The Night Porter

The Night Porter
Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the hotel...

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Author and MS-defying motivational speaker Karen Magill - around the Cauldron

Karen Magill was trotting along quite nicely, enjoying life, clubbing, following bands (mostly Poison), editing a rock fanzine, and just doing her thing when she was - cutting a long story short - diagnosed with MS. 

Losing a top job, she soon found herself unemployed and on benefits. Earlier this year, she wrote her story. I read it the other day and it is an eye opener.  

Karen's work fits squarely in a long tradition of exposition, memoir and true life "factionalisation" of physical and mental health issues and arguably, Indie has played a significant part in allowing authors to share their stories and to show that sufferers of conditions like MS are not alone.

An envied resident of the beautiful city of Vancouver, I contacted her as she wandered the streets of the city's artists quarter. Here's what she had to day.

Tell us a bit about yourself, Karen?
I come from a family of writers. My paternal grandmother was a published author and I have always written. When I was diagnosed with MS and forced to leave my position in the government, I realized that I now had the time to pursue my dreams of writing.

For those of you unfamiliar with MS, here's a breakdown

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a nervous system disease that affects your brain and spinal cord. It damages the myelin sheath, the material that surrounds and protects your nerve cells. This damage slows down or blocks messages between your brain and your body, leading to the symptoms of MS. They can include
  • Visual disturbances
  • Muscle weakness
  • Trouble with coordination and balance
  • Sensations such as numbness, prickling, or "pins and needles"
  • Thinking and memory problems
No one knows what causes MS. It may be an autoimmune disease, which happens when your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake. Multiple sclerosis affects women more than men. It often begins between the ages of 20 and 40. Usually, the disease is mild, but some people lose the ability to write, speak, or walk.

Mary Barnes and alternative psychiatrist
RD Laing wrote a brilliant true life exposition of a journey
through schizophrenia

In what genre do you write?  
When I write fiction, I write paranormal and my non-fiction is motivational. To date, I have three published fiction books and one nonfiction. 

I also write a blog on Vancouver called the Vancouver Vagabond. It is filled with photos and the history of this city I love. Presently, I live in an eclectic area of the city.

Vancouver Vagabond BLOG Click Here

One of the world's most beautiful cities, Vancouver

Tell us about your latest work, Karen

Memoir and motivational autobiography
of Karen's experience with MS

My latest work is a motivational book entitled On The Right Side, My Story of Survival and Success. It tells my story of living with multiple sclerosis. 

Here's an extract:

When I was nineteen, after the accident on the horse, I lived in a bachelor suite in an older home, not far from where I live now, and went to fashion college in Gastown. One day, I started to have tremors, my entire body was shaking. My parents lived in Kamloops, over 200 miles away, but a friend of theirs took me to the emergency room at St. Paul’s Hospital. I had a few people look me over and someone called the neurologist on duty. He must have been called away from an important event because he showed up in a tuxedo. After examining me, he told me I could control the tremors if I wanted to. 

I took this to mean I was making it up.

Once a medical professional gives me that impression, I don’t want anything to do with him or her any longer. I feel that he or she is not going to pay proper attention to my case any longer and will just write me off. That is a personality flaw I have to change because there are times when I have to fight for myself, not that I really like to. (I know, my Irish ancestors are probably rolling over in their graves because I don’t like to stir up trouble .) Sometimes I think doctors and such just don’t know what is wrong and are frustrated. It is easier to think that a person is making up or exaggerating symptoms when a cause can’t be found. Because people do invent illnesses for attention . Another possibility is that I am misconstruing the situation and being too sensitive. Medical professionals are not all knowing Gods – although some may act like it – they are people who are constantly learning and can make mistakes.

Magill, Karen (2014-02-15). On The Right Side: My Story of Survival and Success (Kindle Locations 334-342). CreateSpace. Kindle Edition. 

Labour Spinmeister-in-chief Alistair Campbell
wrote about his battle with depression.

