It’s my great pleasure to welcome international best-selling author, Lizzie Chantree to the first of my Launch Pad spots!
International bestselling author and award-winning inventor, Lizzie Chantree, started her own business at the age of 18 and became one of Fair Play London and The Patent Office’s British Female Inventors of the Year in 2000. She discovered her love of writing fiction when her children were little and now works as a business mentor, running a popular networking hour on social media, CreativeBizHour, where creatives can support to each other.
This week I picked up a copy of Lizzie’sNetworking for Writers. What a useful little book it is, containing lots of useful tips for any author navigating their way though the minefields of marketing and social media.
Lizzie’s novels are full of friendship and laughter, and are about women with unusual and adventurous businesses, who are far stronger than they realise. She lives with her family on the coast in Essex.
Lizzie has a new book out and she can’t wait to tell us all about it. Take it away, Lizzie!
Thank you for inviting me onto your blog today Chris. I’m excited to tell you all about my latest book, which is called Shh… It’s Our Secret.
The story is about a woman called Violet, who has lots of insecurities since losing her parents at a young age. Violet has been looked after by her older sister, but feels that the local community around the café that she runs, have become her surrogate family.
The café that Violet works in is very run down, but she can see it’s potential. Unfortunately the current owner, who is also her boyfriend, does not see things her way. Violet has a secret that could help the local community and her makeshift family, but first she has to pluck up the courage to leave a man who doesn’t appreciate her, rebuild her confidence and find her voice. Can someone who shies from the limelight, step out of the shadows and show the world how incredible she really is?
Violet has a secret that could change the lives of everyone she knows and loves, especially the regulars at the run-down café bar where she works. After losing her parents at a young age, they are the closest thing she has to a family and she feels responsible for them.
Kai is a jaded music producer who has just moved outside of town. Seeking solitude from the stress of his job, he’s looking for seclusion. The only problem is he can’t seem to escape the band members and songwriters who keep showing up at his house.
When Kai wanders into the bar and Violet’s life, he accidently discovers her closely guarded secret. Can Kai help her rediscover her self-confidence or should some secrets remain undiscovered.
Aquila flies over the desiccated veld, periodically checking on the hunters who march like ants across the dry savanna beneath his substantial eagle wings. Owab is the youngest of the band; it is to him that Aquila carries the mystical connection.
Now in early autumn, the earth still waits for the rains. The ground is dry and the game has scattered. They travel east to the purple mountains in search of the great beast who, with a nod of his gracious head, will call the storm clouds.
Over the parched soil the eagle leads us onward seeking the Rain Bull.
For this week’s stop on our literary tour through the pages of my novels, I’m inviting you to meet me under ‘Big Willie’, the striking statue which adorns the main entrance to the building which was formerly one of Liverpool’s best known department stores, Lewis’s. The statue was created by Sir Jacob Epstein to symbolise Liverpool’s resurgence following World War II. The bronze figure is 18 feet high and stands on a plinth shaped like the prow of a ship. It’s official title is Liverpool Resurgent, although everyone I know calls him by him nickname!
The store and the statue were very much a part of my student days, when the Saturday afternoon ritual was generally to meet up under said statue, duck into the department store for a free spray of scent from one of the many perfume counters that arrayed part of the ground floor and trot into town for a spot of shopping, or maybe just window shopping, since we didn’t exactly have money to burn.
The store is no more and the building has been converted into an Aparthotel. We can quickly admire the lambanana as we pass through the new dining room. The mural in the background is the original from Lewis’s restaurant the 1950s which was rediscovered during the building refurbishment. More about the original Superlambanana, here.
The statue, which still presides over the Aparthotel entrance, was made famous in the 1962 song In My Liverpool Home sung by The Spinners. “We speak with an accent exceedingly rare,meet under a statue exceedingly bare…”
Listen to the immortal words and savour the ‘exceedingly rare’ accent which, during the 30 years I lived in Liverpool, I managed both to acquire and discard (most of the time).
