Perfect Petritoli

It’s a long drive down from the Veneto, made worse by the fact that we encounter two major hold-ups, and we’re hot, tired, and thirsty by the time we get to Petritoli. But the sunflower fields and beauty of this small town in Le Marche lift our spirits as we leave the motorway behind.

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Sis and brother-in-law have restored a small town house here. We haven’t visited since the restoration; for the past few summers we’ve been busy looking after Mum. We’re totally bowled over by the gorgeousness of it when we arrive for an adventure at Casa Clodagh. A little gem, but they’ve put it on the market for they’ve found somewhere else they’d like in exchange. As the sun pinks the sky, we settle down for a lovely evening on the roof terrace, with delicious food and drink. Wonderful!

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Having grown up in Hong Kong we love swimming in the sea, and off we set for Pedaso beach the next day armed with umbrella and sunscreen (my skin and the sun don’t mix).

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A delicious fish dinner in the evening at Villa Montotto makes a perfect ending to a perfect day.

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The following morning we decide to visit the beautiful old Roman town of Fermo nearby. We stroll around, have lunch, then a yummy gelato in the main square.IMG_1267

Sis and me with Jackadoodle Cara.

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Home for a siesta, then out again to find some wine to take back to the Veneto. Brother-in-law knows a place where you can buy it from a pump at 1.30 Euros a litre. We don’t have any bottles so opt for 10 litre boxes at 15 Euros instead. The staff at Cantina Di Ruscio couldn’t be more helpful, and we stock up. That should keep us going for a while…

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Our final day. After a snack lunch at Casa Clodagh, we stop off for coffee and cake in a seaside caffè

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then go to the beach again to swim off the extra calories.

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Oh, and a relaxing read under the umbrella.

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Back in Petritoli, hubby and sis climb the tower. What a view!

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Another delicious dinner, this time at the Albergo Roma. Incredibly good value and amazing food.

Ah, so sad to be leaving, but we’re off on another adventure to visit friends who live half an hour away in fascinating Force. Can’t wait!

Monday interview with John Hudspith

My guest this week for a pre-lunch aperitivo and chat is the talented author and editor, John Hudspith.

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In the northernmost spire of his black-brick château, Johnny edits novels by day and scrawls scary stories by night. His novels – Kimi’s Secret

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and – Kimi’s Fear

Kimi'sFearCover_EBOOKare available in paperback and e-book, and have received a wealth of rave reviews on Amazon. He’s a brilliant editor as well, and you can read the testimonials to his work here.

Welcome, Johnny, to my artist’s studio in Italy. What can I offer you? A glass of Prosecco? A spritzer? A Bellini? Or perhaps a Peroni?

Prosecco and a Peroni, please. I’m in a fizzy mood.

Ooh, I’ll join you in a Prosecco, and might have a second glass when you move onto your Peroni. Just a sec while I open the bottle.

proseccoOkay, make yourself comfortable. We’ve known each other for about six months now since we started working together, and I’d like to introduce you to the readers of my blog. You’re a lovely man with a wicked sense of humour. Thanks for agreeing to the interview. I’ll start by asking what made you decide to become a writer?

Compliments and alcohol – I like it here. Cheers! Does one decide to become a writer? I guess  like most writers I doodled from an early age, but encouragement from family impressed (or scared witless) by my tales of terror, pushed me on to making something of it.

You certainly have a wonderful way with words. Which authors inspired you when you were younger?

Enid Blyton’s wicked imagination is my earliest memory. Mr Pink-Whistle’s crazy adventures a particular favourite. Though I soon found my brother’s hidden ‘adult’ books and discovered they were even more fun. 😉

I too loved Enid Blyton. I can remember The Magic Faraway Tree was the first book I read on my own. What books do you enjoy reading today?

I like reading books that are crafted well, books that can take me to another place without me noticing I’m going anywhere, stories infused with the essence of place and unique voice. Sadly, such reads are hard to find.

Hmm. Tell us about the inspiration behind your first novel, Kimi’s Secret!

