Change, football training, and special bonds

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“What time is my football training?” “Is it time to go yet, mummy?” “Are we going yet?” “Is it football training time yet?” “Can we go to football training now, mummy?” Trainboy must have asked these questions and many other … Continue reading

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A couple of steps back…

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Once again, its been a while since I blogged. I know I am beginning to sound like a broken record, but it has been an eventful year so far. When I wrote my last blog post back in February, I … Continue reading

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The dog ate my blog posts

Honestly. I’ve been meaning to blog for ages. I’ve had, and lost, the best blog ideas ever! I’ve just not got around to writing them down…

So wordpress now kindly reminds me that it’s been nearly seven months since my last blog post. The shame! Seven months? Where did the time go?

Well, without trying to conjure up excuses for my blog-fail (I don’t have a dog), I thought I’d all let you know what I’ve been up to since July.

I got back from my Greek holiday at the end of August, with a few days to spare before Trainboy started primary school; a nail biting experience for me though he did remarkably well settling in! I planned and wrote another novel during NaNoWriMo (which still needs completing, though the 50K word mark was hit a few days before the end of November) and got involved in business with a friend at around the same time

That takes me to the end of November. December felt like a sly draft from a misfitted window – it brushed past me before I even had time to react. To be frank, preparations for Christmas always make me feel that way. January and half of February have sort of flown past with a mixture of non-fiction work and business work.

And here I am now. I’ve read a load of books worth reviewing, I’ve made a load of notes for short stories that are worth writing and I’ve got a full moleskin of ideas on editing and finishing my new novel. I just need to get started. This time, I promise to keep you up to date with my progress.

I better roll up those sleeves…

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The “big cockroach” submission trap


Sometimes, the fear of rejection is worse than getting the bad news.

While I’m in Greece, I’ve come across quite a few cockroaches; something to do with the heat apparently. And with my knight in shining armour back in the UK, I’ve had to deal with them myself. Let me define “dealing” with them: I squash the little ones with a mix of delectable pleasure and hair raising reflex while I chase away the bigger ones. Or throw things at them. Like chairs, Trainboy’s armbands, magazines, anything within grasp.

Now forgive me for the tenuous quality of this link, but I can’t help but think that my overall attitude to cockroach busting is mirrored somehow in my writing and especially my attitude in submitting material.

With smaller submissions, like articles and shorts, I’ve developed the skin of a rhino. It still pains me to submit them, just like I shudder when I squash a little cockroach. But I do it, knowing that at the end of the day, I’ll get better at it and I’ll get accepted more as time passes and I gain in experience.

My novel on the other hand is more like a big cockroach. I can’t even bear the idea of squashing it, the sound of the crunch just goes through me, let alone the imagined brown liquids that would come out of its meaty body. Yuk. Anyway, my novel sat polished and ready to be submitted for months. It stared back at me as I dusted it every day, but I didn’t have the courage to post it out. In delaying submission, I only became more and more agitated about it just sitting there. I argued (with myself) that it wasn’t ready, but I knew I couldn’t improve it without any further feedback.

Finally, after much deliberation (and dusting) I sent it off. A few weeks later, my SAE arrived in the post. Yes, it contained a rejection. My first major one. And for about twenty-four hours I felt a little numb, a little disappointed and a little deflated. I didn’t feel crushed. In fact I felt like the accumulated stress of keeping it on the shelf for so long, kind of dispersed into nothing. I would have liked some feedback, but at least I have an answer from one publisher, so it is time to send it to the next one. Right?

Well, you would think I’d got the whole “can’t send my novel out” thing under control.

I researched potential new publishers to send to, and even made a list. Yet weeks later and I still hadn’t submitted my novel someplace else.

Until the other night.

The other night, it was way past midnight. Trainboy woke-up. He wanted water.

The apartment was dark, but for the light from the fridge in front of me.

Don’t move, Mummy.” Trainboy said.

Why, darling?”

There’s a big bug behind your feet.”

I turned around. There on the floor close to my feet, a massive cockroach twirled its antennae at me. I can’t remember what I did next. I panicked. Thankfully, I didn’t empty the entire contents of the fridge on it – I thought it would just stay there and eat it. The cockroach moved a little, giving me some space – enough space to get to the cockroach spray from under the cupboard.

I sprayed, and chased it around the house. Trainboy cheered me and squealed in excitement. Finally, after the cockroach ran an equivalent to a 10K, it stopped, turned over and died.

