the rest in perspective.

But is that a good idea – will it change the whole feel of what follows?  I have read and re-read my own book so often enough that I now have no idea.

This is where beta readers come in handy – folk who can manage to pass through and by the spelling and typo errors to tell you if your book has got IT and whether is pulls the reader into the world of your characters. So we come back to that first line!

Lets play a game – can you match these first lines to the correct book and author*? (*options below)

 1, “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”

2, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

3, “In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.”

4, “Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.”

5, “It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful.”

6, “No one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were being scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.”

7, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

8, “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”

Books and Authors:

A, The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald / B,  Matilda, Roald Dahl / C,  Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier / D,  The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger / E,  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams / F,  Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy / G,  Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen / H,  The War of the Worlds, H. G. Wells

That was fun – I hope you got most of them! Answers at the end of the blog. How did you do? Why not share this blog with friends  ( on FB or Twitter or forward it ) to see how they get on?

Now, here are my two openings vying for that special place. In each case I have given the chapter title too.

opening One

Gabbi 18 Oct 2011

Thirty years should change a man, I thought, but looking at the handsome face on the giant  poster it didn’t look like it had done much to Luke Adamson’s features except, perhaps, to hone them a little more, making him more rugged, a man to be taken seriously. 

opening Two

Emma 2084

I’m seventy-six this year and though I had known about the stuff since 2012, even I hadn’t put two and two together to realise what had happened to change everything so much, that is, not until I read the records my mother left behind.

I would LOVE to hear your feedback – what kind of book do you think it will be? Which first sentence makes you want to read on most? Could I even start with opening 2 and move straight on to opening 1?

ANSWERS

1,C  /   2, G  /  3,A  /  4,E  /  5.B  /  6,H  /   7.F  /  8.D

If you’d like to read the openings of my other full novels just click on the book icon on the side bar – it will take you to a page where you can download the first 3 chapters for free.

(BTW – for FWT cheerleaders – half a pound down – only 1 to go!!!)


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The Spires of June and one last chance

One Last Chance .. to enter my Win a Kindle Draw – where there are now only 39  places left before this draw is called. If you’ve not entered, or know someone who hasn’t,  then just go to Win a Kindle for all the details – do share with anyone who you know who would like a chance – before they all go! ALL GONE!!

It looks as if this June is going into the records as the wettest ever in the UK – however, nature takes it all in its stride – some things suffer and some things do better.  Umbillifers and ferns and the ubiquitous and insidious bracken seem to be thriving – all working to hide the most recent flush of hedgerow flowers.

 The Spires of June are the lovely-to-look-at foxgloves, Digitalis pupurea. Lovely – but both highly poisonous and a very important medication. In some unfortunate cases, foxglove leaves  have been mistaken for comfrey leaves (which are a similar shape and texture before the flowers appear) and made into a ‘tea’ –  with deadly consequences.  Digitalin is used to treat heart conditions and has been for centuries, described in medical literature as early as 1785.  Dioxigenin, found solely in the leaves and flowers of foxgloves, is a steroid used as a molecular probe to detect DNA and RNA.

In June these bedeck our hedgerows, large enough to stand proud from all the other foliage, especially in a June like this has been.

A much humbler, and perhaps overlooked, spire of June is the flower-spike of the Wall Pennywort (or Navel-wort or Penny-Pies).

pennywort - early June
pennywort late June

The names for this plant are so descriptive – the round, penny shaped leaves have a central dimple – like a belly-button and are edible. You can see where each local name for Umbilicus rupestris comes from. Many people do not even associate the white flower spikes with the flat round leaves noticed much early in the year as the leaves seem to shrink when the spikes reach their maximum.

What else do I have for you for June, well a catch-up on the chicks – hatched in mid-May – might be an idea.  A real mixed bunch!

 

 

 

 

And a cutie shot of one of the little billy goats enjoying the long grass. nom-nom  The whole herd seem to be swimming as they wade through the long grass in the field – grass which has grown like crazy due to the extra wet, yet warm, June.  

