Making Sour Dough Bread

Sourdough Bread

One of the things I have attempted during lockdown is making sourdough bread. I don’t actually like sourdough—it tastes too sour!—but Husband likes it, and I rather liked the idea of making it. It’s completely different to making ‘normal’ bread, and has no yeast. Instead, you have a sort of mini chemical plant bubbling away in your kitchen, which you feed each day, and when it has grown to the appropriate size, you use it to make bread.

It reminded me of when I was a child, and we made ginger beer, having a ‘plant’ of sludge bubbling away in a jam jar, feeding it sugar and ginger every day, and then on a Saturday, filling the sink with bottles we had begged from relatives, filling them with boiling water to sterilize them, and then filling them with ginger beer; which we stored under the kitchen table for a couple of weeks, before drinking copious amounts of wonderful fizzy ginger beer. Any fizzy drink in those days was wonderful, as my parents only ever bought them at Christmas, due to cost. I’m not sure how the cost of the sugar we added when making the beer compared, but to my childhood self, ingredients didn’t count as a ‘cost’ and the beer was therefore ‘free.’

There was the week when our boiling-water-method of ‘sterilization’ obviously didn’t work (I learnt a lot about what ‘hot’ and ‘hurts’ meant in those days) and one of the bottles exploded, all over the kitchen floor. My mother was very good about things like that, she never minded us taking over her kitchen to cook, and she was never angry when we spilt things or bottles of fizzy drink exploded everywhere. It is one of the things I tried to copy when I was a mother.

Anyway, all this fuelled my desire to try and make some sour dough. I was not disappointed.

I found a recipe online, and made my ‘starter’. This was a goo of milk, yogurt and flour. Apparently, in days gone by, people made the starter simply by leaving flour (probably whole grain) to soak, until it started to ferment, and this became the base for the starter. But it’s quicker with yogurt, and less likely to go rancid. Each day, I added flour and water. The first couple of days, it expanded slightly, and bubbles appeared on the surface. But then it went flat, and looked dead. I think my house was too cold, and the bacteria couldn’t be bothered to do anything. I moved it to a warmer place, and it started to bubble again. I made it in a small Pyrex bowl, covered with clingfilm and a tea towel (to keep it insulated, as it needs to be warm, but not too warm).

Some days it looked as if the water and flour had separated, and there was water on the surface. This is actually alcohol (with a fancy name). I just stirred it back into the sludge. It looked gloopy, a bit like baby vomit, but it smelt wonderfully beery. If it starts to smell nasty (of poop) then it’s gone off, and you must throw it away and start again.

After six days, I was ready to make the bread. There was a lot of goo and sticky involved, and a good muscle workout in the kneading bit. It also took hours, as a sour dough starter is not as fast as yeast, so it needed two lots of 2 ½ hour rest periods to rise. The dough was never firm enough to support itself, so needed to be left to rise in a bowl. The instructions said to line this with a floured tea towel otherwise it would stick to the bowl. I did, and it stuck to the tea towel. When it was cooked, I was supposed to place tins of water in the oven, to produce a steamy atmosphere, but I forgot.

However, it was all great fun, and interesting, and I loved the slightly beery smell of the starter and the bread. I made two loaves, and they looked suitably rustic. Inside, they had the big bubbles we think of when we buy sour dough. It tasted—well, exactly like sour dough bread! So I didn’t much like it, but Husband was very pleased. I will make it again, because it was fun. I have included the recipe below, in case you fancy making some too.


Sour Dough Starter

  1. Day One: Heat 6fl oz skimmed milk (but not too hot to touch, or it will kill the bacteria, and bacteria is your friend here). Mix with 5 tblsp plain yogurt (you need the stuff with bacteria in, and not a flavoured one, as that would make very odd bread!) Cover the bowl. Leave 24 hours (somewhere not too cold). Stir.
  2. Day Two: Stir in 4oz (100g) white bread flour. It needs to be proper bread flour, not plain flour, as it needs the extra strength—otherwise your loaves will flop over in despair and you will have made weird sour pastry, not bread. Cover. Leave 48 hours.
  3. Day Four: Add 6oz (150g) bread flour, and 100 ml water, and 3 tblspn milk (I used semi-skimmed milk). Leave 24 hours.
  4. Day Five: Remove half the starter. You can throw it away, but I put it into another bowl, in the fridge. When I wanted to make more, I simply put it into the warm kitchen and started at Day Four again, hence making another lot of starter for more bread. Apparently, some people keep their starter for generations, passing it on and on, a sort of sludgy heirloom. Not sure my children would especially enjoy inheriting that.
    Add 5 ½ oz (150g) bread flour, 150 ml water. Mix well. Leave 24 hours.
  1. Day Six: Use the starter to make the bread.

Sour Dough Bread

500g Strong White Flour

300g Starter (this is what the above recipe will give you)

2 tsp brown sugar

2 tsp salt

oil for greasing

9fl oz (150 ml) warm water

loads and loads of extra flour to stop the dough sticking to your hands/board/tea towel


  1. Mix the starter and flour, gradually add the water until forms a soft dough, you will probably only need about 6 fl oz. (I added it all, because I didn’t read the recipe properly, and made a sticky mess. Had to add a lot of extra flour to make it workable.)
    Add sugar and salt.
    Knead for 10 minutes, stretching and pushing and squeezing the dough. It’s ready when you can stretch out a piece so thinly that it’s almost translucent. This means all the gluten in the bread has burst, and will hold the bubbles in the dough when it cooks. If the dough isn’t stretchy enough, keep kneading until it is, otherwise you will be making biscuits (ones that will break your teeth).
  1. Put into an oiled bowl. Leave somewhere warm for 2 ½ hours.
  2. Knock back (ie, knead a little bit more, so some of the air is released, but not enough to push out all of it). Shape into two loaves. Cover a tea towel with loads of flour (really, loads, push flour into the fabric with your fingers—it will still stick!) Place the tea towel into a bowl, and add your loaf. (If you leave it to prove on a tin, like normal bread, it will collapse into a dollop). Leave 2 ½ hours.
  3. Place loaf onto an oiled tin. (Good luck with that! I surgically removed the tea towel with a knife. But the scraggy top of the loaf looked quite nice when it was cooked.) Score a hashtag shape on top with a sharp knife (try not to press on the dough—you want to keep all the air bubbles inside now).
  4. Bake 200˚C for 35 minutes. If you remember, put a tin of water in the bottom of the oven, to create a steamy environment. The loaf will sound hollow when it’s cooked (so get it out and knock on the bottom if you’re not sure!)

