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Saturday, September 29, 2012

The right to vote - or the duty?

Belgium is one of the few countries in the world where people HAVE TO vote. Now I know that people have fought for decades to get a vote, but imo you should also have the right to chose if you want to cast your vote or not.
On 14th October we have municipal elections. That means a lost weekend. You have to remain in your town, because despite the modern era, you can't vote by computer. If you could do that, you could be wherever you wanted and vote via your smartphone or tablet. No, now you have to stay put and vote for someone you don't want to vote for.
There is not one party that meets my approval. They all just want one thing: to enrich themselves.
I guess I should begin my own party (meeting the requirements is not that difficult, but I'm not really made for politics). My views are quite different from what most people think.
I do have a plan in mind, which would benefit most of the population and the country, but all the present ministers and members of parliament would not be satisfied. That's why I just keep my mouth shut and do nothing.
I would like to cast a vote that is not legitimate -but you can't do that anymore. In the old days I just wrote 'I don't give a damn' on the paper, and that was it. Now you have to vote for someone uninportant, who will certainly not get a lot of votes...
If I had a lot of money, I'd go to the European Court to claim my right not to vote if I didn't want to.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Why do children run away from home?

The main story in this week's newspapers was the disappearance - and return - of a young couple. The girl 14, the boy 16.
According to their parents and schools, they did not have any problem. Nobody knows why they ran away.
Now I have experience as a teacher for over 30 years, and I know how difficult it is to make children or youngsters talk about their problems - because, make no mistake - more than 90 % of today's children are troubled in some way.
I can talk to my students. I can listen. More than once someone in a class calls me 'Mum' by mistake. I seem to confide trust in them and sometimes they share their problems with me. The biggest problem they have is lack of communication, most of them have nobody to relate to and share their troubles with.
Their parents are both working, they expect the child or youngster to cope on his or her own and they must be adults long before their time.
I can say without a doubt that a happy child will never run away from home.
Because a HOME is a place where you are safe, where you can be a child, where you can play, make your homework, get food and clothing and all the other care you need. Happy children can talk to their parents and they will always find one of them to confide in.
If a parent can give this to their child(ren) they will get adults who feel safe and have happy memories, just like I have.
I come from such a happy home. Never a problem, always someone there for me. And my parents also worked both. But I had a grandma who was living with us and who meant the world to me.
I think our world would improve if people went a bit back in time, when it was natural to share the house with two or even three generations.
My muslim students (and we have a lot of them in our country) respect me for that. They seem astonished that western people can also live in a house with several generations and learn how to deal with the problems involved. Because living with three generations under one roof means giving and taking, and a lot of wisdom is shared between the grandparents and the grandchildren. They'll never take that away from you.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Floodings in the north of Great-Britain

Yesterday evening in the TV news and today in the national newspaper, I heard about the terrible bad weather in the north of England. Lots of storm winds and heavy floodings, causing entire regions (especially in Yorkshire) to be affected.

Whenever I hear about such disasters, I think back of the tales my own grandmother and mother told me about 1953.

Way back then, the river Schelde broke through the dikes and caused big floodings in both Holland and parts of Belgium.

My ma told us they could hear the water coming. They knew the dams in Holland had already been breached, and they kept out an eye on the water of De Forten (part of the medieval moat that was around the town of Dendermonde). It comes near to the river Dender, which mounds into the Schelde.

One morning, very early, they heard something like a thunderstroke and then they knew. The water had broken through the dike further uptown and water was coming their way. They just had time to bring some food upstairs and some coal (they had a little stove in one of the bedrooms) - that was all.

In just a few minutes, more than one meter and a half was into our house (you could see the watermark until I had the walls treated for moisture). It was there for days.

The most frustrating thing, however, was that the Red Cross came with boats to bring food and coal - but weeks later they also got the bill. My grandma was raving mad for that. It was not enough the house was half destroyed, but then they should also PAY for some charity.

Well, they must have build strong houses in the 1920's. Our house is still standing and looks better than some houses built in 1980.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Meeting a fan

Today I happened to run into Veronica, who is without doubt the biggest fan of my work. She has bought and read all of my novels, and whenever she sees me, tells me how wonderful those books are.

Oh, doesn't it feel great when you are told this? I believe every author is thrilled when someone says positive things about his or her work.

Veronico also wanted to know how the next book coming on. I had to take some time to bring her up to date.

The story I'm working on is titled The Black Coach and it is set in Victorian England.

                                         

The idea came to me when I was talking to someone about my collection of short stories, Face in the Mirror and Other Stories. The concluding story was about a black coach, in two versions. Bit by bit I got convinced that this idea could become a full lenght novel, about a mysterious coach that roams the Yorkshire countryside, and the ghastly murders of young, blond girls.

The heroine will be Maggie Thompson, an orphan and he counterpart will be Neil Harrington, a man with secrets. I won't tell too much about the intrigue, as I'm only one third into writing out the plot, but I can guarantee that it will be a good story, with good and bad, love and hate, as I use in all of my novels.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Nickie's Ten Questions to Jeffery Deaver


            


Jefferiy Deaver is the bestselling author of the Lincold Rhyme series (of which the first book, The Bone Collector was filmed, starring Denzel Washington as Rhyme and Angelina Jolie as Amelia Sachs). But don't forget he also writes stand-alone thrillers, which are just as good!

