Trying to keep up…

I had intended to write about a second short story, but it will have to wait a short while. For I realize I do not yet quite understand how this writing a regular column works! And I really would like to know how to do simple things – like choosing my audience, and posting where and what I want.

The writing bit is easy. It’s all the rest that flummoxes me…

I don’t think I chose my moment to lose contact with the real world very well!

 

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Inspirational Reader…

via Inspirational Reader…

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Inspirational Reader…

A reader of this somewhat intermittent column found my small collection of short stories, written some years ago now. I have been so far removed from reality for the past three years, I had actually forgotten they existed!

I am so pleased that a new reader likes them. Indeed, I now plan to introduce each one individually so that a few more readers may have the opportunity to try them out. They are all so different, best to introduce them one by one.

The chosen favourite of my Special Reader is the longest: Through a Glass Darkly.

In this a suffering husband writes to his wife who has walked out on him, taking the young children with her. She has apparently tried to explain to him what led to this drastic step, but he claims not to understand. Indeed, he pleads with her to get help, so that she can once again be the supportive wife he needs. Her backing is essential if he is to write the plays they all depend on for their income.

But as the story progresses, it becomes clear that her departure was an act of self-preservation. She spells out for him what he must surely have understood: she can no longer tolerate his intolerable behaviour. He is so angry with her, he does fantasize killing her – and then discovers a new twist for his next collection of plays and stories. Victim becomes the perpetrator. He is delighted. She has saved him again.

 

 

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… Week Number Three

The problem with promising to write a column every week is that you then need to have IDEAS, TOPICS, SOMETHING TO WRITE ABOUT. Which shouldn’t be so difficult for a WRITER, except that at the moment all I can think about is my third novel, which is so near to completion, but frankly not quite there.

I suppose I could write about said novel – but I think I shall leave it for a while as I dare not risk its fate becoming like my Novel Number Two.

In 2016, I was preparing to launch said  second novel: THE PORCUPINE’S DILEMMA. And Blackwells in Oxford was to host its launch. I was delighted. Not everyone has the  very good fortune to find such a prestigious place to host the introduction of a book.

But alas, I ended up in the John Radcliffe Hospital with a stroke, which effectively put an end to the Grand Launch of The Porcupine’s Dilemma, and unluckily, an end to my progress as a writer for the next three years. For my own unfortunate stroke was followed rather quickly by the even more disastrous illness and death of my husband, John Tyerman Williams, well known for his books on Winnie-the-Pooh (Pooh and the Philosophers and others).

That was too much for my feeble frame, which apparently attempted to help me follow him. However, thanks to my son who made sure I actually saw the doctor, and to the experts in the John Radcliffe, I am now more or less restored. Lacking energy (but I am 83), I now plan to try to promote The Porcupine’s Dilemma so that it is not completely lost, while finishing Novel No 3.

If anyone is interested, The Porcupine’s Dilemma is now available at the very low cost of £5, plus postage. Just let me know and I’ll get a copy sent to you!

 

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A second week…

My new resolution: I will try to write a column every week.

Week Number Two – having decided I simply cannot fail right at the beginning, here is my attempt at a second column. Nothing positive to report on the Writing Front, but a simply glorious day for walking outside.

I am rather painfully  S L O W  at walking, but the sun was shining above the trees at the back of the house, and only a pathetic creature with no oomph at all could possibly fail to take advantage of nature’s splendour. Yes, it was COLD, but I do have lots of warm clothing to bundle myself up in, and very quickly I was able to forget the temperature, concentrate on the beauties of an Oxford winter’s day.

The birds had clearly decided this was the occasion for a get-together. There seemed to be dozens of them on every branch, in every tree, chattering away with such animation I did wish I could understand bird-talk (even though I suspect it might have been just as mundane as the sort of thing we exchange with other people we meet while out – pleasant and well-meaning, but hardly worth recording!)

I met several women, all very friendly and willing to chat. There is something very pleasant about these brief encounters, and the more frequently we meet, the more often I am told of incidents, both pleasant and not so pleasant, they have recently had to deal with. One woman, for example, had had some long painful nights, until she decided to pay for a doctor’s examination rather than wait the very long time NHS patients have to, and was enormously relieved when the results were positive. Another woman proudly introduced me to her grandchildren, who were skipping along the path with her, clearly enjoying their visit.

The sun is now going, and the sky is darkening. Less sunshine promised for tomorrow, alas. But I am glad I managed to enjoy this very beautiful day.

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Is it possible? I think I’m back!

More than three years late, I plan to re-emerge on the Internet. I may have been down – and nearly out – but I’m back! It feels amazing. Not quite real, in fact. I may have the odd hesitation, but I really do hope that This Time I can manage to stay put!

