Friday 25 December 2015

How many did you get this year? Come on, you know what I mean...

.... I'm talking about THESE things!

I've been getting at least three a year since they first appeared in gift toiletries sets in around 1995, and until last year I just left them on the side of the bath until I got fed up with seeing them around April, and chucked them out.  Or pushed them into the bit in the airing cupboard between the linen baskets and the wall and hoped they'd go away.

But they multiply. 

If you have an impromptu clear out of the bathroom at any time of the year, I guarantee you will find up to five of them.  They lurk.

This year I received two, a rather meagre white one in a Baylis and Harding set, and an abundant, lush pink one that's currently still sitting on the coffee table with a self-satisfied, well fed look about him, next to his Soap and Glory friends.  Probably been at the Thorntons.  The ones I haven't eaten, anyway.  Boy, did I have heartburn when I tried to go to sleep last night.  

(update: when taking more bottles of 'body wash' out of their gift packs to put away, just now, I discovered a third one hiding away between the bottles!)

Last year I finally discovered what they're for, by putting one in the bath, adding soap and applying it to my skin.  They're to make your skin go all red, and then fairly smooth.  Kinda like body lotion does, except body lotion misses out the red bit and smells nicer.  I'll stick with the body lotion, I think.  And make a plea to the people who make bath sets to please, please, put bubble bath back into them! 

Bring back the bubble bath!!!

Yesterday, I got shower gel, (result!  I don't have to buy any for either of us until at least November; it actually didn't run out until about three weeks ago, this year!), the oddly named 'body wash' (it's, like, shower gel), body lotion, and moisturisers with practically every name you can think of - hand cream, foot cream, knee and elbow cream (okay, I made that up), and a very thick one like Pond's Cold Cream which has a name too stupid to repeat.  Not as ludicrous as last year's 'body polish', though.  But no bubble bath.  Perhaps they think we're too busy buffing our skin with the strange objects, polishing ourselves all over and applying different creams to each part of the body, to lie back in bubbles.  

I hope you had lots of nice presents!!  I decided yesterday that I would eat what I wanted, with the result that I ate as many chocolates as I could (not as many as I wanted, but as many as I could - there's a difference); today I will instruct Him Indoors to hide them.  He doesn't actually need to - I can't stand the sight of them today.  

Have a good Boxing Day, whatever you are doing!

Wednesday 23 December 2015

My Top 25 Most Viewed Blog Posts of 2015

View figures taken on December 21st, when I started compiling this post.  I've looked at posts from both my book review and my general blog; via those two combined, I've written a total of 208 posts this year, which seems ridiculous!  

Here are the Top 25 ~ I hope you see something that you might like to read or revisit, but the list itself might be interesting to other bloggers, as it shows the types of posts that result in the most views. 

In reverse order....

25.  My review for Bridget Whelan's Back To Creative Writing School 
has been viewed 1444 times. 

24.  With 1481 views, All The Sundays Of My Life, 
~ a little bit of nostalgia!

23.  Hmmm....for some reason, 1543 people were interested 
in reading my views on and experiences in Internet Dating...:)

22.  My review of Mark Barry's Once Upon A Time In The City Of Criminals, which has featured in the top ten most viewed posts of my book blog for much of the year.  Currently at 1660 views.

21.  In late August I began The Zodiac Files, with writers talking about their star signs:  Anne Goodwin's post about being a not very typical Leo gained 1679 views. 

20.  My Top 24 Books of 2015, which I imagine will get a lot more than its current 1705 views by the time we get into the New Year!

19.  Taurean Val Poore's post on The Zodiac Files1751 views

18.  Just ahead of Val, Georgia Rose's Capricorn post on The Zodiac Files has had 1757 views.

17.  My moan about that site had 1811 views ~  

16.  It's all about the earth signs ~ Barb Taub's (hilarious!!) Virgo Zodiac Files post had 1826 views.

The joy of favourite old clothes gained 1835 views.

14.  Sagittarius writer Katrina Mountfort's Zodiac Files post 
was viewed by 1861 people

13.  In May, I had a bit of a moan about the awful UPSELLING  in shops ~ 
this has had 1980 views to date.

12.  Another Zodiac Files post has so far gained 2020 views ~  
Sacha Black talked about being a Pisces.

11.  2039 people have viewed my short story, Karmaville
my imaginary social networking village :)

The Top Ten
(I love countdowns...:)

10. Back in January, I wrote about my six week reading marathon ~ 

9.  Last month's in depth discussion about writing according to 'the rules' ~ 2169 views for 

8.  Posts about writing, self-pub and promotion are always so popular ~ 
2498 views for Be Visible, Be Discovered 

7.  Another Zodiac Files post ~ the first few gained so much interest!  
2573 views for Aquarius/Capricorn writing duo Nicky Black 

6.  More books and writing ~ 
my January advice post on writing Book Blurbs  got 2635 views.

The Top Five

5.  This was my first post for The Zodiac Files; it's not surprising it did well as it was a new idea: 2988 views.  
Read about me and my sister HERE (Leo and Aries)

Taken in 1991!!!

