Category Archives: Blogging

widgets screen

Widgets. Bells whistles and pretty pictures

You gotta have Widgets.

I lost all my widgets when my website crashed after updating to WordPress 4.7.2  I discovered the problem was caused by non-compatible plug ins. My screen showed the white page of death.

Fatal error: Cannot redeclare add_term_meta() (previously declared in /home3/cecilia/public_html/wp-includes/taxonomy.php:1153) in /home3/cecilia/public_html/wp-content/plugins/taxonomy-metadata/taxonomy-metadata.php on line 97

With the help of the marvellous James F at Hostgator we managed to get me up and running again. (see previous post.)

BUT. I’d lost all my widgets. Most of my plug ins were incompatible with my new updated system. What’s a girl to do?

Jetpack has the answers. Mostly.

This is a great package. Widgets coming out of its ears. Top Ten posts to show in your sidebar. Background stats to show how many views for each post. Subscriber email check box. Connection to your latest Tweets. Loadsa widgets.

You can tell there’s a ‘BUT’ coming.

I don’t like the image widget from Jetpack

It distorts your pictures. I’ve tried every which way to improve their appearance but gave up in the end. Images within the text of a post look fine.

widget screen

widget screen

The widget screen above from my media library looks okay. But when I tried to put an image box in my contents sidebar on the right of the page the picture was as distorted as the ones in the popular posts widget in the primary sidebar on the left.

Altering pixel size did nothing to help. Instead I looked elsewhere.

Black Studio TinyMCE widget

This is the one I always used before updating. I checked its compatibility and – Bob’s your uncle – it’s good to go.

The burning hand image I use for my CRPS posts looks as it should in the contents sidebar. I’m happy to continue using this widget.

Now I want to know how to put borders around images as I could before updating. It used to be an easy option. Maybe I’m just missing the information. It must be here somewhere.

Update at your peril. A necessary evil?

 Want your website secure? Update now.

I’d been eyeing the update recommendation for some months. Each time I looked at my WordPress dashboard there was the update message again.

update system

update NOW!!!

I know you’re supposed to update your systems. If you don’t you might find things don’t work so well. But I’m a careful sort. I wait. I wait to see if the latest update has caused problems for others before I take the leap into the unknown.

I made the decision. Time to update. I backed up using WordPress’ recommended plug in. I thought, It’ll be okay. If anything goes wrong I can go back to where I was before.

update wordpress

Update and calm in the same sentence?

Duh! See, I’m no expert at this malarkey. I’m a writer. I write novels and short stories and, to be honest, I’m pretty amazed that I ever got this far with managing my own website.

So, feeling reasonably confident I was fully prepared I hit the update button.

update in progress

what progress?

Have you ever seen the white page of death? It looks something like this:

Fatal error: Cannot redeclare add_term_meta() (previously declared in /home3/cecilia/public_html/wp-includes/taxonomy.php:1153) in /home3/cecilia/public_html/wp-content/plugins/taxonomy-metadata/taxonomy-metadata.php on line 97

What the . . .?

NOOOOOOOOOO!

I tried accessing my dashboard. Nothing doing. Just the white page of update death. FATAL ERROR are very scary words. I think my hair actually stood on end.

the horrors of update

update howling

I had a bit of a think. I made coffee. Thought some more. This must be fixable, thought I, but I need a fix that’s easy to understand.

First stop – Youtube.

Youtube is amazing. You can find out how to do everything from installing a post motor filter in your old Dyson to bathing a canary in preparation for a bird show. (I once spent a whole afternoon learning multiple ways of tying a scarf around your head for a fancy dress party). But fixing a FATAL ERROR on your website? I knew it was going to give me grief. Two minutes in and I was losing the will to you know what. Eventually it became clear I needed to contact my server who hosts my website. Hostgator. Right then. Saturday afternoon? Is there anybody there?

update with Hostgatorr

My website server. Could they help?

Their website says – Contact us by email, phone or use the online Help Chat form.

a) they don’t give you an email address

b) I can’t afford to call Texas

c) the online help is experiencing an excess of traffic

Hmmm. I wonder why. Maybe all the bloggers out there have received their own white page of death.

