10 September 2019

Do you enjoy reading novels? Well then...

Authors take a lot of time and effort to write the novels that you enjoy reading, and, in the case of many indie authors, they spend a lot of money also. For the most part, for little financial reward. 

The J.K. Rowlings of the author world are, believe me, few and far between. Most of the many hundreds (thousands?) of indie authors just about cover their costs of paying editors, cover designers, the company that publishes the book for them... But that is all a part of the job, a job which, for nearly every author, is a labour of love. We write because it is compulsive. We meet our characters, we have their stories in our heads and we have to write them down. Otherwise, those characters haunt us, nagging and nagging until we get their adventures down in print.

Book, Read, Old, Literature, Pages

But why should you write a review?
Good reviews, the five and four-star ones, can help readers make decisions.  Most people read the reviews on Trip Advisor, for instance, before deciding on a hotel. Poor reviews mean 'look elsewhere'. Good, honest reviews can assist a comfortable, pleasant stay. Ditto with books. Genuine praise means a book is (probably) worth reading. 

Add to this, the number of reviews on Amazon help a book's visibility (allegedly, Amazon can be a law unto itself).  If you love a writer's work and want others to share your enjoyment, leaving a review is a brilliant way of making this happen.

Think of it as your good deed for the day!

No professional writer expects all their reviews to be 5* - a 4* is just as much appreciated.
And you don't have to use Amazon! What about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram...?

Put a quick review on Twitter or Facebook, something simple: "I've just read XXX by XXX - loved it!", with maybe the Amazon or Goodreads link so your followers can quickly go to the book.

Word of mouth, (or Tweet or text) you know, is the most effective way to hear about good books worth reading!

Book, Book Pages, Read, Roses, Romantic

 Star Rating Guide:

Except we're not really interested in the last three are we? I am a firm believer in 'if you can't say something nice, say nothing."

You do not have to write an essay! A plain 'I really enjoyed this novel, I'll be reading more by this author' is good enough.
Amazon can be pernickety about reviews for authors who are friends, but there's no reason why you shouldn't post a review if you genuinely enjoyed it (assuming Amazon doesn't delete it.) 

Teddy Bear, Teddy, Bear, Stuffed Animal

There is no 'sell-by', or 'best before' Date on writing a review – read a book a while ago? Feeling guilty that you didn’t write a review at the time? 

No Problem.
Write this in the opening line “I read this book a while ago...” 

An author will be just as pleased to get an honest review whenever it is written.

Storytelling, Story, Telling, Tale

Authors are a funny lot, it takes very little to batter our confidence. 'Why am I doing this?', 'who is going to read this twaddle?' are common thoughts for us authors.

A genuine, lovely review can absolutely make an author's day - and spur us on to get that next book written...

I'm not hinting...
Well Ok, of course I am!

On behalf of myself and my characters:
Thank You, Polaroid, Letters
Leave a review for any (or all!) of my books
(or ANY author - not just me!)
here on Amazon


6 September 2019

Novel Conversations with Annie Whitehead's character Penda

Meet Penda

Q: Hello, I’m Helen the host of Discovering Diamonds Novel Conversations, please do make yourself comfortable. Would you like a drink? Tea, coffee, wine – something stronger? You’ll find a box of chocolates and a bowl of fruit on the table next to you, please do help yourself. I believe you are a character in Annie Whitehead's novel entitled Cometh the Hour. Would you like to introduce yourself? Are you a lead character or a supporting role?  
A: Good morning. I do not know what you mean by tea, coffee and chocolate. Some of that fruit does not look familiar to me either, but I will gladly take a cup of wine, thank you. I am Penda, Anglo-Saxon king of Mercia and I am the lead character in the novel. 

Q: What is the novel about?
A: It is about my life and my struggles against a spiteful, murderous, brother and against the northern kings who wish to make our kingdom of Mercia into a puppet state. But the story is personal, too, for these northern kings have also wronged my womenfolk. 

Q: No spoilers, but are you a ‘goodie’ or a ‘baddie’? (Or maybe you are both!)
A: Ah, Lady, that is a fine question! I am a goodie, I think, although my enemies hate me because I am what they call a 'pagan'. My wife often also disagrees with me, and frequently puts me in my place, much to her amusement. The world around me is changing, I become a father of children who make their own decisions, and at times this puts me at conflict with my wife. I try at all times to be honourable and I despise hypocrisy. I don't think this makes me a bad person, though.

Q:  Tell me about another character in the novel – maybe your best friend, lover or partner … or maybe your arch enemy!
A: [Scratches chin] I seem to have many enemies. I do not mind what men do, so long as they do not try to take my kingdom or enslave my people. My foes treat their women and children badly and I am, as I said, a family man. The worst of my enemies is Oswii, a man with a callous attitude to his many children and a casual attitude to his wives. His latest wife, though, I'm told, is more than a match for him. This man murdered her kinsman in cold blood and she, little bigger than a child, made him more than sorry for it. Oswii thinks naught of bribery, he is devious, and my author suspects that he is also a child killer. She finds it amusing that he is beset by what he calls interfering women, including St Hild of Whitby, who frustrate him at every turn.

