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Tottie Limejuice live on Blog Talk Radio

Anyone who knows me will tell you I love to talk! I take after my paternal grandmother in that. She could talk all four legs of the proverbial donkey and then some.

So I was delighted recently to be asked by author Tumika Patrice Cain to do a telephone interview with her on BlogTalkRadio.com.

I had a few anxious moments, as my internet is unreliable, to say the least. My techy friend Alex says it’s about as much use as a piece of wet string, although all that is set to change. Incredibly, we are getting fibre optic in our tiny little hamlet in the middle of nowhere. Cables have been laid and I am told we should be connected within a month.

But in the meantime it was a case of putting my trust in the wet string and hoping the sudden high winds would not bring down trees across phone lines and cut me off.

Then there was the question of working out the time difference, with my famously appalling maths, and factoring in the change, the morning of the broadcast, to British Summer Time or Daylight Saving time, whatever it is called these days.

The final obstacle to be overcome was, as soon as I started to talk, my dog Fleur decided she also wished to be interviewed and opened her mouth to bark! I had to sprint up the stairs to my bedroom quickly, with the cordless telephone, leaving her downstairs. As I have slight asthma, the result was a rather breathless start to the interview!

But it all went very well, and there was less of a time lag than I feared. I was able to get in lots of plugs for all of my books and I thoroughly enjoyed the chat. You can listen to it here.

Talking of my books, the Three Little Pigs, ‘Sell the Pig’, ‘Is That BillingeLump?’ and ‘Mother, Was It Worth It?’, all written under the pen name Tottie Limejuice, have all now had facelifts with new cover designs from the talented Dave Michael Rogers, DMR Creative.

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All now feature the cute little Pig who is a real scene-stealer, and the paperbacks also sport the French flag down the spine. All are available from Amazon in all countries.

Meanwhile I am busy writing the second in my crime series, featuring DI Ted Darling, the sequel to ‘Baby’s Got Blue Eyes‘, written under the name of L M Krier (part of my real name), which is quietly chalking up some good reviews.

The next exciting project, later this year, will be the publication of a children’s book, ‘The Dog with the Golden Eyes’, under the name of L M Kay. It’s a nostalgic adventure story about a small boy and a dog. Watch this space for details of its release date.

 

Lesley Krier Tither – formerly known as Tottie Limejuice

What’s in a name? Well, despite being known to just about everyone as Tottie Limejuice, having an email address in that name for about 15 years, and a Facebook account in it for more than five years, Facebook have just informed me I can no longer be called Tottie Limejuice as it’s not my ‘authentic’ name.

Here is not the place to get into a debate on their rules – they are their rules, we don’t pay to use their server so we have to put up or shut up. I’ve put up – the new name, my authentic one, of Lesley Krier Tither. For those who set store by such things, Krier is pronounced Kreer – yes, it rhymes with queer but I’ve had those jokes all my life! It is the Luxembourg family name.

Even I have to keep doing a double take on Facebook to remember who this Lesley bird is, no one calls me that these days. But I’ve left the same picture up there so hopefully most people will get used to the change – probably before I do.

So the new crime novel, Baby’s Got Blue Eyes, is now available in ebook and paperback formats and early reviews are encouraging. I do hope you will enjoy this departure from my usual travel memoirs genre.

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Book II in the DI Ted Darling series is already under way and will hopefully be out later this year. In the meantime I have a few more projects in hand. Book II of the Sell the Pig series, Is That Billinge Lump, is having a makeover and a new cover to match those of its smart brothers Sell the Pig and Mother Was It Worth It.

In another departure from genre, I hope to publish my first book for children and young-at-heart adults later this year. I wrote it some time ago, I just now need to edit it. It’s about a dog, so no surprises there.

Totties’ Tours of the Auvergne are starting in April and once they are up and running, there will be a Sell the Pig series sequel, with early bookers on the tours having the chance to feature in the book, if they so choose.

With all that on my plate, all I can say is it’s a good job I retired in July as a freelance copywriter and copy editor!

Coming soon – brand new crime thriller

Somewhat belated Happy New Year to everyone. I apologise for the lack of recent posts but the reason has been a feverish spate of writing, co-writing and editing.

Just before Christmas, friends Jill Pennington, Janet Holt and I got together to meet up, write and publish a book called Take Three Birds, under the collective pen name of Jilli Lime Holt. It’s the rather crazy account of our decision to meet up in the flesh, having previously only ever ‘spoken’ via social media, e mail and text messages. It’s gone down rather well.

I’ve also been revamping the Sell the Pig series books, with smart new covers designed by DMR Creative, as well as a change of publisher for the middle one, Is That Billinge Lump. You can find details of all my books on my Amazon author page.

Cheesy as it sounds, after a dream which gave me most of the plot for a work of fiction, I have taken my first tentative steps into the world of crime writing. My first ever crime novel should be out in February 2015. As ever, I am keeping details of it under wraps until the last minute.

As it’s a detective novel, I’ll give you a clue so you can see if you can solve the mystery.

The title is a line from an Elton John song. That’s your lot.

As soon as it’s available for pre-order, I will let you have a look at the cover and synopsis and hopefully some of you will buy and read it.

Watch this space!

 

 

Sell the Pig – this little piggy had a makeover

I absolutely love the cover for Book 3 in the #SellthePig  series, ‘Mother Was It Worth It?’ A piece of really inspired design, and the little pig in the corner seems to have won everyone’s heart.

