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12th September 2022

Just a quick update here on the "Grey Motive" front. For some authors, the editing process is the longest part, but in fairness they get their first draft written a lot quicker than I do. Fortunately for me my first draft is, painstakingly, also my final draft and I'm relieved to say it has already passed the editing stage. A couple of minor changes to teenage Mandy's insults to her younger brother, deemed too un-'PC', which I think is fair enough. For me, she's her own entity, but I appreciate how her actions might reflect on me as an author. Censorship? I don't know. But while Mandy might not mind upsetting Jack, maybe I do mind upsetting readers. And so with a minor change to Mandy's vocabulary, "Grey Motive" is already signed off and ready for the final stage of publication. It never ceases to be exciting, whether a first book or a fifth (as in this instance) or a tenth or twentieth. Every new book is a new journey and we wouldn't be writers if we didn't still get a massive thrill out of it.

I'm also back teaching again for the new term and new writers are asking, "what's the process of writing?" The process differs from one author to the next. Many, like myself, begin with a character, an imaginary friend who moves in and lodges in the head for a while. Once I know their strengths and weaknesses, I set them on their journey and simply chase along behind them, trying to write down what unfolds. They lead, I follow, and they often surprise me. Other authors are precise planners, not starting a project until they have every detail of the plot listed and each chapter mapped out. Then there are the scene writers, who write ideas as they come into their head, this scene and that scene, in no particular order, until finally they have a jigsaw to assemble into a complete story. Some crime writers even leave it until the very end to decide who did it, then go back and drop in the clues. For me, stories are real and move forward, I couldn't imagine going back and altering the past. Characters lead, I follow. Whatever way you choose to write is the right way for you, there are no rules, no boundaries (Mandy might beg to differ...) and definitely no wrong way. Just go ahead and write.

A free sliding puzzle of Leitmotif (AKA Leo) for you to try, created by my husband Tony here.

31st August 2022

Thank you for your considerable patience in 'staying tuned for news'! It has no more gone unnoticed than the actual lack of news! Not that there isn't any. The novel, the cosy crime genre "Grey Motive", is actually finished! More than that, it is with Maverick House and they hope to have it out by the end of October. It will be my first title as an audio book, too.

What happened between completion and now is that I got sick. Being the times we live in, it might have been covid. Or not. When I didn't get better, the "or not" option became the more likely and antibioics are now doing their valuable work. At last, I am indeed getting better.

So, how did "Grey Motive" end? Wouldn't you like to know, you'll just have to buy a copy and find out! From my point of view it ended wonderfully, I had trusted the characters and had faith they knew what they were doing and where they were going. Better yet, I fired it off to Maverick House and received an almost immediate phone call that evening. "I can't tell you how happy receiving your book made me." Wow. As writers, we receive so many rejections that we forget that we are on the same hymn sheet as publishers. They also want to make a living from selling books. They do need us as much as we need them and it's so nice to be appreciated. Of course, it was a mutual grovelling gratitude conversation - I think we need them just slightly more than they need us! There's less of them to go round! But for my part, I count my blessings I'm with Maverick House and I hope I can repay their faith with a fourth success.

A free sliding puzzle of Leitmotif (AKA Leo) for you to try, created by my husband Tony here.

21st July 2022

So I last spoke to you in June... In my defence, I have put two magazines to bed, with hefty contributions of articles that required research and writing, plus a couple of fantastic meetings at the Curragh, including the Irish Derby weekend and Irish Oaks weekend! None of which truly held my full undivided attention. What has been keeping me from these updates is my nearly-finished novel "Grey Motive"!

Completing a novel is like completing a very long journey. Having spent hours on a motorway you suddenly pull off onto the familiar little road home. You can see the front door. It might have been tempting to stop for a break en route, but there's no way anyone stops in sight of home! So, "Grey Motive" is very near the finish line, stay tuned for news!

A free sliding puzzle of Leitmotif (AKA Leo) for you to try, created by my husband Tony here.

25th June 2022

Well, Royal Ascot is over and, as usual, it's difficult to reflect on the highlights. A normal day's racing might see me busy for two or three races, in which maybe three or four horses might be my focus. Royal Ascot is our Olympics, I am busy for five of the seven races, with a focus on EVERY runner in those races. And, of course, a spectator's interest in the other two races. At the end of each day, I can't remember a single result and by the end of the five days I can recall which horses I loved, but not where they finished or in which race! Quite simply, brain frazzling! This year we crept up to the hottest day of the year on Friday at 34 degrees celcius, when my feet and ankles swelled up like tree trunks, to the coldest day on Saturday at just 19 degrees celcius, when I bought an Ascot hoodie from the gift shop just to keep warm. The Dubai press shrugged off the hot day, describing it as "Dubai winter". I shrugged off the cold day - "Irish summer"!

Baaeed and Nature Strip were the obvious day one highlights, Nature Strip unusually tall for a sprinter and full of quality. To see the imposing Coroebus in the flesh was another treat. Seeing the Japanese horses during the week was a rare treat and they were striking colts, but Wednesday's highlight was the German filly Novemba, so sweet. The Norfolk field was surprisingly good in terms of potential three-year-olds and I liked Knebworth, unplaced in the Windsor Castle. Stradivarius coming in to a round of applause was probably the high of the week. The unseemly and unnecessary furore after the race from connections was the low. No matter the profession, employers should never publicly criticise employees. Moving on to Friday, Ottoman Fleet was an imposing gelding of Charlie Appleby's, and by Saturday it was the filly Lakota Sioux who caught the eye in the paddock, together with Crypto Force, neither of whom could match the debutant Holloway Boy in the race. Though disappointing, Hurricane Lane was a definite highlight, such an imposing horse. Naval Crown was no surprise, he's built like a sprinter with a backside like a bus!

But the week's number one highlight? Meeting lovely new people in the Media Centre and crossing the hallowed course to get there, that could figure. The prize, however, goes to the delightful German colt Rocchigiani, fifth in the Jersey Stakes but first in endearing himself to me! He took a keen interest in the solitary spectator at the spot on the saddling box rail known as "Ballydoyle Corner" and continued to chat me up thereafter! In all, a wonderful week spent with very nice people and utterly gorgeous horses.

Lissa My boy Rocchigiani Rocchigiani still with eyes for me! Stradivarius

A free sliding puzzle of Leitmotif (AKA Leo) for you to try, created by my husband Tony here.

7th June 2022

With just a week to go, all the glamour of Ascot is currently unglamorously festooned over every radiator in the house. As usual, the same mix'n'match dresses (warm or cold weather options) have been stored for the year in vacuum bags and have now been through the wash. Good practice, as the long-term forecast suggests we'll be going through the wash during a wet Ascot as well! My signature Doc Martens may get an Ascot airing after all…

It promises to be a fantastic meeting, with runners from Japan, America and Australia taking on the very best of the Europeans. Last weekend wasn't bad either, Desert Crown proving himself in The Derby, Emily Upjohn likewise in The Oaks, if by a gallant second to another star in Tuesday, and then Vadeni scooting up in the Prix du Jockey Club. As a first-crop son of Churchill, his ability to see out the 2400m of the Arc remains in question. That will please the legion of Australians hoping to see their prize mare Verry Elleegant romp home in Paris! I shall be decked out in all my Aussie racing badges next week in support of their sprinters - fingers crossed!

A free sliding puzzle of Leitmotif (AKA Leo) for you to try, created by my husband Tony here.

17th May 2022

A lot has happened in my absence! I was in hospital for a week, all good now. I had the great honour of representing the Libyan Horseracing Authority at the European & Mediterranean Horseracing Federations General Assembly here in Ireland. HRI and the IHRB really did us proud, thank you to all involved as hosts and to our wonderful hosts at Naas Racecourse and the Irish National Stud. What a lovely group of people in attendance, so knowledgeable and willing to share and support.

I am also very excited and relieved to announce that Grey Motive, still "in progress" will be published later this year by Maverick House. I pinch myself daily at how lucky I am to be working in the racing industry, but a second pinch for how blessed I am to have the loyal support of Maverick House.

And, of course, excitement grows as we find out who's left in The Derby. If I don't know who will win by the previous October then it's a sure fire guess it will be the Dante winner. This year got a little skewed by the setbacks to absentees Luxembourg and Reach For The Moon, but the Dante winner has stepped up in impressive style. I'm not worried by Desert Crown's lack of experience as he has a great temperament and is so professional. The same can't be said of the imposing Walk Of Stars', who was so green at Lingfield, although he showed he'd handle Epsom. He still needs the penny to drop, but you can rely on Charlie Appleby to get him there in the right frame of mind for the day. Stone Age speaks for himself, but that trial hasn't been for the better horses for many a year and the winner often impresses because there's not much behind him. Still, he looked good, even if his juvenile form isn't up to Derby standard. Having been privileged to see the Ballydoyle three-year-olds, including Luxembourg, for me Ivy League was the standout. There's a lot to come from him. Eydon's a very classy horse, but looks to me like a 10f horse, I can't see him lasting home. So...

My one-two-three? 1 Desert Crown, 2 Stone Age, 3 Walk Of Stars, 4 Ivy League, 5 Eydon!

A free sliding puzzle of Leitmotif (AKA Leo) for you to try, created by my husband Tony here.

23rd April 2022

Happy World Book Day! As part of the annual celebrations I take part in the Behind Every Book social media postings, where we get to see who our favourite authors are, as well as meet their cats and dogs in many cases! So, here I am!

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A free sliding puzzle of Leitmotif (AKA Leo) for you to try, created by my husband Tony here.

16th April 2022

We are beginning to lose many of the people who were important to me in my formative years in horseracing. Some I had the good fortune to meet, others leaving their mark from a distance. Although I did eventually meet Desmond Stoneham, only in recent years, he must fall under the latter category, making an indelible mark from across the Channel when there were no other lines of communication from France.

I didn't realise he only started writing for The Sporting Life in 1977, but by 1978 he was already an icon for me. That's when I first became an avid 'Life reader, by a happy coincidence its price of 25p the same price as the school dinner I thenceforward forewent. With Philippe Paquet and Jean-Luc Kessas among my riding heroes, with no internet or TV coverage, the reports by Des Stoneham were my lifeblood. They didn't need to be well-written, but the fact that they were such a perfect example of writing was just an added bonus to be savoured.

