Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Music of the seventies

Radio 2, the most popular radio station in Flanders, is having its Seventies week. It's a tradition. Every year, with the autumn break, the radio station only plays music from the 1970's. Next Friday there will be the traditional TOP-100 and the listeners can compose it themselves. For years at an end, Bohemian Rhapsody has been the number 1. Will it be different this time?

I don't know about you, but having been young in that period, I do enjoy this music a lot. My sister and I were big fans of Mud, but of course we also liked other bands. Slade, The Rubettes, Bay City Rollers, Rod Stewart, Bee Gees, Abba, Queen, Meat Loaf, ...

We were once on TV when TV One filmed a gig of Mud. No wonder, with our blue t-shirts with MUD painted in red upon them - and I hanging on a pole to take better pictures! We always stood in front of the stage, and Les Gray and the others greeted us. We also have their autographs.

What is your favorite music?

Monday, October 27, 2014

For all Michael Ball fans

Hello folks! Those among you who love muscial theater and Britain's top musical star Michael Ball, will be interested to know that Michael goes back on tour in 2015.

The new tour, to promote his new album (If everyone was listening), will start on April 7th and will run until early May. He'll appear is lots of places in England and Scotland.

My sister and I have seen Michael perform in three muscials already. The first one was Woman in white in New York City, then we saw him in Hairspray (London) and lastly in Sweeney Todd along with Imelda Staunton (London). The last time we even had a chance to talk to him and shoot some pictures.

We'll try of course to get tickets for one of these shows. Most of them are during the Easter break, so that won't create any trouble. Perhaps we'll go to Brighton, where my sister has never been.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

How far would you go to have a baby?

Just finished watching Dicte, a Danish crime series featuring journalis Benedicte (Dicte). As a young girl, Dicte was forced to give up her baby by her parents (Jehova's Witnesses). Since then she has turned her back to religion, has married and got a daughter Rose. Now she's divorced and returns to the town where she grew up.

In this first case, Dicte gets rather close to a murdered body near the harbour. (She has gone out with her two old friends from school and needs to pee urgently.) It's then she sees the young woman's body, cut open. Soon it is found out the woman was delivered of a baby. But where is it?

Dicte starts her own investigation, with the help of her two friends. She soon comes into trouble with the police, but after some time they know they need each other.

This first episode of the series dealt with the problem of babies-on-order. Serbian girls are paid (or so it is told to those buying the children) to have a baby for couples who can't have one.

This raises the question of how far you can go to have a baby. I don't have children of my own. At some time in my life I would have liked to have one or two, but when you never find the man you want to have them with, you settle in the life you have. I don't miss having children. My life is complete and I do enjoy it. Nowadays I couldn't imagine having a partner. I'm too old to change my ways and quite like doing what I want.

But some couples (and also single women) seems to have this overwhelming desire for a baby. They make themselves go through x-times of in-vitro fertilisation, and suffer the stress and the moodswings going with it.

I just don't know. I don' t suppose I would have liked to go through all that to have a kid. Do you really need children to be happy, to have a family?

What is your take on this?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Scandinavian crime series

Nowadays, our tv evenings are often filled with Scandinavian tv series. And most of them are quite good, as well.

The first among these was Wallander in original Swedish version. We saw these episodes, allthough I must confess I like the ones with Kenneth Brannagh a lot better (but then , of course, Brannagh is a prime actor). He portrayed the inspector a lot better than the Swedish actor.

More recently we watched The Bridge, which was super thrilling.

After that came the series with reporter Annika Bengtson, based on the novels of Liza Marklund. I also liked the concept of these.

And recently we are watching Fjallabäcka Murders and Dicte. The first one is Swedish, the other Danish.

We see these tv series with subtitles, so spoken in the original language. I always must laugh when I hear a Scandinavian language. I understand quite a lot of it, because they often say things like we do at home. You know, in Flanders every town and village has its own dialect - and what is better still, we have our own special dialect. Our family originates from such different parts in Flanders (and fans out to Holland, France and Germany, as far as I have found out yet). I often hear speech patterns (even with the same pronunciation) repeated in those Scandinavian series, which makes me believe somewhere in our ancestry must be Vikings or the like.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Autumn break

Today was the last school day for many kids and teachers. Now they all have one week off during the autumn break.