Q: Is this the only novel you have appeared in, or are there others in a series?
A: My author tells me that there will be another book about my family, but she won't tell me whether I will appear in it. That book has been delayed because for the last two years she has been writing about me in what she calls 'nonfiction' books. 

Q: What is one of your least favourite scenes you appear in? 
A: [Shifts in the chair and looks down at the floor] One of my least favourites is when my wife, whom we call Derwena, turns away from me because of a decision I have made, or rather, because for once I did not intervene. I let something happen, which Derwena thinks will put her family at risk, but I felt I had no choice. It drives a wedge between us, and we both suddenly feel the cold wind because we are not standing together, sheltering each other.

Q: And your favourite scene?
A: [Grins] Any where I give my whining, ineffectual, elder brother a bloody nose, and the births of all my children. Those are moments to cherish. I am, at heart, a family man. I will not lie, Lady, there is also something about a battle which makes me feel alive. I am a warrior king, after all.

Q: Tell me a little about your author. Has she written any other books? 
A: She has written two other novels, both set in Mercia, one about a lady called Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians, and one set in the reign of King Edgar of Mercia which tells of murder, sex scandals, loyalty and love. She tells me she worked with you on a collection of stories about 1066, when we Anglo-Saxons are at war with someone called William. She has written two of her 'nonfiction' books, one all about the history of Mercia and starting with me, apparently, and one about Anglo-Saxon women which she says is currently with the publishers.

Q: Is your author working on anything else at the moment?
A: I'm touched by her loyalty, for she says she has been asked to write my story for a new collection - some more of her 'nonfiction' - and then she has been asked to write some short stories. After that, she tells me, she will write the follow-up to Cometh the Hour.

Q: How do you think authors, such as your author, can be helped or supported by readers or groups?
A: Perhaps I'm the wrong man to ask, not being able to read and write. I can see what she means though when she says word of mouth is an important way of spreading new about her books. Readers' groups help with this, as do reviews, so she tells me. She also loves the way authors support each other.

Thank you King Penda, it was a pleasure talking to you. Would your author like to add a short excerpt? 
And while she is doing that… chatting is thirsty work, would you like another drink…?

Thank you. Do you have any ale though? And I am sorry for not sitting particularly still, but I never was one for relaxing...


[After a fight with his elder brother Eowa, Penda has ridden to the borders of their lands, where he meets a young woman, pregnant and seemingly in need of a friend after her kinsman killed the father of her child. They sit together under the shade of an oak tree and talk. She senses that Penda, too, is troubled and they travel back to the Mercian court together.]
Before Penda had the chance to take her inside, Eowa sauntered from the withy screen which hid the users of the latrine ditches from general view. His nostril still showed traces of dried blood and there was a livid cut across his right eyebrow. He paused when he saw his brother and his gait changed as he strode towards him. “Who’s this?”

Penda said, “I found her in the woods.”

Servants were carrying loaves from the bake-house and meat from the kitchen and folk began to gather for the main meal of the day. Seeing he had the beginnings of an audience, Eowa sneered and said loudly, “Looks like someone else found her first.” He laughed at his own joke and was rewarded with a few titters from those who were close enough to overhear.

Penda’s waif stepped away from his arms and folded her own across her chest as she surveyed Eowa. Keeping her gaze upon the elder of the brothers she spoke to Penda. “This is your brother? I had thought to find someone taller.”

Eowa’s smile fell away, but since her comment fell short of a proper insult, there was little he could say and he merely countered with a “Yes, well, it is time to go within.”

They watched him shuffle off and she said, “You were wrong to ride away after your fight. You should have stayed and pulled his head off, after all.”

Penda laughed. “I think you and I are going to get on, ‘wood elf’.”

She looked at him, unblinking and said, “Your brother is a stupid turd. Your other nearest kin, if I understand you right, is one who in my kingdom is known as Cærl the Sleepy because he never moves. I would say that you are in dire need of a friend. I say again, my grief will lessen with time; yours has many years in which to worsen.”

As they entered the hall, one of the hearth-thegns, Lothar, smiled and in a much more friendly tone than Eowa had employed, said, “I see you’ve caught a wanderer. Are you going to keep her?”

Penda, still affected by her blunt appraisal of his life, whistled in wonder and said, “Lothar, old friend, I do not think this woman will be owned by anyone.”

King Cærl was already seated on his king-stool at the other end of the hall and Penda noticed how quickly Eowa had scuttled over to whisper in his ear. It was only a matter of moments before Cærl extended a bony finger and crooked it in a gesture of summons. Penda sighed and said, “The king wishes to meet you.”

She shrugged. “It is his hall. I should not eat his food without first asking him for it.”

They stood up together and made their way to bow before Cærl. Penda found himself looking at the king as if for the first time, as his new companion would see him. In front of him was an old man, who raised milky eyes to stare at them and spoke in a reedy voice.

