THE ONE SAVING GRACE Nearly there!!

THE ONE SAVING GRACE my second novel featuring Grace, Amanda and Harriet will be available VERY SOON!!!!!!!

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Who nicked the bollocking bollard???!!!

I’m the first to admit I’m not the best driver on God’s planet. When, after living and ‘Working as a Waitress in a Cocktail Bar’ in London, (there must be a song in that somewhere) I returned to Yorkshire to take my driving test, it didn’t really hit me that I was now driving in the Pennines, and hills need hill-starts or you roll back and crash into the car behind. Which is what I did.
On my first driving test, I went down a dual-carriageway the wrong way – the examiner said turn right, so I did – and cried all the way home. On my second test I actually did OK, I thought, but still failed and cried all the way home. By the third test I was feeling rather more confident but still failed. I stuck two fingers up at the examiner and kicked everything in sight on the walk home. Luckily for me, the fourth test was on a morning in January when it was lashing down with rain. The rain was so heavy that, on completing my round-the-corner-reversal thingy, the examiner was unable to open his door and see how far I was from the pavement. I was probably a taxi-ride away but I fooled him: he never knew, and I passed. My boyfriend of the time drove me home in my little white mini (bought from the loot earned W as a W in a C Bar) and I was so shocked at actually being allowed out on the highway alone I had to lie down and recover before daring to venture out by myself.
Over the years there have been a series of, shall we call them, incidents. My second mini (orange) collapsed in Chiswick High Street narrowly missing going under the wheels of a London Transport double-decker, but I was gaining in confidence and would merrily drive off to see said boyfriend in Cheltenham and London.

Now living in New Zealand and travelling round the South Island with a bunch of fellow teachers, I was finally allowed to take the wheel of the hired car and, after an hour at the helm, it was suggested we stop for coffee. Imagine a one-horse town in rural South island, NZ. There wasn’t anyone – man nor beast nor car – along the town’s main road apart from one other car parked while its occupants stood around it, map strategically placed on the roof from which they could work out where to drive next. Now imagine the music from some Spaghetti-Western as we drive into town looking for a bar. Why I felt the need to park right behind the one other car I’ll never know (unless it was down to a feeling that we should get to know others on the road after not seeing a soul for miles) and I can still see their amazed faces as I bumped into them, their map fluttering into the air as they dived for safety.

More recently, my husband caused me to need a whole new panel on my little silver BMW. He’d very kindly put my car into the garage for me but it wasn’t at the angle I normally drive it in. Consequently, when reversing out at my usual angle, I knocked the wing mirror. This would have been alright – a new wing mirror was all that was needed – but for some reason, before I could get it to the BMW garage, the wing mirror decided to totally give up the ghost and die and sort of collapsed, wires hanging out, onto the door causing a bit of a dent. OK, still not too bad – only a new door needed. I’m still not convinced as to why, eventually, I had to have a whole new side in order to match the door. But, as I say, not my fault.

Driving my husband’s brand-new new car down the M62 while planning my daughter’s birthday party was the nearest I’ve come to my own demise (that I am aware of, anyway.) I accept full responsibility for pulling out into the fast lane without looking and fully concede that the poor man coming up behind me needed to frighten me half to death with his horn, but I don’t accept that it was my fault when, now shaken and terrified, I lost my nerve at the next roundabout and, instead of going out into the roundabout traffic, I hesitated, hit the brakes and the man behind went up my rear. When someone hits you from behind, I was always told, it must necessarily be them to blame. My husband was very kind to said driver on the phone that night. He wasn’t very kind to me.