It got me thinking that it was about time Book 1, Sell the Pig itself, had a makeover. Once I got started on that track, I decided I might as well do a few tweaks to the copy whilst I was about it.

As you know, once I start talking, I find it hard to stop, so I quickly found I’d added more than ten thousand words, including two brand new chapters. Then I had a muck about with the format, adding chapter headings to bring it more into line with Books 2 and 3.

I realised I’d not made enough of two iconic features of the Auvergne region, red cows and volcanoes, so I set about remedying that, armed with my trusty camera. I’m not much of a photographer, although the shot of the Garabit Viaduct on the cover is one of mine. But how difficult could it be to photograph cows? After all, there are loads of them about here, the beautiful mahogany red Salers which typify the region.

Huh! Cows have to be the most awkward of photographic models ever! Whenever you point a camera at them, one of them will always either stick a tongue up their nose, chew the cud so their jaws and crossed and they look goofy or turn round and flash their fanny at you.

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Bums to you

If you can overcome those two problems, then you get flies photo-bombing the shot, all over the poor cow’s face. Finally, though, I managed to find a cow with not too demanding an agent who consented to stand still, the right way round, not chew the cud or do that nose trick and just generally look whimsical.

And here is the resulting brand new cover, designed by DMR Creative. I do hope you will like it.

SellThe Pig#5

Because of the amount of changes and the new Kindle rules, you cannot, unfortunately, get the updated version free as used to be the case. I certainly don’t expect people to pay the full price for the new version if they have already bought the first edition. So for one weekend only, 4/5 October 2014, it going to be at the special offer price of 99c, which is around 77p depending on the exchange rate.

I’m not advertising this special offer far and wide as I really want it to be for people who have already read and enjoyed the #SellthePig series. So make sure you snap up your bargain quick as it won’t be repeated, and please feel free to share the news amongst your friends.

As ever, would love to have your feedback! And keep watching this space for news of a very exciting new book which I’m co-authoring with two friends, which will be out in time for Christmas. Enjoy your reading!

 

Tottie’s Tours – discover the beautiful Auvergne

Welcome to Tottie’s Tours, your chance to discover for yourself the beautiful Auvergne and meet writer Tottie Limejuice

Starting April 2015

Introduction

The purpose of these holidays is to share with you the stunning splendour of the Auvergne and to give you the opportunity to discover some of the sights and meet some of the people mentioned in the Sell the Pig series of books.

Accommodation

Where else could you possibly stay but at Les Hirondelles, Chabanol, with friendly and welcoming hosts Christine and Geoff, mentioned several times in the books. In a quiet setting with outstanding views you’ll find clean and comfortable accommodation for your adventure. Tottie’s Tours are principally self-catering, although certain meals are included in the price (see itinerary).

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The self-contained gîte

You will stay in independent self-catering accommodation, a self-contained gîte, with all the facilities you need. There are two bedrooms, each accommodating two people. One room has a double and a single bed, the other has two single beds. Should anyone prefer to sleep on their own, there are two clic-clacs (bed settees) in the sitting room.

SittingRoom

Sitting room with wood burner for colder evenings

There is a shower and separate toilet on the ground floor, with ample hot water for four people. The kitchen is shared, if you decide to cook together instead of going out to eat.

House

The main house

Group Size

To make the Tours warm and personal, the maximum group size any week is four people. You can either group yourself or the organisers will group you. Please note this may mean you sharing a room with someone you have not yet met, although we hope you would be in touch with one another before the Tour begins. It’s all part of the adventure!

A car is essential for the group. Please consider car sharing wherever possible to make the holiday as green as a Tottie’s Tour should be. Please note: no transport is provided, but we will try to arrange the groups so there is room in a car for anyone without their own transport.

Adventure

Part of the spirit of a Tottie’s Tour is to have adventures! So you will have free days to go off exploring by yourself. Geoff and Christine will suggest routes and visitor attractions and I will meet up with you at the beginning of your stay, and during the week, to see how the adventure is going.

For all your self-catering needs, there is the small town of Sauxillanges just a ten-minute drive from your accommodation and there are plenty of good restaurants in the area. Eating out in the Auvergne is generally very good and not expensive. You can usually find a very good meal for anything between €12 and €30. Meals are usually four courses, starter, main, cheese board and dessert, and wine is sometimes included in the price.

Itinerary

Day Activity
Saturday Arrival late afternoon, meet Geoff and Christine. Settle into your accommodation then join your hosts for an evening meal
Sunday Breakfast with Geoff and Christine. A leisurely morning settling in, and a suggested trip to town for food supplies. After lunch (not included) a visit from Tottie Limejuice, armed with home made cake, to discuss the week and answer your questions. Evening meal is your responsibility, either prepared in the gîte or eaten out
Monday Free day for exploring. Note that many attractions and restaurants are closed on Mondays but the train to the summit of the Puy de Dôme is usually running. There are food outlets at the summit but they are aimed more at tourists than adventurers so you might prefer to eat nearby or take a picnic.
Tuesday Another free day for an adventure from the list of places to visit
Wednesday Meet up with Tottie in her hometown of Olliergues. Enjoy a leisurely lunch out at a typical Auvergnat restaurant on your way over, then meet Tottie for a guided tour of the town and some of its characters. A great opportunity to buy gifts and souvenirs like fabulous artisan soap, handmade pencils from a colourful craftsman character and delicious local cheese
Thursday A free day to do as you please. If you want to visit a typical French market, you’ll find a bustling one at Ambert, a pleasant drive from your accommodation
Friday Meet Tottie for lunch at the Bar le St Thomas, as mentioned in the books. Enjoy a fabulous meal, buy some boxes of excellent fudge and linger over a very long and leisurely meal. Now the ice is firmly broken, Tottie will regale you with some of the tales which didn’t make the editor’s cut of her books. You’ll be departing after breakfast on Saturday – please ensure your accommodation is in the same clean and tidy state in which you found it.