I sighed in relief. Trainboy clapped his hands. I had won. I may have not crunched it under my foot, but I had won. However late it was, I sat immediately in front of my laptop and sent my novel to the next publisher on the list.

Have you ever fallen into the “big cockroach” submission trap? And if so, how did you feel when you actually submitted it? Have you heard back? 

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An extended absence…

I’m sitting outside my rented flat on the outskirts of a little village, looking out to a little bay. My gaze focuses on the platinum band between the deep cobalt blue of the sea and the paler blue of the sky. The breeze carries the woody scent of oregano, thyme and lavender. Cicadas rest on the branches of silver-leaved olive trees, their tireless song somehow slowing my world right down to their simple rhythm. I’ve been doing lots of thinking here, but right now, I can’t help but think that this is one of the best decisions I made this year.

It has taken six and a half days in total. That is, two ferry rides, 1000 km of driving through Holland, Germany, Austria and Italy (where we spent two magnificent days in Venice) to finally arrive at our final destination for the summer. Greece.

There are a few reasons I’ve decided to take such a long break from my normality. I want Trainboy to spend time with the Greek side of my family to bond and to help him pick-up the language. Then there’s my writing. I want to write more. Back home, in the UK, I have too much cleaning to do, as well as overly ambitious vegetable gardening goals. I’m not adding the obvious to the list: the damp, cool summers that I just can’t get used to!

Here in Greece, about 100kms north of Athens, I feast on the meaty tomatoes, the succulent peppers and the flavoursome cucumbers that my dad grows in his vegetable patch. I swim in crystal clear sea with my nephew, my niece and of course Trainboy. My Kindle has become a third arm and I am quickly filling my new notebook with notes and ideas on a new novel, as well as finishing long abandoned short stories and ideas for non-fiction articles to write.

Life is good, and although the crisis has hit every part of Greece, the sun, the sea and the warmth of the people really make-up for the gloom that is spreading out from Athens.

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Greek Elections: Who would you vote for?

As the world watches Greece go to elections in a crucial race that will determine the fate of the country, Greeks are  faced with a stark dilemma. Who should they vote for?  In fact, who would I vote for if I were in the country?

You may remember that I made my stance on the second bailout clear in my blog post “My view of  the Greek Debt Crisis”. This post is my attempt to make sense of the three unpalatable options that Greeks are faced with when casting their votes:

ND (conservatives) and Pasok (socialists)

Once arch enemies and for decades perpetually driving Greece further down the road of bankruptcy, in the 6th of May elections, Greeks (and quite rightly so) humiliated these parties by clearly pulling support.

Currently both parties seem to be singing from the same hymn sheet. Both, pro-bailout and pro-Europe, they ram their fear-inducing manifestos down Greeks throat like chemotherapy given to a cancer-stricken patient with hours to live.

They promise to renegotiate the bailout that they negotiated and guaranteed with letters to the Troika in the first place. There is no shame in their pre-election campaigns, nor is there any acknowledgement of the part they played in the current dreadful state of the Greek economy.

Do leopards change their spots?

The personal profile of their two leaders, Samaras (ND), and Venizelos (Pasok) is questionable.

In a controversial move in the 1990’s, Samaras opened the borders to thousands of Albanians to enter Greece, without a policy or plan on how these people would be fed, clothed, and sheltered. As a result, in my humble opinion, Greece has never been the same relatively crime-free country after that.

In 1993, he let his political ambitions rise above his duty to his country by pulling his support from the then government and sending the country to early elections.

Samaras is a typical politician that changes his mind (and his policies) quicker than you can blink. When the crisis begun, and as the leader of the opposition, Samaras vehemently stood against the bailout. He even sacked-off several of his MP’s for voting for the bailout. Then, in a surprise u-turn, he not only supported the bailout, but backed the unity government led by technocrat Papademos, on the condition that Papandreou would step down as prime minister. Hmmm… Now, he claims he is going to renegotiate that same agreement that he helped to forge. I am far from convinced. Samaras would not get my vote.

The same applies to Venizelos, head of the Pasok party. Venizelos is the man responsible for the mushrooming of the Olympic Games budget in 2004. He was also Finance Minister and the key negotiator of the second bailout.

His plans involve going back to the Troika to ask for more lenient terms on the agreement that he insisted for months was the only way. Thankfully, it seems Pasok is finished. Relegated down to third place in the elections, it deserves to stay there or slide down even more.

Syriza vs ND

Polls show that the election result is a decision between Syriza, the radical left and ND, the conservative party. I agree.