In my own garden I have reversed into a builder’s skip (again, not my fault, I most indignantly told my husband – the reversing bleeper thingy didn’t bleep. He did point out that the skip was of huge proportions, lumimous yellow and anybody reversing into that must be blind – or daft – or both) and my cleaning lady’s huge farm land-rover. She needed a whole new wing; there was not a dent to mine. Which must prove something.
My last car lost its left side when, avoiding a double-decker bus (a Yorkshire one this time) I went into a wall, its back side in Harrogate when the guy behind me at the traffic lights drove into me (what is it with men and my rear?) and its rightLit_bollard_in_traffic_island_UK side when, with the low winter-afternoon sun in my eyes, I mounted a bollard hidden by roadworks.

Which brings me neatly to bollards. My present car (for anyone who might be thinking of buying it if I ever put it up for sale) has really behaved itself and managed to skirt round all double-decker buses, skips, bollards and ladies armed with dusters and polish.

Until last Friday night that is.

I was trying to get to a friend’s house where she was hosting a pink-ladies do for breast cancer. I missed the turn off for her road but knew all I had to do was execute (driving-test-examiner-speak) a u-turn at the bollard in the road and be back on the main road before taking the first left onto her road. If I could draw a picture on here I would, but unfortunately my ability to draw ranks lower than my ability to avoid bollards. The next thing I knew I was stranded on a concrete plinth in the middle of the road. I honestly could not work out what had happened. The bollard I’d gone round was still sitting smugly in the road – intact.
‘The second bollard’s been nicked,’ said the nice young man who drew up at the side of me on his motorbike.
‘Well that is helpful,’ I said, my car now balancing very much in manner of a see-saw. Not quite The Italian Job but well on its way. Quite a crowd gathered as we tried to work out the best way forward – or backward depending on whose advice would best get me off the bollocking bollard! Thanks to three strong young men who flexed their Friday evening muscles and, with a one, two, three, lifted the car clear of the concrete plinth, I was able to carry on my way.
‘You can see, it wasn’t my fault,’ I said to the gathered crowd. ‘Someone nicked the bollard.’
The more-muscled of the nice young men handed me the bits of broken plastic from underneath my car, shook his head and said, ‘You’re a blonde.’

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January 29, 2014 · 10:34 am

HUSBAND, ANYONE?

Thursday afternoon 4pm

Husband: We need to pick up son’s car from MOT garage.

Me: I’m just about to start cooking. Can’t it wait?

Husband: No we need to go. Garage closes at 5.

Me: Why can’t we pick it up in morning?

Husband: I’m not leaving his car in garage overnight.

Me: Why not? It’s a car. Cars like garages.

Husband: It might be stolen.

Me: It’s a Corsa not a Ferrari. (Looks out of window) Can’t go. Freak snowstorm.

Husband: All the more reason to go. Son’s car only car fitted with snow tyres.

Me: No way am I driving in this snow.

Husband: Don’t be such a girl. We need a car with snow tyres to get up our lane

Me: Exactly. Your car doesn’t have snow tyres. We won’t be able to get up lane.

Fifteen minutes later after skidding round the bend on our lane and 2cms from crashing into wall we arrive at top of our lane to find Kaye Lane in chaos. Cars all over the place, can’t get up or down. 

Husband: F word (to power of 3)

Me (No words forthcoming. Never want to speak to him again. Abandon ship)

Set off back down lane, several snowballs hitting my back sent from Husband in what can only be supposed  flirty, consillitary manner. Was not won over. Uggs obviously not best footwear for freak snowstorm-laden lane. Heard the crack of broken arm before felt pain. Husband worried. Pain incredible. Husband back up lane with shovel and grit. Car 1cm from wall on bend as it comes sliding back down. One and a Half hours to do twenty minute journey to A and E fighting sliding cars and resulting traffic jams.

8pm Thursday 

Three different X-rays, two different plaster casts, paracetamol, diclafenac and eventually morphine later, was surrounded by Polish orthapeidic surgeon called Bron, one student nurse, one fully trained nurse and two plaster cast technicians who did a virtual tug of war from my shoulder to fingers in an attempt to reposition bones in wrist. All of us covered in white plaster. Daughter, eating ham and cheese sandwiches, decides on career change from lawyer to A and E consultant.

