My Lovely Blog Hop

I’ve been invited by the wonderful Berni Stevens at http://bernistevens.blogspot.co.uk  to join in the Lovely Blog Hop. Berni is my talented cover designer at http://ww.BerniStevensDesign.com. She’s also a writer of fantasy romance. The blog hop is intended to let you in on a few of the lesser-known things about my life that have helped make me who I am. You’ll find some links to other blogs and writers I like. The writers have all agreed to take part hopping and blogging and being lovely!

First Memory

Sitting in the branches of my favourite tree in our garden, reading, of course. I spent a great deal of my childhood reading and writing (and climbing trees and building treehouses! I was a bit of a tomboy!). I had real friends but many of my best friends were the characters in books: feisty girl heroines who had the adventures I wanted, too.

Books

My first books that I remember clearly are the Anne of Green Gables series. My mother used to read them to me, I think from way before I really understood any of them! I loved them. Gilbert Blythe was my first fantasy romance. And Anne was my role model: feisty and brave. You see a theme here? I think I subsequently read every LM Montgomery available! I collect old books: leather bound, gold tooling, silk bound, hide bound – you name it. I have a wonderful 17th century family bible and an early copy of Pilgrim’s Progress. I love the feel of them in my hands. I have a tatty early copy of Winnie the Pooh which  my daughters loved – here it is, all fixed together with cellotape! Books are to be used not kept in a cupboard! P1000783

I never thought I’d get used to kindle reading, and I resisted for a long time, but I travel so much and for fairly long periods of time, and being an avid reader, I simply can’t pack all my reading in my suitcase, so my kindle was actually a blessing! There I have hundreds at my fingertips. I spend a fortune on Amazon; I think I single-handedly keep them in business!

Currently I’m reading Sophia’s Secret by Susanna Kearsley (also published as The Winter Sea), which was recommended to me by Amanda Grange who also set the seeds in my mind of the book I am now writing for the RNA NWS. Thanks to Mandy!

Libraries/Bookshops

My life! My husband has to drag me out before I borrow/buy the whole stock. I spent a lot of my childhood in libraries; there were just too many books I wanted to read for me to afford to buy them. I was (and still am) a voracious reader. And I love those bookshops with coffee and relaxation areas. There’s a wonderful one near us, in the cathedral quarter, called the The Bookshop Café that serves lunches too.

One of my biggest memories of my daughters’ childhood was going to the local library for the story telling sessions and we all sat on huge bean bags drinking orange juice and coffee.

I love having a pile of books waiting to be read and having the joy of thinking – which one next? It’s not quite the same with a kindle, but … hey ho …! Here’s my first book The Old Rectory on special display at one of my favourite bookshops, The Bookshop at Kibworth: Bookshops April May 2014

What’s Your Passion?  

I have quite a few! Apart from reading and writing, I love walking in the countryside and cooking for family and friends. There’s nothing like a great chat and a laugh over a good meal and a glass or three of wine! Family and friends are very important to me and the joy of my life.

Choral singing has given me a great deal of joy over the years, especially in a local choir where the range encompasses classical, modern, gospel, rock and pop. They also say it’s very good for you (I have long term asthma) so there are health benefits from singing too. The utter joy of reaching the soprano highs in Mozart’s Requiem in the Albert Hall last year was fabulous. It sent shudders down my spine – an inspiring, ethereal moment to share with the others. Here’s me ready for it! P1010060

I also love swimming; I’m not a strong swimmer but I find it relaxing and it makes me feel fit, especially when it’s somewhere hot in an outdoor pool!

One of my greatest passions has to be travelling and exploring new places. We aim to go away overseas at least four or five times each year: I love Italy, France, Spain, Portugal. I’ve travelled quite a bit in the USA, Australia, and West Africa, although there’s far more to investigate! We have an apartment in Madeira where we go and chill out every summer.
P1000847 I would really love to explore India and China. And I’ve never been to the Caribbean which I’d love to do; we’re planning a cruise … I’d love to visit the island where Death in Paradise is filmed! A cosy crime romance novel coming up??P1000860

A recent passion: meeting and chatting to the very supportive folks in the Romantic Novelists’ Association, both online and in the flesh. They are such a lovely, generous, giving crowd and I love them all. So important for the isolated writer, sitting over a hot keyboard! Writing is essentially a lonely profession, by definition, so you need those contacts, the ready support and encouragement, and time out with like-minded folks.