4..... but the second one did even better!  
Gemini Shelley Wilson's post got a whopping 3241 views.

3.  You can't beat a 'how to' post, I suppose: my third most viewed post of 2015 was a bit of advice inspired by my year of reviewing books for Rosie Amber's book blog:  
NOT another 'how to write' post, but it may help new writers.

2.  This was a surprise, but I'm just glad people wanted to take a look ~ 
4952 views for my post about My new book ~ The House of York

1.  My most viewed blog post this year ~ I was and still am amazed that 5774 people viewed my January post about My 10th book on Amazon ~ Last Child.  It's my most viewed post since I started the blog almost four years ago - so I've got something to beat in 2016!

Thank you for reading, tweeting, retweeting, commenting and sharing on other sites ~ and a huge thank you to all those who have taken part in The Zodiac Files :)

Merry Christmas and happy new year xx

Wednesday 16 December 2015

The Z Files: Heather Burnside ~ Virgo

Astrology ~ a bit of fun, a load of rubbish, or something to take seriously?

I invited around 70 writers/bloggers to write a piece about how typical they are of their sign, and how its traits affect their writing life ~ if at all...

Has your favourite writer been featured yet?  Links to all previous posts at the end of this one :)

Okay, everyone mind your Ps and's another Virgo, gritty northern crime writer Heather Burnside!!  Heather's two Manchester based crime novels are steaming up the Amazon chart, and she is is happy to offer her multi-genre short story collection, Crime, Conflict and Consquences, free ~ please click HERE if you're interested. 

Heather's piece is another one of those that says so much about her sign that it's just one big celebration of Virgo ~ let her tell you all about her sixth sign self

"I think the way in which I approached this article says a lot about whether I am a typical Virgo. I asked Terry for some pointers on Virgo characteristics and copied these down along with some information I gleaned from the Internet. I then highlighted those characteristics that I identified in myself, and which I believed influenced the way I work. There were a few words that cropped up repeatedly, and I recognised these all too well. 

A bit of a methodical approach, you might say. Perhaps a bit too meticulous and pedantic, bordering on the anally-retentive, in fact. Yes, that’s me; I’m definitely a typical Virgo so the following words also apply:

Exacting, organised, worrier, overcritical, indecisive, obsessive, compulsive, mentally astute, perfectionist and reserved."

"But before I send you running for the hills at my description of a neurotic bore, I should add that I also have a great sense of humour, which I sometimes incorporate into my writing. Other positives are that I’m loyal, loving, kind, helpful and reliable." 

So how does all of this affect my writing life? 

It can have its advantages but it can drive me to distraction as well. I’m incredibly organised so I have lists for everything – character lists, lists of place names for each novel, To Do lists, marketing lists etc. The pluses are that it helps me to keep track of everything. I also find character lists and lists of place names invaluable for ensuring consistency, especially with a trilogy. On the negative side, because I’m self-critical and obsess about things, I am always thinking there is something I have left out.  

I draw up an outline for each novel, which acts like a framework that I build onto. Despite my exacting nature, I’m not totally inflexible and my compulsions mean that I often get an idea for a scene much later on in the novel. It’s usually something that’s really impactful, and I know that I have to write it as soon as possible before it becomes diluted. Because I’ve kept a detailed outline, I can write out of sequence without losing track of where I’m up to."

"As regards book promotion, I’m reserved so I find promotion the hardest thing of all. I hate pushing myself on people and am constantly preoccupied that I’m not doing enough to sell my books. As I’m loyal I always try to support other authors and bloggers who I’ve befriended."

Yes, yes, I had to stop myself doing the whole thing in bold, a bit like I did with another lady of this sign HERE! ~ you agree about the ultra-Virgo-ness, I am sure!  If you would like to know more about Heather's books, you can read about them HERE, and also follow her on Twitter.

I must admit, it's getting a bit hard to find suitable famous writers according to sign, so, although she has nothing to do with the sort of books Heather writes, I've chosen one of my all time favourite historical novelists, simply because I can't do this whole series without giving her a mention....

....the late and wonderful Norah Lofts ~ if you haven't read The Wayside Tavern 
and The House At Old Vine trilogy, your life is not complete :)

and a crime novelist of a different Virgo kind ~ Agatha Christie!