Des had such a wonderful dry wit and a way of subtly hiding his pearls among the Woolworths beads. As a reader, you felt like you were in a private club, the inner circle, there at the racecourse alongside him. It was writing to savour and aspire to. Always such humour rippling beneath the surface; the sharp but subtle jibe against a miscreant, usually a bad loser or immodest winner. I can't recall now which owner dropped their cut-crystal trophy in the car park, but I still remember Des' well-chosen words describing the fragments as cuttingly as he described the earlier poor sportsmanship. He was as careful with his praise where it was due and even when 'Mon' Thierry (Jarnet) was out of fashion for a while, Des never wrote his name without a compliment included beside it.

While I was at school in London he was relaying on-the-spot reports of the Chantilly gallops and he always spotted a class horse or rider long before ever they stepped out on a racecourse. He told his readers of Pasquier and Soumillon long before their first ride, convincing Fabre to give the latter a second chance when tardiness saw him dismissed after his first few weeks. That's all it took Des to recognise talent on the gallops, equine and human.

As a writer, he was second to none. My abiding memory is of an article in the much-missed "Courses et Elevage", which I was translating word-by-word with my trustee French/English Dictionary, as it detailed a winning ride by 'Mon' Thierry. The jockeys, Des wrote, were more competitive than usual, due to the unique prize at stake. The winning jockey would get to take home the attractive and popular partner of Christophe Soumillon, coveted by all in the weighing room. Obviously, I checked and re-checked my dictionary. I must surely have got that wrong somewhere. I ploughed on and eventually hit the Stoneham motherload of punchlines. Soumillon's partner finished eighth in what was his last race and went home with Jarnet, assured of a paddock for life. That calculated ambiguity throughout a lengthy half-page was the epitome of Des' style and wit and masterful prose.

A free sliding puzzle of Leitmotif (AKA Leo) for you to try, created by my husband Tony here.

27th March 2022

We had glorious spring sunshine and even warmth for the new Flat season at the Curragh yesterday, which also fell on my birthday. So, a very wonderful day. As to the new season, Aidan fetched his string along after racing, but it was very much reduced in numbers to other years, as well as in quality. On the day, the absolute pick out star, oozing quality, was actually Ivy League, who ran for the first time in the 7f maiden. He looks like a middle-distance horse and really needed the run, he was fat to say the least. Such presence. He's entered in the Gladness Stakes Sunday week and holds Derby entries. Interestingly, not Guineas, even though his first two races chosen are 7f.

Of the horses fetched to gallop, Wembley and High Definition looked really good, the only two older horses present. Wembley is a smallish compact type, lots to like about him and a nice attitude. High Definition is a lovely horse, a taller more elegant type with a real bouncy temperament, taking in everything and just on that point of exploding into mischievousness, but for having good manners. Exuberant.

Tenebrism really looks like a Classic filly. She might be sprint-bred, but her physique says otherwise. She's a muscular boxy type and very strong, very quiet and confident. You might say masculine in build, but she's also very feminine, not at all tomboyish.

Luxembourg I'm not excited about. He's a lovely quiet horse with a bright outlook, but he has no quality about him. Plain is not a plain enough word for him! He's a tall angular type, but totally lacking in class. HOWEVER! When he cantered to post he was a different animal, I only picked him out because of Ryan Moore. And he simply cruised back up the 7f gallop, absolutely effortless. He didn't have Point Lonsdale upsides, as reported, it was Kyprios and Waterville. The three had about two lengths over King Of Bavaria and Star Of India, and three more back to Cougar and Wordsworth, then Point Lonsdale, not that a racecourse gallop means very much.

None of the three-year-olds really jumped out at me as stunning or classy, Waterville and, to a lesser degree Martinstown, were the paddock picks and did have a lot of quality, where Luxembourg had none. Waterville was a standout, Cougar looked a nice sort too, as did Aikhal.

An interesting season ahead!

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A free sliding puzzle of Leitmotif (AKA Leo) for you to try, created by my husband Tony here.

25th March 2022

It was very sad to lose Jimmy Lindley. I only knew him as a pundit, other than old videos of his riding days, but he was always spoken of with such reverence as a jockey by all. As a pundit, he was the best. It wasn't until Francesca Cumani and Luke Harvey did I get a paddock judge I could trust. I'd come home from the races as a schoolgirl and my Mum would tell me which horses Jimmy had picked out and his comments, while I would show her my racecard notes, and we nearly always matched. I learnt such a lot about conformation and physique through listening to him. On days I couldn't go racing, I knew I could safely watch on TV and trust Jimmy's opinion.

11th March 2022

If you're tuning in for an update on Pete Allen's progress, he being the hero of Gala Day and participating in a character challenge, then I've bad news. You could say that Pete's progress was "arrested". As the challenges grew in length, so too is my next novel "Grey Motive" and I found it better to devote my writing time to the two detectives featured in "Grey Motive" than to Pete's challenge. While Pete's rivals were brandishing magic powers and wands and pretty impressive swords, he was reducing them to jelly with a mere lowering of the designer shades and more than holding his own, it must be said. But each challenge was like writing a short story and my limited time forced him to lay down the sunglasses and withdraw from battle.

All of which was good news for DI de Freitas and DS McCulloch. Yes, Sergeant McCulloch. If that rings a bell, you're a friend of mine! You'll usually find a splattering of music references within my books and "Grey Motive" is no exception. In fact, main character Jack has a passion for LPs, although his taste in music is at great odds with my own. I have to say this book was a very slow starter in terms of progress, but now I'm settling into the flow it's going along at a more normal rate of progress and very nearly finished, in fact. I'm juggling with timelines and trying to prevent de Freitas and McCulloch from solving the crime before the end, but otherwise in a very happy writing place right now. So stay tuned once more!

A free sliding puzzle of Leitmotif (AKA Leo) for you to try, created by my husband Tony here.

28th February 2022

Pete from the thriller Gala Day is holding his own in a character challenge that largely includes fantasy fiction characters. In fact, he may be the only human among them and is certainly the only human without mystical powers, unless you include the shades, of course. It has yet to conclude, so we'll see how he fairs next month, perhaps.

Meanwhile, my challenge for the day was to tutor a creative writing class while simultaneously hosting my vet for a "Herd" Test. It is still a Herd, even when it consists only of Gary the Dexter bullock! One a year for all of his 19 years, come June, so he's a pretty dab hoof at this. I am not such a dab hand at hosting Zoom classes via a mobile phone, but in the end it worked OK and the weather was kind, as I conducted a live broadcast from The Field. At one point I had to set my class down, while attending to the vet, and on my return I discovered that Leo the horse had taken over as host, peering with great interest at the little people within my phone. Luckily he deduced their pockets would be way too small for Polos, otherwise I might never have seen my unattended phone ever again. Creative Writing is all about inspiration and hopefully the class gained plenty of that, with the blue skies of an open-air classroom, background sounds of a vet chatting with Gary, a horse appearing in ultra zoom mode on their screen and the sight of me losing a welly in the mud and toppling over backwards. All in day's work!

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A free sliding puzzle of Leitmotif (AKA Leo) for you to try, created by my husband Tony here.

12th February 2022

Well, Pete Allen from the thriller Gala Day has embarked on his Challenge, which you can follow on Twitter, my Facebook page and on Goodreads. So far, he has responded to most challenges with "my shades"! His designer sunglasses have turned out to be his favourite wardrobe item, his distinctive physical appearance, his most treasured item and his "Magic Power" and "Weapon of Choice", albeit a tad facetiously! There have been some more closer-to-home challenges that couldn't be brushed off with a witty answer and they have certainly made Pete think a lot harder about who he is.

Which is interesting, from an author's perspective. We create characters, who then take on a life of their own. If you are a writer and one of your characters is unable to answer the challenges, then you haven't finished creating that character yet. Their favourite colour, book, school subject, their family life, childhood, career, friends and interests should have been shared with you as their creator. None of it might ever get used in the story, but you need to know these people intimately in order for them to become fully-rounded people populating your stories. Otherwise they are just paper-thin characters who sit within a story, rather than living inhabitants of a fictional world.

A free sliding puzzle of Leitmotif (AKA Leo) for you to try, created by my husband Tony here.

18th January 2022

I received an interesting invitation this week, to enter one of my characters into a "challenge". Twelve authors (so far) will nominate a character from one of their novels to enter the challenge. The characters will face a series of tests and a winner will eventually be named. Your guess is as good as mine, but seemingly this is the third year of the challenge and I'm intrigued!

I know nothing of the challenge, so the first challenge for me was who to nominate? Marcel was never going to be a contender. He failed to cope with the challenges I threw at him in Chantilly Dawns, which was the whole point of the story. Serge would have coped better, but he'd go at this like a bull in a china shop, act first, think later if at all! Within Sainte Bastien I could choose Dominic, who I know wouldn't be interested and wouldn't bother himself to compete, or his father Nick, who wouldn't have the time or patience. Loss of temper would surely ensue.

Which leaves Pete Allen, and no better man for the job. That was, after all, what he was born to do - to take the bull by the horns in Gala Day and become a hero, even though he's far from heroic and not afraid to admit to being scared. He doesn't let that put him off, though. Level-headed, proven in combat and with a secret enjoyment of acting a hero, if truth be told. Pete, I don't know what I'm letting you in for, but I know I can depend upon you to win! Let battle commence!

A free sliding puzzle of Leitmotif (AKA Leo) for you to try, created by my husband Tony here.

7th January 2022

My new year's resolution, of course, is to keep my website News up to date! Father Christmas was particularly kind to me with books and I'm pretty much nearing the completion of my own next novel "Grey Motive", so we'll see how that particular resolve pans out, shall we?! The big question now is, which of the books will I begin first? Actually, the one already missing from the pile pictured - Gideon Defoe's excellent "An Atlas Of Extinct Countries"! Last Christmas I received all of his brilliantly funny "Pirates!" books.

It looks like another year ahead the same as the two just gone, but I'm perfectly happy at home with my family, pets, my writing, my books and my records. Zoom gets me "out of the house" and I love my ETB Creative Writing Classes, sitting in the company of excellent writers in their home and listening to fantastic poetry, prose, novel extracts and short stories. Many are heading into their second year of classes and although they were totally new to writing this time last year, we have seen publication for some and simply enjoyed fantastic work from all. What a joy the classes have been. If you would like to join Creative Writing classes online, free to all courtesy of the ETB, simply drop me an email.