Well, not everyone waited until 4 pm. Lots of parents (and their children) already left this morning for a trip abroad. I don't know how it is in other countries, but here in Belgium holidays are always more expensive during school holidays. That's the reason why many parents chose to keep their kids away from school for one (or more) day(s), because then they can travel on cheater rates. The minister of education wants to do something about this, but I suppose she will not manage. As long as trips outside schoolholidays remain less expensive, nothing much will change.

So we also have a week off. We don't plan on doing a lot, as my sister suffered her annual sprained ankle (she has weak ligaments and every year she has an accident). She'll rest as much as possible, because in the middle of next week we're off to the UK once more. We want to go and see the Il Divo concert in Leeds. Yes, I know what you're thinking. Il Divo also had a show in Brussels, but that was in the middle of the week and as we don't have a car, we couldn't go to it and be back the same evening. So it's easier to go to the UK and see the show there - and meanwhile have a break.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What would you do if you won Euromillions?

Next Friday, the Euromillions jackpot will amount to 190 million Euro (that's over 200 million US dolllar). Can you imagine being the sole winner of such a huge amount?

Up to now statistics have shown that the jackpot is only won by one up to three (only once, as far as I remember) persons. My guess is that this huge jackpot (which will probably not be won on Friday 24th, but rather on Friday 31st) will be shared by two.

But what would you do with all that money, and most importantly, how would you react?

Would you announce to the world you're a winner - and be haunted by fortune-seekers ever after? Would you put your face in the newspapers?

In Belgium, winners of big jackpots are helped along by the people of the National Lottery. They give them advice on how to react and how to take care of the money won. You have to present yourself to the headquarters of the National Lottery in Brussels, where you will be received and served champagne (I guess).

OK, I could go for that. I suppose it's everyone's dream to win a big amount of money. They saying that money doesn't make you happy is obviously launched by someone who had too little.

How can money make you unhappy? Sure, it doesn't give you good health and happiness. The first is something you have or not, and the next you make yourself. But it does give you freedom. Not having to work for money, having enough to do all those things you like...

What would you spend a jackpot on? Buy a mansion, a luxury car, a plane or boat? Nothing of that for me. I'd stay in my cosy house and keep the flat at the coast. There are quite adequate for what we need. But looking forward to the prospect we all have to work longer before we can go on our pension, I'd quit work and spend my days doing just what I like. Which would be travelling. I suppose we wouldn't be home a lot...

What would you do? Please respond if you like to!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Going back in the past

When I feel bored (which happens rarely, to be honest) I tend to take out my old diaries. I began writing one when I was 15 years young, in 1971.

In the course of the last year(s) I have begun to put every entry on USB, to make sure the writings never go lost.

I don't know about you, but I think it's immense fun to read what you were thinking and doing when you were just a teenager! Often I have to laugh, because of the funny situations.

Do you ever feel regret for things that happened? I made mistakes, just like anyone else, but I don't mind at all. They've made me into what I am now, and for that I'm thankful.

Those old diaries are a fountain of memories lost. When you think back to the seventees or the eighties, you don't remember everything correctly - or you have forgotten how something went exactly. Now by going through these old files, you can relive your past.

Is this a thing about getting older? I don't know, but I'm going slowly to my sixties. I still don't feel old - and I hope I can postpone that feeling for a very long time!!!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Vanished from Dust

Hello folks! This morning, I'd like to introduce you to author Shea Norwood. Shea is the author of Vanished from Dust, a YA paranormal novel published by Dust Devil Press. To mark this occasion, Shea is doing a virtual book tour today, organised by Goddess Fish Promotions.

Don't forget to place a comment, because Shea is awarding a $25 gift cerfificate from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Paypal. Use this link:




Eric Stark is not insane. Or at least he doesn’t think so. He wishes everyone in Dust, Texas, felt the same way. But that’s not going to happen since the whole town thinks he’s crazy. Why didn’t he keep his mouth shut?

No one understands. Eric is alone as he battles his sanity in a town of tormenters. Suddenly a new friendship emerges after the new kid, Kyle Barrett, moves to town.
Eric reluctantly reveals his secret. Is it a curse or a gift? He isn’t certain, but with Kyle by his side he finds the courage to seek the truth.