In the 6th May elections, Syriza led by the young and largely inexperienced Alexis Tsipras, came a very close second. I have lots of respect for his hard-line tactics and confidence. I applaud his bravado. I admire his ability to stand up to Germany and the propaganda-stirring European partners. I also admit to being a little amused by his ability to call Europe’s bluff.

Tsipras has a history of breaking with tradition in a society that is steeped in it. He’s openly defied the tradition of marriage. He refuses to wear a tie. He makes a refreshing change from the average middle-aged, stuffy Greek politician.

He sounds like the type of man Greece needs at the helm. So what if he is inexperienced. Greeks have had “experienced” politicians that have destroyed the country.

Tsipras has promised to end austerity, to stop privatisations and the sacking of civil servants, to freeze pension and salary cuts and to create jobs.

His Achilles heel is his inability to explain how he will fund these promises. How will he keep thousands of civil servants in their cushy jobs and find an extra 100,000 positions to decrease the debilitating unemployment? Greece desperately needs a complete pubic sector restructure, and this is where Tsipras would potentially lose my vote.

Will he surprise us once more with a clear win in the elections this Sunday? It will be a close call. The probability is that whether Tsipras or Samaras come to power, neither will be able to hold government for long.

In the 6th May elections, Greeks voted with their heart immersed in anger and despair. This time, the media report that Greeks will vote with the fear of a return to the drachma.

I hope that they don’t. Regardless of the outcome of the elections, Greeks are in for a rough ride over the next few years. They might as well stay true to their conscience and vote for the person that can bring change, however temporary.

Who would you vote for and why?

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Lucky 7

Lucky 7 is a bit of a blog challenge, writerly fun, and probably a bit of a confidence booster for us unpublished writers that are fairly obsessive about letting go of our babies!

And it seems I’ve been tagged by two of my favourite twitterers, Nettie Thomson and Voula Grand, to blog seven lines from my two unpublished works of fiction. First of all, a big thank you to these two lovely ladies for nominating me, and a bigger apology for taking this long to do it! So, here goes:

The instructions are:

  • Go to page 7 or 77 in your current manuscript (fiction or non-fiction)
  • Go to line 7
  • Post on your blog the next 7 lines, or sentences, as they are – no cheating
  • Tag 7 other authors to do the same


I will start with line 7 of page 7 of The Pandora Prophecy, a paranormal romance novel.

The De Lucas and the Ferraris are sworn enemies. Sophia De Luca has learnt this the hard way. But when the De Lucas fall victims of a long forgotten ancient force, the only man that can help Sophia is Marco Ferrari. A man her mind shuts down to, her body desperately needs and the dark power inside her wants to consume. If the Pandora prophecy is fulfilled, Sophia De Luca will lose her family forever. Can she learn to trust Marco before it’s too late? More importantly can she trust her own feelings for the rogue that broke her heart a year ago?

Here, Sophia De Luca returns to Donford determined to find her family, but mythical creatures attack her at the airport. Marco Ferrari, a man she has vowed to stay away from, comes to her rescue.

Damn them bloody De Lucas!” he said through gritted teeth. “Set off the EMP, we’re going in to get her.” He’d let go of her once, he wouldn’t do it again.

“You can’t be serious.” Punch looked at him like he was insane, but his voice was lost as Marco’s bike roared into life. Marco turned the throttle and kicked the machine into gear. Smoke briefly spewed from the spinning back tyre as the bike lurched away towards the terminal.

I will also include seven lines from my novella, The Queen of Souls, a story with the same mythology as The Pandora Prophecy, and also paranormal romance.

Stripped of all her powers and dragged to the future, Persie remembers nothing of her past as a powerful goddess and Queen of Souls, not even the dark stranger she is desperately attracted to.

Blinded by love, and told by the Powers That Be that only Persephone can save his kingdom, Hades, a.k.a. Aiden Black does the only thing that can bring her back to him. He re-awakens her powers, not realising that this will begin a chain of events, orchestrated perfectly to destroy them, and the world as they know it.

This is from page 7.

Too long, she thought. Heavy footsteps approached loudly. She spun in every direction, but there was nobody there. Then came the whistling of bullets. Rose petals scattered as one hit the bunch of blood red roses. She heard another bullet hit something close. The groan that followed confirmed it, the earth shook, and she did the one thing that she could do, even though she risked blowing her cover.

Time ground to a halt. Red petals hovered in mid air. Two figures in the distance on her right looked like comedic statues, frozen mid pace.

