Wednesday 20 February 2013


My guest today is a British author of numerous books for children and young adults. Her novel Jigsaw, about a teenager's suicide, was shortlisted for the Angus Book Award and nominated for the Carnegie Medal in 2001. Her most recent work is the excellent Spy Girl series which now comprises four great books.
Married, with a daughter who  recently got married, my guest is becoming known as the champion of her local community in fighting the local council to stop a development which would destroy her village green.
Carol Hedges interviewed me last year and entertained me right royally with cakes and tea. I only have lemonade and questions!

Carol, firstly many thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. Usually it’s you doing the interviewing in Hedges Towers, so how does it feel to be on the other side of the blog?
It's great, Richard -  and the lemonade is very nice. I see you got PINK lemonade! (Gets up) Oh, there seems to be an empty pizza box down the side of the sofa... I'll just put it on the floor for now. (Sits down).

Product DetailsThanks. That was my tea! How did you get into writing and what was your first book about (published, or not!)?
I think I've probably been 'telling stories' as long as I've been reading! The two go together, don't they? I recall I used to make up Famous Five stories - with me, George and Timmy the Dog as co-heroes. My first published novel was called “Ring of Silver, Lord of Time”, and was a historical whodunnit based around the building of St Albans Abbey. It was published in 1992. I've since had 12 novels published - and a lot that haven't been.

You’re represented by the David Higham agency. Were they your first agent and how long did it take to get representation?
I started without an agent because, like many new writers, I was faced with the age-old  'you need to have a publishing history for an agent to consider you' problem. I was lucky: OUP took me on without an agent and published 3 novels. However, it soon became apparent that other agented writers had much better deals - so I decided to get an agent. A very kind children's writer called Tim Bowler made the necessary intros to David Higham, and they took me on. I've been there ever since. I must say though that having an agent is not a guarantee of publication any more. The recession has affected mainstream publishers very badly, and they have cut back drastically.  Recently I've had novels rejected, even though I have an agent and have been nominated for awards.

Like me you write books for the younger generation. Have you always written for younger people?
Mainly. I wrote and still write a lot of short stories for adults - I've had one broadcast on Radio 4. But my novels tend to be for the 10 -16 age range.

Have you tried writing an adult book?
I'm writing one at the moment, but I'll tell you more about that later.

The Spy Girl series centers on a feisty girl. Was she based on someone you knew?
Jazmin Dawson is a mixture of someone I wish I'd been but wasn't, and my own daughter, who has many of Jazmin's traits. Jamin's relationship with Assia, her mum, often echoes the way my daughter and I got on when she was a teenager: we fought like cat and dog at times, but underneath, we loved each other very much.

Do you plan for the Spy Girl series to stop at a certain point or will you continue them until the ideas run out?
I'd love to see a 5th Spy Girl book published, but that decision lies with Usborne.

That's good to hear and I'm sure Usborne will publish it. Do you have a set routine as a writer and a special place where you work?
As you know from my blog, I write in the sparse, freezing cold writing garret at the top of Hedges Towers!! It also doubles in real life as the third bedroom. I'm very flexible as far as routine goes. You could say my routine is not to have a routine. I try to write every day, but I don't beat myself up about word counts or set goals; life is stressful enough!

I totally agree! What projects are you’re working on right now?
I'm doing the final edits on a Victorian Gothic detective novel. It's called Diamond Girl, and is an affectionate homage to Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins  - with a nod to Bram Stoker at the same time.

That's something to look forwqard to. You've helped lots of budding authors on your blogs, but what is the most important piece of advice you could give a budding writer?
Place backside on chair. Turn on laptop. Write.

One last question, Carol. If you could achieve one important goal within the next 5 years, what would it be?
Ooh - toughie. Well, I'd like to see Diamond Girl achieve publication. Either via a mainstream publisher, or as a self-published ebook. And I'd like to get Village Green status on our playing field. And, as my daughter recently married, I'd like to be a 'gran' . I think that's 3 goals, sorry. That's what happens when you're dealing with someone who failed O-level Maths!

Carol, it’s been a pleasure talking to you, and my thanks for taking the time out from your busy schedule (and fights against officialdom!) to be with us today.
Richard, always a pleasure. And please give Tertia and her friends my best!

Carol has an excellent blogsite at

She is on Twitter @CarolJhedges

Sunday 17 February 2013


A couple of weeks ago I posted about four male fashions that I find irritating and far from fashionable. I won't repeat them because I want you to go back in my blog and search for the post! .... Oh, all right. They were:-
1. Men in suits, not wearing ties.
2. Men who shave their heads
3. Men who wear their shirt tails outside their trousers.
4. Actually I can't remember the fourth, but it was exceptioanlly irritating, take my word for it!

Now I've got a 5th fashion NO NO! Gone are the days when people used to ride bikes out of necessity because they didn't get given company cars. Also gone are the days when men wore cycle clips, a thick pullover and definitely no cycle safety helmet, because only wimps wore them. Now everybody looks like a competitor in the Tour de France, but with the occasional beer belly.