They soon realize that something sinister is descending on the residents of Dust.
Is it caused by Eric’s phantoms or is it something else? Is it connected to the mysterious death of hundreds of townspeople over sixty years ago? One thing is certain—only Eric and Kyle can save them.

They set out on a heart-pounding adventure and find themselves transported to a disturbed and deserted version of their small southern town. They quickly discover that this new world has mysteries of its own to uncover. What they find could prove more than they bargained for, and it only leads to more questions. Eric and Kyle must face a horrifying fact—they may never get out alive.

“We’re gonna die here,” Kyle muttered.

 “I don’t believe that,” Eric said. “And neither do you.”

Will they survive their encounter with these dark and mysterious beings?

Will they find a way back home?

Or will they be lost forever?

The Vanished from Dust series is perfect for anyone who craves a hair-raising thriller packed with mystery and suspense. This paranormal story for young adults can be compared to Stand by Me, mixed with Odd Thomas, and a twist of The Dark Tower.


“I’m not crazy,” Eric Stark shouted at the crowd of seventh graders as they surrounded him. He looked up from the ground, which consisted of patches of grass and dirt, to see the sunlight glinting off of the metal braces of a girl with pigtails as she pointed and laughed with the rest of them. Another boy kicked him in the stomach, causing him to retreat nto a fetal position to guard against another blow.

“Oh yeah?” Greg Coffey asked as he towered over Eric. His lip was curled, showing his crooked, heavily stained teeth. “What happened last week in class? You said, ‘They’re watching
me.’ Remember that, loser?”

“I didn’t say that.” Eric tried to get up, but Greg pushed him back down and kicked dirt in his face. Eric rubbed his burning eyes with both hands. When he opened them he saw four more kids sneering over him, all laughing at his expense. Where was a teacher when you needed one? The hot Texas sun was high on the horizon, almost blinding him as he stared back at his tormentors. Sweat was pouring from his brow, mixing with the tears that streamed down his face.

“Yeah you did,” Adam Marshall said with a smirk. “You’re going off the rails, crazy train.”

“I like that—crazy train. Just like the song,” Greg said. He laughed and gave Adam a high five. “That’s your new name. Like it?” Greg kicked another pile of dirt at Eric.

Eric tried to spit it out, but his entire face was covered in a muddy film. He wished that he’d just kept his mouth shut about it, but it was too late now. News traveled fast in a small town, and he was sure everyone thought he was insane by now.

He didn’t know what he was.

“Leave him alone,” a kid said. He leaned over to help Eric to his feet. “I don’t like bullies.”

“Stay out of it, new kid.” Greg said and gave him a scowling stare.

“Or what?” The kid got closer.

“Let’s go,” Adam said. “There’s a teacher coming.” He slapped Greg on the shoulder.

“This ain’t over,” Greg said as he walked away.

“Thanks,” Eric said.

“I’m Kyle Barrett,” the kid said, extending his hand.

Eric shook it. “Did you just move here?”

“Yeah, this is my first day,” Kyle said. “It’s hard being the new kid. No one talks to you.”

“No one talks to me either, except to make fun of me,” Eric said.

Six months after the dirt-kicking incident, Eric and Kyle had turned from strangers into fast friends. But everyone else still thought Eric was crazy. Even now, he couldn’t be sure if they were right or wrong.

He only knew one thing—he hadn’t actually seen them in several months. So was it all in his head? His mom always told him time heals all wounds. But this wound was more like a cut that never healed. It festered in the eyes of everyone in Dust, Texas. He was just a mentally defective kid who barely deserved their pity.

He was in the eighth grade now, and he tried to put those troubled years behind him. It seemed that most of his classmates felt the same way, but a select few never grew tired of reminding him of his sanity (or lack thereof) and demeaning nickname from time to time.

Author bio and links

Shea Norwood is a West Texas native that currently lives in the DFW area with his wife and son. He's an avid reader and enjoys the craft of writing. The fictional town of Dust is loosely based on a small town south of Odessa, TX.



Handle: @sheanorwood



What a weekend!

October 18th is officially the warmest ever since the KMI (wheather institute) began its observations. It was like a day in high summer.

All the terrasses of the bars and restaurants were occupîed, children were playing at the beach, ... Who could have guessed we'd be able to enjoy this in autumn?