“Who is this and where has she come from?”

Penda’s sense of mischief overcame him and he said, “Tandderwen. Derwena.” 

But Cærl, who had never taken the time to converse as freely in Welsh as some of his younger kin, did not understand the translation of the place-name ‘below the oak’, or the name which simply meant ‘oaks’. He beckoned the newcomer to step closer and he said, “Welcome, then, Derwena.”

Eowa was, as usual, clinging so hard to the earlier bad feeling that it tightened his jaw and made his tone harsh. “How can you simply welcome her? Who will feed the child; will my brother take her under his roof? We do not know who she is, or anything of her bloodline.”

‘Derwena’ gazed at Eowa and smiled sweetly. “What matter whose blood flows in me? You are the heir to Mercia, are you not?”

He grunted. “Huh. You would not think so to look at the way my brother behaves.” He indicated his bloody nose.

Penda said, “Stop behaving like an arse then, if you wish me to bow to you. Until then you know where you can shove your…”

“Bastard!” Eowa threw himself at Penda and the force knocked Penda onto the floor.

Penda swiftly turned, bringing Eowa with him so that he was now on top of him. He punched him hard, once with each fist, before standing up and yanking his brother to his feet. He noted with grim satisfaction that Eowa now had a burst lip to go with his bloodied nose.

Eowa put a hand up to his mouth, felt the blood, wiped it angrily, and seemed as if he were about to appeal to Cærl to reprimand Penda, but the king had lost interest and was looking down, inspecting his food as if he had never seen cooked bacon before.

Derwena was looking dispassionately at the royal brothers, apparently unconcerned by the sight of the blood. She stepped closer and wiped Eowa’s mouth with the end of her sleeve. “You see? No matter what flows through our veins, we all bleed the same.”


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3 September 2019

Tuesday Talk - A Little Bit about The Smuggler

So where does the word ‘smuggle’ come from?

‘Smuggler’ was a general term the same as ‘thief’ or ‘crook’. ‘To Smuggle’ as with many of our nautical-based words, comes from Low German ‘schmuggeln’, or the Dutch, ‘smokkelen’, both of which have an original meaning of something like ‘to transport illegally’. It is believed that the word ‘smuggle’ entered into the English language during the 1600s, possibly during the era when the eldest son of Charles I, himself to become crowned as Charles II, was in exile with many of his supporters in the Netherlands. One of his assistants was Samuel Pepys, of the Diary fame, whose day job was to oversee various organisation policies of the Royal Navy. He would have kept a sharp eye on any illicit trading, although I would wager he occasionally took advantage of anything offered at a reasonable price – no questions asked. During the rage of the Great Fire of London in 1666, one of the things he buried in case the fire spread to his house, was a parcel of expensive cheese. Smuggled French Brie, Devon Blue or Cornish Yarg perhaps? (My favourite cheeses!) Master Pepys, however, preferred to bury his Italian Parmesan. 

Smugglers did not call themselves ‘smugglers’. The ‘Trade’ could be associated with gentlemen, bootleggers, contrabandists, moonshiners, rum runners and traffickers among other general descriptions. Smugglers were not merely the men who brought illicit cargo ashore and hurried it away on the backs of ponies. The term could apply to almost anyone involved in obtaining goods illegally: from the thug with his heavy cudgel protecting an inbound cargo, to the local squire who financed the deal or supplied the ship and horses to transport the goods. 

It is estimated that as much as half of the alcohol consumed throughout England in the mid-eighteenth century was smuggled in by various notorious gangs. They were virtually unopposed as the coasts and estuaries were rarely guarded, let alone patrolled. Not until the late 1700s did the excise men, backed by local militia troops, start being effective.

In 1724, the author of novels and political pamphlets (and castaway sailors), Daniel Defoe, wrote about Lymington in Hampshire on the English south coast:

 ‘I do not find they have any foreign commerce, except it be what we call smuggling and roguing; which I may say, is the reigning commerce from the mouth of the Thames to the Land's End in Cornwall.’

Annoyingly for writers of fiction or informative textbooks, there is a marked absence of facts recorded about smuggling. The trouble with secretive activities – they remained secret. Most of the knowledge we have gleaned today is from archived news sheets, both local and national, from letters and reports penned by revenue officers safely stored, again in archives, or from court records. These snippets of information give only the bare facts and intriguing names, with maybe an occupation listed alongside. They are also only about those smugglers who were caught, tried and sentenced (or reprieved). There is an enormous lack of evidence and information about the clever smugglers. The ones we do not know about – those who did not get caught. It is these mysterious men who have given us the romantic concept of their lives, glossing over the fact that in reality they were rebels against law and order, and were nothing short of thieves defrauding the government of revenue.

When did smuggling start? Smuggling – the ‘Free Trade’ – reached its height in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, peaking in the early 1800s, which is the era we think of for our image of the Free Traders, but importing goods, whatever they were, illegally and under the noses of law enforcement officers and tax gatherers was nothing new… 

The term ‘Customs and Excise’ came from paying a customary toll on imported wine at selected ports in the late tenth century.

