Friday, March 21, 2014


Nostalgia kicked in the moment my foot touched the platform. My journey from East Surrey to Berkhamsted had been almost seamless; a simple change at Clapham Junction and a through train which did away with the need to travel across central London. Berkhamsted station is not far from its ruined castle, where history records William the Conqueror accepted the crown of England from the defeated Saxons. On the other side of the tracks is the Grand Junction Canal, once an important waterway link between London and Birmingham. Certainly the smart canal-side residences weren't there when I was last, but that's more years ago than I care to record. Enjoying the early Spring sunshine, I set off for the short walk to the town centre, up Lower King's Road. Somehow it seemed much shorter than I remembered, but I was not weighed down by a bulging satchel nor a scruffy sports bag, lacrosse stick or other schoolgirl accoutrements. I had timed my arrival to allow me enough time to find somewhere for lunch before my afternoon appointment. The advertisement hoarding which faced me as I alighted from my train announced that 'HERE - Berkhamsted' was a wine bar/bistro/all-round sounding good place for refreshment. And so it proved. Full marks for serving local food, freshly cooked, a decent glass of wine followed by delectable Earl Grey. At 3 pm I rendezvous at the Public Library at the bottom of King's Road with Mandy; she tells me she's school librarian. We travel the short distance up the hill to Berkhamsted Prep School. When I joined Berkhamsted School for Girls, the junior school was known as 'The Beeches' after the house in which it was based. Now that old house is unrecognisable, transformed into a lively, modern prep, where children of both sexes embark upon their scholastic careers. Mandy points me in the direction of reception, where, inevitably, I have to sign in and receive my visitor's badge. They have a book fair in progress and soon parents and children are eagerly thronging around the displays. But I am here at the invitation of Sophie Evans, who runs the after-school book club. She happened upon the copy of 'The Adventures of Tilly Twinkle' which I sent as a donation to the junior school library, and has been reading it in instalments to her club. Realising that the author is a (very) old girl, she wasted no time in making contact and issuing the invitation which I accepted without hesitation. Mandy takes me to Mrs Evans' classroom and in due course my audience arrives. It's been a games afternoon, so the little girls are rosy-cheeked and glowing from their netball, the boys from football. We eventually are all assembled and the question and answer session begins. I've been primed with some of their questions so answering them isn't too difficult. We discuss our favourite authors and, not surprisingly, Roald Dahl tops the list. The girls are unanimous in citing 'Matilda' as their favourite book. Hands shoot up every time I ask a question and it is becoming obvious I am in the company of a very lively bunch. The time passes much too quickly but everyone buys a copy of 'Tilly', inscribed and signed of course. We've agreed a special price; I'm not bothered about the proceeds, which I donate the next day to Barnado's. It's been a memorable experience for me and I shall treasure the memory of my first book signing. As for Claudia, Katie, Eliza, Isabella, Genevieve, Nathaniel and the rest, I hope they enjoy my fairy story and look forward to their feedback. © MWD 2014

Monday, July 9, 2012

Martha meets Tilly

For me an historic moment, yesterday, when I handed my gorgeous granddaughter her own signed copy of the book I have dedicated to her.

We took the whole family, that's her Mum and two older brothers, Thomas and Dylan, out to lunch at a local rustic pub.

The intriguing red object on the left of the picture is a gleaming Aga, which is part of the decor in the pub's family room!

Dylan tells me he's heavily into Enid Blyton at the moment. I told him I was the first generation to read that prolific lady's oh-so-readable books, my favourite being 'The Magic Faraway Tree'. Despite having been vilified by educationalists over the years, Enid Blyton hasn't gone away: I see
significant quantities of her titles in our local bookshop and library. Every generation of 8 and 9 year olds discovers her and she'll probably never go out of print. I assume she's also now well kindled!

I just have one further observation - also by way of being a confession. 'The Adventures of Tilly Twinkle' was written for all those kids who just want to sit down with a cracking good read such as those Blyton delivered, and if I can satisfy them, I shall die a happy woman.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


The waiting is over. Tilly Twinkle has been launched into the competitive world of children's books; she's flying solo.

