Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Another interview!

Today Wendy H Jones' podcast  The Writing and Marketing Show featured me being interviewed about my latest novel The Healing Knife, and other book-related things. If you can spare a bit of time, why not have a listen?

Here's the link:

Thursday, 16 April 2020

Hard Times

In the midst of catastrophe, it's an insignificant matter. But to a writer whose book comes out in the middle of a pandemic lockdown it's a disaster on a smaller scale: publishers and marketing teams are working from home, international book fairs have been cancelled, book shops are closed, and my launch has been postponed to an uncertain date. Perhaps there is an upside; perhaps people are having more time to read, and I hope this book is hopeful in tone. I am thankful for the internet and social media too. So if you haven't already got a stack of paperbacks and a lengthening list on your kindle, here's another possibility for you. Meanwhile, keep safe and well.

Friday, 6 December 2019


Today I am a guest on the blog of award-winning Ruth Clemence. Here's the link:

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Catastrophe in France!

At our house in France we have  two external outbuildings (called 'dependances'), both picturesque almost-ruins. They are constructed from timber and a clay mixture using all sorts of ready-to hand materials - straw and horsehair and cowdung among them, I believe - and roofed with heavy orange tiles. The larger one is due for reroofing in February in order to extend its life. The smaller one was originally a bread oven, but the dome-shaped brick structure that housed the oven itself had gone long before we owned the house, leaving only its rickety housing, which fell partially earlier this year. When we arrived a few days ago we found that the front section of the building, which contained a lot of elderly kindling and random chunks of wood, had collapsed quite spectacularly. This wasn't entirely unexpected; bits had been falling off for a while, and one corner was held up by a black twist of dead ivy,  but we had hoped it might last a bit longer. Unfortunately we haven't been in a position to save both buildings. I guess the three weeks of almost constant rain that they've had here didn't help. The side wall, made of 'colombage' or half-timbering, fell sideways, what remained of the roof slid off, and immediate casualties were some of the vegetables growing in our kitchen garden: leeks, rhubarb and purple sprouting broccoli. Fortunately the builder who is to do the work on the larger building has agreed to clear what remains of the small one - everything that we don't want to keep and are unable to clear by ourselves. So since the weekend we have been hauling broken tiles, stacking sodden timber and chainsawing up huge beams, which when dry will serve as free firewood.
It's always the way - when we come to our French home there are things we hope to do, and inevitably something else happens which puts those plans on hold. Last time we had trouble with our internet and found ourselves trimming trees instead of hedging. This time the hedges will have to wait while we clear rubble! When the site is finally empty all that will remain is the central stone wall. The stones are mortared with 'torchis' - the clay mixture - so we will have to cap the wall, or rain will wash away the clay and the whole lot will collapse. So it goes!

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

In praise of good neighbours!

Unfortunately my phone was indoors - I didn't manage to capture the moment, so I have just added a general image of our garden in France, and not even a particularly recent one. But at least our dog Rosie is in it!
To backtrack: this summer we have had a lot of trouble with our internet and landline in France, with at one time a 10-day blackout, involving a lot of phone calls and numerous visits from telecoms engineers. Finally we were told that the problem was our trees rubbing on the cable, especially in high winds. We were sceptical, but some of the trees needed cutting back anyway, so we set to. Normally we would keep tree-trimming for the winter when the leaves wouldn't result in an enormous amount of stuff to be disposed of, but we felt we had little choice. It involved a platform about 5 feet from the ground (not very level at that) and a heavy extending chainsaw, then endless chopping up and visits to the town dump.
Still the internet remained dead.
Very reluctantly we started cutting back some small oaks which a few years ago I rescued from rampant brambles. A pile of branches, twigs and leaves began to mount up, and we were only a few days away from returning to the UK; it was going to be a long haul and very tedious getting it all cut up and taken away. Then our neighbour (French) came by on her electric bike. She saw the vast heap and us wearily wielding secateurs and took pity on us. She phoned her husband and some while later he turned up with his tractor, on the front of which was a huge toothed grab. We manhandled the branches into its maw and he trundled away to a pit on his farm where they burn their own twiggery and unwanted garden debris. Saved!
This is by no means the first time that these lovely people have helped us out of a hole.
Incidentally, at one point a sizeable oak log got stuck on the phone cable and swung around for a while, making the cable itself sag and bow. That evening, as if by magic, the internet returned. So I think our trees were definitely not the culprits. In fact, as I chatted with our neighbour while waiting for the tractor, it transpired that the whole area had been cut off for about 24 hours owing to someone inadvertently chopping through an underground cable.
Our oaks have been reprieved from the menacing attentions of the chainsaw!

Tuesday, 9 July 2019


Work on novel no. 7,  The Healing Knife, published by Lion Fiction, is well under way. The final edit is being done now and the cover design has been agreed. You won't be able to get a copy until March 2020, but here's a taster:

Sunday, 21 April 2019