Suggested visits

The Auvergne is absolutely full of fabulous places to visit, you’ll find you simply don’t have time to see them all. Your hosts will be happy to make suggestions but here are a few:

The iconic Puy de Dôme volcano and its rack railway. Don’t worry, it’s dormant!

The Massif du Sancy which boasts the highest volcano in France.

For a wet day, there’s Vulcania to learn all about the region’s volcanoes.

The Maquis (resistance) memorial and museum at Mont Mouchet and the nearby Garabit Viaduct, as featured on the cover of ‘Mother, Was It Worth It?’

Any of the designated Most Beautiful Villages of France, notably nearby Usson and Montpeyroux.

Characterful nearby towns for shopping and sight-seeing, like Issoire, Ambert, La Chaise Dieu and, of course, the regional capital, Clermont-Ferrand.

How to get there

The Auvergne’s Puy de Dome region is more or less in the centre of France. Allow roughly 7.5 hours to get from Calais to your accommodation, mostly easy motorway driving. There are good flights into Clermont-Ferrand airport from hubs like Paris and from some UK regional airports, and you can hire a car there. You’ll find details of how to get to your accommodation here.

Weather

A word about the Auvergnat weather – it is predictable only for its unpredictability! It’s usually lovely but it has its moments and its climate can be extreme at times. Dress code for this area is casual at all times, even in smart restaurants, so your safest bet is always lots of layers, and do remember waterproofs, just in case. Your accommodation is rural and situated high up.

What’s included

Prices quoted include accommodation (bedding provided in the gîte but not towels), meals only as stipulated (dinner first night, breakfast first morning, and farewell lunch), visits by Tottie and guided tour by her around Olliergues, all gas and electricity in the gîte. Firewood is available for the gîte at €5 a panier, should the evenings turn chilly.

What’s not included

Towels in the gîte, any transport, meals other than as stipulated.

Prices (April, May, June and September – for other periods please ask)

Per person, per week, based on 4 people sharing the gîte –  €200

Please note, if you prefer not to share you can of course book your TottiesTour with the gîte exclusively for 2 people, at a cost of €300 per person, per week.

How to book

All bookings to be made direct via Tottie Limejuice tottielimejuice@gmail.com Bookings to be be accompanied by a 30% deposit (non-refundable), the balance to be paid in full 4 weeks before arrival date, please. Failure to do so may result in the deposit being forfeit. Payment can be made via Paypal in sterling or euros, or by direct bank transfer in either currency. Please ask for details for your preferred payment method.

Pioneer bonus

The visitors on the very first Tottie’s Tours have the chance to be featured in Tottie’s next book! So what are you waiting for – why not book TODAY.

View

View from your accommodation across to the Massif du Sancy

Penniless pensioner needs more book sales!

Big milestone for me this month. I officially retire from the ‘day job’ as a freelance copywriter on 27th July, 2014. Can’t remotely afford to retire, but then again, national insurance contributions are so high in France, I can’t remotely afford not to.

Because I’ve worked in both the UK and France, it involves a bit of a nightmare (understatement) to get my hands on my various pension entitlements, not to mention a small rain forest of paperwork in both countries. Helpful friends who have already been through it warn that it could take up to a year for me to see any pension money from either country <gulp>

So for the time being, apart from my wits, such as they are, I am mostly going to be living on royalties from the sale of the 3 books in the Sell the Pig series. And unless an author is in the league of Dan Brown, that doesn’t amount to very much.

All 3 Sell the Pig books are doing quite well, constantly vying one another for the top 3 places in the best-seller list of their categories on Amazon. Pig senior was in the lead today but now cheeky Book 3 has stormed ahead once more.

Motherwasitworthit - v3.1-flattened n polished

So I’m hoping I can count on your help for a bit of a boost in book sales. If you’ve not yet read all 3 Sell the Pig books, do please consider getting the outstanding ones. The Kindle versions are competitively priced. If you would like a signed paperback, you can buy them from me direct and that way I get a better royalty rate.

If you’ve read and enjoyed them, you could help enormously by telling your friends and perhaps sharing this post. If you haven’t already left a review on Amazon, that would help too. If you’re not sure how to do it, I’d be pleased to talk you through it.

My lifestyle is not extravagant, I don’t need much, just enough to feed me, my two cats and my two monster dogs. So if you could help to spread the word, that would be fabulous, thanks so much.

woofsSell The PigIs That Billinge Lump?

Guest Post – Book Blog Tour

Today I’m welcoming writer Jill Pennington to write a guest post on my blog. I tagged Jill in on a recent Book Blog Tour to tell us a bit about her writing process by answering three simple questions. In turn Jill will pass on the baton to some other writers so you can follow the progress of this Book Blog Tour.

Over to Jill:

I was recently asked to join a blog tour by my friend Tottie. Well the invitation was actually something more along the lines of:

“Can you find a window in between your complicated love life encounters, and do a bit of writing?”