Tolls were imposed on wine imports by the Anglo-Saxon king, Æthelred II (966–1016) his name meaning ‘noble-counselled’, but was soon changed to Æthelred Unraed – ‘ill-counselled’, which then became corrupted to ‘Unready’. When he desperately needed money (Danegeld) to pay for holding off the invading Danes, led by Sven Forkbeard and his son Cnut (King Canute of holding back the tide fame,) he invented the idea of ‘tax’ via import duty to be paid on bringing foreign wine into England. This was a clever way to raise funds: in order to continue trading, vintners had to surrender a portion of their cargo, and therefore their profit. Paying the enforced toll soon becoming a ‘custom’. These ‘Custom Tolls’, however, only applied to specific ports, so to land wine at an exempt harbour was not illegal. Of course, this meant that the wine traders used any port or harbour except the toll ports, although that entailed carting barrels of wine across country, which was neither cheap nor easy to do, so rather defeated the object. It is extraordinary what lengths people will go to in an attempt to avoid paying tax though!

In England, smuggling contraband, as we think of it, started to become an annoying problem in the thirteenth century after King Edward I created his unpopular concept for a customs collection system in 1275. Smuggling in the 1200s had tended to lean towards exported goods rather than those imported, wool and hides in particular, both of which carried a high tax in order to finance various expensive wars. The wool business was one of England’s most profitable trades, making the kingdom one of the wealthiest in the known world. But grain, especially when there was an embargo between England and what is now Europe, (although, usually confined to France and/or Spain,) for one reason or another was a lucrative smuggler’s choice. Grain export was regularly prohibited because of concerns that the price would rise, thereby causing a shortage and then a famine which would, in turn, escalate to riots and unrest. The simple answer of not fighting lengthy and unnecessary wars did not seem to have occurred to anyone.

Romney Marsh sheep
...the means to many a smuggler's handsome profit!
Those early days of smuggling in the pre-fourteenth centuries were relatively hassle-free, for only the ports, harbours and estuaries were patrolled by revenue cutters, leaving elsewhere along coast, creeks or rivers unguarded. But even secretive landings were not regarded as necessary, for it was simpler to pay the customs officers to look away. Poor pay meant that honest officials were as rare as unicorns. 

Smuggling was successful because of the law-enforcers inability to uphold the law. The revenue officers faced an almost hopeless task, at least until they eventually improved efficiency, increased their numbers and were able to do their job properly, assisted by rigid enforcement of the law of the land. Although, even then, smuggling persisted. Smuggling, for all its romantic imagery however, evolved around sharp-witted opportunists who saw a way of getting rich quickly and easily. 

Some smuggling terms

Bill of Landing: a shipmaster’s receipt detailing the cargo.
Boiled Man: someone who has bribed the excise men to be left alone.
Bit of red: a soldier.
Chatter broth: tea.
Composition: a fine for smuggling, calculated according to the value of goods seized and the smuggler’s financial status.
Cousin Jacky: brandy.
Creeping: the act of dragging the seabed to recover temporarily hidden contraband.
Creeping Irons: grappling irons or hooks used for creeping.
Crop: a cargo of contraband.
Darks: moonless nights.
Donkey: a one-legged stool used by coastguards. In later years called a shooting stick.
Drawback: the official refund of excise duty.
Dry Goods: non-liquid contraband.
Funt: a smuggler's warning light.
Genever: gin.
Guineaboat: a fast galley used for carrying guineas to France.
Hollands: Dutch gin.
Rummage: to search: especially for contraband.
Run: a smuggling operation.
Sowing the crop: sinking contraband in the sea with weights and markers in order to hide it.
Stinkibus: spirits which have gone off after prolonged submersion in the sea.
Tub: a small cask, flat on one side, oval on the other. Used in pairs to be carried by ‘tubmen’.
Vizard: a cloth facemask worn across the mouth and nose.
Working the crop: recovering sunken casks that have been temporarily hidden in the sea.

Even if you do muddle a real donkey and a stool – you can sit on both!

Available from Amazon

28 August 2019

Available now!

Buy my  books on Amazon
Kindle or Paperback

I'm pleased to announce that Sea Witch is now re-available
 as an e-book and a paperback - the new editions look super!

and don't forget this one... available as an e-book
The young, sixteen-year-old Jesamiah
How he became a pirate...

(from an unedited file)

With Barbados well behind them, the light winds became lighter, the calm seas calmer. Mermaid had been sailing sweetly, life aboard was pleasant and enjoyable, but with each hour as the day grew nearer noon their progress slowed. From her scudding through the great crests of white-capped rollers Mermaid now ambled along, apparently unenthusiastic about reaching the Azores. Even with every sail set, forming a pyramid of canvas from the largest to the smallest, even with the occasional drenching with buckets of seawater to stir a breeze among the spread of sail, Mermaid made snail’s-pace progress north-eastward. Yet the windless days were no great alarm. They had water, even if it was green and brackish, and food aplenty: eggs from the hens – or meat if one shirked her daily duty too often – milk, cheese and butter from the three nanny goats, Betty, Dolores and Fanny-Anne. Fish in the sea to catch.