Previous Posts:
Aquarius and Capricorn: Nicky Black

Sunday 13 December 2015

The Z Files: Marcia Carringon ~ Libra

Astrology ~ a bit of fun, a load of rubbish, or something to take seriously?

I invited around 70 writers/bloggers to write a piece about how typical they are of their sign, and how its traits affect their writing life ~ if at all...

Has your favourite writer been featured yet?  Links to all previous posts at the end of this one :)

Now I'd like to introduce someone who always tries to make Twitter and the indie publishing world a helpful and supportive place, in the nicest, harmonious, Libra way possible.  Welcome to Marcia Carrington, a frequent blogger and writer of short, light romances ~ you can find out all about her and her books (with links to all sites) on this part of her blog, Marcia's Book Talk
Rather than send me a photo of herself, Marcia sent me the picture she uses for her profile on Twitter, which I imagine many tweeters-about-books will recognise.

"Being a Libran, I believe that I am artistically orientated, and do love beauty. Beauty whether it be in people and their hearts, clothing, places, food, furniture…the list goes on. As for everything being balanced and harmonious, I sometimes want everything TOO balanced at times, and that may sap spontaneity if the line is too straight, the shoes at home lining up exactly with each other, or other such things! "

"As for being indecisive, yes, I have been guilty of that in the past, and less in the present, but it’s funny, with writing, I’m never indecisive, and don’t waver! If I have a release date for a book, I don’t deviate from this, deliver it on time, and quickly choose the cover models for my books. It is more clear cut for me, oddly enough, and being a Libran this may seem strange that I don’t mull over things much more, but I don’t! The place I can be very indecisive, though, is in the supermarket, especially when there are so many delights on offer, and it can be difficult to choose between lemon cheesecakes or baked American cheesecakes, for example - now these are heart-rending dilemmas for me!"

Aha, and did you know that Librans are supposed to have a particularly sweet tooth??? Do follow Marcia on Twitter, she's a charming lady :)

Now, the famous Libran writers....

.... first up, here's Nora Roberts, American author of over 200 romance novels - 
how does anyone physically manage to write that many??!!
... and for no reason other than he hasn't appeared on The Z Files yet ~ 
Libran Oscar Wilde

Coming next time: Virgo

Previous Posts (click name to see post):
Aquarius and Capricorn: Nicky Black


The Z Files: Judith Barrow ~ Scorpio

Astrology ~ a bit of fun, a load of rubbish, or something to take seriously?

I invited around 70 writers/bloggers to write a piece about how typical they are of their sign, and how its traits affect their writing life ~ if at all...

Has your favourite writer been featured yet?  Links to all previous posts at the end of this one :)

Yes, it's yet another Scorpio... a Yorkshire writer living in Wales, the author of very popular family dramas, Judith Barrow.  I've read and reviewed her compelling, warts-and-all trilogy about the fortunes of one family during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s; you can read my reviews HERE.  Judith is also a creative writing tutor, and a keen reader/reviewer for Rosie Amber's Review Team.

Here she is with Mr Barrow, who very kindly put her straight about her November born traits, as you will see below.... come and whip your Scorpio tail at us, Judith! :)

"Not having been confronted by the traits of a typical Scorpio before, now I look it up I’m not sure I want to be one; not with words like Jealous, Possessive, Manipulative, Controlling.

Throwing my pen across the table and giving a snort of disgust, I tell my husband, ‘I think my mother got the dates wrong; I think I’m more Sagittarius, I’m only six days out.

He slowly shakes his head without looking up from the newspaper. ‘It says Sagittarians are unemotional.’

Ah, I think. So…

Scorpios … deep, intense, passionate. Yep, like that; do like that.
Loyal. That’s better."

"Dynamic, Resourceful. I can feel a warm glow inside me; they’ve got it spot on!

Observant. Definitely; as I writer I have to be. Although someone has called it being nosey before now–just because I ask questions and don’t give up until I get the answers. 

Unyielding?’ he suggests.

‘Oh no, I’m not. Not at all.’  I glare at him.

He looks at me over his glasses. ‘How do you feel about being “suspicious?”’

Now, why would he say that?"

I love it!  Well done, Judith, a typical Scorpio personality portrayed in so few words ~ which is very Scorpio in itself, of course.  You can see Judith's blog HERE, and follow her on Twitter.

Judith has strong Welsh links, living in Pembrokeshire as she does, and being published by Honno, who cater for all things book and Welsh, so who could I choose for her first famous Scorpio writer if not....

....Mr Literary Wales himself, Dylan Thomas? 

My second choice is a lady who fixed me with 
a steely Scorpio glare even from Wikipedia and, like Judith, is famed 
for her gritty working class dramas ~ Beryl Bainbridge.


Up Next: a very kind and helpful Libra

Previous Posts:
Aquarius and Capricorn: Nicky Black