What was the motive behind writing this book? Did you find writing the book cathartic? Was there a compulsion to explain? 
In June of 2000, I woke to find myself partially paralyzed on one side of my body and was diagnosed with MS nine days later.  Just over three months later, I was forced to leave the best job I had ever had. I didn’t realize at the time but I had been given a gift. Now my time was my own and I could chase my dreams. 

"I wanted to write this book to show people who are going through similar situations that the acceptance of your situation doesn’t come immediately and that it is okay to screw up. For some reason, I couldn’t write it for years. Something changed last year though and it just started flowing out of me."

Brenda Perlin's "factional" account
of the breakup of her marriage
and genesis of a new relationship
I consulted diaries I had kept at the time and I found it emotionally taxing to write. It was cathartic. I don’t know about the explaining part though, I don’t feel a need to explain anything really.

Was it physically tough to write the book?
Physically, it wasn’t hard. Emotionally it was tough. I realized that I hadn’t dealt with many of the emotions I went through at the time.

Is the Independent publishing landscape an apt one for this type of work?
I chose to indie publish this book because then I’m in control. There is no waiting months to get something done that can be accomplished sooner. 

Indie author Amanda Green's popular account of
Borderline Personality Disorder
What are the challenges in writing this type of soul searching non-fiction. What has been the reaction of your friends and family?
I haven’t heard back from my family yet on this one but a friend of mine with MS phoned me and told me how she could relate to certain events.

Simon Weston's account of his life
before and after the Argentinian
missile attack on HMS Galahad

Follow Karen Magill on Twitter

You are also a motivational speaker. Tell us more about that. How was your work as a personal developer and motivator inspired by your condition?

I am inspired by the MS because I am going through a life path that many would just give into. I want people to realize that they don’t have to give in and that many times what seems to be a tragedy or crisis can be the best thing to ever happen to them.

Where can readers hear you speak?
I have a few videos, short ones, on Youtube but if you want to hear me speak live, then you can always hire me! LOL

The Giants Within awaken and as you are about to speak at a weekend retreat on a sun splattered beach on Vancouver Island, you are  kidnapped and taken to Castle Robbins on the border with Alaska. They leave you. Ever-resourceful, you discover a trunk, break open the lock and lift the lid. You find a book, a CD, a DVD and a Dessert. What would you like them to be.
For a book, I would love to find the Complete Works of Shakespeare because it is long and I wouldn’t get it read quickly.

for a CD, older Bon Jovi; 

The Crow with Brandon Lee for a DVD 

and Tiramisu for dessert.

Invite two inspirational figures and a comedian to dinner. And what would you eat.
My dinner of spaghetti with butter, shrimp and parmesan cheese would be shared with 
Sir Richard Branson 

Anthony Robbins 

and Robin Williams.

And what do fans of Karen Magill have to look forward to in 2014.

In 2014, I should have the sequel to Missing Flowers published. 

That one is entitled, A Little Poison. I will continue to work on getting more speaking engagements and hopefully other interview opportunities.

Karen, it has been an absolute pleasure to see you on the show and I wish you every success with your ventures in 2014.
Thank you, Wiz!

Karen's Writing Group - Martin Crosbie, Karen Dodd and
Karen herself

On The Right Side:

A Southport Beach Shrimper finds ingredients to
go nicely with Karen's spaghetti

One of many drug addiction and recovery
memoirs available - by ex crack addict
Bill Clegg

Ex Karen fave, hairspray and spandex
glam band Poison

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Author Sarah Tipper talks Diary Fiction - Around The Cauldron

Sarah Tipper by Bernie Galweski
This week, humourist and insane metal fan Sarah Tipper joins us once more  to celebrate the release of her fourth book, The Very Metal Diary of Cleo Howard. 
Sarah attracted a cult following for her Eviscerated Panda trilogy, which has featured around the Cauldron before, but with this latest book, methinks, with some luck,  she could attract a wider audience

Have a check of the preview on Amazon - the Wizard found it very amusing. A Psychologist by education, and scientist by trade, I contacted her on the Wizphone as she squinted into a microscope in an underground laboratory in deepest Oxfordshire. Here's what she had to say.

