The Interview

My problems began when my publisher, John Hunt Publishing, wanted my profile increased to market my books. Being an introvert by nature, this was not my scene. But even more disconcerting was having to find my way around social media. I waded through Facebook and got completely lost on Twitter, but the real problem came when Andrew Chamberlain, author and originator of ‘The Creative Writer’s Toolbelt’, e-mailed to ask if he could interview me.  

‘We’ll do it through Skype’, he suggested. 

‘Fine!’ I assured him. (Help! What’s Skype?) 

Fortunately, I have a 15-year-old grandson who’s a genius with computers 

 ‘Now are you sure you’ve got it, Grandma?’ Tomas asked after patiently showing me the ropes instead of doing his homework. 

‘Absolutely!’ I assured him.  I’m good at assuring people.

The big day of the interview arrived. Andrew Chamberlain contacted me at the duly appointed time and I’m sure – absolutely sure – I pressed all the right buttons. But somehow, something went awry.  Andrew rang me. 

‘Sorry; not quite sure what went wrong,’ I apologised. 

‘Don’t worry,’ he said. ‘We’ll use Zoom.’ 

Zoom? What the heck is Zoom

The only glimmer of light on the horizon was that I had met Andrew a number of times through a Writers Course in the lake district? So perhaps it was that, that had left him with the distinct impression that he was dealing with a nugget head as far as technology was concerned. Because half-an-hour later, after leading me slowly and patiently via phone through some weird procedure we were able to connect through Skype. 

And the interview? Well, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Andrew was such an easy-going interviewer that my fears were relieved almost from the start, and before long we were laughing over the ups-and-downs I’d had as a writer. 

So, if you want to be encouraged by a struggling author (me) who has book number 5 being released at the end of March, listen to the Creative Writer’s Toolbelt, Episode 154, ‘From Perseverance to Publication’

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1YsN7M9QfTtSuk_3OC6E39c_dZghUINMf/view?usp=sharing

The almost New Year Resolution

This is my writing den. It has a wonderful view over the Tyne Valley which is supposed to encourage me to raise my eyes from the computer every 20/30,minutes or so, which is the recommended time span for gazing at a computer screen. Sadly it doesn’t work. I get so engrossed in my plot that only when my character does something abnormal and stops my fingers from pounding over the keys am I forced to look up and begin living in the moment instead of in 30AD. However, my New Year Resolution is not to worry about it but to buy a new pair of specs, water the plant and keep my den tidy. That, at least, I think I can do.




What Christmas ‘ought’ to be?

Everyone has an idea of what Christmas ‘ought’ to be. It comes straight out of gooey Hollywood films, snowy Christmas cards with red stockings hanging near a roaring fire and candle-lit trees, or sugary Christmas songs that make us feel all warm inside. And indeed, many of us will experience those blissfully happy times. But the truth is, there are some years when we’ll find Christmas a very difficult time of year.

Perhaps you are part of a family that don’t get on … your family live away … you’re estranged from them … individuals without families … a bereavement near Christmas … Christmas alone … and the pressure from the TV of what you ‘ought’ to be enjoying at Christmas only brings added pressure. We will all have problems at some time – that’s life – but they always seem worse at Christmas, don’t they?

I can understand that.

I remember shopping in the Metro Centre some years ago. I was laden with parcels as not only did I have five grandchildren to buy for but they had all inconveniently decided to have birthdays a few days before or after the great event. (Or perhaps that was their parents fault, not theirs), I sank down exhausted on a recently vacated seat and groaned inwardly at the relief of easing my feet out of my shoes. As I sat listening to Jingle Bells blasting out down the mall I gazed around at the Christmas lights, the baubles,, and the gaudy decorations and the dozens of fairy lights across the ceiling and my eye fell on a few lights that were dim or had gone out. Lights that would not shine that Christmas.