I tried again and again. Still nothing doing. Back to Youtube to see how to access my cPanel at Hostgator. This is the page where you can get into your account and, I thought, maybe I can simply delete the offending plug in which has obviously assassinated my website.

control panel

Hostgator control panel

Hostgator didn’t seem to know who I am. They wouldn’t let me in. I searched through all my carefully stored and protected info from the early days and found my welcome email with my username and password. I made doubly damned sure I entered it properly.

Zilch. Nada.

Funny, I thought. They know who I am when it’s time to pay the bill.

Saturday afternoon became Saturday evening and my eyes were on stalks. Reluctantly I conceded defeat and poured a large brandy.

James F to the rescue

On Sunday I got through. James F appeared out of the wide blue yonder and answered my online question.

update help

hostgator help

So now I’m back up and running. BUT –

all my plug ins are deactivated and, according to WordPress, most of them are untested on 4.7.2.

Now I have no FOLLOW CELIA subscriber check box. All my colourful content in the sidebars has disappeared. I can’t put borders around images in my posts nor can I automatically share my posts on Facebook, Twitter et al.

I’m disappointed. Not with James F. He is Superman as far as I’m concerned. But, come on WordPress. I’ve been a good girl and updated and you took my sweeties away.

Ah, well. I’ll just have to find plug ins that WILL work with my new updated system. Bear with . . . .

 

Send me a comment. I’d love to hear if others have had similar issues. And when I find a plug in that lets you subscribe please do.

Edit:

Apology

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/discover-challenges/apology/

Would an apology have helped?

I never got one. An apology. A whole year has gone by during which time I’ve had some struggle. Not to mention pain. I have CRPS as a result of injuries caused when I was knocked down by a careless driver. I cope with the pain most days with strong medication and I’ve even managed to reduce the amount I use. On warm days. Cold days are a different matter.

I had to leave my home in France. For most of last year I missed it: the warm climate, the friends I made there, the warm climate, the wine, the warm climate. You get my drift. Norfolk is a beautiful county and there are far worse places you could live in England but I couldn’t help thinking about what I was missing. When I saw flowers in a pretty garden here I’d remember the shrubs and flowers in the south of France. When I visited the coast I would long for the blue of the Mediterranean.

And I wasn’t living my life the way I wanted.

Finances have been difficult and I still await the outcome of the legal wrangle which continues over the shared property abroad. I’ve experienced anger, bitterness, a desire for revenge. All those dark emotions which don’t make you feel any better at all.

And I wasn’t living my life the way I wanted.

apology

wise words

It took me a while. Maybe I’m a slow learner. But I got there in the end. Even though I never had an apology from the man who hit me with his car nor the man who wanted me out of his life, I am now living my life the way I want. Frugally, it goes without saying but I feel free.

missing apology

I accept

I have learned so much since April 2015 and most of it has been about myself. Relationships end. It’s a fact. You can’t blame someone for falling out of love. So, instead of being stuck in thinking about what has gone from my life I’ve been able to concentrate on enjoying what is my reality NOW.

And as soon as my thinking changed so did a whole load of other things.

Now I can forgive.

forgive no apology

forgiveness is freedom

I forgive the careless driver. I forgive my ex. Neither of them have made me less of a person. I believe I’m a better person now I’ve learned how to overcome a host of difficulties and put in place boundaries which before I chose to ignore.

I know now how I want to live my life. I can forgive the people who took away from me the life I led before because I’m free to fill my time with things I enjoy and people who love me as I am.

apology

 

I have let go of the longing for what has gone. That doesn’t mean I have rolled over and allowed myself to be abused further. No. I am stronger. My boundaries mean I stand up for myself. I say what I mean and mean what I say. With gentleness. Kind but firm.

apology

the last chapter

I’m in the last chapter of my life. It’s going to be the best. The creativity lost to me through pain, both physical and emotional, is returning.

I want to get back to my writing. I’m ready to live my life the way I want.

apology

ditch the junk

I was crushed, I admit it. But I didn’t want to stay crushed. I still have life to live and love to give.

