Chindi Celebrates its New Book

Our launch at The Swan Hotel in Arundel was a whopping success. We almost sold out of books and had a lovely time catching up with those who had contributed stories. The Swan made a fab’ cake with the book cover printed in icing and Beryl Kingston, our Chindi patron, said a fewCutting the cake encouraging words before cutting the cake with the editors of the book.  Beryl myself & Patricia Feinberg Stoner in front, with Julia Macfarlane and Angela Petch behind.

We are delighted that a Feast of Christmas Stories is now stocked in Heygate Books in Bognor Regis and Felpham Post Office. Next week it will be in Arundel Museum and shortly after at the Pier Road Gallery in Littlehampton where we have a reading and book signing planned for Saturday Nov 16th after 12.30.  One Tree Books in Petersfield have also taken some.

It’s great that this project has come to fruition after six months of hard work. Wimg_20191106_184042e are delighted that the review in Ingenue Magazine commended the book for the consistent high standard of writing in its recent review.



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Book Launch and Films

NePageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00025]xt week we have the official launch party of the Christmas book – A Feast of Christmas Stories at the Swan Hotel in Arundel. There will be cake. If you would like to attend, please let me know. It’s at 7.00 p.m. on Wednesday Nov 6th. You will be able to purchase signed copies at the introductory price of £6 – a perfect stocking filler.  Beryl Kingston, one of the contributors and our Chindi Patron will be introducing the proceedings.Citizen Armies (The Jackson Family Saga Book 2)

This week, I have been taking it to various retail outfits and had lots of interest locally. On Monday morning, I will be joining Beryl, at Pinks Ice Cream Parlour in Waterloo Square, Bognor Regis, when she introduces her latest book, Citizen Armies. Maybe I will also be able to sell a few of our book.

As the weather and night draw in, we have turned to the TV to see what new films are around. Although we have the cheapest cinema around and we like to support it (where else can you go to the cinema for £3.50?) we have Netflix and as of yesterday Amazon Prime. We have watched 3 films which I would surmise are all non-commercial and works of conviction and love – all fascinating but flawed in their own way. I would call them worthy rather than entertaining.

  1. Laundromat with Meryl Streep – an odd film with mixed reviews which is based on global tax avoidance and the Panama Papers. Less glitzy than the Big Short – it educates the viewer with a series of vignettes. Maybe it intended to shock but if you have read enough about this issue, it confirms what we already know – that greed and money always leads to corruption.
  2. At Eternity’s Gate – a biopic of Van Gogh. I loved seeing the paintings come together as the actor playing Van Gogh puts paint to paper. It’s an intense film as Van Gogh descends into and out of madness. I did feel that I knew him much better as a person through the actor’s interpretation of him. Reviews again are mixed.
  3.  Peterloo, directed by Mike Leigh – I missed this when it came out a year ago and was delighted to see it on Prime. I mention Peterloo in two of my books, The Digger’s Daughter and Ranter’s Wharf. Peterloo was a massacre which ultimately never led anywhere.  It should have done but, like the Newport Riots, it was successfully brushed under the carpet, however, it was a small step in the long battle to attain the vote. The film is so utterly worthy that without looking at the reviews, I can tell how they are going to play out. Its focus is mainly on one ordinary family from the time their soldier son returns from Waterloo, broken in spirit. The family is as dreary as the setting, both in language and emotion. They exist – no more, no less. All their efforts go to staying alive and finding bread to eat. Around them, the key characters of the massacre proclaim with passion, although the viewers’ sympathies are directed at those attempting to change the system rather than the magistrates and factory owners. The speeches are erudite and speak for themselves. Visually, it’s a stunning film, it’s an angry film too but it finishes flatly – maybe because it didn’t change anything. There was no retribution for the yeomanry who attacked the unarmed crowd with sabres. Life was cheap after all.  Reviews here.
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Bookshops and Book Lovers

One thing that came out of my visit to Portugal ten days ago was how they love their bookshops and libraries. The culmination of a visit to Coimbra was to enter the old university library, one where bats come out at night to feast on insects which would eat the books.  JK Rowling used to teach English in Porto and knows this story and also the black capes worn by the students. Did they infiltrate the pages of Harry Potter? I think so. It is a magnificent place.Image result for coimbra university library

We also found a bookshop in a church in Obidos. Not just a corner of the church, you understand, but the church was now a bookshop. A comfy seat under the altar provided for browsers. DSC04730

Then, of course there  was the bookshop in Porto where you had to pay to enter.  It is said that Lello Bookshop inspired Hogwarts. The previous owner had so many people visiting that ordinary browsers couldn’t enter. The danger was that the shop would fold. However, it was sold and the new owners began to charge an entrance fee, refundable if a book was purchased. The shop was saved, it fame spread and now it is probably one of the most visited bookshops in the world as well as the being the one with the most wow factor.