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A free sliding puzzle of Leitmotif (AKA Leo) for you to try, created by my husband Tony here.

26th November 2021

I see I've had a bit of a gap in updating my news, which is not to say nothing has been happening. Mainly I've been tutoring Creative Writing classes and they have been rather like listening to an exclusive audio book, the quality of stories has been so high and so enjoyable. As they come to a close for the autumn term I'm really going to miss everyone and their work. It's a reminder to anyone reading this who might like to dabble in writing but lacks the courage that, yes, you can do it! We all have a story to tell and the ability to tell it. Pick up a pen and a notebook, remember it's private to you alone and don't give a thought to spelling or grammar, just write.

Of course, I do have a story to tell and have been telling it now for uh-hum years and largely updating you all on the lack of progress! I signed up to NaNoWriMo, an incentive to write a novel throughout November, and I have to say it has worked really well. I have felt compelled to sit down with my cosy crime novel "Grey Motive" each day, even if only to get 50 words written, and as a result there have been days where 1,500 or 500 words have been added, which is all a step nearer to the 80,000 needed. It also keeps the characters right there with me every day, where they had in the past often been neglected, so to have a daily target is a huge benefit.

A free sliding puzzle of Leitmotif (AKA Leo) for you to try, created by my husband Tony here.

19th October 2021

I am very honoured, as well as feeling a little unworthy, to announce that I have been appointed Consultant to the Libyan Horseracing Authority. Many years ago, I heard about a Libyan breeder buying broodmares at Newmarket to replenish an entire stud farm destroyed by war. As horse lovers, we are all horrified by the devastating loss of our beloved companions and my heart went out to the brothers Amad and Rashwan as they attempted not only to rebuild their family business and livelihood, but restore equine harmony to their life and that of their young children. I met them at Newmarket and a friendship was formed. I met the mares they had purchased and my heart travelled with my extended equine and human family back home to Libya.

Life for them all hasn't always been easy. For the horses, it has been one of incredible luxury, the stables and care received from the brothers and their children and staff would make the Coolmore inhabitants feel they were roughing it! But there has also been danger, threat and kidnap, with some lives lost and others requiring expert TLC to see them through.

Now that period of uncertainty has passed, we can only hope for good, the new government has invested heavily in the thoroughbred industry, to restore stability and employment to what will become a thriving economic boon to the country. Dr Amad has become President of the Libyan Horseracing Authority and is establishing racing as he established his stud farm - thinking big, on a lavish and luxurious scale. When international runners eventually arrive to compete, they will be pleasantly astonished.

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A free sliding puzzle of Leitmotif (AKA Leo) for you to try, created by my husband Tony here.

9th October 2021

Although we had a "shock" result to the Arc last weekend, it was only in terms of betting. The winner was a worthy horse with Group One form and the better fancied horses who had given this year's Arc its status of being one of the highest class renewals finished right up there with Torquator Tasso. Full credit to the horse and his lovely connections, for whom it was a fairytale win.

Meanwhile, my other passions include an admiration of the Emperor Nero and the British Museum exhibition reflecting those views, Nero - The Man Behind The Myth, draws to a close this month. Your last chance to see the exhibition is 24th October, but for those like me who have been unable to attend in person there have been plenty of online events, virtual tours and webinars, all of which remain on YouTube. If you agree with the views presented by the British Museum you will definitely enjoy my own book, Nero - The Last Caesar, which puts those facts into context, rather than looking back through modern eyes. If you don't, then you might like to re-read Suetonius and Tacitus back-to-back and reconsider! It was their many contradictions that led me into my own research and writing.

A free sliding puzzle of Leitmotif (AKA Leo) for you to try, created by my husband Tony! here.

3rd October 2021

My favourite race, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe! At the risk of sounding contrary, I don't enjoy The Derby if I don't know who's going to win. If a generation of horses have reached June of their third year wthout one shining through as a standout horse, it's usually not a good generation. This year I was convinced Hurricane Lane was the shining star, and he pretty much is; but it's a vintage year and Adayar is even better! With the Arc, however, I love it because I never know what the outcome might be, any horse could win. There's that great thrill of excitement and anticipation that one unknown horse, of any sex, nationality and age group, can establish his or herself as a world class champion. You could make a case for all of the runners, which makes the Arc such a special race. Today will be the rematch between Hurricane Lane and Adayar, and it could at long last be Japan's day with Chrono Genesis. Being the 100th running of the Arc makes it extra special.

That thrill of anticipation has always meant that Arc Trial day at Longchamp is my favourite day's racing, although in recent times it has clashed with Irish Champions Weekend. At Longchamp in September you get to see most of the Arc contenders, and three of them will win, with others running so well their chances are also enhanced, but the bubble still floats brightly. The expectations and hopes are alive. Only one will walk back into the winner's enclosure on the first Sunday of October and that's the season over. Yes, we have British Champions Day and the Breeders Cup still to come, but neither really excite me. Today marks the close of my racing year and what a way to end it! In tribute, of all my Arc photos, here's one from 1982, when it was run late and too dark for my cheap little instamatic, but I captured the filly who would become my own horse's grandmother, Air Distingue, with Cash Asmussen!

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A free sliding puzzle of Leitmotif (AKA Leo) for you to try, created by my husband Tony! here.

15th September 2021

Here we are on my 35th Wedding Anniversary, a Coral one, so our goldfish are likely to be gifted some plastic coral whenever we manage to find some! How blessed I am to have shared most of my life with my best friend Tony. I also shared the weekend with him and our wonderful Ska family at Tramore racecourse, for the annual International Ska and Reggae Festival. It was my first time at Tramore racecourse (you should know me by now, no starting stalls, no interest!)and I was delighted by the little course and facilities. When I say little, I mean it! I've never been at such a tiny track before, and I've been at Bath and Windsor! The 50m marker was only just off the home turn, so I'm judging the sraight to be around 100m. From the winning post, we were looking straight across at the 4f (800m) marker on the back stretch! A Flat horse would get dizzy going round it a couple of times, so how those jump horses manage I don't know! It must take them four circuits! And the back stretch is so high above the home straight of the oval that the runners get lost from sight in the home turn dip! You have to love the wonderful variants of the British Isles racecourses, the flat and standardised tracks of the rest of the world just don't compare.

Meanwhile, the novel "Grey Motive" continues to progress and hopefully there will be a few more novels progressing elsewhere, as I welcome back my ETB students to Creative Writing via Zoom, with four classes per week starting next week for the autumn term. It's so exciting and inspirational and a real treat for me to hear their work.

A free sliding puzzle of Leitmotif (AKA Leo) for you to try, created by my husband Tony! here.

31st August 2021

I hope any fans of my book "Nero - The Last Caesar" are following the many online events at The British Museum, they really are excellent. I finished researching and then published the book way back in 2001, so for me it has been great to reacquaint myself with some old friends.

Anyhow, as my other old friend Karl Marx was apt to begin paragraphs (I've been dipping back into my well-read volumes of Capital!), 20 years later and my new novel "Grey Motive" looks set to be completed by October. I had some really exciting revelations last week that have tied up all the loose threads and helped me (and the reader!) stay one step ahead of the fictional detectives. Frustratingly, I can't share them, as they will be massive plot-spoilers! But as I have always said, you must trust your characters, follow their lead, and not try to push them into your own ideas - they create plots all by themselves. This is what has happened, cogs falling into place and almost without my input. When you create 'real' characters they gain their own voice and the wise author should always listen.

A free sliding puzzle of Leitmotif (AKA Leo) for you to try, created by my husband Tony! here.

10th August 2021

My last entry showed the arrival of summer, but it has already passed. We managed to get away to Cork for a couple of days, walking the forests of the Beara Peninsula. Not before my horse Leo had an emergency trip to the equine hospital, having knocked out a front tooth! Thanks to the superb vets and nurses at Troytown, he is back home and not a bother on him. I also received a wonderful package from the British Museum, the bust of Nero and the coffee table book to accompany the exhibition now my pride and joy. There's great reading in the book and, thankfully, no contradictions to my own book on Nero!

Meanwhile, four works of reference on equine welfare have kept me busy (two down, two to go), but I have made inroads on my novel "Grey Motive". I had been struggling to get going, as the characters were telling me one thing, while my instinct battled against them. As it's their book, I of course lost and hit a wall. I have now realised, thanks to a most enlightening chat with fellow novelist Roy Hunt, that I'm writing 'Cosy Crime' and the menace I wanted to introduce isn't nearly as good as the more mundane but equally threatening elements my characters were creating. Always trust your characters and bow to their better judgement! Non-writers might think the author has more control, but every writer will tell you otherwise. We record what they do, not tell them what to do.

And so I am now safely on the best part of the novel's journey, at full stretch and aiming to finish by October. A mere 300-word a day target will see me across that deadline, so far being comfortably surpassed. Setting a low target really boosts both morale and energy when you surpass it; I personally prefer that to the challenge of a higher target.

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Try this sliding puzzle of Leitmotif (AKA Leo) created by my husband Tony! here.

20th July 2021

Summer has finally arrived in Ireland and the weather is scorchio! Not to everyone's taste and my heart goes out to my boys, Leo Horse and Gary bullock, but I LOVE the heat! The boys have become nocturnal and spend their day standing in the stream, under the shade of the trees. A pity the flies bother them, but otherwise idyllic.

I have been so enjoying the Nero exhibition tie-ins at the British Museum, so don't forget to contact me if you'd like a signed copy of "Nero - The Last Caesar"! I'm glad I finally took the fiction route with that particular book. I know very few people are aware of the non-fiction academic biographies available, but I had nothing new to add to those anyway and my own biography of Nero, which was the framework for my novel, simply repeated the same facts. By breathing life into Nero and his peers, I hope I fetched something new to the way his story is told - by him, instead of by biographers. The Museum is doing this, too, and providing artifacts as well to really bring the man and his era to life.