Tell Wizardwatchers a bit about yourself, Sarah?
Hmmm, where to start? I have two Psychology degrees, I live in Oxford, I like making chili con cottage pie, I think sunrises are over rated, I can almost creep up on people from the front, on a good day I might walk past three cats that miaow to greet me, I get rid of unwanted doorstep callers by smiling and telling them I won’t take up any more of their time. One of my favourite smells is coconut, I can’t make pastry but this has not held me back and the tune my doorbell plays is The Can Can. 

I do have a more traditional biography on my Amazon author page. 

Sarah's er, much more traditional bio!

Sarah at Cadburyworld
What has happened to your multi-coloured hair? Have you a job interview? 
I still have the flamboyant flamingo pink hair, I just like to use photos of my natural gingerness online sometimes. The biggest fans of my pink hair seem to be toddlers and older gentlemen. Toddlers tend to say “Look Mum, Barbie hair” while the older chaps tell me I brighten the place up. 

I’ll probably go back to ginger soon because I do like my natural colour and I am the world’s worse fidget (and the world’s worst exaggerator) so sitting still in the hairdresser reading about Peter Andre drives me a bit mad. 

Albert Lynch of Cowley. As big a fan of flourescent hair as
you can get.
"I once went to a job interview in black velvet flares, an Ozzy Osbourne T-shirt and a studded dog collar. I got the job, which was for a very groovy greetings card company. I now work in a laboratory, doing cancer research which apart from writing is my big passion". 

Popular novel about, er, a rock star

In what genre do you write? 
Some call it rock fiction, although I would call it metal fiction. Actually I like to be included in any genre, I’m friendly like that ;) 

One of the few trad novels out there
about metal bands

Tell us about your latest work.
My latest work is The Very Metal Diary Of Cleo Howard. 

Sarah's new diary fiction

Cleo is one of the main characters from my Eviscerated Panda Trilogy

When Cleo was fifteen years old it was music and her mates who kept her sane through school and a family break up. 

Writing this diary was a lot of fun, it involved drinking Malibu for research purposes and buying a Viennetta (which I think has become less ornate than in previous years, but perhaps I have just become too sophisticated to appreciate it as much as I used to). 

"When you’re forty teenage angst is a lot more bearable. I’d like to think this book is part metal appreciation and part sex education. It’s a snapshot of both the year 1997 and of the mind of a fifteen year old girl". 

A rare film about fame and bands

What are the challenges in writing diary-based fiction. And what are the challenges in writing comedy? I find that incredibly difficult to write.
Repetitiveness is a challenge when writing diary based fiction, also writing the diary of a fifteen year old has the constraint that your life at this age is fairly timetabled and rigid, you can (and do) kick against it, but there it is. The fun thing about a diary format is that you can include a variety of writing. There are lists, three poems and a recipe in Cleo’s diary. Two of the poems are terrible.

Classic seventies film about a rock star, with one of the
finest soundtracks of a music film ever. If anyone has a
CD of this, contact the Ed in the comments.

When it comes to writing comedy I just write what amuses me. I like silliness and mild rudeness, very gentle comedy, like that of the TV programme “Open All Hours”. 

Were you a fan of Adrian Mole? Are there comparisons with Cleo Howard that readers can make? Was there another inspiration for the book?
I was a massive Adrian Mole fan, in fact I love everything Sue Townsend has written. When she first started writing she was too shy to show her work to anyone. I’m so glad she got over this. I am also a huge fan of Rae Earl’s My Mad Fat Teenage Diary. 

As well as books a couple of TV programmes made me want to write Cleo’s diary; Kathy Burke’s Walking And Talking which features some great punk music and Home Time by Emma Fryer and Neil Edmond which captures the nineties beautifully. 

Sue Townsend
Cleo shares some features with Adrian Mole and with many other teenagers; the frustrations of family life, of wanting your maturity acknowledged, of wanting success with the opposite gender. 

A fanatic Sue Townsend fan holds you up at gunpoint at a Motorhead tribute night at the Dog and Duck. 
You are taken to an abandoned farm just outside Reading and left to rot over the weekend. You discover a sack. 