Some time ago, I did an interview with Mr. Deaver, and here are his answers:


1. Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Yes, I've alwanted to be a writer. I started writing short stories and poetry when I was about ten years old and continued to write through college, but it was many years before my first novel was published.

2. When did you decide or find the courage to present your work to a publisher?

I started sending my manuscripts out about thirty years ago. I received many rejection slips before a manuscript was finally accepted for publication.

3. Did your first book get a good reception? What did the critics say about it?

My first book was a nonfiction book about the study of law, but my first novel, Voodoo, was a paperback thriller about the occult. It didn't do very well and was not received well by the critics.

4. How do you handle criticism?

I feel if I am willing to accept the praise, I must also accept the criticism of my novels. After so many years of writing, I know that some critics will like my books and some won't.

5. You have written a large number of books already. Attentive readers will notice that some of these books belong to a series (with Rune, John Pellam, Lincoln Rhyme & Amelia Sachs). Now I happen to know that some publishers don't like their authors to divert too much. Yours obviously doesn't mind?

My publisher is very good about encouraging me to try different books, but at the same time, they allow me to continue to write the series characters I have enjoyed writing about in the past.

6. Do you do a lot of research?for each of your books?

Yes, I do many months of research for each novel. My research involves reading many articles, and interviewing experts on the topic my books deal with.

7. How long does it actually take you to write a manuscript?

It takes about a year to write each novel, then several months of revisions to get the book in the best possible shape.

8. Is writing your full time profession or do you have another job on the side?

I write full time. I work about ten hours a day, every day. Even when I'm traveling, I make time to write.

9. Two of your books have been turned into films already and some others are going to be filmed. Are you satisfied with the way in which they were put on the screen?

I am satisfied that the films bring additional attention to the books. I don't expect movies to be word-for-word translations of the novels.

10. From the current mystery/thriller/detective writers, which is your favorite?

I am a great admirer of Thomas Harris. I think Silence of the Lambs is an excellent thriller.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Are women genetically programmed to buy clothes?

I often wonder... Today it was open door weekend at the fashion shop where we use to buy our clothes for the coming season. We got an invitation in the post, so naturally we went.
We were treated to champagne and canapees, and models showed the new collection. Nice dresses, classy pants and tops...
Of course we could not resist trying on some items, and we left the shop with a new dress each, plus a vest for my sister.
How is it we can't resist buying things we don't really need? We have the money for it, of course, but even when I had less, I would be tempted... I guess I'd save on other things to buy myself a new outfit every now and then.
I know my mother had the same 'problem'. She just could not resist walking past De Backer, the most classy clothes' shop in our town - and my granddad said 'go in and buy yourself that nice dress' (my mum was his favorite child, being the only daughter in a family with three boys).
Also my own dad often treated us to something nice - he also liked to see his daughters wearing fine things.
What do you think?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Right or wrong

I've been hesitating a little whether or not I should write something about the Muslim protests going on right now, all over the world. But then I thought: freedom of speech is a universal right.
For days now, young muslims have been protesting against the insult done to their belief and prophet by a film on the internet.
Everyone has a right to protest against things that are not right. But if you do, you also have to show respect. You don't go about shouting out your hatred, you don't kill or destroy someone else's property.
I don't have anything against Muslims (or Buddhists, or little green men from Mars, ...). For me everyone is the same, it does not matter where they are born. I know a lot of Muslims, who don't take to the streets and have a life you like me and you. Many of my ex-students were Muslim, and I never had more trouble with them than with other students.
But the young men with long black beards that turn out in protest on our streets are not your ordinary Muslim. They are fanatics. Their only purpose is to breed hatred for the Western world, which they detest.
I guess they don't even know how many 'm's' are in their prophet's name, and I doubt they have read their Koran thoroughly.
I have - my end work at secondary school was a study of the three main books of religion; the Bible, the Thora and the Koran. So I needed to read those works very carefully. In none of the afore mentioned books I found words that say you have to hate people with another style of life. People who are better educated than you. People with another view on freedom.
All these books taught me that you have to respect and love others. I'm afraid those guys on the streets have never learned just that.
So many problems could be avoided if people just would accept that not everyone and everything is the same.
I try to lead my life in a way that I'm happy with who I am and what I do. I don't envy my neighbors for what they have and I won't meddle in other's affairs.
If everyone would do the same, the world would be a better place. Amen.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Guest author blog: Courtney Rene

It's my pleasure to introduce you to a fellow author at Rogue Phoenix Press: Courtney Rene.

                   Courtney Rene


Courtney Rene lives in Ohio with her husband and two children.  She is a graduate and member of the Institute of Children’s Literature.  Her writings include magazine articles, short fiction stories, several anthologies, as well as her Shadow Dancer series, and latest release, A Howl in the Night, published through Rogue Phoenix Press.  For a complete listing, visit www.ctnyrene.blogspot com or feel free to contact her at ctnyrene@aol.com. 


          A Howl in the Night               Shadow Warrior            Shadow Dancer

I've invited Courtney to tell a bit about herself and her work, and here's what she says:

"I get asked quite often, why I chose to write withing the YA paranormal genre. There are a couple of reasons for this actually.

First, I chose paranormal because it's different than the real every day world. I don't know about most of  you, but when I am out at the grocery store, I don't often run into shape shifters or vampires, at least not that I'm aware of anyway!

