Author of the day – Stephen King

The first writer that I remember seriously getting into at the age of 15 was Stephen King. I read everything and anything I could find and all the money from my babysitting job was spent on books.  Other kids my age were buying CDs, beer, weed etc, but I just wanted to read, and I wanted to read anything he’d written.


I was so enamored with ‘Steve’ (as he’s known), that I wrote to him when I was 16 years old, back in 1989. Imagine my immense pleasure and surprise when a big, thick, fat envelope arrived from America, with embossed spideweb gates on the top left hand corner!! It wasn’t a personal letter from the man himself, but a fab letter from his secretary, complete with a short story, some articles and stuff that kept me entertained for hours. And it had come from him own Maine address! I was in heaven.

stephen king_1982

In the envelope was also a complete book list. This was before the Internet, you understand. Certain books only printed certain titles, so how could I be sure I got them all? I used that list to buy every book I could get and when my collection was complete, I then played the waiting game.  I bought every book as soon as it came out. I was part of the contingent that widely acknowledged that some books were okay, some were good, some were great and some were works of completely incredible story telling and were called The Stand. Stephen King has the ability to frighten me, but also to take me away into another world so completely and utterly, that sometimes I’d hear a noise and blink back into consciousness, surprised to find myself in Nottingham, England and not in Jerusalem’s Lot. Or Derry, Maine. Or travelling with Larry through the Lincoln Tunnel in New York…

Generally, every story was magic.  Some were sheer brilliance.  Some people are still surprised to find that he penned the novellas, novels and short stories behind the movies Stand By Me, The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile.  Everyone knows that The Shining, Firestarter and Carrie are his though!


Around about Gerald’s game, he lost me a little. I just wasn’t enjoying his books as much and something was missing for me. In fact, I started to miss books out and just not bother.  Then, the accident happened.  Steve was hit by a drunk driver and was so close to death that we very nearly did lose him. Once that fear was out of the way, it was then a case of  him nearly losing a leg and fighting to keep it and enduring all the subsequent surgeries.

Around this time., something inside him seemed to changed.  After he gave us the great On Writing,  he went to a darker place and gave us the masterpiece Duma Key. Up until the release of this book, my favourite King novel, hands down had been Firestarter. Duma Key knocked it off the top spot. I read it during the Christmas of 2008 which we spent in the Florida sunshine in a bid to help my mum recover from her intensive Chemotherapy. The novel really spoke to me, really frightened me and I loved it.  After that, he was back on track. He gave us the brilliant 11.22.63 and then the sequel to the Shining, my runner up book of the year, Doctor Sleep.


There is no stopping this man, his urge to write and the brilliant works he produces, but then, Constant Reader, why would we want to?

My top 5 King books:

  1. Duma Key
  2. Firestarter
  3. The Stand
  4. ‘Salem’s Lot
  5. The Eyes of the Dragon

Also, the entire Dark Tower series.

Recommended links:

Official website UK

Official website Worldwide

Stephen on Wikipedia

Stephen King interactive office

Steve on goodreads


Recommended Blog of the day

This one is a must for beauty lovers.  This lady hails from Ireland, is a mum of 5 young children and she is a total beauty guru!

Nina buys, tries, tests and swatches hundreds of beauty products and writes honest, in-depth reviews, helping you to made an informed decision before making a purchase.

What I love about the site is the great photos, the swatch pictures (which are so good some people have ‘borrowed’ without permission!), the before and after pictures, and the honest, easy going way Nina writes.

If you love beauty, cosmetics and make-up, this site is a must visit. She’s won Blog awards, her site is up to almost 300,000 visits and she has great blog sales and giveaway competitions.

Here’s a couple of screenshots so you know what to expect:



Copyright Nina’s Bargain Beauty.

It’s not just makeup though.  She features skin care, other beauty products as well as promoting other bloggers.

So check out the blog today – you won’t be sorry!


My Favourite Christmas Film

Or, my favourite Christmas movie. I’m sorry, I’m English so I still say film 🙂

Anyway, this one is my favourite:

The Polar Express

This film is pure magic. I like it because there is no smug little actor or actress repeating cheesy lines and trying to look all cutesy.  It’s all about the story, the possibility, the train and the power of believing.