And finally – a photograph of one of our garden plants in flower – it produces fruit for us each year – though you might not expect to see one growing and fruiting so well in the UK.  Any idea what it could be?    Post your answers in the comments – the first correct one will get an copy of  my novel ‘Some Kind of Synchrony’ (in pdf format)  Want to know what Some Kind of Synchrony is about – click this LINK to read the blurb and the first 3 chapters.  Answer at the end of the month.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed catching up with nature in our little corner of Cornwall. What has June been like where you are?  There have certainly been some sets of extreme weather in all sorts of places this year. Do tell – I love to hear from you!

 

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Fat Woman Thinning? Week 6 Round-Up

If you are new to the FWT? blog-posts, welcome to Fat Woman Thinning? – a 52 week blog, which I started as pages to keep myself on-track and so my ‘primary cheerleaders’ (my sons) could keep up with my progress. Then four weeks ago, I felt brave enough to post it as a blog!  If you are one of my new cheerleaders ! Yay! Great to see you again!

What you’ll find here is the distilled notes from my daily log of everything I eat, exercise I do, thoughts and excuses the lot. Losing weight after menopause turned out to be a whole different game to losing weight before. What worked then, didn’t work now. A new stretegy had to be found and as a very busy woman I didn’t have time to spend on long gym sessions or runs or cycles. This had to be manageable!  If you want to know what keeps me so busy visit my website  where you will also find my novels ‘Divining the Line’, ‘Nothing Ever Happens Here’ and ‘Some Kind Of Synchrony’ just click HERE to be able to the first 3 chapters in pdf !

Sunday morning first thing each week I weigh myself and measure my waist (level with the belly button) nude. This is my benchmark and so we start with Sunday 5th February…

Son No. 3s birthday today! And my next weigh-in. Well! 11.3 (another 2lb drop – I know, I know, I can hardly believe it myself – when you look at the food eaten! – see week5 page from FWT)  🙂 that’s 71.6 kg for those of you in metric and 157lbs for those of you who think that way. This is a total of 11 lbs drop since the start.

Waist measurement (taken level with the belly-button) is now 41.5 inches relaxed(105cm)  and 38 inches ( 97 cm) pulled in tight. that’s and inch and a half down on the pulled in tight measurement from last week and that’s 4 inches down from the first week I measure (week 2)  Do I sound pleased? You bet I do!

Notes: 5th Feb  Feeling good about the progress so far – hope the positive feeling can be maintained when the results are not so dramatic

Notes: 6th Feb By the way the ‘beetroot’ I keep referring to in my food list is not the dark red – makes-everything- else-pink- kind. It is a stripy beetroot (Some small ones cut up in this veggie picture above) that is great cooked anyway you’d cook carrot and looks real pretty too (yes, we grow them ourselves) .  Unless I write ‘pickled beetroot’ then it IS the dark red ones – that I’ve pickled!

Notes: 7th Feb  1 hour goat wrestling (hoof trimming) felt like I’d had a workout before I’d even started any exercises today!

Notes: 8th Feb   Not a good day for sensible eating — def overdid the plain chocolate — I have excuses – but knowing it was VERY cold, that it was market morning – so was early breakfast and therefore a long time to lunch, that it was WI meeting and the biscuit looked soo nice… – just won’t cut any ice with you– will it?

Notes: 9th Feb   Good day for both sensible eating and exercising! Yay! Hour and a quarter Belly Dance in addition to exercises

Notes: 10th Feb  Very nice evening meal at friends …  just managed to do the exercises afterwards before bed! Good job I’m not dieting – it means that when we go out to eat I don’t have to be fussy – just sensible with my choices. Knowing this really helps with creating a positive feeling about losing weight this way.

Notes: 11th Feb Early night – no, I didn’t get my half hour of aerobic exercises done – but sleep and proper rest is also important in the grand scheme of things.

My ‘primary’ cheerleaders have already given this weeks weight loss report a thumbs-up. But I realised that it seems a bit crazy to have the notes (or indeed on the pages the food intake and exercises ) following the result from the previous week.

SO, I am now going to post the weigh-in and measurements taken this very Sunday morning – as in following the week you’ve just seen. Next week will therefore End with the results – I think it’ll make more sense in the long-run, hope you think so too.

