Pompeii!

Coming to you tonight from a wild and woolly Pompeii!!! I can’t believe I’m saying that! As a young girl, the Pompeii exhibition came to town and it’s the first memory I have of being truly mesmerized. My teacher was an archeology guru of sorts and dragged us all along. This rich experience lies at the deep core of my love and compassion for tribes, humans, tragedies, and rich love stories. The imagine of a young Pompeiian couple cast in plaster, cuddling together forever, is as crisp in my mind’s eye as the day it captured my imagination all those years ago.

Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii… two words that I rarely hear or think about, but when they do, my heart skips a beat. It’s on the bucket list, …and not planned for this trip.

We planned to take a “short cut”; the twenty-one hour ferry from Livorno to Sicily this evening and last week booked ourselves, along with Molly, Hitch, and the Sphinx (of course) for tonight’s evening departure.

Right after a fabulous weekend in northern Tuscany with my very special cousin Kathryn, where we all ate waaaay too much food, and talked waaay too much. There was also much to be done around the farm, but the weather turned for the worse in a big way, so a cozy fire, a crazy kitty, and the odd G&T or red wine, and there went the weekend. We were determined not to let the weather dampen our spirits but news from home of desperately ill babies cast its long-distance shadow.

Super important meetings and speaking engagements were cancelled, Miss Four’s birthday party was cancelled, and poor Mama Bear spent the whole weekend in bed in such a big single-bed-ward with her precious and fragile Miss Two. It’s the third time in as many weeks this bubba’s been in hospital, from broken foot to serious gastro, but this time it’s a whole new ball game. I won’t go into details but it’s been terrifying … and while they still aren’t out the woods (or hospital) yet, things look like they are beginning to turn around. It’s things like this that tear at our hearts and remind us we can’t be away from them for too long.

Thanks to the amazing (free) Australian medical system for their incredible care of our babies! I know they aren’t perfect but they’re streaks ahead of any other medical system we’ve experienced over the years and believe me, we’ve tested them.

As the weekend came to a close and the weather changed from bad to worse, the ferry was cancelled and we set out this Monday morning to drive down the length of Italy instead of sail. It was by far my preference, as I’m not keen on the ferry idea at all, but wind which slows the traffic down to a standstill on the freeway is not my idea of fun either. Hours and hours of fallen trees, torrential rain, a few roofs blown off, and many of the cars pulled over to wait out the worst of it. Too many cars, in fact, which meant the slipways were over-full and cars stuck out into the road, hazard lights not really doing much.

By four in the afternoon it became so dark and dangerous we pulled into a service station and prepared ourselves to sleep the night if necessary. Then I noticed the Mercedes parked next to us with a shattered terra-cotta roof tile sprinkled across its bonnet and roof, with the windscreen smashed.

The police arrived, the service station was closed down, the rain subsided somewhat, and we decided we’d best venture back onto the roads again and find a proper camp site for the night.

Twenty minutes later we found a decent Agri Camper site on our app and wound our way through skinny streets (you know how much we love those!!), rain, puddles, wind, and even drove UNDER a fallen tree! It had landed across the road with its top on a very high, now broken wall.

So here we are, right in the middle of Pompeii. The weather forecast for tomorrow is clear and sunny skies, so we think we might just stop a moment and visit the only museum of the whole trip.

But I’m not holding my breath!

PS: Thanks so much to those who’ve signed on the easy, no-spam newsletters I send out no more often than monthly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those)!

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Guest Interview with Kathryn Bax.

screen-shot-2016-10-05-at-3-48-11-pmToday I have a guest with me that I am super excited about. Kathryn Bax (who writes under the pen name Kathryn McMaster) is Co-founder and Business Development Manager of www.onestopfiction.com (a One Stop place for Readers and Writers). I read her debut book “Who Killed Johnny Gill” a good few months ago, and as I researched the author I found her site as well as an author support group that she runs for Fiction writers. I am a memoirist myself, but reading all about her and everything that she is doing with the site gave me huge insight into the world of writing, publishing, self publishing and marketing for writer and authors, I have learnt so many tips from her that it is hard to remember what I learnt from whom, and in reality a huge chunk of it has come from either her or one of her many followers.

Her site is in it’s infancy but appears to me to be growing from strength to strength very quickly, so I thought that I would ask her to share with us a few things…

Me: Hi Kathryn, Thanks so much for answering my questions today. Can I ask you why you started your web site? Isn’t it just one of many that are similar that can be found all over the internet? … and what gaps are you achieving to fill in the market place today?

Kathryn writes: We all like to read free and discounted books, don’t we? Who doesn’t like a bargain? I co-founded One Stop Fiction for two reasons. The first was to provide readers with quality books at discounted rates, the other was as an author I was frustrated at the lack of places I could be seen, other than my own author Facebook pages and website. How could I make sure that my book was on a permanent website, rubbing shoulders with books from my peers? Along came the idea for the website.

