Saturday, 23 April 2016

When life comes down to the wire!



Back in the wars between the cousins Red and White, Richard III purportedly cried, ‘A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse,’ as in the middle of battle, his barons deserted him for Henry Tudor and his horse was cut down under him.
You will note in the last sentence the word, horse, was repeated four times. For that is how important the animal was to the past, eventually declining in the First World World l914 from being a war horse that charged the enemy as part of a cavalry regiment to a decorative beast capable of dancing round an arena to music. Will anything else be as wondrous as the horse? As the vehicle on which life revolved it lasted thousands of years.
So why this musing in praise of a horse! Am I now going to extol the virtues of a car or a plane?
No, I am about to focus the remaining words of this blog on the humble existence of a small piece of wire. Not any piece of wire … a long, thin piece with a plug on one end, without which civilization as we know today would fail and come crashing down … the humble charger.
On the train yesterday, a young woman before disposing of her luggage whipped out this mandatory ‘piece of wire’searching for a socket, and changed her seat three times before she found a functioning unit. (She had mistakenly entered the quiet carriage).
Buses, trains, anything that moves, now feel obliged to offer both charging and YiFi points … and I ask, does the success of business now depend on this?
Waiting for the train at wondrously rebuilt Birmingham New Street Station, about which I will blog another time, the platform is awash with stylish fingers skimming over keyboards and loud-voiced conversations in which the intimate details of Aunty Minnie’s sex life are shouted into a mobile to, presumably, some interested party at the other end. Business deals worth millions of dollars are touted on that same platform while I, spoilsport that I am stand in my little bubble of silence … and think longingly of … er … I guess, silence.
And all of this is down to a single piece of wire.
If Shakespeare were alive right now, he would adroitly alter a those words of Richard III to: A charger, a charger, my kingdom for a charger.

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Tuesday, 5 April 2016

An extraordinary week

Last week for me was quite extraordinary. The sun shone, 'The Amazing Brain of O C Longbotham' won Bronze at the Wishing Shelf Book Awards, ages 9 - 12, and I received an overwhelming review for 'Broken'.

Now I don't actively think 'reviews'. Predominantly a children's writer, I prefer to receive emails from fans saying how much they loved this character or that character, so to receive a review of this calibre ... well, to put it mildly, the week left me gob-smacked!

'Broken' is for me a very special book. Different from all my children's books which all have the feel-good factor, it is the only book set in the local area of Streets and Glastonbury, it is a very personal book. Not such much the content but in its emotion. It tugs at the heartstrings.  (I remember a critic described, 'Time Breaking' as leaving her bereft. It is a good word for 'Broken' too.)

While I was writing, it was entitled, Me and Mrs Jone' for the two main characters Jem Love and Katrina Jones. It was only when it reached the publication stage that it was changed ... Quite honestly, I am still in two minds as to whether this was a good move or bad.

Read 'Broken' yourself and decide which title you prefer. And do let me know.

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Sunday, 3 April 2016

Not since Twilight ...

Not since I picked up a copy of Twilight have I  been fastened to my chair for six hours without moving. That happened today. The book: A Well-Tempered Heart by Jan-Philipp Sendker. Translated from the German, each word was chosen with such delicacy that I immediately wanted to destroy my new novel and start afresh. Set in New York and Burma, it is a journey of discovery but not in the usual way. It is a journey of the heart. It's characters - breathtaking, particular U Ba, the half-brother of the New York Lawyer, Julia, who tells the story. He is perfection and I only hope I can create magic on this scale one day www.facebook.com/BarbaraSpencerO

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Saturday, 2 April 2016

A futuristic thriller rapidly coming true

In 2010 I wrote my first YA novel 'Running'. An instant success in paperback it took me to over 100 book signing events at Waterstones and secondary schools.
The first person who reviewed it was a 'granddad'. He objected to my spelling the word garage as 'garidge' but loved the story. A thriller, in which Europe are top dog, and England reduced to island status, the US have been ostracized for inadvertently creating an nuclear explosion which took out Iran. It has also suffered a major earthquake along the Saint Andreas fault.
The story about a powerful computer virus, capable of penetrating any system and stealing its secrets, has produced some memorable characters, in particular Sean Terry, a world-weary FBI agent determined to prove the US innocent of all charges. And, surprising a red Suzuki 1000cc motor bike. My cousin was given Running by his children for Christmas. Meeting up at a funeral, he asked how I knew about motorbikes? I confessed to riding pillion on a great monster of a bike when I was a kid.
The bike is an appropriate metaphor as the story voyages from London to California, Cornwall to Scotland, finishing up in Lisse in Holland.