Even in the early evening, the door to our roof terrace stood wide open, and all the windows dito. Just like we do in summer. I put some wash in the machine and hung it out to dry. After a couple of hours I could already take it down.

We ended the day by dining out. A wonderful end to a day that was just perfect!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Lighted frontline

If you have a chance to watch this, I can recommend it to you. Tonight the entire Belgian frontline of World War One (from Nieuwpoort to Ploegsteert) will be lighted by flares. Hundreds of volunteers will be forming a line to mark this event.

I'll be on the train this evening, so I can only watch on my tablet. We're going to the coast for the weekend, as it's predicted to be very warm and sunny (and that for October!). Tell you guys more later.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

What pleases a teacher

Being a teacher is not always funny. You have those days when you want to quit straight away... when everything becomes too much. But then there are also those moments you feel pride of having done something good. And those make the job worthwile.

I heard today that one of my former students has won an important prize for having written a book. Now I never suspected that guy would ever write books, or become a journalist! When he was in my class, he was never very much interested in learning Dutch. I often had to 'wake him up' by throwing a piece of chalk against his head....

Another of the guys I taught is also a journalist. Right, I knew that one was clever, but when he left school he intented to take on studies in Islam to become a teacher. Now he's a very good reporter.

Once I had a class full of youngster of 15 years young, full of misschief. The gangleader, Ilja, is now a biologist who has studied in London and travels overseas to spot rare animals.

And I'm also proud when I meet one of my former students of Dutch. (These were men and women who were not born here, but came from area's such as the US, Asia, the former Russian Republic, Africa, ...) And then they start to speak in perfect Dutch.

Such things give you a good feeling, because sometimes you think you are preaching to the unbelievers. Teachers are important, right?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Poll: which musical is the most popular?

Musical theater has been more or less popular during the past century and this one. But some shows do impress the audience, while others don't.

Noboby can deny that both Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables are among those shows that have attracted audiences since their first performance. Those who were among the first to see either of these shows now come with their grandchildren to see it once more. And it looks like the shows will continue running for some while yet...

The question is, though, which of the two you think is the most successful? What do you think?


Please take the time to vote - or tell us if you think another muscial is even more successful?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Freedom of opinion

During the past weekend, Belgium got a new federal government. One of the new ministers is Maggie De Block, by profession a doctor of medicine. She will now be responsible for public health and social security.

This is a picture of Mrs. De Block:

Now on Monday, a VRT (official TV in Flanders) dared to voice his opinion on Twitter. He tweeted that he thought Maggie De Block doesn't make a convincing figure to be Minister of Public Health...

Since then, Tom Van de Weghe has been crucified with comments (mostly by liberal-minded followers of Maggie, since she is one of the most popular politicians right now). How dare he voice his opinion!

In my mind, I can only agree with Tom. I would not want Maggie to be my doctor. Just imagine her telling an obese patient to change his/her way of living and begin a diet? I suppose he/she could answer: why don't you do it yourself?

So no, for me Maggie is not the right choice for that department. I suppose she has her qualities but obviously she is not at the right place there.

I also think people should be allowed to speak their mind, even when their ideas differ from what the majority thinks. I was raised a rebel, I guess, by parents and grandparents who also used their brain to think for themselves.

What do you think?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

My Name is Thank-You

Goddess Fish Promotions is organizing a Virtual Book Tour for My Name is Thank-You by Kaizen Love, a young adult book available now. The tour will run October 6 - 31,  2014.

Kaizen Love will be awarding a $15 BN/Amazon GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. So please use this link to place your comment and stand to win:


My Name Is Thank-You allows us into the worlds of two very different thirteen-year-old girls. Each girl’s voice carries its own unique tone, as the girls beckon us to follow magically into their lives. One is a joyous story of hope against all odds, the search for acceptance, and the longing for unconditional love; the other a sad tale of unspeakable abuse, constant rejection, and an overwhelming sense of loneliness. Thank-You and Josephine create around us a world rich with emotion, one that will leave you inspired, breathless, and yearning for more words.