It turns out I was a great deal worse for wear than I thought. Those of us who are not doctors often have to guess whether something is wrong or not – and I appear to have a definite tendency to guess “Oh, nothing really, just need a rest”, when in fact I’m in urgent need of medical attention. Sorry, just the way it is.

So first I ended up in hospital with a stroke. Then my beloved husband died, and I swear it was at least partly due to his concern for me, and neglect of himself. And not very long after that disaster, I was found to have blood clots in my brain. Ho, hum. This sort of information probably works better with people who listen to their doctors, follow advice meticulously, and do not – repeat, NOT – imagine they know better.

I did not intend to be stupid and fail to follow instructions, it was just that I found it so very difficult to believe that the extremely complicated procedures were ABSOLUTELY VITAL. My lovely son went and asked for the medications to be provided in daily or weekly packages, but although that made it a lot easier, three of the rather numerous medicines had to be provided individually, and each one had its own special procedure! Since my poor old brain was not functioning at its best, I was rarely sure that I was taking every medication at the appropriate moment…

However, these vast quantities of drugs reduced gradually over time, until today they are simple. Down to five every morning and four every night. A doddle.

I am enormously grateful to our National Health Service. I know they are under tremendous pressure, which appears to be growing all the time, but I have never had anything less than excellent care from the professionals I encountered. One thing I WILL do in the coming year is support all moves to increase NHS funding. It is ESSENTIAL!

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Never too late? I’m still hoping…

My last blog was not my most successful. I had no sooner announced the forthcoming appearance of Novel Number 2 (The Porcupine’s Dilemma) – and promises of exciting plans for its promotion – than I ended up in hospital yet again. This time with a major stroke. It appears I am lucky to be alive.

Hmmm. Not a successful start to the life of a Great New Novel.

Unluckily, I am still not entirely as I would like to be, though thanks to modern medicines and the wonderful skills of my doctors, I improve every day. By May, I hope to be reasonably normal. At any rate, restored enough to be able to restart the process of publication.

Somewhat embarrassing. My lovely book was actually published – in theory – on 10th October 2016. But I was incapacitated, and naturally, everything stopped. Blackwell’s, who were going to hold the launch, cancelled. So did the publicity people. Most people – including me, I may add – expected improvements pretty soon, and so everything just waited. And waited. And waited.

Not one of my success stories.

It is rather a good book, though, so I’d like to publish soon. Such a waste to write a book, and then to see it die for want of publicity. So very soon, I shall announce plans to continue the publication process.

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A New Book – and I’m Back to Work.

porcupines-dilemma-final

While I have been recovering from the various ills that can assail the Not So Young, my new novel has, of course, been being prepared for publication. Above is the brilliant cover designed by Ana Grigoriu – which in itself has not been without controversy. Some people don’t like the old hands on the piano keyboard, but I feel it gives a good flavour of the book. The old lady may be bloody-minded, but she is also gentle and kind and loving – and music is a major theme in this novel.

The story is not only about her, though, as the quotation from the wonderful Jacob Ross on the back cover points out. This is a family story – and has been called a Modern Comedy of Manners. Three generations are involved in a series of conflicts and crises, with a fairly disastrous outcome.

Publication date is 3rd October, and Blackwell’s of Oxford is hosting its launch on Monday 10th October at 7 pm. As their events site says:

This event is free to attend. Please register for a place by emailing events.oxford@blackwell.co.uk; coming in to the customer services desk in the Norrington Room, or by telephoning 01865 333623.

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It’s been a long time…

I did not expect to be away quite so long! Ill-health – or rather the ills that beset Old Age – dogged me over the summer, and I began to think that my tag-line It’s not too late
might after all be inappropriate. Surely not?

Then, thanks to a brilliant cardiologist, I was fitted with an all-singing all-dancing new type of pacemaker with its own built-in defibrillator which simply would not allow my body to malinger any longer. New Woman, I was promised was on her way.

New signs of literary activity burgeon in the Mapstone-Williams household: tentative efforts at renewing what is supposed to be a regular blog are made, the text of a new novel The Porcupine’s Dilemma is finalised, a cover approved, plans for publication in October are made.