Here’s a breakdown of the movie:

On Christmas Eve of the late 1950s, a young boy living in Grand Rapids, Michigan, questions his belief in Santa Claus. While sleeping, he magically discovers a steam-powered passenger train named “The Polar Express”. The conductor (Tom Hanks) tells him that the train is headed to the North Pole. At first the boy refuses, he boards the train while it leaves.

Once aboard, the boy encounters other children, including a young girl (Nona Gaye) and a know-it-all (Eddie Deezen). The train stops again at another house; 11344 Edbrooke Ave., for a young boy named Billy (Peter Scolari). Billy at first refuses to get on, but as the train starts to leave he attempts to board, but is unsuccessful. The boy applies the emergency brake so Billy can board the train. When the children are given hot chocolate the girl hides and saves a cup for Billy who is riding in the observation car. The conductor helps her deliver it. The boy discovers that she left her ticket on the seat. He attempts to bring it to her but loses it in the wind while passing between carriages. The girl returns to find her ticket missing and the boy tells the conductor that he lost it.

The conductor takes the girl up to the train’s roof. The protagonist finds that the ticket has flown back into the train, grabs it and climbs onto the train’s roof to give the ticket to the girl but arrives to see the light of the conductor’s lantern vanish in the darkness. He crosses along the train’s roof until he meets a hobo, who claims to be the owner of The Polar Express and king of the North Pole. The hobo gives the boy some coffee, who expresses doubt that Santa exists. With that, the hobo replies that if he is seen, the boy actually believes in Santa. He then helps him follow the conductor and girl. They ski down the train roof as it approaches Flat Top Tunnel. The hobo claims that the tunnel’s clearance is low. The boy hops in the engine as the hobo magically vanishes in the air.


The boy finds that the girl is driving the train while Steamer, the engineer and Smokey, the fireman, try to fix the train’s headlight. They are forced to stop when a herd of caribou block the tracks. The conductor gets the caribou to move by pulling Smokey’s beard, making him yell. The train continues with the conductor, the boy, and the girl stuck in the front of the engine. When the cotter pin of the throttle slips off, the train accelerates dangerously while riding along Glacier Gulch. The train soon reaches a lake freezing over the tracks. However, the lost cotter pin pierces the ice and begins to crack, putting everybody in danger. Smokey immediately repairs the throttle, and the conductor orders the train to full-speed to get the train to the other side of the lake.

Once having arrived at the North Pole, the boy and the girl find Billy alone in the observation car. The boy accidentally uncouples it, causing it to speed backwards. The three make their way back to the city square and travel from section to section throughout the North Pole. While Santa’s sleigh is being readied, a bell falls off a harness. The boy picks it up and shakes it after remembering that the girl and Billy could hear a bell earlier when he could not. The boy then says he believes in the spirit of Christmas and finally hears the bell. Santa selects the boy to receive “The First Gift of Christmas”, and the boy chooses the bell.

the_polar_express polar-express-santa
As the children prepare to head home, the conductor takes their tickets and punches an individual message for each of them. Once aboard, the boy discovers that the bell has fallen through a hole in his pocket. When Billy is dropped off home, the boy finds out that Santa had already visited his house. The boy arrives home and the conductor wishes him a Merry Christmas as well as the others on board waving goodbye.

On Christmas morning, the boy’s sister Sarah finds a small present hidden behind the Christmas tree. The boy opens the present and discovers that it is the bell, which Santa found. When the boy rings the bell, both he and Sarah marvel at its beautiful sound. However, their parents neither believe in Santa Claus nor the spirit of Christmas and do not hear it and remark it to be broken. In the film’s last line, the boy, narrating decades later, recites the book’s final line:

“At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.”

Nowadays, some train companies operate a “Polar Express”. Kids and even parents board in their PJs and drink hot chocolate whilst riding the train.

There’s a company here who do this. I’m taking my little boy next year!