Why is the thought of werewolves or vampoire or heroes so very exciting to me? Because it is different, it is thrilling. It's better than what our dishwashing, shower taling, grass mowing real life can toss our way. Paranormal stories are fantasy, with a mix of love and mystery and thriller and horror, all wrapped up into one fun read, tossed with the added benefit of the unusual, the strange. I can't imagine not writing this genre.

Second, I chose the YA age group because even though teens and young adults are older and able to understand the ways of the world, they are still willing or wanting to believe in the unbelievable. The ideas of butterflies being fairies, or trolls living within the toadstools, is not that far out of reach. It could be true...right? It's not any fun writing for someone that is too worn down by life and time that they don't want to believe or refuse to believe in possibilities. I like the possibilities. Do I believe in them? Sadly, no. Do I wish for them? Yes. Life would definitely be a lot more fun if I could be invisible now and then shift into the form of wolf. I could really go for a world like that!"
 
Courtney's next book, SHADOW'S END (Book 3 in the Shadow Dancer series) will be released on October 1st, 2012 with Rogue Phoenix Press (www.roguephoenixpress.com)
In Shadow's End, the adventure and the struggle continues for Sunny, as the fight for control of Acadia is near. Battle lines have been drawn, not just by King Gideon, but also by the rebels that were once Sunny's allies.
 
Due to unexpected trips to the ice realm and the fire realm, new allies are found to help build the Army of the Sun. There are new worlds explored. New friends and new enemies made.
 
Ready or not, Sunny must prepare for what is coming as well as decide where she belongs within it all. But... what about prom? What about Leif? What about home? How can she, just a seventeen year old girl, rule a whole world? She's not even sure if she can get through finals.
 
                                     
Interested? Don't hesitate to buy the book - I can certainly recommend it.
 

 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The holy cow of the West

Is without exaggeration the car.
Especially here in our country, the roads are getting over saturated by cars and trucks - and it won't get better in the future!
When people continue to use and buy cars at the going rate, traffic will come to a complete standstill.
Is there something that can be done, the government asks?
Of course there is - at least in my opinion.
You will probably have guessed that I don't think like the everyday person. I have sold my car three years ago, and now I walk and cycle to get to places. When I need to go a bit further, I use either the train, the bus or tram.
It's quite cheap (not that I could not afford a car, but with the money I save every year, I can make an extra trip abroad) and (BONUS) it is healthy! You exercise your limbs, lungs and heart.
In my view, the government should make using the car more expensive (e.g. tax more) and make the public transport better and more coherent.
What do you think? Can you live without a car, or not?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Is Facebook an addiction?

Today there was an enquiry running on the radio about Facebook addiction. Apparently lots of people can't bear to be away from FB, and would do anything to be on it - neglect their work, their family, their tasks at home.
The hosts of this popular Radio 2 program 'De Madammen' (= the ladies) dared a listener to enter their competiton to do one whole week without FB.
They interviewed several listeners, who all confessed to being active on FB for a great deal of the day.
Now I must confess I like to go to FB as well, because I like to play some games on it like Written in the Sand. Quite an addictive game, as you have 2 minutes and 30 seconds to form 12 or more words with letters given. I play it together with my sister, and our best result is finding those words with a time left of 2 minutes 12 seconds! So now we try to improve our best and play several games a day, after work.
So yes, FB is addictive in that sense. Before Facebook existed, we did other games, like scrabble or card games. Times change, eh?

Monday, September 17, 2012

The elderly should leave their (big) houses...

... claims Freya Van Den Bossche, of the Flemish government. According to a study made for her department, by 2050 there will be more and more Flemings, and thus there will be a shortage of houses and flats.
Her idea would be that elderly people would move to a service flat or home for the elderly, and so make their homes available for young couples with children.
She did not know her ideas would bring such a big commotion. Already the following day, after she had phrased her vision in the biggest newspaper of Belgium, hundreds and thousands of elderly people reacted.
Most of them don't want to leave their home. They have worked hard to be able to pay for it, and now they want to remain there as long as they are able. It is their home, they have fond memories and most of them have raised their family in it.
For myself, I plan on selling my (big) house when I'm pensioned. I realize it grows harder and harder to maintain such a place as you are not getting younger, and we do nearly everything ourselves. We are lucky to have another place, a flat, at the seaside.
Living there will have many advantages. The place is small, so easy to clean and maintain, and it being in a big apartment building, we are not responsible for big repairs (to the roof, for instance). That is taken care of by the community of owners, by the appointed syndicus (a person responsible to the upkeep of the block of flats).
We have a lift going to our floor, and when we come out of the building, we are on the promenade, where no vehicles are allowed. The shops are at 5 minutes.
So that is our future scenario. My house will be on the market, and I just hope that a young couple will be able to pay for it!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Nickie's Ten Questions to Elizabeth George

Elizabeth George's website

 

1) Have you always wanted to be a writame intere

Just like everybody, I have my own favorite writers. Some of them are gracious enough to answer my questions, and I want to share these with friends and visitors.

This month's interview is with Elizabeth George, who's "Thomas Lynley Mysteries" have gained world-fame and which are now a major tv-drama on BBC1. The new series started on Monday 10th March.

sted in writing when I was 7 years old. I have written ever since that time.