Bikes that cost several hundred pounds and Lycra cycling suits that cost nearly as much that advertise products and cycling teams that no one has ever heard of, are two a penny on the roads today. Worse, thay all have these flashing, strobe affect lights at the front and back that do nothing to light their way, and even less to warn car drivers they're approaching at a rate of knots. Are they legal, these lights? I thought they had to have lights that did the job they were intended for, not things better suited to a Christmas tree!

If you're a Bradley Wiggins, you have the slimline body intended for Lycra and probably look quite good in it. More to the point Bradley actually IS getting paid to advertise all those products and companies on his Lycra clothing. Even more important he doesn't swan around his local area dressed up for the Tour and racing down the high street, cutting up cars and belting through red lights. Actually I suppose he does, because he was knocked off his bike by a lady in a posh car. I wonder if he was Lycred up to the eye teeth that day, or juwst wearing his slacks and cycle clips?

My biggest gripe (and here it is at last!) is the hoardes of Lycra Louts that swarm up to the local Forestry Commission area where I take my dog for walkies on a Sunday morning. I 'll be happily wandering along a narrow muddy path, probably listening to Pink Floyd on my iPod when with a whoosh and a clanging of bells and expletives a Lycra Lout pushes past me, forcing me into the undergrowth. Fist waving has no effect and my dog (being stone deaf) ambles along oblivious to everything. That's annoying enough that on a country forest path you have to dodge speeding traffic, but what really riles me is the cheery wave and a "hullo!" from the Lycra Louts coming towards you. It's still neceaasry to jump to one side, or become an ornament of their handlebars!

Last of all, they chrun up the muddy paths so they become a quagmire. Presumably Lycra washes out easily and they have wives and girlfriends willing to get rid of muddy stains.

Anyway, whatever happened to Spandex????

Blog on, Dudes!

Friday 15 February 2013


Originally hailing from Norway, my guest tonight is married and now lives in Wales surrounded by her large family of children and grandchildren. 
She is very much involved in village life and runs the craft fair and the local craft group, as well as making and selling the most superb fabric figures. She writes fiction and short story anthologies as well as an on-line newspaper. A vegan by necessity she writes cook books and is rumoured to be collaborating with a certain knight of the realm on a book with recipes from 15 different centuries.
Marit Meredith is always witty, never complains and is always ready to lend a helping hand, whether it’s in her local village, or to a budding writer she’s never met.... like me! I’m proud to have her as my guest tonight.

Marit, firstly many thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. We’ve exchanged many emails and I’m a firm fan of your on-line news letter, but tonight I want to find out something about the woman behind the email address. Nervous?
Wouldn’t you be? I’ve been interviewed before, but never in such esteemed company. I don’t feel that I have enough presence as a writer to deserve this slot, and feel like hunkering down behind the sofa to escape your eagle eye. Unfortunately me knees won’t let me!

I assure you that you have more right than most to be here and I know your countless friends will totally agree! When did you come across to the UK from Norway?
I came over in 1972, with the intention of staying for a year before going back to art college in Norway.

I'm so glad you stayed. So, how did you get into writing and what was your first work about (published, or not!)?
I can’t remember there being a time when I didn’t write stories. In school my essays were regularly read out to the class. A little embarrassing, but encouraging, too.  My first story was about a character transitioning from one life, to being born into the next. Quite ambitious for a 14 year old! I sent it off to a weekly magazine, but it was, alas, rejected, although it was a very nice and helpful rejection letter. I was quite pleased that I was addressed as Mrs J… At least the editor thought it was an adult who had written the story.

I know you’re a vegan by necessity, rather than choice, Have you plans to create new recipes and publish them?
Vegan, gluten free, potato free… the list goes on. The task I had set myself has become more complex, but I will get the recipes sorted out one day, with alternatives for the various allergies and intolerances. One day…

The fabric models you make and sell through your Old Hen’s Nest website are wonderful and I’m now the proud owner of some of them. What started you making them and how did you become so skillful?

My educational background is in art and design, besides which I made teddies, dolls, dogs and more years ago, to make ends meet when my eldest three were children. Some of the things I made still survive, I have been told, decades down the line. Working with textiles is just another media. I’d love to do more arty work, sculpting with the needle. Credit should also go to my Mum. She taught me well!

Birds and mice seem to be your favourite animals. Do you also make to order?
I’ll make just about anything stitch-able to order. Birds are a definitely my favourite. I don’t know about mice. I made an awful lot of them for last Christmas, due to demand.

My daughter has a whole family of your mice in her bedroom and loves them. Your Twitter based newsletter @ThePagesZine is great. How did you come up with the idea and how do you get so much interesting stuff for each edition?
Marit MeredithDavid Robinson told me all about it, as he runs one of these papers too.  It’s great in as much as I don’t have to do anything but ensure that I follow interesting people. Posts/blogs are then automatically selected, according to popularity (or perhaps number of tweets), which inevitably makes for an interesting read. No work involved.

