by IainPattison



Do you know any great vampire jokes? No, me neither. But I do know some terrible ones.

Q. Why do vampires make bad cricketers?

A. They only like to bat.

Q. What did the teacher say to the vampire who failed his maths test?

A. “You can’t count, Dracula.”

Q. How does a vampire cross the ocean?

A. In a blood vessel.

I know,I know. It’s agony. I’ll stop right there before we all do something we’ll regret…

Why am I telling you these awful nosferatu gags? It’s not, as you might imagine, that I’ve pulled my Christmas crackers two months early. Nor that I’m indulging in some fang-related childish mirth for Children in Need.

No, the answer is that I’ve somehow lumbered myself with running a vampire-themed book launch party on Facebook tomorrow (Friday 23) and I’ve been desperately searching around for fun activities, chilling facts and bits of bloodsucker nonsense to while away what is going to be the longest day of my life.

Lady Is A VampIt’s the official publication day of That’s Why The Lady is a Vamp (third in the Quintessentially Quirky Tales humour series) and I’ve just realised that I’ve got to keep my party guests entertained for nine hours (Yes – NINE whole hours!)

And if you think these groan-inducing one-liners are frightening, (Where do vampires go on holiday? To the Isle of Fright!) you won’t believe what other desperate diversions I’ve got hidden up my period frilly lace-cuffed sleeve. To nick the punch line from a very rude Halloween joke – it’ll scare the willies out of you.

I did, I have to confess, consider having spooky party games – pin the tail on the yeti, kiss the ghouls and make them cry, shave the wolfman, banshee blind man’s bluff, musical electric chairs and old favourites like bobbing for apples in a bucket of decapitated heads.

But the truth is these innocent pastimes felt a bit… well, kiddie, a little juvenile. And damn difficult to perform online. Especially those involving water or inappropriate physical contact.

So I’ve decided I’m going for a sophisticated approach instead. My exclusive, discerning visitors will be treated to sharp, intellectual quizzes and indulge in witty banter with each other, while I circulate (does that count as a blood joke?) with platters of imaginary food and pour copious amounts of pretend alcohol. Made-up soft drinks will be available for those who imagine that they’ve been appointed the group’s designated driver…

Now, I don’t blame you for thinking that I’ve finally flipped and that the whole enterprise is totally nuts. To be honest, I do too – the odd conceit of pretending to have a knees-up on Facebook is frankly barmy. It’s akin to telling everyone you’re jetting off on holiday to Barbados, but staying at home instead and posting a TripAdvisor review slagging off the hotel you would have stayed at and complaining that your fictional resort was a bit overcrowded.

It’s all a bit Alice in Wonderland…

But hey, other authors have told me Facebook parties are a hoot and that people seem to like them so who am I to be a spoilsport? I can pretend with the best of them – have you seen my birthday “Oh thanks, what a wonderful gift. It’s just what I’ve always wanted” face?

And bearing in mind the famous tombstone inscription: “I’ll try anything once. What’s the worst that can happen?” I’m going to give it my best shot.

If you, loyal reader, want to join me you’d be very welcome. It all kicks off HERE at 11am and carries on (and I do mean Carry On!) until 8pm when I’ll be taken away sobbing to be given a REAL drink at a REAL pub.

Let’s get mad together and submerge ourselves in the surreal silliness that is modern digital age marketing.

If you can’t make it or if you want to dodge jokes like: “I’m very optimistic. Even my blood group is Be Positive” you can still show your support. Simply pop along to Amazon or Smashwords and make an old humorist very happy by purchasing a copy of That’s Why The Lady is a Vamp and Other Quintessentially Quirky Tales.

It won’t improve your love life, make you ten years younger or help you learn a new language in a weekend, but it should make you chuckle.

In the meantime, wish me luck on my 9-hour keyboard ordeal. I suspect by the end of tomorrow – unlike the characters in a vampire film – I’ll be praying for nightfall!


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by IainPattison


I’m off on holiday – what, I hear you cry, another one! And it’s not that I don’t trust you, but I’m wary of leaving my blog unguarded for just any passing scribbler to wander into and start posting. So good friend Maggie Cobbett has offered to keep an eye on the place and water the dogs and take the plants for a walk.Thanks Maggie – help yourself to anything in the fridge, but I’d avoid the cheese. It wasn’t that colour when we bought it!

In this guest blog she talks about the challenges of making the leap from short story writer to debut novelist and reveals how a rather bizarre teenage holiday in France provided her with loads of memorable, if slightly disturbing, material. Over to you, Maggie…



Running for the bus would probably prove to be my undoing nowadays, but the title of my guest post sums up for me the difference between writing short stories and the far greater commitment of completing my first novel.

profile in colour (1)If pushed, I can write a thousand word story, largely out of my head and with minimal research, in a single day – yet my novel Shadows of the Past has taken me twelve years on and off and averages out at about ten thousand words for each of those years. In theory, this makes it a blockbuster!