Kimi’s Secret was a personal mission. I wanted to take all those influences from my youth: aliens, UFO, time-travel, Hammer Horror films, Alfred Hitchcock, the works of Conan Doyle – as well as my love for birds – crows especially, and to create an original fantasy world as well as an entertaining story, using those influencers to best effect. Oh, and I also wanted the story to be loved by the young reader as well as the old.

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I’ve just finished reading Kimi’s Secret. Awesome! Here’s the review I posted on Amazon and Goodreads:

Alice fell down the rabbit hole and Kimi is whisked off to Heart, a cross between Narnia, Phillip Pullman’s alternative earth (Heart being an anagram of earth, of course) and Wonderland. Hudspith’s world is populated with the most astonishing characters – from terrifying crows, strange fairy-like creatures (famoose, whose favourite food is rotten teeth), Tulpas (protectors created from the humans’ essence), Balancers (special humans), and many, many others. There’s lots of gloop and goo and grossness not to mention dodo brains on the menu. Kimi develops as the novel progresses and she learns how to use her magic powers (mojo – love it!) She’s an engaging character and I was alongside her all the way, willing her on to success. I won’t give any spoilers, just say you’ve GOT to read this book if you like exciting, zany, crazy, mad stories that are scary and funny at the same time. It’s an absolute page-turner and I’ll definitely be reading the sequel to find out what happens to Kimi next.

How does your second novel, Kimi’s Fear differ from Kimi’s Secret?

Although Kimi’s Fear is a follow-on (what happens next), it’s markedly different from the first book where structure is concerned. The first book had a full-circle twist to it that required quite a bit of weaving, as well as introducing the reader to the workings of the fantasy world. That took some doing, and it ended up a hefty tome. Kimi’s Fear is a lot shorter simply by the nature of the story.

JVAdvertFebruary2013KIMIOoh, I’m looking forward to reading it. Which genre would you say you write in, and have you thought about trying any other genres? Can you give us some information about what you’re working on now?

There’s no genre for my doodling – I guess it’s a mishmash.Though maybe it errs on the side of horror. Right now I’m attempting literary – an allegorical tale based on the horrors of humanity and false love and devotion. I’ve set myself another mission: eight POV characters, and dual stories (real-time and allegorical) running at the same time. Can I keep it entertaining but true? Can I use so many POVs (as well as tense and voice changes) and not lose reader? We shall see…

Well, I’ve read the start of your WIP. Although I found the prologue slightly disturbing, not being a regular reader of horror, I was intrigued by it. Once I’d read on, I was hooked by the characters. It’s an interesting premise, and I’d love to read the rest of the novel. Oh, I can see your glass is empty. Here, let me pour you a Peroni and top up my Prosecco.

Peroni beer bottleNow tell me, Johnny, what’s been your greatest writing challenge and how have you overcome it?

Cheers! Kimi’s Secret and the structure within was a challenge – making the story and the otherworld work work at the same time as making the read suitable for all ages. Kimi now has fans from age 9 to 90 – so I’m pleased with the result.

As for how did I overcome it? Multiple storyboards, notepads, draft after draft after false start after false start after pulling all my hair out – and five years to do it in.

Same thing happened to me with The Orchid Tree, which I messed about with for ages until you came along and edited it so brilliantly. Tell us how you became an editor!

When I started learning the craft I became hooked on peer review. I could see the shortcomings in the work and had to learn how to articulate those shortcomings in writing. One happy recipient asked if I would apply my analysis to the whole novel and became my first client. Word of mouth quickly brought more work, and a year later I was freelancing full-time.

You have a knack for pinpointing what works and what doesn’t in a client’s manuscript. You’ve edited nearly 100 novels, over 100 shorts and several novellas, I believe. What do you think is the secret to your editing success?

The secret to success is a happy client. I go the extra mile.

You certainly do. When you suggested some rewrites of a few chapters of The Orchid Tree, I was bowled over by the attention you gave me to help improve my story. If you could give my readers one important tip when self-editing, what would it be?

Read your work out loud, with the passion and skill of a great orator, as if you were reading to your intended audience. Doing so will unearth the blips and jars.

Can you give an example of what you mean by blips and jars?

Contractions (or the lack of) are a constant offender. People speak in contractions. So should your narrative voice.