Hope you all enjoyed that! Now to pass on the challenge to these seven lovely writers:

Steven Chapman

Victoria Lamb

Maria Savva

Vivienne Dacosta

James Parker

Liesel Schwarz

Aimee Duffy


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The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice

I’ll start this review with a simple declaration.

Anne Rice is my favourite author. Ever.

It doesn’t matter whether she writes about witches, vampires, angels or even Jesus. I’ve read everything she’s written. Everything. I’ve even read her less known Beauty books, written under a different name.

So quite naturally, when I found out her new book is about werewolves, I pre-ordered it and counted the days to its arrival.

It makes little difference that I am not a massive fan of the hairy beasts, as within a couple of pages into the book, my faith in Anne Rice is completely justified.

When Reuben Golding, a privileged young news reporter drives to a remote mansion to cover a story on it’s uncertain future, he finds himself strangely attracted not only to the owner of the mansion, but to the mansion itself. But the trip leaves him with more than he bargains for; an attack that changes his life. Over the course of the next few days and weeks, Reuben is transformed from “sunshine-boy” to someone else, something else.

Unwillingly at first, but with increasing acceptance of his fate, he embarks on his journey of self-discovery. Soon, Reuben realises that his transformation allows him to smell evil. He feels compelled to protect the innocent and avenge people wronged. But his strength and new-found power also mean that he has to keep his distance from the life he had before his transformation; his family, his girlfriend and his friends. And while he struggles to come to terms with his new life, and the loneliness that surrounds it, the unimaginable happens. He “infects” another human with the Gift.

The Wolf Gift is pure Anne Rice. It is dark. It is romantic. It is fast-paced and gripping. It is engaging and perhaps most importantly, it is fresh.

Anne Rice has done with werewolves, exactly what she’s done for vampires, witches and angels and given them a complete make-over and her individual twist on their background. She’s re-invented and re-written the mythology of the genre.

Forget the phases of the moon and all the other typical werewolf stuff you are used to reading. Anne’s werewolves are conscientious and capable of retaining all of their feelings, while their sense of humanity merges seamlessly with their animal instincts in a satisfying manner. Whilst they retain their need of belonging in a pack, this comes with a completely different feel to the structured hierarchy and standard behaviour of packs that other werewolf novels thrive on.

The tension in the story builds steadily, although it peaks ahead of the end. In any other book, I’d find this slightly dissatisfying, but here Anne Rice cleverly answers all the questions she’s set through the story and explores the mythology of the werewolves she has created. It perhaps also sets the tone for her next novel in this series. As usual, I will look forward to getting my paws on it.

Chatto & Windus, London



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11.22.63 by Stephen King


This book won’t knock my favourite Stephen King novel from its top spot. But did I enjoy it? Yes. Most definitely. Now, don’t go thinking this is traditional King genre. It’s not. There is no horror in sight, although there are thriller elements and lots and lots of tension. This is a time travel novel. Pure and simple time travel, and every single page of it, reminds me why Stephen King is one of the best-selling authors of our times and a true master of his craft.

Jake Epping is an ordinary schoolteacher in Maine when something extraordinary happens to him. A dying friend tells Jake of a wormhole he has discovered that allows him to travel back in time and begs him to finish off a job he can no longer finish: to change the course of history and America itself by saving the life of JFK.

The rules of the wormhole are simple. Stepping through it, will take Jake to a specific day in 1954 and no matter how long or brief his stay is in the past, when he steps back to the present only two minutes will have lapsed.

Reluctant at first, Jake agrees to go through the wormhole to the unspoilt America of the 1950’s where food and drink burst with taste and people are friendly. This lures Jake into agreeing to his friend’s mission, on the condition he will prevent Lee Oswald from killing the president, but only if Jake is convinced beyond any doubt that Oswald is solely responsible for the assassination.

Jake, under his new George Amberson identity, falls into the rhythm of the 1950’s straight away. He gets a job he enjoys, meets a woman that makes his heart sing, and never loses sight of his mission. It seems to Jake that nothing can get in his way, but time is obdurate, it doesn’t like to be changed. And the closer he gets to achieving his goal, the harder it becomes and the more Jake has to lose. Including a woman he has grown to love.

The tension is built up pretty steadily throughout with several sub-plots tied together beautifully. The whole part on following Lee Oswald is pretty haunting, and the story naturally accelerates when Jake establishes beyond doubt that the only way to save the president, is to become a murderer and kill Oswald.