Within the pages of You’ll Never Walk Alone, feisty Lucy and her handsome boyfriend, Pierre visit Lewis’s for a spot of unorthodox out of hours shopping, accessing the store on a Sunday (there was no such thing as Sunday opening back in he 1980s) via one of the underground tunnels which run under the city – more about those on a future tour. While they’re dodging the security guards, they bump into another iconic figure of the 1980s, singer and songwriter, Pete Burns.
In those days, still building his musical career, Pete Burns worked at a small but popular independent record store, Probe Records, an important stop off point for musicians and fans of the alternative music scene in Liverpool. Located in Button Street, just around the corner from the more famous, Mathew Street (home of the Cavern Club), it was always packed on a Saturday.
‘He caused a sensation in Liverpool because he was the ultimate head-turner,’ recalls Geoff Davies, Probe Records MD. ‘The nearest I ever got to being involved in a fight was when I stopped some fella beating him up in the shop because he took exception to his appearance.’
He was also notorious for his maltreatment of customers, sometimes throwing their purchases at them because he disapproved of their selection. He was a frequent visitor to the cosmetics counters in Lewis where I remember seeing him wearing his striking all-black contact lenses. Quite a disturbing sight close up.
Now, if you’ve got all your vinyl, let’s return to Lewis’s and join Lucy and Pierre as they start their own spot of shopping. They’re about to go on a trip to the Isle of Man and they need to pick up a few bits and pieces…
Excerpt from You’ll Never Walk Alone
“You’ve been here, you know, out of hours, before?”
Lucy nodded. “Okay, after you…”
Pierre opened the door slowly and peered into the corridor. They both slipped out and hurried past the metal loading doors which stood opposite the goods lift. There was a flight of worn stone steps next to it. Pierre took the steps two at a time, Lucy following him. He opened the door at the top of the steps cautiously, listening for signs of the security guards. He jerked his head for Lucy to follow him. They emerged next to the curtain which led to the changing rooms on the ground floor of the store. Pierre scanned the sales floor. There was no sign of any security guard.
“Okay,” Pierre whispered. “Keep away from the windows, just in case one of the boys in blue come strolling past. I think the luggage department’s over there.” He pointed. Lucy nodded. “It’s just after the perfume counter…I know this store,” said Lucy. “We often pop in for a free spray of scent!”
Five minutes later they had each picked out a case. Lucy lingered by the perfume counter. Her hand hovered over a bottle of Chanel No.5. Just then, they heard the sound of someone whistling from the far side of the store, close to the main entrance. Lucy turned to Pierre who had been admiring the watches. He gestured to her to get down. The guard was coming up the main aisle. Lucy and Pierre inched behind the nearest counter, leaving their cases at the side of the aisle. The guard’s footsteps slowed; he was only a few feet away from where they were crouching. Lucy realised she was holding her breath.
“Aye, aye,” he said. “Who’s been leaving the stock out of place?” They heard him pick up one of the cases. Just then, his two-way radio crackled into life.
“Receiving, Charlie…over.” There was a pause and more crackling. “Can’t hear yer, Charlie. Where are yer?” They heard him put the case down. “Listen, Charlie, I can’t hear a bloody word on this thing. I’ll meet you by the main doors and yer can speak to me where I can hear yer.” They heard the guard’s footsteps marching back the way he’d come.
“Let’s go,” Pierre mouthed to Lucy. “Keep low,” he indicated with his hand. Lucy nodded and followed him as he picked up the cases and weaved through the side aisles and display stands. They had almost reached the changing rooms when one of the ruffles on Lucy’s skirt caught on the protruding arm of a loaded display stand which carried a selection of rather fetching straw boaters. Lucy felt the material snag. The hats bobbed jauntily as Lucy struggled to free the lace trim from the metal prong.
Just then a man appeared from behind the nearby make-up counter where he had obviously been busy with a selection of products. He grabbed the display stand just as it was about to crash to the floor. As he set it straight, Lucy finally managed to free herself. She looked up to see that he was dressed in tight shiny black PVC trousers and a tight black shirt. His eyes were very strange. No colour, just huge black pupils.
Pierre turned. His face lit up with a smile. “All right, Pete,” he whispered. “Better scarper, the guard’s by the front door.”