So I sent my lover home to his wife and here I am 😉

1- What am I working on?

I am currently writing a sequel to my first book ‘The diary of a single parent abroad’ http://www.amazon.co.uk/diary-single-parent-abroad-ebook/dp/B00871I0XS/

This is however taking a lot longer than planned as I have so many other projects on the go at the moment.

With converting a Goat Shed into a camping barn, Goat Cottage  and having daily dramas on my Italian mountain, I am not finding nearly enough time to write, but hopefully all of these projects will eventually get finished.

I am also writing a new book with two other ‘birds’, including a road trip across Europe, which will hopefully be ready for publication by the end of the year – You listening, birds?

I am also writing some material for marketing Italian properties, which is a relatively new and challenging opportunity for me.

2 – Why do I write what I do?

Well after the madness of the last 24 hours this is easy to answer.

People often ask me why I write about my life in Italy, and I say because the material is delivered daily and piles up at the back of the door, so I have to do something with it.

A friend once said more happens to Jill in a week, than happens to normal people in a year.

For example last night whilst skyping my sister in Scotland, I got a call on my mobile to tell me my car had spontaneously combusted on the way to the scrap yard.

They say you couldn’t make it up – well I don’t have to!

3 – How does my writing process work?

I have always written about life events and assumed everyone did the same. After giving birth for the first time I passed my newborn son to the midwife and said,

‘Can you hold that and pass me a pen and paper please’

She was worried!

Sometimes ideas and thoughts are coming so fast that I have to get up in the middle of the night to capture them before they escape, and I often stop at the side of the road in my car to write something down. Then other days nothing comes and I can be empty for ages. It does not worry me, I have a lot of things going on in my life and I know as long as I get it all down when it comes I can make use of it later. I have become ’Italianised’ and will not be rushed!

I nominate Debbie Oakes   and Lisa Scullard to continue the book blog tour and tell you about their writing process.

Writers’ Process Blog Tour – works in progress

I’ve been rather neglecting this blog of late but then I got tagged into one of those writers’ blog tours by Janet Givens. It was an interesting one, involving everyone who is tagged answering three questions about themselves, including what our current works in progress are.

 

That was a mind-concentrating moment as, although I am heading into retirement from the ‘day job’ of copywriting and editing, I suddenly find myself a bit snowed under on present and future writing projects. So this is a good opportunity for me to set them down on paper and remind myself of what I need to get done.

 

What am I working on?

 

When I wrote the first book in the Sell the Pig series, Sell the Pig itself, I wasn’t sure what interest there would be in it. After all, every man and his dog, literally, had written about moving to France. In fact it was very well received and did extremely well.

Motherwasitworthit - v3.1-flattened n polished

 

That led to my new-found readers asking for more, which came along in the shape of first Is That Billinge Lump? Then the new baby piglet, Mother Was It Worth It?

 

 

Yet still people seem to want to know more! So much as I dislike the word, there will have to be at least one ‘prequel’ and I shall probably start on that this winter – I tend to write most prolifically when snowed in.

 

I’m very superstitious about works in progress, I tend not to reveal too much about them early on for fear of jinxing them. But here are a few ideas that are swirling round in the melting pot of my mind.

 

1. A book written in collaboration with two good friends which is such an innovative new genre we may have to think up a new name for it!

 

2. Another possible collaboration with author Suzan Collins, comparing the different strengths and weakness of the British and French healthcare systems. Am still scratching my head for any French weaknesses, so that might be a very short chapter.

 

3. Expanding on the backstory of Sell the Pig in various forms and various volumes.

 

4. Sorting out French translations of the Sell the Pig series, once I can find a suitable translator with whom I can work.

 

Why do I write what I do?

 

People love hearing about other people’s lives, it seems. I write pretty much as a speak. Friends have always liked listening to my tales and found them amusing so it’s just a continuation of that really.

 

I have written many other genres though. I wrote a storyline for a TV western, which was bought and produced, I’ve written a stage play which was given a Highly Commended mention at a drama festival in Germany, as a journalist I’ve written endless newspaper, magazine and e-magazine articles and as a copywriter I have written on just about any subject you care to mention.

 

I write a lot of press releases for clients, as well as for my own marketing and my little booklet Press Releases: An Idiot’s Guide has done very well and has helped several writers to get great free publicity for their own books.

 

How does my writing process work?

 

I do a lot of my first drafts in my head, usually when I’m walking my dogs. I’ll get an idea and churn it around in there until it comes together and when I get back from the walk, I’ll whack it out on the computer whilst it’s still fresh in my mind. I type quickly, I was taught properly, copy-typing, so can get stuff bashed out speedily

woofs

 

My two trusty helpers, Fleur (left) and Ci, who accompany on my walks whilst my brain is busy writing the next chapter

 

I always try to edit a day’s work at the end of the day whilst it’s fresh, then I’ll do several edits of the finished article before it goes to beta readers. That seems to work for me.

 

So now it’s my turn to tag people into this blog tour, so they get to write about their writers’ process. I tag Suzan Collins, of course, since we are going to be collaborating on the new project. I next tag the brilliantly talented Charlotte Stirling, whose ‘Blood on the Banana Leaf’ recently reached the editors’ desk on Authonomy.com. And finally I tag Jill Pennington, author of Diary of a Single Parent Abroad, a really great read. Jill doesn’t have her own blog so will be guest posting from mine.

 

Do drop by and meet them and discover their work!

