Wednesday 23 January 2013

Earlier this month Lynn Hooghiemstra, an author based in Seattle, interviewed me for her blog. The result is below. Many thanks, Lynn.
Blog on, Dudes!
Lynn's blog is on

Today I welcome UK author Richard Hardie to my blog for a chat over coffee and apple pie.

Welcome Richard.
Let me cut the pie and pour the coffee! Ice cream with that pie?
That would be lovely, Lynn. Vanilla ice cream and good strong coffee, please. I’m still a bit jetlagged after the flight over here! By the way, many thanks for inviting me.

First let me congratulations on the successful launch of your e-book "Leap of Faith". The first in what promises to be a very fun series for teens.
Many thanks, Lynn, I’m thrilled. By the way, it’s not just teens, I hope. Many of my readers are adults of all ages who bought the books for their kids and found that they loved them too.  My publisher asked me how many books would be in the series and I told him that as long as the main characters wanted to continue with their adventures and I was enjoying writing about them there would be more books. The second book “Trouble With Swords” was published last December and I’m half way through the third which I hope will be out in May this year.

What inspired you to pick the time travel and detective themes?
Good question! The original idea for “Leap of Faith” originated from a stage show I wrote for the Scout Association in the UK. The core was right for a book, but the storyline needed considerable  reworking .  I kept the idea of Merlin being a woman and once she and Arthur became an item it seemed logical that her two apprentices and her sister should carry on Merlin’s work somehow. A detective agency seemed ideal for their level of inquisitiveness and time travel gave them the opportunity of much more interesting crimes to solve, as well as far better toilet facilities. I love detective stories and now I’m writing them I can make the cases as complicated as I want and pop as many clues into them as I feel necessary.  Great fun!

If you had the temporal detective agency's time portal, where would you travel to first?
Wow! There are so many places I’d love to go to. I suppose there are two answers to that. Firstly there are events I would love to witness and historical characters I’d love to see. Secondly there places I’ve been to that are now in ruins and I’d love to see what they looked like at the height of their powers. Obvious places would be Petra, Machu Picchu and Pompeii, but I’d loved to have been at the Battle Waterloo and seen the look on Napoleon’s face when he lost. 

eBooks vs traditional publishing?
I don’t think eBooks will ever replace the traditional book. There’s a magic about the feel and smell of paper and I have to admit I have quite a library of hardback books that I constantly add too. Without a doubt though, there is a revolution in the publishing world, to a large extent being led by Amazon. Now that people can self-publish many writers who never had the opportunity of showing the world what they can do have that chance. What they don’t have is the marketing clout of the traditional publisher. That’s where companies like my own publisher, Publerati,  have great strength when they concentrate on the eBook market. They can chose the right books to publish, edit professionally, ensure that what goes onto Amazon, Kobo and the other sites is faultless and provide marketing to drive volume sales. Most importantly an eBook can be available to the buying public within weeks of the words “The End” being typed, whereas a traditional publisher can take a year or more to achieve the same thing. Having said that I still want The Temporal Detective Agency series to be in print, because I can’t imagine any greater thrill than for someone to ask me to sign a copy of my book!

Paper & pen or a computer?
I write my books on my favourite Dell Studio laptop. It’s small. Powerful and has good battery life. There was a time when my job in IT frequently took me to India and I used the 8 hour flights to write. When I travel by train to London I still use my laptop to write, though if I’m making plot notes I tend to use pen and paper. I know many authors prefer to use pen and paper to actually write their novels, but I love the ability to cut and paste and the thought that I’ll never run out of ink!

What do think is the most important thing a writer can do, aside from write well, to increase their chances success? (Some days it feels like a business as well as a creative endeavor.)
Writing is a business. A hobby stops being a hobby the moment you depend on it for an income, no matter to what extent. A writer has to bear in mind a number of things, the most important of which is that he or she is writing for their readers, not for themselves. An agent I once had gave me a piece of paper with the letters GOWTS on it and told me to put it on top of my computer. She explained that the letters stand for Get On With The Story and although she taught me many things, that was a fantastic lesson. I don’t need that piece of paper any more because the letters GOWTS are embedded on my writer’s brain.