2) You were a teacher at first. How did you enjoy teaching and which were the subjects you taught?

I loved teaching and continue teaching to this day. I taught a variety of subjects under the umbrella heading of English. Suffice it to say I taught everything from remedial English to Shakespeare studies.

3) You managed to sell your first book 'A Great Deliverance' to a major publisher. How did you pull that off?

I did it the old fashioned way. I wrote letters to literary agents until I found one. She did all the rest.

4) How was this first book treated by the critics?

My first novel received almost universally good reviews.
5) Do you plan on creating other characters in your books, or do you want to go on with Thomas Lynley and Barbara Havers?

I have a number of continuing major characters and continuing auxiliary characters. My novels have never actually been limited to only Thomas Lynley and Barbara Havers.

6) Your novels show a deep insight in human psychology. Did you by chance study psychology?

I have a masters degree in Psychology/Counseling.
7) The BBC has purchased the rights to film your books, and by now several Thomas Lynley Mysteries were made. Are you satisfied with the way in which they are brought to the screen?

While I like the films in general, I feel they are a sanitized version of my books. I would have liked them a little bit more had they been grittier.

8) You often come to London. What do you like about this town?

I've been traveling to London for more than 30 years. There are many things I like about it beginning with the great expanse of architectural history it covers and extending to the tremendously poly cot society that now comprises.

9) How important are the reactions of your readers to you?

I write primarily for myself. If I worried about what my readers thought I would be spending most of my time paralyzed in front of the computer trying to please millions of people all of whom have separate opinions. This is impossible.

10) Do you have a favourite writer of your own?

There are a number of people's writing I greatly admired. In no particular order they are John Irving, John LeCarre, John Fowles, Jane Austen, Barbara Kingsolver, Michael Dorris, Jim Harrison, Alice Hoffman, Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan, Graham Swift, J. Wallis Martin.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Royalties and privacy

Probably you've heard that Prince William and Princess Kate have laid down an official complaint against pictures taken when they were on a (private) holiday. A French magazine turned up with pics of Kate in monokini, and some others.

Now my idea is that Kate should have known better if she wanted to be royalty. If you marry a prince, who is heir to a throne, you KNOW you won't be able to live as the ordinary girl next door. And thus you should be aware - especially in the case of the English royals - that the paparazi are everywhere and will watch all your doings with BIG telelenses.

So even when you are at a private party or vacation, you should behave appropriately like this:

Exotic tour: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are again heading to a deserted paradise island, only 18 months after their honeymoon in the Seychelles

Don't go swimming naked or half naked, because even when you think you are alone, you probably aren't.

A princess should always dress in a decent manner (and I'm no prude). They can wear shorts, if it's not too short (bermuda?) and a tanker top, as long as it doesn't show anything of your bosom.

Just the same goes for teacher, I think. You can't face a class full of young men and women dressed like something out of a nightclub.

What is your idea?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Do you still trust banks?

Earlier today, I got a phone call from my bank director, inviting me to a gathering 'to talk about future investments'.
Now, first of all, I don't have money to invest.
Secondly, if I had, I would not wholly trust to invest in bonds and shares. The big banks have done nothing up so far with our money, our savings account renders less than 1% interest... So why would we give the banks more money???
In these uncertain times, the best investment is making sure your house is totally in order. I bought my house in 1982 for less than 25,000 € and have done little else than making improvements to it, starting with new windows and door, over a new roof to major renovations. The last two years, I've put in a new kitchen and had a newly fitted bathroom.
If by chance I should get into more money, I'd invest it in buying garages and shops and rent them out. Here in Belgium real estate will never lose it's value.
Take my house. It is worth over 150,000 € by now and no bank would have offered me this interest!
Do you still trust banks? Do you give them your money to play with (and lose it, occasionally)?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Cloak and Dagger

Call me old-fashioned, but I do marvel at cloak-and-dagger novels.

Small wonder, if you were raised by a loving grandfather who lulled me to sleep with the tales of the Three Musketeers of the Scarlet Pimpernel...

Consequently, when I could read myself, I went back to these novels and have read (nearly) every classic in this genre. My big favorites of then were d'Artagnan, Percy the Pimpernel, captain Fracasse and chevalier De Lagardere. All heroic men, who went from one adventure to another and saved the girl in the end.

As I grew up, I discovered other genres, and developed a liking for good thrillers and funny romances. But blood goes where it must and when I began to write myself I could only write this one genre: a historical novel, full of adventure, action, suspense and romance - just like these classics of old. Although I try to be original, my own books (Maria Gonzalez, The Haversham Legacy, Diamonds for the Devil and The Gold Crucifix) all some have points of resemblance with themes in these 19th century novels.

Today, as I was browsing through the Amazon kindle store, I discovered that some of my oldtime favorites were available as e-book! And so I purchased Captain Fracasse and The Hunchback (the story of chevalier De Lagardere) immediately. I don't mind the old-fashioned language, as it describes the scenes vividly. And what is even better, I don't have to read it in French, because some kind soul did a translation into English. I do understand French and can read it, but it's a pain to finish a novel when you don't fully comprehend everything written.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Nickie's Ten Questions to Barbara Taylor Bradford

                     
Website of Barbara Taylor Bradford


Are there people around who haven't read one or other novel by Barbara Taylor Bradford, or have at least seen some of the TV series based on her books?