As regards new fiction, in particular that work-ever-in-progress "Grey Motive", I decided to learn from my creative writing students and attempt something I've never done before - plot the story! I thought it might help to get my head around the story to layout a structure and sequence of events. No! It doesn't help! I can no more plot the lives of my characters as I can my own! The future hasn't happened yet and I can only list the final target. How they reach it is entirely up to them. I guess every writer has their own way of going about things, but I'm a One Draft Only author. I can only sit back and watch the characters tell their own story, writing it down for them as I follow in their wake, no more than an observer. So yes, it is a slow process, but at least I don't have an editing stage or a second or third draft.

And now, back to the horses! Try the sliding puzzle of Leitmotif created by my husband Tony! here.

20th June 2021

Well, it isn't lack of news that has kept me silent here for a little while. There was Royal Ascot, followed via ITV and the Zoom facility in the press room. Great to see so many first-time winners there, most notably Gary Carroll. Well done to all. Our main news was adopting five more hens rescued from a battery farm, and what characters they are! The two we rescued last year are a little put out about sharing treats, but all are such fun to have around. We had to rebuild the luxury dwelling to allow the two ducks their own space, as they were getting bullied by the new hens. All is sorted now.

Also taking up some time has been the Nero Exhibition at the British Museum. For those who don't realise, we owe an awful lot of enduring misconceptions to the movies. For example, me hearties, did you know that pirates only talk in that amusing pirate way because of actor Robert Newton's portrayal of Long John Silver in the 1950 film Treasure Island? Newton went on to play Blackbeard in a 1952 movie and his portrayal of pirates has endured to this day. Then there are those frightfully upper-class First World War pilots, originally brought to our screens by RADA graduate actors. The genuine pilots had been working-class conscripts and the only link to aristocracy was the accent of the actors who later portrayed them. Literature is just as guilty, most famously American author Washington Irving creating the fallacy that people once thought the world was flat, by adding drama to his 1828 story about Christopher Columbus by suggesting his fear of dropping off the edge of the world! Seafarers had been navigating by the stars from the earliest Egyptians to Columbus himself, but the idea that people once thought the world flat has stuck in popular myth ever since.

Every Easter or Christmas you might see on your screens the classic 1951 movie Quo Vadis, in which Peter Ustinov portrayed the madman, Emperor Nero. I grew up with his imagery, so I was astonished to later learn it was all false. Nero was a young man of just 16 when he became Emperor, a well-respected statesman and a man of the people, driven to suicide at the age of 30 without once having murdered a wife, mother or fiddled while Rome burnt! He was blonde and blue-eyed and, as the title of my book indicates, the last of the Caesar family. The title of Emperor was hereditary, so a new line had to be found and the Flavian dynasty fought against the popularity of the Caesars, not least the idealist Nero who had been so adored by the people. Their answer was to perpetuate negative propaganda, written some 50 years after Nero's death and fabricating many of the events he is now famous for. Now, running until October, the British Museum is hosting an exhibition of the real Nero, The Man Behind The Myth, which replicates the 10-years of research I worked on for my novel Nero - The Last Caesar. For those of us who can't travel over, a Virtual Tour can be found on the Facebook and YouTube pages of the British Museum #NeroExhibition.

And back to the horses, try the sliding puzzle of Leitmotif created by my husband Tony! here.

4th June 2021

I should have been discussing The Derby winner here from at least last October, but not having seen any horse in the flesh it no longer comes down to recognising his class and superiority. Now I'm in the guessing game of form, which is a lot less reliable than physical appearance. The only Group 1 winners are Mac Swiney, who is already a Classic winner, and Gear Up. It's never wise to stray far from a proven Group 1 horse or a Classic winner with stamina for 12f, since The Derby winner is going to be the best horse of his generation. Bolshoi Ballet has not trodden the traditional path of a first string Derby colt and flashy Gr3 winners have been found out at Gr1 level often enough in the past. My maxim is that if I haven't seen The Derby winner by the Dante Stakes, then it will be the Dante winner, Golden Horn being the most recent example. When a Derby horse isn't forward enough at two to take the traditional route, he tends to wait for the Dante. Trainers know when they have a Derby horse and nearly everyone in the profession knows when someone has THE Derby horse! So, the Gear Up team are bullish he'll improve for the race and extra 2f after a disappointing Dante run, but The Derby winner rarely brings excuses into the race. Mac Swiney is the Classic colt who should relish the step up to 12f, but I think I'll stay with the Dante winner in Hurricane Lane.

Bigger news is the four-year ban handed to trainer Stephen Mahon for neglect of horses. I'm sorry, but as disgusted as I am with Mahon, I am even more disgusted by our ruling body. I feel that anything less than a lifetime ban is a real kick in the teeth to our industry by the IHRB (Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board). Mahon had already been convicted of cruelty and banned, so how was he ever granted a licence again and allowed to commit repeated offences? Once bitten, twice shy, but here is the IHRB giving the man a THIRD chance! Theoretically he can re-apply for his licence after his derisory four-year ban. Whether it's in racing or a national court of law, a conviction for animal cruelty should result in a lifetime ban of ever keeping an animal again. We would expect the IHRB to protect the animals at the centre of our sport and the image and reputation of our industry, not meter out such derisory penalties. It's an insult to everyone in the profession.

Less taxing, the sliding puzzle of Leitmotif created by my husband Tony! here.

22nd May 2021

It has been a very sad week, with the sudden loss of Joe Mercer. He was known as "Uncle Joe" to my friends and me and we couldn't have wished for a better mentor. I first met him on my first day at the races, introduced to him by Brough Scott who knew Joe and Brigadier Gerard were my heroes. Below is the signed photo Joe gave me, alongside Joe on board Brigadier Gerard, and Light Cavalry, a son of Brigadier Gerard. I could have cropped and tidied, but there they are as they have always been, in my treasured 40-yr-old photo album. They say never meet your heroes, but I count myself blessed to have not only met such heroes, but counted them as friends. My musical heroes, too, have never let me down, for that matter.

Joe was always patient and kind, and we learnt so much from him. When we were broken hearted upon the retirement of Kris, Joe cheered us up with details of Kris's younger brothers at home. But for me, he will always be the perfect jockey above all else. It was a golden era of jockeys and he shone the brightest. I learnt about jockeyship from him and it has stood me in good stead ever since. RIP, Joe.

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Back to the horses now and a fiendish sliding puzzle of Leitmotif created by my husband Tony! here.

15th May 2021

It has been a very eventful week or two, culminating in getting my first dose of Pfizer vaccine this morning. So far so good! Having not been anywhere other than a supermarket, my last trip out having been to Gilltown Stud in February 2020, I also managed a day trip yesterday. My thanks to Ger Lyons and the wonderful team at Glenburnie Stables. Such a tranquil place, with beautiful horses and wonderful people. I've been a fan of Ger's horses for 20 years and his work riders are top quality, too. A real feast for the eyes watching a couple of lots, stalls training (ably assisted by the large canine welcoming committee!) and just shadowing Ger to see how things are done. It will make a great cover feature for the next Trainer Magazine. Elsewhere, I have also been asked to be involved in an exciting project, as chief writer and consultant, although as it's pre-production I'm not free to discuss it at present. It will keep me busy, but very happy.

Why not try a fiendish sliding puzzle of Leitmotif created by my husband Tony! here.

29th April 2021

I don't stray too far from horses, music or writing and if I appear to stray now to first century Rome and the Emperor Nero, it's really just a variant of the same path! Like myself, Nero loved his pets, was a keen horseman, loved racing, loved music and was a good musician, and he was a respected writer and strong supporter of the Arts. He was also a man of the people and a socialist in his politics, a Marxist 1800 years before Marx! Why do I mention this? Because so few people have read any academic works on Nero and most know him only as the deranged despot portrayed by Peter Ustinov in the movie Quo Vadis. So whenever I say I've written a book about Nero because he was such a good guy and great leader, I am treated much like the madman populist history would have him to be!

At last - the British Museum has come to our rescue, saving the reputation of Nero and the slur on my sanity! If you follow the #NeroExhibition on social media you will find links and informaton of a forthcoming exhibition on Nero, running from May to November, introducing us to the real Nero, the man behind the myth. In her blog,Francesca Bologna, Nero Project Curator, provides a wonderful summary of my book as she explains why Nero came to be the victim of such a smear campaign fifty years after his death. The public loved him, but not the new Imperial family which followed. About two thousand years too late, between the British Museum and my own one woman crusade we will restore Nero's good name and reputation. He is a man to be admired and if you doubt the facts in my own book, go along to the British Museum in the coming year and prepare to be amazed! Thank you Francesca Bologna, Nero and I are very grateful!

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Back to the horses now and a fiendish sliding puzzle of Leitmotif created by my husband Tony! here.

18th April 2021

Another couch potato day and a far cry from being on my feet all day at the races! At Newbury the best race for the future looks to be the 8f maiden won by Snow Lantern, by Frankel out of Sky Lantern, beating Derab, a Sea The Stars half-brother to Enable, and Fantastic Fox, a Frankel half-brother to Dream Of Dreams. We tend to only see pedigrees like that in Irish maidens! Wordsworth won at the Curragh yesterday, a full-brother to Kew Gardens. He was beaten three-parts of a length by High Definition on his only start at two over a mile and this was a nice win over 10f.

The John Porter Stakes was a very nice one-two for paddock picks, Al Aasy looks very classy, a nice older Gr1 12f colt. Without A Fight is full of quality and will hopefully improve on last year's consistent form to remain in Group company. In the Fred Darling, Alcohol Free will come on for her run, but didn't look convincing enough for a Guineas filly. Breeding, size and staying on at the finish suggests runner-up Statement needs more than 7f and even The Oaks.

At Longchamp, the Prix de la Grotte threw up no Classic clues, all finishing in a heap, and no standout in the paddock. The same might be said of the Greenham Stakes, Chindit really doesn't look like a Classic colt. Connections say he'll improve for the mile, but he's a compact type and his build suggests the 7f was his optimum.

Sealiway was the real paddock pick for the Fontainebleau, in fact I'd picked him when I didn't know who he was, walking round the stabling area prior to the earlier race, so it was lovely to see him stepping out under the No.4 cloth later! Policy Of Truth looked nothing special in the paddock, but proved the winner. Hopefully a fitter Sealiway will reverse that form comfortably in the future.

The Prix Lord Seymour saw the return of In Swoop, who looked well, along with paddock picks Influx and Sheraz. Sublimis certainly wasn't a paddock pick, but got up to beat In Swoop, with Sheraz third and Influx only 5th. Again, there will be better to come from In Swoop, and hopefully of Sheraz and particularly the handsome Influx.