Tottie’s Travels – Adventures in the Auvergne

Tottie takes to the road!

Just back from a short break away. I needed an enforced absence from Facebook to get on and finish editing Book III in the Sell the Pig series.

I actually ventured just outside my beloved Auvergne into the next departément, the Loire, and stayed on a delightful campsite not very far from Montbrison. I’d booked myself into a ‘chaletravane’ for four nights, basically an old caravan with two double beds in, and a spacious chalet built onto the side of it, which had a fold-away double bed settee and a kitchen/dining area. Very nice, impeccably clean, and on a working farm.

140331_ChaletravaneI opted for the bed-settee and in fact, apart from storage, didn’t use the caravan part at all as it was quite chilly at night and that was the cold part of the construction.

The dogs and I did a lot of walking, discovering the surrounding areas. We probably didn’t go all that far in actual distance, but as we managed to find old mule tracks going up and down very steep river valleys, it felt like a respectable amount of walking.

We found a beautiful walk though a very big beechwood heading towards a village called Bard

140331_Bardand then emerging into open grazing land with views back to the village

140331_Bard02

We found an amazing bird observation point for an important migratory route, with views to Mont Blanc in the distance, on a clear day, which unfortunately it wasn’t

140331_BirdsOne evening I dined en famille with the owners, which was very nice, and on Sunday I treated myself to lunch out at the excellent Auberge de Conol. Coincidentally, I had eaten there last yet when going exploring with Alex and had no idea I was going back to the same area.

After lunch I discovered a honey producer and the kind man was foolish enough to let me loose with little spoons and pots of honey to taste. I could put Winnie the Poo to shame in the honey-eating stakes! I came away with two big jars, one of honey from the local fir trees and one a mixed flowers one, heavy on the broad-leaved lime flowers, as that’s a particular fragrance of mine.

Our route back home took us over the top of the Col du Béal where there was still enough snow to block my usual route home so I took the slightly longer way down, after the dogs and I had had a nice walk over the top of the Col to look at the viewpoint. I saw a short-toed eagle close enough to count the feathers in his wings!

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Really nice break, and I think, maybe, possibly, just about, I have finished tinkering about with Book III, so it should be  coming to a Kindle near you soon – watch this space!

Tottie’s Grottages Part III – Sell the Pig series

So now we come to grottage No. II. You’ve all seen the horrors of my first place in Lincolnshire, now sold to pay for the second project here in France.

Of course after such a mammoth project with the Lincolnshire grottage, no-one in their right mind would take on something similar a second time, would they? Ah, but we are talking about your very own Tottie here, don’t forget!

My plan was never to buy my own place but to carry on living at the Pink House. If you’ve read ‘Is That Billinge Lump?’ you’ll know why that ceased to be an option, and why and how I set about finding a place of my own.

My first view of the outside was promising.

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And from the front

180810Front

And the view to the rear was certainly a clincher

100915ViewWestfrom BackGarden

Plus there was a large ‘orchard’ just across the road

180810Orchard

But I was, once again, on a limited budget, so I was never going to be able to afford anything ready to move into with no work at all to be done, especially to get something I really wanted. So there were going to be snags.

 

Like the ‘kitchen’ for instance

101008_Kitchen

But at least it had a sink

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And then there was the lovely sitting room

181008SittingRoom

But surely the bedrooms would be better?

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Or what about …

180810Bedroom03

And then there was the ‘bathroom’

181008Bedroom

Oh well, my motto has always been ‘I like a challenge!’ The only thing to do was roll up my sleeves and get stuck in. Hopefully, when you see the ‘After’ pictures, you will see a bit of a difference.

Tottie’s Grottages Part II – Sell the Pig series

Did somebody mention wanting to see the After pictures?

The little grottage in Lincolnshire, branded as ‘unfit for human habitation’ when I first bought it, soon started to take shape. It took about four weeks of daily scrubbing with bleach to get rid of the rather rural smell. After that I set the builders to, replacing the worst of the rotten floorboards and installing a new kitchen and bathroom.

Before long, the kitchen looked like this:

new kitchen 3

and then, once tiled, like this:

New kitchen 2

There was a nice little guest bedroom for Mother whenever she wanted to visit:

090128GuesRoom

With a little help from Meic, my dog, who loved digging, I ripped out the hideous old stone cladding modern fire surround and found a beautiful inglenook behind it, into which I put a wood burning stove:

090128SittingRoom

And there were beautiful gardens back:

Back garden 1

and front:

Front garden 2

So this was Tottie’s Grottage in Lincolnshire. Soon, I’ll be posting about my second grottage, here in France, befores and afters once more.

 

Tottie’s Grottages – Sell the Pig series by Tottie Limejuice

Those of you who have read ‘Sell the Pig’ and ‘Is That Billinge Lump?’ will know that grottage is my word, coined by a friend, for a grotty cottage. And I have a bit of a history of buying them.

The first property I ever owned in my own right was a classic example. It was described by the surveyor as ‘unfit for human habitation’ as it had been home to an assortment of animals – dogs, cats, chickens, ducks and goats, all indoors – for several years and the smell inside was ‘rural’, to say the least.

I first saw it in company with my mother and my Auntie Ethel, she who invented the name Tottie Limejuice, which I adopted. Mother was horrified and kept saying ‘no, no, no’ as we looked round. But adventurous Auntie, bless her, saw the potential and encouraged me to buy it.