I have, and have always loved to read the novels. Barbara's characters are much to my own liking, as I also try to make my heroines strong and independent women.

These are the questions I put before  Barbara:

1.      You started off as a journalist. What was the attraction?

From the earliest age I can remember, I was always writing. When I was ten, I won a contest for something I’d written and actually got paid for it. From that point forward, I knew I wanted to make a career in writing. It was just a matter of finding a way into the business. When I was 16, I managed to get a job as a typist for the Yorkshire Evening Post. I was the youngest member on staff and I eventually was promoted to a reporter. Being a journalist was exciting. It taught me to conduct exhaustive research and to create perspective for the reader. Although I don’t miss the daily deadlines and being on call for a breaking story at all hours, I did enjoy my journalistic career. It opened my eyes to the world and enabled me to graduate into adulthood.

2.      When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

As a young child (maybe 4 pr 5 years of age) my Mother would have me read constantly. She was a great influence and she got me hooked on the classics. I loved the Bronte sisters, Muriel Spark, Charles Dickens and so forth. I started to write at a rather early stage and by the time I was eight or nine I had become quite proficient.

3. Where did you get the inspiration for “A Woman of Substance”?

I’d actually written three novels prior to A Woman of Substance that were never published and quite honestly they weren’t especially worthy of being published. I started writing A Woman of Substance in 1978. For this effort I decided to base the story around a character. Suffice it to say, I put a lot of my self into Emma Harte, a strong woman from Yorkshire who aspires to be successful. There were aspects of many people who I knew in this novel (my Mom and Dad, friends and people I’d worked with). But most of all I just wanted this to be a book about a strong female character, spanning her life from youth to old age.

4. How did you manage to sell your first book on just an outline and some 200 pages? Beginning authors will find this extremely interesting!

It wasn’t hard really to sell A Woman of Substance. Back in 1979, selling a book was somewhat easier than it is today. I had actually been a published author of several decorating books and a couple of children’s books, so I had my foot in the proverbial door to publishing. I do remember how intimidating it was when I turned in a manuscript of nearly 1000 pages (two full boxes), but selling this book wasn’t terribly difficult. I suppose my outline for the story was solid and convincing. It had people hooked right away.

5. How was the reception of this book?

No one ever expects to become a bestseller overnight. I knew from the reaction of those who read it that A Woman of Substance was going to be enjoyed. But it was still unexpected when the first edition of the hardback sold out so quickly. Not even the publisher was prepared for this. As a result, they printed up a greater number of paperbacks in anticipation of big sales. Whether it was word of mouth, or solid promotion, the paperback was flying off the shelves at a record pace. Twenty-five years and twenty-five million copies later it is still in print and still popular. Various sources report this book to be among the top ten bestselling works of fiction in history. To this day I am still amazed at how popular this book became.

6. Do you ever receive bad critics on a book?

Spending so much time writing and editing, I honestly have little time for reading book reviews. I do try to read as many letters from my fans as possible. I do take their feedback seriously and I enjoy their comments. After writing in isolation, all comments are welcomed when time permits. I’ve seen some great reviews for my books and like all authors I’ve received my share of disappointing reviews, but I always remind myself that I am not writing for my critics. I write for myself first and for my reader second. I try not to take book reviews too seriously, whether glowing or scathing.
 
7. Are you completely satisfied with the way your books are brought on the screen?

Fortunately my husband, Bob was a film producer long before he met me. I’ve been lucky enough to have him as my partner in all aspects of life, including the production of my books as films. Thus far ten of my novels have been given screen adaptations. I am pleased with each and every one of them. Some, like A Woman of Substance and Hold the Dream are made to perfection. Others like A Secret Affair and Remember were slightly altered from the original story. But I am proud of each and every one of these efforts.

8. Do your heroines get characteristics of people you know/have known?

I mentioned earlier that Emma Harte has a lot of me in her. I tried to make her in my own image. Strong, determined, fashionable and ultimately successful. Other characters have piece of me, along with aspects of friends in my life. I often will make a character a composite of several people, rather than one. And sometimes I create characters straight from my imagination, with little influence from real life. It really depends on the kind of story I’m working on. But in general, I try to write about what I am familiar with. Often my characters hold similarities to people in my life.

9. Please be frank. Which country do you prefer: England or the States?

I grew u p in Yorkshire and I will always be a proud Yorkshire girl. My journalist career was in London and I’ve always retained England in my heart with great pride. I even read several British newspapers each morning, even in New York. However, being old fashioned, I elected to move to the States after marrying Bob. I always believed that a woman should go where her husband has his career. In our case that was New York. A a writer I had little trouble finding work here. Later on when I started getting published as an author, being in NY (the publishing capitol of the world) had its advantages. As it stands now, we just about split our time between New York and London. I have an equal number of friends in both places and I don’t do a lot of comparing and contrasting. However, when it comes down to it I am an Englishwoman first and foremost, no matter where I spend my time.

10. Do you have your own favourite writer or book?

My favourite book growing up was Wuthering Heights. I still think this is the best book ever written in the English language. Today I don’t have much time to read, but I do try and get to all of Patricia Cornwell’s novels. I’m also a fan of historical bibliographies. In particular I like to read anything about Winston Churchill.

 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9-11

Kind of weird remembering that 11 years ago, on a Tuesday also, two planes flew into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. I'm told it's sunny today in New York as well, as it was on that fateful day.