 

apology

I want to go on loving life

There’s no point in waiting for an apology. Some people don’t mean they’re sorry anyway. Some people don’t know how to be sorry. That’s their problem. You can forgive them and move on. Let it go. Set yourself free.

 

aplogy

Cecilia. Does my name suit me?

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/say-your-name/

When I was a child I hated the name Cecilia.

Truth be told, for a time I didn’t even want to be a girl. My mother told me once if I’d been a boy I would have been called Howard. (She had a thing about the actor and singer Howard Keel.)

I tried to keep up with the boys because I thought my father had really wanted a son. I ran with the lads. Played boys’ games. Most of my friends were neighbourhood boys. Until, one day I climbed up a drainpipe onto the Drill Hall roof and couldn’t get back down. Somebody’s dad had to climb up and give me a fireman’s lift back to safety.

Drill Hall - old Keighley

where Cecilia lost her street credibility

My street cred was ruined. I was a real girl after all. A girl christened Cecilia after her paternal grandmother. My grandmother was a miner’s wife, skilled at spinning out the family income to feed her brood of six children. She made the best custard in the world. I digress.

It took me a long time to grow into my name. I still don’t do frills and fancies, preferring classic styles and understatements fashion-wise, but every now and then I can fall in love with most unsuitable, uncomfortable shoes.

The meaning of my name came as a shock. It means ‘blind’. What? In what ways am I blind? There are several interpretations as in ‘blind’ faith where the believer does not need proof to believe. I rather like that.

Most people will know that Saint Cecilia is patroness of music.

St Cecilia

St Cecilia offering her music to God

According to legend Cecilia was a Roman woman of noble birth who was martyred for her refusal to worship Roman gods. She is often depicted with a musical instrument of some sort but she also sang. My grandmother Cecilia made sure all her children had a musical education. My father played honky-tonk piano, two more of the six gained degrees in music, one became a music teacher. One son married a lady with an incredible soprano voice, my aunt Irene, and many of Cecilia’s grandchildren went on to be passionate about the Arts. For me, it’s writing now but I sang with an international choir in France for seven years and before that took part in competitive singing in the east of England winning several silver trophies over the years. Strange, how things turn out, isn’t it?

Now I can be proud to say my name. I’m comfortable with it. Friends call me Celia for short, or Cee-Cee or just Cee. But I was named Cecilia and that’s all right with me.

Flowers from a Secret Admirer

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/secret-admirers/”>Secret Admirers</a>

The WordPress daily challenge:

You return home to discover a huge flower bouquet waiting for you, no card attached. Who is it from — and why did they send it to you?

I love flowers. I can’t imagine not having flowers to look at. I often take photographs of plants and flowers I find particularly pleasing. They satisfy a part of me I can’t describe. I don’t know whether this kind of pleasure has a name of its own but, for me, it’s part of a feeling of connectedness, as if the plants can feel me admiring them and are even more beautiful because of that.

When I take time out to paint or draw, it’s always flowers that come to mind first.

Hollyhock pastel

soft pastel drawing of Hollyhocks

Even weeds have a beauty of their own.

Convolvulus pastel

Convolvulus

A secret admirer would know all my favourites. Someone who really wanted to reach me would know I have favourite colour combinations.

secret admirer

white petunia, blue plumbago

So fresh and clean: blue and white together. In fact, I have a thing about blue flowers. They resonate with me like no others. Catch them at twilight and their colour glows in the half-light with a fleeting intensity. It’s a bitter sweet pleasure: it passes so quickly. You have to be out there and specifically look for it.

Put me in a bluebell wood in April and I’m in heaven. Not only does the colour get to me, there’s the perfume as well – ah, sensory paradise.

secret Bluebellwood

April bluebells

Here’s a selection of flower pictures I’ve been moved to take:

Stargazer flowers

Stargazer lilies

Fuchsia flowers

fuchsia

 

 

 

 

 

Magnolia flowers

magnolia

Pink rose flower

rose

 

 

 

 

 

Seems I like a bit of pink, too, huh? My secret admirer would have this sussed. Well, of course he would; he has made a point of finding out these things.