"There is nothing better than being able to swim in a pool of knowledge so deep it forces ignorance to be uncomfortable in its own skin, to where it no longer holds a sense of being, a sense of purpose. That’s what books do. They allow us to live in the minds of every type of human. They allow us to taste the kind of freedom that even the end of slavery didn’t bring." -(My Name Is Thank-You)

Author bio and links

Kaizen Love is an up and coming writer, spinning words into a beautiful web that should enrich the lives of all who read them. She has a positive and fresh take on life, and has mastered the art of storytelling. She grew up reading books by authors from every style, race, nationality, culture, and religious perspective; drawing inspiration from each one. Her greatest mission is to share love.

I asked Kaizen why she chose to write young adult fiction, and here's her reply;

To be quite honest, young adult fiction chose me, for this particular novel. I believe that I am impartial to genres, and allow my stories and my characters to develop on their own without labels.  For "My Name Is Thank-You" my characters are young adults themselves, and they experience what many young adults experience. Just recently I was having a conversation with a dear friend, and we were discussing the types of books we read when we were young. For me, I had a tendency to choose books that were well beyond my years. I was searching for stories that resembled my own life, and I could not find that in books that we were written for teens or pre-teens. 

There are many young adults today who go through very adult situations. Many of them are exposed to abuse, violence, amongst other hardships that aren't dealt with in a positive way. My purpose for this novel was to shine a light in a very dark world and to allow readers to jump into a story that is familiar to many of us. Age does not discriminate against a hard life, we are not granted some special pass because we are under eighteen. Many of us have experienced things that, quite frankly, should not have occurred, and this book, while making no excuses for those things, teaches us that there is beauty in every circumstance, and there is always something to be grateful for. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

At last Nobel Prize for Malala

Last year, the young Malala Yousafzai (Pakistan) did not get the Nobel Prize for Peace. But this year she got it, and I'm glad for that.

There are many areas in the world where young girls are only good enough to work in the kitchen and be a slave to first their parents, then their husband. Organisations such as Boko Haran and Isis don't want women who can think for themselves, they are afraid of them. So they rather kill them.

As a teacher, I know the value of education. Admit it, we were not better off in the Middle Ages. Also there women were considered as property, to be bought and sold. They did not have any rights at all.

But luckily we have moved forward since then - mainly thanks to the First World War when it became obvious women were valuable members of society. Who else was there to run the country's factories, work on the land, teach the children? So at last they were given the right to vote.

Nowadays all Western women have been to school and know their rights (some more than others). We consider us to be equal to men. I just hope this can become true for every woman in the world.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Free Wifi

Have you also had the experience, when travelling, that the free wifi offered in hotels is not quite adequate?

A year or so ago I got myself a tablet, because it's quite handy to take along when travelling. With all the aps you can put on them, you can read books on it, or watch tv or listen to music.

In that past year, we've been away quite a bit and we've experienced that 'free' wifi is not worth a lot. In most hotels, free wifi only allows you to read emails and look up something on the net. But you can't download your daily newspaper, or watch an episode of 'Thuis'.

Only in some hotels you can watch without a problem. Like in the Pomme d'Or on Jersey, or the Pullman hotel near St. Pancras. Hilton Hotels provide free wifi, but when you pay (a little) you get the good version. 

Now I don't mind paying a bit to be allowed to download as much as I like, but I think hotels should warn you their wifi is only strong enough to read mail. 

Hotels should also be better equipped. Nowadays we use the internet and wifi like we drink water and this is a service you should provide to your guests.

What is your idea?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Beauty and the Beast

Last weekend we were in Birmingham, England, because we wanted to go to the ballet.

Yes, you can laugh. We have a good ballet company in Antwerp too, but just try and get tickets! We always try, but the only available seats are those fourteen rows away from the stage. No can do for me, as I'm nearsighted.

On the other hand, in the UK we do find tickets on one of the first rows. Also for this performance in the Birmingham Hippodrome. We sat center stage on the fourth row, and could see everything happening.

I really love ballet. I never danced myself, but we had a friend whose daughter became a prima ballerina. She always told us when performances would take place and often secured us good seats. In those days, we saw every ballet performance of the season.

But after Bernice left to be a principal in other companies, it was over. No more ballet for many, many years.

Last year we were able to find tickets for Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake and now we were able to see this wonderful rendition of the fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast. The Birmingham Royal Ballet is very good and the principals were outstanding. Mind you, you did not see the Disney tale, but rather a version of the French film with Jean Marais, which I just loved to watch when I was younger.