 Learning

I always loved English: literature and language, but also I was intrigued by the way people behaved and interacted, and I ended up at university studying English, Psychology and Sociology. It turned out fortuitous because I did my PhD in socio-linguistics. Getting my doctorate was a real highlight of my life: a “mature” student and on my second marriage. I truly believe that it’s never too late to do what you want.

I hated Maths at school because I hated the teacher: she was an Amazonian woman, very severe and impatient, fair hair stretched back in a bun, large winged glasses on her nose. She scared me to death. When O levels came along I was determined to get a good grade in Maths (which we needed for university entrance in those days, along with Latin, which I loved) – simply because I couldn’t bear to retake and have Mrs Schneider for another year! I remember taking all the Maths text books home and systematically ploughing through them. And suddenly the whole thing clicked! A eureka moment! I got an A, the same as for English. Sheer determination. And strangely enough it stood me in good stead when I had to do statistics and economics as part of my Sociology!

I’m convinced that motivation is a prime factor in learning. And a good sympathetic teacher who can inspire that motivation. Later I became a school teacher and latterly a university lecturer and researcher. I love helping pupils/students to research and learn.

I can’t get enough of researching; I love that part of writing – I’m constantly investigating on Wikipedia and finding papers and books on the time, country or subject. I find learning new things very exciting. I drive my family mad calling “Hey, did you know that …?”

Writing

I’m literally just about to publish the second in the Drumbeats trilogy called Walking in the Rain. It follows Jess from Drumbeats, back from Ghana and about to go to university. She marries the man she truly believes is the love of her life, but then discovers that he is not the man she thought he was. There’s tragedy and danger again for Jess. How does she cope?

Drumbeats Berni    WALKING IN THE RAIN_300dpi

and the last in the trilogy, due out early 2016 …

I’ve always written – I mean literally ever since I could hold a pencil in my tiny hand. But you need support and encouragement and I lacked that (“writing isn’t a proper job!”) and ended up following the conventional route through school, university, teaching … etc etc!
I wrote many academic papers and contributed to multi-authored books in my subject, but creative writing (preferably novels) proved elusive, mainly because I didn’t have the time: marriage, two children, divorce, fulltime sole bread-winner, remarriage, two step-children…

Then I started writing again, egged on by friends, and eventually published a memoir/recipe book (The Old Rectory: escape to a country kitchen) about our acquisition and renovation of a Victorian rectory in the heart of the English moorlands, along with recipes from my country kitchen.

After that, there was no stopping me … I made wonderful writer friends, joined groups for support, and the rest is history! As well as adult novels, I like to write for children, the 9-14 age range, and my first published book for this group came out last autumn – S.C.A.R.S, which is about a troubled boy who slips through a tear in the fabric of the universe, to find himself on a quest in a fantasy medieval land. I think I might just write more in that vein!

Currently I’m working on my novel for the RNA New Writers’ Scheme (brilliant scheme!) which is a romance with a time shift element where the heroine finds herself slipping into a parallel universe of the early middle ages.

HOT NEWS UPDATE: Just 3 days ago I received a new publishing contract, so watch this space! All my books are available on Amazon in both paperback and ebook editions, at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Julia-Ibbotson/e/B0095XG11U/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1377188346&sr=1-2-ent

and a book trailer to enjoy, for Walking in the Rain https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3pUErb8cZc

and for its prequel, Drumbeats https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2OYlEXhHvsc&list=UUP3hKZjeUBuTMoyvZmBXbow

I nominate the following friends to take up the baton in the lovely blog hop:

Pauline Barclay at http://www.paulinebarclay.co.uk/

Lizzie Lamb at http://lizzielamb.co.uk and at http://newromanticspress.com

Rachel Brimble at http://www.rachelbrimble.com/

Gwyneth Williams at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Gwyneth-Williams-Author/1518528911735022?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

And some more to come, hopefully, which I’ll add!