I ought to be more productive given that it has rained for three days. High points this week has been to press publish on the Christmas short story paperback. I have ordered a proof copy before ordering the hundred copies we hope to sell for Chindi. That will give us a very small profit, given that we will be giving free copies to those that contributed stories and sending off a few review copies. However, I am pleased to announce that I have a story in the book. It’s based on an ancestor of a lady I met a year ago in Tasmania. She told me that she was descended from Charlotte Ayling who was transported from Chichester and had lived in Boxgrove. When the Bee Choir Sings is my imagining of her final Christmas in Sussex.

I have also completed my last but one edit on my children’s book. I am waiting now for the illustrations and must get my head around the cover.

Low points have been beginning a course of dental work which may or may not work and will cost an arm and a leg. Worse was attending yet another funeral – this time for an old work colleague. A much-loved, sweet lady, a few months older than I and a lifelong lover of books. Our paths had not crossed much since we both retired, however, if we ever met on the promenade, we stopped to chat and I was reminded of how much I liked her. She and her husband collected books and held book sales. Books were her passion. RIP Jenni.

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Budget Air Travel – beware – a saga

It was touch and go but we holidayed in Portugal last week. Following my husband’s massive nose bleeds of the week before, we didn’t make up our minds until Tuesday before flying on Thursday.  That was the upside. The journey to Gatwick was beset with rush hour traffic, bad weather and roadworks. We arrived an hour after check-in began and 35 minutes before the gate closed. Anyone who knows me will realise I turn up early, never late and can’t do with that kind of stress. Not a good start. Of course, the gate happened to be miles away from security. I raced while husband followed gamely and lamely behind. No time for breakfast, barely enough time for the toilet – but we made it. This is a long story. Enjoy a photo of the view from our hotel in Lisbon.img_20190928_174449-effects

We were travelling Easy Jet. Need I say more. The plane set off late, we were starving. Our tour company had placed us in the middle row. For an hour we had to watch the slow process of the food and drinks trolley wending its way towards us. I felt faint with heat and hunger, attempting to bat away the faintness with my menu card, images of sandwiches, toasties and baguettes before my eyes. Why oh why did they do away with handing out a meal to everyone. They may not have been that tasty but they were food and quickly distributed. Here I had to watch the palaver of people making choices, drinks being poured, money being taken, over an over, slowly and ever more slowly. At last, it was our turn. ‘I’ll have a ham and cheese toastie, please,’ I said, with relief.
‘No sandwiches left,’ said the hostess.
‘A calzone, then, please.’
‘Nothing left, only muffins.’
Now I had decided I needed sandwiches and a muffin, so great was my hunger. Let me tell you, a muffin doesn’t take away hunger pains – it barely tickles the stomach. I told the hostess, I was not impressed. ‘We have this,’ she said, handing me a carboard box. On the menu card, it looked okay. A tapas of cured ham, little biscuits and some kind of dip.  Unwrapping it, all that was in the box was a thin plastic wrap of what looked like unappetising raw meat. I think the biscuits and dip may have been hiding somewhere I couldn’t see them. I handed it back.

So we arrived in Lisbon in a bad mood. Lisbon airport is in serious need of some TLC. Bussed from the plane a long and circuitous way, another long walk, we arrived in the baggage area and waited. We waited and strangely enough there didn’t appear to be that many cases for the number of people on the plane. There wasn’t. Neither of ours appeared. We formed a queue at lost baggage. A form had to be filled in, questions asked and cases described. In all our many years of travelling and numerous flights, this has never happened to us before. I had become blasé, too trusting. Our sum total of luggage were the clothes on our backs, two phones, a kindle and an ipad (with no charger). Dear readers – pack spare knickers and your medication in your backpack.

