Celebrating fellow authors

My fellow author friend from CHINDI wrote a thought-provoking first novel  (“Crazy over You”) and now she is celebrating the release of her second, her Ruby Fiction debut, The Purrfect Pet Sitter. So,  I’ve invited her on my blog to tell me more about her novel, and where the action of her story takes place. I love travelling, as you know, and I think we are going to pop down to France at some stage. 

The Purrfect Pet Sitter is a romantic comedy that will appeal to readers who believe in the intensity of first love and who know that sometimes, all you need is a second chance.
It tells the story of twenty-nine-year-old Lisa Blake who suffers a loss that causes her to re-evaluate her life, return to her hometown and start over as the purrfect pet sitter. But with her ex-best friend, her first love and a mystery man to contend with, Lisa has to discover how to move forward when the things she wants most are affected by the  decisions of her past.

Carol's new cover

 

The novel is largely set in and around Littlehampton, in West Sussex on the south coast of England. This part of the country has a good mix of town, countryside and seaside, enabling me to incorporate those landscapes into the book – ideal for a pet sitter who is frequently out and about.
While writing, drawing inspiration from the local area, I also wanted to ensure that the places visited would be recognisable to readers no matter where they lived – the local bar, the doctor’s surgery, the parent and toddler group – the mainstays of towns and villages everywhere.
And, just as every town has that one person who seems to know everything that goes on, Lisa’s town has Harold Martin. He is a man in the know, and whose meddling has far-reaching consequences for Lisa.
However, not all of the action is local. One of my favourite parts to write (and research) sees Lisa visiting her parents in France. For this setting, I chose the village of Samoëns. We often holiday there as a family but to research this part of the story my husband and I made a special trip during a snowy January. It was a lot of fun. I spent mornings snowshoeing and attempting to cross-country ski, and my afternoons writing.
Samoëns is in the Rhone Alps region, with beautiful chalets set amongst the mountains. It is the place Lisa goes in the hope of reconnecting with her family but with secrets to be revealed, surprises in store, her mum acting out of character and a lot of catching up to do, Lisa’s life takes an unexpected, but not unwelcome turn.

Carol skiing

You say you regularly holiday in Samoëns, in the Rhone Alps region of France, is this somewhere you would recommend others to visit?
Yes, the scenery is breathtaking, with beautiful mountains and stunning lakes. The people are friendly, and the atmosphere is very relaxing. And should you ever find yourself in Samoëns, then a trip down the road to Sixt Fer A Cheval is also a must. The mountains are formed in a horseshoe shape, meaning you are surrounded by spectacular views on all sides. It is beautiful in summer and winter, as is the waterfall Cascade du Rouget, also close to Samoëns. In the summer my husband, children and I stood in front of it unable to hear ourselves over the rushing water and getting soaked by the spray. In winter my husband and I hiked up to it and stood at the foot of the waterfall that appeared completely frozen in time. The only sound the occasional crack and pop coming from the curtain of ice. Stunning!

Thank you Carol and congratulations on the publication of The Purrfect Sitter, I have it downloaded and look forward to reading it. 

The blurb:
Introducing Lisa Blake, the purrfect pet sitter!

When Lisa Blake’s life in London falls apart, she returns to her hometown rebranding herself as ‘the purrfect pet sitter’ – which may or may not be false advertising!

But being back where she grew up, Lisa can’t escape her past. There’s her estranged best friend Flick who she bumps into in an embarrassing encounter in a local supermarket. And her first love, Nathan Baker, who, considering their history, is sure to be even more surprised by her drunken Facebook friend request than Lisa is.

As she becomes involved in the lives of her old friends Lisa must confront the hurt she has caused, discover the truth about her mysterious leather-clad admirer, and learn how to move forward when the things she wants most are affected by the decisions of her past.

Buying Links:

From Amazon:

From Kobo:

From Ruby Fiction

And if you want to watch the trailer:

watch here:

About the author:
Carol Thomas lives on the south coast of England with her husband, four children and lively young Labrador. She has been a playgroup supervisor and taught in primary schools for over fifteen years, before dedicating more of her time to writing. Carol is a regular volunteer at her local Cancer Research UK shop. She has a passion for reading, writing and people watching and can often be found loitering in local cafes working on her next book.

Carol writes contemporary romance novels, with relatable heroines whose stories are layered with emotion, sprinkled with laughter and topped with irresistible male leads.

