(The comments in brackets are the voice of my mother, who always sits on my left shoulder.)

I’ve been observing for some time, on Facebook, how people advertise their books, blogs, poems and their general, overall talent. (get a proper job.) I am very impressed. I had a book published in April of this year.(waste of time). We had a launch party, which I enjoyed very much against my expectations and I even managed to read out an excerpt. (show off). Now, of course, I’m supposed to be letting people know about the book in the hope that they will buy it. (some hopes).

What amazes me is that people have such self-confidence. They even post excerpts of their writing on Facebook for people to read and critique. When I think how long it took me to even show anyone a page or two, I feel faint. I really don’t know how I’m going to do this stuff. (why bother?).

I was brought up in an age when children were not supposed to boast, not supposed to blow their own trumpet and certainly not to tell people how good they were at doing things. And that was only the boys. Girls were encouraged to be mostly silent and, if they were going to praise anyone, it would be a male of their acquaintance, not another woman and certainly not themselves. (I should think not. how unnatural.)

So please excuse me while I catch up with the idea that it is OK for me to go on about my book. It’s permissible to tell people how good it is. It really is all right, these days, to shout loudly that I have produced something worth buying and reading. (pride comes before a fall). It’s OK to ask for reviews. (very pushy). It’s OK to be interviewed and talk only about you, without asking the interviewer any questions about her own work. (selfish).

So, I suppose I’ll just have to woman up and get on with it. (what will people think?) and stop worrying about it all. Life is too short and I do want my book to be a success. (overweening ambition never did anyone any good). I also might have to stop listening to that voice from my left shoulder. It’s about time.

Oh, and in case you didn’t know, my book is called The Mark by J.L.Fontaine.


It’s free this week in Kindle form from Amazon and it really is very good.


The Mark

J. L. Fontaine
Liam O’Connell is a man haunted by his past, who lives by stealing, scavenging and tricking those he meets. He takes shelter in a derelict cottage belonging to the recently widowed Laura West, and the unlikely pair begin a relationship. After a visit from Liam’s estranged wife, Peggy, they are left with Danny, the child she claims is Liam’s, currently living in care. The pressure on all sides leads to a complete breakdown between Liam and Laura and he leaves. On his return a year later Liam discovers that Danny is living at Laura’s house and has sworn to kill him. Now Liam has to find a way to survive Danny without losing Laura.
A story of guilt, loss and redemptive love, The Mark walks a tightrope, balancing humour, sentiment, and truth.

J.L.Fontaine has worked on a chicken farm, in hospitals and old people’s homes and as JJ The Clown, children’s entertainer and puppeteer. After gaining a Post Graduate Diploma in Counselling, she worked in a College and as a Police Welfare Officer. The character of Liam is based on a former client, a con man who she describes as ‘the most charming and frightening person I have ever met.’ Danny’s character is based on several young offenders with whom she worked.

On writing ‘The Mark’, by J. L. Fontaine:

Sitting in a room at the Probation Services, I watch the young man next to me lighting matches and burning the fuzz from his jumper. On my other side someone is passing round photos of his baby son. This is his eighth child and all of them are by different women. The meeting of the Offenders Group is about to start.
The men in the room are aged between eighteen and forty. All of them have been in prison, have reoffended and have been sent to this group to see if their behaviour can be addressed. This is done by teaching Life Skills such as budgetting and finding somewhere to live. But there is also an opportunity to look at why they offend and to hear their side of things.
A latecomer wanders in, sits down, yawns and casually tells one of the Probation Officers running the meeting that her car is being broken into. She rushes out to investigate, accompanied by one or two of the group members who are keen for a bit of action. The youth in the jumper leans towards me. ‘Never worry about your car,’ he whispers. ‘No one would ever bother to steal such a piece of crap.’ I thank him for his reassuring words.
The meeting eventually gets under way with a general discussion on finding accommodation and keeping it. The list of places where they have slept includes beside the heating outlet at the swimming pool, under fishing boats on the beach and in coffins at an undertakers. Two of the men once slept on the floor of an off licence having broken in and got so drunk they were still there the next morning when the owner arrived and called the police.
It is time for a coffee break which lasts fifteen minutes. The music system is locked in a cupboard and we can’t find the key. On hearing this, the group suggests that we go and make the coffee. We hesitate. Leaving the group alone is against the rules but we go out briefly, stand just outside the door and return to find the cupboard open and the music system playing.
During the break one older man complains that his flat was burgled that afternoon. This is met with loud laughter as he is a recidivist burglar. ‘You probably did it yourself,’ jeers one of the group members.
Whether this group with its carefully structured programme and its atmosphere of positive regard leads to great reforms is doubtful but there are small victories. One week I organise a treasure hunt in the town. This is a little risky as the men are to be sent out two by two and might just go home and not return. I have prepared clues for six places in town and a question about each which can only be learned by going there. The winners, who complete the task extremely swiftly, are awarded some very nice ballpoint pens. The following week they come to find me washing up in the kitchen. They want to return the pens. They have cheated. At some point they had read my notes giving the clues and the places. They had copied these, left the building, sat in a pub for an hour and then returned having ‘solved’ the clues. I am astonished that they have owned up. They say it’s because they know that I have put a lot a work into it and that, as they consider me a ‘diamond’, they have decided to confess.
From my time spent with these men and others like them over a period of three years, emerged the character of Danny with his refusal to back down or lose face, his need to shock, his apparently non-caring attitude and his sense of humour.