It didn’t help that the first thing we saw was the ‘kitchen’ as the only door to the property, at the rear, opened directly onto it, in all its glory. Be very thankful that no-one has yet invented a way to include smell in a blog post!

kitchen before

Unfit for human habitation? Surely not!

Perhaps the thing worrying Mother the most was the guest bedroom, as she liked to come and stay with me quite often.

guest bedroom before

What guest wouldn’t love spending the night in this delightful spare room?

Or perhaps, knowing her love of gardening and enjoyment of spending time outdoors, she was a little daunted by the gardens in their raw state.

garden before

A field of nettles was what constituted a garden.

Never mind, we would be able to make ourselves comfortable in the homely sitting room, surely?

sitting room before

Such a cosy room in which to put your feet up at the end of the day!

But buy it I did. It was in an extremely sought after village in the Lincolnshire Wolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, where properties very seldom come onto the market, and because of the state it was in, it was a snip of a price.

With a lot of elbow grease and bleach and the help of a good local builder, slowly it began to emerge from its chrysalis of grime to show the beautiful butterfly within.

But you’ll have to wait until the next blog post to see the ‘after’ photos.

The Pink House days from Sell the Pig

Lots of you have been asking for more photos of the Pink House as described in Sell the Pig, and in more detail in Is That Billinge Lump. Lots of you wanted to see photos of the interior after I’d slapped white paint all over that ‘lovely’ wallpaper in the sitting room.

Funnily enough, I discover that I didn’t actually take any pictures specifically of the changed décor, it’s just there as background to various photos of the many tea parties Mother enjoyed.

If you have read both books, you will know that Mother loved picnics and tea parties more than anything else, so we had lots of both. She loved to be the centre of attention and would sit holding court and reciting all the poems from her childhood, which she could still remember.

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Inside the Pink House – sitting room

She loved having her photo taken too, as you can see from the way she is smiling at the camera! Of course there would always be a cake, and candles, which she usually managed to blow out.

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Birthday tea at the Pink House

Whenever possible, her two favourite carers – mine too! – would be at the party to help look after her.

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Mother with Lili (left) and Emilie

And when we weren’t having tea-parties, Mother and I, with Meic the dog, were out having picnics at many of the beauty spots near to the Pink House (this is the Chateau de Chazeron) …

CHATEAU DE CHAZERON 27 JANUARY 2008

Chateau de Chazeron

or pottering and tottering in the garden at the Pink House

Lunch03_260807

The Pink House – garden

where she celebrated many a happy birthday – this was her 90th

Motherandorchid_140407

9o years young

But as you will know if you’ve read ‘Lump’, because of circumstances described therein, I went on to buy my own house, Tottie’s Grottage, where I now live.

So look out for some blog posts about my grottage, coming soon. And if you’ve not yet read the first two books in the Sell the Pig Series, Sell the Pig and Is That Billinge Lump?, get a wiggle on. Book III is due to be published in April!

So who is Tottie Limejuice?

Everyone always wants to know where I got the name Tottie Limejuice, the pen-name under which I wrote Sell the Pig and Is That Billinge Lump?, the name which I also use for my Facebook and Twitter names.

Well she’s an invention of my late Auntie Ethel, mother’s older sister. She was the one who never married, whose role was helping her mother with the large brood. Auntie had a wonderful way of making up words and phrases, like a flopper-dopperer, for someone who was a bit foppish, or kneely-knawling down, for when you kneel but also have to scrabble about a bit. Auntie was a dress-maker, seamstress and milliner so when she was pinning up hems, she had to do a lot of kneely-knawling.

Mother with her family. From left to right: younger sister Doris, younger brother John, brother in law Leslie, (the Judge, Doris’s husband), mother, and older sister Ethel.

As Auntie got older she got very confused and would accuse glamorous and well-off younger sister of coming to her house and stealing her home-made knickers and swanning around “like Tottie Limejuice”. I liked the name so much, I claimed it for my own.

At one of Doris’s many luncheon parties at the “Big House”: Left to right: Auntie Ethel, Uncle Leslie, Auntie Doris, Uncle John, Mother.

It was Auntie Ethel who encouraged me to buy my grottage in Lincolnshire when it was in such an awful state that the surveyor I got to check it over for mortgage purposes described it as “unfit for human habitation!”.  She was a frequent visitor, with mother, to my homes wherever I lived, including travelling by coach out to Germany where I lived for four years.

Like mother, she was always interested in gardening so whenever they visited, we always took a trip to a local garden centre or park.

               Mother with her older sister Ethel, the creator of “Tottie Limejuice”

 

So now you know where the name comes from!

Moving to France – first views of the Pink House

Saturday, April 21, 2012

 

Note: As you can see, I actually wrote this blog post some time ago, but I thought I would reproduce it here for those who have not yet seen it, because it shows a bit about the Pink House from Sell the Pig, when we first saw it.

If anyone’s thinking of moving to France just for the weather, think again! Today is just like the weather we left behind in Wales, only with nicer scenery. It’s cold, it keeps raining and hail-stoning, and the sun is nothing but a fleeting visitor.

Time to update the blog and probably high time you saw some pictures of the “pink house” as we saw it first, although it wasn’t really pink at all, anywhere other than in the estate agent’s online pictures!

“Both on paper and in the flesh, so to speak, this one looked very promising. According to the internet details, it had seven bedrooms and three bathrooms, was on three storeys and had a good-sized garden. We nicknamed it the pink house, as the photo showed the rendering as a pale rose pink, although in reality it was a lot paler and more washed out.”
 