With a shock, I realised that I was so focussed on gaudy baubles, shopping, trees, money (did I have enough) and Santa that I had almost missed the whole reason behind the celebration of Christmas. For me, that’s the birthday of Jesus. My eyes drifted back to the lights that shone. That’s the heart of Christmas, isn’t it? Keeping your eyes on the lights that shine; lights that make Christmas, if not Christmas card enjoyable, then bright for you because you’re doing things that you enjoy.

The wedding anniversary

Today, 16th October, is my wedding anniversary. Brilliant! I’ve been married for over 50 years – a child bride of course. We had a grand celebration when it was our 50th wedding anniversary. We spent the day with our children and their families by having a four course meal, with champagne, on the slow moving steam train from Goathland to Pickering, in North Yorkshire.  The scenery, the food, and the company was magnificent. Later in the day, we all made our way to the lovely stone house home in Thornton-le-Dale of one of our daughters for a surprise tea – although in actual fact, we all knew about it.  But the specially made cake from York was a surprise.  What a day! One to remember.

Will this anniversary, a couple of years later be equally as memorable? Oh I think so. We’re up early as we have to face the rush hour traffic into Newcastle as Colin has a hospital appointment. Nothing serious, just a regular check up but it’s a 50 minute drive from Hexham and he hates hospitals. So, that means our celebratory meal out will probably be in the hospital canteen. We’re also up at the crack of dawn as we have the builders arriving. They’re in the process of erecting an en-suite in our bedroom which, as I sit in my bed writing this,  is looking a bit like a bomb site. Our existing wardrobes have been taken down and the clothes, blankets, towels, old wedding hats and spare duvets are being stored … well … mainly on the floor alongside the new toilet, a few bricks and a new door. We’ll also be without water and heating today as the plumber is doing his bit, which is a bit of a nuisance as it’s damp and chilly out there.

But hey! What is it they say about variety being the spice of life?  ‘Happy anniversary!’

Our skeletons in the cupboard

When I was counselling, I realised more and more that everyone of us has a story to tell. Oh our stories might not be as colourful and dramatic as some of the stories we hear on the news or read in magazines, nevertheless, they’re our stories and they’re important – because they’ve made us what we are today.

I also realised we all of us have our skeletons in the cupboard. Oh yes! Don’t think you’re alone on that score. But they too have made us what we are today. The pain of them, the shame of them; we all have them.  Even as a Christian when we give them to God, the memory still pops up on occasion but perhaps with a little less pain and a little less shame.

That is why, when I wrote ‘The Senator’s Assignment’ I was determined to have a ‘real’ person. Someone who’d experienced the knocks in life; someone who, like so many of us, tried to bury his pain, but for some unexplainable reason discovered those deeply buried memories come flooding back because an event nudges it into the conscious mind again. And there, in the middle of this important assignment to investigate Pontius Pilate, his memories begin to affect the way he thinks, behaves and acts. Most inconvenient – and dangerous -for Senator Vivius Marcianus, my protagonist.

So if you’re a writer, please remember your characters have a back story.  It doesn’t make them evil or bad or even strange – just real.

 

Those imaginary friends

We moved around quite a lot when I was a little girl and I always seemed to be having to make new friends.  It was especially difficult when we moved from Newcastle upon Tyne to Croydon, in Surrey. I was about six at the time.  It wasn’t a particular nice area but it was the only house my parents could afford at the time – and the only one available.

We lived opposite a derelict piece of land where a doodle bug had landed during the war – not that I can remember it I hasten to add. It was a few years before my time. It stood next to the factory that was making stands for the forthcoming coronation of the queen.

However, my main problem was when I attended the local school. No-one seemed to understand my ‘Geordie’ accent so I was forced to endure catty, snide remarks and teasing.  It was really hard, especially when all I wanted to do was make friends. But then I discovered two of the most remarkable girls imaginable.