Thanks for reading.
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Diary of a Lunch Club

As you know (if you follow my blog) I help with a senior’s lunch every week, and as we only have two cooks, I have to cook on alternate weeks. There are usually some disasters (not always my fault). I thought I’d write a diary for you this week. I can’t include photos of the other workers, as most are ‘vulnerable adults’ (or else shy!)

When I was at school, one of our lessons – Food and Nutrition – involved writing a time-plan each week. We had to start at the end (serve dinner) and work backwards, working out timings. It wasn’t a favourite activity, but I still do it today whenever I’m planning an event or big meal. To be honest, I really hate cooking dinners, but don’t tell anyone that, because it seems to be one of the main things I have to do.

In case you ever are called upon to cook lunch for 40 people, here is the diary, complete with quantities, which you might find helpful. The main thing to remember is that although cooking times are the same whatever the quantity, heating times are longer. So, for example, mashed potatoes need to be boiled for twenty minutes (unchanged whether one or fifty) but heating a big saucepan of 5kg of potatoes will take at least 30 minutes before it begins to boil, and peeling them will take another 30 minutes. Here is the diary for this week:

Roast Gammon followed by Ginger Sponge and custard.
Quantities for 40 people.

Wednesday: Shopping.
I try to arrive at the supermarket early, so there are plenty of easy parking spaces that will allow access to the boot of the car, because my bags will be heavy. I am fairly rubbish at parking, even in an empty car park, so this is bit of a stressful event.

I enter the supermarket at 8:45. Realise I have left all my shopping bags in the boot, so go back for them. Reenter supermarket at 8:50.

Buy everything on list (see end of blog). Pay, and remember to put receipt safely in purse (this is another very difficult thing – which causes Husband some stress when yet again, I have lost it).

When home, transfer things to fridge and freezer, and try to remember where they are so I don’t leave them there on Friday (it happens).

Thursday: Cook puddings.

I use my super-efficient Kenwood Chef mixer, which is the one piece of kitchen equipment I could not manage without. I make the sponges in two lots, each batch making 4 loaf-tin cakes (which are then easy to transport in a container). Being very old, I work in pounds and ounces.

Put dog outside (she mutters about this) and wipe all surfaces to avoid cross-contaminations with allergens (I use nuts in my kitchen). Tie back hair, put on apron, wash hands. (Because although this is my kitchen, I am cooking for the public, so need to raise the hygiene levels a little.)

Put 1lb butter and 1lb caster sugar into bowl and mix on high speed. Add 8 eggs, one at a time, cracking into a cup first to ensure no shell/bad eggs. Beat very hard. Add 1lb self-raising flour and 28g ginger, mix, stir, mix. Put into 4 lined loaf tins, bake on 170º for about 35 minutes. While cooking, make the next lot.

I set an alarm on the phone, but got it wrong, so they almost burnt. This happens more often than you might think.

Put on cooling racks until cold, then pack into air-tight containers. Cut off the end of one sponge and ate it (to test it wasn’t too burnt. Plus they smelt really nice, and I was hungry). Put into car so I don’t forget to take them tomorrow (this also happens fairly often).

Thursday afternoon: H phones to let me know that the boiler at church has broken, so there won’t be any hot water. Super. The plumber/engineer is coming to mend the boiler in a couple of weeks. Double super.

Friday: Visit washroom 23 times and pray a lot – which is normal for someone who gets anxious about leaving the house. Mainly pray that I won’t poison anyone. Leave home 8:30am.
Remember to take: My hat, sausages and 6 gammons and milk and butter from the fridge. Puddings. Sweetcorn from freezer. Food bags. Church keys. Marker pen (to write date on any new sauces that we open)

9:00 arrive, unload, put freezer stuff in freezer.
Say hello to D and R, the ‘advance team’ who arrive. They are busy, returning the tablecloths from last week, which have been washed and ironed, setting up the tables and chairs. They also chat about growing up in the 1950s and make me laugh. D has brought his meat-slicer, which means I won’t have to hack the gammons into pieces when they’re cooked. He isn’t meant to, in fact, I’m not sure he’s meant to be there at all as he has a major heart operation next week; but I am hugely grateful.

We have a checklist for when we arrive, so I start to go through it: I wipe surfaces and bleach sinks. The church kitchen is used by a variety of groups during the week, so we assume the worst and clean everything. I fling all the tea-towels into the laundry pile (because although they look clean, someone might have blown their nose on one). I turn on the dishwasher and water heater, preheat the ovens to 180℃. I throw away old sauces (check dates) and put dates on new sauces. Then I clean the microwave, check fridge temp etc.

Get out 6 saucepans (because the saucepan cupboard is under the sink, and when S arrives I don’t want to keep asking her to move). Plates and jugs and dishes are put in hot cupboard, switched on, temperature set to 65º.

D puts out ‘sign-up’ sheet for next week, so we’ll know roughly how many dinners to cook.

I start to peel potatoes. We have coloured chopping boards, to avoid cross-contamination, so they are cut on the brown one. S arrives, and starts to peel the carrots. We only have one sharp knife, which she uses. (S comes every week to help us. She suffers from autism, so likes to do the same jobs, in the same place, with the same equipment each week; and any changes need to be discussed in advance. She also works very hard, and we miss her when she’s away.) We cut the carrots into sticks, because they go further than when cut into rounds (don’t ask me why).

I prepare the cauliflower.

9:45 Rinse meat, boil, wrap in foil.

10: 05 Put the potatoes onto the stove to boil (2 saucepans)
S grates the cheese.

10:15 T&H arrive, and set up the cafe in the front of the church. People begin to arrive for coffee. I can hear lots of laughing and chatting (loud chatting).

10:30 Meat into ovens.

At some point F arrives and washes his hands and says hello. F helps to set the tables with bowls, glasses and jugs of water. F also has ‘special needs’, but he takes more care over the setting of the tables than anyone else would. He is also in charge of the music, and has a preference for marching bands. The rest of the cooking is done to the sound of military music.