Website and Social Media Links:
http://carol-thomas.co.uk
http://facebook.com/carolthomasauthor
http://twitter.com/carol_thomas2
https://www.pinterest.co.uk/carol_thomas2/
https://www.instagram.com/carol_thomas2/

Blog:
http://carol-thomas.co.uk/blog

Read my review of “Crazy over You”

 

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Chindi Events at the Littlehampton Festival – July 2018

Dates for your diaries, folks.

Rosemary Noble's Blog

The Ghost Tour Book has arrived and we are all set to take bookings for events for the Littlehampton Festival.Ghost tour book I have to say that when I first mooted the idea, I didn’t know what I was taking on but thanks to terrific help from other Chindi members and the wonderful Heather Robbins for laying it all out, I hope we have a winner with the ghost tour.

Check out our events below.

Monday July 16th 7.00pm. Littlehampton Baptist Church Hall, Fitzalan Rd.

Welcome to the world of Crime writing, where the mystique is brushed aside and we open the door to becoming a self-published author. From action thrillers to psychological suspense, we unravel the secrets of getting fiction into print with tips on research, character development, plot structure and cover design. Tickets £5 – Disabled Access

Tuesday July 17th 7.00 p.m. Ghost Tour of Littlehampton

CHINDI network…

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Cutting, snipping, editing…

I’m so happy today because I’ve waited for ages to have a long chat to Jessie Cahalin, brains behind the wonderful Books in My Handbag Blog.  Sundays are lazy days in Tuscany and here we are, down by the river, talking about her debut novel, ‘You Can’t Go It Alone’. I can’t believe my good fortune. waiting for Jessie

Handbag fever has overshadowed Jessie’s editing. Her book has been patiently waiting to come out of her handbag for a second appearance. However, some of the characters have been rather disobedient and refusing to go it alone. ‘You Can’t Go It Alone’ has undergone minor surgery. Jessie asked me to share the editing process to get her back on track and now her book is ready for a new handbag.

You Can’t Go It Alone waiting for a facelift

Bandaged Book

Jessie, I  read your first version and enjoyed it. How would you summarise your story?

You Can’t Go It Alone is contemporary women’s fiction. The novel explores the impact secrets can have on relationships and pursuit of happiness.
Set in a Welsh village, the story reveals the contrast in attitudes and opportunities between different generations. Rosa, the leading lady of the Olive Tree Café, must face issues in her marriage. Sophie, a teacher, helps others to communicate but struggles to communicate with her husband, Jack, about their IVF journey. Olivia, who is coming of age, struggles with the pressures of fame. As they confront their secrets and fears, they discover surprising things about themselves and their relationships.
The reader is invited to laugh and cry with the characters and consider how to find joy in the simple things in life.

I know you felt it needed an edit. Now, first exercise – because as authors we are always told to pare our works to the essentials to heighten its effect – can you choose a 250 word extract from your book for us?

I have selected the opening of the novel. In the new version, I have established the scene and been explicit about Sophie and Jack’s IVF treatment. Initially, I hinted at something on Sophie’s mind, and Sophie appeared rather scatty, rather than worried about the IVF treatment. I aimed to contrast the idyllic setting with reality.
Here is the revised opening:
“As Sophie looked up at the sky, its vast blueness held endless possibilities. The sun caressed her back as if to welcome her to Delfryn village. Married for three years, Sophie and Jack longed for a family. A gnarled vine framed the doorway of their new home, Vine Cottage. And a wrought iron gate, decorated with gold vine leaves, showcased the entrance to a sloping rear garden. Delfryn River rushed past at the bottom of the garden, as if to nudge the winter from a slumber. Vine Cottage, a traditional Welsh stone dwelling, sat between Delfryn Abbey and Delfryn Vineyard. An overwhelming sense of tranquillity wrapped around Sophie as she admired the view.
Filled with hope, she banished the possibility of another failed fertility treatment. She helped Jack carry the coffee table. The removal men did the lion’s share of the work, but Sophie took charge of the more delicate items of furniture. Vine Cottage, contented in its lush green surroundings, welcomed her as she stepped over the threshold. Inside, everything sparkled but she would redecorate in the summer once they settled.”

I recognise the opening, but you have established a better sense of place and simplified the detail. What overall changes have you made to the complete novel? 