Polar-Express-Train polar_kids_lights

Icons & Idols, part 2

For the second installment of this feature, I have decided to showcase someone who was born into a world that wasn’t quite ready for him yet.

Someone who was a poet first, and then a music star. Someone who was probably far too intelligent for their own good – their keen understanding of the world they lived in, the system and the restrictions of life driving them to drink and drugs.  And boy, was this guy a mean drunk!

Jim Morrison


To me, Jim is a character who was fiercely intelligent, shy, creative and sensitive but a little flaky with a mean streak a mile wide.  Sadly, he was gone before I was even born but his work lives on and the world is still fascinated with him. I came to discover him through The Doors music, but soon went onto his poetry – although I love both.


So what it is about Jim Morrison that endures?
Firstly, his works in music, film and his writings.
Then, he’s a member of the J27 club (a club you really don’t want to be in).
His death was mysterious and there are those who would say that Mr Mojo Risin’ simply changed his looks, faked his death and walked away from it all to live a quieter life.
There was trouble wherever he went – court cases, airplane incidents, arrests…
The fact that he was beautiful didn’t hurt.
And there were the women in his life : if you were female and unlucky enough to get involved with him, you’ d better have been prepared to fight it out with his other women! And there were plenty of them.


Left to right : Long time live in love Pamela Courson, Janet Irwin (the infamous ‘Tiffany’ from the book Strange Days), Patricia Kennealy (Jim’s ‘wife’),  Pamela Des Barres (professional groupie). Yes, he had a type….pretty redheads!

Here’s the wikipedia low-down on The Lizard King:

James Douglas “Jim” Morrison (December 8, 1943 – July 3, 1971) was an American singer-songwriter and poet, best remembered as the lead singer of Los Angeles rock band The Doors. From a young age, Morrison became infatuated with the works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Arthur Rimbaud and Jack Kerouac, emphasising his high intellect and ability to incorporate their work into his lyrics, making him one of the most artistic and influential singer-songwriters of all time, along with his songwriting partner in The Doors, Robby Krieger. Unfortunately, in his later life, Morrison developed an alcohol dependency which led to his death at the age of 27 in Paris. He is alleged to have died of a heroin overdose, but as no autopsy was performed, the exact cause of his death is still disputed.

Morrison was well known for often improvising spoken word poetry passages while the band played live. Due to his wild personality and performances, he is regarded by critics and fans as one of the most iconic, charismatic, and pioneering frontmen in rock music history. Morrison was ranked number 47 on Rolling Stone’s list of the “100 Greatest Singers of All Time”, and number 22 on Classic Rock Magazine’s “50 Greatest Singers In Rock”.  Morrison was known as the self-proclaimed “King of Orgasmic Rock”

I think his life is one worthy of reading about, and I have read many books by people who knew him very well, to people who wrote mostly fictional accounts of their life with him.  The fact that the (living) ladies he was involved with still fight over him today is testament to what it must have been to have known and loved Jim and have him touch their lives.

For some awesome information about where he lived, click here.

To view the changing state of Jim’s grave in Paris, click here. Following vandalism, graffiti etc the grave is now protected by security but you can still visit and pay your respects.  The photos in the link are a fantastic visual of the way the grave site has changed since the 70s.  Wherever he is now, I hope he is at peace with the world.


Recommended reading

I’m recommending these books to give you a broad scope of the many different accounts of Jim available out there.  Each book paints a different picture of Jim, but somewhere in among all of these books, accounts, recollections and interviews the real man emerges and you can form your own opinion about who this enigmatic person really was.

Strange Days: My Life With and Without Jim Morrison – Patricia Kennealy-Morrison

Your Ballroom days are over, baby – Janet M Erwin (free online magazine)

No One Here Gets Out Alive: The Biography of Jim Morrison – Jerry Hopkins

Light my fire : my life with The Doors – Ray Mazarek

Riders on the storm : my life with Jim Morrison – John Densmore

Wonderland Avenue : Danny Sugerman

I’m with the band – Pamela De Barres

Angels dance and angels die – Patricia Butler


Author of the day – Jane Austen

After featuring the likes of Neil Gaiman, Marian Keyes and Sarah Addison Allen, it’s time for something else! Something from the world of the classics….