Our first view of “the pink house”
 
“They do warn house viewers to try to see past existing décor to what the place will look like once you’ve stamped your own mark on it. Sound advice. The decoration in the pink house was truly hideous. Very nineteen seventies. The sitting room had two very strong contrasting patterned wallpapers, which didn’t go together, neither of which was very nice even in isolation and in unison presented a full frontal assault to the senses.”
 
The retro sitting room
 
“But the layout was practically perfect for what we wanted. On the top floor was a bright, light three-bedroomed apartment with shower room and loo and some open space to create a small cooking and dining area. Ideal to let as B&Bs or a self-contained flat. It had very nice south-facing views, and the possibility to create a sunny roof terrace on top of the roof of the room below, which jutted out in front of it.”
 
View from the top floor flat
 
And, just because it’s a very cold day today and there’s still a lot of snow on the volcanic peaks all around, a view of what this part of France can look like in winter!
Don’t forget, kind readers, I’m relying on you to tell me what photos you’d like to see. Hope you will enjoy these, will post some more on the next rainy day, which won’t be too long, if the weather forecast is anything to go by! Do leave me your comments here, about the book, or the blog, or France, or Life, the Universe and Everything.

Press Releases: An Idiot’s Guide – Free Publicity Through the Media

I like to try to help people if and when I can. An Indie author friend had not had much luck drumming up publicity for her book by contacting local papers.

Now it just so happens I used to be a journalist. What’s more, in my current job  as a freelance copywriter, I often write press releases, sometimes for market leaders in retail. So I whizzed off a quick general press release for said friend which she sent out.

Almost at once she was contacted by the local paper from her former home town (she’s now an expat, like me) who ran a nice big piece on her, with pictures. Within hours of that appearing, she was contacted by a press agency who are now trying to sell her story to the highest bidder. So it proves that the method works.

So I thought I would share the knowledge, and I’ve just published a mini guide on writing your own press releases. I’m charging just 77p for it in the UK, of which Amazon gets the lion’s share. But us Indie authors need all the pennies we can get.

If you’re interested, you can get a copy here.  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Press-Releases-Idiots-Publicity-Through-ebook/dp/B00HPX50XW/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1389120505&sr=1-3&keywords=tottie+limejuice

No, you don’t have to be an idiot to read it. The title is intended to show how simple a guide it is. But it should give you all you need to write your own press releases and get results from them.

It’s written from an author’s angle but the great thing about it is it adapts easily to anything you are trying to publicise. So when you are trying to drum up interest in something, it’s the perfect guide to reach for. Best 77p you’ve ever spent?

Leaving home in the UK to move to France

Just to prove I do listen to my kind readers and respond to their requests, here, especially for Carl, are some of the pictures of my “grottage” near Market Rasen, Lincolnshire.  Affectionately known as “The Hammer House of Horrors” when I bought it because it was in such an appalling state, having been largely lived in by animals for years.

As ever, photographs are accompanied by relevant text from my book, Sell the Pig, for the benefit of those who have not read it and to link things together for those who have.

“I wasn’t particularly thinking of buying a property at this stage in my life, and certainly was not certain that that area was where I wanted to put down long-term roots, having been there barely six months. But, like the Elephant’s Child, I am full of “’satiable curtiosity”.
 
“So when a neighbour told me horror stories of a cottage in the hamlet that was coming up for sale, I simply had to go and take a look at it. She told me it had been repossessed by the mortgage company when the former occupant, who apparently had some mental health issues, fell behind with payments and became unable to live there on her own any more.

“According to my source, the house was in very poor condition, as she’d kept all of her animals indoors for years – and I do mean all. Apparently the menagerie included dogs, cats, chickens and goats.”
  Main bedroom
“It’s hard to say which of our senses was assaulted first. The smell was indescribable. But my eye was immediately drawn to the tell-tale dark brown stains all over the floors and the door frames, wherever we looked.
 
“Before we’d even stepped over the threshold Mother was already saying “No, oh no.” But Auntie, who was surprisingly intrepid, was bumbling about peeping into rooms and cupboards and following me up the stairs and round the bedrooms – very brave, as parts of the upstairs floor boards had been rotted away with presumably several years’ accumulation of animal urine.”
 
First impressions on entering – the “kitchen”
….”I loved my cottage, now promoted from grottage, with a lovely garden, all created by my own hands. My predecessor there obviously had some very serious issues as, once I started digging in the mass of nettles and runaway lonicera nitida which was all there was of a garden, all I came up with was endless pairs of tights inside Walkers’ crisp packets.
 
“Not sure which flavour. The blue bags. I only like the plain ones so I don’t know the colours of the different flavours. But whatever the former resident had been trying to achieve, I can tell you that no matter what soil you plant that combination in, it simply doesn’t grow into anything.”
 
The garden, as I saw it first
That’s your lot for today, but I promise to show you some of the “after” photographs, after the promotion from grottage to cottage.  Do please leave me your comments and as ever, this blog is driven by you.  What yea ask for shall be given unto thee, or something like that.
 

 

Moving to France – why the Auvergne?

Faithful readers of Sell the Pig will already know that my decision to move to France’s Auvergne had a lot to do with a certain drinks advert.Back in the 1970s, Dubonnet was advertised with a slogan of, I think,  “Way up there” to the sound of the achingly beautiful shepherd’s song Bailero from Canteloube’s Songs of the Auvergne. This link is far from being the best ever version of the song but it does have the advantage of showing you some of the stunning scenery of this very green region with its hopefully extinct volcanoes.