However, 9 months ago, the idea hadn’t even been born yet. I was still frantically trying to finish my first novel. Once I was nearly finished I realised that I needed some ideas on how to market it. There was no point in writing a book that nobody would see.

So I paid a squillion to join a course on book marketing only to be bitterly disappointed. It had not stated on sign up that the course was primarily for non-fiction writers. I took very little away from the course and felt rather disgruntled. I was not the only one. Other fiction authors were very unhappy too.

So, being the rebel that I am, I decided to break away from the group and start my own Facebook group where we could all learn from each other and share marketing ideas. The group soon grew to well over 1000 members. However, after listening to the feedback from the new group, there seemed a need to provide a platform where writers could connect to readers and vice versa.

I had built and run several websites of my own before this. I was no stranger to HTML and website jargon. However, I knew that we needed a site that would be more than a ‘mom and pop’ venture. We needed something slick and professional, easy to use and attractive to look at.

In the previous disgruntled group were two very special people; Shaun Griffiths, a Young Adult author who would become our Content Manager, and Alex Okros; an author of short stories (still unpublished) and the published author of a time-management book.

We fast became Internet friends. One day I said to Alex that I was thinking of starting up a website for authors. He said that he too had had the exact same idea. I said that it was all very well and good to have lofty ideas but website platforms did not come cheap. Who would we get to build it? He started to chuckle and said, “Oh, didn’t I tell you? I am a computer programmer and my girlfriend designs websites.” Sometimes, some things are just meant to be.

The website was released to the public on 8/8/2016 which we hope is an auspicious date – not that we are at all superstitious! Already hundreds of books have been added to the site and we are thrilled to see how many people have entered our monthly competition to win a Kindle eReader Paperwhite worth $119. The competition is open to all, no matter where you live. There is no joining fee, and to say thank you for your subscription you have a choice of 30 free e-books to read.

So please come and join us, have some fun, and be prepared to find some great books!

By Kathryn Bax (Pen name Kathryn McMaster)

Co-founder and Business Development Manager

www.onestopfiction.com

(you can also follow her on Twitter at either @OneStopFiction1 or @TrueCrimeNovels)

Review: “Who Killed Johnny Gill?”

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Time for another book review, this time by a newer author, Kathryn McMaster. I try to read books that are really diverse, and I also don’t like reading the back first, as for me they give away too much of the book. I am less interested in reading things because I know that I will like the topic, than I am about reading well written books. I have been known to walk into a library and take home 10 books that I like the look, the feel, the size, the font of, and even the picture on them, having read nothing at all about them. Then when I am home and comfy in my reading corner, I start at the top of the pile and if they haven’t grabbed me in an hour or so then I move onto the next book. I am sure that that is somewhat unfair, as I have also persisted with some books (usually on the recommendation of others with similar book taste) and was glad that I did. But I do prefer to not have to work hard well into the book in order to enjoy it. I love the journey more than anything but of course the topics really make a difference too, and I don’t enjoy repetitive topics.
So I guess that that means that if I review a book, then you can know that it is one that passes that first very important filter 🙂
I should say up front that I love true stories. I also love Historical Fiction … which is kind of the same, as the true parts are the History bits, and are what make it so interesting and the fictional characters are what bring the truth parts together. True crime, with History thrown in however, is always going to draw me, as the characters are also very true, and need to be to keep the facts right … but you still need to keep me past that first crucial hour or so.
Who Killed Johnny Gill” was an easy draw for me, and I was in from the beginning. I don’t want to spoil any of it so I won’t say what happens, but the things that really struck me were the way that Kathryn has clearly done her homework! For me, true crime stories are tricky and I am not sure that I would ever be brave enough to write one. You need to do your research and you need to do it really well! … I don’t want to be the one to check, but this book certainly feels as though every stone has been unturned.
The other thing that I felt Kathryn did really well was she made me feel empathy for the characters and I loved the way that she brought them all to life. I hope that if the real people were able to jump forward over a century and read this book about themselves, they would feel that they were portrayed well. They had depth and colour, which can be really hard to do when they lived so long ago. I kept wanting her to side with some of the characters, I wanted her to be biased towards the good guys and cold about the bad guys but she does a great job of remaining objective, sticking to the facts alone, and letting the reader come to their own conclusions, without coming across as cold or bland.
In the world of modern day CSI on almost every TV screen around the world, we can be so desensitised to truly horrendous crime, and forget that it happens every single day, to real life people, and not only now, but since time began. Humans have been murdering each other since Cain murdered Abel, and not just in anger and not just by knocking them on the head. Throughout the book I kept having to remind myself that this story really actually happened. And that it happened in such a way…
You will also enjoy this book if you are interested in the science behind the CSI of the day, the technical and physical tools and procedures of the day, and what the professionals had access to. “Who Killed Johnny Gill?” was a good read to the end 🙂