That’s an excellent tip. On a personal note, I know you have two delightful dogs. Would you tell us about them and let us have a couple of pictures?

Ollie is a Border Terrier/Jack Russell cross, he’s around six years old, a rescue dog, lovely temperament.

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And Barney is a recent addition – he ran out in front of the car one day; a wet mass of stinking muck. We believe he’s a Whippet/Terrier cross – another lovely temperament. To quote our vet: ‘His legs are too short and he’s got a neck like a giraffe, but he’s a handsome boy.’

newpupTwo gorgeous dogs who truly think they’re little humans.

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dogs3Aw, they’re absolutely adorable.

It’s been great chatting with you, Johnny. Thanks for dropping by. Before you go, please can you leave readers with three facts that might surprise them about you?

I could tell you about the thing in the cellar, or the time with the FBI, or the banana fetish, but I might get arrested…

Ha ha ha! Readers, I told you Johnny has a wicked sense of humour. But, on a more serious note, if you’d like to know more about John Hudspith, click on this link to his website http://www.johnhudspith.co.uk/ And there are some useful tips on editing and the craft of writing on Johnny’s blog.

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An adventure with family, friends, and Jackadoodle Cara.

Hot sunshine bakes the dry river bed as we cross the Piave and drive to Valdobbiadene, sat navs at the ready to find our location. A friend from California, who’s in the wine business, is staying with his wife and has arranged for us to visit the home of Mionetto Prosecco.

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I’ve blogged about this delicious wine before, and I can’t wait to try the different varieties. Perfect for a day like today, when perspiration prickles my hairline and armpits. Sergio Mionetto was a friend of Mum’s. A real character, he was the centre of attention at many of her parties. (She was a great party-giver.) He sold the family business some years ago, with the proviso that the new owners could retain his name, and use the slogan, This is not just a Prosecco, it’s Mionetto.

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We pile out of the two cars (there’re eight of us and Cara). In the tasting room, we learn about the history of Mionetto and find out why the grapes grown on the hills around Valdobbiadene are ideal for prosecco making. It’s the thin soil, which gives way to stone, and provides the fruit with a mineral taste.

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Francesca, the lovely manager, opens bottle after bottle for us. There’re silver pots in the middle of the table, and I realise what they’re for. But how can I spit out wine after I’ve tasted it? The first two glasses go down a treat, then the sensible voice in my head tells me to take one sip only from the next three glasses and pour the rest into the pot. What a waste!

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Brother peruses the catalogue and makes his choices.

There’s a museum showcasing old vinification implements, and a collection of all the iconic wine Mionetto has produced.

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IMG_1160Brother-in-law and Cara aren’t impressed, however. Neither of them are prosecco fans.

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Laden down with purchases, we set off for lunch at the Trattoria alla Cima, which is surrounded by vineyards on the hill above the town.

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The restaurant produces its own prosecco, and the food is absolutely delicious. Check it out here! A close-up of Cara with my sister and brother-in-law.

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A thunderstorm is brewing, and rain starts to sheet across prosecco country.

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We head home via the Caffè Centrale in Asolo for some gelato. A day for the memory bank, I think.

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Monday Interview with Tina K Burton

I’m starting a new venture in my blog, where I’ll invite a fellow writer for an aperitivo and a chat. My first guest is the lovely and talented Tina K Burton. She’s a short story, article, and novel writer, and a quilling artist, which is the technique of making designs and pictures from rolled up strips of paper.

Tina’s first novel, Chapters of Life, is available in paperback and e-book, and has received a wealth of rave reviews on Amazon. When she’s not writing or quilling, Tina likes reading, running, cooking, and going for walks across the beautiful moorland where she lives in Devon, UK.

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Welcome, Tina, and what can I offer you? A glass of prosecco? A spritzer? A bellini? Or perhaps some Pinot Grigio or Valpolicalla (as we’re in Italy)?

Ooh, I’d love a spritzer, please 🙂

I’ll have one too. Nice and refreshing on a warm summer’s day.

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Okay, make yourself comfortable, Tina. We’ve known each other just over a year now since we met on Twitter. Thanks for agreeing to the interview. I’d like to start by asking, ‘What made you decide to become a writer?’