All the classic moves, set on melodramitic music... Beautiful scenery and costumes... I had a great evening!

Monday, October 6, 2014


Goddess Fish Promotions is organizing a Virtual Book Tour for Ruined - Stratford High Series, Book One by Marian Cheatham, a YA Contemporary Romance available now. The tour will run September 22, 2014 to October 17.

Marian will be awarding an eBook copy of Ruined to a randomly drawn commenter at each stop during the tour. A Grand Prize of a signed paperback copy of Ruined plus a new DVD of Much Ado About Nothing starring Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson will be awarded to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour (US only).

To place your comment and stand a chance to win, please use this Rafflecopter code:


When your life has been ruined by lies, do you seek justice … or revenge?
Blythe Messina spends her senior year focused on her studies and college, and not on
her ex, Stratford High's lacrosse star, DB Whitmore. At least, that's what Blythe keeps telling herself. But her younger cousin, Bonni, knows otherwise. Same goes for DB, who swears to be over Blythe and their breakup, but his teammates aren’t fooled.

When scandalous photos of Bonni and the team captain are texted around Stratford, Bonni's virtuous reputation is ruined. She professes her innocence, but no one believes her. No one, except Blythe and DB, who come together to uncover the truth. But, will they stay together?  

Ruined is a modern twist on a classic Shakespearean romance. 

"Deceit, loyalty, honor, and romance--Ruined has it all! A teen version of Much Ado About Nothing that Shakespeare aficionados are sure to savor!
Kym Brunner, Author of Wanted: Dead or in Love & One Smart Cookie

All books in the Stratford High series will be modern retellings of a Shakespeare classic. Ruined is inspired by Much Ado About Nothing.




I’d been bitchy and on edge ever since that blasted luau last Saturday. Seeing DB, talking to him, being near him again, had taken my life off course. For days now, I’d been ordering my brain to

STOP THINKING ABOUT HIM. We were ancient history, two people doomed from the start, like Antony and Cleopatra or Marie Antoinette and King Louis. So why couldn’t I regain control
of my world? I snatched up my backpack and my Coach crossbody bag, and did a quick once-over in my bedroom mirror. The hair was tied back in a no-fuss ponytail. The jeans were clean,
well, relatively. This faded ASPCA tee was past its expiration date, but good enough for school. I turned off my bedroom light and went in search of Bonni. 

She wasn’t in her room or downstairs in the kitchen. So I grabbed a frosted Pop-Up and headed into the garage, where I was blinded by piercing sunlight. Someone had left the outer door open, and my new hybrid was nowhere to be found. I shaded my eyes and peered outside.

Halfway down our long driveway, I spied Bonni and Uncle Leo with their backs to me, their heads together under the opened hood of my car. They were talking, but in this quiet
morning air, their voices carried. Even from this distance, I could hear fragments of their conversation. And if I heard them, so could our neighbors. I was hurrying toward the hybrid,
anxious to warn my cousin and uncle to keep it down, when I heard something that stopped me in mid-stride.

“… believe what Cory told me … DB and Blythe …”

Had Bonni just mentioned DB and me in the same sentence?

I ducked behind the six-foot-tall hedges lining the drive.

“What else did Cory say?” Uncle Leo asked.

Author bio and links

Marian is a full-time writer of contemporary and historical young adult fiction. A native Chicagoan and a graduate of Northern Illinois University, Marian taught special education and worked in the business world before pursuing her dream of becoming a writer. She would rather be at her desk than almost anywhere else, but of course, that isn’t always possible. So when she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, gardening, walking the dog, travelling with her husband, and researching new projects. Not necessarily in that order. 

She adores anything Shakespeare. An avid reader of Shakespeare biographies, she has travelled the world to see his plays, visiting Stratford, Canada as well as Stratford-Upon-the-Avon, Great Britain, and the new Globe Theater in London. Her latest YA novel, Ruined, Book One in her new Stratford High series – modern retellings of Shakespeare’s plays - is inspired by the Bard’s classic romance, Much Ado About Nothing. Book Two, inspired by the Merchant of Venice, is due out fall 2014.