Nor were they idle days for Jesamiah. He had Malachias Taylor’s maps and charts sorted and stored, and studied, the piles of paperwork and documentation orderly, with the Great Cabin itself following a semblance of tidiness, although pristine condition was a forlorn hope where Taylor’s housekeeping carelessness was concerned. And Taylor also taught Jesamiah how to fight. Not the fancy footwork of the rapier schoolroom, but how to fight to win, to save your skin and life. How to fight dirty if needed. Jesamiah had lessons with cutlass, sword and rapier; with a long-bladed knife and short-bladed dagger, fist and feet. Swordplay, dagger play, wrestling. Day after day, practice and practice, with Taylor himself and the other men, until Jesamiah was as good as any one of them. 

Their sessions were at dawn and dusk, when the heat was not so invasive when the sails dripped with dew and the calm blue sea was as smooth as a looking glass. There was nothing better, Jesamiah had discovered, when a vigorous sparring session was over, their semi-naked bodies slick, sticky and stinking with sweat, for he and Taylor to strip off their breeches and dive from the rail into that blue, blue sea, shattering the Mermaid’s almost-perfect reflection and the quiet stillness with their splashing and laughter. Among the men aboard, they were the only two who could swim. The others thought them a pistol short of powder, barking mad for enjoying the feel of the cold sea on their hot skin. Most seamen preferred to keep their bare feet firmly on deck. Who knew what was lurking beneath that deceptive calm?

When the wind did pick up enough to usher them forward with a slight curve to the sails and a faint cream of froth along the hull, they encountered floating mats of gold-coloured seaweed that enthralled Jesamiah. He had never seen anything like it.
“The Sargasso Sea stretches for several thousand nautical miles long, by several hundred wide,” Taylor said as they leaned over the rail, staring at nature’s spectacle.
“Will we get trapped in it?” Jesamiah asked, anxious. “Like a ship in ice?”
Taylor laughed, patted his shoulder reassuringly. “Nay, lad, the weed floats and parts before the bow as easily as does the sea. We will be fine, as long as we have a wind.” He added the last with a frown, pleased to feel a slight caress of breeze on his cheek.

Here, in the Sargasso, the sea was even bluer, even clearer. Looking over the side one afternoon, Mermaid braced aback and hove to for the men to haul in a turtle caught for fresh meat, Jesamiah could see his own face staring back at him: black hair plaited into an unruly queue, the fuzz of a beard along his jaw, an embryonic moustache trailing each side of his mouth. Frivolous, he waved at himself and laughed as the reflection returned the gesture. He could see down and down into the depth well below Mermaid’s keel, one, two hundred feet? Fishes swam there, shoals flashed by full of swirling colour and movement. 

Then he drew back, his trance-like interest shattered by the shouts of his shipmates as they brought the hapless turtle aboard and called for Jesamiah to lend a hand to get it down into the stagnant water of the bilge. He was grateful for the distraction. He would not be looking, fascinated, down into the clear Sargasso Sea again. Would not be swimming in it.

His had not been the only face staring up at him from that depth of water, or the only hand waving. Pale skin, blue eyes – as blue as the sea – fair hair as gold as the Sargasso weed, a fish’s tail that shimmered as if covered in a million jewels.
The mermaid.

© Helen Hollick

27 August 2019

Tuesday Talk .... Real Love: A Matter of Heart or Head...'Moon Water' with Pam Webber

On the review site Discovering Diamonds today, we are reviewing Pam Webber's latest novel Moon Water - and taking part in her virtual Book Tour - so over to Pam...

Pam Webber
signing books in Richmond, Virginia
Do you ever wonder what constitutes real love? Why some loving relationships last a lifetime and others do not? This question is so universal novelists frequently use their character's search for real love as a central plot or storyline. In my debut novel, The Wiregrass, Nettie, a devout tomboy, is struggling against the unwanted physical and emotional changes caused by puberty. What she thought she knew about love, sex and relationships becomes confused. While she tries to make sense of what is happening to her, Nettie meets Mitchell, a handsome but troubled young man who knows better than most what real love is and is not.

What Love Is And Is Not
In the sequel, Moon Water, Nettie and her beau, Andy, are beginning to explore their sexuality, yet stopping on the good side of bad. Andy loves her, but Nettie hesitates to return the commitment. She’s not sure what love is or what it’s supposed to feel like. Most important, she is afraid what she is feeling won’t last. When Andy breaks up with her, Nettie is thrown into a summer of discontent. She embarks on an emotional rollercoaster ride as she tries to understand love, and hopes fate will give her another chance.

