A Place to Call Home

When I am deep into writing, I cannot settle to read other novels. As I am an avid reader, this a loss I will have to make up for at some point soon. I even balk at watching TV. The book, my book, consumes me. I have finished the first edit and it will soon be time to let beta readers pull it apart before I let my editor get her hands on it.

The only diversion I have and am addicted to in the odd hour of recreation I allow myself is a box set of A Place to Call Home, set in 1950s Australia. A Place To Call Home: Complete Series 1-5Finding it was pure chance. My husband knows I like to watch anything Australian and he happened to record half a dozen episodes – not from the beginning. Two episodes and I was hooked, so much so that I ordered the set, a first for me. I’m almost at the end and am now trying to understand why I am so gripped. The lead female is almost too perfect, the lead male tends to sound like a vicar giving a sermon in his intonation, but the story is utterly compelling. The family are from the squattocracy (Australian aristocrats) rich, entitled, benevolent and hidebound. However, change is afoot and the grandmother, who is superb, has to be led kicking and screaming to alter her attitudes to just about everything. She is a noble character – in the true sense of the word. She holds the family together, come what may, and it is her that we come most to love and appreciate.

For me it is the social history of the era which is so fascinating. Here we see the remnants of ‘White Australia’ and its mistrust of Catholicism, of aboriginals and of other ‘suspect’ white races or religions. Prejudice abounds, social class rules, sex is hidden, homosexuality can be ‘cured’ – horribly. But you root for the characters as the saga unfolds. There’s a great sense of place in the small town, an hour or so out of Sydney, where ordinary people get on with their lives despite the shenanigans at the big house. Respect for their ‘betters’ demonstrates the Englishness of this period in time. The effects of the war are still being felt but the sixties are on the horizon. Cars, fashion and nightlife add beautifully to the sense of era.

If you like a story and family, you can get lost it – try it. I will continue to soak up the language, the contradictions and my added understanding of what makes this county tick. One thing – don’t expect to see any wildlife other than a dog and a few sheep.

 

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Posted in Reviews | 1 Comment

A Librarian’s Life

I read a blog post last week which brought back memories and I thought I would share with you a very memorable week I had, back in my days as a community librarian.

libraryI worked in a new town, somewhere in the midlands. The library was attached to a secondary school on a large estate. There was also primary school and a community centre on the same campus. It was school inspection week and so we had our normal clientele as well as her majesty’s inspectors coming in and out of the library. The library had been open ten years and we had recently celebrated that with a birthday cake cut by our oldest reader, in her eighties, along with our youngest member of a few months.

It may or may not have been one of those Mondays when I arrived to find broken windows and a weekend break-in. Yes it was that kind of an estate. I parked where my car had been stolen from, a week or two previously, and hoped it would be there at the end of the day.

All days were busy. We had the public mixing with crowds of teenagers and did our best to maintain an orderly atmosphere. Some teachers were good and some less so at supporting this. But this week, everyone was on best behaviour. The library was a scene of purposeful activity. Children sat wherever they could, at desks, on beanbags or even on the floor. Sometime during the morning, a member of staff came to see me. She was unhappy about the behaviour of one man. He was middle-aged, non-descript and crouching down observing some of the children. So far so good, until I noticed the action of his hand. Yes, we had not a schools’ inspector but a pervert. What to do? Did I make a citizen’s arrest? No, I regret to say, I moved him on by giving him a filthy stare and called the police. He was long gone by the time they arrived.

A member of the teaching staff reported that she too had seen him but thought he was an inspector.

Today our mobile phones would be out and we’d be shaming him with our photos. Back in the early 90s, before social media, such men remained hidden and uncaught. I had been too timid, too buttoned-up and that I always regret. What would you have done?

Posted in Miscellaneous | 4 Comments

The Purrfect Pet Sitter by Carol Thomas

To celebrate the release of Carol Thomas’ new romantic comedy novel, The Purrfect Pet Sitter, published earlier this week by Ruby Fiction, I am happy to welcome Carol, a fellow CHINDI author  on to my blog. The book arrived on my kindle at midnight on Monday and I look forwards to reading it.Carol T

First of all, can you tell us a little about The Purrfect Pet Sitter?