The red rose is supposed to be symbolic of love. When I lived in France they were used as an early warning system protecting surrounding grape vines. At the first sign of disease on the roses wine growers would know how to treat the vines.

Rose warning flowers

early warning roses

But, listen, here’s a secret. I have problems with red flowers. I never know where is the best place to plant them. To my thinking they can take over the whole garden with their showiness. They draw the eye and steal away attention from other more deserving beauties.

My ideal garden will be full of flowers but they will share the space with friendly companionship. They will be gentle and welcoming. There will be plenty of green also to act as a foil and add depth to the overall effect.

Yard flowers

a French yard full of flowers

So who is my secret admirer?

A man so kind and thoughtful he has read this post and found a way to put a bouquet together that will both surprise me and fill me with admiration for the depth of his caring.

Why has he given it to me?

Because he loves me, silly!

(Don’t forget to FOLLOW CELIA for more Random Thoughts posts. Your email remains private. Or send a comment. I love to hear from readers.)

Immortalised in Stone

How would I wish 2015 to be immortalised in stone?

In response to the WordPress daily challenge <a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/immortalized-in-stone/”>Immortalized in Stone</a>

If I were to commission a sculptor to carve an immortal,  personal symbol of 2015 what would it be?

immortalised

a prize to die for?

I have a rather complicated image in my mind’s eye of the way I’d want my 2015 carved in stone as regular readers and friends will understand. To be immortalised means to be made non-mortal. God-like, even. Something never-ending, absolute, memorable. All positive.

And – lo, and behold, I’ve got there. Not immortal. No. Not there. I’ve arrived at the positive place that seemed unreachable six months ago, Hallelujah! Fates be praised. I’m sitting in the same chair by the same window, looking at the same view but I’m seeing something entirely different. Where once I saw empty space, now I see freedom – the freedom to fill that space with whatever I choose. How fabulous is that?

immortalised

the price of immortality

I’ve done the dying swan bit. More than once. I won’t go into details. Suffice it to say I keep on bouncing back. I should have been a cat but I don’t know how many lives I have left. Whatever it is I choose to do next I better get it right. You know, just in case I’m running out of bouncability.

However, not everybody agrees that being immortalised is necessarily a worthy objective.

immortalisedBut the challenge is not about the immortality of the individual: it’s about the year 2015. Which brings me back to the positive/negative argument I’ve had going on in my head since February.

I still have some heavy negatives to face. To fight. But, oh, boy am I up for it. I haven’t felt this strong in an age. I’m back to being me, the real me who somehow disappeared and only came out to play once a week at choir practice. It’s a damned good feeling.

So what would my sculpture be?

Imagine a stone spiral. At the solid base supporting the structure are hewn family, grandchildren and friends. Their loving arms are entwined above their heads and they’re holding up filigree metal branches decorated with books and paper and paints and paintbrushes and music scores with treble clefs and triplets. There are lipsticks and fancy bottles of perfume and shoes with killer heels.

And when the wind caresses my sculpture there is a humming sound through the branches; forged musical notes tinkle like a wind chime; the high heels tap their timpani against the stone till the spiral spins on its axis. When decorations fall from the sculpture it doesn’t matter because other people can add their own mementoes; their own important little fancies so that my sculpture is always changing.

That’ll do, monkey. We’re done now.

 

immortalised

spreading the message

Daring not so greatly

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/2015/08/12/daring-greatly/

Maybe we don’t realise how daring we are being when we write.

We just sit down and write words, don’t we? We write them in such a way as to make an entertaining story for our readers. We have a market in mind. There’s a particular women’s magazine that likes to see short stories about ordinary people with problems to face and how they overcome them. Another magazine prefers stories with a hopeful ending.

Blog readers want to read about the subject we’re known for. So we write blogs on topic and perhaps we do it with some humour and we add photos and memes and illustrations to make the whole thing attractive to the eye.

We want to connect

With our readers. With the world. We give of ourselves in our writing, not in a conscious way, I believe, but without deliberation. We are who we are and we give it. Give ourselves.  And by doing this we are exposing our vulnerabilities.

daring to be

daring to be

We give our opinions. We can’t help doing that. We don’t want to lecture but it’s almost impossible to write without giving opinions. They’re there in our writing whether we like it or not. Even when we don’t realise it, our opinions are hiding in the spaces between the words, between the lines.