Well, I’ve always had a good imagination – I was constantly berated at school for staring out of the window rather than concentrating on my lessons – but the stories I made up in my head were infinitely more interesting than real life. Then, when I had my daughter, I made up stories for her. Once she was older and I went back to work, I had lots of ideas for articles and short stories, and started writing more seriously.

So you started making up stories when you were a child. Which authors inspired you at that time?

This is going to sound so twee, but my favourite author then was Enid Blyton. I couldn’t get enough of her books, and read almost every one. I still have some of my originals.

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We studied various authors at school and, apart from the obvious, one of my other favourites was Thomas Hardy.

I, too, loved Enid Blyton and Thomas Hardy when I was younger. What books do you enjoy reading today?

I read a variety of genres. I can’t be doing with books that are too descriptive, though. I don’t care what the surroundings are like. I want to get on with the story. I read books by Erica James, Debbie Macomber, Simon Kernick – a brilliant London-based author, his books are edge of your seat stuff – John Connolly, Daphne Du Maurier, M C Beaton. I’ll read anything that looks interesting.

You’re like me then. We both have eclectic tastes. What was the inspiration behind your debut novel, Chapters of Life?

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We lived in Sussex. I was in our local bookshop, wishing they had a cafe so I could sit with a cup of tea and a book. Suddenly this whole bookshop appeared in my mind, and the characters started to evolve around it. In a matter of days, I had the whole story in my head and just had to write it down.

Sounds wonderful. I’ve downloaded it onto my Kindle and will read it as soon as possible. You’ve just completed a second novel, The Love Shack. Please tell us about it!

Ah, it’s a humorous contemporary romance, set around a dating agency. The main character is Daisy Dorson, a rather sweet, but naive girl who’s only aim in life is to be happy and find a man she adores. We meet a selection of quirky characters who sign on looking for love, and there’s plenty of emotion and drama.

Sounds just my cuppa. What genre of romance would you say you write in, and have you thought about trying any other genres, either of romance or something else?

For my novels, I mainly write women’s fiction, but my short stories are a variety of genres, from tales with a twist to horror, crime, romance, flash fiction and adult fairy-tales. I’m always open to trying different genres, both in reading and in writing. I think it’s good to stretch yourself and try new things – it helps us become better writers.

Indeed, Tina. I know you are signed by a publisher for Chapters of Life, but would you ever consider self-publishing?

Yes, I would. There are pros and cons to both in my opinion. Whilst I feel there’s some kudos to having a publisher, I like the idea of being in control of my own book – and getting the majority of the profit. But, you have to know what you’re doing, or pay someone else who knows what to do.

Being in control and getting the majority of the profit is certainly a plus, I agree. What has been your greatest writing challenge and how have you overcome it, if you have?

I’m not a disciplined writer and I still haven’t overcome this problem. How I envy those writers who can sit at their desk at 9 am and work until 5 pm every day. I have to be in the right frame of mind to write, so I make the most of it when I am as I know it may be short lived. When I’m “in the zone”, I’ll start writing at 8 am, and still be there at 6 pm, having skipped lunch. I need to get the words down whilst they are flowing. I’ll work like this for a week or two, but then I can go for a month without writing another word. It’s very frustrating.

Well, we all have different ways of “getting the words down”. You’ve got two novels under your belt, and have had several short stories published, so obviously your method works for you. What are your plans, hopes, dreams and aspirations for the next state in your writing career?

I’d love to see my novels in bookshops, that would be wonderful, and after that, I’d really like to write for television. Gritty serial dramas, that sort of thing. But that’s a whole new ball game!

I wish you every success, Tina. It’s been great chatting with you. Thanks for dropping by! Before you go, please can you leave readers with three facts that may surprise them about you?

Hmm, okay. I smacked a camel on the nose because it spat on me. I married my next door neighbour, and, once, I spent my lunchtime watching a cremation.

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Ha, ha, ha! I’m dying to know more. Good thing I’m following your blog. Readers, if you’d like to know more about Tina, you can find her on Facebook, where she also has her own quilling page – Quillina – Twitter, and Pinterest. Details are on her website here.