Jane Austen was smart, witty, observant and did not suffer fools gladly.  Or write about them nicely!  She hasn’t just given us Pride & Prejudice; don’t forget the beautiful tale of 2 sisters in Sense & Sensibility or the story of that spoiled little rich girl Emma growing up and getting over herself.  Then there’s the tale of common Fanny Price coming good in Mansfield Park and the haunting supernatural elements of Northanger Abbey.
Jane’s novels are still cherished to this day because the observations and sentiments within them were spot on and are still relevant now.  Plus, she could tell such a damn good story!

I enjoy the movies and TV shows created from her novels as they bring her work to a brand new audience.  The audience who want instant gratification and can’t be bothered to real an ‘old’ book.  The type of people who just don’t have the time or inclination to sit and read her novels.

Her works have inspired sequels and further stories, as well as satire novels and guides on how to live your life the Jane Austen way (presumably as a proper lady).



The fact is that Jane Austen created such memorable stories and characters that we can’t bear to let her creations go off to their happy every afters. I am currently reading Death Comes to Pemberley and the BBC adaptation premieres at Christmas. Lizzy Benntett is still alive and kicking, it seems!

So what was it that made her characters so memorable?  Let’s take Elizabeth Bennett as an example – Lizzy (like Jane Austen) didn’t suffer fools gladly (or at all), or allow anybody to look down on her, undermine her or belittle her.  This includes people far above her rank who had every right (back then) to do so.  Lizzy was a strong, determined, educated woman in a time and place when those qualities were certainly not desirable in a lady.  So we love Jane’s heroines because they aren’t typical of those times and in a way, they’re the underdog and we always root for the underdog! It’s worth noting that Elizabeth Bennett was similar to Jane Austen in a few ways. Jane, who was a writer when she should have been getting married and producing heirs.  Jane, who didn’t live conventionally and actually dared to not like visiting Bath and go against the grain 🙂 I like to think that Jane based Elizabeth upon herself to some extent.

Jane received only a few positive reviews of her works during her lifetime and only became so well loved after a publication in 1869 of her nephew’s A Memoir of Jane Austen introduced her to a wider public. By the 1940s she had become widely accepted in academia as a great English writer, and to this day is considered a national treasure.

So yes, a very worthy author of the day! And now, for your viewing pleasure, a selection of Elizabeth & Darcy images.  Enjoy!

Brock_PP_Elizabeth_pianist_6252 pnphmbrock10 HMBrockPP$ pnphmbrock7 pride_and_prejudice__darcy_and_elizabeth_by_mseregon-d55m4oi darcy1 6010e847846c

Richard Ramirez – The Night Stalker, an interview

I recently discovered an interview with Richard Ramirez.  I have blogged about The Night Stalker before here, and for me, reading about someone and researching them led to me wanting to see them, if that makes sense. I wanted more than just pictures, I wanted video footage so that I could see for myself if insanity was in fact lurking just below the surface.  This video doesn’t disappoint.  Richard does his best to come across as all knowing, intelligent and informed but sadly ends up looking very smug, seems to be enjoying the notoriety and also acts very much as though he thinks he’s a big deal.

The only thing that’s a big deal is the cold, dead, black eyes that glint occasionally with sheer malice and madness.

Watch and see for yourself…..

Christmas Crafting – paper snowflakes



Fold your paper into a square, then fold into a triangle. Fold some more.  A bit like this:

Here’s the template for mine.  I found it on the internet, drew it on and then carefully cut it out.  Please bear in mind that I’m not naturally creative, crafty or artistic so if I can do this, anyone can!

You can probably find and make a more intricate, delicate design. If you have a craft knife, there’s probably a lot more you can do, as scissors can be hard work! Anyway, this is the finished product:

And this is our pretty window at work.  Sure brightens up the usual crappy view!!

This is a great project to do with the kids, and the snowflakes are a lovely keepsake that you can keep and cherish when they are older and don’t want to do this sort of stuff with you anymore!!

Merry Christmas….