My subtitle under the name of my website is ‘write from the heart’. It used to be ‘writer in Languedoc’ because I’d fallen in love with that part of France and couldn’t wait to write about it. I’d given my heart to a man and his son and moved there with them. After ten years he replaced me with another woman.

But I still love Languedoc and want to continue writing about it. I’m not strong enough to do that yet. Imagining the places I loved visiting or looking through my photographs still hurts me so I avoid it. I can’t write my Wicked Stepmother Chronicles now either because as well as losing my partner and my home, I’ve lost my stepson as well. Only insofar as I don’t get to see him everyday, though. When he comes to visit family in England he comes to see me too. So, you see, I wasn’t really Wicked. I made jokes about our differences. I gave my opinions on too many hours spent online gaming and the harm I thought it was doing. And my stepson understands this. He knows I was doing my best to help him make healthy choices. But it hurts that I can’t write either my Wednesday Vine Report or my Wicked Stepmother Chronicles because I’m somewhere else.

So today I’m writing something that isn’t hurting me.

daring courage

daring to be courageous

But it’s still from the heart. According to Brené Brown writing from the heart makes me courageous in the original sense of the word. I feel the things I write. And that makes me vulnerable. Here’s what Brené says:

She is FABULOUS. Watch all her videos. We can all learn from them. We can learn that it’s okay to be vulnerable. That it’s a necessary part of being human to feel our emotions. It saddens me that there are people who don’t have the opportunity to feel; people who are not only wearing shields or armour to protect them from their emotions but simply do not feel them in the first place. Or they experience emotions only in a shallow and fleeting way and to them vulnerability is the greatest weakness of all.

When I’m not writing posts for my website I’m writing about the people I’ve just described. I’ve known one intimately. He almost destroyed me. I thought I was weak, faulty, deficient in many ways. I was not enough of the things he wanted and too much of the things he came to despise. I know different now.

daring vulnerability

daring to be vulnerable

But I’m keeping my silence on the subject here on my website. For now. The book is coming along nicely and one day I’ll publish. Writing the book is giving me an inner strength and, encouraged by Brené Brown’s research, I know I’m doing the right thing.

daring strength

daring to be strong

It takes nerve to be vulnerable. It makes you nervous. You’re taking such risks in being human. Opening yourself to all manner of manipulation by deceitful people. But I have always been one who could cope with whatever life throws at me. I just wish it wouldn’t throw so much my way. Well, I’m still here. I’m still writing.

And now I can stop beating myself up. I’ve made my decision. I’m more informed. I’m not walking away from all the things that ‘give purpose and meaning to living’. I give of myself. It’s who I am. I want to continue loving life. I want to continue loving people.

daring to love

keep on loving

And keep on daring to be vulnerable.

 

FOLLOW CELIA for updates on new posts. Don’t be shy, leave a comment. Thank you for visiting. Hope to see you again soon.

Is a fairy tale your life script?

Bedtime Stories

fairy tale

the fairy tale I remember above all others

Have I been living out a fairy tale all these years? It’s possible. There’s more to these old stories than you might imagine.  You think you’re just reading an innocent, traditional tale to your youngsters? Think again. You might be inadvertently setting them on their life’s path.

The fairy tale that made me angry

I wasn’t interested in the princess in the tower, or the downtrodden kitchen girl who went to the ball.

fairy tale

wannabee princess

rapunzel fairy tale

so pretty

 

 

 

 

I wasn’t motivated by the one with seven little people or three bears or three pigs or magic porridge pots.

snow white fairy tale

someday my prince will come?

 

goldilocks fairy tale

watch out!

 

 

Not for me the fairy tale about a brother and a sister and a nasty witch in the woods, or the one about the sky falling down, or a gingerbread man, a girl only as big as your thumb or magic shoes or spinning straw into gold.

I had no hankering to be a princess. Wasn’t interested in hanging around for some prince to turn up and save me from a life of . . .whatever. Come on, I was a working class girl who had about as much chance of meeting a prince as  a Yorkshire heatwave in January. (Yorkshire girls tell it like it is. January girls know it before it happens. I’m both.)