Beverly Anastaner and Lavinia McLauchlin.  (What amazing names!) You’d never believe the warmth of friendship I had with those two girls. They never teased me, were never catty, and never made any snide remarks and eased the loneliness of a six year old girl.  They were perfect for me – because they came out of my imagination. We laughed, played and had a wonderful time together until flesh and blood friends eventually emerged.

I think it was then, at the age of six, that I discovered I had an imagination and I wanted to write.  Isn’t it strange how discovering your role in life can come out of such painful experiences?

 

The power of the pen

Extract from ‘The Senator’s Assignment’

The candle flickered as a gust of wind rattled through the shutters of the fort’s window, sending a thin spiral of smoke drifting towards him.  Fabius blinked rapidly and rubbed his eyes; they felt gritting and kept watering but he continued writing, his hand moving in short nervous jerks, his pen scratching across the papyrus as if every urgent thought in his head needed to be expressed before dawn.  He blew on his fingers. Despite his woollen gloves they were cold and ached from gripping the pen.

He dipped it into the small clay inkpot and paused, lifting his grey head briefly to compose the next sentence before bending over the long wooden table again.   An icy draught whistled around the great hall.  He had tried not to let it distract him, but the excruciating pain in his stiffening legs forced him into making circles with his ankles to stir his circulation.

He paused again, this time frowning over the contents of his letter, concerned that it might sound as though he was simply getting something off his chest or airing a grievance; although there was am element of truth in both, he thought guiltily.  His pen hovered, his sore eyes drifted to the opening sentences and as they scanned down the lines he gave a tut of annoyance.  His handwriting was sloping all over the papyrus and there were a few sentences that were barely legible, but then, he had been up writing half the night.

A squall of rain battered at the shutters. Fabius lifted his head, watching them rattle without actually realising that they were doing so.  Then bending his head over the parchment again he signed his name at the bottom.

‘Staff Centurion Fabius Selonianus. Former Chief of Staff to Procurator Pontius Pilate, Governor of Judea.’

Not that he was afraid, he told himself blowing on the wet ink; at least not on his own account.  But what if his wife and his children …. he struggled to dismiss the stream of negative thoughts that came streaming into his head ……………

Who would have guessed that this one man, having the courage to put pen to paper, would have the desired effect of touching the very heart of the Empire of Rome itself?

Writers – take note. There is power in the written word.

 

 

 

Sunday roast

I love my Sunday roast.  I love cooking it and I love eating it.

But I remember one Sunday, when I was in my teens , standing chattering to my mother in the kitchen about some inconsequential matter as she prepared our Sunday dinner. It was seeing her cut a small piece of the joint off each end that stopped my chattering.

‘Why did you do that?’ I asked puzzled.

My mother shrugged. ‘I’m not sure really. I suppose it’s because that’s what your grandmother, my mother, used to do.’

I was curious. So next time I saw my grandmother I asked her.

‘Why do you cut a small piece off each end of the Sunday roast, Grandma?’

My grandmother laughed. ‘Oh! That’s just so that I can fit it into my roasting time,’ she said.

A silly story, a silly action. But it did make me wonder why we do certain things – in church – at work – in the home -with family and friends.  Is it habit? Is it because we’ve always done things that way and never got round to questing why?  If so then perhaps we’re wasting our time – wasting those two end pieces of the joint.

What do you think?

 

 

The Senator’s Assignment

2019 – MAY THIS BE A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL MY FRIENDS AND READERS.

And a special ‘thank you’ to all the reviewers who have given ‘The Senator’s Assignment’ such magnificent reviews. As any author will tell you, when you have spent so much sweat and tears on a project it’s wonderful to receive such excellent feedback. It has certainly spurred me on with the sequel, ‘The Senator’s Darkest Days’, which the publishers tell me is due out later this year.  I love that book – perhaps even more that I love ‘The Senator’s Assignment’, but thenI’ve always liked to see the underdog making good, haven’t you?

The speaking engagements are building up as well  which is nice. So please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have a group you’d like me to talk to.  I love meeting new people and telling stories.

God bless you all with health and happiness for 2019.