A fiendish sliding puzzle of Leitmotif created by my husband Tony! here.

11th April 2021

What a treat for me watching live racing from Longchamp on the France Galop website, where coverage is now on continuous livestream, as with Deutscher Galop. So we can view the stable area and paddocks, then the parade ring, see the horses as they first enter, assess them walking round and going out onto the track, then see them led back in and led away. All of which tells you as much, if not more, than the race itself.

The neatly-made and extremely attractive Adhamo won the Prix La Force for Freddy Head and Maxime Guyon and looks a serious Prix du Jockey Club horse. The fillies didn't look of such quality in their trial, Rumi's win was more workmanlike than exciting. On TV, it was the 2000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown. The strongly built Poetic Flare was the standout paddock pick in a below-par bunch and so it proved in the race. Not sure if it's Classic form, but he won nicely and he's a good-looking muscular horse. HMS Seahorse had earlier run second in the maiden and has a lovely eye and could be one to note. Again, the fillies weren't so striking.

On to the Prix D'Harcourt, where Skalleti is a class horse and looked really well, but wow what a beauty Mare Australis is, a great big strong filly with such a good head and eye. I love her! The pair ran out a convincing one-two, with Skalleti laying his claims of being one of the better older horses this year. Back on TV and it was good to see Real Appeal winning the 7f handicap. He was such an imposing two-year-old and I was delighted to see him arrive at Jim Bolger's from France, having been taken with him at Ascot. However, I lost last season and here he is now with Jessie Harrington. Hopefully his winning ways will continue, he's better than handicap class.

Back to Longchamp for the Prix Noailles and Media Stream and Pretty Tiger looked good, but it was Cheshire Academy who really stood out as the paddock pick, full of quality. I liked Baha Mar, too. Pretty Tiger "won" and not understanding French I was unaware that the narrowly beaten Cheshire Academy then claimed the race in the stewards' room! A good day for paddock picks, even via a screen.

The Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown never really draws the true Derby types, but Bolshoi Ballet and Isle Of Sark look to have some quality, with Fernando Vichi a nice type, too. We're not talking Classic standard, though. Taipan ran really well, but on TV at least looked a little plain.

I lost last season, with the exception of ITV racing, but with TG4 now providing coverage of the horses (where RTÉ failed) and France Galop also allowing full streaming, I'm back in the swing! I can even share the press room of the major meetings via Zoom, so now Classic Trial season is upon us, happy days!

6th April 2021

As you may have guessed by now, I'm a devotee of Flat racing, but not a great follower of National Hunt. I like only two sports, though technically it's one and a half - football and Flat racing. The size and physique of the NH horses are totally different, it's like comparing football to rugby. The pedigrees are alien to me as well. Even though generally the NH horses are unscathed after a fall and fall less frequently than my own Leo does when he's having a fun old race around the field, something he likes to do at dusk on a daily basis, I still don't like to see them jumping fences, it's always a worry. That said, there are horses who absolutely love it, so I won't allow my own angst to stand in the way of their pleasure.

While you might be used to finding the name of next year's Derby winner listed here with certainty, you have never found mention of the Grand National. Until now! On Saturday we will have a family runner, or very nearly! The biggest member of our family is Leo, and his family extends to numerous equine relatives in South America and France and a host of human 'family' acquired prior to his arrival with us in 2009. Leo's former trainer, John McConnell, is therefore some form of adopted great uncle in-law and we will therefore be cheering on ecstatically John's very first Grand National runner, Some Neck. Jockey Simon Torrens will also be getting his first ride in the race aboard, appropriately enough, a grey. Six years Leo's junior, Some Neck also boasts Machiavellian on his dam's side, so in a distant cousin several times removed kind of way they are related and genuine family! Let's just hope Some Neck jumps better than our Leo who, as racehorse Leitmotif, could never remember to pick his feet up when attempting to step over a pole!

22nd March 2021

This week is bookended between the First Day of The Flat Ireland and the First Day of The Flat Britain and for the second season in a row I will be at neither. Other than my own, the last thoroughbred I met in person was Sea The Stars, so I can die happy, at least! He is, and always will be, "my young man"! I just can't believe I've gone a whole year without seeing him again; although he never forgets any of his admirers, so it will eventually be friendship as usual. Below you'll find a photo I took of him at home at Currabeg when he was a mere three-year-old. Happy days.

Of course, I do get to see another racehorse daily and the markedly slower, tubbier and lovelier Leitmotif, Leo to us, is usually to be found within peering-in distance of our windows. So he will be the subject of this season's horse discussions, in the absence of paddock judging at the races. Today he had his feet done and decided flatly he did not require a lead rein. We pirouetted a few times until I accepted the lead rein was a no-no. Despite which, we walked together anyway, side by side, across the field and out through the gate to the farrier. I suppose he was simply allowing himself the option to flee should the need have arisen. After 13 years here, such a need never has, but it never hurts to take precautions once in a while! The moral is, if you're planning on having a flutter during the racing year, do use this as an example of why you probably shouldn't! You never know what goes through a horse's mind! Actually, when I'm attempting the slider puzzle below, it's usually his rump or a hoof! Try it for yourself!

A fiendish sliding puzzle of Leitmotif created by my husband Tony! here.

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5th March 2021

It has been a difficult time for racing professionals. It's very sad to see disrespect within our own circle, but even sadder should that turn to wider disrespect of all of us by the public and sections of the media. I have been in a yard when a horse has been lost and the sorrow is palpable. Grooms and riders work with that horse for at least eight hours a day, seven days a week. Others also spend just as much time with the horses in the yard. Even if you are lucky enough to have your own horse, you probably don't get to hang out with him or her for much more than an hour or so each day. For professionals, our life revolves around them, all day, every day. To make little of a death is hard for anyone who had an emotional attachment and that's the cruellest aspect of events.

Have you tried to assemble my own horse Leitmotif yet? A fiendish sliding puzzle created by my husband Tony! here.

9th February 2021

What a difference a week makes! I now have five groups of Creative Writers, including one of 10-14-year-olds, and it's so invigorating and inspiring to hear so much fresh new work each week. Imagination is an incredible thing and the right choice of word has such an impact. We laugh, we debate, we stop and think, and we cry. I am back in my happy creative zone as a result and my next novel, "Grey Motive", has my full attention once more. It helps that "Racing Certainty" has been tucked in safely to bed at the printers! It's a lovely magazine and a real pleasure to be involved with - but, gosh, what a drain and how stressful!

Speaking of stressful, have you tried to assemble Leitmotif yet? A fiendish sliding puzzle created by my husband Tony! here.

28th January 2021

I have so enjoyed welcoming new writers to the current term of Creative Writing, run by my local Community Education team. I am facilitating four groups each week and their work is always inspiring. Taking the first steps to becoming a writer and making your voice heard is always much easier in a like-minded group, which provides encouragement and support. It isn't about learning to write stories, because we all have the ability already, it's about gaining confidence and belief in our work.

If you would like to start writing, I have a lot of advice and tips on my About / FAQs page here on my website, but you can always drop me an email for help.

18th January 2021

The spring term of Creative Writing classes are getting underway and it's always such a pleasure to welcome new and aspiring writers. Our groups are privileged to be the first to hear a story and to be able to share creative ideas. It's always inspiring, and I'm no exception. I am duly inspired to knuckle down and get that novel finished!

Yesterday I did more reading through than writing, but gained 50 words anyway. I have set a target of 500 words a day, although I won't beat myself up if I don't reach it. I regularly write 3,000 words a day for magazines, so the novel can't always be top priority. Having a target is great, though, when I exceed the figure and can go to bed with a real sense of achievement. So, here's to Grey Motive, may it be on the shelves sooner than you think!

Have you tried to assemble Leitmotif yet? A fiendish sliding puzzle created by my husband Tony! here.

31st December 2020

It's time to wish everyone a happy new year, may it be a safe and enjoyable one, and to thank you all for your support over the year. It's hard to imagine, but there are so many of you reading this who I don't even know. Through the website and Facebook I've become acquainted with readers and other authors and it's amazing to think of the lives my books and characters have once they get out into the world. When I'm reading one of my favourite authors, I think of their characters as my own personal friends and of their creators as superstar celebrities; yet we're all just fellow-writers sitting at home tapping away in our spare time and suffering angst over whether the latest work is as good as others. I always love the knowledge that the more people read a character and develop a friendship with that character, the more real that character becomes. I breathe life into them, but readers supply the daily oxygen to keep them alive. Thank you readers!

And speaking of readers, if any of you were among the 800 or so who bought a copy of "Nero - The Last Caesar" in May, or the further 900 or so who bought a copy in August, I would dearly love to know why! It's one of life's great mysteries that you all rushed out over a two-day period to purchase a copy of a title that would ordinarily sell ten copies a year! Many of you are in the USA and Japan, so please do get in touch with any feedback, I'd be delighted to hear from readers.

The horseracing thrillers, of course, are what I'm better known for and an equal thank you to all those who continue to support the trilogy. I did base Sainte Bastien on a great deal of personal experience, but nevertheless it has been saddening to see elements of the plot played out increasingly for real over the past year. This has been a hard year for many, but in the racing industry it is always a tough time for many and it's hard to see any resolution to the problems.

This is why my novel in progress, "Grey Motive", is much lighter and taking a slightly different tack. I may not be writing about the real problems of others, but it is throwing up some real problems for me personally as a writer! For example, how do you keep very clever detectives from solving the crime by page two?! And where is the conflict? Conflict is at the heart of every story, but I'm finding it difficult to put all these nice people in peril and prevent the detectives from adding to it and/or rescuing them! Nevertheless, this coming year I resolve to finish it and see it published. Fingers crossed!

Have you tried to assemble Leitmotif yet? A fiendish sliding puzzle created by my husband Tony! here.

16th December 2020

As Christmas approaches, I may share a gift with you, an exclusive peep into the novel-in-progress Grey Motive! Christmas has just passed in Jack's world and the New Year is looking grim:

It was as well he and Mandy had had a fair idea of the trouble ahead, when Mum had finally sat them down and told them she'd been accused of stealing a stack of money. Enough to change their lives, like winning the lottery, but instead it had had the opposite effect. Mum had been so upset, convinced she was destined for prison, despite being innocent. He knew she was no thief, but the police were taking their time catching the real culprit.