And I’d pictured you slaving over a hot writing desk and a guttering candle! Coupled with you blogsite “Where Fact and Fiction Fuse” you seem to spend more time in helping other writers promote their work than in promoting your own, yet I know you have some wonderful Works In Progress. Will they become finished works?
Are you trying to guilt-trip me? Very naughty! Yes, I do have many unfinished works, some just needing the final edit and a kind publisher, and several will be finished – although I can’t tell you when, as my Old Hen’s Nest business is keeping me very busy at the moment.

Do you have a set routine as a writer and model maker, and a special place where you work?
My routine went to pot when I set up Old Hen’s Nest last year, but I will re-install my early morning and late evening writing slots very soon. That fits in with the family, too. I write by my lovely bureau, in the corner of the living room, my favourite work place.

What are you’re working on right now?
Mainly research for an almost completed work.

You helped me so much in the past and I hope you will be in the future, but what is the most important piece of advice you could give a budding writer?
Don’t ever give up!

Excellent advice. One last question, Marit. If you could achieve one important goal within the next 5 years, what would it be?
I’m a published writer, but I’d love to be able to say that I am a published author – so getting my books out there is what I would like to achieve.

Marit, as always it’s been a pleasure talking to you, and my thanks for everything you’ve done for the writing community in the past!
Thank you for inviting me, Richard. It’s always a pleasure to help, although you did scare me this time!

Marit’s excellent blog site Where Fact and Fiction Fuse is at:
Marit’s The Pages magazine is on Twitter at:
Back issues of ‘The Pages’ (which she ran for 3 years), is to be found at

Marit’s  website Tea Time Morsels and Other Books, is at 

Marit’s cloth hand-stitched models can be seen and bought on her Old Hen’s Nest web site at:  and more recent ones on her Facebook page Old Hen’s Nest. 

Thursday 14 February 2013


Mastercard, Absolutely Priceless ....
Experience the best London has to offer for MasterCard cardholders.

Reported in the Newcastle Evening Chronicle U.K. recently:
MBNA Bank of AmericaBe sure and cancel your credit cards before you die! This is so priceless.  And so easy to see happening - customer service, being what it is today!

A lady died this past September, and MBNA bank billed her in October and November for their annual service charges on her credit card, and then in December added late fees and interest on the monthly charge.
MBNA Bank of America
The balance that had been £0.00, now is somewhere around £60.00.
A family member placed a call to the MBNA Bank . . .  :

Family Member: 'I am calling to tell you that my grandma died in September.'

MBNA: 'But the account was never closed and so the late fees and charges still apply.'

Family Member: 'Maybe, you should turn it over to your collections section.'

MBNA: ‘Since it is two months over due, it already has been.'

Family Member: ‘So, what will they do when they find out she is dead?'

MBNA: 'Either report her account to the Frauds Department or report her to The Credit bureau, maybe both!'

Family Member: 'Do you think God will be mad at her?'

MBNA: 'Excuse me?'

Family Member: 'Did you just get what I was telling you . . The part about her being dead?'

MBNA: 'Sir, you'll have to speak to my supervisor.'
Supervisor gets on the phone:

Family Member: 'I'm calling to tell you, she died in September.'
MBNA: 'But the account was never closed and the late fees and charges still apply.'

Family Member: 'You mean you want to collect from her estate?'

MBNA: (Stammer) 'Are you her solicitor?'

Family Member: 'No, I'm her grandson'

MBNA: 'Could you fax us a  death certificate?'

Family Member: 'Sure.'

( fax number is given )

After they get the fax:

MBNA: 'Our system just isn't set up for death. I don't know what more I can do to help.'

Family Member: 'Well, if you figure it out, great! If not, you could just keep billing her.  I don't think she will care.'

MBNA: 'Well, the late fees and charges will still apply.'
Family Member: ‘Would you like her new billing address?'

MBNA: 'That would help.'

Family Member: ' Plot 1049.' Heaton Cemetary, Heaton Road , Newcastle upon Tyne

MBNA: 'But, that's a cemetery!'Garden remembrance

Family Member: 'Well, what the f*** do you do with dead people on your planet?'

The MBNA were not available for comment when a reporter from the Newcastle Evening Chronicle rang them.

The above is unbelievable, but it actually happened. I've blogged before about banks and Indian call centers. I have to admit I don't know whether the call center was in Indoia, but my own dealings with MBNA would indicate it is. It just goes to show that banks have no sympathy and little understanding od theEnglish language. Compassion isn't a word they understand, though "solicitor" seems to be one they dread!
And still the bankers want massive bonuses and presumably the easy way to get them is to levy charges on dead people, who actually owe them no money when they died and can't argue, let alone pay up. Doubtless MBNA would have eventually "sold" the debt to a collections agency who would literally have gone to Heaven and Hell to get their money. At least they'd have felt at home in Hell.

Blog on, Dudes!

Oh... and check out my new page on Amazon and why not buy one of my books while you're at it?