I remember I was free that day and was above in my study preparing the following day's lessons, when my late mother called me down. "Something has happened in New York," she yelled. "Come down because there'll be a special broadcast on TV in a moment."

Only then I learned that airplane had flown into one of the towers of the World Trade Center. At first everyone had thought it was just an accident, but soon we all found out the terrible truth. We were watching, as the second plane hit the other tower.

We stayed glued to the TV for the rest of the day, and the following day at school it was the talk of the day.

As I'm Belgian, I don't have friends or relatives who worked in the World Trade Center, but I can image how terrible it all was - and is. I've seen the ruins later on and have met people who lost relatives in the disaster.

All of them are in my thoughts today especially.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The upcoming man in Hollywood

Today, I read in Het Laatste Nieuws (national newspaper) that actor Matthias Schoenaerts is the upcoming man in Hollywood, at least according to the New York Times.



Schoenaerts is now featuring in the French film "De rouille et de l'os" and does a great job in it. He is good-looking, has the body of an athlete and above all, he has the gift to act like a natural. When he plays a depressed farmer, he is one.
No small wonder, the apple doesn't fall far away from the tree. His father, Julien Schoenaerts, has been one of Belgium's best actors ever. He played his last film role as the bisschop in "Daens" about a village priest who takes it up for the factory workers of Aalst.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Phantom of the Opera

Way back, in the 70s - a time without computer, portable phones etc. - we were about the first people in our street to have a color TV. Yes, it was the marvel of the whole neighborhood! Every time it was on, people would stop before our front window and look inside, to watch the magic. Can you even imagine so?

So put yourself into this frame of mind to envision what magic I felt when I first heard the sond 'Phantom of the Opera' and saw a trailer on Top Pop. Top Pop was a music program for youngsters on the Dutch TV, but we had an antenna on our roof that was strong enough to pick up those signals (hey, we could even watch BBC when the wind sat right). This song and also the images of a boat floating on a river, made my mind wonder what was the story behind it.


It all seemed so wonderful, a young woman being carried away by a masked man and then that lovely music...

Little did I know at that time (late seventies) that this was going to become one of the most celebrated musical shows of our age.

But life went on and I forgot about the song and the mystery. Only much later, at the end of the 1980s I learned about the muscial Phantom of the Opera and wished I could see it, if only once. But way back then, we did not go every year to London (the Eurostar did not exist yet) and I had to save up money to be able to pay for a trip to New York with my sister.

There, in November 1992, we saw Phantom for the first time. Of course, it was not with the original British cast (featuring Sarah Brightman as Christine and Michael Crawford as Phantom) but anyway the whole performance was well done and fascinating. I believe I kept singing the songs all of the following night!

And when we told our mother about this wonderful experience, also she wanted to see the show, so in the coming years (travelling became easier and easier, and with both my sister and I working money kept coming in as well) we saw performances in London ('94, '97, '99, '01 and '03), the Dutch version in Scheveningen ('95) and Antwerpen ('99). We saw various Phantoms and various Christines, but I'm sure the best ever (beside the orignial cast) were Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess.



About this time, last year, I got a mail from the Really Useful Group (I've been getting their newsletter for a long time) and learned there still were tickets available for the 25th Anniversary Concert of Phantom in the Royal Albert Hall. Of course we knew of it, but at first we had said we wouldn't go as we had just done a big trip in summer and also had paid for the renovation of our bathroom.

But then the opportunity arose, and in a whim we decided to try and buy those tickets (we got them, only they were 250 £ a person - but what a view on the stage!), bought expensive tickets for Eurostar (you can only get cheap ones if you book 3 months in advance) and needed to book a hotel for two nights.

It was our best weekend ever! For starters, the weather was gorgeous for a October 1st. The temperature rose up to 30° C in London... We had a great Saturday afternoon in the capital and then on Sunday we went to the anniversary performance. They brought the entire stage production of Phantom, but then adapted to the Albert Hall. Here are a couple of images:



The night ended with a speech by Andrew Lloyd-Webber and then the original cast (at least, those who were still alive) came on stage, with Michael Ball and Sarah Brightman, and a selection of singers who had sung the part of Phantom, amond which John Owen Jones.


I will never forget this weekend, and hope to be able to see the next anniversary performance as well,

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Nickie's Ten Questions to Theresa Medeiros


I can swear, Theresa Medeiros is a very charming lady. She is easy to reach and doesn't mind returning your mails. She also has a good mind. When she learnt that my mother had passed away, she sent her condoleances! Just proves that most authors are not living on a far-away planet and only a couple of them mind answering to their fans.

If you have never read a romance by Theresa, you must absolutely do so. Her books are easy-reads, and full of humor, next to lots of romance and history.

Here are the questions I asked her:

1) Did being an only child inspire you to become a writer?
Absolutely. I learned how to entertain myself at a very early age using only my imagination. I may have been alone at times but I was never lonely. I was always surrounded by a constant parade of imaginary friends. I also "pretended" a lot with some of my best friends who shared my healthy imagination. And reading was a huge part of my life. I made so many other "friends" between the pages of my favorite books. I was also an Army brat so we picked up and moved every five years or so. As difficult as it was to leave my real friends, I was always able to take my books and my imaginary friends with me.