Sunday 12th February (weigh-in to end week 6)

Weight this morning was 11.2  (that’s 156 lbs) or 71.4 kg and the measurements are . .  Relaxed : 40 inches (102 cm) An inch and a half down!) and Pulled-in: 37 inches (95cm) That’s a whole inch down! 

ok, so, a pound only .. but I will post that message son#2 sent me again   “a pound a week is over 50lbs a year – and that is awesome!” There that makes me feel more positive! 🙂

* * * * * * TO BE CONTINUED * * * * * *

What are your favourite foods that you just HAVE to eat now and again whether you are on diet or not? Do you find that big sign ‘DON’T EAT THIS’ just calls to you  …. Eat me! Eat meeee!  Do share – I really love to hear from you all and thanks for all the support and encouragement I have been receiving along the way!

 

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Fat Woman Thinning? – with links to weights exercises

Welcome to week 5 of my fat woman thinning? blog – if you are new to this you need to know that I first just kept this as a log on the pages – to motivate myself and so my ‘cheerleaders’ that is my sons, could see how I was getting on.Then a few weeks ago I got brave enough to post it all as a blog – join me on the journey – join me as a cheerleader – I love to hear from you – please do post a comment or a question.

I had to do something, menopause seemed to have changed the way my body dealt with things – my usual way of maintaining my weight no longer worked and the weight crept on… and on. So, now I am using resistance weights as well as some aerobic and stretching, and watching what I eat (writing everything down as well) – but Not Dieting!

Also, I don’t go to a gym.  I don’t have time to spend getting there, nor the inclination to flaunt my lumpy body in front of others, so I have worked out what I can do at home and it doesn’t take long – the weights never more than 15 mins and the aerobics and stretching is worked to follow a strict half hour of music. So, where have I got to, where has it got me – lets see . . . . .

29/1 – week 5 of 52 week blog

Another Sunday, another weigh and measure session. Well, have to say I was both delighted and surprised. A 2lb drop in weight and a reduction in measurement (belly-button height and level) So that’s 11st 5lbs (72.2 kg or 156 lbs) and relaxed waist of 42 inches (108 cm ) – that’s a half inch smaller, and pulled in a measurement of 40.5 inches (103 cm) but the weird thing is, as I pull the muscles of my stomach in now the belly button rises up my body (as it were) meaning that the level measurement rises up the worst bulge on the top of my hips a bit – so this is a whole inch down of last week

Notes: for 29th

Have a look at this page for instructions and a small video for Lateral Raises  http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/DeltoidLateral/DBLateralRaise.html  And on these pages for Triceps extensions  http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/Triceps/DBLyingTriExt.html  Which I prefer to do or  http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/Triceps/DBOneArmTriExt.html  if you prefer to be stading

Notes: for 30th

Instructions and video link for Snatch is here   http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/OlympicLifts/Snatch.html  but like I say I use just one 10kg plate – and hold it with both hands on the rim – lifting it from rim resting on floor to high – as if I was trying to hang it on a peg at full arm stretch for me. As always bending the knees and keeping the back straight.

The sit-ups I am sure you are familiar with but here they are anyway: http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/RectusAbdominis/BWSitUp.html  No I don’t have the fancy bench for this either – and I don’t like the way the guy in the video has linked his fingers behind his neck – this could result in you pulling your neck especially when it gets tough. It is better to rest your fingers against the side of your neck just below the ears (When you get to this stage – for the first week  the only way I could get a sit-up going was to throw my arms forward towards my knees to get the momentum to even lift off the floor!!)

Notes: for 31st

Squats I do with the ‘safety net’ of a computer chair set to the lowest setting – which means that if I sat on it at that level my knees are slightly higher than my hips – I do the squats so that my bottom just touches the edge of the chair – it tells me I have sunk low enough and stops me feeling that I might fall over backwards! I use 2 dumbells, propped on a towel over my shoulders rather than a bar and weights. See the instructions and small video for Squats here   http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/Quadriceps/BBSquat.html

