MORE to BROWSE - Pages that might be of Interest

Wednesday 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

Tuesday 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

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 

Wednesday 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.

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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…

 Image result for image daenerys dragons

 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?