My homage to its forest setting may, I hope, make up in some small way for the trees sacrificed to provide the paper for my many drafts. Fearing that the whole thing might disappear into cyberspace overnight, I printed out each update before staggering into bed.

Writers must attempt to spin gold out of straw and there was plenty of that during my first visit to France. Vocabulary note: straw = paille in French.

At seventeen, I found myself in a so-called youth work camp alongside stock characters from film noir crossed with The Addams Family,some of whom deserved to end up in concrete boots at the bottom of the Seine.

A poor grasp of French meant failure to comprehend a lot of what was going on, but there was always a sense of ‘something nasty in the woodshed’. Why, for example, was everyone so wary of the volatile boss and his sinister friends and who had screwed a row of meat hooks into the curved ceiling of the girls’ dormitory?

The subterranean sleeping accommodation and unspeakable sanitary arrangements were accessed via a gloomy tunnel with straw on the ground.

shadows close upI turned down invitations from young soldiers, most probably AWOL from their service militaire,to have sex debout sur la paille but, partly for self defence, did team up for the duration with a likely lad from the nearby village. It’s because of Jean-Claude, standing with me in the framed photograph on the cover, that Shadows of the Past didn’t end up as just a teenage memoir.

In between lengthy bouts of snogging, he confirmed that my misgivings about the whole set-up were justified. His parents shared that opinion and also tried to get across to me their sufferings during the German occupation a couple of decades previously.

Although our romance didn’t outlast that summer, it was to Jean-Claude I turned many years later when I decided to embark on the novel. Having lied in our teeth about how little each other had changed over the years, we set off to explore our old haunts.

All traces of the camp in the forest had disappeared and even the tunnel entrance was blocked up and covered in graffiti, but the village was still much the same and I spent a lot of time talking to the older people about their wartime experiences. I shall never forget one poor soul, her skin yellow and thin as parchment, rolling up a sleeve to show me her concentration camp number.

With most of the story already in my head by the time I returned home, it only needed a narrator’s journey of discovery in the 1980s to knit the whole thing together.

Why then did the whole process take me so long? To begin with, I dithered endlessly over where to plunge in. There was a danger of multiple viewpoints whizzing round like an amateur video of a family celebration. The fact that the novel was going to span three time periods might lead to as many confusing flashbacks as an episode of Dr Who.

Naming a large cast and keeping track of their relationship to each other is very different from writing about two or three people in a short story. Even with a time line and spreadsheet, one early draft had a boy marrying his grandmother and I was guilty of raising the dead on more than one occasion.

When stuck for a name, I turned to memories of teaching English abroad and trust that my mixing and matching will prevent any former pupils cast as villains – oh, the satisfaction! – from taking umbrage or legal action. I reluctantly had to scrap the surname I’d chosen for my sadistic German colonel when I discovered that it meant ‘beekeeper’ – not quite the image I had in mind, and one character vacillated between Odette and Odile like a prima ballerina in Swan Lake.

While editing late one night, I was baffled by the phrase ‘like a Lucian child’ and then again by mention of ‘early German lucies’, until my tired brain remembered changing a name from Victor to Luc and using Word’s ‘Find and Replace’ facility to go through the whole manuscript willy-nilly. Lesson learnt!

To add fine detail to many episodes I turned to Google and still dread to think what an outside observer would make of my search history, studded as it is with references to Nazis, Parisian brothels, black marketeering and other illicit activities.

What finally spurred me on to give Shadows Of The Past, still growing like Topsy, priority over other writing commitments, my work as a ‘village regular’ on TV soap Emmerdale,family life, two demanding ex-feral cats, an obsession with salsa dancing and the occasional need to sleep? It was the realisation on New Year’s Day 2015 that time wasn’t on my side, unless I intended to follow in Mary Wesley’s footsteps and wait until I was seventy before publishing my first novel. That was my cue to enlist the help of fellow members of Ripon and York writers’ groups as well as a retired naval commander, a stickler for grammar and punctuation, to go through the final version for me.

Formatting my Word document for publication in both electronic and print versions would, I admit, have been quite beyond me. It is to my journalist son Richard Cobbett that I am indebted for layout, cover design and just about everything else apart from writing the actual story. If I’d been his age, I might have gone down the traditional route of sending in a synopsis and three chapters to umpteen agents chosen from the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook, waiting six months for a reply etc, but no. Enough time had gone by and I wanted to see my first novel ‘out there’ with my other books.

So, have greatly increased coffee (and chocolate biscuit) consumption, late nights/early mornings, raw eyes and the odd attack of heartburn been worth it?

Definitely!Shadows of the Past is selling steadily and has attracted some great reviews. My only dilemma now is what to concentrate on next.

Shadows cover_fullsize (1)Shadows Of The Past combines mystery, history and humour. Although centring on the disappearance of three English schoolgirls in the 1960s, the story has its roots in the German occupation of France two decades earlier.Check it out at http://amzn.to/1KF7xLG


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