What secret talent do you have? Which everyone who reads this blog will promise to keep secret. And does it help you write?
I’m not sure if it’s a talent, but I have the same sense of humour as my Young Adult audience. I was a Scout leader for 15 years and that helped me to empathize with kids and understand what gets them interested, what keeps their attention and what makes them laugh. Talents over and above that? None especially, though I’ve always wanted to be a successful author and I’ve worked hard to achieve it as a goal. Just wanting it isn’t good enough.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview and happy scribbling.
It’s been a pleasure, Lynn. Many thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk to your readers. The apple pie was great by the way, but my coffee’s gone cold. Could I have a freshener?

For more information about Richard Hardie and his Temporal Detective Agency series:

Tuesday 22 January 2013


Personally, as you can tell from my photograph, I've never been one to slavishly buy clothes because a particular fashion dictates it and over the years some of the ways men and women have been told to dress must have had the designers laughing all the way to the bank.

Take shoes. Who can forget the fashion in the 70's for platform shoes and stacked heels. I can remember seeing one girl having to walk up a street in Exeter sideways because she couldn't make the incline with the heels and soles she was wearing. 6 inch high heels look great on a woman with slim legs, but the pain and accidents she has to go through are incredible. Bunions are never the prettiest of foot accessories, but even Victoria Beckham has them. Not only that she admits she has to buy stiletto heel shoes 2 sizes too big so her toes don't bang against the front of the shoes. Next time you see a photo of her take a look and you'll see a gap between her heel and the back of the shoe. When I saw it, it reminded me of the little girl wearing her mother's shoes. Still, she's a style icon!

After the fashion for military Sergeant Pepper jackets disappeared in the late 60's and early 70's men seem to have largely given up on being style followers with the exception of 4 fashions that I personally find ridiculous, verging on ugly.
1. There's been a fashion for designer stubble for some years, personified by footballers and George Michael. It looks untidy and the "just got out of bed" look says "I couldn't care how scruffy I am" rather than "I'm too sexy to shave". What staggers me, men pay a load of money to buy shavers that give them the designer stubble "I'm a scruffy bastard" look. Remington and Phillips must be really laughing!
2. Again started seemingly by footballers, though Telly Savalas may have had something to do with it initially, the fashion for having a shaven bald head is one I definitely don't understand. It used to be the case that anyone young and bald was either to be pitied, was a convict, or had some sort head disease. Now it's quite common for young men to shave their heads completely which must not only be very cold, but also makes it difficult to tell if someone is in their 20's or 50's on occasions. Unfortunately for the 50 year old with the shaven head it doesn't make him look in his 20's. What it does make them look is threatening and aggressive.
3. Even in the City of London there's a fashion now not to wear a tie. Not so long ago the tie was an identifier for your old school, university, club, secret society (!), or company. Men would,'t dream, of being seen in a suit without that final piece of silk that completed their business uniform. These days the young bloods of the city wear their suits, their tailored felt coats and have an open necked collar... even worse, many have the collar buttoned, making it look as though they've forgotten to finishing dressing.
4. It doesn't seem to have hit the City yet, but doubtless it will, the fashion has started for a man to wear a shirt not tucked into the trousers. It's almost on a par with Superman wearing his underwear outside his costume! A Tshirt outside jeans I can understand, or outside a pair of shorts, but a nice "formal" shirt worn outside suit trousers looks rubbish. In fact a shirt with tails flapping outside a pair of jeans looks pretty naff! It says "I'm too bloody lazy to tuck my shirt in", or "I forgot to put my shirt on BEFORE my trousers and this is the result", or worse "I think I look really cool!". For COOL think STUPID!

So there you have it. 4 fashion that have been foisted on men that make them look aggressive, lazy, unkempt and stupid. What more could a woman want.... or expect!
Bring back the tie!