Inside are a book, a CD a DVD and a big bar of chocolate. What would you like them to be?

My mother warned me that hanging out at the Dog and Duck would lead to trouble, but at least I heard some great music before my farm based captivity. 

My favourite ever Motorhead song. Limb from Limb
Track 10 from "Overkill"

The book I find in the sack is Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. 

The CD is the self-titled debut album of Down Among The Dead Men, 

the DVD is the  Rasputin The Mad Monk, 

The entire sequence involving Christopher Lee's dance double
is worth watching 

the chocolate is Cadbury’s Dairy Milk

Fantastic choc choc

I enjoy a very pleasant weekend and I train a choir of field mice to sing the whole of AC/DC’s Back In Black album in order to get round the only one CD stipulation. 

"One of the mice shows an amazing natural talent and learns to do Angus Young’s trademark duck walk. A friendly owl brings a scrap of material to make a tie and shorts for Angus mouse and the mouse choir go on tour". 

Hahahahaha. I can see it. So, what’s been the highlight of your time in Independent Fiction?
There have been a lot of highlights; my Granddad reading the dedication to him in the third volume of the Eviscerated Panda trilogy is the most recent highlight, reviews from metal websites have regularly made my day, a friend telling me she can’t read my books before bed because they make her excited and want to go out, another friend who was waiting for a doctor’s appointment telling me she read my book while waiting and it felt like she had a friend with her. It’s always lovely when someone takes the time to be interested in my writing. 

"There are so many books out there so I really do appreciate it when someone takes the time to look at one of mine."

Do you listen to any other type of music? Do you have a secret (embarrassing) like for another genre, like country, or jazz funk?
Jazz funk gives me a nasty rash and country makes me want to start a consciousness raising group for downtrodden women in gingham blouses and jean shorts. 

The things that I think people would be surprised to find in my itunes are The Wombles, Russ Abott (I won’t hear a word said against the Botster), The Nolans and David Hasslehoff’s slightly chilling pop offering “Get In My Car” (above)

Invite one author, one musician and one actor to dinner. And what would you eat?
I’m going to invite you Wiz, (thank you, Sarah :-) )

Dave Mustaine from Megadeth and 

Cassandra Peterson (who played Elvira Mistress Of The Dark). This will make you the only non-ginger guest. We’re having macaroni cheese and Viennetta. 

I imagine our dinner conversation will be varied and lively, a meeting of four great minds. Either that or I’ll get star struck and spend all evening giggling. Like Moss from the IT Crowd I get a hot ear when I’m nervous.  

Another run out for the Michael the Magnificent sketch from
seminal geek comedy, The IT Crowd, featuring Richard Ayoade (Moss)

Finally, what do fans of Sarah Tipper have to look forward to in 2014?
I’m working on two books currently. One is the fourth volume in the Eviscerated Panda Trilogy, it’s called So Far, So Good, So Panda (Douglas Adams wrote a trilogy in four parts so I’m following his lead).  

Hahahahahaha....only you, Sarah.
Hahaha. The other is Cleo Howard’s next diary, the year is 1998 and she will be sixteen. This will lessen legal and parental controls on her behaviour somewhat. In this year Sunny Delight becomes available in the UK, the Spice Girls continue to be everywhere, much to her horror, and she gets a snowball thrust down her T-shirt. 

Sarah, once again, it's been a pleasure to hear from you and all Wizardwatchers wish you the best of luck - and many peaceful nights in the Dog and Duck - in 2014.