The man nodded and headed for the exit by the changing rooms. Pierre and Lucy followed.
“Who’s dat now?” The guard called out. They turned to see him charging up the central aisle, already panting with the effort.
They hurried through the door and ran down the stone steps. As they reached the bottom they heard the sound of a two-way radio coming from the corridor where they had entered from the tunnels. Pierre and Pete looked at each other for a second, then charged the goods doors in front of them. A piercing alarm bell started to ring.
“Run for it,” Pete yelled over his shoulder as he headed for the back alley at the back of the store.
Pierre strode across the road to a graffiti-covered door in the building opposite. He put one of the cases down and turned the handle. The door swung inwards. He and Lucy had just disappeared from view as the two security men emerged on the street. Hands on hips and breathing heavily they scanned the street. Charlie turned to his colleague: “I’m getting too old for this.” The other man held his hands up. “Let’s go sit down; I need a smoke.”
Pierre and Lucy were threading their way through a narrow service corridor. On the other side of the breeze-block wall they could hear the whirr and screech of the underground trains.
“That was Pete Burns, wasn’t it?” said Lucy. “You know him?”
“Sure. He’s a regular to the tunnels. Someone who looks as different as that needs a bolt hole occasionally. I mean, he’s confident and all that, but sometimes people don’t, you know, accept the way he looks and want to have a go at him.”
“We danced to his new record at the club last night, didn’t we?”
“Your DJ friend has good taste. That tune’s definitely going to the top.”
Let’s let Pete Burns and his band, Dead or Alive, play us out with the very single Lucy’s talking about. Released as a single in 1984, ‘You Spin me Round’ reached No. 1 in the UK in March 1985.
The Mark of Gaia flares on my back and I cling to the towering North Stone for support. The sun blackens, the moon and stars fall from the sky; the world is cast into blackness: a void. Her pawn again, my consciousness expands.
A sun rises in the west and Gaia’s words fall from my lips.
‘You will live without hunger, thirst, weapons or injury; you will exist, casting no shadows; all humanity will share a single language and belong to a nation without borders.’
Our hearts fill with joy: our world is new and fertile reborn, we give thanks.
Author’s Note: Gaia’s words are taken from Zoroastrian eschatology.
each night, enveloped in scarlet golden sun slides under blue blankets gossamer strands of lingering light caress cooling sands waves wash upon the shore, breaking breaking, unceasingly breaking erasing away the day
each night, cloaked in obsidian silver moon shakes out her gown scattering glittering pennies over wine-dark skies waves wash upon the shore, breaking breaking, unceasingly breaking hailing a new dawn
I first posted this poem two years ago. A year later, when we were under lockdown and the noise of engines fell silent and wild animals walked the streets, it seemed that nature just might have a chance, but once again, pollution spews, plastic continues to fill the oceans and the ice caps are melting even more quickly. Today, Earth Day 2021, I find my poem is just as relevant, maybe more so.
I fall through a shower of effervescent light particles and land with a jolt, my nostrils filling with the simple scent of sandalwood overlaying the smell of decay. My uncle’s kindly face comes into focus, he sits in his library, surrounded by his cherished possessions; the lines on his face are entrenched, his shoulders stooped; he has aged – a decade or more. I glance at my hands, the still-smooth skin suggests I have not.
‘Hasten to the Stones,’ he commands. I rise and approach him, but I’m dismissed.
Megaliths murmur: On the Eve of the Dawning Gaia greets your return.
Why I think I’m a feminist – a personal perspective on feminism
I am, without doubt, a feminist. I have subscribed to the belief in the social, economic and political equality of the sexes for almost as long as I can remember. My attitudes have been shaped by my upbringing, influenced by societal expectations and honed by life experience.
I was brought up to believe in equality and in women’s rights.
I grew up in the UK and as a child of the 70s and a young woman of the 80s, my generation’s older sisters had laid the foundations of feminism. Underpinned by new legislation in the 1970s, the Equal Pay Act and the Sex Discrimination Act, women were set on a more equal footing than ever before, but perhaps the biggest trigger for change was the widespread – and free – availability of the contraceptive pill in 1974, which…