Husband goes very white and sweaty and has to be removed to waiting room. Daughter on to Kit Kat,and I’m in a morphine-induced promotion of my book to the lovely Bron and all his minions.Image

One final X-ray through plaster cast and Bron tells me Tug-of-War been in vain and I need to come back in morning for General anaesthetic and pins to be put in.

10.30 pm Thursday  Home

Can manage all clothes off myself except bra. Husband offers hand.

Husband: (with gleam in his eye) Mmm Not done this for a while!

That’s when I hit him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pass the baton !!

My Writing Process Blog Tour

Many thanks to Kate Blackadder and Rosie Dean for inviting me to be part of the My Writing Process blog tour. You can learn more about Kate and her Writing Process at katewritesandreads.blogspot.co.uk Kate’s blog was on 22nd December.

Julie Houston

What am I working on?

With my RomCom “Goodness, Grace and Me” riding high in the Amazon Top 100 for Humour, I really  felt I couldn’t let Grace and Harriet go without continuing their story. As a result, I am almost half way through the sequel which should be published later on this year. I wish I could think of a suitable title for it but at the moment I am still open to suggestions! “Goodness, Grace and Me” was originally ‘Compulsive Granite Disorder’ and then ‘Living La Dolce Vita’ and it may be that I will use either of these titles for the sequel as they are both still appropriate to its content. Like “Goodness, Grace and Me” it is also a Romantic Comedy but with a couple of issues that perhaps are not so comic. I prefer to think of this book as within the ‘Women’s Contemporary fiction’ genre because, as well as hopefully making people laugh, it does deal with an area that many women have experienced but which perhaps is not known enough about and/or is not always dealt with as perhaps it should. I have tried, in the past, to write so that my characters appear a little more serious and grown-up, but they do tend to get their own way with what they say and the piece, again, turns into a comedy!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I think the main difference is that I tend to write about strong women in their thirties rather than younger girls in their twenties. I like to think that “my women” are strong, independent and fairly worldly-wise because they are that bit older and have experienced what life can throw at them!  My female heroes tend not to go shopping or work in PR, but are caught up in the dramas of everyday life. They have to clean the house and look after sick children and they don’t always get the passion in their lives that they dream about. Having said that, I’m certainly not averse to a good shop myself – my husband doesn’t understand why I need yet another jacket  or pair of identical black shoes – and I also want my characters to find that wonderful feeling of love/lust and passion girls in other chick-lit books tend to experience.

Why do I write what I do?

Probably because I can’t not!! Which, I suspect, sounds a bit over the top. There are certainly days when I’d rather not write, when I’d rather be out for a good run or shopping (see above!!) but I find enormous pleasure in producing a piece of writing whether it’s just a couple of paragraphs or (hopefully) a whole chapter. Laughter is one of the best sounds to evoke and experience and I want to make people laugh. When I’m teaching, I love it if the children find something I say funny  ( I used to teach in New Zealand and I can vividly remember one afternoon when I was teaching about India and Ghandi and, on being asked what was Ghandi’s first name, very deadpan  replied “Goosy, Goosy.” The children and I spent the whole afternoon laughing and every time we tried to be serious something else would set us off. I can quite understand the adrenalin high standup comics get from making an audience laugh. I want to achieve the same with my reading audience. And that is probably why I write what I write.

How does your writing process work?