Blog on, Dudes!

By the way take a look at my books on

Saturday 19 January 2013


My guest today is an actress and writer and now an olive farmer in one of the most beautiful parts of France where she and her husband almost single-handed rebuilt and ran a farm, making it a success and the source of much heartache and joy. She has also written nearly twenty books, several on the trials and tribulations of olive growing. She also acts in her spare time!

I first saw her on TV when she played Helen Herriot in All Creatures Great and Small and I can tell you that she hasn’t changed one bit. It must be all that olive oil!

As you must have guessed by now, my guest is the wonderful Carol Drinkwater.


Carol, An olive farm? From a vet’s wife to the life of a farmer…. Was that knowledgably courageous, or blind wishful thinking? How did it start?

It began in Australia where I was in Sydney filming a mini-series for children. There I met the French executive producer of the show who asked me to marry him on our first date! I did not accept, of course but we began to spend time together in Europe, and when he was visiting Cannes for the TV festival I accompanied him. I had been looking for a house by the sea for over a decade and while he was working, I went searching. That was how we found the ruin that has been transformed into the Olive Farm.

Most people remember you as being James Herriot’s wife in the wonderful TV series, but I know you are also a prolific writer. When did you start putting pen to paper and what inspired you to write?

I have written since I was a girl but it was Michel, the man who became my husband and fellow olive farmer, who encouraged me to give it a professional go.

Do you prefer writing about fact, or fiction?

Fact and fiction; whether for adolescents and adult is irrelevant. It is whether I am passionate about the subject that counts.

Are you disciplined as a writer and do you have a set routine and preferred place to write?

When I’m involved in it, I am very disciplined but getting myself to begin a book, or project takes some rod iron back-beating sometimes.
I work from my den at the Olive Farm or if I am travelling then, wherever I am...

Did b
eing an actress, used to working with fictional characters help or hamper your writing?

All experience in telling stories, playing roles always helps.

Do you write for a specific audience, or on subjects that inspire you?

As I said, I write on subjects that inspire me. I find the subject then draws in its own audience.

The Olive series is wonderful to read and has all the best of Gerald Durrell and Peter Mayle’s Year in Provence. Will there be more in the series?

I hope there will be another. I am waiting for my publishers to agree!

Do you still get a thrill out of acting?

Of course!

What are your current projects, both in acting and in writing?

I have so much on the go at present. We are currently completing five luscious, super high definition documentaries based on two of my Olive books: The Olive Route and The Olive Tree. These two recount my travels round the Mediterranean in quest of stories and adventures related to the olive tree and its history and cultivation. I will go to America and Ireland to promote these.
I am writing another adolescent book in the My Story series for Scholastic and I have an adult novel in early stages.
The Olive RouteThe Olive Tree

What one piece of advice would you give an aspiring writer?

Work hard!

Did you ever meet James Herriot and do you keep in touch with the All Creatures Great and Small team?

Yes, I met him – Alf Wight – on many occasions. We four see each other from time to time but we are all very involved in our present lives.

Do you have a favourite anecdote about your time as a vet’s wife?

Many, though they’d be a bit long to tell here. Many incidents made us giggle . Peter played tricks on Robert Hardy sometimes, as though they were brothers. He jumped out of a wardrobe as Superman and RH nearly jumped out of his skin. Chris as James smashed up a car when he was saying goodbye to Helen/Carl, by driving it into a barn.

If a film was made of your life, who would you like to play your part?

No idea. I used to joke and say Whitney Houston but…, It seems an unlikely possibility to me unless the Olive Farm was made into a feature film and then I would have rather liked it to have been Kate Winslett, but she is probably a bit too famous now!

One last question. What is one thing would you like to achieve during the next 5 years?

ONE thing?! There is a long list… I would LOVE to find a wonderful acting role that would challenge me for TV or film. I miss acting as much as I am always excited by my own writing projects

Carol, it’s been a pleasure talking to you and thank you so much for your time, as well as for agreeing to meet my blog community.
You can read all about Carol’s books on her excellent website at 

Friday 11 January 2013


My guest today is a writer. In fact she’s two writers joined at the hip with her twin brother Cameron, though strangely they’re never in the same room at the same time! Although she’s Scottish, she’s lived in France for the past 20 years and is a practicing witch now concentrating on Shamanism. She’s a recognised healer in her village and her life is filled with animals and her husband whose name is Badger (honestly!).
She publishes articles, short stories and novellas and her latest book Shaman’s Drum is being published by Crooked Cat on 11th January.
I’m very pleased to say that my interview tonight is with the ever fascinating Ailsa Abraham.

Ailsa, firstly my thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. I honestly don’t think I’ve interviewed a Scottish, French witch before, so I’ve prepared a calming cup of Horlicks for us, unless you’d like something stronger?
Thank you for inviting me, it's a real pleasure to be here. No, I'm off alcohol for six months to raise money for Cancer Research. You can read about it on my blog here would be a treat, I can't get that in France.

Cheers (sips Horlicks). So, from a witch to a writer. How did that happen and what was your first piece about?
I've been writing all my life. As a small child I wasn't very happy with the books I was told to read at school, so I wrote my own stories and I just continued.  I was born a witch. I'm from a  family of “hereditaries” but I had no formal training until I was in my 30s. Then, things that I had been doing by instinct and copying what my mother did, just clicked into place.
I wrote for the amusement of my friends but never thought of getting published until I had to give up work due to ill-health. That gave me the time I needed to write seriously. The first piece I was paid for was a short story in MetroFiction. My first published book was Yours To Command in July of last year.

How did you link up with Crooked Cat Publishing? 
Purely by chance. I saw them on Twitter, visited their web page, submitted and was accepted. I can't say often enough how much help I've had from Laurence and Stephanie Patterson. They have been a dream to work with.

Tell me about your new book Shaman’s Drum and why you started writing it?
The opening sequence came to me as a scene from a film while I was sitting in the back garden talking to my lizards. When my friend and mentor Jessica Macbeth bullied me into entering NaNo last year, it seemed the obvious plot to go with. I finished the 50K then spent some time polishing it up.
I wanted to write a pagan book that wasn't the usual dungeons and dragons adventure, nor the impossibly willowy ladies dancing in the moonlight scenario. I'm a very sleeves-rolled up witch and I wanted to portray that. So I set the novel slightly in the future where the mainstream religions of today have been banned and paganism with magic-use is the norm. I wanted to show a world where what I do is totally accepted. Then I had to include a very strong love story because that is important to me. So I managed to get romance and adventure together. If you asked me for a one-sentence summation I'd say Indiana Jones with Magic.

From white witchcraft to Shamanism. What exactly is the difference between them?
I don't like the term white/black witchcraft; Natural energies are like electricty, they can be used for good or ill, to power an incubator for a premature baby or to torture prisoners.
For me, and this is a purely personal viewpoint, Wicca is Goddess/Consort based and practiced in groups. Ritual is often strictly observed with invocations being written down and read out. I found that very restrictive. As a shaman I work with spirits. It is the original animist belief system. Everything has a spirit and my job is to work with them, whether it be the spirit of a herb I want to cut to use in healing or the river in my village to ask it to stop flooding. I have my traditional power animal and spirit guide who help me in this and I draw my energies from the elements around me. There are no set rituals. I speak what is in my heart as it comes. Even out for a walk, not trying to achieve anything but make myself in balance with the spirit world around me, I will greet whatever spirits I meet on the way. I blogged in depth about this

When you write do you have a particular room and time of day you prefer?
 Our house is an old traditional farmhouse with only two rooms downstairs and my desk is over in the corner of one. When inspired I will sit at it for hours on end. I can write at any time of day but I do my very best work in the early hours of the morning. A habit I've got into  since my foot operation is starting work  on the laptop while still in bed.

