27 July, 2013

Four star review for "Travels on a Greyhound Bus"!

Many thanks to Kirsty Greenwood who runs book review blog: I Heart Books! She has just reviewed my novel "Travels on a Greyhound Bus" and given it a sparkly 4 out of 5, finding it to be a "thought provoking read". You can read her review here.

You can also find an interview with me on Kirsty's blog, in which I talk about my books, writing, and my experience of the publishing process.

Thank you Kirsty!

21 July, 2013

In self defence...

I recently took a short self-defence course. Up until now, this was something that I had always thought would be a good thing to do, but I'd never before been offered the opportunity and had not been sufficiently serious to seek out such courses for myself.

However, my daughter is a brown belt in karate and her club sent an email around to all the parents of their junior members offering an SOS (safe on the street) course for women. I booked, thinking that this was my opportunity and that I really shouldn't miss it.

I turned up on the day somewhat apprehensive. After all, I've never attacked anyone in my life and my exercise of choice is somewhat different--a combination of yoga and swimming.

The course itself was good. We learnt straightforward things like how to spot and avoid trouble, how to handle more than one attacker, and how to disable an attacker by punching or kicking them in vulnerable areas. The course ended by each person having to fend off an 'attack' by one of the trainers in a darkened room after having been tired out and disorientated.

It was certainly a useful thing to have done and I now have a good idea of what to do to defend myself, but I can't really say that I enjoyed it.

Something that I found interesting was the different approaches and attitudes of different people on the course. Some took it light-heartedly, while others took it terribly seriously. And the person with whom I was partnered seemed to think she knew it all and was in a position to criticise my technique, despite the fact that she had no experience in this area and didn't appear to be doing brilliantly herself!

Oh well, it takes all sorts, I suppose...even in self defence!

14 July, 2013

Cameras: an indicator of age?!

Another age related post—this seems to be becoming something of a theme!

This time it’s about cameras.

I was sitting in a work meeting the other day when someone announced that he would be willing to take a photo of the group using a “film camera”. Shock, horror! It was apparent that this guy considered this type of camera to be something rather unusual, something rather old fashioned, in fact. And it transpired that it’s a hobby of his to take photos with a film camera.

The thing is, although I’ve used a digital camera for some years now, still, when I think about it, this seems a little strange to me. I grew up before digital cameras were around and so my first cameras were, inevitably, non-digital. I still occasionally find it odd that, in order to view my holiday snaps, I no longer need to get a film developed.

Quite the opposite was true for my colleague, of course.

I suppose that’s the outcome of working with a group of people the majority of whom are (at least) ten years younger than me...

09 July, 2013

"A Matter of Degree" tops the bestseller lists!

I ran a four-day free promotion for my book "A Matter of Degree" last week and it went fantastically. At its peak, my book reached #3 in Contemporary Fiction and #4 in Women's Fiction in the Amazon.com free Kindle books charts. And downloads were in the thousands.

I hadn't expected this at all. And, as all authors who do free promotions will tell you, it's impossible to know why a particular promotion goes so well. But, whatever the reason, I am very, very pleased.

So far, paid downloads after the promotion are also doing well. So fingers crossed this continues!

You can download your copy of "A Matter of Degree" from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

07 July, 2013

The problem with hospitals: a very personal experience

My elderly mother recently had a spell in hospital. It was a pretty standard story for someone who is almost eighty--she fell while doing some cleaning at home, couldn't get up again and had to call 999. She was diagnosed with a fractured hip and had to have an operation to mend the fracture, which necessitated her staying in hospital for a short period.

We are hearing a lot at the moment about the poor state that our hospitals are in--how A&E departments are near breaking point, how low standards of care can be. My experience of my mother's spell in hospital gave me a very personal perspective on this state of affairs.

I live a two-hour drive away from my mother and I am the only relative (my mother has no other children and she divorced years ago). This means that all responsibility in this kind of situation falls on me. I don't mind this at all, but it does mean that I need people to be understanding and, sometimes, flexible.

The visiting hours on my mother's ward were 2.30 until 4.30. I needed to visit my mother during the week (as soon as possible after she'd been admitted) so that I could see her and collect some things that she needed from her flat. I also needed to be back home in time to pick up my kids from school. So, visiting hours of 2.30 until 4.30 were no good to me at all. I explained all this over the phone to the staff nurse (Jan) and she said that she couldn't give me permission to visit outside visiting hours on my planned day because she wouldn't be there then. She advised that I ring the ward before I set off on the day that I planned to visit to check with the staff nurse on duty then that it would be alright for me to come.

I did exactly as I was told--rang the ward number before I left. The ward phone was answered by an answerphone telling me that the ward couldn't take routine patient enquiries between 7 and 11.30 am (!) but that if my call was an emergency, I could ring an alternative number.

I rang the alternative, emergency number...and rang and rang. I must have tried about six times before I left and then again several times en route. The phone was never picked up. And this was the EMERGENCY line!!

When I eventually arrived at the ward, I was met by rude and unhelpful staff. They implied that I was lying, saying there was no staff nurse with the name of Jan who worked on the ward, and denying that the phone was never answered. I did get to see my mother in the end, but only after a lot of arguing on my part. The whole experience left me feeling angry, frustrated and sad.

While I understand that hospitals are overstretched and that the primary role of staff must be to care for patients rather than to worry about relatives, I do expect that wards should be answering their emergency phone lines. I also expect to be treated with courtesy and respect by ward staff, even more so when I have exactly followed the instructions that I have been given by the nurse in charge. If ward staff fail to treat relatives--people who can fend for themselves--with courtesy and respect, then one seriously wonders about the attitude they adopt towards patients--the people for whom they are meant to be caring.

01 July, 2013

Lovely review for "Travels on a Greyhound Bus"!

I have just had a great review for my novel "Travels on a  Greyhound Bus" from Laura's Book Reviews.

She gives the book 7.5 out of 10 stars and says:

"This is a perfect summer read as it’s a quick and engaging read with warm and believable characters and I particularly enjoyed how the ending wasn’t neatly tied up, there was some ambiguity which made for a much more realistic read. I enjoyed it so much that I have already downloaded Beckie Henderson’s first novel A Matter of Degree."

You can read the full review here: http://bit.ly/11SEHT6

Thank you, Laura!