2) You were only 21 when you got your first novel published. How old were you when you wrote your very first book?
Actually I was 21 when I started my first book LADY OF CONQUEST and 26 when it was published. It took me a year and three months to write the book, another year and three months to sell it, then the publisher took 3 years to publish it. (I didn't know at the time that it should have only taken them a year.)

3) Why did you choose historical romance as your subject?
I love the passion of the historical era. You're allowed to be a little less politically correct in a historical. A hero can throw the heroine on the back of his horse and sweep her off to his castle. In a contemporary, if a hero stuffs the heroine in the back of his Corvette and sweeps her off to his condo, he's probably going to end up with a restraining order. I also love that I can switch between different time periods in historical romance instead of being stuck in the same time period. It's like having my own personal time machine!

4) Did anything in your youth work as a source of inspiration for your later books?
I was always a romantic. I first fell in love with Kurt Russell in THE COMPUTER WORE TENNIS SHOES when I was six and so many of my fantasies, even at that age, revolved around a romantic relationship. I was always more interested in movies or TV shows if they had a romantic element. Two of my favorites were BEWITCHED and I DREAM OF JEANIE. I loved the combination of paranormal and romance.

5) How do you go about the research for your stories?
Since I've written in just about every time period, I buy a lot of books to keep at my elbow because I never know what specific details I'll need. I tend to return to my favorites over and over again like THE REGENCY COMPANION by Sharon Laudermilk and Teresa L. Hamlin and JANE AUSTEN'S TOWN AND COUNTRY STYLE by Susan Watkins. The internet is fabulous for looking up quick details but you have to make sure the site is accurate. Sometimes it can be like looking for a needle in a haystack.

6) How does it feel to be a best selling author?

Fabulous! If you're like me, you've dreamed about seeing your name on the cover of a book since you were a child and the thrill of that never really goes away. Achieving bestseller status just gives you a way to validate that dream. But I try to never forget that the people I meet and the readers I reach with my work are far more important than any number on a bestseller list.

7) What do you do about criticism?
To be honest, it stings. I don't think any of us could do what we do if we weren't a little sensitive. But if I go back and read some of the negative reviews for some of my absolute all-time favorite books and movies, then it helps to remind me that not everyone shares the same taste and that some people have no taste at all <g>.

8) In A KISS TO REMEMBER cats play an important role in the storyline. How fond are you of cats?
I adore cats! We had four of them for fourteen years. We're down to two right now, one from the first lot and one "transitional kitty." I got the little one, Buffy, when I was struggling with the deadline for ONE NIGHT OF SCANDAL. She came into my life just when I needed her and I don't know if I could have finished the book without her. She was a constant source of mischief and amusement and she brought so much desperately needed delight into my life.

9) Are you planning on writing more books around fairy tales, like CHARMING THE PRINCE, THE BRIDE AND THE BEAST and the above mentioned A KISS TO REMEMBER?


I did AFTER MIDNIGHT, a semi-comical Regency vampire historical, but after that, who knows?
I try to bring a sense of whimsy to all of my books and you can certainly get away with that when you're doing a fairy tale theme.

10) Besides reading and writing, what do you love to do?
I love to ride my bike, play my piano, and bake. If I weren't a writer, my fantasy occupation would be "master pastry chef" (But I hate to cook!).


Friday, September 7, 2012

Spooks

While reading today's newspaper, I was inevitably brought back in time. I was reading the article about the mysterious murder case in the French mountains, where 5 people were found shot. It looks like a professional killing, as it is deemed likely the murdered man was a spook.
Now I once had this boyfriend... I was introduced to him by another friend and it was love at first sight for both of us. We were mad about each other, and we told each other everything - or so I thought. He confessed freely to me he worked in intelligence, but never said anything about which agency he worked for. Just that he'd been in Russia and Afghanistan, undercover.
In the same timeframe, a cell of the IRA was active in Belgium as well (I learned about this later). JP and I had about one year, and then he disappeared. Broke my heart.
About one year later, I received a letter with a South-African stamp and no address or sender. When I opened it, it was written by JP and in it he told me he had to go away, because there had been threaths to kill me and my family. I did not know if I could believe it, or not.
But then strange things began to happen. Somebody came to a pub, where a close friend of mine used to water his throat, and asked questions about me.  A year or two later, we got a phone call from someone asking for a "Mr. De Prins" - not quite the same name, but close enough. I told them I knew no such person.
For years and years nothing happend anymore, and I could finally forget about JP and the weird things. But not so long ago, I found out our house was broken into. There were no obvious signs, but if you are as meticulous as I am, you spot the changes.  A computer not closed off as I normally do. A bag of knitting wool, looking ok at first sight, but if you tried to take something out, it was as if the cat had gone through it - only we have no cat. My sister is sure she has seen two men at night - one telling her not to be afraid (and then she doesn't remember anything).
Being a writer, my mind conjures up all kinds of conspiracy theories, one being that JP must have hidden something in our house, all those years ago. Something we aren't aware of. I have practically nothing of him, only a picture in my purse. He's never given me anything or asked me to keep something hidden. Now if I'm not imaginin all this, those guys will certainly be monitoring this blogand everything else I do. Well guys, I don't know anything. I haven't seen JP since he went away. Leave us be!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Belgium is doing well on the Paralympics