I do Lunges standing on an old duvet. I had the irrational fear that I might hurt my knee as it went down, and this reassured me.  As I lunge across the width of the duvet, and being 5′ 3″ I have a smallish stride, it also find it gives me an ‘aim’ for my step forward part of the lunge. If my back foot in just inside one edge then my front foot just stays on the duvet – this gives a ‘stride’ of 3ft 9inches (1m14cm) from toe of front foot to heel of back foot, which is a decent stride for a shorty! Lunge instructions and video here:   http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/Quadriceps/BWLunge.html

Notes: for 1st Feb

Exercises for today may be found at these sites. I prefer to do the triceps extensions in the lying down mode (doesn’t hurt my elbow or shoulder this way)

http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/Triceps/DBLyingTriExt.html

http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/Triceps/DBOneArmTriExt.html

http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/DeltoidAnterior/DBFrontRaise.html

Second set of photographs to be taken today – still not put them up on the site – working out how they can be kept from filtering out onto the general internet. What I notice, however, is that there appears to be more folds and sagging as the tightness begins to leave certain parts of my body. I hope my skin has retained some of its elasticity from before and can return to fitting the new me I hope to find by the end of these 52 weeks.

Notes: for 2nd

Here are the exercises for Thursday – I do the bicep curls using both arms at the same time and the ‘rotation’ of the arm from side on to flat on works more muscles.

http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/Biceps/DBCurl.html

And this is the wrist curl, which is good for buildin gup strength for climbing ( so I am told) and as I want to learn a bit of climbing this shoud be useful.

http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/WristFlexors/DBWristCurl.html   I also do these simultaneously.

Notes: for 3rd

Here are the exercises for today; As I have said previously i use just one ‘plate’ weight of 10 kg for the snatch an lift it from floor to high, as if trying to place on a hook in front of me as high a I can reach

Snatch : http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/Obliques/BWTwistingSitUp.html

Twist-sit-ups : http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/Obliques/BWTwistingSitUp.html

Notes: for 4th

Here are the links to these exercises, the squats was shown once already but it’s here anyway :

http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/Quadriceps/BBSquat.html

And the step-ups I am stepping 10 inch step and was taking far too long (over 100 steps) to get to fail point – so this time I tried to carry extra weights. Here is the exercise link:  http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/Quadriceps/BWStepUp.html

Well, what will tomorrow bring – weigh-in and measure time!!

Full details are on the drop down pages from the Fat Woman Thinning? header on the crossbar.

Your comments or questions are very welcome, I really want to hear from you, and if you ‘d like to know what I do that makes me too busy to travel to a gym then take a look at annmade.co.uk where you will also find my Novels:  Nothing Ever Happens Here, Divining the Line, and Some Kind of Synchrony .. click here to read the first 3 chapters in pdf.

 

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Inspiration and Some Kind of Synchrony

So I find have omitted to say that the third of my completed novels is now available online from annmade.co.uk and Amazon. Some Kind of Synchrony offers double value for money in a way, as within the novel the main character, Faith, tells another complete story to her friend as they travel everyday from their un-named town suburb up the motorway to the centre of a midlands city  to go to work and back. The story is told to while away the time but this story is a bit special and is integral in the events that follow.

I have dedicated this book to ‘my friends who inspire me’. One of those was a friend who, in passing, told me about a long journey she undertook with another friend and to while away the time they took it in turns to add to a crazy story in a Mills and Boon vein….I can’t even remember the details now, but the idea of telling stories on a car journey did stick in my mind. This, combined with some unusual co-incidences between characters that I had pinned my first (never to be published apprentice piece) novel on and what happened to the real life counterparts or how they went on to achieve in real life, somehow collided and became the germ of an idea for this book.

The story of ‘Some Kind of Synchrony’ borrows nothing from either of these true life scenarios but the ignition of the idea can be traced back to these inspirations, and the rest developed within my subconscious over a number of years, patiently waiting for me to write it all out.

You can read the first three chapters of Some Kind of Synchrony FREE at

http://www.annmade.co.uk/shop/books/novels/some_kind_of_synchrony__pdf_.ann

where it will appear as a PDF file if you click on the orange line that says ‘click here to read the first 3 chapters’

 

Some Kind of Synchrony is available in three eformats, for your kindle, for your Nook or Sony ereader and as aPDF.

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