I hope her adventures will be read and enjoyed by hundreds, dare one hope thousands, of little girls, although little boys might find them exciting too. For the present there is the perfect happy ending, although the future of some of my characters has been left uncertain.

So the tantalising question now facing me is: should I embark upon a sequel in which I can satisfactorily tie up all the loose ends? It's a daunting prospect, I don't mind admitting. I don't write to order nor to a prescribed daily timetable and Tilly took the best part of six years to complete, and a further six years to re-write, edit, and edit again before she emerged in her current incarnation.

That's not to say I haven't been thinking about a possible sequel. I have and there is a working title, although I'm not going to reveal it at this stage. I've even managed nearly 500 words of the first chapter! But, set beside the length of 'The Adventures of Tilly Twinkle', that means I've got approximate another 27,000 to write. I think I need to go and lie down in a darkened room!

© MWD 2012

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


It's an old cliché, I know, but sometimes clichés are the only comfortable, tried and tested, way of describing your feelings. Thus it was, at 10.30 a.m French time today, I felt a surge of excitement as my shaking fingers opened the package from England, just delivered by our friendly facteur. It's postmarked 3 May so has taken nearly a week to get here, but that's France for you: a country where 'snail mail' takes on a whole new dimension. Not only has there been a presidential election in the last week, yesterday was yet another Bank Holiday (1945 Armistice Day) and La Poste, along with the rest of the country, needs little excuse for a day off. We've had two Bank Holidays since the start of the month, both falling on a Tuesday. When that happens, large numbers of French people indulge in a practice known as 'faire le pont' - taking the intervening day off (in this case Monday) thus making a bridge between the weekend and the holiday. There'll be another one next week on 17 May (Ascension Day) and you can bet your life Friday will bridge again.

And the package that was so exciting? At last, my first sight of The Adventures of Tilly Twinkle as a Proper Printed Book. Back to clichés, but it has been a long journey, over 12 years, since Tilly was conceived to this moment. We've no way of telling if her story will catch the imagination of the reading public but I would like to think her adventures are only just beginning.

MWD © 2012

Thursday, April 12, 2012


We're just back from a relaxing holiday, during which I had
the opportunity to consult a copy of the latest larger OED. I think it's the
same version Susie Dent uses on Countdown. (Ah, I've revealed another guilty
secret, haven't I?)

The spelling of 'crystallized' is definitively given WITH
THE Z. The alternative 'crystallised' is only shown as an afterthought in

I feel totally vindicated!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Here it is - the design for the front cover of the book! Subject to a couple of changes and possibly a different background colour, this is how Tilly Twinkle will face the world before too long.

The artist is a young lady I have known since she was a baby. Her name is Victoria Somers and we first met her, her parents and two older sisters back in our Moody sailing days (1983 - 1993). They also had a Moody and we got to know them during one lazy summer cruising the Channel Islands and north coast of Brittany. Our two boys immediately hit it off with Nicola and Rebecca, but Vicky was still a baby.

She's now a delightful young lady with a degree in graphic design and a job with a major firm in London. When her mother told me she had designed a children's book cover as part of her degree course, I realised we had found the ideal person to put a face - and body - to my fairy heroine. I am delighted with the result and hope it will boost Vicky's career as a freelance illustrator.

© MWD 2012

Monday, March 19, 2012


We're almost there. I've read and corrected the second proofs of 'The Adventures of Tilly Twinkle', my young friend, Vicky Somers, has produced some stunning designs for the front cover. The next stage will be a Proof Bound Copy. Wow!

I have just days to make any final corrections. So I still agonise - or should that be agonize - over the spelling of the word 'crystallized' as used to describe 'rose petals' in my first chapter.

Everywhere I look I see it spelt as 'crystallised' but still it rankles. It just looks wrong. My treasured, stuck together with masking tape, much-used copy of the Concise OED, awarded to my dear Dad as a prize circa 1930, defines the word as 'crystallize(d)', no alternatives. So when did the 's' supersede the 'z' ? And should I be worried?

I have decided to follow my heart, not my head. I'm an old-fashioned girl, and if the 'z' was good enough for my Dad's generation, it's good enough for me. As somebody once said - 'publish and be damned' !

MWD © 2012