Up to now, the athletes competing in the London Paralympics are doing more than fine. We've got 5 medals - 3 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze.
I have a great admiration for these people, who despite their handicap are capable of such great prestations. Marieke Vervoort, who's suffering from a disease that will in the end kill her, won 2 medals in the wheelchair sprint, a silver one on the 200 meters, and the gold one on the 100 meters.
Another woman, who has a lame left leg, won two gold medals in the horseback riders competition. Just imagine, sitting on a horse with two good legs is diffictult enough (I know, I also ride), so figure how it goes with only one good leg!
And two mentally disabled youngsters won bronze in a game of goccia (a sort of petanque).
I only wish our 'normal' athletes would take a sample on courage and endurance displayed by their paralympic colleagues!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Scuol - a jewel in the Swiss crown

I live in Dendermonde. That's the place where I was born and have lived for all of my 56 years - my hometown.

My 'home from home' is Knokke-Heist. My grandparents already spent their summers there in the 1930s and so my mother grew up enjoying the place. As she married and had kids, she wanted them to have the same experiences as she had and so we went every summer to Heist (Knokke-Heist does in fact consist of 3 villages: Heist, Duinbergen and Knokke). In 1992 we finally bought a flat there and now we spent most of the weekends and school holidays there.

But we also have a third home. As my mother learned to ski at an early age (during the war she lived for months in Switzerland) we became ski adepts as well and after going to various places in both Austria, Italy and Switzerland, we finally found the village we've been returning to ever since. We know most of the inhabitants by now and even understand the local language, which is Rhetoromanic (a mix between French, Italian and Latin). They won't sell us lemons for oranges any more!

Scuol (in German: Schulz) is a village dating back to the 17th century and is situated in the eastern point of Switzerland, where it borders to Austria and Italy. The region is called Engadin and is divided between upper and lower Engadin. Scuol is in Unterengadin.

The mountains and sights are breathtakingly beautiful and also the ski area is very fine. I'll post some pictures to give you an idea.


This is a view on the slopes of Mot da Ri and Champatsch - just love these slopes, they have it all!


View from the mountain, looking down on the village of Scuol.


Looking out on the protestant church, situated on a bluff near the river Inn.


One of the many cozy squares in the villages, where you can see the old farmhouses. Some of them are still being used as farms.

My sister and I are returning to Scuol in February, during our carnival holiday. You can reach the place either by car, by plane (until Zurich, and then by train) or even by train, if you don't mind of spending some 10 hours on a train.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Nickie's Ten Questions to Janet Evanovich

Who hasn't read the Stefanie Plum novels? And laughed and laughed at her numerous adventures, while trying to find out whether she'll choose for Morelli or Ranger?

Well, I have read all of them and like them a lot. So I'm more than pleased Janet wanted to answer some of my questions.

Here goes:

1) When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I started writing in my young 30s. Before that I was a painter. I loved creating, but felt like my audience as a painter was very limited. I didn't want to create for myself, I wanted to create for others. That's when I discovered writing.

2) Did it take you long to find a publisher for your first book?

It took me 10 years.

3) How was 'One For The Money' received by the public?

Those that could find the book, seemed to like it. The print run wasn't too big.

4) 'One for the money', 'Two for the dough', 'Three to get deadly'... Are you an Elvis fan?

I like Elvis, but the titles sort of happened by accident.

5) Does Trenton resemble the town you grew up in?

Very much. That is why I picked The Burg as the location for Stefanie Plum.

6) How important are your fans' reactions to  you? Eg. ou let them choose the titles of your latest books.

Reader's opinions are very important to me. The Plum series is about fun, and if readers aren't having fun or feeling good when they are done with a Plum book, then it's time to move on.

7) Is the character of Stefanie Plum based on a person you actually know?

Stefanie has a lot of me and my daughter, Alex, in her.

8) Stefanie has a hamster and a dog. Do you have pets as well?

My kids had hamsters while they were growing up. We've also always had dogs, cats, birds and any other lost animal that found it's way to our home. Once we took in a lost ferret until we could find it's owner.

9) Can you tell us if Stefanie is ever going to choose between Morelli and Ranger? Or will she get another boyfriend?

Nope. Can't tell you.

10) Do you have your own favorite in the detective/thriller genre?

I like books by Lisa Scottoline, Elmore Leonard, Robert Parker.


So there you are, folks. We still don't know what's going to happen to Stefanie. Just keep reading those books, eh?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Should teachers refrain from accepting pupils as friends on Facebook?

Today there was an article in the national newspapers about teachers and Facebook friends. Most of the headmasters and also the ministry want teachers to delete every 'friend' they have, when they are also a pupil of them. They claim teachers cannot be 'friends' with pupils or students, they are guidemasters and teachers only.
I think this goes a bit too far. I'm also a teacher, and I have accepted lots of pupils as my friends on FB. This has never lead to any abuse or misuse. You just have to know as a person what you want to reveal on FB and what not. I don't give out any personal info, such as my home address, telephone number etc. I don't tell everyone whom I'm seeing or what I do in my private time. But I share some moments that everyone can witness.
I also think having pupils and ex-pupils as friends on FB is a good thing. I have boys and girls among them who were in my classes up to 20 years ago, and they still address me with respect - and they come to me when they have a problem. They could do so when at school, they can do now. I'll help where I can.
What's your take on this?