Her debut YA, Eastland, came out in February 2014. Based on the real-life story of the 1915 Eastland boat disaster in Chicago, Marian lectures about the Eastland to schools, libraries, and book clubs, as well as co-hosting haunted Chicago tours of Eastland disaster sites. She writes a post on the subject on the Tribune’s Chicago Now blog site. Visit her at:

Finally, I asked Marion how she came to write young adult fiction. Here's what she answered:

Writing YA fiction was a progression from picture books, to middle grade, to YA. The progression reflected the changes in my own life as the kids grew up. When the girls were in high school, I had to sign a few permission slips giving the district the right to use books they deemed ‘controversial.’ Of course, I was curious, so I read those problematic books. A few, I truly enjoyed like, Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides or Life of Pi by Yann Martel. Then the kids began talking about books they were reading, Harry Potter being the most discussed book in the neighborhood. I started reading that series and was hooked right from the start.

YA literature was exciting and brimming with story possibilities. Anything seemed to go when it came to YA and as a writer, I appreciated that. So, I started writing a few novels of my own. The story ideas always flowed from some real-life incident that had either happened to one of the kids or something that I myself had experienced. My first published novel, Eastland, was really my fourth completed YA manuscript. Those other three books weren’t publish-ready, but they were great practice for me. Even now, with Ruined, and all the forthcoming books in the Stratford High series, it takes hard work to get it right.

There’s the painful first draft to deliver, then I share it with trusted writer friends in my critique group and work through their suggestions. Next, the manuscript goes to the editor for the first content edit to see if I really have a complete novel. Do the chapters flow together? Is there enough tension? Are the characters fully developed? These are questions that the editor addresses in that first go-around. The manuscript returns to me with notes and notes and notes. I get to work on the re-write, send it back for an editorial proofread, more corrections are made, and then, maybe if I’m really, really lucky and I’ve put in the time and sweat and hard work, I’ll have a finished young adult novel to share with readers. Easy, right? But totally worth it!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Short break

We're off again on a short trip to England. We are flying to Birmingham, in first case to see the ballet Beauty and the Beast. Also always nice to be away for a while, especially after all the painting we did the last couple of weekends!

Probably we're also going to make the short trip to Coventry, which was recommended to us last year.

Now just hope the weather will cooperate! Here it is still warm and sunny, but I think the midwest of England will be a bit colder. I packed a warm sweater just in case!

When we're back, I'll post a report of what we've done and seen.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Nice burglars

When browsing through my daily newspaper this morning, I had to smile reading a short article - skip the politics section, that's what I like to read!

It was about a burglary in a house. The house had been broken into, and the burglars had removed a couple of valuable articles. Then they entered the kitchen, where they found something to drink. But... there were also a lot of dirty dishes in the sink. The kind burglars took time to wash everything (most likely because they didn't want to leave any traces) and left the kitchen cleaner than before.

They only had not paid attention to the hidden camera which recorded all they did... and of course they were picked up by the police not long after.

I like those short and funny articles in a paper that is otherwise full of sorrow. The atrocities of ISIS, the antics of our politicians and still no government, suicide by young people, ... Sometimes you just don't want to hear more, right?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Decorating for Halloween

Are you already in the mood for Halloween?

While the weather is still like summer (at least here in Flanders, with lots of sunshine and warm temperatures) October has come and so I think it's time to get the house ready for Halloween.

My sister and I tend to decorate our living room according to the season. This afternoon, we've put away the summer items (like silk flowers, butterfly hangers, seashells etc.) and brought the box containing the autums stuff from the attic. Oh yes, we do have an attic - it used to be my own room when I was a teenager, where I could entertain my friends and play the music my dad couldn't bear listening to downstairs.

Now we have miniature orange pumpkins, witches on brooms, a bride and groom in skeleton form, nuts and squirls, cobwebs and even live spiders! (We don't have to do anything to get the last, they come into the house unasked, but I don't mind, they keep away the flies and mosquitoes.) Are you averse of spiders? I can take them in my hand and put them gently outside before my sister comes home (she doesn't like them).

The dark comes earlier as well. Not long now before you can curl up in your pajamas before the TV when it's only 6 pm. I like coziness, and enjoy being in my pajamas. In the morning, I take breakfast in them, before I go to the bathroom. Have to eat my bread and drink my coffee first!

What about you?