I have spent the last few months promoting “Goodness, Grace and Me” to the extent that producing new work has been put on the back burner as it were.  I’m now back on a roll with the sequel and find, like anything, including cake, alcohol and – yes – sex (!) the more you write (eat, drink, have (!)) the more you want to write. I have just come back from a night in Derbyshire where I spent the evening with two very talented writers (Joanna Barnden – watch out for her historical novel on 1066 – and the very funny Tracy Bloom) and over curry and rather too many bottles of wine we had, what we have now termed, a ‘book rant.’ What did strike me, after talking with both Tracy and Jo, was that I need a new place to write. I used to be in command of the children’s play-room, a fabulous light, airy room overlooking the valley, but my husband now works from home and has turned it into his office and I’ve been shunted into a cubby hole down the corridor! As I now teach only one day a week – I made the decision a couple of years ago that writing had to take precedence – writing is my ‘work’; it is a job like any other and I am seriously thinking of renting a room somewhere so that I can’t take the dog for a walk, can’t just put the sprouts on, can’t just go and have another piece of flapjack from the kitchen. I am a lark rather than owl and can get much more done in the morning rather than later on in the day. I don’t plan too much ahead – I like my characters to just lead me where they want to go – but I usually have an overall idea of plot and where the story is going. I have notes all over the place, but much of my planning is done in my head to relieve the boredom of the thirty lengths of swimming or the twenty minutes running I try to do every day. I write straight onto the computer (my lovely husband bought me a new Apple Mac computer last week; it’s a bit of a beast and I’m a bit frightened of it at the moment) and then redraft what I have written the next day. This works for me. I am happy (ecstatic) if I can write 2000 words a day.

On 27th January, My Writing Process visits two more  authors well worth exploring. They are:

ROSIE DEAN

http://www.rosie-dean.com/

For too long, Rosie used her writing skills to produce training courses and marketing copy but escaped corporate world to pursue her first love – writing romantic fiction with a sense of humour and, sometimes, a sense of the ridiculous. When not writing, she loves reading, even in the car (talking books, she’s not completely reckless) and has notched up countless unnecessary miles as a result.

AND

Anita Burgh

I am an accidental writer; I was not born with a burning desire to write.  I did so since I needed to make some money fast! I had the naïve idea that all I had to do was write  a novel and all would be resolved!  Instead it took me four years to get published which I achieved at the age of 50 – a late developer.  But, an odd thing had happened, during this process I had fallen in love with writing and years later although I have tried to stop I can’t.  I am now faced with the dilemma of so many stories I want to tell but realistically not enough time left to do so!

There is no doubt I was born under a lucky star.  First I fell into this profession; secondly, on holiday I met a literary agent who did not handle romantic fiction but took a shine to me and agreed to take me on.  Third, my first publisher was Chatto & Windus, the prestigious literary house who did not publish romantic fiction but had decided to do so!

I have subsequently written 23 novels, How to Write leaflets,  numerous articles and short stories and I love to motivate others and to give them the confidence to pursue this wonderful career.

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The Saga of the Jack Russell and the missing glove