Are you disciplined in that way?
Not in the slightest. I am haphazard in the extreme but at the moment I have so much work promised that I have to write as much as I can each day or I will really not catch up.

How did your “twin brother” Cameron Lawton evolve and how do you separate your writing from his?
I actually did have a twin brother who was stillborn. When I realised that my two genres of writing would have to be kept separate, I decided to bring him back and it's now a great game having my twin back with me. He is a gay man and writes detective fiction based in the military. His two heroes are lovers but that is a subplot. The investigation is what counts.
I'm a woman and write occult adventure.

Do you prefer writing as Ailsa, or Cameron?
I adore both. Being transexual I have no problem writing from a gay man's point of view. But  then my heroine in Shaman's Drum is a pretty feisty lady. Maybe it's something to do with being Bipolar but I can live in these two identities very happily – we even have conversations on Facebook with each other. Most people are in on the joke but some who aren't follow us as a soap-opera! When I'm Ailsa, I write her stuff, when I'm Cam, I write his stuff and I've made some really great friends in the LGBTQ writing community.

Once Shaman’s Drum has been published and become a best-seller, what is your next project?
There is a prequel planned. Like an idiot I seem to have started a trilogy in the middle but Steph and I are working on it. That is Ailsa's next project. Cameron is writing the third in his Army detective series which is getting rave reviews at the moment, so it's important to get another book out to a hungry public soonest.
I'm also writing a novel with a transexual main character when I have time. Not sure who will be given the credit for that one, we may have to invent a cousin!

What is the most important piece of advice you could give a budding writer?
Write. Just that. Even if you end up with a mass of back material, that will come in really handy when you DO get published. Believe me, there is nothing worse than having a successful book out, your publishers clamouring for more and nothing to give them – that is pressure!

One last question, Ailsa. If you could achieve one important goal within the next 5 years, what would it be?
Despite my health problems I've been extremely fortunate and achieved most of what I set out to do. Eighteen months ago I wasn't even thinking of getting published and now I have three books on the market. Keep going as I am in the writing field.
The only thing I can think of (that I could possibly share with your readers, giggle) is that I'd like to pass my big bike test. I have 3 motorbikes but never took my test to ride a bigger bike and I want a Honda Shadow 750 for my 60th birthday!

Ailsa, it’s been a pleasure talking to you, and my thanks for taking the time out from your busy schedule to be with us today.
It's been a real blast, thanks so much; I don't suppose there's any more Horlicks going, is there?
There’s a whole jug simmering on the stove. Let’s have another cup while we wait for comments! I have a feeling there may be one, or two!

Ailsa has an excellent website at
and her books are available on Amazon at

Saturday 5 January 2013


My guest today is a published writer, a genealogist, an editor and someone who has selflessly helped budding writers onto the right path when they most needed it and encouraged others by helping to promote their work.
She has published books, as well as numerous articles internationally and also collaborated on The Writer’s ABC Checklist with Lorraine Mace.
This multi-talented person to whom many authors owe a considerable debt of gratitude could only be Maureen Vincent-Northam, known to her many friends as Mo.

Mo, firstly many thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. Usually it’s you doing the interviewing, so how does it feel to be on the other side of the blog?
A little daunting but I’m very flattered to be asked.

How did you get into writing and what was your first book about (published, or not!)?
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t enjoy writing. Always an enthusiastic reader, I liked nothing better than to curl up with a Malcolm Saville. I wrote to him once and got a lovely reply (I still have his letter). Enid Blyton was another favourite so my first book was in similar vein – I hadn’t heard the expression ‘plagiarism’ back then. Can’t recall the title but it probably contained the word ‘Adventure’. And possibly ‘Seaside’. Maybe ‘Chocolate’.

How did you move into editing?
I started by helping writer friends. Authors know how vital it is to have things checked by a fresh pair of eyes – we all miss those pesky errors in our own writing. I helped on the charity anthology, 100 Stories for Haiti and later others and realised how much I enjoyed the work.

When you write does your role as “editor” help or hinder you?
It hinders. I know all the advice is to write, write, write – get the story down. But I do find that difficult to do and find myself re-writing / punctuating sentences until I’m happy to move on. Hence, I have a number of unfinished projects. Lorraine [Mace] could tell you about the two young boys I’ve left down a castle dungeon. They’ve been there for about four years now. Still, by the time they’re out, they’ll be old enough to go straight down the pub to recover.

You wrote The Writer’s ABC Checklist together with Lorraine Mace. How did you meet Lorraine and decide to jointly write the book?
Lorraine and I met on a writers’ site called Writelink. We got along from the start, sharing the same sense of humour. As regulars on the site, we found those newer to the game often queried us about writing and getting published and one day, Lo suggested we get together and write a book that answered all the questions.
We co-wrote ABC using email and msn and it was huge fun, but we met in the flesh for the first time when we had a meeting with our publisher.

You’ve written two books now on genealogy. What got you interested in tracing family trees?
History and the past fascinate me. I’ve done local history research for writers and for a local government department. I’d delved into my own background many moons ago, and was asked by an American acquaintance to trace his Herefordshire roots. It sort of grew until I had my own dedicated website and numerous clients. I loved it – nothing like mooching about in dusty documents and piecing bits of a family puzzle together.

You’ve worked with and helped many authors. What is your favourite book genre to actually read?
Cosy crime. I’m not into the violent stuff; it’s the puzzle-solving thing again. So an amateur sleuth, a clever plot and some humour thrown in is perfect.

Do you have a set routine as a writer and editor and a special place where you work?
Not a set routine as such but I generally work every day. It may be an editing day or I may have a commissioned article to get done. I’m lucky in that I have a room to myself – my office – where I don’t get disturbed.
Oddly though, if I’m writing fiction, I like to be away from the computer altogether and prefer to use an A4 writing pad and pen.

Do you have a project you’re working on right now?
You mean apart from the kids in the dungeon? I have a Young Adult psychological thriller that’s been hanging around a while too and a list of articles to complete for my local editor (a very patient man).
I’m now one of the editors with Crooked Cat Books and have a few freelance novels I’m copy editing. I also work closely with prolific author, David Robinson, which is good fun.

What is the most important piece of advice you could give a budding writer?
Believe in yourself and NEVER give up on your dream. I know this isn’t easy in the face of constant rejection (we’ve all been there) but as a wise person once said, “A successful author is just an unpublished author who didn’t give up.” Or something like that.

One last question, Mo. If you could achieve one important goal within the next 5 years, what would it be?
To have a fiction book published.

Mo, it’s been a pleasure talking to you, and my thanks for taking the time out from your busy schedule to be with us today.

My next blog interview will be posted at the same time next Saturday evening and I promise you it will be interesting to say the least!

Blog on, Dudes!

Friday 4 January 2013

Interviews start tomorrow !

I'm really pleased to say that the first of my interviews with writers and people associated to the writing industry will be posted tomorrow (Saturday 5th January).

My first subject is a person who not only writes books and articles herself, but has helped numerous writers achieve their ambitions.Some of you will have guessed who my guest is, the rest of you will have to watch for the post to go live which should be around 7.00pm tomorrow evening.

It'll be worth the wait, I promise!

Blog on, Dudes!

Tuesday 1 January 2013


Starting in January and going all through this year I'll be posting a number of interviews with authors and people associated with the industry. Some will be famous (I promise because I know who they are) and most will be not so well-known but every one of them will have an interesting story to tell.

My first interview will be with Maureen Vincent-Northam and will be posted later in January. Known to her friends as Mo, Maureen has had a number of books published, with subjects ranging from genealogy to help books for other authors and has helped many struggling writers onto the path to success.

I'll blog, Facebook and Twitter dates about who  the next interviews will be with and when they'll be posted, but I hope to post at least one interview a month. I will, of course,also  be making my usual hard-hitting and humorous posts, so keep logging in to find out what's going on and what I think of it.

Keep blogging, Dudes!