So, the fairy tale that made me angry was Red Riding Hood.

A lesson in life kind of fairy tale

I mean, what a dirty trick! There she is, with her little basket of goodies for grandma setting off on her own through the wood. This is a good lesson in life, I suppose. After all, when it comes down to it we’re all on our own following our paths. The journey can be a bit dark and scary in places.

There doesn’t seem to be a father present in this story. It’s just the girl and her mother and mother obviously sees nothing wrong in sending the child off to grandma’s house. I can’t remember whether there’s a warning about not going into the woods, but, anyway, little Red Riding Hood is a good girl. She’s doing grandma a good turn by bringing the things in the basket. What a caring little soul she is.

A wolf in sheep’s clothing

Well, actually in this fairy tale, it’s grandma’s clothing. Now, see, this is a great lesson in life. And don’t I know it. This stuff really happens. The person you are doing your best to help isn’t the person you thought they were.

You get that?

The person you are doing your best to help is a FAKE.

Pretending to be sweet and charming. FAKE. Pretending to be needy and helpless. FAKE. Pretending to be harmless. FAKE.

Pretending to be human.

The wolf has only one thing on his mind and doesn’t care what happens to anybody else in the story. So what is little Red Hiding Hood going to do? She’s in danger. She notices that things are not quite right about grandma and tries to find out. She asks questions. The wolf deflects the child’s doubts by a stream of psychopathic word salad, all the while drawing the victim closer and closer, until . .

The Woodcutter

shows up. OH NO!

woodcutter fairy tale

to the rescue

Not a prince this time. But still, a reliable, strong male figure.

And now I’m really angry. I wanted Little Red Hiding Hood to outwit the wolf herself. Couldn’t she have choked it with the ribbons on grandma’s bonnet? Couldn’t she have smothered it with grandma’s pillow?

No. Because she is a good girl and good girls don’t do things like that. Anyway, she’s a small female and wouldn’t be strong enough. And the wolf knows this. He knows he has an easy target. Little Red Hiding Hood has to be rescued.

woodcutter fairy tale

safe at last

Applying the fairy tale to real life

Fake people exist. There are more of them than you know. Empathetic people care about other’s feelings. Fakes don’t. I believe we need these lessons in life but where do we teach them? Unless you’ve come across one of these people yourself how would you know how to recognise one? Should we have to wait until it happens before we learn what to do about it?

The sad truth is there isn’t a woodcutter out there waiting to rescue you. You have to be your own saviour.

woodcuttergirl

be your own woodcutter

Hand me my axe!

 

(This post is in response to the WordPress daily challenge)

Which fairy tale is your life story? Don’t be shy. Leave a comment.

Don’t forget to FOLLOW CELIA. You’ll get an email telling you when there’s another new post. Your email address remains private.)

Meet My Main Character. Blog tour

A writer friend of mine invited me to take part in a blog tour. Would I be interested in answering a few questions about the main character in my Work in Progress?

Patterns of Our Lives

Meet my main character

how many secrets?

Oh, I said. I haven’t got a work in Progress. It’s finished. I’m taking a break before starting the next one.

It didn’t matter. I could use Patterns of Our Lives for the blog tour questions. So, it’s thanks to Siobhan Daiko that I’m bringing you the results.  She is currently working on her novel The Orchid Tree, set in Honk Kong 1941-1945 and 1948-1949.  We’ve both chosen to have events of World War Two feature strongly in our first novels.  We’ve also both been inspired by old photographs.

Siobhan is an accomplished writer whose work is very highly rated by readers and by other authors. I’ve read the opening to The Orchid Tree and it sounds exactly the kind of read I enjoy.

Here’s a link to Siobhan’s blog, where you can find out more information about Siobhan and her work.

I think blog tours are a great way for writers to share news and help each other. This one was started here and I thank Teagan for getting this thing rolling.

Here goes.

What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or historic person?

My present day character is widow, Audrey Freeman, returned to England from Australia to search for the truth about her mother. The real main character is Jean Thompson who lived through World War Two. They are fictional characters. Any resemblance to real people is for me to know and for my readers to wonder.

