Sunday, 28 August 2011

Sunday Mornings Lost

My father worked long hours, Monday to Friday, leaving the house at seven or eight, returning long after the child I was had fallen asleep. On a Saturday, my mother would take advantage of his presence for a weekly shop, a drive in the country or a family visit to her friends in Leeds. Only on a Sunday, did my father have time that he could call his own.

Every Sunday, he would rise from his bed around six, pulling trousers and a jumper over his pyjamas, then he would leave my mother wrapped in her dreams. Downstairs he would turn on the stereo. Shaped like a sideboard, the stereo was large, teak and bore two in-built speakers, one on each side. Beneath a lid sat a radio and a turntable. He would click the switch to 78, choose a record from his collection, then while the music wound around the lounge, he would prepare breakfast for himself. While my mother and I slept, he would reintroduce himself to Ella Fitzgerald, Ma Rainey and Pearl Bailey. Louis Armstrong was always a favourite as was Nat King Cole and Billie Holiday. For an hour and a half, he would envelop himself in their voices and memories of jazz clubs he had visited during the fifties in London. The music would sometimes wake me but I knew better than to disturb him. I would roll over and return to dreams laced with tones of Satchmo and Pearl.

By the time, my mother and I made our ways downstairs, he would have been out to the newsagent in the village and returned with a selection of Sunday newspapers. The music would change to my mother's choice of James Last or Henry Mancini, or very occasionally I would nag them into playing the Hippopotamus Song by Flanders and Swann. My parents would read the newspapers. I would steal the magazines or read the cartoons in the Scottish Sunday Post. I loved The Broons and Oor Wullie. The newspapers read, my mother would begin to cook our family lunch. My father would return his records to their cupboard and his time to the family.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Book Review: The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

Wilkie Collins.Image via Wikipedia
I was introduced to the writer, Wilkie Collins many years ago through his novel The Woman in White, a romantic, suspenseful mystery novel written through the eyes of a number of storytellers.

The Moonstone is written in a similar fashion, a record of events contributed by members of the family affected by the Moonstone's seeming curse, their elderly butler Gabriel Betteredge, the family solicitor and the retired policeman Sergeant Cuff. Considered to be the first detective novel, The Moonstone is in essence a number of witness accounts describing the days and events before, at the time of and after the theft of the fated diamond that lends its name to the novel.

Collins had a wonderful eye for detail, weaving an intricate pattern of clues that eventually lead to the discovery of the culprit. He skilfully sets up the mystery of the theft, surrounding the crime with hints, red herrings and an increasing number of questions

As a writer of murder mystery plays, I found Collins' method of adding layer upon layer of information from differing viewpoints fascinating. Gabriel Betteredge presents the first few days of the main storyline in a straightforward manner, very much like himself, honest and blunt. At the end of his account, we are left as questioning of what has happened as he is. In fact, Betteredge represents the reader as observer and questioner, making discoveries as we do.

The main characters are painted with colour and depth. They are not necessarily likeable but they are representative of their historical context - for instance, Miss Clack's fervent (if self serving) Christian beliefs and Betteredge's attitude to class, place in society and foreigners. Along with the mystery of the theft, we find the tragic story of the servant, Rosanna Spearman, and the growing, if interrupted, romance between Rachel Verinder and Franklin Blake.

The Moonstone is, if you'll excuse the pun, a gem of a read whether you enjoy crime fiction or Victorian novels or both.

Friday, 19 August 2011

My Cast

I've talked to you before about using actors as visual blueprints for the characters in my novel. Just as a bit of fun on a Friday, I thought I'd give you my cast in pictures. There is one main character missing but I'm still trying to place her. Enjoy.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Appreciated Follower Award

I was about to start typing a new blog post this afternoon when I had a lovely surprise. I discovered that Laila Knight of the Untroubled Kingdom of Laila Knight blog had presented me with the Appreciated Follower Award. I've only recently been introduced to Laila's blog through her wonderful post Wonderland which I think a lot of writers (myself included) will relate to. Thank you, Laila - you've made my day.

The rules of the award are:
  • Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
  • Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
  • Copy and paste the award on your blog.
  • Have faith that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.
  • And most of all - have bloggity-blog fun.

I'm incredibly lucky to have such wonderful individuals commenting on my blog but here are the five who drop in most often:
  1. Kelly Hashway of Kelly Hashway's Books
  2. Shelly of The Life of a Novice Writer
  3. Karen of Bibliophilic Blather
  4. Dawn of Dawn Brazil's Brilliant Babbles about Books
  5. Russo of Challenging the Gnome
Thank you to Kelly, Shelly, Karen, Dawn and Russo, but also to all of you who pop in to see me. 

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

When life races by

When the days, and the nights,
slip by in the pass of a hand,
and the details of your life
blur into a shade of mud,
search for these things -
the touch of the grass,
the breath of the sky,
and the reach of the trees.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Photo Inspiration for August

The photographs below were all taken at the weekend on our family walk in Hawarden in North Wales. Some have been 'enlivened' with extra colour but others are just as we saw them. Enjoy.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Follow Friday

Okay, I know that #followfriday (or #ff) is a hashtag on Twitter but I reckon it's an excellent thing to do on a Friday blog post too. So here we go.


This started out as a hashtag for a small community of writers to converse on Twitter and flag up their posts to each other. Started by the writer Johanna Harness, the small community grew, the hashtag won an award (2010 Christopher Al-Asward Prize) and now #amwriting has a physical online presence. This website is an excellent resource for writers with an author directory, the opportunity to see your blog posts online, and many helpful articles. Although I've been using this hashtag since last year, I only recently registered on the website. You don't have to be registered to use the website but I think the free registration on this site is well worth the time. Have a look.

Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is a writing hero of mine. I was introduced to his writing through the novel Good Omens which was written jointly with Terry Pratchett (another of my writing heroes). Sarcastic, sometimes outright funny and hugely imaginative, this horror/fantasy novel flags up the best of each writer's voice. I especially loved the terrier from Hell (really, it's a hell hound, just very small). After that I read Neverwhere and suddenly remembered that I'd seen this story as a TV series which I had loved. I always thought there was more to the London tube system than just a way to get around. Upon further investigation, I discovered that Gaiman is an immensely diverse writer. His body of work includes TV, film, novels, graphic comics and theatre. His website (click on his name above to get there) is interesting, constantly updated and very representative of his unique voice. To me, it's what a writer's website should be. He tweets as neilhimself on a regular basis.

Dawn Brazil's Brilliant Babbles about Books

I can't actually remember how I came across Dawn and her blog. I think it may have been through the She Writes community or possibly on one of  Meg Waite Clayton's blog hops. Dawn describes herself as an 'aspiring author' who has written two books and is working on a third. Her genre is young adult science fiction and fantasy. Her blog features tips for fellow writers, news on her writing projects and her comments on life in general. Do pop on over there and say hello.

Creative Boom

I think I'll use Creative Boom's own words to tell you what it is and does,

"an online magazine and free network community that aims to celebrate, inspire and support the creative industries throughout the UK".

Started in 2009 by Katy Cowan, the site has grown since then and includes twelve main regional 'hubs' plus a national   UK home page. This is a great resource that provides news, articles, a job board and much much more for us creative types. It provides an opportunity to collaborate, network and generally get noticed.

Kelly Hashway

Kelly is a published writer of novels for children and young adults. She runs a wonderful website that features news on her books (and how to buy them), plus helpful posts and prompts for fellow writers. This lovely lady always responds to comments on her site and is a frequent commenter on my blog. Please do have a look at her site.