The Purrfect Pet Sitter tells the story of twenty-nine-year-old Lisa Blake, who suffers a loss that causes her to return to her hometown, of Littlehampton, 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 Felicity 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 has to learn how to move forward when the things she wants most are affected by the decisions of her past.

It is great to discover a novel set locally, why did you choose to set your story in Littlehampton?

I have lived in Littlehampton my whole life and worked in a local primary school for thirteen years, and so it is a place I know well. The beach is lovely, and we have access to some beautiful countryside just ten minutes down the road, so it was an ideal setting for a pet sitter out and about with her four-legged friends. In my novel I present a fictionalised version of Littlehampton, drawing on the area, and some of the surrounding small towns and villages, around for inspiration.

Your first novel was self-published, how do you feel that contributed to you getting your publishing contract with Ruby Fiction?

I am very proud of my first novel, Crazy Over You, and I learnt a great deal through my self-publishing journey. I am a director of the Chindi Authors’ group, known for celebrating and helping independent authors, and have made some great friends and supportive writing colleagues through this connection.

Self-publishing helped me build my author platform, especially my online presence. It also taught me about the process of publication and marketing – I’m still learning, but it gave me a good start. The things I had learned also helped when it came to presenting myself, and my work, professionally to the lovely people at Ruby Fiction. Of course, I had to have a good story too, and I am delighted that their tasting panel of readers, decided they liked The Purrfect Pet Sitter; hearing the news that they wanted to publish my novel, was a very special moment!

This summer the Chindi Authors will be hosting events as part of the Littlehampton Festival, is there an event you are particularly looking forward to?

I am not a Crime Writer (unless you are including crimes of the heart) but I always enjoy listening to other authors, discussing where they get their ideas and inspiration from, so the Crime Writers’ panel will be a must for me.

You’ve worked exceptionally hard on the Littlehampton Ghost Tour book (thank you Rosemary), and I have written a story for the book, so I am hoping that is a big success. I am also looking forward to getting my hands on a copy and reading about the spooky settings I never knew were in my hometown!

And I will, of course, be attending the self-publishing panel. Although I’ve been at many of these events before, there is always something new to pick up and learn.

Thank you for sharing your writing journey with us Carol, and I wish you every success with The Purrfect Pet Sitter

To find out more about the Chindi Authors’ events happening in Littlehampton this summer check out my blog post: https://rosemarynoble.wordpress.com/2018/04/23/chindi-events-at-the-littlehampton-festival-july-2018/

Buying Links for Carol’s novel, The Purrfect Pet Sitter

Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/TPPS-AmazonUk

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/the-purrfect-pet-sitter

Ruby Fiction: http://www.rubyfiction.com/dd-product/the-purrfect-pet-sitter

View the book trailer: http://tinyurl.com/TPPS-booktrailer

Posted in Book Launch | 2 Comments

Chindi Events at the Littlehampton Festival – July 2018

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 of independent authors investigate the haunted past of Littlehampton’s Harbour and historic town centre. Meet at 7.00 p.m. at the Oyster Pond and have your blood curdled for a forty-five-minute tour finishing at The Dolphin, Littlehampton’s most haunted pub. Grab a drink and hear landlady, Ellie Boiling’s tales of the mysterious happening inside this ancient hostelry. Self-guided tour book with extra ghost stories included in the price. Tickets £5. Disabled Access at the Dolphin if required. Limited tickets so sign up early is advised

Wednesday July 18th 7.00 p.m. Littlehampton Baptist Church Hall, Fitzalan Rd.

CHINDI network of independent authors share their secrets on how to get your book published in print, as an e-book or an audio book. We will tell you what it costs to design your cover, edit your book, what not to do and how to succeed. Tickets £5. Disabled Access.

Monday July 23rd – 7.45 p.m. Quiz at the Dolphin Hotel, Littlehampton.

The Dolphin Hotel and CHINDI independent authors are collaborating on a fun quiz evening. Get a team together and join the fun. Monetary prize for the winners, raffle and books by local authors on sale. Tickets £2 per person. Disabled Access if required.

To sign up for any of these events, email chirosie272@googlemail.com. For the Ghost Tour and Quiz, you can also sign up at the Dolphin Hotel. For all events you can sign up with LOCA at 2 Evans Garden, Arcade Rd, Littlehampton.