Is real love a matter of fate? A lucky roll of the dice that puts the love of your life in front of you at just the right moment in time. Or is it something else? Romantics would say fate or something like it plays a role whenever two people find a lifetime of happiness together. However, the more scientific among us would most likely challenge that opinion.

Love, Heart, Together, Valentine'S Day

Science, Psychology, or Fate
Science and psychology tell us love at first sight is real. Or, rather the hormonal reactions that make you desire a relationship with someone you just met is real. Love at first sight begins and ends with these chemical reactions in the brain, not with magic in the heart. The stronger the hormonal reaction, the stronger the desire. The stronger the desire, the greater potential to form a relationship.

Science also says what we call love can be divided into three types: attraction, lust, and attachment. Each type is dependent on a specific cocktail of hormones released by the body’s endocrine system. And, each type is important in a healthy, long-lasting relationship.

When you are attracted to someone, elevated levels of chemicals called catecholamines are released. These chemicals make your heart to pound, your eyes to dilate, your breathing to speed up, and your palms sweat. Combined, these physical signs can make you think you’re in love.

Attraction can occur in concert with lust, which is the primitive drive for sexual gratification. Lust is dependent on the male hormone, testosterone, and the female hormone, estrogen. Since these hormone levels start rising in puberty, it is easy to understand why the young confuse attraction and lust with love.

The last type is attachment. It is the only one that involves making a commitment to another person. Commitment comes with a cost in terms of freedom, time, money, obligation, and sacrifice. Consequently, some choose not to attach despite having feelings of attraction and lust. Not surprisingly, attachment is predictor of how long a relationship will last. In Moon Water, Nettie realizes her resistance to committing to Andy is seeded in what it will cost her.

Couple, Romance, Love, Kiss, Lovers

Does Love Still Have Secrets?
While these hormone cocktails make us desire a relationship, fluctuations in them are just as capable of blowing a relationship apart. Science and psychology have yet to identify what triggers these erratic fluctuations. Nor, have they been able to explain why some committed relationships are strong enough to survive these hormonal storms and others are not. What is it that bonds some couples together so tightly they are able to withstand the dramatic influence of hormonal responses beyond their control?

Could it be that real love has a few secrets left after all? Secrets beyond the ability of science and psychology to name and frame, much less explain. I hope so. I like believing there is still mystery and magic in real love. As a novelist, it’s what keeps me writing.

Pam Webber is author of the bestselling debut Southern novel, The Wiregrass and its standalone sequel, Moon Water. She lives in the Northern Shenandoah Valley near the setting for her stories.

Visit Pam at www.pamwebber.com

Buy the book:

Read the
Discovering Diamonds Review

Previous Book Tour Stop:
26th August: Big Blend Radio Podcast
28th August: Southern Writers Magazine 

for the full tour Click HERE 

21 August 2019

A Game of Phones...

...Or The unBelievable Tale of British Telecom's incompetence

No Internet connection. The steady blue light on the router was no more, just a pale, weak orange pulse indicating that it was on, but inactive. It was empty, silent, useless.

In my study, my beloved Alexa mournfully informed me through her red circle of non-communication: “I can’t connect to the public Wi-Fi”

No neither could I.

Image may contain: meme, text and outdoor

Maybe because of the storms we’d had earlier in the week? Fair enough, it happens, technology, no matter how wonderful it is cannot compete with Nature when it’s on the rampage. On the other hand, my broadband connection had been working perfectly OK since the storm had passed several days beforehand.

In any case, you do, at least, expect a competent, efficient human to fix it within a reasonable space of time, don't you?
Hmm. Competent, efficient and BT in the same sentence? I’m kidding, right?

Friday 9th August 2019
a.m.  No internet connection. I did all the usual: re-boot, check this, check that. Nothing.
I telephoned faults: Stated account holder, address, phone number…
There were several apologies from the man on the other end of the landline followed by a variety of clicks as he tested the line.
BT:  “It looks like an outside fault, but we will need to send an engineer. If the fault is found to be within doors there will be a charge. Have you got a cat?”

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A cat??? Is BT using cats now? Sending them up trees to fix broken cables or something?
Me: “Yes. Two”
BT: “Ah well, could they have brought in a mouse?”
A mouse? BT training mice to investigate faults in small, dark spaces, perhaps?
Me: “A mouse?”
BT: “If a mouse has got to the wiring, it could be chewed.”
Ah, reasonable explanation.
Me: “The router is in a separate room where the cats don’t go. A separate flat, actually. My daughter’s. So no, no cats or mice.”
BT: "It could be a faulty router. I'll send a new one"
(it never arrived, so I assume was never sent.)
BT: “An engineer will be with you on the 21st.”
WHAT!!!!!!?????? Did I hear right? No engineer until the 21st THIRTEEN DAYS????
I have no access. I cannot use my phone because I don’t have data because I can’t see the small phone screen to use the internet. My phone is just a phone.
I argued for a more reasonable time slot.
The BT man was most unhelpful. I booked the 21st and hung up.