Having listened to the music, I’d long held a desire to visit the region and as soon as I did, it captured my heart. So I was amused on a recent guided walk round a little local town, Cunlhat, (and if you think it looks hard to pronounce, I can tell you the locals pronounce it nothing like it looks!) to come across this painted gable end, advertising Dubonnet!

It’s rather ironic, as when I first began work as a cub reporter in Manchester, my editor was nicknamed Pissquick – you can guess why – and his wife was an alcoholic, whose favourite tipple was Dubonnet.

But that’s another story – perhaps for the sequel to Sell the Pig!

In memory of a dear friend in ‘Billinge Lump’

‘Is That Billinge Lump’ is the second book in the Sell the Pig series and continues the story of what happened after my mother, brother, my dog Meic and I moved into our new home in France.

Shortly after ‘Lump’ was published, I received news from the UK that a very dear friend of mine, Peg, whom I introduced in ‘Billinge Lump’, had died, aged 94. I had known Peg and her husband Bob since the mid-1970s, when we all lived in the same area of South Wales. Their youngest son’s girlfriend came to work on the South Wales Guardian, where I was a reporter.

Despite being of almost exactly the same age as my parents, Bob and Peg seemed to have a much younger outlook and we got on really well. In particular, I loved Peg’s wicked sense of humour.

They came and visited us in France several times and Mother was always pleased to see them, as they had all become friends over the years, although she never remembered who they were to begin with. They were staying at the time I was buying Tottie’s Grottage, so they were one of the first people to see it, in all its shambolic glory.

I’d taken them with me on my little R&R trip, and we had all stayed with great friends of mine, Geoff and Christine, at their lovely bed and breakfast, about an hour from the grottage at Chabanol.

Sunleys01Bob and Peg at Chabanol with Geoff and Christine and their dog Bounty

Sunleys02

Bob and Peg with their eldest son Bobby, with Geoff and Bounty

This post is by way of a tribute to my great friend Peg. One of the things for which she will be best remembered is her rather risqué limericks. Some of them were just not repeatable in polite company, but I did reproduce the mildest of them all in ‘Lump’. So if you have not yet read the book, here, just for you, is Peg’s limerick.

‘There was a young man from Aberystwyth

Who took his girlfriend home to play whist with.

But instead of that,

They sat on the mat,

And played with the things that they pissed with.’

Peg, you always could make everyone laugh. RIP, my friend.

Living with elderly care – the lighter side of dementia

Dementia has sadly become so much more commonplace, as people are living longer than ever before. One of the reasons I decided to write the Sell the Pig series of books was because although my mother had vascular dementia (mercifully not Alzheimer’s) she was still very amusing.

In fact, the more gaga she became, the more she would have us all in stitches, herself included, on many occasions, at some of the funny things she said. Those of you who have already read ‘Sell the Pig’ and ‘Is That Billinge Lump?’ will know that she became rather like a naughty child and loved to say ‘bum’ and ‘bugger’ as often as possible. Some of her favourite sayings and poems are reproduced in the books. If you’ve not yet read them, here’s her most famous of all, which gave rise to the title of the trilogy, ‘Sell the Pig’:

‘Mother, mother, it’s a bugger, sell the pig and buy me out.’ It’s an old saying, about a young man not enjoying military service and writing home to persuade his impoverished farming family to cash in their only investment to secure his early release. Mother always claimed that it was an uncle of hers who had first used the phrase, although there is no way of knowing if that is true or not.

When she could no longer manage on her own because of her dementia, and when home care proved totally inadequate, Mother had to move into a care home. She went to stay in a lovely one, in her native St Helens, where her elder sister was also a resident. She was extremely well looked after there. She was happy, we were happy.

Mother2 Sept 2005Mother in the care home, with her favourite toy dog, Baby,who gave the carers many a fright, thinking he was real!

Sadly as her health declined she was in need of a higher level of nursing care, for which we moved her to a home in Wales, nearer to where my brother lived and where I was temporarily staying. Things there were not a huge success and she was clearly not nearly so happy.

Carmarthen museumMother on a visit to Carmarthen Museum, after she made the move to the nursing home in Wales

When my brother and I first started mooting the idea of us all moving to France together, all the staff at the nursing home thought we were completely insane and would kill Mother off before we even got as far as the channel tunnel. Only her GP was supportive. His attitude was very much ‘she’s 89, with not a very brilliant prognosis. Why not give her one last adventure?’

Mother had always been quite adventurous. She had often visited me when I lived in Germany, usually making the long journey by coach herself and being quite undaunted. We told her we were taking her to France for a holiday, rather than worrying her with the thought of it being a permanent move. She was apprehensive about the journey itself, but not about the adventure. She said if she could just go to sleep and wake up by magic in France, she would love to go.

So the idea for her last big adventure started to take shape and  my brother and I were to spend many hours plotting and planning to bring it all about. When we finally found a suitable house, and brought pictures to the home to show Mother, she suddenly started to recover some of her spark and show a bit more of an interest.

Planning the great adventure with Mother, at the nursing home in Wales

Planning the great adventure with Mother, at the nursing home in Wales

This is a brand new blog, to support the Sell the Pig series of books, with the idea of sharing with you some of the photos of the people you have read, or may read about in the future. So don’t forget your input – who or what would YOU like to see photos of?

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