Posted in Festival Events | 4 Comments

And I Shall be Healed – Book Review

And I Shall be Healed by J L Dean And I Shall Be Healed by [Dean, J. L.]

Written in the first person, this an intensely moving and introspective narrative about a WWI chaplain. Leo hails from Singleton in Sussex. The village curate, and the son of an innkeeper and a mother who blames him for what? He suspects for being alive, in place of his dead brother. He escapes to the army following an incident with his Vicar and good friend, Stephen Forrester, the man he credits with his education and entry into the church.

These are the matters from home which lie beneath the surface of Leo’s work and remain unresolved. He is reluctant to face them until forced.  This is a novel about growth, about finding oneself amidst the horrors of war, about the importance of comradeship, service and sacrifice. It’s about acting selflessly for the good of others and finally finding the true meaning of one’s own faith.

This is the kind of novel which lives with you, makes you question. The officers in Leo’s battalion are mostly good men. They offer their cynicism about their superiors’ motives and ability in private as a counterbalance to Leo’s sermons exhorting the men to offer themselves up willingly for the greater good. We learn much about the work of the wartime chaplain throughout the narrative and all ambivalence about Leo’s character we may have at the beginning of the book turns to quiet admiration by the end. This is a man who has grown into a determined and understated hero, loved by his men and officers alike. Do, I agree with the ending? I’m not sure. It may have been better left at the final chapter rather than the epilogue. To make your own mind up, you have to read it. If you want the antithesis of a light read, this is it.

A skilful first novel, beautifully written and executed.

Posted in Book Review | 2 Comments

Using Images for Research

How lucky we are to work in the digital age. How many of us are writing and suddenly decide we need an image to help with description or setting or even for inspiration? For me it happens regularly, if not daily.

Of course, I take my own photographs, but how has a scene changed over the years, over the centuries? Is it necessary to visit a place to be able to visualise it? I would say preferable but not always possible. Take this photo, I found it in The Victoria State LibFlinders St Station. Timms property on right - upmarket farmshoprary in 2012, before it was digitised. It shows the position of a farm shop in Elizabeth St, Melbourne. That farm shop was owned by a character in my WIP. It is the only visual reference I have of its position. It is now a Macdonald’s btw. To think it was once owned by the family. How much is it worth now? Heaven knows.

And it’s not just places but artefacts, dress, people, moments – you name it. Images are vital in adding colour in writing. So what image sites do I use?

Pinterest – I like Pinterest because it allows me to sort my images into boards. I have boards for places, for themes, such as writing fiction, book marketing and for my books. When I publish a book, the book cover with a link goes onto the book page. One can only hope!
I do intend to get round to creating a board for the books I have read, my books will go there too. Everyday I receive notification from Pinterest if someone saves one of my pinned images and most days they suggest other images I may like. It’s very interactive. It could take a lot of my time but I try to use it as and when. One word of caution. If you are adding images into Pinterest, be aware of copyright.

Library and Museum Image Collections

Most people think that you can find virtually any image via Google, but that is because libraries and museums are digitising their resources. As good as the images are, sometimes it is not a substitute for seeing them in the flesh. There are things you will pick up from a photograph that you may not see on screen. Also when items are brought together as in a museum exhibit, you will find things you didn’t know you wanted, such as an artefact in daily use in the 19th C but now forgotten. And, there are museums, so tiny and starved of funds, that digitising is a labour of love and dependent on the skills of volunteers. I found all sorts of useful images on display by visiting the Primitive Methodist Museum  in Cheshire and Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum in Norfolk and the Hull Maritime Museum where I found this image on the wall. It’s not a great photograph of the original paining  but it helpedDSC03003 me describe the paddle steamer of the 1820s in which my protagonist travelled across the Humber. More importantly there was an image which stopped me from making a fool of myself, showing the pier they tied up to. I had not thought the pier was that early and had the boat docking in the town port, some distance away.

Facebook Groups

You may not get access to hitherto unseen images via a Facebook History group, but what you do get, are keen amateur historians with their own wealth of knowledge. I belong to Grimsby Memories with hundreds if not thousands of images. If there is one that interests me, I may well ask questions. Who knows when the name of the road changed or that hotel opened or how it changed over the decades? Someone will, and they will delight in helping, perhaps adding photos for you to see.