Luckily our hotel was opposite a shopping mall. That was probably the only useful thing you could say about it. More of that another time. Another thing you need to know about me, I loathe shopping, especially shopping malls. Soulless temples of consumerism. I hoped upon hope that one shop would suit. For my husband it almost did. Boxers, socks, a baseball cap, a shirt and trousers – all in one place. He travelled in thick jogging pants so he didn’t have to remove his belt in security. A wise move we thought at the time.

Have you ever tried shopping when you are unsure of sizes? I needed an M&S or Target. I needed large, comfy M&S knickers. All I got was bikini briefs in supermodel sizes. Even their extra large was barely enough. I just knew they would begin to slip and slide until they slithered off altogether. Finding another pair of trousers was impossible. Their winter stock was in and yet the temperature was 26 degrees outside- all signs of summer clothes had disappeared from the shelves. However, I could last until the next day when our luggage would arrive. At least we had food.img_20190926_210926

Dear reader, it didn’t. Other people returned from their tour of Lisbon to be reunited with their cases. We remained forlorn, wandering lost souls and frustrated. More shopping – this time to the pharmacy. Another wonderful thing about the EU is that pharmacies are legally obliged to supply one week’s medication without a prescription to traveller’s in need. If you are outside the EU or EEA this does not apply. We simply told the pharmacist what we needed and it was supplied at a lot less then we expected.

I needed to track our cases. First step EasyJet lost baggage website – didn’t work. I tweeted Easy Jet, they sent a link – didn’t work. I tweeted again and received another link – that worked. I logged on to track our cases – still tracing, it said. I saw how the young man at Lisbon airport had made a hash of noting our address and post code down on the form, so had to edit it. Not easy – the website had a mind of its own. So our bags were somewhere but unknown. The hotel had tried calling the airport, our rep had tried calling the airport baggage office. They didn’t answer the phone.

Our son got on the case. He spent an hour first trying their useless website, then phoned Gatwick. After half an hour on hold, he was told our bags were still at Gatwick and would be on the first plane out. Relief, at last an answer. I would just about cope with wearing my trousers for a third day.

Later that night, the phone in our room trilled. ‘Hello, my name is George. I did not expect to find you in the hotel. I was ringing to find out which hotel you had moved to. On the form we have, it says you moved today.’
‘No, we are still here. Who are you?’
‘I have your bags, they are at Porto airport.’
‘They are supposed to be at Gatwick.’
‘No they arrived in Lisbon this morning and were sent on to Porto.’
Gatwick lied. Lisbon erred.
‘We can keep them here for you or send them back to Lisbon, I wouldn’t advise that.’
‘Why not?’
‘Lisbon – well they …’
‘Don’t answer their phone.’
‘Yes, and they might not get the bags to you before…’
‘We leave on Sunday morning.’ Right – not a difficult decision. However, that means four days without bags. Another attempt at shopping. I gave him the name of our hotel in Porto. George was lovely. He told me that my mobile number on the form was also wrong. I didn’t point out that my mobile number was on each baggage tag attached to the cases. One would have thought, the first thing to check. Hey ho.

So – four days in the same trousers in 26 degrees. Two days in the same T shirt. I hope the other passengers didn’t have to hold their noses. We did get our bags back – four days after setting off. I am not keen on having a large carry on case, always making do with a small backpack. Well guess what? Never again.












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Travelling Again?

I returned home last Wednesday after a long day sat in Bologna Airport. My fault, I had booked myself on a flight at 6.50 p.m. instead of at lunch time, but had to be dropped off at 10 a.m. British Airways declined to let me fly earlier even though I pleaded with them and they had a spare seat. After all the messing about,  cancelling flights and then reinstating them because of their earlier strike, I had hoped they would have been more amenable. Message to self – do not book with BA.

Notes from an Exhibition Kindle EditionLuckily I had a good book with me. This is the second of Patrick Gale’s I have read and I must seek out more. It kept my interest until I finished it on the plane. A painter dies, her family have suffered with her bipolar disororder for many years. Using notes from a retrospective exhibition, the author reveals her life and the lives of her children, in no particular order. The narrative arc is not straightforward, the way I like it. It keeps you guessing all the way through and the writing is superb. Loved it.

The plane journey itself was fast and interesting for two reasons. One, we had sunset all the way and the main colour in the sky was a broad strip of dark umber highlighting the snow capped alps and the coast of England. Although I was in the middle seat, I couldn’t help staring out at the images. The young guy next to me was taking a lot of photos on his phone. When he wasn’t doing that, he was wrapped up in comedic podcasts, his shoulders heaving, swallowing back laughter, wiping his eyes as tears came. I wanted to know which comedian was giving him so much joy but he declined to say. Did he think it too risqué for an old lady such as I? Shame on him. I could do with a good laugh.

I returned to find that my husband, who had been holidaying with his recently wimg-20190925-wa0002idowed friend in Sicily, had ended the stay with his own health issues so much that on two occasions, a doctor and ambulance had been called. Two days after returning, his view was not so much of Sicily but of A and E in our local town. I hope you never experience a true nose bleed. Imagine a scene like a butcher’s shop. After six hours in hospital, it was eventually brought to a halt by stuffing the equivalent of a tampon up his nostril. He wouldn’t let me take a photo. It hurt too, poor thing. All caused by a stinker of a cold, nothing more serious. So, it’s been touch and go whether we can get away to Portugal.  You’ll have to wait to find out if we make it.

This week I have been putting the Christmas paperback together. It has to go up in the first week in October. I need to order copies for the Crawley Book Fair on October 19th. Needless to say, things didn’t go smoothly. I emailed a copy to myself as a back up and the original file then reported a serious error. I also found that two random words had inserted themselves for no discernible reason, so the whole book had to be reread and checked. Why do I give myself all this work? It means I can’t get on with my own stuff.

I also had a calamity this morning,  a serious problem which could have affected my children’s book. My granddaughter is looking forward to her Christmas present and I can’t let her down. I think I have found a way of tweaking it. A slight change of location is required. It could have been a major rewrite. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

I did have some good news this week. A listener contacted me to say how much she had enjoyed Search for the Light on I looked at the US site and I have 4 x 5* reviews for it now.  The question is whether I can summon up the energy to get the next two in the series read for audible.

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Writing In Tuscany

What a great week – I kept thinking of the quote from She Stoops to Conquer, which I appeared in twenty years ago now (a college production, I hasten to add). – “I love everything that is old; old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wines.” So I love everything about a Tuscan writing week – new friends, simple, delicious food, free-flowing wine, great conversation, fabulous hosts, amazing venue and – time to write.img_20190912_104114

We sat underneath this bower of trumpet flowers each morning, staring up at clumps of ripening grapes, pen and paper at the ready for whatever exercise we were set, breaking for a lunch of fresh salads, different hams and sharp sheep cheese with vino of course. Then came time for our own writing or contemplation. I loved listening to the thin stream of water gurgling over the mountain strewn parchment of stones. One morning after a blistering walk through beech woods from Badia down to Il Mulino, I dangled my feet in cool water as tiny fish discovered my bare feet. I’m not sure they nibbled, and were too tiny to tickle, while water boatmen skimmed the surface like miniature gondoliers. img_20190917_143029

In the late afternoons, I wrote badly, but words were added to my latest WIP as jays screeched on the wooded hillside beyond, bees flitted amongst the flowers and the river lulled me into a sense of euphoria. img_20190915_115331

I loved meeting author, Audrey Davis and writer, Sue Sturton, both larger than life, filling our days and evenings with laughter. I made them laugh once with the final piece I wrote, a great achievement.

We ambled through Sansepolcro and Anghiari looking for characters and found two weddings,  a great little restaurant and an artist, Joy Stafford, from my home town of Grimsby.  I lit a candle for June, my dear friend in Sansepolcro’s cathedral. Memories of her surrounded me all week as we had holidayed together for the last time at Il Mulino three years before. Her spirit hovered particularly at deserted Montebotellino and the walk along the track beside it.img_20190914_122908

Finally, we celebrated with pizza made in the brand new pizza oven, as we sat in the softening solar light. A magical week – one that I will treasure, hopefully learn from. I wonder if it will inspire me during the winter months ahead?img_20190917_200831

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Isabella Muir – Guest Post

Occasionally I feature a guest on my blog – this time I am delighted to welcome fellow Chindi author, Isabella Muir. Isabella has written a series of Agatha Christie type crime stories set in 1960s Eastbourne – she is a great fan of Agatha as you will be able to tell from her post. thumbnail2


In this lead up to Agatha Christie’s birthday on 15th September I have been reflecting on how she might have researched her novels. Her writing spanned more than fifty years and during that time society saw many changes. Agatha’s life also took many twists and turns.

First-hand experience

Agatha married twice, travelled extensively and wherever she went she kept a notebook, jotting down snippets that might one day find their way into one of her stories. John Curran’s book, Agatha Christie’s Complete Secret Notebooks, makes for a fascinating read. The Christie family gave him access to 73 of Agatha’s notebooks, which Curran delved into to explore how her storylines came together, as well as gaining insights into her approach to character development. He also found some story endings that never made it into her books!

Agatha had first-hand experience as a pharmacy assistant – experience she used when choosing poison as the means of murder (speaking of her fiction, of course!). She also joined her second husband, Max, on several archaeological digs in the Middle East. This all made for excellent first-hand research that once again made its way into her stories, such as Murder on the Orient Express (1934), Murder in Mesopotamia (1935), Death on the Nile (1937) and Appointment with Death (1937).

In writing my Sussex Crime series I too have tapped into my own experiences, fleshing it out with more in-depth research of the era. Agatha set most of her books in the era during which they were written. But when I chose to write my Sussex Crime series I decided to set it in the 1960s and I knew how important it would be to research as thoroughly as possible. thumbnail3

I was a child in the sixties, so didn’t take part in much of what made it such an iconic era – the music, the fashion, the permissive attitudes. But, I had older siblings who could and did! My sister was lucky enough to see The Rolling Stones on Hastings Pier in 1964 and my brother rode his scooter alongside other Mods, up and down Hastings, Eastbourne and Brighton seafronts – proudly wearing his fishtail-shaped Parka, with the fur-lined hood.

Snippets of memories and shared anecdotes provided a perfect starting place, but then I needed to read all I could to delve deeper into the events of the period, being careful to separate out the myth from the reality.

Digging deeper

I was lucky enough (through my local library) to get hold of a copy of an excellent book, now out of print – The Neophiliacs, by Christopher Booker. Wanting to find out more about Mr Booker, I did what many do nowadays in these times of instant ‘information’ – I Googled him. I discovered that back in 1961 he became the founder and one of the early editors of the satirical magazine, Private Eye. He was the first jazz critic for the Sunday Telegraph and Daily Telegraph and continued as a weekly columnist for the Sunday Telegraph right up to 2019, when he finally retired at the age of 81. I was sad to learn that Mr Booker died on 3 July this year.

The subtitle of his book ‘A study of revolution in English life in the fifties and sixties’ reflects his thoughts that a ‘psychic epidemic’ took place, with ‘victims of this disease restlessly craving novelty and sensation’.

Perhaps it was this ‘restless craving’ that led to the rise in consumerism that took place during the sixties. Supermarkets opened across the country, revolutionising the way people shopped for food. Labour-saving devices, such as vacuum cleaners, food processors, even fridges, changed the way that many women spent their time. A television now took pride of place in more than three-quarters of British homes, although many people rented their set, rather than buying.

Further research meant that I discovered more great books about the sixties – How was it for you? by Virginia Nicholson; 1965 – The year modern Britain was born by Chris Bray and In the family way by Jane Robinson – all helped to expand my understanding of that decade so that the fictional world of Janie Juke, the young librarian and amateur sleuth who sets out to solve the crimes and mysteries in my Sussex Crime series, would be as accurate as possible.

It is Agatha’s wonderful detective, Hercule Poirot, that Janie Juke sets out to emulate as she develops her sleuthing talent in the sleepy seaside town of Tamarisk Bay.

This blog post is one of a series, which leads up to Agatha Christie’s birthday and national #cozymysteryday on 15th September, as I enjoy the opportunity to be Chindi’s ‘Author of the week’. Chindi is a network of authors, both traditionally and independently published, based largely in West Sussex.   Between us we publish a wide range of books, from historical and crime fiction to romance and children’s books, from humour to self-help.

To find out more about the great Queen of Crime and to help celebrate Agatha Christie’s birthday, then look out for the other blog posts in the series:

Agatha Christie and Isabella Muir

Agatha Christie – a child of her time

Agatha Christie and the sixties

What is a cosy mystery?

The good, the bad and the ugly

Agatha Christie and Janie Juke

And as a present to you, on Agatha’s behalf, I am pleased to announce that the first book in my Sussex Crime series – The Tapestry Bag – will be available on Kindle for just £0.99p for one week only – grab it while you can!

Isabella Muir is the author of the Sussex Crime Mystery series: thumbnail




Her latest novel is: THE FORGOTTEN CHILDREN

She can be contacted via:

Twitter: @SussexMysteries



Or on Goodreads

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