New book soon out: Walking in the Rain, sequel to Drumbeats

WALKING IN THE RAIN_300dpi

The second in the Drumbeats trilogy: Walking in the Rain due out very shortly, in time for Easter! It continues Jess’s story from Drumbeats when she returns from Ghana to the UK, and sees her through her marriage to someone she believes is the love of her life. But what happens when she realises that he is not the man she thought he was?

Tragedy and danger stalks Jess’s life. How will she cope?

 

 

Book tour with S.C.A.R.S coming soon!

Scars Tour Banner

My dear friend, the lovely JB (of Brook Cottage Books) is organising another global book tour for my latest book – this time it’s S.C.A.R.S, my new children’s book. It’s happening in January/February 2015 so do watch out for it. And if you’re interested in taking part in hosting, do get in touch with JB, contact above on the banner.

Life after Life by Kate Atkinson

I have reviewed this on my Books I Like page but wanted to post it as a blog here too as it is circulating the review lists again.

What a stunning achievement this novel is! Sometimes you read a book and  wish so much that you had had the same idea! It was so very clever. I was totally engrossed in the notion of many layers of a life trying over and over to get it right (the multi-universe/parallel universe/quilted universe concept).

A baby, Ursula, is born on 11th November 1910 in a terrible snowstorm. The umbilical cord is caught around her neck and the doctor is unable to arrive in time so save her. Cut to 11th November 1910 again. This time Ursula survives.  But still she is caught up in events that are unacceptable. Ursula’s death and rebirthing recurs until finally the course of history is set right. What an engaging and thought-provoking concept. How wonderful it would be to believe in this. Turn back the clock and try again. Yes, I can relate to that in my own life – probably most of us could. The evocations of periods of history are well-researched, rich and appear authentic. I felt that some parts were perhaps a little overdone, like the blitz narratives and maybe the novel could have benefitted from some culling of these episodes, but the rest was so engaging that I still gave it 5 stars. Highly recommended.

Fractured by Dani Atkins

Wow, excellent book. Dani Atkins weaves an intriguing story which traces two different lives which Rachel may or may not have lived over the previous five years following an accident. The ending is superb and interweaves all the mysterious hints wonderfully competently. I love books that leave me thinking and working out the intricacies. Well recommended.

I’ve just read some of the other reviews and am amazed at the number of readers who simply didn’t “get it”! One at least totally misunderstood the ending.


I do agree with one reviewer about the problematic issue of the actual car accident where the vehicle seems to take forever to crash through the window of the restaurant, and the unrealistic trapping of Rachel behind the table, and yes, I would agree that this could/should have been edited down to a page or two only – but compared with the rest of the book this paled into insignificance. The rest was a very powerful
  story and  I couldn’t stop thinking about it for some days afterwards.

The Book Thief: Markus Zusak

I’ve just finished reading The Book Thief and I know already that it will be one that haunts me for a long time. It is brilliant, in its style, its structure and its message. I love unusual narratives, with creative startling language, and this one is crafted so beautifully that it makes the reader gasp. The last words from Death say it all (and I don’t think that I give anything away by quoting them): “I am haunted by humans”. It’s what pervades the whole novel.

It is set in 1939 in Nazi Germany, and it is, uniquely, I think, narrated by Death himself. The characters are clearly formed and the reader gets to know each one. The main protagonist is Liesel, the foster girl who comes to live with Rosa and Hans Hubermann in their house in a poor area outside Munich. Hans (“Papa”) teaches her to read and write, and this forms the beauty of the story. She forms a firm friendship with Rudy, the boy next door, and together they eke out their meagre existence by stealing food and colour their survival with words. The family harbours in their basement, Max, a Jew for whom Hans has reason to be grateful, and he develops Liesel’s fascination with words. She begins to steal books and shares them with Max and with her neighbours in the shelter during the devastating bombing raids. Liesel and Rudy’s growing understanding of the world around them is shown carefully and delicately through the eyes of Death.

There is so much to this book that a brief review can barely suggest the experience of reading it. The beauty (and sometimes oddness)of the language had something of the poet Dylan Thomas about it. I have read many novels about this period of history and thought that there was nothing new to say, but this one is most unusual and captivating. It certainly left me with much to think about. I can’t wait to see the film; I do hope that it serves the book well.