Newspaper Images

Yes, back to newspapers. There aren’t that  many photographs in newspapers before the 20th C and they are often not good quality, but they can be the only source of a particular photograph, especially of people. Some newspaper databases, like Trove Australian newspapers allow you to search for illustrations by subject.

Art Galleries

Wherever we are in the world, we always visit art galleries, not just because my husband loves to paint. They are special places and sometimes you can be blown away by a particular painting. It speaks to you and you know you will hold that image within you forever.One of three paintings by the same artist of the same family in Brussels Art Gallery. I wish I had them all. Such as this one which I photographed in a Brussells art gallery, one of a series of three depicting pedlar family, walking towards us, resting at a meal, then walking away. So much expression, the weariness in their bodies, the lack of hope or joy, their outsideness of society. You can see more of Leon Frédéric’s work here.

These are the sources I use but of course there are many more. It would be great to have your own recommendations.

 

Posted in Images, Photographs, Research | 4 Comments

Novel Research – Part one; Books /Newspapers

In this series of blogs, I am going to try to formulate how I go about research and the sources I use. I was asked yesterday which I enjoyed most – the research or the writing. What a difficult question! It probably works out equally. I could not contemplate writing any kind of novel without research. Research must not drive the book, it should be incidental to plot, seamless, adding texture, not overloading and distracting the reader. They say something like 80% of what you discover from research never makes it into the book.

Of course, all novelists do research, so I hope this series of blog posts will be useful to all writers. How many of us have read something so inaccurate that it makes us wince? In one recent book, written by a New Zealander, I read about a sixteen year-old who had recently got her car literature-3201190_640licence and was driving around London on her own, without so much as a lesson. Some simple research would have revealed that no one gets a car driving licence in the UK until seventeen, unless severely disabled. Nor are you allowed to drive around on your own without passing a test.

Books & Newspapers

  1. As obvious as it seems, nothing compares to reading contemporary accounts of the period. This is more difficult the further you go back in history, but from the 18th century onwards, it becomes relatively easy.
  2. I start with Google Books and Project Gutenberg – both free resources of full text books. If I want to read about life on the Australian goldfields, what better way than finding a 2 volume travelogue and account of different goldfields written by a British pharmacist with acute observational powers.

Sometimes the whole text is not available but just snippets. Those snippets may prove to be gold dust or suggest whether the book is worth ordering from a library or even buying. With request fees at £10 from the British Library, this can save you money.

Fiction

Fiction adds flavour to research – so I love to read fictional books set in the place, no matter what era. The Australian Trove Newspaper Database recently began a book club with links to a novel set in Adelaide in the 1890s. My current WIP is partly set in Adelaide twenty years later -had the mores of the 1890s changed significantly by WW1? I suspect not too much. I can have my heroine reading the book and reflecting on it, perhaps.

Newspapers

Not all countries offer free access like Australia to online newspapers. The British Newspaper Archive offers various subscription rates for weekly, monthly annual access. You can read a sentence for free – big deal. I did find that taking out a free monthly trial to FindMy Past gave me access to the newspapers for free. Libraries sometimes have subscriptions to the British Newspaper Archive or at least the Times online via their electronic resources. Check if your library does offer this with membership. You may be able to access these through your local university library as well. I’m lucky enough to have access to some resources being an ex member of staff, but I physically have to visit. the campus.

Not all newspaper have been digitised. This week I had to go up to Grimsby to read the newspapers on microfilm. If I hadn’t done this, my new book would have contained serious errors. Up until then, I had relied on someone having  listed  all the bombing raids on Grimsby in a Facebook post – he got some of the dates wrong. I now have to rewrite a couple of chapters. I also wanted to know how those raids were reported – the answer – was not. I suspected that might be the case but was interested in what they did include and the inference they put on it. The librarian kindly said ‘why not look at our newspaper cuttings’ and promptly found me articles published 15 years after the events with first hand-accounts. Gold, yet again.

Even the adverts in newspapers are useful. What was on at the cinema that week, which cafés offer tea dances, how much are clothes selling for? So much information to get lost in and not enough hours in the day, so selective use is vital.

Next time I will discuss the use of images in research.

 

Posted in Research | 2 Comments