What surprises me is how much of the book is relevant to our politics today. I read somewhere that a computer virus was secretly used to discover the nuclear programme of Iran. Is the UK being reduced to an island status? Is Europe top dog? And what about the US with an election coming up? All the ball are in the air.

Running has now made it onto ebooks with the sequel, Turning Point (also in paperback) appearing shortly. 

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Wednesday, 30 March 2016

I went weak at the knees when this popped into my email:

A book that will break your heart and then restore your hope for humanity, March 29, 2016
By Francis Guenette This review is from: Broken (Kindle Edition)

Sometimes you get lucky and happen upon a book that breaks your heart. Broken is such a book and Barbara Spencer is a writer who knows how to bring the reader along through the thick and the thin of trouble, right to edge of despair and then, like a magician, she waves her wand and makes it all come out right.

There are so many wonderful things to say about this book, I hardly know where to start. It is the rare author that can render the voice of a fourteen-year-old boy with as much depth and believability as she can bring to a somewhat hardened going-on-thirty social worker - but Spencer manages this feat hands down.

Then there is the writing - words flow through descriptions that leap off the page with vitality. I'm not going to say anything about the story - it has to be discovered for itself. But I will say this - at about the three-quarters mark, I wanted the book to end the way it did so badly I could scarce get my breath.

Read this book - you won't be sorry. It will make you believe once again in happy endings that glitter like gold as they sit in the dustbin of cold, hard reality. Such is life and some truths of life are best rendered in fiction.

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Monday, 28 March 2016

Wishing Shelf Book Awards 2016

It's March 28 - 3 days to go! As a finalist in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards, I think both Philip James Longbotham and Cash Harris the heroes of The Amazing Brain of O C Longbotham, they are most likely quivering in their boots. Kitty says, waiting to hear the result is worse than having your teeth out. Anna says, if Kitty had cleaned her teeth every day then she wouldn't need to have them out. To which Kitty replied: 'Der! Anyway, Mrs. Longbotham thinks it is quite wonderful to be in the final. She says ' it doesn't matter about winning, making it to the final is okay, too. But don't tell your grandmother, I said so.'


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Sunday, 27 March 2016

Once upon a time ...

I used to love getting up in the mornings. As a children's author, the fun-filled frolics of my characters filled my heart with light and laughter.
No more!
Since I decided to go it alone and write for an older audience, I have become a droop-faced moody creature for whom the cut and thrust of battle-filled pages belongs in the past. Instead, chained to my desk facing a list of 'things to be done today', my little pleasures (Oliver Twist) have been taken away by the need to market my own books.
For many of us, for whom the written word was a life-engendering force, the trend towards self-publishing is ... at the very least, an uncomfortable experience. At its worst, it is like a manned-mission to Mars. Unthinkable! The excitement on children's faces as they dipped into O C Longbotham or one of Jack Burnside's Dangerous Adventures, or the sight of my books on a shelf in the public library, it was enough to send me scurrying to find a notebook and pencil to write down my latest ideas.


These days, I don't bother to ask, 'who IS the bell tolling for' because I know damn well it is tolling for me. When faced with the list below, like the favourite at the Cheltenham Gold Cup, I fall at the first fence ...

  1. mail your contacts to announce it.
  2. Create a post on your blog—include an image and an audio sample.
  3. Post a status update on Facebook, and link to your product page at online retailers.
  4. Tweet about it.
  5. Send influential colleagues and reviewers a synopsis or free copy of your audiobook.
  6. Ask key peers and colleagues if they would help share the news by emailing or tweeting about your book.
  7. Request listener reviews from your contacts. Retailers that are selling your book will allow for reviews.
  8. Review related titles on Amazon and link your reviews back to your Author Page on Amazon.
  9. Respond to or retweet any commentary you receive.
  10. Encourage your audience to buy your book

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