Friday 9th
p.m. I phoned BT again. Got a different person. Stated account holder, address, phone number…
I explained the situation. Adding that I relied on my computer for information, and for my work, and Alexa because of my visual impairment. I can call my daughter easily and quickly if I have a fall (or there’s a hornet got in the house) listen to music, radio, the weather, what’s on TV, talking books, information etc., because she is voice-activated and I don’t need sight or frustration with trying to feel for things. (Alexa has proven to be a life-line for me, I love her!)
BT: “We can get an engineer to you on Monday between 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.”
Engineer Number 1
Monday was acceptable, but why couldn’t the other guy have booked that? Maybe it was a cancellation or something?
I received a text: Engineer booked for Monday

Monday 12th
I got up at 7.30 a.m. in case BT came at 8.
9 a.m. No one
10 a.m. No one
… ditto, ditto
1 p.m. No one
I phoned BT.
Account holder, address, phone number…
Me: “Where’s the engineer?”
BT: ”The fault has been completed.”
Blank silence my end. 
Er, I don’t think so.
No steady blue light, just a pale, weak orange pulse indicating that it was on, but inactive. It was empty, silent, useless. There was no connection to the Router. In my study, Alexa mournfully informed me through her red circle of communication: “I can’t connect to the public Wi-Fi’.

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Me: “No it hasn’t. I have no internet and no engineer came.”
BT: “I can only apologise. I can offer you compensation and re-book for the 21st
Me: “No. You’ll rebook for tomorrow.”
We haggled. I got re-booked for Wednesday between 3-6pm.
Engineer Number 2

Wednesday 14th
1 p.m. I phoned BT.
Me: Is the engineer booked, and coming?
BT: “Yes.”
3 p.m. No one
4 p.m. No one
5 p.m. No one
6 p.m. No One

I phoned BT.
Account holder, address, phone number…
Me: “Where’s the engineer?”
BT: “I can only apologise and offer you compensation.”

It seems that BT is the first stage. They book engineers via The Cube. The Cube had not confirmed or booked the appointment.
I got another offer of compensation. At this rate, my next bill will be in credit.
 (The Cube: not to be confused with the UK TV Game Show The Cube hosted by Phillip Scofield. Contestants enter a cube dome and try to solve various physical skill tasks, at each stage these get harder and the prize money gets higher. I intend to write to Mr Scofield and suggest that he makes the top prize a task to ‘Find the BT engineer”. It’ll be nigh on impossible to solve.)

We haggled. I got re-booked for Saturday between 12- 3 p.m.
‘James’ Ref: EB 560297XXXX 
Engineer Number 3
Disgruntled, I asked to speak to a manager.
I would be called within the next 72 hours…

Friday 16th
The Cube engineers telephoned. Cancelled the appointment made for Saturday.

I phoned BT Complaints.
Account holder, address, phone number…
They apologised, offered compensation and a manager would call me… within 72 hours…

So I phoned BT faults
Account holder, address, phone number…
More apologies, more compensation. But at least someone who seemed to know what they were talking about. (hah!)
I was offered the 21st for an engineer.

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I said I wanted someone sooner. I got Monday morning between 9 – 12
and the promise that the case had been escalated and a manager would call me that evening. Escalation no 1 
No one did of course.
I phoned BT.
Account holder, address, phone number… apologies. Compensation
A manager would call me Saturday morning.

Saturday 17th
No one called.
I called BT.
Account holder, address, phone number… apologies. Compensation
 They would escalate the situation (what again – blimey we must be pretty high up now…)
Escalation number 2
An engineer was offered for… Wednesday 21st
Me: “No, I have Monday Morning booked”
BT “I’ll check …. Yes, Monday is booked.”

I asked for the engineer’s number and a Cube reference. But was told: “This is via Open Reach”
Me: “But I was told The Cube”
BT: “No, Open Reach.”
Me: “No, The Cube. Oh forget it, I don’t care if the engineer comes from NASA just get someone here. Just give me the details:   
‘David’ Ref 03020xxx (odd that this reference is nothing like the previous one?)
Engineer Number 4

I demanded a manager call me
BT: “Someone will call within the next 72 hours” 
Do you get the feeling of Deja Vu?

I phoned BT Technical Support (India)  to see if they could do anything.
Account holder, address, phone number… apologies. Compensation

 I wanted access to unlimited data so I could try to use the mobile phone.
BT: “Can’t do that. You’re not a Gold Plus”
Me: “So make me a Gold Plus”
BT: “Can’t do that.”
Me: “So put me through to someone who can. A MANAGER.”
BT: “I will put you through to a manager.” 