When and where is the story set?

The novel has two settings. First there’s Kingsley, Yorkshire, 1935 to 1965, a fictitious town based on my birthplace of Keighley and its neighbour Bingley. My second setting is Walsingham, in Norfolk 2009-2010.

The dual narrative treatment allows the reader to discover more about Audrey Freeman’s ancestry than she knows herself.

What should we know about him/her?

You don’t need to know anything in advance about Audrey. She’s chatty and tells you all about herself right from the off. We learn straight away how she cherishes old family photographs.

Readers see Jean’s life in the sections of ‘snapshots’ from the past. We get to see events Audrey has no access to. The snapshots she cherishes don’t tell her the whole story. In Jean’s era, when they left school at fourteen, young people moved straight from childhood to become an adult with adult responsibilities. There was no in between stage. Teenagers hadn’t been invented.

What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

The main and obvious conflict is World War Two and how it affects my characters in a north of England industrial town where munition factories worked round the clock.

What messes up both Jean’s and Audrey’s lives are the secrets passed on from one generation to the next.

What is the personal goal of the character?

Audrey wants to find out the truth about her mother’s past. Jean wants to find love.

Is there a working title and can we read more about it?

My working title was Walsingham Matilda. It wasn’t until I wrote a scene where Audrey uses the phrase ‘patterns of our lives’ that the lightbulb moment arrived and I realised all I needed to do was add capital letters and I had my new and more appropriate title. It sums up the theme of the book perfectly.

When is publication?

Patterns of Our Lives is available from June 14th 2014. It’s just gone live on Amazon as a paperback. I haven’t yet finished formatting for Kindle.

Many thanks to Siobhan for the invitation. Don’t forget to visit her blog. Just click on her name to go straight to more information about The Orchid Tree.

50 Shades of Chocolate love. Falling into it again.

Chocolate history

the history of chocolate

Since around 2,000BC people have been falling in love with chocolate. That is some long history and today, I’m part of it.

I’m at the chocolate fair in Béziers. There’s a queue outside the exhibition hall and it isn’t full of kids either. Or all females as you might expect. No, there’s grandfathers and bikers in their Harley jackets. There are young families with babes in push chairs. There are teenagers and young lovers with their arms wrapped around one another.

And there’s me. With himself and a house guest from England who is as much into chocolate as she is into wine which makes for a very pleasant time whenever she comes to stay.

The chocolate fête in Béziers now attracts visitors from far and wide. Each year this festival of chocolate temptation grows bigger. Visitors come in their tens of thousands to the two day event. No wonder. As soon as you step inside the magic begins.

It’s the aroma first. Unmistakeable. It hits your senses with all the power of its four thousand year hold over us. I know I’m going to be eating a lot of chocolate today. I might even swoon.

Chocolate dainties

let me at them!

Oh, help! Will I survive this afternoon with so much temptation at arm’s length? I turn aside, but there’s no escape.

chocolate cones

I’ll take all of them, please!

When the Spaniards first brought chocolate to Europe in the 1500s, did they know that today in 2013 there’d be a queue of people eager to take their seats and watch professionals molding it, shaping it, colouring it, making dainties and delights enough to make your eyes water and your mouth drool?

chocolate makers

50 shades of chocolate?

On the upper floor of the exhibition halls another demonstration is taking place on the main stage.

chocolate maker

artisan at work

Wonder if he’s married? What a lucky girl the wife of a chocolatier must be, huh?

I might have to go and lie down in a darkened room.

But, I survive and the three of us buy enough chocolate to keep us quiet and very happy as we join  an ancient lineage: Mayans and Aztecs, the Spaniards who first mixed cocoa beans with vanilla, nutmeg, cloves, allspice and cinnamon, and brought it to Europe; the Dutch and Brazilians and Germans and Venezuelans and on and on all around the world.

Political movements come and go. In the history of humankind, chocolate is a constant. I’m delighted to take my place in its history.

I pop some in. The sensations begin . . .melting . . warming . . coating the tongue . . reaching the back of the throat. . .