Thanks again for this lovely opportunity Wiz, it's much appreciated  Xx

Sarah's Most Recent Birthday
Follow Sarah on Twitter

Follow Sarah on Facebook

Sarah Tipper's Original Interview around the Cauldron

Sarah Spotlighted on Cecilia Spark Blog HERE

The Walking Australian
Six Pack himself

Book involving a Norwegian Black Metal
band= allegedly ripped off the Green Wizard title of the same
name which is about a teenage emo (and her mum)
Dinner guest, Dave Mustaine

Panto star David "Cap'n Hook" Hasselhoff.
Adored in Nottingham. And most of Bavaria.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Calling All RomComedians - Tara Ford...Around The Cauldron

This week, we have UK romcomerati Tara Ford with us around the Cauldron. One of the new wave of women's fiction scribblers, and very funny with it, Tara turned to writing after a period of severe illness and much of what she experienced formed the (comedic) core of her first novel. Her Calling all series is attracting rave reviews from the cognoscenti and it is hard to escape the perception that writing, for Tara, after her illness nearly took the option away, is a second chance, one that she's taking with both hands. 

I picked up the Wizphone and caught up with her as she wandered blithely through sunkissed fields of Hampshire hops and barley, mulling over plots and twists for her latest work. Here's what she had to say.

Hiya Tara. Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hi Wiz, thanks for inviting me around the cauldron. 

To cut a very long story short, I’ve spent the last thirty years wanting to write a story. During my child-rearing, husband-nurturing and dog-walking years the yearning to put untrained index fingers to the keypad grew and grew. I just couldn’t think of a story to write, though. 

Then three years ago I became quite ill, to the point of spending some time in a Neurological unit. 

Bingo! It’s highly likely that they gave me a new brain (when I wasn’t looking) in the hospital or maybe even renovated the old one, because I suddenly had an overwhelming urge to write.

My plan was to turn the whole experience in to something fictional and comical hence, ‘Calling All Services’ was born. 

Now my head is full of all sorts of weird and wonderful things, bursting to escape and make their presence known in the form of words. 

For a northern girl, what is it like living down South? Is it a culture shock?

The Beautiful South

I was 13 when I moved to the South and yes it was a bit of a culture shock as everyone spoke rather oddly. I didn’t own enough t-shirts for the amount of summery days on offer and the water tasted like it had been drip-fed from a chalk board. 

The North
Once acclimatised to these strange, new experiences, I began to like the South. I travel back to the North each year to see family, so I guess I get the best of both worlds now. Still prefer the Northern water though. 

In what genre do you write?
With the release of my second book, I like to think that I write in the Chicklit genre, with an unusual take on it. As for the first book, well, I would have to say women’s fiction. 

Original women's fiction - audiobook of
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte.

I think that both books would be categorised as humour as well. I like to make people laugh and hope this comes across in my writing.

#Follow Tara on Twitter:

Tell us about your latest work.
My second book, ‘Calling All Dentists’ has just been released, with anticipation... It’s a bit like Marmite – you’ll either love it or hate it.

I have a WIP which is the third instalment in the ‘Calling All...’ series. ‘Calling All Customers’ has been the most fun to write so far. There are some rather crazy characters in the story (I’m relieved to get them out of my head and into a word doc on my laptop, just so that they will leave me alone for a while), along with members of the Frey family, who feature in every book, one way or another.

For many cinemagoers, Katherine Heigl’s “27 Dresses” is commonly thought to be the most complete cinematic RomCom experience in the post-Hepburn era.  Do you agree or do you have an alternative suggestion?
Ooh, believe it or not but I haven’t heard of that one (have now because I just asked Jeeves). I’ll have to watch it – thanks Wiz. I have always liked Goldie Hawn and my favourite film is ‘Overboard’. So I may or may not agree with your question, I’ll let you know when I’ve seen ‘27 Dresses’.

 Tara Ford ignores the critical consensus and chooses 
her own iconic example.
Goldie Hawn vehicle, Overboard.

You work in education. How would you encourage young boys to put down their X-Box 1’s and read again?
I would write an epic about the boy who saved the world from a band of children who had morphed in to gamepad controlled zombies and were ruled by Dr X-Box. I would then withhold any film rights so that the only way to discover the fate of the world would be to read the book. Mwahahaha!

A sadly rarer scene than it once was thanks to
evil corporate global games developers

Would you agree with the statement what without Jane Austen, we would have never had Sophie Kinsella?
Firstly, it’s a shame that Jane Austen never knew the degree of her fame. Secondly, I believe there were always going to be Jane Austen’s throughout history and Sophie Kinsella (and others like her) are the contemporary Austen’s of today. 

