Posted in Writing

‘Tis the Season to Do What, Now?

cover of Springtime for Murder
My latest novel – published in November, set at Easter (Available in paperback and ebook)

In this column for the December 2018 issue of the Hawkesbury Parish News, I get ahead of myself with the seasons

In the retail trade, buyers plan at least a season ahead. While we’re Christmas shopping, they’re planning their stock for the spring.

I share their sense of being out of step with nature’s calendar. Today, for example, the deadline of the Hawkesbury Parish News’s December issue, I launched my latest novel, Springtime for Murder. I wrote it in the summer months, edited it in the autumn, and it’s set at Easter. Now I’m about to start writing a novel that takes place in May. No wonder I have to stop to think what month it is in the real world.

It doesn’t help that I can’t rely on the weather to give me a natural steer on the seasons. With it often so unseasonably hot/cold/wet/dry, a glance out of the window can be misleading.

Image of first four books in the Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries series
The first four books in the series run from midsummer to Valentine’s Day

Taking a break from my desk to go grocery shopping does nothing to put me straight. Why are supermarket shelves still full of fresh summer fruits in the winter? Every time I go to Waitrose lately, there are punnets of strawberries reduced for quick sale, because the shop has more than it can sell. Still, at least I’m full of Vitamin C to guard against winter colds.

Thank goodness for the man-made visual clues around the village. Impressively carved pumpkins dotted around the village heralded Halloween. Mid-November, the poppies on the Plain and in St Mary’s ensured we remember the date we should never forget. Now the Christmas lights will soon be upon us.

Even so, if you see me shivering in a summer dress in December, now you’ll know the reason why: I’ll have simply lost the plot.  Which really shouldn’t happen to an author.

I wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

PS And if you fancy some seasonal reading that is just right for December…

Cover of Murder in the Manger
In the third Sophie Sayers Village Mystery, her school nativity play goes off-script from the opening line
cover of Stocking Fillers by Debbie Young
12 short stories that are the perfect antidote pre-Christmas stress
cover of Lighting Up Time
A sweet but spooky story the longest night of the year
Cover of The Owl and the Turkey
A fun short story inspired by mishearing a snippet of news on BBC Radio 4
Posted in Events, Personal life, Reading, Writing

Festive Fun with BBC Radio Gloucestershire

A report on my appearance on BBC Radio Gloucestershire’s Chris Baxter Show yesterday

BBC Radio Gloucestershire logo“I love this book! It’s festive, fun and a bit silly at times!” said BBC Radio Gloucestershire presenter Chris Baxter yesterday, when I was a guest on his excellent afternoon show. “It gets your imagination going, which stories at Christmas need to do.”

I’d been invited to talk about Stocking Fillers, my Christmas book of short stories, and I was thrilled to hear that Chris had been enjoying reading it on the train on his way to work that morning. We talked about the writing process, when I’d started writing them (high summer! – more about that here), and the challenge of writing short pieces.

Cover of Stocking Fillers

After that, I was invited to read extracts from some of my favourite stories, which of course I was very pleased to do. I can now describe the book as “as featured on BBC Radio”, which is a terrific endorsement.

As ever, it was a joy to take part in a BBC Radio Gloucestershire programme, and I came away, as always, so impressed with what a great job they do bringing the community together and spreading goodwill throughout the county, not only at Christmas but all year round.

Debbie on a stall with her books
At a Christmas fair

And this time, there was also something else to take away: a request from Chris Baxter for some ghost stories for next Christmas. Hmmm, I’ll have to give that one some thought…

In the meantime, if you’d like to listen to interview, for the next month you can catch up with it on BBC iPlayer here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02dsf6d
(from 1 hour 10 minutes into the programme)

Cotswold Bookroom Christmas shop window display
Stocking Fillers is in the left hand window, in the centre at the front

If you’re in Gloucestershire and would like to pick up a last-minute, er, stocking filler, the book’s currently stocked at four local independent shops:

The Cotswold Bookroom in Wotton-under-Edge

The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop (branches in Tetbury and Nailsworth)

The Hawkesbury Shop (general village store)

And you can download an ebook from online retailers at any time. (Paperback also available for online purchase.)

Merry Christmas reading, folks!

Julia Forster and me outside the Nailsworth branch of the Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, where we'd just delivered new stocks our the books we're holding
Julia Forster and me outside the Nailsworth branch of the Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, where we’d just delivered new stocks our the books we’re holding

 

Posted in Personal life, Writing

When Fiction is Like Fashion

(This post was written for the December 2014 issue of the Hawkesbury Parish News)

Photo of an Ithacan beach with clear blue sky
Thinking of summer in midwinter

With the shortest day fast approaching, I’m already thinking about Spring. That’s because I’m starting to plan a collection of short stories due to be released at Easter.

As in the world of fashion, if you’re planning to write topical fiction, you have to think at least one season ahead. I therefore started writing my festive short story collection, Stocking Fillers, while soaking up the Greek sun back in August. At first, it seemed seem strange to be writing about Christmas while wearing a swimsuit. It got easier a couple of weeks later, when I spent a fortnight in Scotland. Although it was still only August, the weather was more like November. But as my daughter always likes to say, “We don’t go to Scotland for the weather”.