Six months.

It is now six months to the day that I stopped smoking. Going into hospital for an op, I decided to take advantage of a week where I wouldn’t be able to smoke. I had vowed this before and failed miserably, staggering out of the hospital after five days and lighting up immediately, but this time round, it worked. For some reason that psychological switch had been thrown and I managed to stop. It has been difficult, as Mr F is still puffing away all the time. I’m probably smoking three a day by proxy. I don’t feel like an ex smoker. I think I’m a smoker who isn’t smoking at present. I’ve promised myself, if I live to see 80 years of age, I’ll take it up again. That thought cheers me up.

I went through various stages of withdrawal, including a teenage rebellious, sulky period when I moaned  to Mr F about it not being fair that he was continuing and I wasn’t. I felt envious of him. But I held out and am now reaping the benefit of not having that awful nagging ‘I need a ciggie’ feeling. On my recent visit to the UK it was lovely not to be touring the airport like a desperate rat seeking a non existent area in which to smoke. That’s the benefit for me, being free of that awful longing.

New start.

Interrupting my riveting life story to make an entry for the 1st January 2015. There s no way I would be able to keep this as a daily diary but I thought I’d just put down a few thoughts about the New Year.

Last year was a difficult one (and also some good things happened) but especially the last six months I had a lot of health problems, two operations and the struggle to recover and I, generally, got into a very negative way of being. So, having recently given up smoking and, more or less, alcohol what is left to put into a New Year’s Resolution? (Well, losing weight, obviously, but that’s a whole other story). No, my New Year’s Resolution is to be more positive about things. I mean my situation is not going to change by my being miserable about it. So I might as well be cheerful.

How does one be cheerful in the face of difficult odds? Well, for me it is to think of the positives and there always are some even if one has to dig very deep to find them. In really desperate times one can always fall back on the old adage ‘At least I woke up this morning.’ So, I’m going to think of the positives every night before i go to sleep. I’m going to find five (if I can – look, be positive, of course you can) and drift off feeling positive.

Yeah right, say my inner saboteur, we’ll see how long that works for. Yes, we will.

Here goes.

Well, this blog is like all the new diaries I’ve ever bought. I make a start and then it stalls.
I may as well begin at the beginning. I was brought up in the UK. We moved around a lot when I was young. My father was climbing the ladder of his teaching profession. I think all the new homes gave me my itchy feet, the need to be moving on to different places. Because we moved often I was always having to start again at new schools. This made me adaptable, quick to get to know new people. It had its disadvantages of course. A feeling of rootlessness, of not belonging anywhere, an outsider. As a result I had a very vivid inner life and from that came my writing.

As a child I made up stories for my toys and then later on for my long suffering younger sister who is six year younger than I am. We shared a room and we’d lie in bed in the dark while I told her long rambling tales of adventure, of animals that could talk. She must have been one of the most sleep deprived toddlers in our village.

Living in the countryside in those days meant freedom to roam and I joined a gang of boys and we made secret camps in the woods and played cowboys. Being the son my father never had, I was accepted in the gang. I had no interest in girly things at all and was happiest roaming around outdoors, getting bramble scratches and dirty knees.

All this came to an end with the eleven plus exam. I attended the village school where my father was Headmaster. I had to call him Sir in class and the whole experience of being taught in a classroom of other children by my own father had a lasting effect on me and on our relationship. It was many years before I really got to know him.

I was the only child to pass the eleven plus that year (there were mutterings in the village that I’d got through because I was the Headmaster’s child) and from then on I went to a different school to my former friends. My childhood was over and I had to learn to be a girl.