Modern representation of
Jane Austen -Zombie Slayer
Women became freer to express themselves over time, so it was inevitable that they would eventually share in probably the biggest genre of today – Chick-lit. 

The only recording remaining of women's fiction
pioneer Virginia Woolf - who would have loved the modern

So no, I don’t agree as it was going to happen sooner or later, whether it was Jane, Sophie, Marian or Gertrude, from down the road, who lived over a bike shop.

Are We In A Golden Era of Women's Fiction: CLICK HERE?

Dr. Nibbles, a dentist from Wrexham, is so offended by your portrayal of dentists that he kidnaps you as you emerge from the local IKEA. You are taken to an abandoned dental hospital and thrown in a cellar full of old dental chairs. Underneath one, you find a sack. In the sack are two books, two CDs and a DVD ) plus a player. What would you like them to be?
Ah yes, the elusive Dr Nibbles. Well, old Nick Nibbles and his band of cheery, white-toothed fiends had better keep out of my way, especially if I’m shopping in IKEA. 

In the sack my two books are, ‘The Undomestic Goddess’ by our dear Sophie (The protagonist is a bit like me – can’t cook and could very easily burn a jelly)

David Walliams, ‘Demon Dentist’ 

My two CDs are both by Andrea Bocelli, ‘Sogno’ and ‘Romanza’. Number one thing to do before I die – go and see him in concert (when I’ve sold enough books to pay for the tickets) hmm.

The DVD is ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ staring Steve Martin and John Candy. Best film ever!

Obviously the player is a SONY right?

I think it's one of those crank-it-yourself ones you get from Asda, Tara. What do you do when you are not writing?
Answer questions around cauldrons, I have a close affinity with the Pendle Witches you know 

The Wizard's big mates - those  rascally Witches of Pendle

Also, I like to walk my dog, look after the pond and fish and do some gardening (Hmm is that a weed or a plant?). 

I also love to read and have just received a fab new book called ‘The Night Porter’ which is now on my ‘To-do’ pile, next to my bed.

The Night Porter advertised in Portsmouth
(a shameless and tacky plug - Ed)

Ha ha. Thank you, Tara. Hope you enjoy it. So. Hugh Grant or Colin Firth
Hugh Grant, most definitely. Love all his films 

Give us an Indie romcom author to watch out for in 2014
Has to be Susan Buchanan, author of ‘Christmas Spirit’, ‘The Dating Game’ and ‘Sign of the Times’. She has been a great inspiration to me and given me lots of advice and encouragement along the way. 

I believe that she has a fourth novel due to be released in or around September of this year.

Finally, what do fans of Tara Ford have to look forward to in 2014
No more medical themed romcom dramas! I would love to be able to say that the third book will be ready by the end of this year but that depends on how often I get invited to do fun interviews like this one. 

Failing that, I will just be tweeting around the world, here and there. Writing the odd and usually strange, comment on Facebook, trying to understand how to use Google+ effectively and reading in my garden (weather dependent of course – unless I use an umbrella I suppose).

Tara Ford ancestor enjoys an
afternoon in the primrose garden reading Proust.
Tara, it's been an absolute pleasure to see you and I wish you all the very best with the Calling series in the coming year.

Thank you for having me here around the cauldron Wiz, I have enjoyed chatting with you. By the way, may I ask – what’s cooking in the cauldron?

Freshly spawned frogs, voodoo dolls, leaves of the black lotus...and some stuff that came in a big tin.



Unwittingly, Tara finds herself part of that southern women's fiction heritage,
as represented here by Joanna Trollope and Jilly Cooper, neither of
whom has ever spoken to a northerner, even on Twitter and that.

Modern day Pendle witches sample a pint of Cotton Mather
IPA from the Dog and Duck Inn.

The Plane Tree, Burnley. Tara's home town. Classic hotel and Inn in need of TLC.
(Many a great night spent in there...sigh...Ed)

 Unlike many novels, Reading Calling All
isn't like pulling teeth. That IS Tara, btw.