Which left Mum doing her utmost to avoid pointing fingers. Christmas had been a total washout, the usual treats and extravagance given a wide berth to avoid any further suspicion. The much-anticipated annual family trip to the supermarket had seen her throwing out of the trolley everything he, Dad and Mandy put in. 'Wha'd'yer think'll happen when they see us buying that lot?' she'd warned. The present wish-list had been cruelly assaulted by the same frugality, the credit card and pay-later catalogue options declared out of bounds in case the police questioned how the debts got paid off.

The police hadn't seemed to be doing any questioning and here they were nearly three months later still in limbo and prison still a real threat. At the rate Mum was saving money they'd nearly have the forty-grand saved up. It wouldn't surprise him if she simply handed it over, just to get them off her back and have a normal life back.

Still, having her at home every day wasn't all bad. A bit of a nuisance and he missed the ready meals, but he secretly quite liked them all having a proper breakfast together and trying Mum's new recipes for dinner. Her cakes and puddings were better than the shop-bought ones they used to get and weren't rationed, either; there seemed to be a limitless supply. He figured the police only watched the shopping receipts for brand names and ignored stuff like flour. But he hated to see her so worried all the time. Even Mandy was being sympathetic, which was creeping him out.

Have you tried to assemble Leitmotif yet? A fiendish sliding puzzle created by my husband Tony! here.

9th December 2020

Our Christmas decorations are up and I'm enjoying the familiarity of old Christmas songs, with Blink 189 and Bowling For Soup sitting comfortably with Frank Sinatra and The Chipmunks! The fact that my Chipmunks copy is a 78 (and if you don't know what a 78 is, ask your grandparents...) is a big part of the season for me. It's about recapturing the magic of childhood, the times shared with family, many of whom no longer with us, and holding those moments dear. The traditional decorations, that even pre-dating christianity were designed to lift spirits in the darkest, shortest of days, still serve that purpose, with fairy lights and baubles turning the world into a wondrous sparkling land of dreams and hope and excitement.

I'm reminded of the stages of life: first you believe in Father Christmas; then you don't believe; then you ARE Father Christmas; and then you believe again!

Have you tried to assemble Leitmotif yet? A fiendish sliding puzzle created by my husband Tony! here.

13th November 2020

It has been such a lovely week, getting to chat on the phone with racing professionals I'd usually meet up with on the racecourse. It's odd now to think that I haven't been on a racecourse since the season finale at Naas last year. I have enjoyed my year of isolation, though, and could comfortably look forward to another. Contrary to what I've believed since early teens, not going racing or seeing a horse hasn't actually proved fatal! But at least I have been able to talk shop with the superstars of the sport and as the publications shortly begin to filter out onto the shop shelves, you'll be able to share the stories of the year that I've so enjoyed relating.

Now I had better settle back to work on a story of a different nature, as my two detectives home in on the stolen betting shop money in Grey Motive!

Have you tried to assemble Leitmotif yet? A fiendish sliding puzzle created by my husband Tony! here.

18th October 2020

With Champions Day done and dusted and just the Futurity Stakes to go, my racing year is almost over now until next March. Despite not getting on track, it was a good one, but I have no Classic clues. Without seeing a horse in the flesh you cannot assess their ability to progress at three or optimum distance. It's a pity the television coverage doesn't give experts like Francesca Cumani and Luke Harvey as much time providing physical analysis as it does giving the form gurus their say. How often does the form horse get turned over by the paddock pick? Not to mention saving ante-post bettors wasted investment in the Pinatubo-types. A very good horse, but not quite the same star once everyone else had caught up with him physically. That's something pretty obvious when looking at a two-year-old horse in the flesh.

And so to writing. I had the great honour of being included in a panel of authors on a Writers Masterclass as part of the Letterkenny Cathedral Quarter Festival yesterday. We held the Masterclass online via Zoom and a podcast is now available on the Festival's social media pages. I was joined by historical fiction author Rose Servitova and contemporary thriller author Declan Gallagher, whose path to publication of The Poisoned Glen was quite extraordinary and well worth tuning in for. In a nutshell, stop studying writing and how-to's and just write! Write what you enjoy, what you want to read, and have faith in yourself, patience and perseverance. Never give up!

Have you tried to assemble Leitmotif yet? A sliding puzzle created by my fiendish husband Tony! here.

13th October 2020

The racing season draws to a close and even though I'm busy writing a novel and surrounded by fictional racing, I find myself drawn yet again to the real racetrack and its stories - one in particular. I began writing a jockey's biography, in his own words, but the project petered out. I need to kickstart it again. Sometimes stories haunt you and insist upon being told, regardless of how busy you happen to be.

Until such time, it's onwards with Grey Motive, trying to stay one step ahead of my fictional detectives and not allow them to solve anything until the last page! Their path is shared by the titular horse of the novel in his bid for the Triple Crown. I hope he has more success than my beloved Camelot. The fact that his name is a nod to my own horse, Leitmotif (a grey), might be a hindrance! Leitmotif was spectacularly slow in his racing days!

Have a go at the sliding puzzle game created by my husband and assemble Leitmotif! here.

25th September 2020

I won't apologise for my lengthy absence from this space, as my time has been well used on my novel-in-progress. Grey Motive gains momentum and I'm managing to stay one step ahead of my detectives, de Freitas and McCulloch, as intrigue grows around the missing betting office takings. When not writing, I also managed to squeeze in an excellent webinar by the ITBA on preparing foals for the sales, as well as completing features for my usual magazines. As to the horseracing, it's very disconnected, not seeing horses in the flesh, and a bit of a non-season, but wonderful to see Kameko back to his best today.

Why not try the devilishly tricky sliding puzzle game created by my husband, featuring my own horse Leitmotif! here.

10th August 2020

Here we are in August, back in a vague type of lockdown in Kildare, where we're free to travel around the country if for work, and the last stables I visited were Coolmore Stud and Gilltown Stud back in January. If Sea The Stars becomes the last horse I saw this year, other than my own Leo, I won't complain! Usually I'd have a notebook filled with conformation notes on next year's Classic generation; but I've yet to see one in the flesh.

I would also be flying home from my annual pilgrimage to the Rebellion Festival today, having spent four days in the company of our punk community in Blackpool. Although cancelled, many of the bands still contributed footage of performances from their living room to ours,on the Rebellion Facebook page, which was nice. We were all there together, in spirit, and physically commenting away on Facebook! Hats off to Gimp Fist and The Mistakes for excellent acoustic performances, and to The Restarts for reassuring me there are like-minded people who care, but the overall highlight was definitely The Bar Stool Preachers, who gave it their all. Thank you to all the bands and organisers for keeping us cheerful while confined to home.

Why not try the devilishly tricky sliding puzzle game created by my husband! here.

17th July 2020

I'm getting used to life away from racehorses, unless you count the rather obese one on lawmower duty in the garden! Writing has taken over and I've been fairly busy on behalf of the Writers' Union and Writers' Centre. Yesterday I had the pleasure of presenting a webinar on copyright law and hopefully I'm not the only one who felt it went well. The feedback was very positive, anyway. It's a great initiative by the Writers' Centre to hold free webinars for professional members and I feel proud to be involved, as both presenter and Board member.

As you are viewing this online, the main point you should know is that everything published online, as with work set down on paper or memory device, has automatic copyright. So we cannot share or copy the work of others, even if we did find it openly online. Permission must always be sought from the creator of the work, be it image, text or music. As regards my own website, I happily grant you permission to share any text or images, providing I am acknowledged as the author.

And don't forget to try out a devilishly tricky sliding puzzle game created by my husband! here.

4th July 2020

Eclipse day! Except it's actually Derby day. And Oaks day. And the Eclipse is tomorrow. And if your weather in the south of England isn't hot, that's another anomaly to add to the list. Never mind, The Derby has come around at last and the only colts lining up that I've actually seen are Amhran Na Bhfiann, who was ordinary; Gold Maze, an imposing strong middle-distance type; and Mogul, very plain and ordinary. As Sir Dragonet proved last year, it's too difficult to judge horses from the TV, which adds several kilos to their physique and gives no accurate impression of size, but at least I was able to look at Kameko alongside Innisfree, so I'm fairly confident Kameko is a strong, classy colt. He has the physique to be a middle-distance colt and stay 12f, even though his pedigree suggests 10f is his maximum. But he's a Classic winner and Gr1 winner and class will always out. Against less than top-class rivals his class will see him over the extra furlongs. Going down the Sir Dragonet route, English King looked the part, but without physically seeing these horses in person, it's a tough call.

What is much easier is the dismissal of ludicrous statements such as "bad draw" or "previous trends". There is no bad draw in a Group 1 race and the only trend is that the best horse wins! 53 Derby winners have departed from a randomly-drawn stall to date. If they'd all been randomly drawn Stall 1, it doesn't give Stall 1 an advantage. I suppose the same pundits could write an article about the probability of throwing a six with a single die, if six had just been consecutively thrown five times (it's still one in six, by the way).

If The Derby and Oaks are too tricky for you, try out a devilishly tricky sliding puzzle game created by my husband! here.

29th June 2020

It was disappointing not to be at the Curragh for the Irish Derby festival, especially as I hadn't seen most of the field. Of those I know, Iberia I'm not keen on, Gold Maze I liked at two and looked as though he'd make a nice middle-distance colt and, of course, Chiricahua I love. Sadly, for whatever reason, the RTE coverage failed to show the horses ahead of the race, so I could only view them as they circled at the start. Chiricahua was badly sweated up and looked too anxious. He ran badly, while Santiago stamped his Ascot form impressively.

This Saturday it will be The Derby and it's an open race so far, with the final entries due out later. English Prince looked impressive in his trial and I'd love to see Kameko win. He may not quite see out the trip, but class will out. Good horses don't need excuses, their class gets them over any difficulty. Military March has advertised his Derby credentials well and I'd be overjoyed to see Saeed bin Suroor gain another Derby. Of the Ballydoyle entries, I love Persia and Nobel Prize, but the latter looks in need of a turn of foot for Classic company and Persia is untried this season. So is my Derby colt, Innisfree. You have to go back to 1996 and 1995 to find a rare example of a horse winning The Derby on his seasonal debut, by coincidence Shaamit managing the feat the year after Lammtarra did so. Lammtarra was Saeed's last Derby winner and it was also the last Derby I attended, in the hope of seeing Thierry Jarnet win on Pennekamp. It was a fairytale ending, but not for the Fabre camp. Pennekamp picked up an injury in the race and was eased down before the straight. Winning jockey Walter Swinburn said when he came in that only Pennekamp was travelling better than him at Tattenham Corner. Never mind, I got to see Thierry win two Arcs on Treve and even have his lucky wristband from the day!

Don't forget to try out a devilishly tricky sliding puzzle game created by my husband! here.

22nd June 2020

Well, that was a very entertaining but difficult Ascot week. The first difference was not being there, so to balance the fourteen-plus miles a day of walking it would normally involve, I viewed it on TV from an exercise bike instead of a couch! Not having to dress up was a big plus! Getting used to watching the Derby consolation races as Derby trials was also a bit disconcerting. With over 300 years of Royal Ascot history embedded in my system, the peculiar calendar of this season is hard to adjust to.

Pinatubo again ran with great credit. It has to be remembered he has lost the advantage of physique he held over his immature rivals last year, but not his ability. Trying to assess two-year-olds (and, when I remembered, the prospective Derby colts!) was hit and miss, reliant on TV coverage and camera angles. The Chesham Stakes was one of the more successful viewings and Battleground and March Law were the standouts in the paddock from the whole meeting, both big strong muscular colts with plenty of scope for next season. Stradivarius was an obvious highlight and a true star. Below are my photos of him from last year.

My Ascot week was also enhanced by the addition of two new family members. We adopted two ex-battery hens, who have spent their first fifteen months of life caged in a factory, but are now very happy as free range birds. Little Miss No Feathers gave us quite a scare yesterday when she went missing for over three hours, but was found safely, turning a very sad household into one of joy.

Don't forget to try out a devilishly tricky sliding puzzle game created by my husband! here.

Stradivarius1 Stradivarius2 Stradivarius3
13th June 2020

Horseracing is back and I was thrilled to see the gorgeous Kameko win the Guineas. He looks like a Derby horse, but his pedigree suggests 10f is his maximum and not having seen him in person I can't judge by eye. Military March ran a good Derby trial and even Pinatubo ran above my expectations with a fine third. Onwards to the Curragh and a great pity Siskin couldn't have a normal season and take in the St James's Palace Stakes, but the Sussex Stakes beckons instead. He is a beautiful neat little colt, oozing class, and I'm so pleased for Ger Lyons and his team in securing their first Classic.

It was odd to be watching the Curragh on TV, something I've not done in about 25 years, but I will also be watching Royal Ascot on TV for the first time in 15 years. Royal Ascot is the week I get to view the UK and international horses and, crucially, the two-year-olds; but this year that will not be the case. The importance of judging by eye, and not form or times, was highlighted by Pinatubo being sent off favourite for a race he was never going to win. My missing the racing this year will have a big impact next year.

Don't forget to try out a devilishly tricky sliding puzzle game created by my husband! here.

Siskin
3rd June 2020

It's good to have the Classic generation back and even better to see another example of such infectious enthusiasm and utter confidence from Mickael Barzalona, who was once again already standing in the irons punching the air before Victor Ludorum had reached the winning post! His similar action in what to others appeared a tight photo-finish on Pour Moi in The Derby remains one of my all-time racing highlights. The funny thing is, the photos of the finish never show his celebrations, as photographers wait until the actual finish to click! Thank you, Mickael, you are a ray of sunshine.

The UK Classics are the coming highlight and it would be lovely to see a champion emerge in the expected style of Pinatubo, but from what I've twice seen of him I suspect he will find it hard to beat Kameko or Military March. A pity Innisfree won't be there, or my suspicion would be certainty.

While back to work with magazines and teaching, I am also returning to my youthful creative roots and keeping a handwritten journal for the Kildare Arts Project. Alongside other journals, it will form a digital art display for the future, to reflect back on the covid lockdown. My novels see me writing about my creations, my magazines see me writing the thoughts of others, so it has been quite an interesting pastime to consider my own thoughts and reflections and set them to paper. Unlike fictional characters, however, my own thoughts are not of that much interest! I'm pretty grateful for my contented life and wouldn't swap it for the perils of my creations!

Don't forget to try out this devilishly trick sliding puzzle game created by my husband! here.

21st May 2020

I have been busy all week with various literary committees, as well as some interesting articles to write, which have involved a lot of research. Progress on "Grey Motive" has inevitably slowed, but I have found a minute or two to complete Leitmotif's pictorial pedigree. Many of his relations I was lucky enough to see race and I have been able to use my own photos, never dreaming at the time I took them that I would one day own one of their grandchildren! Here are his parents, First Melody and Linamix, and First Melody's slightly more successful son, El Ventisquero.

First Melody Linamix El Ventisquero

Tony's also been keeping busy, check out his sliding puzzle game here.

15th May 2020

I have been enjoying the racing from France and Germany, shown live on their governing body's websites, but the return of racing in Britain and Ireland isn't quite so accessible, which is disappointing. It will be strange to watch the champions emerge without the usual historic route to stardom we're used to.

I've been progressing quite well on the novel-in-progress, Grey Motive, but have taken a break to work on the forthcoming issues of Irish Trainer and European Trainer magazines, involving fascinating research and the opportunity to chat with trainer Takashi Kodama, which was so enjoyable. What a lovely man and so very insightful.

I also discovered a very successful half-brother to my own horse, Leitmotif, a champion in Uruguay called El Ventisquero. It's exciting to have such a good horse in the family! I'm compiling a pictorial pedigree of Leitmotif, as I have been lucky enough to see in person many of his famous relations. It's a lovely link to history and every name brings back wonderful memories.

1st May 2020

French racing returns 11th May, which is good news, but we may need to wait a little longer for racing in Ireland and the UK. The French Guineas will be held 1st June and the Prix du Jockey Club and Diane will be run 5th July. We would have been enjoying the first Guineas tomorrow and what a match awaits us when it's finally run, with Kameko and Innisfree. The distance should suit Kameko, while a good performance over a trip a bit too short will see Innisfree and Military March bang on for The Derby. What of Pinatubo? Will he have progressed as strongly as his peers over the winter? I have my doubts.

I'm not really missing going racing, or going out. We have enjoyed live concerts beamed to our sofa and there's plenty of writing to be done, so all is well here, at least.

18th April 2020

There remains hope I'll be able to report in person on the spring Classics, but they will probably be summer Classics! Hopefully the season can be shuffled, but my heart goes out to the trainers and their team who are struggling to keep horses ticking over, with no fixed target. The fillies and two-year-olds must be posing quite a challenge. The two-year-olds are still being taught their trade and have no idea what a racecourse is yet. If they are nearer three than two by the time their chance comes, the precocious ones will be unable to compete and the tougher ones will be a proper handful. The late-maturers should be better suited to a later season, but will have experience so against them.

Trainers are losing horses, too, as horses return to stud farms to save on fees. Hopefully pre-trainers are gaining from this, but it's a horrible time for every profession. Remembering better days, I've been busy posting up very old (and poor!) photos from my earliest days' racing, with lots of happy memories. Check them out on Facebook @80sHorseracringScrapbook if you're old enough to remember today's names when they were FIRST used!

Glint Of Gold
5th April 2020

Virtual Classic Trials Day at Leopardstown! If Aintree can go ahead, then I'm damn sure the Ballylinch Stud Classic Trials can still go ahead, too. I'm a fiction author as well as a journalist, so welcome to sunny Leopardstown on this fine spring day, with an equally sunny smile from Carol Cusack as I collect my first pass of the season. Welcome back! Smells Like Teen Spirit is playing over the tannoy as I enter (if it isn't, then I already miss Pat Keogh!) and I meet manager Tim Husbands for the first time. Then it's up to the pre-parade ring to see the 3yos for the quality one-mile maiden. Springbank has done well over the winter for Johnny Murtagh, but is no match for Jim Bolger's Agitare at the line.

The Ballylinch Stud 2000 Guineas Trial over 7f is next up and Aesop is looking well for Jessie Harrington, but it's Siskin who strides out a clear winner, a very nice return to keep his unbeaten record intact. I think this trip may be his limit, though. In comparison, So Wonderful looks like she'll relish the step up to a mile when springing a surprise in the 1000 Guineas Trial. Runner-up Cayenne Pepper is another who needs further.

The handicap passes unnoticed, as I'm up at the saddling boxes looking at the Derby colts ahead of the 10f Ballysax Stakes. Justifier really fills the eye (and I'm wondering anxiously why he's not listed still by Ger Lyons!), and Geometrical looks well but better suited to a mile. Of the Ballydoyle trio, eventual winner Monument Valley looks full of quality, as does Sherpa, but it's the favourite, third home Cabot Hills, who looks the more relaxed Derby-type. Of course, the better Derby horses are yet to appear and the Guineas will prove the best trial. Let's hope I won't be reporting on it virtually!

Agitare Cabot Hills So Wonderful
28th March 2020

A strange first day of the Flat in the UK, as it's a non-starter and unlikely to be back until May. Our own first day back was behind closed doors and now even that has ended. As much as I couldn't wait to be over the cold turkey of the winter break, my first day back at Doncaster was always a bit subdued. As much as I fought it, the last day, at the same track, was always quite joyful and celebratory. I wrote a short story about it, The Last Post.

I'm managing to survive without seeing racehorses and very much enjoying having the family home and all safely working from our laptops here for the past two weeks. We're looking forward to another three weeks of it and will be sorry to return to normal service. It also means more time to devote to the novel-in-progress, "Grey Motive", as I have no actual work to distract me! Happy days, in fact, despite that dreaded Lurgy!

15th March 2020

So much for looking forward to The Flat. Racing is taking place behind closed doors, although other sports have ceased completely, so we should be grateful for small mercies. The pre-season look at Aidan O'Brien's Classic hopefuls is now seriously at risk as well, but I know my top four there and I'm confident in how they would have progressed this winter. Saeed bin Suroor sends good reports of Military March, as well, back in serious work.

Slightly more upsetting is the cancellation of a lot of great music gigs. Even the International Ska Festival at Easter in Tramore has been postponed. With no racing and no gigs, I really will be able to get that book written!

11th March 2020

While all around me are soaking up Cheltenham, I'm getting excited about the first day of The Flat at Naas 29th March! I have The Derby and the Guineas entries to keep me occupied until then and, of the 139 Derby hopes, Innisfree is The One. Nobel Prize is in there too, Persia may prefer the St Leger and Shoshone Warrior needs to step up at three. A notable absentee is Military March, who will need to be supplemented but will look every inch the part come the Guineas. Roll on June!

I'm pleased to say March is also a good month for Sainte Bastien, which is in the running for Cover of the Month. It was selected for the shortlist and is now through to the final 50. Here's hoping! Cast your votes via links on my social media.

25th February 2020

As you can see from the dates, all in a day's work turns out to be nearer a fortnight's! Still, all clear now, so I may start to make a dent on that 'this year'� deadline I've set myself for my next novel, "Grey Motive". I'm happy with the storyline so far and I'm enjoying the characters involved, so no excuse but time to progress.

I'm still reeling a little from some of the features I worked on, particularly the research into substance abuse within the horseracing industry. Even now, it's only just sinking in that such abuse was at the root of the early demise of the friends I've lost to illness and suicide. We took so much for granted in our youth and saw nothing unusual in champagne diets and diuretics. That has now been recognised as a problem and support networks are in place. But sadly it's not the problem, merely the symptom, and the bigger problem is never going away.

14th February 2020

No sooner did Racing Certainty magazine go safely to print, other deadlines loomed! This week I've been busy interviewing vets about common procedures faced by racehorses and the great facility at the Irish Equine Centre. I've also researched substance abuse within the racing industry, which is truly heart-rending, and professional development options for the racing community. Just left now with the minor problem of attracting the next generation to the sport! All in a day's work!

6th February 2020

My good news of this week is that the magazine I edit and write for, Racing Certainty, was signed off and sent to print. It should be with you by the end of the month. It can also be read online if you follow the link on my USEFUL LINKS page. You may need to search for the 2020 issue. It was a real pleasure meeting with and interviewing those featured. It did limit the progress of Grey Motive, though, so it's now time to crack on with that.

1st February 2020

Gina Rarick has been having a successful Cagnes-sur-Mer campaign and it's fun to watch the horses racing past the beach. I don't often get to see a blue sky and blue sea! At the moment I'm pinned to my laptop, producing the Racing Certainty magazine, but I did get to complete a further 1,000 words of my next novel, Grey Motive. My work on the novel also included deleting about 1,200 previously completed words, so it's a bit of a case of one step forward, two steps back! Still, when it is finally finished it will be all the better for my fussiness.

19th January 2020

I spent a very productive and enjoyable day yesterday at the Writers' Centre, discussing with other professional writers the current issues facing Irish writers and those worldwide. I spoke about the many functions of the Writers' Union and must now set a goal of increased awareness of Public Lending Right. Few people realise the purpose is to compensate authors for the multiple loans of single copies and a specific budget funded by copyright licensing ensures this small remuneration does not come out of library budgets or Arts funding. Ireland has the lowest rate in Europe at 0.04ct, which means ten loans result in 4ct! It is 7p in the UK and the job now of the Union is to work on this discrepancy. Meanwhile, my personal goal to write at least 1,500 words a week of my novel "Grey Motive" has again been put off until next week!

For anyone following the stable of Gina Rarick, we had a good day yesterday, all five runners finishing in the money and one winner. No wonder Cagnes has been one of my favourite meetings since my teens.

14th January 2020

It has been a quiet time for Flat racing, so I enjoyed a visit to Coolmore Stud, catching up with old heroes. I will never forget Camelot's heroic St Leger defeat, standing watching in silence, breath held. He is one of the most professional horses I've been privileged to meet and he still is; that magnificent blend of playful interest and utter professionalism when called upon. Australia remains a sweet-natured, unflappable horse and, wow, what a looker Magna Grecia is! He and Churchill are so impressive. I also stopped in to see my young man, Sea The Stars!

This week saw the opening of the Cagnes-Sur-Mer Flat meeting and what a joy to watch horses racing past a pretty promenade and beach, especially from a cold, grey and thoroughly wet Ireland! I am following the stable of Gina Rarick and having lots of fun cheering home her horses.

I have also been busy with various interviews, about my books and writing in general. My advice, as always, to would-be writers is don't waste time analysing or learning theory, just sit down and write the book you want to read. If you enjoy writing it, and will enjoy reading it, then so will others.

Australia Camelot Sea The Stars
4th January 2020

Happy new year to everyone, may it be enjoyable and healthy. I'm busy working on a new, improved website, so hopefully there will be more photos and stories to share in the coming weeks. Plenty of Innisfree - the horse, not the place! I'm also determined to get Grey Motive, the novel-in-progress that hasn't been, back underway and finished! But first my new year kicks off with the first of my regular slots on the UK's Chat And Spin radio on Tuesday (7th) at 5.20pm, when I will be chatting about one of my books. Friday will then find me on hallowed ground, viewing stallions at Coolmore Stud. I can't wait to catch up with some equine friends and heroes. Lots to look forward to for 2020!

3rd November 2019

Last day of the Flat today at Naas and I had thought the biggest draw would be Nobel Prize. As it was, a very close second, both in the parade ring beforehand and in the race, was Chiricahua. A lovely colt and a lot to look forward to next year. A definite Classic prospect, but 10f could be his maximum on paper. Nobel Prize remains a Derby colt, but I think his stablemate Innisfree is the better prospect. I haven't seen Kameko in the flesh, but he has always looked a lovely colt and if he could get more than 10f he has already proved himself superior to Innisfree. However, that's a big if. My Derby dreams will be with Innisfree.

Nobel Prize Chiricahua Innisfree
20th October 2019

How can I be disappointed by Stradivarius, when he ran another great race to go down so narrowly to my beloved Kew Gardens? Stradivarius thought he'd won, so no disappointment for him! He came in yelling his delight! I know my Kew doesn't like soft ground, so I'm very proud of him. A great run from two of my favourites, followed by a third favourite, the adorable Star Catcher, who then gave Frankie his 250th Group One winner and will remain in training next season. Fantastic! Then Magical left Aidan O'Brien with only two elusive British Gr1s to obtain (King's Stand & Sprint Cup), giving him his first Champion Stakes. Japanese heroine Deirdre ran well for third. Not such an anti-climax after all, but we've only the Futurity Stakes left now. Only Cagnes-Sur-Mer to look forward to thereafter!

19th October 2019

For me, the racing season ends on Arc day. We are building toward The Derby and Classics all winter, but the Arc is always the holy grail on the horizon, the one race that separates the season's champion from the good ones. This year we may have seen the champion on the wrong side of the separating line, but all credit to the wonderful Waldgeist for having the finishing turn of foot to defeat the mighty Enable.

After the Arc, all else is an anti-climax. We have our champion and are merely sorting out the minor medals. I'm a great one for tradition and remembering winners of old, so while the Champion Stakes still excites me, the Breeders Cup has a long, long way yet to go. If I were ever an owner, I'd have no interest in having a runner there. A top-class horse should end its season at Longchamp or Ascot (grudgingly), the Champion Stakes will always be at Newmarket in my heart! A top-class horse should be racing, so to see Enable return to race as a six-year-old is the highlight of this season and there is no reason why she won't get her third Arc in the end.

Looking back on the season so far, once again the sprinters haven't established a true champion, and the three-year-olds haven't been outstanding, but for the first time in many years we have a true champion stayer and I will settling down now to cheer on Stradivarius. I hope the ground doesn't get him, but he hates to lose and will fight to the finish. It will take a brave horse to pass him!

1st October 2019

Ireland's Future Champions Day at the Curragh didn't disappoint and seeing Innisfree could be my highlight of the season. Definitely a future Classic horse, if not a champion. He reminds me very much in build and expression of a past champion, often overlooked, High Chaparral. He has shot to the top of my Derby list and is my idea of the winner. Persia, Nobel Prize and Shoshone Warrior are three other very nice Derby prospects and I haven't lost faith in the Guineas prospects of Lope Y Fernandez, but Earthlight definitely looks the one to beat if everyone catches up with, and overtakes, Pinatubo at three.

26th September 2019

Irish Champions Weekend never disappoints and I had the added treat of meeting the Japanese filly, Deirdre, following her excellent run in the big race itself. We are honoured to have hosted the first Japanese-trained runner in Ireland and I hope more follow in her hoof steps. I'm so excited about the all-two-year-old card at the Curragh this Sunday, where we will be on one of our final watches for next year's champions! Last year was an easy one, but frustrating, spent looking for a Derby horse rather than assessing any. I liked Magna Grecia, Quorto, Advertise (milers) and Anthony Van Dyck, our only Derby colt, but I thought the UK or France must surely have a better one. I didn't think Madhmoon looked to have scope, but he grew in muscle more than height over the winter and pleasantly surprised me. The fillies, in stark contrast to the colts, were a lovely bunch. The really good Classic types start to emerge September and October, and yet already I have a nice list and a lot to be assessing. It really has been a busy season and no day more so than a Curragh card with four juvenile races, two of which were Group class, from which no fewer than 22 horses went into the notebook! Considering 21 got noted over the whole of Royal Ascot, it shows the strength of card. Six more got added at a later meeting and another at Champions Weekend. I note only the better-quality horses who may be Classic contenders next year. The ordinary ones, or precocious 2yos, aren't part of my job description, so often you'll find on my list the 5th or 8th in a race but not the winner. Today's result is rarely a factor in next year's predictions. Stay tuned to The Diary for an end-of-season update as the 2020 Classic horses get finalised on my list! How high will Persia, Nobel Prize and Lope Y Fernandez be, or will Earthlight set the scene for the Year of the French?

3rd September 2019

It was a hectic evening's work at the Curragh two meetings ago, with a great many really promising 2yos on view, several who could be Classic prospects next season. Things got even more exciting at the next meeting and last Friday evening the stars really came out! The rather ordinary Mogul might have won, but it was those behind him who set the heart pounding. Shoshone Warrior looks a very good Derby prospect, while Nobel Prize could be The Derby winner himself. And look no further than Lope Y Fernandez for the Guineas. Pinatubo is the better 2yo, but tables will turn next year at three.