dogA couple of weeks ago my son was down from university for just one day and was getting a lift back to Newcastle via the M62 at Huddersfield. I dropped him off at the motorway junction complete with newly washed and ironed clothes, enough food for the next millennium (because that’s what mums do) and £20 (just because I could). With husband swanning it in Egypt decided, rather than go home, I’d do a bit of leafleting in the M62 junction area. I was giving a talk –  “An evening with Julie Houston”  – to fifty lovely ladies (and one man) the following week with all funds going to the NSPCC, and thought I’d advertise both the talk and the NSPCC with a bit of gentle leafleting through doors. Now, I did have an ulterior motive: my gym’s swimming pool is closed for refurb for the next few weeks and I reckoned a quick stride up and down steps and paths might be a fair alternative to the thirty lengths I normally go for. All was going well, chatted to a few friendly people and was generally working up quite a sweat delivering at manic speed through an amazingly diverse set of letterboxes. (Avoid the hairy ones – they are like trying to deliver through a toilet brush!) I saw the Jack Russell at the window and should have known better than to deliver through that particular letter box. Next thing I knew the bloody thing had my finger through the letter box and wouldn’t let go. Very embarrassing to be stuck to a letter box knowing your finger is about to lose all contact with your hand. THANK GOD I was wearing gloves, and leather ones at that, or my finger would have been at the other side of the door. How does one go about getting one’s finger back? Knock and say, “Excuse me, Mister, my finger’s gone in your hall. Please can I have it back?’ With one final yank I managed to retrieve my finger from the slavering beast’s jaws, leaving only – but still my best – leather glove behind. A bit shell-shocked, I walked, gloveless, and tittering/crying (believe me, there is such a state) down the rest of the estate. Suddenly a voice shouted my name. I turned, assuming it to be the beast’s owner returning my (although at that stage –  I assumed – quite dead) glove. It wasn’t. It was knight in shining armour and RNA colleague Andrew (aka Robert Fanshaw) Shepherd to whom I gabbled hysterically about mad dogs, rabies, chewed fingers and the NSPCC. Andrew did say he’d come to my talk which did go some way to compensating for nearly losing my finger. That night in my lonely bed (remember, husband away swanning it in Egypt) I developed Rabies, Tetanus and Gangrene interspersed with an uncontrollable urge to titter. (Uncontrollable urges to titter alternating with checking for stiff neck symptom of Tetanus NOT conducive to good night’s sleep) I share with you all the tweets Andrew sent me yesterday, the reading of which guarantee his place as Comedy as well as Romantic Novelist!
“Your glove is now in my possession. I hope you still have the other one! It’s a good story”
“That is sooooo funny!! What did you say? What did they say? Just about to throw other glove away. Glad I didn’t!!”
“Mr on a walk with JR and put it to him. Denied it at first (fearing legal action?) then admitted to dog glove theft.”
“1/2 Then rang our door last night, sheepish, proffered glove as peace offering. Our dog barked at his!”

And the moral of the story? Avoid hairy toilet brush letterboxes and Jack Russells that have Napoleonic complex. And if you can’t, make sure there is a fellow novelist living opposite

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My plums must be having sex!!

Image“Ah season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” as Keats once trumpeted. Well, he certainly knew what he was talking about re the fruitfulness, but I don’t think he mentioned anything about the prolific sex-life of the common plum. We have two plum trees and, despite picking enough fruit to sink a ship or at least keep Mary Berry et al in plum cobbler for the next millennium, the trees are still as red as when I started de-fruiting them a couple of weeks ago. Which leads me to the only conclusion that they must be having sex when I’m not looking and reproducing like rabbits! I’ve spent precious Downton Abbey-watching-time picking, jamming, stewing, de-stoning, freezing, offering them to all and sundry and eating the little blighters, but more seem to pop up to take their place. So yesterday evening, after returning from the York Festival of Food and Drink (which was absolutely brilliant) I decided enough was enough. Armed with bucket(s), ladder and a shower-cap – my head itched for days after last week’s little foray into the boughs – I declared war. Woman-next-door didn’t realise I was up in the tree and could hear her complaining bitterly to man-next-door about the constant bombardment by the little red army onto her side of the fence. Four buckets later – I kid you not – I reckoned I was winning. With the freezer groaning from previous prisoners of war I decided on another option – bottling. I can recall to this day the Domestic Science (pre-runner of ‘Housecraft’ and long before the current ‘Food Technology’)  ‘O’ Level exam paper question  which asked me to “Explain the scientific principles underlying bottling …” but couldn’t for the life of me remember the answer. Googled ‘How to Bottle,’  was mystified even further by the fact that the Americans call it ‘canning’ (!!!?????) and, armed with the kilner jars given by Aunty Dorothy as a wedding present many moons ago, started the whole process. The kitchen looked like a war zone, bottles were boiling merrily in every pan available and those that I eventually decided to ‘bake’ in the oven rather than ‘bottle’ on the hob spilled over into the bottom of the oven. Nevertheless, I succeeded. I now have a larder – well a shelf in the utility – full of bottled plums.

This morning went into the garden to survey the plum trees. They’d been at it again!! See photographic evidence!!

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