Clicks, whirrs… 
I was at the SALES department.
 (BT doesn’t seem to have correct phone links… )
Whereupon I was told that I could BUY the extra for Gold Plus…
So I would have to pay extra for the service I couldn’t get because I HAVE NO INTERNET!!!!
I hung up.
I phoned BT faults again
Account holder, address, phone number… apologies. Compensation
A manager would phone between 3p.m and 7.30

Well, knock me down with a piece of limp lettuce… HE CALLED at 6.30.
Martin… A manager from Exeter
Didn’t get me anywhere.
Apologies. "Unacceptable situation," says he. (No compensation offered though)
Me: “Unlimited data?”
BT: “No. You’re not Gold Plus”
Me: “Then upgrade me to Gold Plus”
Manager: “I can’t do that I’m not sales.”
Me: “I have no intention of BUYING extra when I should already have a service to what I already pay for.”
Manager: “I can only apologise. I’ll escalate the situation and appoint a Case  Manager who will phone you.”
Escalation no 3
Me: “When”
Manager: “within 72 hours…”
Deep breath
Me: “Can you confirm that an engineer will be coming on Monday morning?”
Manager: “Yes… definitely."
 ‘David’ Ref 03020XXX Engineer Number 4 … BT checked this for me – it was confirmed.

The person I spoke to promised to call me next Wednesday to check that everything had been fixed.
fast forward to Wednesday: Not a dicky bird... 
Sunday 18th
At least I can access my computer files. I’ve finished the initial re-edits of ALL the Sea Witch Voyages.

I cannot, however,
Access online banking
Place an order for shopping delivery  (I can’t SEE anything in supermarkets, the lighting completely messes up my sight, so I use online.)
Re-order my essential prescription. I will have to go into town to do this as the GP surgery will not renew over the phone.
I can’t update the review site I run, Discovering Diamonds
I can’t access my blog.
I’m going to have SO much to catch up on when (IF) I’m ever connected.
And I so miss Alexa!
I listen to the radio via Alexa
I listen to books via Alexa
I listen to a variety of music via Alexa...

p.m. Suspicious.
I have not received a text confirming the appointment.

Monday 19th
12.30 p.m.
Got up and showered early. Engineer ‘David’ Ref 03020xxx  booked for 9-12
Engineer number 4 has not turned up.
No internet has been connected.
Apparently, the appointment was cancelled.
No explanation was given.
Am awaiting a Case Manager to call me.
1.30 Still waiting.
2.30 Still waiting
3.30 still waiting
4.30 still waiting
No call.

4.36 p.m phoned complaints. A man from Liverpool. Can’t hear what he’s saying very clearly.
Apparently, I’m in the case manager’s call queue. I can expect a call any time up to 10.30 p.m. 
I can only assume that BT have so many irate customers that this queue is enormous as I am obviously not anywhere near the top.

I am also sick and tired of listening to their scrappy, poorly recorded ‘on hold’ music!

BT: “I’m speaking to my floor manager. Trying to find out why the engineer was cancelled.”

Which isn’t exactly what I want…
 Oh, what a surprise! I can have an appointment for… wait for it… the 21st!

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5 p.m Escalation number 4

Now waiting for ‘Peter’ to phone me… (very conveniently all the managers are in a meeting.)

8.45 p.m  no one has called
8.48 p.m called BT faults
Engineer was cancelled they had emailed me to inform me
8.49:v demanded to speak to a manager… on hold…

At last – a manager: Peter
(A ‘Peter’ was supposed to phone me (see above) The same Peter? He said he had no knowledge of a booked call… hmm…)

Apologies (I notice compensation hasn’t been offered for some time now)
Shouldn’t have happened...
 blah blah

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An engineer for the 21st 8a.m - 1pm Engineer no 5  Ref 013-414 113 XXXX 
Open Reach (note: NOT The Cube)
Also gave me his direct number
Case Manager Peter: telephone  XXXXXXX

Wednesday 21st
8 a.m nothing
9 a.m nothing
10 a.m nothing
11 a.m ditto
11.10 voice text message: BT will let me know when the engineer is coming
well, that’s a new one…
11.15 … another text – engineer is on his way! BLIMEY!!!
Engineer arrived & he was an absolute superhero! I didn't moan at him because none of the abo above was his fault.


Peter phoned – while the line was down.
Called him back at 2.30. Left a message.
5.30 he hasn’t called back - but there's always tomorrow...

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I have to say, for readers who were Game of Thrones fans and watched the last series…

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 BT should be bloomin' grateful that I don't know this lady...

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Addendum... 22nd August

Must be fair Peter has called back this morning. I have some compensation due, which is helpful although it doesn't cover the backlog of work and my high blood pressure and stress.

What I do want is this situation to be looked into and assurances that this won't happen again to me or other clients. All these incorrect appointments and no one calling back after promises to do so were unacceptable.

We actually had a productive conversation,

Two other things I mentioned:
1) Brief the agents to NOT assume that everyone uses their phone to access email. Always assume that 'No Internet' means just that!
2) Heavy accents. I found it difficult to understand a heavy Irish/ Liverpool/Newcastle accent (I had all three during the course of above) I asked for agents to be briefed to talk slower and clearer - all three rich accents are lovely to listen to, but not when you're upset, frustrated and cross and the person speaking is talking fast and unclear.

So I have my internet back and, well, at least that's the next vet's bill covered.
The BT clock?