10:34 Tins of oil into oven to heat.
10:35 Strain potatoes, shake flour and salt and pepper over them, shake, put into tins of hot oil, into oven.
S puts the custard into jugs, covers with cling film, leaves ready to be microwaved. S then goes for a coffee break.

10:50 Water on hob for cauliflower.
S appears in the kitchen, to tell me the lights aren’t working in the washroom. I investigate, and find there is no electricity anywhere, and all the ovens are off. Not sure what to do, then electricity comes back on. Carry on cooking.
11:00 Put carrots onto hob. Salt all pans. Turn potatoes and move them around the ovens, because some ovens work better than others. Ovens seem a bit cool.

I check the ovens, and realise that although the electricity is back on, the ovens have set themselves to ‘automatic timer’ and are not working. I cannot remember how to override the automatic setting and spend 5 minutes pressing random buttons. Eventually they come back to life. I shove the dials to the hottest setting and swear a little.

I start to make the cheese sauce. T appears in the kitchen and begins to explain, in great detail, what is wrong with the boiler. I am not terribly interested at this point, and find it difficult to remain polite, especially as he is standing between me and the fridge and I need the milk.

11:10 Cauliflower into boiling water.
11:30 Sausages in oven (sausages are an alternative for people who don’t like gammon).
Prepare peas in microwave (because we have one person who will only eat peas). I also use the meat thermometer to check temperatures. The gammons are over 75º, which means they’re cooked. Phew.
11:30 D cuts the meat. I remember to check carrots. The cauliflower is cooked, so I strain it, and pour over the sauce. More people are arriving in the kitchen, washing up and chatting. I mostly ignore them (otherwise I will make a mistake).
11:32 Sweetcorn into boiling water.
11:35 Check/turn/move the roast potatoes again.
11:45 Make gravy. I’m not sure that anyone actually eats gravy. C arrives, and says that the person who always used to like gravy, even when there’s a sauce, died a year ago. I decide the baseline stipulation for people we cater for needs to be that they are not dead, so I only make one jug of gravy.

I move all the food to the hot-trolley, which keeps it warm while people come and sit down and grace is said. There are bowls on the tables, and everyone puts in £3:50 (which I have to remember to take home and give to Husband with the receipts from shopping).

I put the puddings into ovens (switched off) to warm slightly. I microwave the custard.

I serve the meals onto plates, the servers take them to the people sitting at the tables. I serve 35 dinners, plus 3 people ask for an extra dinner to take home for someone who is housebound/ill.

All the leftovers are put on the serving hatch, and people take them home in empty containers to eat in the week.

Rev.P gives a short talk while I put the puddings into bowls.

The servers collect all the dirty plates and serve the puddings.

The washing-up team start to clean up, L takes home the tablecloths to wash.

I take off my apron and drive Mum to her house, then go home.

I feed the cats and ducks, and give the cauliflower leaves to the chickens, then go inside for a sandwich. Am knackered.

Shopping List:
For 40 People

3 large cauliflowers (or 2 1/2 kg broccoli)
4kg carrots
10kg potatoes
6x750g gammon joints
1 packet sausages

4 pints milk
8oz butter (plus 2lb for puddings)
450g cheese
onion gravy mix
tin foil
dettox spray
2kg bag sweetcorn
small plain flour

Custard 7x400g (the large tins) or ice cream
2lb butter
2lb SR flour
grd ginger
16 eggs
2lb golden caster sugar
tinned fruit (as an alternative)


Thanks for reading. Hope you have a good week with no disasters.


Anne E. Thompson has written several novels. They are available from bookshops and Amazon.
You can follow her blog at:
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Travel in Japan

Travelling Around Japan

For the foreign traveller, Japan has a very user-friendly transport system. I have explained the Tokyo underground system in a previous blog, so I’ll tell you about the bullet trains and buses, and general other tourist stuff. Japan seems to be one of the safest countries I have ever explored, so if you are a nervous traveller, come to Japan.

Everyone knows that Japan has bullet trains. They are quick and easy. They are not the cheapest way to travel though. In 2018, a trip from Tokyo to Kyoto takes about 2 hours and costs about £200 return. It’s a few pounds more if you want to reserve a seat. Announcements on the trains are in Japanese followed by English, and an onboard sign shows which station you are approaching. Each carriage has a map of the train, marking toilets, bins and crew positions. The seats are comfy, forward facing, and recline. When passengers disembark, they replace their seat to the upright position (Japanese people are very polite, they don’t leave things in a way to inconvenience other people).

Buying tickets was relatively easy. We went to the ticket office, and staff spoke enough English to be helpful. They also told us which platform we needed. Platforms can be confusing, as different ends of the same platform have trains going to different places, but we found that other passengers were willing to help. Carriage positions are marked on the platform, so you can queue in the correct place. Stations have a shortage of seats, so don’t go to the platform before you need to unless you enjoy standing.

Local trains stop at more stations, and have less comfy seats, but are still clean. The onboard facilities depend on the train.

Taxis can be hailed anywhere (unlike in Singapore, where there are special places, like bus stops for hailing cabs). When they are available, they have the Chinese symbol for ‘free’ lit in red lights in the windscreen.

In some places (like Hakone) you can buy a ticket that covers trains, underground, and buses. The buses run to timetable, so be at the stop on time. The timetable will show the bus number or letter, which you then match with the sign on the bus stop. If you don’t have a prepaid ticket, you take a ticket when you get on the bus, and pay the driver when you leave (though I think this varies, as some have machines for paying). The next stop is shown on a sign at the front, and you press a button to request a stop. I think eating on a bus is impolite, as is blowing your nose. So you might want to sit separately from your husband. (Just saying.)

When you arrive, stations have good facilities. There are often shops and cafes. Tokyo station even has tunnels full of market stalls!

Public toilets are clean, and tend to have both traditional toilets and European style ones. All the ones I found were free to use. They also provide loo paper (some countries don’t). ALSO, Japan is the first country I have ever been in, where there is one cubicle designated for mothers of young babies. Inside, in the corner, there is a seat where you can strap a young child. This is SUCH a good idea – why do all countries not have them? Using the washroom with a young child tends to involve either abandoning them in a public place strapped into their buggy where you can’t see them, or leaving the door open so the whole world can watch you pee, or attempting to hold them while you use the toilet (which they always see as a time to wriggle unhelpfully). On behalf of mothers everywhere I would like to say, well done Japan!

