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Friday, 21 March 2014

Which came first, a love of writing, or a love of animals?

Contribution to Liz Hurst's Blog What fun.

* Which came first, a love of writing, or a love of animals?

Animals came before writing, but not before acting.  Let me explain.  My first cat adopted me just before I went to Drama College in London.  I had a hairdressing salon in Rugby and the girls who worked for me insisted I took in a scruffy little stray.  I said no, but by the time the girls had fed him for a couple of weeks, they had fallen in love with him and he had taken over my flat.  Toby Two-Shoes ended up living with my parents at the pub I grew up in, when I went off to London in 1974.  

Susie Kit-Kat adopted me when I was an actress living in London

My second cat, Susie Kit-Kat, was fifteen when she came to live with me.  I was an out-of-work actress and she had been orphaned when her mum of ninety-three died.  The lady was famous in South London after a court appearance for not paying her TV license.  She told the magistrates that she had enough money to pay the TV license, or feed her cats, but not both.  She chose to feed her cats.  Susie travelled with me to several repertory theatres.  She wasn’t much help when I was leaning lines though, she used to fall asleep.

* Describe your pets.

My first cat, Toby, was jet black with white front paws – hence the name Toby Two-shoes.  Susie was a tabby, very soft and very pretty with big eyes.  Her lips were strange.  Most of the time she looked as if she was smiling.  A regular feline visitor to my garden is, Blanca.  She disturbs my writing so much…  She stalks the fish in my pond, so I run out and shoo her off.  She is pure white with piercing blue eyes – and she is very cheeky.  She knows I would never hurt her, so she sits and stares me out.  Only when she decides to leave, does she slink off.    
Blanca, hiding in my wildflower garden under the apple trees

* Take me through your writing day.

My day starts early.  I wake as soon as it is light, which is not so bad in the winter but in the summer, it can be too early.  However, it is as I’m waking up that I have my best ideas.  I have to write them down immediately.  Like dreams, they are very real at the time, but they quickly go out of your mind once you’re awake.
     Sometimes I'm bombarded with ideas for my next book before I’ve finished writing the current one.  I was line editing my second novel, Applause, for twelve hours a day.  Stupid I know, sitting at the computer for that long is bad for your legs.  However, two nights running I was kept awake by the plot of China Blue, the third book in the Dudley sisters saga,  which I haven’t started writing yet.   

Editing Foxden Acres I had Applause wake me up.  Editing Applause I had China Blue wake me up.

In the spring and summer, I make a cup of tea and switch on the computer.  While it warms up, I take my tea and walk round the garden.  I fill the birdbaths from the water butt, put down seeds for the birds and look at the fish.  One my garden creatures are happy I go back to the computer and, with a second cup of tea, check my emails, Facebook and Tweets, before opening my writing file.  Once I start writing it’s a cup of tea and a chat to the fish and frogs every couple of hours. 

* How do your pets help or hinder the writing process, and/or inspire you?

That is a good question.  They hinder and inspire in equal measure.  I was prone to being stressed, but my pets calm me.  Fish and frogs are fascinating to watch, which is relaxing.  On the other hand, if the weather is good, I am in and out of the garden all day, which is a hindrance.  In the summer, I eat my lunch outside so I can watch them.  By then the frogs are used to my voice and will sit and watch me as I am watching them.  

Frog sunbathing on a lily pad

The fish too are used to my shape and come for food.  But my favourite time is the end of my writing day.  Around six o’clock I sit and relax by the pond with a dish of olives and a glass of wine.  Perfect.  

Shubunkin, goldfish, yellow and black tench.

Summer is the best time for man and fish, except when you lose one.  I was heartbroken when I returned from Swanwick in August 2012 and found a beautiful red, silver and black, Shubunkin and two red goldfish were missing.  My neighbours saw a bird of prey in my garden and I guess it took them.  However, the good news is, last year I saw two tiny baby ‘black’ goldfish.  I can’t wait to see how much they have grown, if they survived the winter, which I’m sure they did.    

In the winter, my workstation faces the garden and I spend far too much time gazing out the window at the birds.  I hang suet balls, seed, and nut feeders in the trees for the tits and sparrows, throw seeds on the steps for the ground eaters like Robins and other small birds, and put currents and apples out for the blackbirds.  Two beautiful little doves visit every day and what they don’t eat the pigeons see off.  I love my garden, my birds and my fish and frogs.  I never tire of watching them – and I never tire of writing.
     Popping in and out several times, a day is good for a writer.  I spent far too many hours at the computer without taking a break, while I edited Foxden Acres and then Applause, and had extremely painful legs as a consequence.  Writers need to get up every hour or so and move about. 

Thanks Liz.  I enjoyed answering your questions.  I love my pets, but I didn’t realise how important they were to me as a writer.  I’m off now to make a cup of tea and have a walk round the garden before I settle down for the afternoon to write.   

The Forgiving Sand by Theresa Le Flem

Theresa Le Flem

Theresa Le Flem's novel The Forgiving Sand is set in St. Ives, Cornwall and is being released in large print paperback format on April 1st.

It's a romantic story that will instantly whisk you away to the beach with the seagulls screaming overhead and the waves breaking on the shore.  Christina is fighting to keep her quiet Sea Cafe going against all the odds.

Nestled on the sand, it is threatened with closure when her bullying brother-in-law arrived from Lodnon with ideas on taking it over.  Local fisherman John, earnestly seeks her attention.  Widowed, with a small child, his intensity moves her.  Could she love him?

When old school friend Peter comes down from Cornwall and steps in to help save her beloved cafe, will she be bowled over by his passionate embrace.

         "The Sea Inside His Head"            
         "The Forgiving Sand"  both published by Robert Hale Ltd  
          Member of the Romantic Novelists' Assoc. & The Society of Authors


Thursday, 6 March 2014

Photorealism - at the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

The Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery built in 1885 has a collection of international importance covering fine art, ceramics, metalwork, jewellery, archaeology, ethnography, local history and industrial history.

BM&G Chamberlain Square, Birmingham.

The Museums Act of 1845 “[empowered] boroughs with a population of 10,000 or more to raise a 1/2d for the establishment of museums.” In 1864 the first public exhibition room was opened when the Society and other donors presented 64 pictures as well as the Sultanganj Buddha to Birmingham Council and these were housed in the Free Library building but, due to lack of space, the pictures had to move to Aston Hall.  Joseph Nettlefold bequeathed twenty-five pictures by local artist David Cox to Birmingham Art Gallery on the condition it opened on Sundays.

Bridge between "Gas Hall" and Art Gallery

The Industrial Gallery

Round room including Jacob Epstein's Archangel Lucifer 1945-45

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is the only UK venue to host Photorealist exhibition.

50 Years of Hyperrealistic Painting Showcases key Photorealist artists from the 1960s to the present day.  Developed as a touring exhibition by the Institute for Culture Exchange, this is the largest and most comprehensive Photorealism retrospective to be held in Europe.

Hyperrealistic Paintings

Don Eddy Untitled (4 VWs) 1971

John Salt (b.1937) Bride 1969


"Brum" Our Second City
City of a thousand traders
"Workshop of the World"
Birmingham's motto: Forward

Pretending I arrived on a bicycle

On the steps to the Gallery

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Famous Five Plus Author Showcase Trailer

This fabulous trailer shows all the books and by the authors of Famous Five Plus.
Pauline Barclay
Gilli Alan
Lizzie Lamb
Chris Longmuir
Madalyn Morgan
Tanya J Peterson
Eileen Schuh
Suzy Turner