Occasional relapses into lethargy do occur, alas. And lack of faith in that demanding tag-line It’s not too late is very prone to arise whenever any new or vaguely unfamiliar technology has to be tackled. OK, so maybe once I understood X or Y, but now I just jolly well don’t. Some days I feel exactly like that eight-year-old girl referred to me years ago because she was terrified of maths. She just didn’t understand how numbers worked, and every new thing she was taught had nothing on which to build, so she became more and more baffled. So do I. I remember her and realize it has nothing to do with age. Thank heaven. It has all to do with understanding basics. I do wish people who give instructions on how to use a new smart phone, for instance, would grasp the simple fact that neophytes need instruction in the simple basics on which the whole process is built. My eight-year-old needed to start at the beginning and nothing taken for granted: I am happy to report that six months later, she was blooming and all set to become a star.

The trouble with starting at the beginning when you are as old as I am is that you begin to feel ‘There just isn’t time to learn all this’. The temptation is great to give up, sit back, vegetate, let others write books, garden, entertain. But I didn’t enjoy the months of enforced stagnation, so do what I can to keep my ambitions from flagging. New Woman does help. She turns up in unexpected places, is pretty hopeless at all things technological, but encouraging when it comes to things literary. She and I communicate there.

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My first guest: Marissa de Luna

[As I shall be away in Worcester this Sunday, with other ACE writers at the Worcester Literary Festival, and Sunday is the day I try to post a blog (at least once a month), what better time to introduce my very first Guest Blogger, author Marissa de Luna? I have already told loyal readers about her delicious new series, The Chupplejeep Mysteries as I thoroughly enjoyed the first, Under the Coconut Tree  (see Books to Escape With). But at least part of its charm is the unusual background, so I have invited Marissa to tell us more about why she chose her unexpected setting.]

marissa

Marissa writes:

As a writer I read extensively. I love escaping with a good book and, for me, the hook is often the location, travelling to exotic locations through the power of words. I often find myself perusing the on-line book shelves at Trip Fiction – a site which matches books to locations – just to find a book set in the country I want to escape to.

Location and a sense of place is a great tool to give your book that unusual edge or to provide a cultural reasoning as to why characters behave the way they do. In cosy crime novels where psychological twists are not the USP, it is often the location that draws the reader (or viewer) in.

Inspector Morse and Lewis set amidst Oxford’s spires ensures that, more often than not, crimes are committed in and around the colleges providing the viewer/reader with a glimpse of what happens behind those stone walls. Alexander McCall Smith’s The Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency, set in Botswana, immediately conjures up images of Africa, wildlife interfering with crime scenes and the laidback lifestyle. The Inspector Montalbano series, set in Italy, gives a light-hearted approach to the occasional bribe and corrupt police officer and in my Chupplejeep Mystery series set in rural Goa the cultural nuances and the importance of food are almost as vital as the plot line. 

For me a sense of place anchors you.

undercocotree

Setting your novel in a specific geographic location allows you to explore (…exploit!) a whole host of new symbols, weather, and cultural differences. National flowers and birds and their specific meanings, persistent rain and superstitions can all play a big part and reflect certain themes within your book. The bleak weather of the Scandinavian countries provide the perfect atmosphere for thrillers and serious crime.  Whereas a sunny backdrop gives the perfect setting for more frivolous crimes. Plus, in an exotic location you have the added danger of venomous reptiles and cultural differences to add to your story. Bribery may be a taboo in England, but it’s fair play in many countries – an accepted part and parcel of life.

Most readers want to learn something new, even if it is on a subconscious level and as a reader I love learning about different locations, the way people in another country behave and react in certain situations. Using this in your novel makes the reader really question whether they would behave in the same manner when presented with those circumstances. And once your reader does this, they are hooked into that world you have painstaking created for them.

So how do you go about weaving a sense of place into your manuscript?

Here are a couple of pointers to get you on your way:

The senses. It’s not just about what your characters can see. They feel the heat on their back, the sweat on their brow. They can smell the simmering spices in a food bazaar and they can taste the sourness of the green mango. Use all the senses to build a picture of what it is like to be in that particular place.

Cultural references – Make sure you reader knows what is or isn’t a taboo. Are certain animals sacred? Is gossiping the norm? Do police rely on it? Is bribery okay?  

Food – I love food and so food (especially foods that are unique to a certain location) always plays a part in my novels.

Weather – I am a strong believer that weather always reflects atmosphere! Add a note about weather to the scene to reflect what your characters are dealing with.

Language – is your book set in a country where another language is spoken? Drop in a few words here and there. It adds flavour to the book reminding the reader of the location.

Marissa de Luna is an up and coming young author with a passion for travel. Her latest book Poison in the Water (So Vain Books) is out now. Under the Coconut Tree is the first in the Chupplejeep Mystery Series set in rural Goa and is available as an e-book and paperback. Both books are available to order through Amazon or your local bookseller. For more information on Marissa, please visit: www.marissadeluna.com   


 

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