Posted in Family, Writing

Pray Fill Your Glasses for 2016

In my December column for the Tetbury Advertiser, I tried to put the tumultuous events of 2016 into perspective

Cover of Tetbury Advertiser December 2016As 2016 draws to a close, few will mourn its passing. From the start, it seemed a blighted year, robbing us of many national treasures and bringing us Brexit and President-Elect Trump.

Scrolling back through the year to seek more positive memories, I discover the event that filled me with most hope was the centenary of the Somme.

Ironically, one of the bloodiest battles in human history became a source of hope when at 7:30 AM on July 1st, vast numbers of people gathered nationwide to commemorate those who gave their todays for our tomorrows, and again on Remembrance Day last month. It was heartening to see people from throughout society turn out for these events, including many young people and children. It is especially heartening that so many of the youngest generation want to honour them though very few have met anyone born during that era and perhaps feel no immediate personal connection.

Celebrating Cousin Nina

Nina and Laura together
My grandma’s late cousin Nina, who celebrated her 100th birthday in May, with my daughter Laura last year

My daughter is lucky to be an exception. She has been able to get to know my grandma’s cousin Nina, born before the Battle of the Somme began. We helped her celebrate her hundredth birthday this year. Each time we visit her, we feel we are touching history and witnessing at first hand the human instinct to survive in the face of adversity. Nina has been widowed four times, but is currently single, as common parlance has it. (Sadly, Nina passed away just after I wrote this column –  but rather that blame 2016, I view her survival to 100 more of a miracle than a curse.)

Reasons to be Cheerful

Such special occasions lift my spirits beyond the quagmire of the daily news headlines.

Every day brings reasons to be hopeful, if only we remember to look for them.

Yes, I know that’s easy for an optimist to say. I realise not everyone is such a Pollyanna like me. During an interviewed the other day on BCfm Radio, I told the presenter, historian and historical novelist Lucienne Boyce, that I’m a glass-half-full person. I was amused by her response “I’m the kind of pessimist that can’t even see the glass”. Perhaps for 2017 we should each resolve to find out glass and fill it.

A Force for Good

We may look back on 2016 as an annus horribilis, but as future generations will discover, it will also be a year when great men and women were born who will in time be a force for good. If you’ve become a parent or grandparent this year, you’re probably agreeing already.

To encourage sceptics, here’s a reminder of two great men born in 1916:

  • Francis Crick, Nobel laureate, co-discoverer of DNA’s molecular structure, arguably the most important scientific discovery of the 20th century
  • mould-breaking author Roald Dahl, who has brought laughter and comfort to readers young and old for generations

If such greatness can come forth phoenix-like from such desperate times, maybe everything will come right for us too.

I wish you peace, joy and love this Christmas, and may your glass remain full in the New Year.

Posted in Type 1 diabetes, Writing

The Silvery Sounds of Radio Voices

A quick post to point you in the direction of my most recent radio appearance

Debbie Young standing outside the studio
Outside the BCfm studio on Friday

As regular readers of this blog will know, I love being a guest on radio shows. (I know, what a show-off!) I’m a regular guest on BBC Radio Gloucestershire, and an occasional guest on BBC Radio Bristol and 10Radio in Somerset.

It’s an added bonus when the host of the programme is an author whose work I know and respect. So I was honoured when last Friday I was invited to be the guest on award-winning historical novelist Lucienne Boyce‘s new SilverSound show, part of the Bristol community radio station BCfm.

All About SilverSound

BCfm’s SilverSound programme, which Lucienne hosts once a month, is aimed at older listeners audience. Lucienne wanted to focus on my involvement with community publishing projects.

We therefore talked about projects such as:

  • the Monument to Hawkesbury social history books
  • my two books of collected columns that I’ve written for the last six years for two local magazines, the Tetbury Advertiser (book title: Young By Name) and the Hawkesbury Parish News (book title: All Part of the Charm)
  • my memoir aimed at the diabetes community, Coming to Terms with Type 1 Diabetes, particularly topical as World Diabetes Day is coming up on Monday 14th November

Cover of All Part of the Charm

Cover of Young By Name book
Available in paperback and ebook
Cover of Simon Bendry's book
A role model for communities nationwide

I was also pleased to have the opportunity to give a shout-out for an excellent local history book written and published by my friend Simon Bendry. Hawkesbury at War – The Roll of Honour, his biography of all the people commemorated on the Hawkesbury Upton war memorial, plus all of the villagers who survived active service in the wars, is an inspiring example for communities everywhere. Again, a topical choice, with Remembrance Day imminent.