King uses minute detail to build his story and characters, typical of his writing and one of the things I really enjoy about his style. His use of the time travel theme, and the time travel rules he employs, aren’t fresh by any means. They recur in many other time travel novels. Concepts like the butterfly effect; how a very small change in the past can significantly alter the present and future, as well as the guardians of time concept; where certain people have knowledge of the space/time paradox and can protect it from time travellers, may have been overdone, but not when combined with Stephen King’s writing.

The depth of his characters and the story pulls you in, making time travel just a vehicle for the story to reach its completion. Maybe at first glance 746 pages seem a little excessive, but anyone familiar with other works by King will know that every single character has to be dissected before our eyes (sometimes even literally) until we really care and root for them.

A huge sub-plot of the novel is romance, enough of it to give Audrey Niffenenger (The Time Traveller’s Wife) a run for her money. Enough to make me cry during the last few pages. And although that isn’t particularly hard (I’m too soft, I am told) I don’t think I have ever cried at the end of a Stephen King book. I may have refused to go to sleep without the lights on, but I have never cried.

And at 746 pages it’s a pretty heavy book. If you can manage holding it for longer than an hour a go, not only will you get a great read, you’ll also tone your upper arms! I reckon it’s a win – win situation.

Hodder & Stoughton, £19.99





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My view on the Greek debt crisis


A presidential guard watching clashes between police and protesters outside the Greek parliament.




With the Greek debt crisis still dominating the news, I wonder if you know that Greek public debt was only 20% of GDP in the early 80’s. It only took 30 years for Greek politicians to increase it to 120% of GDP in 2009 when the crisis became public knowledge not only to the Eurozone, but to the Greek people.

Fast forward two years, and with the “help” of the Eurozone, debt to GDP has increased by another 40% to a staggering 160%.

Default seems inevitable. The eye-watering austerity measures enforced by the Troika have lead the country deeper into recession. The Greek economy has shrank by 20% in four years, and this is the true reason why the Troika’s budgetary goals have not been met, followed closely of course, by an inability of spineless Greek politicians to implement any reforms.

Greeks have endured a constant stream of tax increases and repeated salary cuts, while watching half of their young labour force unemployed. Suicides have trebled, homelessness has multiplied and the Greek church recently announced they are feeding at least 250,000 daily in Athens. Now, Greeks are told that this notorious second bailout will help reduce the same ratio back to 120% by 2020.

Surely, if this level of debt is sustainable, then why did Greece need the first bailout in 2009, when debt to GDP was as 120%?

The debt crisis, has affected everyone in Greece. My brother, a computer analyst, and the father of two young children was laid-off from his job in IT in November. He hadn’t been paid for five months. He tells me there is no hope of finding another job, within or out of his profession.

When I speak to my 82 year old grandmother, still living in Athens, she tells me she’s cold. It is the second winter she has not had central heating because nobody in the apartment building could afford heating oil for the joint boiler last year. This year, the apartment building is empty. She survived for years on the income she received from renting four small apartments, but the tenants didn’t pay for months, then left in the middle of the night, leaving behind unpaid bills. The one tenant that is left, has also not paid her rent for months.

My grandmother says, “I feel sorry for her, she’s got nothing, and she’s paid her rent on time for years. I can’t just kick her out into the streets.”

Thankfully, more and more Greeks are thinking like her. On the 4th of February, potato growers in the north of the country, offered over ten tons of potatoes to residents of Thessaloniki, distributed free to growing queues. They were protesting against retailers importing cheaper potatoes from Egypt, when more than 70% of Greek produce went unsold, but they also wanted to help amidst the chaos of the crisis.

A week before that, a farmers market in Syntagma Square handed out 30 tons worth of vegetables to passing Athenians, free.

Ordinary people, are seen taking whatever clothes and blankets they can spare to the growing homeless.

An atmosphere of solidarity and camaraderie is spreading. Concepts that have always characterised Greek society in times of great need. And this is certainly one such time.

The austerity measures have failed. Europe is not bailing Greece out, it is bailing out their creditors.

Another fact you may not be aware of, is that today, it is exactly ten years since the Euro was circulated in Greece for the first time. I wonder whether this year will create a new anniversary. An anniversary of Greece returning to an old currency. If not the Drachma, then the Phoenix, the very first currency of the modern Greek state in 1928, when free from the shackles of the Ottoman empire Greeks needed a symbol of re-birth and re-generation. Like they also do today.

The Greeks may default, but they are built to survive. And an exit is always an entrance somewhere else.

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