My new version is more focused on Sophie and Jack’s story. Initially, I included lots of twists and turns but it needed tightening up. Furthermore, I ensured each chapter is from one character’s viewpoint. I have deleted chapters, removed characters and re-written the ending. Although I deleted sections, I developed the scenes and sense of place.  Thus the word count is similar.

2 Jessie Cahalin EditingJessie snipped, tucked and enhanced the language.

How did you go about the editing?

Initially, I re-read the book many times and moved from a general overview to the minutiae, but I ran out of magnifying glasses and my eyes were stinging. I searched in my handbag for my phone to contact the beta readers, but their comments sent me in a spin. The editor’s comments provided a detailed analysis and I snipped, tucked and enhanced the language. I went through a stage of asking myself too many questions. It helped me to place the questions in a notebook, so I could get them out of my head.

I feel thirsty just listening to all these comments about editing, Jessie. It’s hard work, isn’t it?Let’s have an aperitivo. “When in Italy…” We’ll return to editing when we’re refreshed!

Prosecco

Cin cin! Tell me about your day’s routine. How on earth do you fit in your own writing around the wonderful work you produce on your blog? You are so supportive of other authors.

During the week, my day commences at 7am. I interact on social media while eating my toast and drinking my builder’s tea. I think that transforming bread and water in to tea and toast is one of the miracles of life.
Editing dominates most of the day, but I reward myself with brief interaction on social media throughout the day. I have to be strict and turn off FB and Twitter. Sometimes, I allocate a time to preparing an interview or extract. Weekends and evenings are devoted to: writing blog posts, reviews, adding handbags, news and updating the website. My day ends at about midnight.SAMSUNG CSC
I complete editing in my study. I move around the house when I am completing the other tasks, but the garden room is my favourite alternative.
If I am wrestling with the editing, I print out some text and take it with me to my favourite coffee shop in Cardiff Bay. But the last time I did this, I ended up writing a blog post.
I find the editing process a challenge and confused myself at times.

Wow, Jessie. You’re such a hard worker. I needed the help of an editor when I got myself in a tangle with the plot of Now and Then in Tuscany. I had put the mss away for a month, but I was still in a muddle when I returned to it. My editor helped me re-shape and move chapters around. I also had to cut out about five chapters.

Yes, I still remember the pain of removing chapters. However, I worked through it slowly and realised the changes were better. Initially, I had too many twists and turns in the plot, because I got carried away with my ideas, and I wasn’t thinking about the reader. I had to read the book objectively from the reader’s viewpoint.

I found this hard too. It’s difficult to be objective. But, I was told by another writer not to throw away those chapters. They could come in useful at some time for a short story or another novel.

I felt the same way about axing chapters, and your advice helped me, Angela.  I have stored the deleted scenes for the future. It is reassuring to know I can call in and visit my characters again.

What would you say was the most important writing tip you picked up during your editing process?

The key tip for an aspiring author is to get an editor as they will give you an honest, objective perspective.
Although brutal, my editor’s commentary became my companion as I worked through the editing. She noticed gaps in the narrative and alerted me to the eccentric mannerisms of my characters. For instance, Olivia spoke to her mother behind a closed door. And my characters winked at each other rather a lot. It was all clear in my wild imagination but needed clarification for the reader.
Following the editor’s advice, I pruned chapters and removed characters because they didn’t contribute anything to the narrative. I had to slay one alpha male character who resembled Rochester. This character arrived one day, but I didn’t have the heart to turn him away, at first. I have sent him packing as he was distracting me and Olivia.
Let me introduce the scoundrel:
“Finally, the door opened, and Ben was standing there in a loosely tied dressing gown. Olivia was glad of the visor on her helmet, as she was blushing. She tried not to look at Ben’s naked chest but was desperate to keep her gaze focused above his waist.”
Feel free to scream!
The downside to removing a plot or character is like pulling a thread on a garment. I don’t enjoy threading the narrative back together, as I have always been terrible at sewing. While patching up the narrative, I seem to find more holes and it drives me crazy. Sleep helps to rejuvenate my perspective in these dark winter months.

As lunch time approached, I topped up our drinks – the description of Ben had made me thirsty and hungry. In true Italian fashion, we moved on to antipasti. DSCN1130

Between munching and sipping, I asked Jessie what came first – writing her book or the desire to blog.

What is the motivation behind your blog, Jessie?

The book came first! I wrote the book but never intended to publish it. Tired of writing action plans, I wished to explore the story in my head. It was a joy to exchange bullet points for full sentences. My husband decided to publish the story, via Amazon, without my knowledge. Although worried, I concluded it was best to make the most of an opportunity. I am a true believer in ‘Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be’). At this stage, I did some research, realised I needed to make contact with the reading and writing community. I loved the idea of blogging about all the books I enjoyed. I sent out my first blog, with trepidation, and didn’t expect a response. The blogging had taken over and I wrote about the adventure in a in a blog post .

You have more than 250 books in your Gallery now. And they are very varied, which is great. I have read some books from your blog that I would never have otherwise come across, which is all good. We need to continually expand our minds. But do you have a favourite book?

A.S.Byatt’s ‘Possession’ was ground-breaking in my reading journey. The interwoven narrative, mystery and movement between eras was thrilling. Clues about the plot are woven into the poem, and it is a book about writers. I read this novel in the eighties when up to my eyes in some rather linear narratives. I have been intrigued by the complex narratives ever since.
I placed these words, from ‘Possession’ in my handbag:
“…words have been all my life, all my life–this need is like the Spider’s need who carries before her a huge Burden of Silk which she must spin out–the silk is her life…’
Maybe, I should return to the book again. I read this book when I was enjoying a good Victorian yarn. Nowadays, I tend to read an eclectic mix of books as indicated in my Books in my Handbag blog. Johanna Spyri’s Heidi secured my reading addiction.

 

The midday sun and the Prosecco had warmed us both up. Jessie removed her lovely Yorkshire cashmere jumper. She told me she’d bought it from a boutique in Wales. I found mine on a market stall in Sansepolcro.  It made me think of a passage about revising and editing that I came across in one of my most useful writing text books.

“To me, the process of revising any piece of writing is about looking at the work from as many different angles as possible. It’s like holding up an object you’ve made – a pot you’ve thrown, a jumper you’ve knitted – to the light and looking or flaws and other points of view. You turn it round and examine it. You wonder how it might be different or better.” (Paul Magrs).

I chatted to Jessie about some of my own thoughts on editing:
•  Share what you write with fellow authors, Beta readers and, if possible, use an editor, because after a while of going over and over your work, your eyes and brain tend to see what they want to see.
• Ask yourself if every scene, sentence, word is essential. Pare back the dead description to heighten tension. Cut out lazy clichés. But all this doesn’t mean it has to be plain and bare.
• Don’t tell the reader too much. Let them think for themselves and use their own imagination. Stendhal said: “Find out what you most want to say and then try very hard not to say it.” Be subtle.
• Be kind to yourself. The first draft is always going to be that and will inevitably need change. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Listen to others’ opinions, but don’t always follow their suggestions. If you can honestly justify to yourself why you need to keep something, then go with your instincts.
• Read your own work out loud. Note where you stumble over a phrase. Your reader will probably do the same.
• Be prepared for the fact you will have to go back and forth while editing, to make the shape of your book as perfect as you can get it., between the “small detail that makes the novel real”(James Friel) and “the general shape that holds all these details in place”. Think about whether the dialogue is convincing – do your characters talk like people? Can you visualise them or chat to them? Are the events in the plot relevant and logical?
• Know when to stop.

Your points are a helpful, succinct guide. I have printed them off to keep me on track the next time I am editing, as I found it an agonising process. I wrote the initial book in a couple of months, but it took far, far longer to edit. Editing was like wading through mud, at times! Hopefully, it will be easier next time. However, listening to you and others comment about the process really helps. I feel as if my Handbag Gallery is a room full of supportive authors. Your emails asking about the editing and prompting me to stop have kept me on task. Little did I know how poignantly the title of my book “You Can’t Go It Alone” would apply be to the writing process.

Jessie, I could keep you here all day and chat. Let’s go for a walk and pick you some Tuscan flowers. Thanks so, so much for coming here to Tuscany. I wish you every success with your debut novel. When you wrote your review for me this time last year, it made me cry. You so got what I was trying to put over and that was like manna to me. I bless the day we met.

sunflowers

About Jessie Cahalin

Jessie is a bookish blogger, word warrior and intrepid virtual explorer. She loves to entertain with stories, and is never seen without: her camera, phone, notebook and handbag. Fellow authors have deemed her ‘creative and quirky’ and she wears these words like a blogging badge of honour.5RNA Interview Jessie Cahalin taking photo
Having overcome her fear of self-publishing, she is now living the dream of introducing the characters who have been hassling her for decades. Her debut novel, “You Can’t Go It Alone” , is a heart-warming tale about the challenges women still face in society. The novel has light-hearted moments and presents hope. As C. S. Lewis said, ‘We read to know we are not alone.’
Connecting with authors via her Books in Her Handbag Blog is a blast. She showcases authors’ books in the popular Handbag Gallery and has fun meeting authors in her virtual world. Communicating with her authors, still gives Jessie a creative buzz.
Jessie Cahalin hails from Yorkshire, but as a book blogger, she has realised that her country of origin is probably The World. She loves to travel the world and collects cultural gems like a magpie. She searches for happy endings, where possible, and needs great coffee, food and music to give her inspiration.

Available in Kindle and paperback from Amazon and the new edition is waiting for a new handbag.

Social media sites for Jessie:

Her website

Contact her here

author Facebook

Handbag Facebook

Twitter

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Elephants and other thoughts…

As a new bride in the 1970’s, I lived and worked in Tanzania for three years and Maurice and I loved to pack our two-man tent, fill our basket with fruit and vegetables from the market (we had nothing as sophisticated as a refrigerated cool box in those days) and go on safari in our free time. Elephants are my favourite animal. Sitting safely in our vehicle, we watched them for hours. They are beautiful creatures and poachers should be hung, drawn and quartered for butchering them. We returned to Africa after a thirty-seven-year absence and here are a couple of our photos.

Apparently, elephants have amazing memories. I was going to write next “a funny thing happened to me last Saturday”, except it wasn’t funny. To keep it short, I ended up in Accident and Emergency at our local hospital. A stroke or a tumour was suspected as I had completely lost my recent memory. I knew who I was but couldn’t remember Easter, my birthday the previous week, what year we were in, who was the Prime Minister – and other basic facts. After an emergency scan revealed nothing untoward was happening in my brain (make as many jokes as you like) – my memory slowly returned and “normal life” resumed.
BUT, it was scary for everybody and a bit of a wake-up call. It might never recur and explanations for the cause are guesses, according to medical experts. One of the possible reasons for “transient, global amnesia” is stress. Now, I consider my life to be pretty wonderful. When I see film clips of war-torn countries, I wonder how people can survive such emotional terror. This winter, however, has been more difficult than most and my head is always bursting with thoughts, ideas, solutions and maybe my brain is trying to tell me to slow down…to simplify, justify, rationalise; less is more – that old mantra. for calm blog

      This year has seen a huge increase in the time I spend on social media and I find the technical and business side of writing particularly challenging. It also decreases the time I like to spend on writing and, at times, I feel the fun has gone out of the experience. How do other writers cope with this balance? Can we share strategies, please?
Until I had my shoulder operation this winter I regularly played tennis and that was a great antidote to busy thoughts. If I go on a walk (which I love), I find I am still thrashing out story ideas and plots in my head… dancing round the kitchen sometimes helps, but – I do tend to burn food in the process.
I am really curious to hear what other people do to achieve calm and peace of mind. Let me know and we can share ideas. (P.S. I do believe in prayer).
“You don’t have to control your thoughts. You just have to stop letting them control you.” (Dan Millman).

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Laugh and the world laughs with you…

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Continuing from yesterday, and after a difficult winter, I’m enjoying thinking about humour. Byron should probably have listened to his own advice: “Always laugh when you can, it is a cheap medicine.”
There are so many delicious quotes to throw around. Roger Moore said, “If you don’t have humour, then you may as well nail the coffin lid down now.” I can picture him saying that, with one eye-brow arched. Bless him!
The skill of writing with humour: selecting and delivering words at the right time; pacing the work – these are all very useful tools for an author.
Anybody who can write a funny story around a rusty, rickety old ironing board,(“L’Hipocrape”), has my vote. So, without further ado, let me introduce you to Patricia Feinberg Stoner. I’ve enjoyed all her books and am eagerly awaiting the publication of her next – hopefully in late autumn. I asked Patricia if writing comedy came to her instinctively. She had me in stitches with her account of life as an expatriate in France: (“At home in the Pays d’Oc” – please find links for all her books at the end of this blog as well as the opportunity to acquire a free sample of her next hilarious account).

“I come from a family of humourists. My father was addicted to bad puns and worse jokes, and my mother had a keen sense of the ridiculous. My earliest inspirations came from their book shelves. At the age of ten I found Langford Reed’s wonderful collection: The Complete Limerick Book. I was inspired, and wrote my first limerick on the spot. It wasn’t very good, but I was on the path. Not long afterwards I found a small collection of Ogden Nash’s verse, and began a life-long love affair with the American comic poet. My proudest possession is an anthology inscribed to me by Nash himself ‘Not from the author / Of Hiawatha / But a much sublimer / And younger rhymer.’
My own two collections of comic verse had their roots in boredom. In the 1980s I worked for an advertising agency in London. I wore sharp suits, I ate expense account lunches; I was over-paid and under-worked. To while away the long hours between getting in (10am) and lunch time (12:30-3:00) I began writing poems about cats: Nippengripp, the Stationery Cat, Dies Irae and their fellows. Many years later, I found the inimitable cartoonist Bob Bond, and Paw Prints in the Butter was born. Bob also added his magic touch to my second collection: The Little Book of Rude Limericks. Many of these were written during the tedium of long drives to the south of France, which is why young men of Lodève and ladies from Quimper rub shoulders in the book with a greedy young fellow from York.
My other great passion is for France, and all things French, still with a comic twist. At Home in the Pays d’Oc chronicles the adventures my husband and I had while accidental expatriates in that country, and Tales from the Pays d’Oc is my current work in progress. Do contact me for a free ‘sneak peek’.”

You can contact Patricia here. She is also on Twitter @perdisma

And buy, from here:  Pawprints in the Butter The Little Book of Rude Limericks and  At Home in the Pays d’Oc

 

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Always look on the bright side of life…

Everybody likes a laugh. I went to a wonderful exhibition at Mottisfont recently and tittered in front of zany cartoons by Heath Robinson. I wish I’d taken photos of viewers before and after they’d looked round. There were smiles all round.

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On the train home, I started to think about humour; how it works, why we need it. At the moment, I’m writing a novella which I hope will come over as gently humorous. (“Mavis and Dot” is to be launched in November 2108). I’ve dipped into creative writing courses over the years, but I’ve never attended a class on writing humour. Will my new book work? Is writing comedy a matter of instinct or must it be studied? If you try to analyse humour, will it work?
Perhaps to create comedy you have to be a little zany.IMG_3843

Comedians use the incongruous, employing quirky, wild ideas. When writing in humorous vein, we can send our readers down unexpected paths to keep them guessing. Maybe it’s best not to write comedy when you’re in a serious mood. But in life, even in dreadful situations, we joke, don’t we? How often have you heard someone say, “You’ll laugh about that one day,” when you recount them something bad that happened? Two weeks ago, in the dementia home where we left my beautiful mother-in-law, we giggled afterwards about some of the patients. The lady cramming cream cheese sandwiches into her pockets, the gentleman wearing one shoe and clutching a maraca, as if his whole life depended on it. I think we laughed in order to cope. “…humour can make tragic moments bearable.” (Rufus Wainwright).
What is funny to one person might be serious to another. And this could be another way of showing more about characters we invent in our stories.
Humour can also disguise or soften negative moments. Dawn French: “I’ve often said the most difficult things I have to say to people through humour. I can very quickly put some-one in their place with it.”
Let’s face it, life can be harsh, and laughter is good for us. Leave aside the academic aspects to creating humour, it can be better than medicine. So, if we can pull it off, we’re adding to the feel-good factor in our troubled world.
Let me introduce you to two clever humourists. I’m going to do this in two stages – today is the turn of Audrey Cowie and tomorrow we’ll meet Patricia Feinberg Stoner.
This week, Audrey published the second part to her book “The Haunting of Hattie Has-tings”. Audrey owie aka FieldWriting as Audrey Davis, this lady admits to being slightly crazy, so that backs up my theory about humourists. She started her career as a journalist in Dumfriesshire and put her writing dreams to one side, whilst bringing up her family and moving around the globe for her husband’s career. She’s lived in Singapore, Australia and Switzerland – no doubt storing ideas away all the time until an online Writing Fiction Course inspired her to get cracking. From there, her first novel – A Clean Sweep – was born, although it took a bit longer than nine months from conception. A short, darker prequel – A Clean Break – followed, and in November 2017 she published the first in a novella trilogy, The Haunting of Hattie Hastings Part One. Part Two was published on 21st March 2018, with the conclusion following in May/June. “After which she might have a wee lie down …”book cover

Chatting to Audrey on Facebook, her sense of fun is always refreshing. I asked her about her journey into self-publishing. “Before June 2017 I had four Twitter follows and no clue how or what to tweet. Now I have almost one thousand. FB was only used to admire photos of people’s dogs/babies/house plants. Book bloggers were a mystery to me, whereas now I worship at their feet. I had never heard of acronyms such as WIP, TBR, DNF and thought Mobi was a singer. Since then I have managed to upload four books to Amazon (but still manage to mess things up all the time). I exist in a muddle of scribbled notes, empty coffee cups (or wine glasses) and my friends think I’m one step away from madness, or hermit status. I am quite amazed at how much I’ve learned (and forgotten) and how much more I could achieve.”
I wish Audrey all the best for her future achievements and look forward to being haunted and entertained with her next instalment of Hattie Hastings.
Here is my 4 star* review:
“Part two of “The Haunting of Hattie Hastings” was eagerly awaited. I read the first part days after a painful shoulder operation. Just the tonic I needed. I love the bizarre situation of a dead husband, Gary, returning at unexpected moments, popping back to check up on things earthly. Hattie’s best friend, Cat, is now in on Gary’s ghostly comings and goings, but Gary doesn’t always choose the most tactful moments to return. Cat is “busy” with a new boyfriend when Gary appears to her. “There he stood in all his weird glory … Like a “ghostly gooseberry”.
In this second part we have a tender love scene between septuagenarians. Cat’s mother is gravely ill, but her new man is there for her. And we have the pathos of the little boy, Marty, who Gary befriends up in Paradise – or wherever he is. Marty has a little rubber toy called Grump and resembles a certain American politician with a rhyming surname. I don’t want to write a spoiler but, up in Heaven (or wherever), Gary is entrusted with a “mission” by Clarence, an annoyingly-pedantic God-like personality… And he decides to entrust this task to Cat, who has to travel up to Edinburgh to meet Marty’s parents, landing on their doorstep like a Jehovah’s Witness. Get the crazy picture? Audrey Cowie can do tender as well as stand-up comedy. I smiled my way through this book. It is refreshingly different. But I still maintain it is too much of a tease to leave the reader hanging off a cliff edge to see how the rest of the story pans out. I would prefer to read all Hattie’s adventures as one book.”

Don’t forget to pop by tomorrow for another giggle, with Patricia Feinberg Stoner.

Click here for: Audrey’s book

 

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It’s a small world…

We’ve just returned from four days in Snowdonia, North Wales. We stayed in a remote, converted slate miner’s cottage. To reach it, we drove up a dirt track through a pine forest and then parked beside a footpath that we followed for ten minutes, over streams and past ruined houses. It felt like being in our corner of the Tuscan Apennines. There was no WiFi, mobile connection was very poor, no television and…it was bliss. We needed this break and we soaked up the peace and quiet.
I took plenty of photos and I’m going to post some and mix them with our photos of Tuscany. As I poked around in the Welsh ruins, an Italian expression sang in my head: “Tutto il mondo é paese…” Roughly translated – it’s the same all over the world. The ruined homes of labourers who left the valley of Rhiwddolion, Betws-y-Coed because there was no future reminded me of decaying farmhouses in our valley of Rofelle and the migrants leaving for work elsewhere. The stream gurgling over mossy stones was like the Marecchia. I loved hearing Welsh spoken and tried to pick up a few words. Some were familiar – the word for danger is perygl; the Italian is pericolo, for example.
So, here’s a little game for you. See if you can identify which photos belong to which country: Wales or Italy.
A change is as good as a rest, they say. And so, back to writing.

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Slippers in the rain

One week ago, we left darling Giuseppina in a secure ward. We’re still sad, but resigned, and we know she will be cared for in her new home.
This week has thrown up gifts, as if to console. Clearing out possessions so we can let her house to pay for her care, we lingered over photos that revived memories of happy times: family gatherings, albums of baby photographs, letters and cards we sent her in the past. We found plenty of mysterious pictures and postcards from unknown senders; part of a period in life that, rightly so, shall remain locked with her. We came across an invitation issued in 1944 from a Lieutenant Colonel Mannington at the Military Hospital in Urbino, her home city. That was the evening she met her British husband-to-be and the start of a “storia”, as the Italian beautifully describes our word for romance. IMG_3648

I am pleased I wrote some of her story in my first novel, “Tuscan Roots”. This week, the cover for that book won an award. Pam Lecky’s cover award

I became a cover girl too! To my surprise, and delight, whilst shopping in our local supermarket,  I saw my name featured on the front of a woman’s magazine, “The People’s Friend”, advertising a story I wrote. I also took part  last Sunday in the Portsmouth Book Fest on a panel chaired by CHINDI authors – a fab group of independent authors that I am proud to belong to. These were both firsts for me and I was delighted and took them as messages, or prompts.IMG_3725

Before “I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit…” as Jenny Joseph warns, there is still so much to do and learn. So many doors to open.

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When I am old…

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I’ve been too busy lately. I know why. It’s because my heart is breaking and I’m trying to fill the time with things to take my mind off my sadness. My beautiful mother-in-law is suffering from Alzheimer’s and none of us know who to deal with it. Whilst I write this, she is trying to run away from our house… in her slippers…we are having to restrain her  as she hits us and it is so, so difficult to reconcile this mad woman with the sweet lady who has cared for me like a mother since losing my own mother over twenty seven years ago. I’m sorry if this is not the sort of thing one normally writes in a blog, but words are how I make sense of the world. Words and prayers, but tonight I am full of tears. Alzheimer’s is so cruel.

“And bending down beside the glowing bars, Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled And paced upon the mountains overhead And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.” (W. B. Yeats)

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Every picture tells a story

 

 

I’m enjoying Victoria Hislop’s “Cartes Postales” at the moment. I’ve never visited Greece, but this is a delicious appetiser for another place on my bucket list. The story opens with Ellie in London. Every week a postcard from Greece arrives through her door, addressed to someone else and signed with the initial “A”. Then, a notebook is received and it contains a moving account of A’s journey through the country; an odyssey. I’m only at the start but I’m tantalised already by this novel. And I particularly like the black and white photos, artistically enhanced, which are scattered throughout. At Christmas I read Kate Mosses’ “Winter Ghosts” and she has included faded, spooky photos throughout her book, which I loved.
Do you remember your favourite childhood reads? I loved poring over comforting, detailed images in Jill Barklem’s “Brambly Hedge” and Cynthia and Brian Patersons’ “The Foxwood Tales”. Thomas Henry’s brilliant illustrations in the old editions of “William” stories by Richmal Crompton still make me smile. They amplified my enjoyment of William’s escapades. I have a treasured, slightly mildewed copy of J. M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan and Wendy”, decorated by Gwynedd M. Hudson. There are only three colours used in each illustration and the style is redolent of the 1930’s. I’m lucky to have four grandchildren and the excuse to share these stories with them and peer at the pictures together again. Why shouldn’t there be illustrations in more adult books? illustrations
I have included photos in both my historical novels, many of them kindly donated by our local tourist office in Italy.  The Tuscan locations are an inspiration to me as a writer. Some would argue that it is up to me to paint those pictures through my words alone. I have had a couple of comments saying as much: “Not too sure about the photos – perhaps unnecessary to include because of the quality of reproduction,” said one reviewer. Contradicting this point of view, somebody else wrote: “…at first sight they’re just grainy little black and white images, but each one explains and is explained by the text, so that the more you read the more alive they seem, like Facebook pages from a hundred years ago.”
The e-pub versions of my book have been published by Endeavour Press and they have not included photos in their books. However, I’ve kept them in my paperback versions.

I’ve sneaked a peek at the back of Victoria Hislop’s book where she chats to Patrick Insole, Creative Director at Headline, about the photographs. He worked for many years in children’s publishing. He says the key to including illustrations is to identify “the moments where text and picture work together, where they are supposed to work together.” Hislop adds that “ultimately it gives the reader pictures that will float around – and live – in their mind’s eye.”
I have a third Tuscan novel in the pipeline and I intend to include photos. Victoria Hislop has encouraged me to think that I can enhance my text through photographic glimpses. But in the meantime, I’m looking for an illustrator for my WIP which is nearly finished. It is important for me to get the right pairing. I think I am almost there with my hunt. Watch this space for news of “The Adventures of Mavis and Dot”.

Here are the links to Victoria Hislop – “Cartes Postales” and The Winter Ghosts – Kate Mosse

I would love to know your opinions about illustrations and photos in adult books.

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