Walking around cities is safe, as pavements are clean and well maintained. Any building work or obstacles have men who wave red flags at you so you notice. Signs are in Japanese, so you need a good map. Roads have crossing points, with lights. Everyone obeys the lights. Sometimes you have to wait for a long time, but they tweet at you when the light is green, which is a helpful indication that you should stop writing emails if your wife has decided to ignore you. (Just saying.)

Trains in Japan are a good way to see the countryside. We saw houses, which tended to fill the whole plot, so gardens were tiny. In rural areas there were flooded fields (I assume for growing rice) and temples and mountains and plains. Here are a few fuzzy photos taken from the train:

Anne E. Thompson has written several novels and non-fiction books. You can find her work in bookshops and Amazon.


Thank you for reading.


A Few Egg Facts…

How Long Can I Keep Eggs For?
(And do they need to be kept in a fridge?)

When hens lay eggs, they do not come with the neat red ‘use-by’ date stamped on them, so it can be difficult to know how long to keep them before they should be thrown away. I have done a little research.

There are four types of eggs – fresh ones, stale ones, bad ones, poisonous ones. You can eat the first two, and will be ill and possibly die if you eat the fourth choice. You would never eat the third choice – bad eggs – because they stink, so we can ignore those. We’ll start with the poisonous ones.

Poisons, or ‘pathogens’ in eggs are different bacteria. The worst of these seems to be salmonella, a rod shaped bacilli which causes salmonellosis (which can put you in hospital). Salmonella lives in the gut of animals, and seems to affect a lot of chickens (possibly because they have been farmed so badly). Salmonella affects other animals too, it is only chickens who get bad press. You should be careful around pets, especially reptiles, as they are well known carriers of salmonella (beware the cute turtles in the fish tank).

Salmonella is the reason your mother tells you to be sure to cook chicken thoroughly. A hen with salmonella can pass that into her eggs, mainly by her poop falling onto the shell. If you cook those eggs right through (no more runny yolks for breakfast) then, if the egg has been stored correctly, you will kill any traces of salmonella that might be present. However, I like runny yolks, and mayonnaise, and mousses made with raw egg – so there is another way.

Eggs in the UK and the US are treated differently. If you buy eggs in the US, they should be found in a chilled cabinet of less than 40ºF, and put straight into the fridge when you get home. If you buy eggs in the UK, they will just be on a shelf, not kept cool at all. Why?

This is because eggs are treated differently in the US. After they have been laid (within 30 days) they will be washed, with water at 110ºF and a detergent. This is to remove any bacteria from the shell, because the shell is porous – bacteria can get into the egg through the shell. (A hen with salmonella can infect the inside of the egg, but only if the bacteria is in her ovaries. Most eggs are infected via the shell.) However, washing eggs is not altogether good, as it also washes off the egg cuticle or ‘bloom’.

Ah, you might ask, what is that? Well, you can’t see it, but the outside of an egg has a protective coat, which keeps moisture in and bacteria (some bacteria) out. When an egg is washed, this cuticle can be damaged, which means more bacteria can get into the egg, so after washing, they should always be kept in a fridge (because bacteria doesn’t grow when it’s cold). This does not solve all the problems, as after an American shopper has bought the eggs, they need to take them home. If the journey home is warm, condensation can form on the cold eggs, which makes a nice moist surface for bacteria to start growing, and because the cuticle has been washed off, it can sneak into the eggs. So, if you’re American, and buy eggs, you should probably cook them properly.

In the UK, farmers treat the birds rather than the eggs. So hens are vaccinated against salmonella. This means they will not infect the eggs, and nor will their poop if it falls on the shell, so they’re not washed before they are sent to the supermarket. Which means the cuticle is intact, which means they don’t need to be kept cool. Eggs from vaccinated birds are stamped with a red lion mark.

However, I get my eggs from the chickens in my garden. I asked my vet if I should have them vaccinated against salmonellosis, and he asked if they appeared ill. I told him no, they are happy, if somewhat stupid, and seem perfectly healthy. He told me that a bird infected with salmonellosis would appear sick, so my birds are fine. I therefore eat runny yolks, and have never been ill. If I ever have more than 350 birds, or sell the eggs commercially, then there is a legal requirement to have them tested. But if I have more than 350 birds, my husband will leave and I’ll be homeless, so eggs will be a minor concern.

Should you wash eggs? I guess it depends how you do it. Cold water can make the egg absorb more bacteria, hot water can crack them. Detergent destroys the cuticle. If you plan to hatch, rather than eat, eggs, then you are not supposed to wash them. However, if the weather is wet, my hens bring lots of mud into the laying box, and I do tend to wash that off (and they still hatch). Some farmers replace the lost cuticle with other things – like oil, to try and make the eggs last longer. The trouble is, the egg absorbs some of this. (The shell is porous, remember?) Oil can stop egg whites whisking into peaks, so you can’t make meringues with them. You must also be eating traces of whatever they have coated the shell with, which is a bit worrying.

Duck eggs have more porous shells than chicken eggs. I always cook duck eggs thoroughly.

To return to the first question, how long can you keep eggs for? One guide is the US legal requirement: they must be processed within 30 days of laying, and then are considered safe to eat 5 weeks beyond the date they were packed. Which adds up to about 2 months. Storing eggs in a fridge, once they are at home, will help them last longer, as it slows the growth of any bacteria. A fresh egg has a nice clear white, and older eggs will have a yellowy white. As eggs age, they lose some of their moisture and elasticity, so become less good for baking, but they are still fine to eat. The older the egg, the more time bacteria will have to grow (and don’t forget, salmonellosis is only one kind). The older the egg, the better it should be cooked.

I guess that eggs which come from intensively farmed birds are more likely to have been pooped on, and therefore more likely to be covered in bacteria. Which is another reason for only ever buying free range chicken eggs. Please don’t support farmers who have unhappy birds.

Thank you for reading.

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Anne E. Thompson is the author of several novels, available from bookshops and Amazon. Why not read her latest novel today?


Researching a Psychopath (and how to avoid being killed).

Do you know how to stay safe from a serial killer? Following extensive research into the disorder, I was able to write two novels.  However, I did also learn a few things that might be useful in real life, so read on for some tips on how to stay safe.

Firstly, who is a psychopath? Let’s look at a few traits. Have a think, do you know someone who’s fun to listen to, but tends to be a bit ‘glib’ – they’ll move on if someone more interesting comes along? Someone who might have been in trouble as a child – perhaps stealing or vandalising? Someone who sometimes speaks in quite a muddled manner, so if you ask them a question, you’re not always sure what their answer was? Someone who is mainly concerned with themselves – so they rarely comment, or ‘like’ other people’s posts on Facebook, unless it will benefit themselves. They won’t let you know whether or not they’ll be attending an event – and are very likely to not show up at the last minute. They like to be seen as a leader, but you’re not quite sure what they actually do. They’re often promiscuous, possibly having children from multiple partners. They lie—sometimes blatant, in your face, lies. They like excitement, and are never scared. They have grandiose ideas about their own capabilities. Do you know that person? Then possibly, you know a psychopath.


Researching psychopathy was hugely interesting—you can read more at the end of this article. I read many papers by neuroscientists, books by neurologists, and listened for many hours to convicted psychopaths. I even managed to find two mothers prepared to speak to me about raising a psychopathic child.

Going back to my first paragraph, how can you avoid being the victim of a serial killer? It is, of course, extremely unlikely that you will ever encounter a serial killer. Even though you probably know a psychopath or two, they are not likely to be killers. However, in case you are the one in a million who’s unlucky, what should you do?  Well, they are generally well planned, and will have observed a few possible victims first. So changing your routine helps, don’t always do the same things at the same time.

Also, psychopaths do not want trouble, they want an easy life. So the serial killers I researched would always choose a victim who did not have a dog. Dogs are unpredictable, they might bite the psychopath, so they would avoid those houses. (One of Dennis Radar’s first victims did have a dog, but it had been put into the garden.)

As psychopaths want things to be easy, they will think of a ploy to subdue the victim, so they don’t make a fuss until they have either been tied up or knocked unconscious. So, Ted Bundy pretended to have a broken arm and led his trusting victims to a secluded spot. When people found Dennis Radar in their homes, he told them he was ‘on the run from the police’, so instead of instantly panicking and fighting, they relaxed a bit, decided to be submissive until he had taken their money/car/food and had left. Which he never did. He used their compliance to over-power them. If those people had started fighting at the first sign of trouble, they would possibly have survived. If you suspect someone wants to hurt you, run or fight, don’t ‘play it safe’ and ‘wait and see.’ Be loud, make a fuss, fight.

Having said that, I think the odds of you being killed by a serial killer are much less than the odds of you winning a million pounds on the lottery or being a famous celebrity – so it’s not something you should worry about too much!


Thank you for reading. I am often asked, could the president be a psychopath? In reply, I tell them to read CLARA, as the novel shows clearly how a psychopath thinks and behaves. Most psychopaths are never convicted of any crime, and CLARA shows how, in some circumstances, the disorder could be a strength.

In JOANNA, I wanted to show the impact of living with a psychopath, and how it feels to be the mother of a killer.

Both books are available from bookshops and Amazon. The links are below. Why not buy one today?

The latest, and best book (in my opinion). An exciting novel written in the first person, which shows how a psychopath views the world. The story encompasses the world of women trafficked in India, and shows how someone very bad, can be used to achieve something amazing.

A gritty thriller, which shows what it means to be a psychopath, and how it would feel if someone in your family did something awful. (Because every psychopath has a mother.)
















UK link for CLARA:

US Link for JOANNA:

UK Link:


Extra Information for the Interested:

Psychopathy is a mental disorder – the brain does not respond like most people’s brains. They tend to have a smaller orbital frontal gyri (no, I didn’t know what that meant either! It means the front bit of their brain, the bit that controls empathy, is underdeveloped). They also have lower serotonin levels, so lack the ability to feel happy, to have emotional highs.

Now, most psychopaths are NOT serial killers. People tend to link the two because the reverse is not true – most serial killers probably are psychopaths. Robert Hare estimates that for every serial killer, there are 30,000 psychopaths who have never killed.

One trait of psychopathy is pathological lying. They will lie, even when it serves no purpose. If you suspect someone is a psychopath, think back to what they have told you – is it verifiable? Can you always prove what they have said is true, or do they tend to twist things slightly? It is thought that lots of politicians are psychopaths, as are the CEOs of many successful businesses.

It is difficult to detect lies though, especially as psychopaths tend to speak in a slightly confusing way. Sometimes they will contradict themselves within a sentence, so it is hard to be sure exactly what they have said. Some neuroscientists believe that they have two speech centres in the brain. For most people, everything relating to speech and words is located on the left side of the brain. However, there is some evidence that psychopaths have a second speech centre, on the right.  Dennis Radar was told he spoke in ‘word salad’ – a whole mix of phrases that barely linked.

You can watch psychopaths on YouTube, as trials and police interviews in the US are recorded, and are now available. I spent many hours listening to Ted Bundy (thought to have killed around 50 young women), Diane Downs (who shot her children), and Dennis Radar (the ‘Bind Torture Kill’ serial killer), learning their speech patterns and trying to understand how they think.

When I first started to watch video clips of convicted serial killers, I was shocked by how nice they were! I have always thought myself a good judge of character – and perhaps if I met them in real life it would be different – but they came across as nice people. Ted Bundy was an attractive, witty, intelligent man. If we knew him, we might have invited him round for dinner. He talks about coming from a ‘loving Christian family’ where he was ‘raised according to standards in the Bible’. However, my background reading indicates his mother fell pregnant when young, and some believe Ted’s father was his grandfather, who she lived with until she married another man. Ted Bundy for many years thought his mother was his sister.

They are often entertaining, very charismatic. Charles Manson (leader of the ‘Manson Family’ sect) was fascinating to watch, you couldn’t avoid listening to him.

Psychopathy is now diagnosed using Hare’s checklist – a list of traits. Most people have some of these traits, a psychopath will have most of them. Psychopathy is a spectrum, a bit like autism (though a very different disorder.) An autistic person will have emotional empathy, they will ‘feel’ how someone else feels, so detect anger or joy, but they will not understand why. A psychopath is the opposite, they will have neurological empathy, they understand how someone is feeling, and can even use this to manipulate people’s feelings, but they have no emotional empathy. A toddler laughing will not make them smile, they don’t pick up the ‘feelings’. You will probably appear somewhere on the psychopathic spectrum, perhaps you are selfish, or like to be in charge, or don’t often feel other’s emotions; but mostly, you will have the same responses as everyone else. You are only classified as a psychopath if you show most of the symptoms.

The neuroscientist James Fallon, was researching the changes in the brain under certain stimuli using an MRI scanner. He found he could detect psychopathy by the results of an MRI scan, he could actually see who was a psychopath.

You can read more about psychopaths, and my research, and general author-type things on my blog. Why not take a look today? Oh, and don’t forget to follow those links and check out my novels! Thank you. x



Anne E. Thompson has written several novels and one non-fiction book. You can find her work in bookshops and Amazon.

Author Update : December 2016

This week, Joanna went to the printer (small fanfare of trumpets please!).

This is always very scary. Any typos that have missed will now be in the final book for all to see, for ever more. We did very nearly have a disaster. The cover was finished – brilliant photo from Chloe my photographer, formatted by Geoff my cover guy – but I was unsure about the colour. It was greys and blacks, and I wanted it to be blues and purples. So both people tried various filters, but it wasn’t the colour I had in my mind.

Geoff (who understands these things having been a printer in a former life) gave me a brief lesson about colour in light (and therefore on my computer screen) being different when transferred to ink (and therefore on my book cover.) It was possible to pay the printer for a fifth ink, whereby I could be picky on the colour. But it would cost extra. I am hoping to break even with this business, so unlike big publishers, I don’t actually have any ‘extra’.

We decided to ask the printer to print one cover and to post it to me, so I could decide if the colour was okay. They kindly did this. Which is when I noticed there was a white margin around the cover photo. I hadn’t noticed it on the proofs I had been sent, but it was absolutely not the look I wanted. It was a horrible moment when I realised that if we hadn’t decided to check the cover colours, we wouldn’t have spotted it, and the cover would annoy me forever (even if possibly no one else would have noticed.)

So, my advice to anyone planning to self-publish, always ask the printer for a cover sample before they print off hundreds (because while it delays things very slightly, it doesn’t cost any extra.)

The colour is still not exactly what I had in mind, but I don’t have the funds to be fussy, so it is staying as it is. It is still an amazing cover. You will love it when you see it, the photo is perfect for a book about a psychopath. Very exciting.


My other bit of news is on the selling front with Hidden Faces. We had contacted Gardners, a wholesaler, and they said that if a retailer wanted to sell the book, they would contact me via the Nielsons website and supply it.

I decided to test this before I advertised it, so bought my book from Waterstones charge £8.95 plus £2.80 postage, so I paid over £11 (for my own book.) I was somewhat perplexed when the following day I was contacted by Bertrams, a completely different wholesaler, and asked to urgently send a copy of my book. Waterstones obviously decided to use them. It then took about 10 days for my book to come back to me, though it was in perfect condition considering it had gone round the country! I have not yet been paid by Bertrams, though they did ask for an invoice to be enclosed with the book. I could, I suppose, have charged them what I wanted for the book, as I don’t have a trading agreement with them. But they would have added a bit before supplying Waterstones, who would then have found the book was costing more than they were making. So although they would have supplied me (as the customer) they would also I assume have deleted me (as the publisher) from their website. I rather like being on there, so sold to Bertrams at a sensible price. It was an expensive experiment.

I notice I am also on the Foyles website. My advice, is set up clear details when you register with Nielsons (who are the people you buy the ISBN numbers from.) Then, every major bookseller will be able to supply your book if people order through them. And it’s rather nice to know your book can be bought through Waterstones and Foyles.

Really though, the best way to actually recoup your costs, is by private sales. Big shops use wholesalers, and everyone wants a cut of the profits, so you receive very little money. I have spent November and December selling books at Christmas Fairs. I even started to enjoy it after a while. I sold loads of books, people bought them because I was local author, or because they wanted to give it as a gift. I would definitely recommend it as a route to sales. I am hoping to find some summer fairs too. If you’re keeping count, I have now recovered half my costs (which is about what I was hoping for in my time plan.) Now I need people who have enjoyed it to tell their friends…..

The local papers have been brilliant. They have given me lots of support and included photos of me/the book a few times now. I was in a third newspaper this week (well, the book was, not me – but actually I prefer that.) It makes you feel very grateful when people help. Setting up any business is scary, we all need people to help us. It’s nice when they do.

Thank you for reading.

I have now put my earlier posts, which explain the process of publishing a book, on my website in the ‘How to’ section.


Hidden Faces by Anne E Thompson


Available from Waterstones, Foyles and Amazon (cheapest from Amazon!)


On Monday I will tell about all the things went went wrong when we went to son’s masters graduation. Life is rarely everything you hope…..

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First Book Signing Event…..


I have had my first book signing event. Terrifying. Well, it was terrifying beforehand. When I was actually there, everyone was very nice and I almost enjoyed it. A book signing is not an activity I would choose to do. However, if you are an author, and if you actually want to sell your books, you somehow have to market them. Book signings are therefore necessary.

I decided to link mine with the local community cafe. It’s run by volunteers, and was a good opportunity for them to entice some new customers through the door, plus they received 25% of the price of every book sold. In return, they gave me a pleasant venue and some free advertising.

I have to admit, I have never actually attended a book signing before. Nor do I collect autographs. The thing is, I think people, whoever they are, are just people. So yes, I have met some very famous people, I have even had some round for tea. They are however, no better or worse, or more or less fun to be with, than all my non famous friends. They are basically the same as you and me. So, to want their autograph seems weird to me. It also seems weird to me that other people now want me to sign their book. It’s not something I really understand, but I am happy to do it.

Being a complete novice, I took some advice on what to do. My sister was a big help, as were a couple of ‘author community’ Facebook groups I have joined. Here’s their advice:

Make the table look attractive. It’s worth taking a cloth, some sweets, some signs so people know what is going on. Some people suggested a vase of flowers – they must be less accident prone than me, I had visions of tipping water all over my books, so I decided against that one. The sweets are also only a good idea if you take ones which you don’t particularly like, otherwise, if you’re like me, you will eat them all while waiting for customers. I took some masks, as the book is about people hiding their true ‘face’ when at work, it shows how people are different when they’re at home or with their friends.

Take a pen. You might be surprised to hear that I nearly forgot one!

Remember your author name. This one is also surprisingly hard. When you’re tired, and have chatted to the nineteenth stranger in a row, it is very easy to sign your real name by mistake!

Take enough books. I had NO idea how many books I would sell. Other authors are rather coy when it comes to actually giving numbers (which is not very helpful when you are just starting out.) I would have been disappointed to sell 3, pleased to sell 10. I sold 16, with a further order of 10 more. No idea how that rates with an average non-famous, just starting out author – try asking a few and see if they will tell you!

Be prepared to listen. I found most people wanted to chat. Some people wanted to chat for a very long time. Mostly, this is nice, you get to hear about their lives and how they plan to write a book one day. It’s quite tiring though, so plan something low effort afterwards.

Advertise the event. This one is difficult. I can tell you what DIDN’T work! I handed out invitations at the school gate to nearly a hundred mothers as they collected their children (because the story is set in an infant school.) Not one came. I put it on Facebook. Same result. I put it on Twitter. Nope, not a soul.. The best advertising was word of mouth – people who had bought the book telling other people that they were going to buy another one. The local paper also advertised it, and I did have three people who came just because they saw it in there.

A few people arrived with books they had previously bought in the shops, for me to sign. That was nice, because they had read it and told me they had enjoyed it. Some people (and this is the best ever for an author) had their own copy and were now buying a second copy for someone for Christmas. That was so nice, made me feel glad I had been brave enough to hold the event.

Thanks for reading. Hope it was useful.


On Monday, I will tell you about my church…You know, “Onward Christian Soldiers..”?

Well, my church is more like Dad’s Army sometimes!

Hidden Faces by Anne E Thompson – A great Christmas gift for your mother/aunty/sister
or child’s school teacher!

Hidden Faces final cover 6 July 2016

Publishing a Book – Part Six


Having launched my book locally, it was time to think about something bigger.

I went into Waterstones. I asked to speak to the manager, which seems to always make people look a bit nervous, then they are relieved when you tell them why. The manager at Bluewater was very nice. She explained that all Waterstones shops can only order from certain suppliers. Those suppliers WILL take books from self-published authors, though they deal with the publisher, not the author. If, therefore, you choose to self-publish with a publishing company (who you pay), I am not sure if they would also deal with wholesalers on your behalf. We created our own company, so that was okay, I could approach them as an ‘indie publisher’.

Wholesalers will only consider books with both an ISBN number and a registration with Nielson. If you look on the Waterstones website, it explains how to do all of this. It is a long process and takes several weeks. If the wholesaler accepts your book, you can then go into individual Waterstones bookshops and persuade the manager to stock your book. They will then order it directly from the wholesaler. I am just starting this process (actually, I started at the wrong end and went into the shop first, but they were very nice about it.) I will let you know how I get on.

We left Bluewater – I am not one to linger when shops are involved and son had finished hunting Pokemon. On the way home we called in at a smaller branch of WH Smiths. I spoke to the manager, who took details of the book and looked at a copy of the cover. He said everything had to go through head office and he would email the publisher to let them know. It was encouraging – he didn’t say no. However, he also didn’t explain anything – I’m not sure if WH Smiths only buy through wholesalers. Their website is unhelpful. (Actually, I have since spoken to a different WH Smiths manager. The shop manager is allowed to sell books by local authors, and, after agreement from head office, can take them directly from the author/publisher without the need for a middle man.)

When I got home, I learned a little about wholesalers (not a term I was used to hearing.) Basically, they take books from publishers – probably the printer sends them straight there if you are a major publishing house, presumeably Mr Hodder and Stoughton doesn’t have a spare room full of books. Shops then order them straight from the wholesaler and they deliver them. This means the shop is dealing with fewer people, they can order books from a selection of publishers and just have one delivery to deal with. It also means the publisher (me) doesn’t have to drive to the shops every time they need to restock. It means I could go to bookshops where I grew up and persuade them to stock my book, but I wouldn’t have to keep driving back there every time they sold a couple. This sounds brilliant. I have no idea at this stage what such a service costs – I will tell you in my future blogs. There was an online form, which had a section I didn’t understand, so I phoned them. Spoke to a receptionist, who also didn’t know, but who was nice and gave me an email address so I could write and ask. I am finding this – people are nice and generally helpful. I knew nothing (John Snow) when I started doing this, but at each tiny step, people have helped me, given me the information so I can progress to the next stage. It’s slow, but it’s not overwhelming.


I will let you know how things progress. Thanks for reading.

Take care,
Anne x

If you found this interesting, you can follow my blog at:


Hidden Faces final cover 6 July 2016

Hidden Faces by Anne E. Thompson – why not buy a copy and help my dream come true….?


Publishing a Book – Part Three


So, after you have had your manuscript edited, have proofread it about a million times, and are fairly sure that you have picked up as many typos as is humanely possible, it is ready to send to a typesetter.

The typesetter puts your book into the right format for the printer. You can assume a cost of about 90p a page. It depends on print size, but a 100,000 word book is about 300 pages. They will send you examples of different text, ask if you want the first letter of a new chapter written as a capital, or the first word, or the whole of the first line. These were all things I had never noticed before (and I am an avid reader!) I think I only notice if something is ‘odd’, if a self-published book has strayed from what my eye is used to seeing. I was therefore grateful that my typesetter knew more than me. He had done this many times before and could tell me what a ‘normal’ book looked like. I had to keep running to my bookshelves to check things.

You also want someone with experience so the margins are the correct size – you don’t want the words running into the fold of the book, nor do you want massive margins because that means more pages, which will cost you more money.

Some people choose to have a running header, with either the author name, or the chapter title on each page. Some people like the page numbers in the centre, some prefer them at the top. I didn’t have strong opinions on much, I was mainly just keen that my book didn’t look odd : that chapter one began on a right hand page, that the starting margins were full width and all others indented, things like that. This was all learned while I was answering questions and checking inside other books.

I was told that pages are bound in batches of 16 (I think it depends on the size of your book.) This means there might be some empty pages, at either the front or the back. My typesetter suggested that this would be a good place to put some ‘tasters’ of my other books, to encourage people to buy them, a ‘free’ advert.

You might also like to think about the copyright page. There is fairly standard wording inside most books, but you can adapt it to suit yourself. In England, copyright is automatic, if you have written something, you own the copyright. Proving that you have written something might be difficult, so it is possible to register your copyright – there are details of how to do this in the Writer’s Handbook. It does not mean you now own the copyright (you did already) but if someone challenges you, you have proof of when you registered it.

It is usual on the copyright page to name the publisher and to put their contact details. If you use a self-publishing company, they will, I presume, put their address there. We weren’t using a company, we were doing it all ourselves and I wasn’t keen on having my own address in the book. We therefore made a company name, The Cobweb Press, and made a website. This gave us an email address that we could use in all the books. (I am sort of hoping no one ever looks at the website, as we made it in a rush, and it’s not going to impress anyone. But it serves a purpose and means strangers can contact me – to order books – without knowing my home address.)

You might decide to have an ISBN number. These are usually included on the copyright page and also on the back cover. It is not essential to have an ISBN number, but shops like them (some shops will refuse to stock the book unless it has one) and it makes it easier for people to find your book if they know it. You buy them. I bought 10 numbers for £149. There was some paperwork to fill out (husband did that for me) and then they were issued, to use as I wished. The ‘cover guy’ had to leave a white space in the correct place so the barcode could be added (my printer did that.)

We also needed to register the book with the British Library, and send them a copy when it was published.

You need a cover for your book. Go and look at some. I wanted something that would stand out, but not something that looked odd. Find someone who has done other book covers. You need to consider how thick the printed book will be, because that changes the thickness of the spine (and the cover is designed as one long, -front/spine/ back – file.) My typesetter had also done other book covers, so he also did my cover. For the front, you can look online and find many different photographs that are available to buy to use as book covers. These range from textures to use as backgrounds, to full pictures. I opted to have a person on my cover, as the book is about people. The ‘cover guy’ came and took lots of photographs and I chose the one I liked best. He then added the words, designed the spine of the book, suggested ideas for the back. I included the ‘blurb for the back’ in the file I sent to the editor, so that was ready to use. I think you need to allow £35 for a cover, plus a price for the photograph.

We also discussed choices with the printer. We used cpi (if you look at books you have bought, it usually says who has printed them; ‘cpi’ have printed many of the paperback books that you find in the bookshops.) They were very helpful and gave us a menu of options. We could, if we had wanted, had just a single book printed. If anyone has a book they want to see in print but they don’t plan to sell, they might like to have one copy made. Obviously, the more books we had printed, the cheaper the cost per book. It cost about £2 per book to print 500 copies. If you want to add a barcode then add an extra £35 to the overall printing costs.

They asked us which thickness of paper we wanted and what size of page. I didn’t have a clue! They kindly sent samples of books they had printed, so I could ask all my family and friends to turn the pages and tell me which thickness they preferred. Made a change from talking about the weather.

If you read all the terms and conditions that the printer sends, you might find that one condition is that you have indemnity insurance. This was quite a hassle to arrange, and I don’t think actually it will cover much should anyone ever sue me, claiming I have stolen their ideas. But if you read all the small print (husband is good at that sort of thing) it was a condition of being published, so we did it. We had to estimate my probable earnings for the year – the insurance company then told us they didn’t go that low! It cost £175 for annual insurance.

I really want to tell you about the things we did to market the book, why I had to register for US tax, and how much shops will want to make when they sell your book; but this is too long. I will include it in Part Four. Why not sign up to follow my blog so you don’t miss it?


Thank you for reading.


Hidden Faces by Anne E Thompson.
When did you last buy your Mum a gift that made her laugh?

Hidden Faces final cover 6 July 2016


How to Know Your Gender

There has been a lot in the media recently concerning gender issues. If you are confused as to which gender you belong to, this short quiz might help. If you are a sensitive soul, it might be better to consult your medical practitioner.

Answer the questions and keep a tally of whether you score mainly A or B or C.

  1. During a discussion:
    A You always think you are right.
    B You always think you are right, until someone challenges you, then you assume you must be wrong, then in the end you discover that you were right.
    C You don’t care who is right or wrong, you just do whatever you want to do.
  2. When you were small:
    A You were often told to take your hands out of your trousers.
    B You were often told to stop playing with the hair of the person in front of you.
    C You liked to play with spiders.
  3. When you need scissors:
    A You think you know where they are but when you look, they are not there.
    B You think you know where they are and when you look, they are there.
    C You never use scissors, you prefer to bite things.
  4. When the toilet roll needs changing:
    A You sometimes put a new roll on the holder.
    B You put a new roll on the holder AND you throw the empty insert into the bin.
    C You never use toilet paper.
  5. Which is true ? :
    A You know the make and model of every car your family has ever owned.
    B You know the name of every car you family has ever owned – there was “Connie Consul”, “Betty Beetle”……
    C You do not like cars and if forced to travel in one you are usually sick.
  6. When on a long journey:
    A: You never even think about where there might be suitable toilets en route.
    B You sometimes worry about where there might be suitable toilets en route.
    C You do not like cars and if forced to travel in one you are usually sick.
  7. If there is an unusual noise in the middle of the night:
    A You get up to investigate, sometimes taking a weapon.
    B You send the person next to you to go and investigate.
    C It is usually you who has caused the unusual noise.
  8. When you go grocery shopping:
    A You rarely have a carrier bag with you.
    B You usually have a carrier bag with you.
    C You prefer to catch your own food.
  9. When you have your hair cut:
    A It always takes less than an hour.
    B It always takes more than an hour.
    C You never have your hair cut, you prefer to leave it all over people’s cushions and sweaters.
  10. Which is true?:
    A You hate peeling boiled eggs and oranges and so rarely do either.
    B You hate peeling boiled eggs and oranges but you do it anyway.
    C You never eat boiled eggs or oranges.
    If you scored mostly As, you are probably male.
    If you scored mostly Bs, you are probably female.
    If you scored mostly Cs, you are probably a cat. This quiz was not really aimed at you.


Thank you for reading.
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