Cover of Stocking Fillers
Now available to order in paperback from all good bookshops and online as an ebook

Available to buy as an ebook or in paperback from the start of December, Stocking Fillers consists of twelve short stories, all humorous, as various characters prepare for the big day. My favourites include a grumpy middle-aged dad penning his first Round Robin Christmas letter, a little boy wise beyond his years offering Santa time management advice, and a busy mum wondering how on earth she’ll fit in all of her chores before Christmas Eve. Not every character is loveable, and the stories aren’t all sugar-plum sweet, but I hope you’ll find them fun. If you’d like signed copies to give as gifts, just give me a shout and I’ll be happy to add a special message by hand.

Wishing you all a very happy Christmas!

Posted in Family, Personal life

The Wisdom of Estate Agents

(This post was originally written for the September edition of Hawkesbury Parish News, my local community’s newsletter)

Photo of Laura in purple frock and tiara
My daughter Laura as Carnival Queen’s attendant at this year’s Village Show

Twenty-three years ago, when I was negotiating to buy my house in Hawkesbury Upton, there were four significant facts that I’m glad I didn’t know at the time, because they’d have made the process much more stressful. But with hindsight it seems remiss of the estate agent not to have told me:

  • there is an excellent village primary school
  • the village is in the catchment area for an equally good secondary school, with admission pretty much guaranteed for anyone who lives here
  • the extraordinary annual village show – the undisputed highlight of the village year – would make me proud to call Hawkesbury Upton my home
  • climate change and the subsequent increased rainfall would make me very glad indeed to have a house on high ground
Photo of Laura in her new school uniform
Laura ready for her first day at secondary school (still inadvertently wearing the purple sparkly nail polish from the Show)

All four of these factors have given me cause for celebration this year, when my daughter left the primary school with a glowing report, gained a place at KLB, and was picked as Carnival Queen’s Attendant for the Show – and on numerous occasions throughout the year we’ve watched copious rainwater flowing away from our house, downhill, down the middle of our road.

But as September begins, I’m mindful of two more facts omitted from the estate agent’s blurb that I was left to learn from my new neighbours:

  • the day of the village show is the last day of summer
  • when it’s jacket weather in Chipping Sodbury, it’s overcoat weather in Hawkesbury Upton

Perhaps that estate agent was smarter than I gave him credit for. Now where did I leave my overcoat?

 

Posted in Writing

An Autumnal Story for a Misty Morning, via Wattpad

A seasonal short story from my new flash fiction collection Quick Change, and an introduction to Wattpad, the free reading site. 

Received wisdom in my village is that autumn starts the day after the Village Show is over. The morning mists this week bear witness to that myth’s veracity. So, feeling all autumnal, I thought I’d post up a link to a short story on an autumn theme (or fall, to my friends the other side of the pond). It’s taken from my new flash fiction collection, Quick Change, which is currently available as an ebook and due for launch as a paperback in November this autumn.

Autumn LeavesAutumn Leaves 

Click on the story title to read the story on a site called Wattpad. You can also find other free samples of my work there, not just from this book but from others too, both published (my diabetes book) and as yet unpublished (my memoir of moving from the city to the country).

All about Wattpad

If you haven’t already encountered Wattpad, it’s a social media site which helps authors share free samples of their work with readers by posting up their books in short bursts, either all at once or eking them out over a longer period. (The old adage “always leave them wanting more” doesn’t only apply to the performing arts, you know.) Some authors also use it to test out new stories and gain feedback, effectively acquiring beta readers (the book world’s equivalent to test drivers) prior to publication. And of course, they all hope that lots of readers will enjoy the free samples sufficiently to pay real money to buy their actual books, whether as ebooks or in print.

I joined Wattpad only recently, but I’m hoping it’ll help me reach new readers that otherwise wouldn’t know about me. The site is particularly popular with teenagers and new adults reading scifi and fantasy (not my core audience), but it’s becoming increasingly popular across other genres and with other audiences too.

More about Quick Change

Cover of Quck Change flash fiction collection
Emerged from its cocoon on National Flash Fiction Day 2014

The ebook edition of Quick Change is now available to buy exclusively on Amazon for £1.99 or the equivalent in your local currency. That’s just 10p a story, folks! Click the book cover image on the right to go straight to its page on Amazon. I’ll be adding the ebook to other distribution platforms such as Kobo and Smashwords shortly, but if you’d like to read it now and don’t have an ereader, simply download the free Kindle app to the electronic device of your choice (phone, tablet, PC, etc).

In the run-up to the launch of the paperback, if you’d like a free review copy of the ebook of Quick Change, in return for an honest review on Amazon or Goodreads, please let me know. 

Like to join my mailing list? There’s a free, new, previously unpublished short story with every issue of my enewsletter, despatched once a month. Click here to sign up now for free. You can unsubscribe at any time.