Fun Fellow Guests

But the show wasn’t only about me, nor was it as serious as I’ve perhaps made it sound. Fellow guest George talked about the latest movie he’d seen (I, Daniel Blake), and Gerard contributed a very entertaining quiz, specially written to match the guest of the week. This time, the quiz was about famous Debbies, Youngs, and cosy mystery detectives. Why the latter? We also managed to squeeze in some jolly conversation about my current work-in-progress, a new cosy mystery novel, kicking off with Best Murder in Show, the first in the Sophie Sayers Village Mystery series.

How to Listen to the SilverSound Show

Lucienne’s blogged about the show on her own author website here. Her post includes her own take on the broadcast, and while you’re over there, take a look at all her other activities including her excellent books and talks.

Here’s a direct link to the show, to which you can “listen again”, by the magic that is the internet, up to three months after the date of the broadcast. Just scroll down to the 10am slot on 4/11/16.

How to Listen to My Latest SoundCloud Appearance

Headshot of Suzie Grogan
SoundCloud presenter, historian and author Suzie Grogan

By chance, I’ve also just received a link to my latest appearance on Suzie Grogan’s fab Talking Books show on 10Radio, which you can listen to ad infinitum on SoundCloud. Here’s a link to Suzie’s Soundcloud channel where you can catch not only my appearance on her show back in July, but also a more recent one with Lucienne Boyce, who’s a great guest as well as an excellent writer and presenter.

Another post will follow soon sharing my first appearance as a performer at the Cheltenham Literature Festival – but that’s another story, in every respect!

To find out more about my fiction books, click here.

To find out more about my non-fiction books, click here.




Posted in Reading, Self-publishing, Writing

Why Beta Readers Make Books Better

That tongue-twister heralds news of my new flash fiction collection, Quick Change, due for launch later this month.

Cover of Quck Change flash fiction collection
Due for launch as an ebook on 21 June 2014

It’s a nerve-wracking time for any author when their precious manuscript is packed off for final editing and proofreading before publication. This week that’s what’s happening to Quick Change, the collection of flash fiction that I’ll be publishing as an ebook later this month. By the power of the internet, the final draft has zoomed across the ether to the other side of the country, for my editor Alison Jack to give it her expert treatment.

Last week it was the turn of the beta readers to read an earlier version of my manuscript. No, that doesn’t mean I’ve written my book in Greek.

What Are Beta Readers Anyway?

Beta readers are volunteers who read a manuscript prior to publication to alert the author to anything that might be improved. A great beta team will pick up inconsistencies and glitches that might spoil the flow of the story, e.g. a character whose name changes, an unbelievable  plot detail, or excessive use of the author’s favourite words.

  • One of my lovely beta readers spotted that I apparently have an obsession with recycling bins: the frequency of their appearance in this book has now been reduced. Or you could say, I’ve put out the bins.
  • Another reader pointed out that Belisha beacon should be capitalised because it’s named after the first Baron Hore-Belisha, a former British Minister of Transport. Well, did you know that? By the way, I can understand why they plumped for his second name.
  • One person alerted me to a recent change in the law that had made one scene in my book illegal. It was news to me. (And I bet that’s intrigued you – but no plot spoilers here, sorry!)

Interestingly, none of my eagle-eyed friends spotted the blind man that I had checking his watch. That anomaly only jumped out at me when I was inputting their suggested changes to the copy.  Which only goes to show that you can never have too many people checking over your work before you hit the “publish” button…

Publication Date Alert

I’ll be sending out a special newsletter to my blog subscribers nearer the launch date, Saturday 21 June, along with a free bonus story. To receive this alert, do either of these things:

  • If you don’t already subscribe to my blog,sign up here, and I’ll send your free bonus story with the next newsletter.
  • If you don’t want to join the blog subscribers list, but would like to be alerted when Quick Change is published, please add your email address here.

(If you’re already a subscriber to my blog, you don’t need to do anything – I’ll send you the newsletter anyway.)

In the next day or two, I’ll be posting here about how to find beta readers – useful for any authors reading this post, but also an interesting insight for non-authors behind the scenes of book production. In the meantime, I’d like to say a big thank you to my fabulous beta readers and editor by posting their links here: